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Next morning the fleet bombarded with such success as to silence many of the guns opposed to them. But on Christmas Day General Weitzel reported that an assault would fail; whereupon General Butler concurred and retreated, much to the rage of the fleet, which thought quite otherwise.
In a few days General Terry arrived with the same white troops reinforced by two small colored brigades, making a total of eight thousand men. To'these Porter, strongly reinforced, added a naval brigade, two thousand strong, that volunteered to storm the sea face of Fort Fisher. These gallant men had only cutlasses and pistols — except the four hundred marines, who carried bayonets and rifles. They were a scratch lot, from the soldier's point of view, never having been landed together as a single unit till called upon to assault the most dangerous features of the fort. Yet, though they were repulsed with considerable loss, they greatly helped to win the day by obliging the defenders to divide their forces. As Terry's army was, by itself, four or five times stronger than Lamb's entire command the military stormers succeeded in fighting their way through every line of defense and compelling a surrender. They did exceedingly well. But their rear was safe, because Bragg had
withdrawn the supporting army for service elsewhere; while, in their front, the enemy defenses had been almost torn out by the roots in many places under the terrific converging fire of six hundred naval guns for three successive days.
When Fort Fisher surrendered on the fifteenth of January (1865) the exhausted South had only one good port and one good raider left: Charleston and the Shenandoah.
GRANT ATTACKS THE FRONT: 1864
On March 9, 1864, at the Executive Mansion, and in the presence of all the Cabinet Ministers, Lincoln handed Grant the Lieutenant-General's commission which made him Commander-in-Chief of all the Union armies — a commission such as no one else had held since Washington. On April 9, 1865, Grant received the surrender of Lee at Appomattox; and the four years war was ended by a thirteen months campaign.
Victor of the River War in '63, Grant moved his headquarters from Chattanooga to Nashville soon before Christmas. He then expected not only to lead the river armies against Atlanta in '64 but, at the same time, to send another army against Mobile, where it could act in conjunction with the naval forces under Farragut's command.
He consequently made a midwinter tour of
of August. There were batteries ashore, torpedoes across the channel, the Tennessee ram and other Confederate vessels waiting on the flank: three kinds of danger to the Union fleet if one false movement had been made. But Farragut's touch was sure. He sent his ironclads through next to the batteries, which were only really dangerous on one side. This protected the wooden ships against the batteries and the ironclads against the torpedoes; for the Confederates had to leave part of the fairway clear in order to use it themselves. Through this narrow channel the four strongly armored monitors led the desperate way, a little ahead and to starboard of the wooden vessels, which followed in pairs, each pair lashed together, with the stronger on the starboard side, next to Fort Morgan.
The Confederates in Fort Morgan, and in the small and distant Fort Powell on the other side, hardly reached a thousand men. Their force afloat was also comparatively small: the ironclad ram Tennessee and three side-wheeler gunboats. But the great strength of their position and the many dangers to a hostile fleet combined to make Farragut's attack a very serious operation, even with his four monitors, eight screw sloops, and four smaller vessels. The Union army, which took no
part in this great attack, was over five thousand strong, and lost only seven men in the land bombardment later on.
Farragut crossed the bar in the Hartford at ten past six in the morning with the young flood tide and a westerly breeze to blow the smoke against Fort Morgan. All his ships ran up the Stars and Stripes not only at the peak, as usual, but at each mast-head as well. Farragut himself at first took post in the port main rigging. But as the smoke of battle rose around him he climbed higher and higher till he got close under the maintop, where a seaman, sent up by Captain Drayton, lashed him on securely.
All went well amid the furious cannonade till the monitor Tecumseh, taking the wrong side of the channel buoy in her anxiety to ram the Tennessee, ran over the torpedoes, was horribly holed by the explosion, and plunged head-foremost to the bottom, her screw madly whirling in the air. Nor was this the worst; for the Tecumseh's mistake had thrown the other monitors out of their proper line-ahead, athwart the wooden ships, which began to slow and swing about in some confusion. The Confederates redoubled their fire. Ahead lay the fatal torpedoes. For a moment Farragut