Butler: “I withdrew the forces and ordered a re-embarkment”

I have received the following dispatch from Gen. Butler.  He has abandoned the expedition against Fort Fisher despite my direct orders to besiege it if it could not be taken.  He writes,

HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA,

Fort Monroe, December 27, 1864-8 p.m.

(Receive 10 p.m.)

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,

City Point, Va.:

I have just returned from the expedition. We had a storm from Monday until Friday, which was the earliest hour I could get out of Beaufort, where I had put in for coal, most of the transport fleet having got out coal and water. Without waiting for my return, Admiral Porter exploded the torpedo at 1 o’clock on Friday morning, and commenced his attack at 12.55 in the afternoon, twelve hours afterward. He continued the bombardment of the fort until night.

I arrived in the evening and commenced landing on the beach the next morning. Got a portion on shore about 2 o’clock. Weitzel moved down upon the works, capturing 300 men and 10 commissioned officers. He brought his picket-line within fifty yards of the work, where he was opened upon by canister and musketry. He found seventeen guns bearing upon the beach, which was only wide enough for an assault of 1,000 men in line, the guns protected by traverses and but one dismounted, notwithstanding the fire of the fleet had been opened upon them for five hours.

In the meanwhile the surf had so arisen as to render further landing nearly impracticable. After a thorough reconnaissance of the work, finding it utterly impracticable for a land assault, and that at least two brigades of Hoke’s division from before Richmond had arrived there and that the rest was on the road, I withdrew the forces and ordered a re-embarkment, and had got on board all of the troops with the exception of about 300, when the surf was so high as to prevent either getting on or off the shore.

I lay by until morning and took measures for their relief as soon as the sea might go down. They were under cover of the gun-boats, and I have no doubt they are all safely off. Our loss when I left was but twelve wounded, ten of whom were by the shells of the navy on our picket-line near the fort. I will be up in the morning.

BENJ. F. BUTLER,

Major-General, Commanding.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 13, p 176

O.R., I, xlii, part 3, p 1085-6

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