Army Correspondence: February 18, 1865

Fort Fisher Pulpit. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Army Correspondence

Headquarters 1st U. S. C. T., near Ft. Fisher, N.C. Jan. 29, ‘65

Christian Recorder: February 18, 1865

Turner writes about his time at Fort Fisher

Mr. Editor: I am happy to say we still occupy the same ground we captured from the rebels a few weeks since, and which was so sternly and stubbornly held by them. I presume most of the Northern papers have mapped and described the typography of Fort Fisher in such glowing delineations, that it would be useless for me to attempt a farther description of it. Our present position, however, is all that we could desire….Fort Buchanan is simply a high mound thrown up, on which there are only three guns, but of immense caliber, while four or five more mounds stand along the channel side, between Forts Buchanan and Fisher, each of which mounted two guns. When I say mound, I mean earth thrown up and prepared, with all the necessary arrangements for mounting the desired number of guns.

On the most of these mounds were the finest and most effective cannons, doubtless, in the Southern Confederacy, not any of which had been materially injured by our terrible bombardment. The above name forts or mounds did not by any means, suffer as did Fort Fisher.

But, as I started to speak of our present position I will now proceed to do so. Supposing Fort Fisher to be the centre of the sea and river, (but which is not really the case,) we have a battle-line drawn, and ourselves entrenched about two miles in the rear, with our left resting on the river, and our right resting on the sea. This line is about a mile long, being the distance from shore to shore, along which are several formidable works, protected by batteries and cannons. At a proper space in the front are posted a strong picket-line. This is also well-supported by works, which would puzzle the rebels considerable to drive us from our position. And then, in the space of about three hundred yards, in the rear of our main line, we have another line of flanking works, which would, by the aid of the gun-boats, enable us to withstand any force the rebels may bring against us; for we not only have a triple line of the most formidable works, but our gun-boats are prepared for a cross-fire, from both the sea and the river.

Thus you may see, placed as we are in this formidable position, and surrounded by such works as I have just described, we are presenting an ugly front to any rebel force which may, perchance, pay us a visit. And here we are, waiting for the rebels to fortify Wilmington with unsurpassable obstructions before we move. We waited four years for the rebels to fortify Fort Fisher and the entrance to Cape Fear river, and now, after taking it at a great sacrifice of life, to push forward for Wilmington would not be characteristic of American gallantry. Such ‘war fanatics” as Sherman might affect to take advantage of his opportunities, but we, who have been trained by the army tactics of the Potomac, have a higher conception of military science than to take advantage of an enemy. We find it best to take a place after giving the enemy as much time as possible to fortify and strengthen their position, so that they may be able to make a bold and strong resistance. Then sit down and dilly-dally for several months, wait to see what the newspapers have to say about it, ask for several promotions, discharge somebody, call for more troops, idle out weeks of good weather, and as soon as a rain-storm commences, the wind to blow in frightful gales, and when every congealable liquid freezes, then look out for marching orders about twelve or one o’clock at night.

But to criticize our General’s tardiness is useless. They were founded on the strategetical maneuverings of McClellanistic genius, when this war began to exhibit its gigantic proportions; and its seeds are destined to run coeval with its existence.

Parallel to our picket line, but somewhat in advance of our line of fortifications, on the opposite side of the river, the rebels have a fort which pretends to guard the river or channel. How formidable these works are, none of us know; but to suppose them a match for our naval fleet, is folly, unless, indeed, by torpedoes. Notwithstanding, our navy would not find the same convenience in operating upon it as they did Fort Fisher, because they would not have the sea room

As to the number of rebel troops who are in our front, prepared to dispute our advance, I have no reliable knowledge; but judging from the light of their camp fires, they must be in some force. Deserters, however, say there are one or two brigades there, but they are much discouraged, and could easily be driven or completely demoralized.

Several free colored men, who are now employed by us, were captured with the rebels in Fort Fisher, and have informed us, that during our bombardment of the fort, they were not allowed to enter a bomb-proof for shelter, and yet not a man was struck. And while the rebels had free access to all the bomb-proofs, yet they were slaughtered without mercy, while the poor colored men, who were denied every shelter, except the mere privilege of dodging behind the side of the fort, all escaped. And yet I cannot imagine how they did escape, for every spot was covered with fragments of shells…. How manifold are thy mercies, O, Lord! They are stupendously deep and transcendently high….

Yours truly, 


H.M.T.