I wrote Gen. Butler with instructions for the move on the North Carolina coast.
CITY POINT, VA., December 6, 1864.
Major General B. F. BUTLER:
GENERAL: The first object of the expedition under General Weitzel is to close to the enemy the port of Wilmington. If successful in this, the second will be to capture Wilmington itself. There are reasonable grounds to hope for success if advantage can be taken of the absence of the greater part of the enemy’s forces now looking after Sherman in Georgia. The directions you have given for the numbers and equipment of the expedition are all right, except in the unimportant matter of where they embark and the amount of intrenching tools to be taken. The object of the expedition will be gained by effecting a landing on the mainland between Cape Fear River and the Atlantic, north of the north entrance to the river. Should such landing be effected while the enemy still holds Fort Fisher and the batteries guarding the entrance to the river, then the troops should intrench themselves, and, by co-operating with the navy, effect the reduction and capture of those places. These in our hands, the navy could enter the harbor, and the port of Wilmington would be sealed. Should Fort Fisher and the point of land on which it is built fall into the hands of our troops immediately on landing, then it will be worth the attempt to capture Wilmington by a forced march and surprise. If time is consumed in gaining the first object of the expedition, the second will become a matter of after consideration.
The details for execution are instructed to you and the officer immediately in command of troops.
Should the troops under General Weitzel fail to effect a landing at or near Fort Fisher, they will be returned to the armies operating against Richmond without delay.
U. S. GRANT,
P. S. Should the troops under Gen. Weitzel fail to effect a landing at or near Fort Fisher they will be returned to the Army operating against Richmond without delay.
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 13, p 71-2
O.R., I, xlii, part 1, p 971-2