FORT FISHER, N.C.
JAN. 13TH - 17TH, 1865
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