I 'he effect of the explosion will be JL ... very severe, stunning men at a distance of three or four hundred yards ... and making them unable to stand for any length of time a fire from the ships ...I think that houses in Wilmington will tumble to the ground and I think if the rebels fight after the explosion they have more in them than I gave them credit for."
Admiral Porter predicting the effects of the U.S.S. Louisiana's detonation.
By the end of 1864 Wilmington, North Carolina, was the last important port still in Confederate hands. Its approaches were guarded by Fort Fisher's powerful batteries, which were well-protected by mounds of sand. Fields of fire were well covered, and troops protected by bomb proofs.
On December 20, the largest number of Federal warships ever assembled in the war arrived off Fort Fisher, with Admiral Porter in command. General Butler was in charge of land forces.
As a preliminary to the assault, the navy packed the gunboat Louisiana with tons of explosives and on December 24, detonated her 450 yards from the fort. It accomplished nothing.
At midday on the 24th, Porter's fleet began the bombardment. For over five hours they laid down a volume of fire sometimes reaching 115 rounds per minute. Butler's troops landed on the beach north of the fort. As they neared the fort, the naval fire ceased. To his astonishment, Butler discovered the fort still intact and the defenders relatively unharmed. The weather now began to worsen, and concerned that a storm would isolate his forces from their naval support, Butler withdrew. The first assault on Fort Fisher was a failure.
On January 13, a Federal fleet with Porter again in command, and accompanied by
Essential to Union victory was the strangulation of Lee's supply routes. Most of the supplies reaching his army were carried by blockade runners whose access to Wilmington was guarded by the enormous Fort Fisher (right). Built of sand and dirt over a log framework, the fort absorbed shells far more effectively than stone fortifications such as Fort Sumter.
Dec 25 2.30 pm: The first Union attack on ■ the fort is thrown bad The Union commander Brig. Gen. G.G. Weitzel also discovers approaches covered by torpedoes, (mines)
6 pm: Weitzel withdraws and hts troops are troops are taken off by Porter's boats
\ Dec 27: Col. Lamb repairs damage to fort correctly suspecting that the Union fleet will return
Jan 12: The Union fleet returns. Before dawn on Jan E3the ironclads move in close and open fire. Confederate guns return fire revealing their posiuons on the sand wall
1 J Dec 24 1.40 am: USS Louisiana explodes causing negligible damage to the fori
12 noon: Union fleet bombards fort firing almost 115 shells per minute from 627 guns. The fleet fires almost 1 '.00C shells during the five hour bombardmeij t
Jan 15 3 pm: The bombardment ceases
®and the land force attacks the North and N. East walls
After the first assault on the fort, Benjamin Butler had complained that the naval gunnery had been ragged and ineffective. This failure was largely due to the attempts of Porter's gunners to knock down the Confederate flag by aiming high (left). Porter ensured that this fault was rectified in the subsequent assault.
g Jan 13: At sunrise the union fleet moves ^ into position and bombards the confederate gun positions on strict orders from Porter r'j ■ Jan 13 8 am: Gen. A. Terrv lands his troops
' and prepares a defensive line facing north to block possible Confederate reinforcements, meanwhile Porter bombards all day and into the night
Jan 14: Lamb receives reinforcements: 700 soldiers and 50 sailors. Jan 15 a further 350 make it before their ship is driven off by Union bombardment
Wilderness j'.,! Cuyler
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