Union Forces Engaged at FORT FISHER, N.C. - 47th NY Voulnteer Infantry

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JAN. 13TH - 17TH, 1865

    Fort Fisher, N.  C., Jan. 13-17, 1865.  Expedition under  Gen. Terry, and North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Pursuant to orders from  Gen. Grant, Maj.-Gen. A. H. Terry on Jan. 2, selected 1,400 men from the 2nd  brigade, 1st division, 24th corps, under Col. J. C. Abbott: 3,300 from the  2nd division of the same corps under Brig. Gen. Adelbert Ames, 3,300 from the  3rd division of the 25th corps, under command of Brig. Gen. Charles J. Paine:  4 guns of the 16th N. Y. independent Battery, and Battery E, 3rd U. S.  artillery, for an expedition against Fort Fisher.  The troops were embarked on transports at  Bermuda landing on the 4th and joined the North Atlantic Squadron, under Adm.  Porter, 25 miles off Beaufort, N. C. Owing to stormy weather the fleet did  not reach the vicinity of Fort Fisher until late on the afternoon of the 12th  and landing was postponed until next morning.  Fort Fisher was located on the narrow peninsula known as Federal  point. between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, and was garrisoned  by a Confederate force of some 1,2OO men with 47 pieces of heavy  ordnance.  When the enemy learned of  Terry's approach Gen. Whiting reinforced the garrison with 600 men and Gen. Hoke,  with his division of 6,000 infantry and cavalry took a position on the  peninsula north of the fort to prevent the Federals from landing.  
    About midnight  of the 12th the gunboats began shelling the fort and at 4 a.m. on the 13th  the transports moved close to the shore and the work of disembarking was  commenced.  By 3 p.m. 8,000 men were on  shore, each with 3 days' rations in his haversack and 40 rounds of ammunition  in his cartridge-box.  Terry's advance Soon encountered Hoke's outposts and exchanged shots with them,  the Confederates gradually retiring.  During the night Terry threw a line of intrenchments across the  peninsula to guard against any attack from the rear, and early on the morning  of the 14th the artillery was brought ashore and placed in the works.  Curtis' brigade of Ames' division moved toward  the fort and gained possession of a small unfinished work facing the west end  of the land front of the fort.  As a result  of the reconnaissance Terry determined to attempt an assault the next day and  sent word to Porter, who at once moved his gunboats nearer the fort for the  purpose of cooperating with the land forces.  At 8 a.m. on the 15th, according to Terry's report, "all of the  vessels, except a division left to aid in the defense of our northern line, moved  into position, and a fire, magnificent alike for its power, was opened."  At 2 p.m. 60 sharpshooters from the 13th Ind.,  armed with Spencer repeating rifles, and 40 men from Curtis' brigade,  advanced on a run to within 175 yards of the fort.  They were provided with shovels, and in the  sandy soil each man soon had a pit to shelter him while he directed his fire  to the parapet.  As soon as the  sharpshooters had gained their position Curtis moved up to a slight ridge  about 50 yards in their rear, Pennypacker's brigade occupied the outwork just vacated by Curtis' and Bell's brigade was  placed about 200 yards in the rear of Pennypacker.  At 3:25 p.m. the signal to advance was  given.  Curtis' men sprang from their cover  and dashed toward the fort, Pennypacker occupied the  position along the little ridge, and Bell moved up to the outwork.  With Curtis were a number of axmen who did  good service in making openings in the palisades, through which Curtis' line  swept like a tornado and gained the parapet.  At the same time a column of sailors and marines, commanded by Capt.  K. R. Breese, advanced up the beach and attacked the northeastern bastion,  but were met by a murderous fire and compelled to retire to the boats.  As soon as Curtis had gained a firm  foothold on the parapet Pennypacker was moved up to his support and in a few  minutes drove the enemy from the palisades extending toward the river, after  which he took a position on Curtis' right on the north face of the fort. Bell's  brigade was now moved between the fort and the river.
    On this side  there was no parapet, but the enemy found shelter in the holes from which the  sand had been taken to construct the fort, and here some desperate hand to  hand fighting occurred, the enemy falling back from one to another of the traverses  of the land face of the fort and using these traverses for breastworks, from  which they fired on the advancing Unionists at short range.  The contest for the possession of the  traverses was continued until about 9 p.m., when Abbott's brigade drove the  enemy from his last stand and Fort Fisher was in the hands of the Federal  troops.  Several prisoners were  captured by Pennypacker in his first assault on the palisades and the rest of  the garrison surrendered.  About 4 p.m. Hoke attempted a diversion by threatening an attack  on Terry's line of intrenchments across the peninsula, but after a slight  skirmish with the Union pickets abandoned his intention.
    Terry's loss at  Fort Fisher was 110 killed, 535 wounded and 13 missing.  Gen. Bragg, commanding the Confederate  forces, reported his loss as about 500 in killed and wounded and 2,083  captured.  With the prisoners all the stores,  cannons, etc., fell into the hands of the Union forces. Besides the 47 heavy  guns in position there were 122 pieces of artillery in the fort, 2,000 stand  of small arms, full supplies of ammunition and a large quantity of commissary  stores. Brig.-Gen. N. M. Curtis, Col. Galusha Pennypacker and First Lieut.  John Wainwright of the 97th Pa., and Private Z. C. Neahr, of the 142nd N. Y.,  were awarded medals of honor by Congress for distinguished bravery at Fort Fisher.  On the 16th the enemy blew up Fort Caswell  and Fort Campbell, and abandoned them, as well as their works at Smithville  and at Reeves' point.
Source: The Union Army, vol. 5
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