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tv   The Civil War Battle of Fort Fisher  CSPAN  January 18, 2020 6:00pm-7:16pm EST

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the battle of fort fisher and spoke at the small battle, big results symposium and then explores the tense days of october 1962 when the united and the soviet union faced off over missiles in cuba. at 10:00 p.m. on reel america, film ande silent color photos of the soviet union in army950's shot by u.s. major martin manhoff. historian douglas smith joins us to explain. that's what's coming up here on tv.ican history my name's jerry desmond, the pampling director at park. i'm very happy to introduce rod gragg, military historian and
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author of more than 20 historical books, the director bank center of military studies. work on the battle of james j.g won the roberts award for best civil war his book onar and "confederate goliath" earned the prestigious award on civil war yearly fromn out the new york city civil war roundtable. gragg a warmd welcome. [applause] you.thank roomure for me to be in a full of historians and i say that seriously because i have that i may write a lot but the folks who really know those of you are who read a lot.
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and i appreciate that. if you don'tn, mind, i'd like to tell you the young historye major what decided after he got bachelor's degree in history, a probably ought to get masters degree in business so he could earn a living. enrolled incepted, a distant prestigious school of wondered soon after he got there if he made the right decision because he failed his first exam and so did everyone in the class. now, the professor was notoriously irrascable, he came plopped the exam, papers on the lecturn and he said i've never seen anything like this, this is the worst performance on an exam i've seen in my teaching career. fact, i don't know how anyone but a buff on a could perform so poorly. fact, i want every buffoon in
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this room to stand up. the room was quiet. nobody moved. historyear, the young major stood up. professor peered over his glasses and said, so, young man, admitting you're a buffoon? sir, the history major said respectfully, i just hate to see alone.nding [laughter] rod: john ford said about some of those john wayne movies, they ought true but to be. when the morning sun broke over the atlantic horizon in december a nation tornthed asunder. america was in the agonizing civil war. now nearing its fourth year of bloodshed. 1861 in the war's heady opening days, most americans had brief and bloodless
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conflict settled within a few of little loss instead, what had followed, of course, on countless fields of fire was a great and gory yearst which had ground on after year, unleashing an unimaginable harvest of death and suffering and destruction into the lives of americans south.nd by late 1864, almost 600,000 of america's sons had already died in this seemingly endless and thousands more were dying weekly. in staggeringn numbers at pastoral sounding like shiloh and bull run kennyry's heights and ken saw mountain. antedum, 23,000 fell in one day. 7,000 fell in, eight minutes, it was reported
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in. the war's sprawling military of thousands grew ill and died of killers like andles and dysentery typhoida and fifor-- fever. in the south, homes and farms destroyed, towns and cities set ablaze, inflation, shortages, invasion made living retchedly hard for many. south,north, as in the frequent casualty reports carried grief into countless homes. war continued to call america's sons to distant of death. alongside a stretch of north 1864ina beach in late would unfold a mighty drama intended by northern forces to force an end to this massive surged acrosst america. there, near the mouth of the the largestver,
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joint army-navy operation of the be staged.ould if successful, it could place the south in a final stranglehold and could lead the north to a final victory. a deadly contest, a life-and-death struggle for men blue from new york, connecticut, new hampshire, indiana, and defenders in gray, mainly from some fromlina, georgia and south carolina. the target of the north's greatest army-navy operation, soldiers that southern would defend to the death was a fortress that was famous on both sides of the atlantic. confederate the goliath. by december of 1864, federal forces controlled the mississippi river, splitting the confederacy north and south. elsewhere, the south was being
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dismembered by invasion. general william t. sherman and columns hadring laid waste to a long stretch of georgia on his march to the sea, soon would strike into the heart of south carolina. in tennessee, the once formidable confederate army of tennessee was ragged and reduced in virginia, general robert e. lee had been forced to abandon masterful maneuvering and defend the confederate capital embattled line at petersburg and every day lee's virginia grew a little weaker, steadily besieged ulysses s. grant and the overwhelming numbers of well equipped troops who performed well from the army of the potomac. confederate president jefferson members of the confederate congress and some southerners still held to the that southern independence could somehow be achieved if the
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confederacy could just hold on and outlast the war weary north. but compounding the worseningy's ever dilemma was the stranglehold of an increasingly effective naval ofckade and the steady loss southern sea ports to the combined power of northern army forces.l one by one southern sea ports from norfolk to galveston had been captured or closed and the slowlyracy was being isolated from the rest of the world. 1864, wilmington, north as aina, alone survived confederacy's sole major seaport. fast, blockade running vessels lined the docks at bringing in british
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infield rivals, ammunition, caps, lead, tin, other articles of war, while asing out cotton and rice exports. hadate 1864, wilmington become the lifeline of the confederacy. wilmington was a formidable line of defenses that bothched from the city on sides of the cape fear river for river's mouthe which opened into the atlantic via two inlets. this mighty collection of forts and artillery batteries known as the cape fear defense system, accurate at the mouth of the river by fort fisher. tip of an the peninsula known as confederate war, fortng the fisher was roughly shaped like the number seven with its top, or land face, stretching for
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half a mile across the peninsula the cape fear river to the atlantic. face, stretching for a mile along the beach to the south. known as the gibraltar of history's one of great fortresses. point more than 40 pieces of heavy artillery. its gun chambers were protected by high, hill-like earthen were hollow or bomb proof to protect the fort's enemyon during bombardments and boasted a batteryhigh sea face called the mound battery and a cutting edge piece of military achnology on its land face, modern style minefield in which of artillery shells were connected by wires to a battery them could detonate beneath the feet of assaulting
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infantry. fort fisher was famous in the by some in thed north. fort fisher's creator and who hadr, the man directed most of the construction of this world was a fortress, 29-year-old southern officer who no professional training as a military engineer. william lamb. he was a native of norfolk, city'sa, son of the mayor, had graduated phi beta kappa with a law degree from at age 19, mary devout, a, talented, book lover, a natural student. consideredb was brilliant by some. at age 20 he became a newspaper editor, the paper his father bought him. and when the war erupted, he army ande confederate was quickly promoted to major. an armyhe was made
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quartermaster and was transferred to wilmington where soon became colonel and fledgling fortis fisher. while lamb continued strengthening fort fisher, some north in to the washington, d.c., federal authorities at the highest level the greatg plans for fort's destruction and the ofsing of the seaport wilmington. president lincoln and u.s. navy weretary gideon wells convinced that the fall of fort wilmingtond close and closing wilmington as the last operational major seaport could isolateracy the south and help hasten war.ern victory in the lincoln authorized the necessary thel and army forces for fort fisher campaign and he said he would do so if general grant was willing.
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grant, now the commanding armies,of all northern had been reluctant to support a campaign that he believed would massive army-navy operation, but now he, too, time. it was 64,in early december 18 approximately 6400 federal troops were withdrawn from the marched front and were troop shipstilla of bound for an assault on far-away fort fisher. force forpal northern the fort fisher campaign consisted of the second division, 24th corps, of the the james, an army earliersome six months by a troop merger. yet toy of the james had prove itself. its troops were combat veterans they'd seen a lot of fighting in virginia. fewthey had enjoyed
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victories. also selected for the fort campaign were troops of the third division of the all corps, black troops with white officers, paid less troops, subjected to discrimination, often used to white northern troops. the men of the u.s. colored troops, as they were known, had to prove themselves to critics who asked would they really fight. placed in command of army operations for the expedition a 29-year-old west pointer, wetzel.godfrey but as the troop ships prepared to steam southward, the unexpected occurred. general wetzel's superior the head of the army of the james, exercised the announcedof rank and that he would accompany the expedition, which meantuld really be in command.
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was generalmander benjamin f. butler and his decision to involve himself in fisher campaign created a high ranking stir, because ben theer was almost certainly most controversial officer in the northern army. a political general, a wealthy 46-year-old massachusetts attorney, a volunteer officer, and a democrat in ahern war being waged by a republican administration. he was eccentric, riding about horseback adorned in bedroom night,s in the dark of reading poetry, reciting it aloud. and he was controversial. where he wass, military governor in 1862, he seizing $1cused of million from the french consulate. nicknamed "spoons" butler
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appropriating southern silverware, and in the south, after he ordered southern jailed as prostitutes for insulting northern officers in chamber pot manufacturers cranked out a line butler'sts, pots with face on the bottom. introduced aerial warfare by sending upar observers in hot air balloons which proved to be a useful idea. and he had proposed attacking confederate earth works with fire hoses which did not prove to be a good idea. seemed, always at the center of some dispute. quote, "old ben is like a cuddle water,"dying its own said a fellow officer. and as competent on the field of battle as much as an opium eater
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is in council. for the fort fisher expedition, ben butler had come up with a secret weapon. he had read a newspaper article about terrible death and damage britain caused by the accidental explosion of a powder and itn inspired an idea. he had many of those. withot fill an old ship tons of gun powder, butler reasoned, float it near fort fisher, and blow it up? butler believed the powder boat, as he called it, might flatten maybe flatten wilmington 20 miles away, and victory.troops an easy the u.s. army's chief engineer the powder boat proposal, privately declared it likely to damage fort fisher as, quote, firing feathers from muskets.
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however, admiral david d. porter, given command of the naval fleet sent to accompany and bombard fort fisher in the fort fisher campaign, butler's powder boat might revolutionize naval theare and he intended for u.s. navy to get its share of the glory if that happened. admiral porter loved the navy. the sea was in his blood. was a fourth generation naval officer. great-grandfather had been a grandfatherman, his had commanded an american in the revolution. porter himself had gone to sea age 10. during the civil war he had rapidly.rank he commanded a mortar flotilla, role in the capture
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of new orleans and was cited for his role in the capture of vicksburg. his war-time achievements to skip two ranks. he was promoted from captain to admiral so at the time of the fort fisher campaign he was most famousorth's naval figures. he was resourceful, energetic, competent. was also, critics said, cocky,opinionated, competitive and fiercely ambitious. typically porter had acted whenly and decisively given command of operations for the navy for the fort fisher expedition. drawing ships from the u.s. navy's north atlantic blockading squadron, he organized one of the largest fleets ever assembled in america -- 56 war ships, including 3400-ton
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crew of more its four600, 48-gun minnesota, monitor class warships in what theat that time probably navy's most famous vessel, the iron plated, heavily armed, steam frig on the u.s.s. ironsides. porter also provided butler's floating bomb. picked an aging blockading vessel, the u.s.s. of 1812, from the war which was packed with 200 tons of gun powder in bags and barrels. the flotilla of army transports neared the atlantic newport news on the afternoon of december 14, 1864, heading toward the north carolina coast. porter's naval fleet arrived first and admiral porter detonate thelf to powder boat offshore fort fisher
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without general butler's knowledge. far out to sea, away from the floating bomb, the sailors of admiral porter's fleet lined the ship's railing, peered into the darkness at night and waited for to explode at a safe distance. blast was expected at 1:00 a.m., december 24. nothing happened. soon it was 1:30. 1:35. 1:40, 1:45. the powder boat exploded. bright flash illuminated the darkness towards the shore in distance and soon after thick smoke rolled over the followed then by silence and darkness. aboard the u.s.s. wilderness, a
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northern naval officer who watched the explosion stated simply, well there's a fizzle. [laughter] rod: the great powder boat a it was loud. windows in wilmington 20 miles away. somet severely frightened young southern sentries on the beach. harm fort nothing to fisher. general butler was furious when learned that his powder boat had been exploded without him. admiral porter had set off the floating bomb so he glory form all the himself and that he had botched the job. wanted to abandon the fort fisher campaign and take to finally, he was persuaded by staff officers to go ahead with put the armynd ashore just for a reconnaissance
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force. meanwhile, the federal naval bombardment had begun at procisely 12:45 a.m. on u.s.s. new when the ironsides opened fire on the fort. warships were anchored in battle stations in a mile-long line opposite the fort. the combined firepower of the fleet was more than 10 times the firepower of the fort and an astonishing barrage of power that by some accounts navale greatest bombardment in american history at that time. a splendid yet northern naval sailor would recall. what a shower of shell we must have pounded down on their heads. our shells would bury themselves in the sand and earth works and there in all directions.
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one continual roar like the heaviest thunder. the smoke was so thick at times it completely hid the sun. oh, it was a sight never to be forgotten. to fort fisher's garrison, the seemed anything but splendid. most were artillery troops, 36th, 40th and 10th north carolina artillery by some gunpported crews from the confederate navy and several companies of teenagers from the north carolina junior reserves. most waited out the naval bombardment inside fort fisher's earthen bomb proof but for those had to man the guns during the bombardment, it was terrifying. "i never saw shells fall so fort's a member of the garrison would later recount. "they came down like hail and i thought every one would get me."
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began on bombardment christmas eve and continued through christmas day sending more than 20,000 rounds, a million pounds of iron, hurtling toward fort fisher. the navy's aim was poor two-day barrage fell in the cape fear river behind the fort. butler's troops began landing on christmas day, long line ofe by navy launches. the advance federal troops were from thers, troops 142nd and 112th new york led by aand they were towering 6'4" 29-year-old, colonel newton martin curtis. smalltown school teacher and post master in a volunteere, officer in the war who had been fightingarly in the and after recovery had been
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stuck in an army desk job. now he was a brigade commander in the 24th army corps and he eager for action. curtis led a force of northern troops close to the fort while the naval bombardment was underway and while the fort's garrison was hiding inside the bomb proofs. to his eyes, therefore, appeared empty, undefended. and curtis was sure that an wouldate ground assault capture the fort if butler would order it and he had no orders. before he could get permission curtis learned that general butler had surprised theybody and called off assault. a reconnaissance report had convinced general butler that the navy had failed to destroy fort fisher's artillery and that confederates were reportedly
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rushing reinforcements down the the so general butler headed in his headquarters ship leaving scores of his on the beached until the navy eventually rescued them. butler's decision to withdraw national controversy in the north and became front page news. grant had cautioned butler that troops should not be removed if landed and he believed that butler had intentionally disobeyed his orders. admiral porter, meanwhile, witnessed the failure of the powder boat explosion, began distance between himself and the powder boat, blamed it all on butler, including the expedition's failure to capture fort fisher. the whitereached
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house and this time ben butler's political connections were not enough to save him. four days into the new year of president lincoln issued executive order number one, butleremoved general from command of the army of the james. meanwhile, the southern troops defending fort fisher viewed the aborted federal attack as a major victory. a parade was held and fort jubilant.arrison was however, fort fisher's commander, colonel william lamb, did not share that joyful attitude. said, theure, he northern forces would be back and soon. colonel lamb's solemn prediction shared by general william henry chase whiting who had been commander of the cape fear region until the eve
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federal attack. whiting had graduated from west 1841 withhe class of a scholastic record that would not be surpassed until the of douglas 60 yearsre more than later. in the pre-war u.s. army, whiting had been seen as a star in the army engineering corps. his family was from the north chose towar came, he serve the south. in confederate service, he had in rank rapidly from major to general in six months. whiting had been at the opening shots in charleston, promoted on manassas,at first made brigade commander by the campaign. chase whiting seemed destined hiswar-time glory and then fortunes suddenly crashed. whiting's troubles began when he offended confederate president
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jefferson davis by describing of davis' presidential foolish.s publicly as davis was incensed. was said of the president that he never forgot a friend, forgave an enemy. whiting wasgeneral posted to wilmington as departmental commander of a that at the time seemed to be a place where happening. even so, as colonel lamb's and mentor, whiting helped forge fort fisher's mighty reputation. however, when news of a pending on wilmington reached president davis, he anered whiting replaced by officer who was the president's named braxtonral
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bragg. bragg was a west point graduate, mexican war combat veteran, but he had overseen a series of disasters in the southern war cause including the loss of the atthern rail hub chattanooga, some said. disciplinarian. it was said that he shot a wasrter a day and he reviled by many of his troops. him when heheering appeared, bragg's troops would jeer. bully for bragg, he's hell, on retreat. bragg was generally disliked by fellow officers, some of whom said he quarreled with everyone. one officer who knew him insisted that once while the simultaneously serving as both quartermaster
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and company commander that bragg argument with himself and had to summon his the dispute.settle ofn he was given command wilmington, a richmond newspaper editorialized, "bragg has been sent to wilmington. goodbye, wilmington." [laughter] up. you can't make this so far, however, wilmington and had survived both the federal christmas attack and general bragg's new command. theon january 12, 1865, northern army and navy expedition returned. second attack on fort fisher, admiral porter had 59engthened the fleet to warships with a total of 627 guns. aboard the 21 troop transports,
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there were almost 9,000 troops this time. troops from the first expedition plus reinforcements. artillery had been added and in baltimore another if00 troops were standing by needed. in command of the federal army ofthe james now instead general butler was a new commanding general, general alfred h. terry, age 38. have seemed like an odd choice for army commander for this expedition. he was not a west pointer. he was not a professional soldier. in civilian life he was a lawyer court in new haven, reservedut, a quiet, man who spent his spare moments in peace time playing the flute. had good reasons for choosing terry. like general butler and most war, terry was a
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volunteer officer. a seasoned combat in joint, experienced army-navy operations, competent, cooperative,able, a dramatic contrast to the controversial ben butler. 8:30 a.m. on friday, january 13, the federal fleet on fortire again fisher. this time the naval bombardment accurate, more devastating, more deadly. not fall into the cape fear river. inflicted serious casualties on the fort's one beganand one by wrecking fort fisher's heavy artillery. lamb's garrison huddled waitbomb proofs hoping to out the bombardment. when the defenders emerged to fort's guns and return
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fire from time to time, they from thisck death horrendous rain of iron. federal infantry landing began that morning. ferriedfter launch northern soldiers ashore until 9,000f general terry's troops were deployed on the beach. general bragg allowed them to land unopposed. shot and shell from the naval bombardment continued to rain on fort fisher and at the height of federal naval bombardment, to colonel lamb's shock, general appeared without notice at lamb's side in the fort. whiting, now under general command, had left wilmington headquarters without orders. he reported, to have seen bragg's hands shaking as he worked out evacuation of the southern troops even before the fighting began. incensed, whiting stormed out of
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headquarters without orders, street ofwn the wilmington to the dockside, commandeered a steamer, and went fisher. fisher,arrived at fort whiting gave lamb anything but an optimistic greeting. lamb, my boy, he announced, i've come to share your fate. your garrison are to be sacrificed. whiting's gloomy prediction, even though they had 1500 troops in the fort now, colonel lamb remained fisher's of fort defenses and its defenders. in the woods north of fort fisher, meanwhile, general terry deployed his northern troops in a line stretching from the atlantic beach across the thensula to the banks of cape fear river. a main line faced fort fisher
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secondary line a faced northward where terry confederate attack from the rear and actually waiting for an order to attack the federal rear were reinforcements that had been sent south from lee's army in virginia, 6,000 generalommanded by robert e.hoke of north carolina. seasoned combat ns sent torth carolina defend their home state, ready to do battle. general terry's worse -- worst fear. from inside fort fisher, colonel and general whiting repeatedly sent messages urging to attack, attack, attack. but bragg did not.
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the bombardment continued to pound fort fisher throughout saturday, january 14. january 15,sunday, 1865, the northern army made its move. the sun rose over the atlantic cloudless blue sky that morning. in the woods north of fort front line federal troops were in position waiting for orders to assault the great fort. according to general terry's attack plan, the naval ambardment would cease at prearranged time and then the soldiers from the army of the fort.would rush the the troops would make the assault in three brigades. one after another, aiming for western plank of the fort's land face overlooking the cape fear river. time, 2,000 men in a composed ofe sailors and marines drawn from
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would assaultt fort fisher's northeast bastion. the fort where the land face met the sea face at water's edge. naval brigade force which was admiral porter's idea was of volunteersely and they faced a deadly challenge. the fort overrge approximately one mile of open largely armed with nothing more than handguns and cutlasses. at 3:35 this that afternoon, the ceased fire and the warships blew their steam whistles which was the call for the assault to begin. in charge of the naval brigade officer,year-old naval lieutenant commander randolph porter'se of admiral favorite young officers and brees was having a hard time. composed thes who naval brigade were not trained
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they knewn and nothing about making an infantry assault. brave but they were not infantry soldiers. were sailors and ships heavers,remen and coal sail makers and carpenters. at least one of them, a third class boy on the u.s.s. practically a child. general terry's orders called for the sailors to delay their infantryntil the scaled the fort's wall on the far end of the fort near the sailors were determined to be the first the fort. interservice rivalry. the fleet steam whistles gave the signal, the and complement of u.s. marines charged down the beach toward the fort. fisher's defenders rushed
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from their bomb proofs when the bombardment ceased. they knew that meant the federal infantry assault, which they was probably taking place. colonel lamb and general whiting the main assault would be directed at the fort's northeast bastion where the land sea face in an angle. and so they had posted almost half the surviving members of the fort's garrison at that point, high atop the fort's earthen walls. lamb and whiting could not see james in thehe distant tree line and when they saw the naval brigade charging down the beach, they believed that was the main assault on the fort. colonel lamb ordered his troops to hold their fire until the brigade was within easy range. on they came, sailors and run so, advancing at a close to the surf that they
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flanking the fort's minefield. fromwere 300 yards away the wall of the fort at the 200,east bastion, 250, 150, then colonel lamb gave the order to fire. it was a murderous volley. row oftened the front seamen. the whole mass of men, said one them later, went down like a row of falling bricks. survivors were quickly up, untild the assault, another volley tore into their ranks. few tried to go on and a made it to the fort wall but falling anden were the naval assault abruptly ended. sheep in acked like pen," one of them said later. crowdinge enemy were the ramparts not 40 yards away
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and shooting as fast as they fire. the shreex and groans, mingling the fiendish rattling around us, were enough to cause one to feel like he was in hell." the naval officers had unwisely theged to the front in assault force and now they were pinned down under fire with the sailors. lieutenant commander brees finally stood up and called for sailors to resume their assault. charge men, he shouted, don't retreat. rear, some of the sailors lying on the beach began shouting, what did he say, was to retreat? a chorus of yells arose and the ranks of sailors marines lying on the beach, "retreat, retreat!" theat once, almost all survivors were on their feet and
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back up the beach they raced in a panic, leaving behind their dead sailors and marines and the wounded. atop the northeast bastion, fort fisher's defenders climbed up on the parapets and they whooped and yield -- yelled in victory as they watched the northern and marines frantically flee up the beach. for colonel lamb and general the supremewas moment of triumph, but it was brief. colonel lamb realized something wrong. in the distance to the west toward the cape fear river he could see battle smoke and batteriesn the fort's nearest the river. men were moving there, wallgling atop the fort and above the struggle and the battleamb could see flags, not his, not the fort's.
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battle flagsthern and he knew the enemy was inside the fort. general terry, while the naval assault,as making its had launched the army assault as it towardirecting fort fisher's riverside battery, afterbrigades, one another. as the first brigade rushed the it, theyhout realizing charged through the fort's infamous minefield. no mines exploded. connected the lines the mines to their electrical battery had been severed by the bombardment. in the lead of this assault were new york troops from the 1st brigade, 2nd division, 24th army corps army of the james known as led by colonel newton martin curtis, the who had ventured so
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close to fort fisher during the first expedition before butler called it off. now the new yorkers scaled the fort wall near the river and battery by the time the naval brigade was fleeing down the beach. southerners defending the riverside battery were men of the 36th north carolina artillery led by captain bratty, 26-year-old officer. bratty had barely 250 men to by severalault thousand northern infantry but he deployed his troops on the fort wall and they unleashed a searing fire into the mass of togetherops crammed and swarming up the slopes of the fort. fierce outburst of musketry greeted the first heads that rose above the level of the the northern soldiers would later recall, and
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at least one flag and its bearer rolled down the slope. but our men made some sort of foothold on the slope and parapet aover the fire as fierce as the one they received. to fortrside entrance fisher was defended by two field artillery pieces and the gun crews managed to get off two rounds of canister that took troops in blue uniforms. as curtis' first brigade scaled terryrt wall, general terryd ordered his second brigade to join the assault. it was penny packers brigade. they were troops from new york and pennsylvania led by terry's youngest colonel, 20-year-old galucia penny packer, who some brigade the youngest commander in the army, an orphan penny packerania, had volunteered for service at age 16 and had steadily risen the ranks to colonel and
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brigade commander. he was a tested combat veteran youth and he already carried the scars of 13 battle wounds. by pennypacker's troops, curtis' new yorkers off thehe southerners fort's riverside battery, pushed drovethe next battery, the southern defenders from the third and the fourth. there, the fourth battery, fort's defenders held firm and the fighting became close up and face.o the comrade next to me on the brainse was shot in his and killed, one of the north carolina yans would later splattereds brains on my face. among the federal troops, one who fell atop the fort was pennypacker who was shoot down with battle flag in the rearwas carried to with a serious wound. now insidey soldiers fort fisher, general whiting
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sent colonel lamb to round up are defenders while he led counter attack with the troops that had turned back the naval assault. earthen land face wall they charged and plunged mass of men in blue now atop the fort wall near the river. soldier's fight now, the southern survivor would testify. as a man would fall, another would spring up to take his place and our officers were loading and firing with us. it was a hand-to-hand fight. the struggle,of general whiting was shot twice, hit in the thigh, and went down. his men dragged him out of the fight and carried him to the fort's field hospital. colonel lamb, meanwhile, had force of every soldier he could find. he deployed them behind a line heshallow earth works and ordered them to pour fire into the blue uniformed troops swarming over and around the fort's riverside batteries.
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fort's land face wall, meanwhile, as general whiting's command battled curtis' and penny packer's northern troops, incoming artillery rounds suddenly exploded among troops on both sides. the fire apparently came from battery buchanan, a huge battery southern tip of the fort which was manned by confederate whoses and it was claimed officers were allegedly drunk during the battle. deadly fire tore into whiting's troops as friendly also seemed to solve the federal advance. the now had the hope that enemy intruders could be stopped and maybe even turned back if would order bragg an assault on the federal rear. finally, general bragg ordered general hoke to make the assault federal rear of the army.
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two brigades of north carolina troops, kirkland's and klingman's brigades, good troops, experienced fighters, moved through the woods north of fort fisher and attacked the rear line. they engaged white troops from 24th army corps on the federal right and black troops the 25th army corps on the federal left. the white troops withdrew under heavy fire but the black troops firm as they unflichedly traded fire with hoke's southerners, solid experienced combat veterans, lee's army, the u.s. colored troops answered the critics.often posed by black troops would fight, and
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fight well. so, as the right flank of the federal rear guard began to of hoke's field officers were certain that the federal line in the rear was about to break. ordered general bragg hoke's troops to cease their assault and retreat back up the peninsula. bragg's decision meant that fort fisher's surviving troops would fight alone. inside the fort, meanwhile, the down the land face wall ground to a halt. atching the battle from distance with a borrowed pair of binoculars, general terry ordered in more troops. another brigade would go in. 2nd division, 24th army corps, it was known as bell's brigade. was composed of troops from indiana, new hampshire, new was commanded by
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27-year-old colonel lewis bell, governor,ew hampshire bell was a graduate of brown university and in civilian life attorney, a prosecutor, an amateur scientist, a devoted husband and a combat veteran and brigade commander. brigade,s of the 3rd bell's brigade, quickly moved forward to join the battle on fort's towering land face wall. brigade's assault began, however, colonel bell took a sharp shooter's round through the body and fell mortally wounded. obediently kept going anyway, rushing past their fallen colonel, spilling into fort, scaling its high earthen walls, adding their strength to the federal troops already inside. from his position inside the colonel lamb could see more men in blue pouring into fort, fighting his troops atop the batteries and in the
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fort's interior. superior numbers, the federal troops seemed to hesitate under the fierce fire by the fort's thin line of defenders. if they were struck hard now, reckoned, maybe the enemy soldiers would fold up and like then a panic sailors had done. lamb ordered the troops around and charge in a desperate counter attack, a bayonet charge. obeyed but as they arose bayonets, colonel lamb was hit. it was a serious wound. struck by a federal mini ball, probably a 58 caliber bullet, it hit his left and fractured his hip bone knocked him flat. when the troops around him saw faltered andthey that ended the counter attack. lamb was carried to the fort's generalspital to join whiting but like bell's and
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penny packer's northern the north carolinians defending fort fisher would not voidup despite the command left by the absence of whiting and lamb. fighting, giving ground stubbornly, slowly being pushed back from one land face to another, but giving up ground at a bloody cost to northern army. command of fort fisher's defense lamb's surviving subordinate, major james riley. there was little that he could do. it was now a soldier's fight, face-to-face, hand-to-hand, on land face fort's walls. the northern troops had a butnite numerical advantage on the walls of this fort in such close quarters with crammed on both sides shoulder-to-shoulder against numerical strength did not immediately matter.
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the fort's defenders were giving grudgingly and they were defending north carolina soil, their homes and their families and despite their lack of experience they fought as hard as men could fight that day. later said to be by both sides some of the bitterest hand-to-hand fighting of the war. a soldier would be shot in the head by a rifle ball, a recollected. a sound of clatter came from the wounded men. face down in the sand and others who were near explodedr when a shell had fallen in a heap of broken limbs and fallen bodies. men took the guns of their dead and helpless comrades and reloaded again and again. at dusk, however, the federal againe appeared to stall about midway down the fort's
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land face. curtis, leading the fight at the front of his troops, sent a courier hustling the rear with a request for more reinforcements. reinforcements, however, he received orders to entrench, to dig in on the fort's earthen wall and wait for morning. brigadiercame from ames, theelburt division commander, ames was a oft pointer with a lot combat experience, resume of military honors. curtis.oathed colonel ames and curtis were engaged in the fortl feud during fisher campaign. ames had made his headquarters ship that troop curtis commanded. but when the ships were ordered sail from virginia, ames at general butler's
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headquarters courting the general's daughter. after a long wait, curtis ordered the troop ship to sail superiorthout his officer and when ames caught up with the expedition after a hospitalride on ship, he and curtis had a heated argument in front of the troops. by the time they went into battle, they were not speaking each other. so, in the midst of the bloody face at on the land dusk, curtis. repeatedly requested reinforcements and general ames stoptedly ordered him to the fight and dig in for the night. curtis refused to obey. about toderates were break, he argued. withfinally sent a courier an arm load of spades up to the thet, up to the top of battery where the fight was raging. in the midst of the shouts and the death, this
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courier appeared and presented to arm load of shovels curtis. infuriated, curtis angrily threw the spades over the crest of the battery on to the confederates on the other side. did theywondered what think? it's raining shovels! the northern forces out of bullets? [laughter] rod: but curtis kept fighting. minutes later, he was knocked flat by an exploding shell which took out one of his eyes, not to him unconscious, and forced his soldiers to drag him to the rear. now general terry had to make the crucial decision. brigadest in three into the fort. the stroup said been fighting
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for hours. all three of his or gate commanders were dead or wounded. the federal advance stalled and the division commander wanted to start -- stop fighting for the night. terry was at a pivotal point in the battle. should he stop, set up for a siege, or should he risk more loss of life and push on? , andose to keep fighting ignoring general aims call to dig in, he ordered more reinforcements. charging into the fort now at terry's orders was a fourth brigade. choose from new hampshire and connecticut, commanded by commander joseph, terry called for the u.s. colored troops of the u.s. army court. for the first time since federal forces had moved against -- black troops were headed to the front.
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federal reinforcements poured into the fort and the momentum shifted to the men in blue. troops werefederal fresh now, while the fort's defenders were far fewer number and nearing exhaustion. still, the fighting was bitter and bloody. it was cold steel at the but of a gun, in northern officer would remember. men would blaze the way in the darkness. then be seenw and by the flash of exploding shells . it was all like some kind of hideous stream. but, the fort's surviving defenders were exhausted. almost out of ammunition. the fort's chaplain had been collecting cartridges from the dead to supply though still fighting, but it was not enough. fort fisher had fought stubbornly, courageously. but now the fight was nearing an end. the breakthrough for the northern army came when fresh
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troops from new hampshire moved through the darkness along the the fort, flanking the fort's remaining defenders, and then rushed over the fort wrong -- fort wall and opened fire on the seven is from the rear. host were surrounded by a of blue uniforms. the surviving defenders finally gave up. after six hours of ferocious fighting, all existence collapsed and the federal army of the james held fort fisher from the river to the ocean. the general and colonel were lying side-by-side with the forts battle wounded. and signooked up officer in a blue uniform standing over him and looking down at him. it was general jerry. now the victor of the battle of fort fisher. as theeral lighting,
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ranking southern officer, spoke words i had when seemed unthinkable to him. to you, the sir, forces under my command. fort fisher had fallen. wilmington was sealed. and the confederacy have lost its last major seaport. the top fort fisher's bloodsoaked ramparts, the victorious northern troops cheered, jumped and hugged each other and a wild celebration as the naval fleet lewis whistles and set off fireworks. , a northern soldier would later write. and we proclaimed it, from c and sure echoed back wilder and partying disturb the midnight at this place here in my very heart went up at thanksgiving. men grasped each other and wept only as brave men can in the hour of victory. when don came to fort fisher on
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january 16, it revealed a dramatically different post. in was a garrison confederate gray, a place by northern troops nu you -- and blue uniforms. yard of heavyty artillery was wrecked. guns dismounted. thereto was horrible evidence of the battles of fury, and the destruction of the naval bombardment. groundy a square foot of was without some fragment or unexploded shell, reported a northern soldier. heavy guns posted and dead bodies of rebels lying where they fell, with the blue -- wounds so horrible, some with heads off, some cut into, every possible wound that could be inflict did. oh, this terrible war. was the result of the northern victory at the battle
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of fort fisher? confederate officials regarded the loss of fort fisher as a stunning blow. alexander stevens, confederate vice president, pronounce that one of the greatest disasters to the fall of the south since the beginning of the war. faced with the loss of majorgton, south's last seaport, the confederate secretary of war resigned from his office. called on davis to step down in favor of robert e lee as dictator. of fort fisher convinced other confederate congressman that the south must finally make terms with the north. later, after the fall of fort fisher, president lincoln and william stewart met with a confederate peace commission, but the meeting achieve nothing. presidentdavis said
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lincoln was unwilling to compromise because the south have lost its last major port and was isolated. but the capture of fort fisher and the port of wilmington, the confederacy was isolated from the what -- from the rest of the world. there were no other major ports opened to the south. and small ones could do nothing to replace wilmington. the lifeline of the confederacy had been severed forever. no more imported weapons of war or food stock would be rolling up the railway from wilmington to lee's army in northern virginia. south, itorth and appeared that one of the final males had been driven -- nails had been given into the confederate coffin. surrenderedrt e lee and they would come less than three months later. thank you. [applause]
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any questions? yes, sir? a long time ago i read somewhere that butler and porter, especially porter had a great dear of animosity for butler. so much so that he ordered his navy on the first assault to shoot from the river. is there anything that supports that in the current research? any have never seen evidence of that, but i will say that relationship between the two was strained. porteractually invited to his headquarters ship. butler had a capture blockade running. porter had the uss melbourne, that was a nice ship for the
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and for any admirable. but when he went aboard, butler's headquarters boat, he was really amazed at the opulence, and probably not really happy about it. while he was very he did make a comment that the security was terrible and then a bomb went off while they were meeting. something they thought was designed to look like a piece of coal was tossed into the boiler, so they had to evacuate the ship and the headquarters ship sank. a lot of bad lead. you cannot really have picked to people who were so different in so many ways. i had never heard that, and i find it hard to believe that porter would do that. he really was a sailor. he was controversial in his own way. one of his men said he would be willing to tramp down any
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officer, any friend to advance his career, but he loved the navy. that withoutelieve seeing some evidence. but it does bring us to the thought about the relationship between two of those. yes, sir? response themes next morning after he was encouraging everyone to quit fighting and then they won the next morning? question. a great ames did not say much. distinguished himself at gettysburg. he was an excellent field officer. but this hold fuel thing -- feud thing with him went on and on. hes did not say much but wrote his after action report. you would have thought ames won the battle. aars later, years later veterans group in new york city was meeting at dell monaco's restaurant and it was announced in advanced -- like we are doing here, they made presentations on different topics and it was
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announced that ames was going speak on the battle of fort fisher. this was in the 1890's. they were elderly by then. delivered this. general cherry had recently died. their ended up in one of rare volunteer officers who kept his ranks, stayed in the regular army. he was the officer that sent custard to the little bighorn and he was distinguished in career after the war but became ill and died. died, amester he asked to make this presentation. critics said he took credit for fort fisher. according to critics, their interpretation was that he really told terry what to do and that is why things work out the way they did. sitting in the audience was , whoel curtis, one i distinguished himself with a postwar career and a fierce
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defender of general cherry and what had happened at fort fisher. he knew that ames was there. in the middle of ames speech, when he reached a point that curtis thought he was really claiming that he was responsible , according toy the new york times, curtis stood up, clenched his fist and glared with his eye and said, you craven hearted coward, then everything fell apart. that was great for me because what happened was, adrian terry, general terri brother was also angry. a letter to everybody he knew and said, write me your account of fort fisher, i am going to write a book. but he never did. but thanks to him i did. [laughter] with am really grateful that collection of work that he did. because they did not think any
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of that would be published. all ofre so frank m these details poured out about what was going on. back here, i am sorry. .> question he said braggs sent houck and then recalled him. was there any conflict between those two? i know houck went on to fight, what happened to brag? everybody generally agrees that hope was a competent officer. and pulled orders back as he was told to. your question was, well happened to brag? up not with the command, but with president davis to the very end on the president trump from richmond. bragg was with him for a long time. somebody asked me one time, can you tell us something good that bragg did it? i don't pick on general bag --
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bragg, i don't, i just reported what was missing. he did create a really nice bridge in galveston after the war. [laughter] that that when this book came out, 1991, i was in a grocery store not far from i was pushing my shopping cart, had seven kids. cart andng my shopping this very nice elderly lady came walking by, i did not know her and she looked at me and said, you are mr. gragg. she said you wrote the book on fort fisher. i said, yes man. she said, you said bad things about general bragg. she said, he was my ancestor. i was afraid to go to the grocery store for weeks. [laughter] another question? >> yes, regarding the over firing of the fort, i heard a
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different story. wham andrd that when whiting was observing be initial firing of the shelves -- shells, they were firing on the flag of the confederacy. they moved the flag back to the river. more than half of the shells ended up in the river, therefore minimized the damage. is at the right story? >> i have not heard that. it's a move did it would not surprise me. but it is true. reports say that the sailors were undisciplined. they got into a contest to try to knock down the garrison flag .nd they overshot the fort mid-20th century, shrimp boat captains were complaining because their nets were picking up these hundred pound shots. that part did happen, i just don't know if they moved the flag. any to find out about that. thank you. anyone else?
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you have been a great group. thank you so much. [applause] learn more about the people and events that shape the civil war and reconstruction every saturday at 6:00 p.m. eastern only on american history tv here on c-span3. next, the c-span cities tour visits the carolina basketball museum to learn about the history of tar heel basketball, which dates back to 1910. ♪ [marching band playing] ♪ >>


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