I wrote Sec. Stanton concerning further attempts on Fort Fisher.
CITY POINT, VA., January 1, 1865.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:
Herewith I submit a statement lately drawn up by Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock, of my staff, who was with the expedition which moved against Fort Fisher. It was his views of the situation, and no one had a better opportunity of seeing than he had, and no one is more capable of judging. The fact is there are but two ways of taking Fort Fisher, operating from the water: One is to surprise them whilst there is but a small garrison defending the place; the other is for the navy to send a portion of their fleet into Cape Fear River whilst the enemy’s batteries are kept down by the fire from the balance. Troops can then land and hold the point until the troops in the fort surrender. With Cape Fear River in the hands of the enemy they have the same command over the sand spit on which Fort Fisher is built that we have. In the three days of good weather which elapsed after the army had reached the scene of action, before the navy appeared, our troops had the chance of capturing Fort Fisher whilst it had an insufficient garrison to hold it; the delay gave the enemy time to accumulate a force.
Every preparation is now going on to get troops back to the mouth of Cape Fear River as soon as possible. The enemy may by that time have withdrawn Hoke’s division, which went from here to Wilmington. If not, Admiral Porter will have to run a portion of his fleet by the batteries, as suggested before, or there will be no earthly use in landing troops.
The failure before was the result of delays by the Navy. I do not say unavoidable, for I know nothing of the cause, since the work to be done is likely to require much greater risk on their part than if the delay had not occurred. I know Admiral Porter to be possessed of as fine judgment as any other officer, and capable of taking as great risks. It will be necessary, however, that he should know and appreciate the situation in all its bearings, and be ready to act according to the emergency. I will write to him fully or send him a copy of this, and also send the same staff officer that accompanied the expedition before, who will lay the whole thing before him.
It seems to me proper that these views should be laid before Admiral Porter by the Secretary of the Navy also.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 13, p 197-8
O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 3