Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

“CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 3, 1865.

“GENERAL: The expedition intrusted to your command has been
fitted out to renew the attempt to capture Fort Fisher, N. C.,
and Wilmington ultimately, if the fort falls. You will then
proceed with as little delay as possible to the naval fleet
lying off Cape Fear River, and report the arrival of yourself
and command to Admiral D. D. Porter, commanding North Atlantic
Blockading Squadron.

“It is exceedingly desirable that the most complete
understanding should exist between yourself and the naval
commander. I suggest, therefore, that you consult with Admiral
Porter freely, and get from him the part to be performed by each
branch of the public service, so that there may be unity of
action. It would be well to have the whole programme laid down
in writing. I have served with Admiral Porter, and know that
you can rely on his judgment and his nerve to undertake what he
proposes. I would, therefore, defer to him as much as is
consistent with your own responsibilities. The first object to
be attained is to get a firm position on the spit of land on
which Fort Fisher is built, from which you can operate against
that fort. You want to look to the practicability of receiving
your supplies, and to defending yourself against superior forces
sent against you by any of the avenues left open to the enemy. If
such a position can be obtained, the siege of Fort Fisher will
not be abandoned until its reduction is accomplished, or another
plan of campaign is ordered from these headquarters.

“My own views are, that if you effect a landing, the navy ought
to run a portion of their fleet into Cape Fear River, while the
balance of it operates on the outside. Land forces cannot
invest Fort Fisher, or cut it off from supplies or
reinforcements, while the river is in possession of the enemy.

“A siege-train will be loaded on vessels and sent to Fort
Monroe, in readiness to be sent to you if required. All other
supplies can be drawn from Beaufort as you need them.

“Keep the fleet of vessels with you until your position is
assured. When you find they can be spared, order them back, or
such of them as you can spare, to Fort Monroe, to report for

“In case of failure to effect a landing, bring your command back
to Beaufort, and report to these headquarters for further
instructions. You will not debark at Beaufort until so directed.

“General Sheridan has been ordered to send a division of troops
to Baltimore and place them on sea-going vessels. These troops
will be brought to Fort Monroe and kept there on the vessels
until you are heard from. Should you require them, they will be
sent to you.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

Lieutenant-Colonel C. B. Comstock, aide-de-camp (now brevet
brigadier-general), who accompanied the former expedition, was
assigned, in orders, as chief-engineer to this.

It will be seen that these instructions did not differ
materially from those given for the first expedition, and that
in neither instance was there an order to assault Fort Fisher.
This was a matter left entirely to the discretion of the
commanding officer.

The expedition sailed from Fort Monroe on the morning of the
6th, arriving at the rendezvous, off Beaufort, on the 8th,
where, owing to the difficulties of the weather, it lay until
the morning of the 12th, when it got under way and reached its
destination that evening. Under cover of the fleet, the
disembarkation of the troops commenced on the morning of the
13th, and by three o’clock P.M. was completed without loss. On
the 14th a reconnoissance was pushed to within five hundred
yards of Fort Fisher, and a small advance work taken possession
of and turned into a defensive line against any attempt that
might be made from the fort. This reconnoissance disclosed the
fact that the front of the work had been seriously injured by
the navy fire. In the afternoon of the 15th the fort was
assaulted, and after most desperate fighting was captured, with
its entire garrison and armament. Thus was secured, by the
combined efforts of the navy and army, one of the most important
successes of the war. Our loss was: killed, one hundred and
ten; wounded, five hundred and thirty-six. On the 16th and the
17th the enemy abandoned and blew up Fort Caswell and the works
on Smith’s Island, which were immediately occupied by us. This
gave us entire control of the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

At my request, Mayor-General B. F. Butler was relieved, and
Major-General E. O. C. Ord assigned to the Department of
Virginia and North Carolina.

The defence of the line of the Tennessee no longer requiring the
force which had beaten and nearly destroyed the only army now
threatening it, I determined to find other fields of operation
for General Thomas’s surplus troops–fields from which they
would co-operate with other movements. General Thomas was
therefore directed to collect all troops, not essential to hold
his communications at Eastport, in readiness for orders. On the
7th of January, General Thomas was directed, if he was assured of
the departure of Hood south from Corinth, to send General
Schofield with his corps east with as little delay as
possible. This direction was promptly complied with, and the
advance of the corps reached Washington on the 23d of the same
month, whence it was sent to Fort Fisher and New Bern. On the
26th he was directed to send General A. J. Smith’s command and a
division of cavalry to report to General Canby. By the 7th of
February the whole force was en route for its destination.

The State of North Carolina was constituted into a military
department, and General Schofield assigned to command, and
placed under the orders of Major-General Sherman. The following
instructions were given him:

“CITY POINT, VA., January 31, 1865.

“GENERAL:– * * * Your movements are intended as
co-operative with Sherman’s through the States of South and
North Carolina. The first point to be attained is to secure
Wilmington. Goldsboro’ will then be your objective point,
moving either from Wilmington or New Bern, or both, as you deem
best. Should you not be able to reach Goldsboro’, you will
advance on the line or lines of railway connecting that place
with the sea-coast–as near to it as you can, building the road
behind you. The enterprise under you has two objects: the
first is to give General Sherman material aid, if needed, in his
march north; the second, to open a base of supplies for him on
his line of march. As soon, therefore, as you can determine
which of the two points, Wilmington or New Bern, you can best
use for throwing supplies from, to the interior, you will
commence the accumulation of twenty days’ rations and forage for
sixty thousand men and twenty thousand animals. You will get of
these as many as you can house and protect to such point in the
interior as you may be able to occupy. I believe General Palmer
has received some instructions direct from General Sherman on the
subject of securing supplies for his army. You will learn what
steps he has taken, and be governed in your requisitions
accordingly. A supply of ordnance stores will also be necessary.

“Make all requisitions upon the chiefs of their respective
departments in the field with me at City Point. Communicate
with me by every opportunity, and should you deem it necessary
at any time, send a special boat to Fortress Monroe, from which
point you can communicate by telegraph.

“The supplies referred to in these instructions are exclusive of
those required for your own command.

“The movements of the enemy may justify, or even make it your
imperative duty, to cut loose from your base, and strike for the
interior to aid Sherman. In such case you will act on your own
judgment without waiting for instructions. You will report,
however, what you purpose doing. The details for carrying out
these instructions are necessarily left to you. I would urge,
however, if I did not know that you are already fully alive to
the importance of it, prompt action. Sherman may be looked for
in the neighborhood of Goldsboro’ any time from the 22d to the
28th of February; this limits your time very materially.

“If rolling-stock is not secured in the capture of Wilmington,
it can be supplied from Washington. A large force of railroad
men have already been sent to Beaufort, and other mechanics will
go to Fort Fisher in a day or two. On this point I have informed
you by telegraph.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

Previous to giving these instructions I had visited Fort Fisher,
accompanied by General Schofield, for the purpose of seeing for
myself the condition of things, and personally conferring with
General Terry and Admiral Porter as to what was best to be done.

Anticipating the arrival of General Sherman at Savannah his army
entirely foot-loose, Hood being then before Nashville, Tennessee,
the Southern railroads destroyed, so that it would take several
months to re-establish a through line from west to east, and
regarding the capture of Lee’s army as the most important
operation towards closing the rebellion–I sent orders to
General Sherman on the 6th of December, that after establishing
a base on the sea-coast, with necessary garrison, to include all
his artillery and cavalry, to come by water to City Point with
the balance of his command.

On the 18th of December, having received information of the
defeat and utter rout of Hood’s army by General Thomas, and
that, owing to the great difficulty of procuring ocean
transportation, it would take over two months to transport
Sherman’s army, and doubting whether he might not contribute as
much towards the desired result by operating from where he was,
I wrote to him to that effect, and asked him for his views as to
what would be best to do. A few days after this I received a
communication from General Sherman, of date 16th December,
acknowledging the receipt of my order of the 6th, and informing
me of his preparations to carry it into effect as soon as he
could get transportation. Also that he had expected, upon
reducing Savannah, instantly to march to Columbia, South
Carolina, thence to Raleigh, and thence to report to me; but
that this would consume about six weeks’ time after the fall of
Savannah, whereas by sea he could probably reach me by the
middle of January. The confidence he manifested in this letter
of being able to march up and join me pleased me, and, without
waiting for a reply to my letter of the 18th, I directed him, on
the 28th of December, to make preparations to start as he
proposed, without delay, to break up the railroads in North and
South Carolina, and join the armies operating against Richmond
as soon as he could.

On the 21st of January I informed General Sherman that I had
ordered the 23d corps, Major-General Schofield commanding,
east; that it numbered about twenty-one thousand men; that we
had at Fort Fisher, about eight thousand men; at New Bern, about
four thousand; that if Wilmington was captured, General Schofield
would go there; if not, he would be sent to New Bern; that, in
either event, all the surplus force at both points would move to
the interior towards Goldsboro’, in co-operation with his
movement; that from either point railroad communication could be
run out; and that all these troops would be subject to his orders
as he came into communication with them.

In obedience to his instructions, General Schofield proceeded to
reduce Wilmington, North Carolina, in co-operation with the navy
under Admiral Porter, moving his forces up both sides of the
Cape Fear River. Fort Anderson, the enemy’s main defence on the
west bank of the river, was occupied on the morning of the 19th,
the enemy having evacuated it after our appearance before it.

After fighting on 20th and 21st, our troops entered Wilmington
on the morning of the 22d, the enemy having retreated towards
Goldsboro’ during the night. Preparations were at once made for
a movement on Goldsboro’ in two columns–one from Wilmington, and
the other from New Bern–and to repair the railroad leading there
from each place, as well as to supply General Sherman by Cape
Fear River, towards Fayetteville, if it became necessary. The
column from New Bern was attacked on the 8th of March, at Wise’s
Forks, and driven back with the loss of several hundred
prisoners. On the 11th the enemy renewed his attack upon our
intrenched position, but was repulsed with severe loss, and fell
back during the night. On the 14th the Neuse River was crossed
and Kinston occupied, and on the 21st Goldsboro’ was entered.
The column from Wilmington reached Cox’s Bridge, on the Neuse
River, ten miles above Goldsboro’, on the 22d.

By the 1st of February, General Sherman’s whole army was in
motion from Savannah. He captured Columbia, South Carolina, on
the 17th; thence moved on Goldsboro’, North Carolina, via
Fayetteville, reaching the latter place on the 12th of March,
opening up communication with General Schofield by way of Cape
Fear River. On the 15th he resumed his march on Goldsboro’. He
met a force of the enemy at Averysboro’, and after a severe fight
defeated and compelled it to retreat. Our loss in this
engagement was about six hundred. The enemy’s loss was much
greater. On the 18th the combined forces of the enemy, under
Joe Johnston, attacked his advance at Bentonville, capturing
three guns and driving it back upon the main body. General
Slocum, who was in the advance ascertaining that the whole of
Johnston’s army was in the front, arranged his troops on the
defensive, intrenched himself and awaited reinforcements, which
were pushed forward. On the night of the 21st the enemy
retreated to Smithfield, leaving his dead and wounded in our
hands. From there Sherman continued to Goldsboro’, which place
had been occupied by General Schofield on the 21st (crossing the
Neuse River ten miles above there, at Cox’s Bridge, where General
Terry had got possession and thrown a pontoon-bridge on the 22d),
thus forming a junction with the columns from New Bern and

Among the important fruits of this campaign was the fall of
Charleston, South Carolina. It was evacuated by the enemy on the
night of the 17th of February, and occupied by our forces on the

On the morning of the 31st of January, General Thomas was
directed to send a cavalry expedition, under General Stoneman,
from East Tennessee, to penetrate South Carolina well down
towards Columbia, to destroy the railroads and military
resources of the country, and return, if he was able, to East
Tennessee by way of Salisbury, North Carolina, releasing our
prisoners there, if possible. Of the feasibility of this
latter, however, General Stoneman was to judge. Sherman’s
movements, I had no doubt, would attract the attention of all
the force the enemy could collect, and facilitate the execution
of this. General Stoneman was so late in making his start on
this expedition (and Sherman having passed out of the State of
South Carolina), on the 27th of February I directed General
Thomas to change his course, and order him to repeat his raid of
last fall, destroying the railroad towards Lynchburg as far as he
could. This would keep him between our garrisons in East
Tennessee and the enemy. I regarded it not impossible that in
the event of the enemy being driven from Richmond, he might fall
back to Lynchburg and attempt a raid north through East
Tennessee. On the 14th of February the following communication
was sent to General Thomas:

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