Notes by the Way to Wilmington, NC

Christian Recorder: January 14, 1865

Turner writes about the battle of Fort Fisher

Thursday, December 22d

After passing through one of the most terrific storms, yesterday, ever witnessed by mortals, we this morning came into Beaufort, N.C., after casting anchor in the ship-harbor. I disembarked and went ashore, hoping to find Mr. Galloway, not knowing anyone else, but he being in Newbern, N.C., and it being too late to get back aboard the ship, and it being very cold, I was taken by a gentleman to one Mr. Washington, where I was introduced as a stranger desiring a place to stay all night. And after I was denied upon the ground that they had no accommodations, I asked permission to sit by the fire during the night, as I did not want to lie in the street; but this privilege was denied me, also. The gentleman then conducted me to an old sister’s house, viz., Clara Fisher, who offered me all the comforts of her house, and soon prepared me a fine supper. After learning I was very dirty, and how long I had been deprived of clean clothing, she soon got me a clean suit and washed and ironed mine and next morning turned me out clean, for she had me wash too. God bless Clara Fisher!

Friday December 23rd

Today has been spent by myself in looking about Beaufort and Moorehead City and at the transports taking in coal and water. At night, I visited a school in Beaufort, where I found several young colored ladies and gentlemen taught by the Rev. Lyman and several white ladies of the North. I was much pleased.

Saturday, December 24th

Today, about 2 o’clock, we put to sea, having replenished our coal, water, and eatables. The soldiers seem cheerful and sing, and many hold prayer meetings, and all things move off very pleasantly; they, almost to a man, express quite a desire to do something, as they say they are tired of doing nothing.

Sunday, December 25th

This morning (Christmas), we found ourselves off Wilmington, N.C. The light of day made visible a large collection of vessels, both of the navy and transports, amounting, in all to near a hundred. About 8 o’clock Gen. Butler came in the steam-ship Bendeford, by the fleet of transports, and gave orders to follow him. During this time the immense naval fleet, with monitors, whose turrets were barely visible above the water, iron-clads which wore an impregnable aspect to every missile in rebel possession, and a large number of regular man-of-war and gun boats, began moving toward the shore and wind serpentinely around Fort Fisher, which protects the entrance to Wilmington on the Cape Fear River. About 10 o’clock the firing commenced from a procession of naval boats fully six miles long, including those which were shelling the water-batteries along the sea beach to effect a landing for the infantry, when broadside after broadside was fired, until the reports became so continuous that, in many instances, it was one unbroken roar, which seemed to be awful enough to shake the world. At times, shells would fall and burst in the rebel Fort, as fast as one could wink his eye; and though the Fort seemed to be lined with guns of the largest caliber, yet they could only shoot at intervals, in consequence of our incessant hail of iron and fire and from that time until night did the lurid flame flash and the grim roar mutter while everything trembled as if it were rocked in the cradle of consternation.

About 2 o’clock the gunboats had effected a landing for the infantry about four miles above the fort, and all the yawl boats were employed to land the troops, as the ships could not get within two hundred yards of the shore. These small boats were therefore sent ashore filled with soldiers, and on landing, salutes were given by broadsides from several ships, while the band played “Hail Columbia.” A few moments after their arrival on shore a white flag was seen waving from a little mound behind which was a rebel water-battery; at this sight, the two divisions raised a shout of triumph which was only excelled by the terrific roar of cannon. Our landed troops, seeing them, went to the place, where some thirty came out and surrendered. At this stage of events our troops raised a more vociferous shout than ever. In about an hour from then, the rebels came in heavy force to stop the landing of our troops, but they were soon driven back. About dusk, Gen. Butler gave orders for the troops to re-embark, for what reason I know not.

This is the grandest day I ever witnessed; and to think, this day’s bombardment was never equaled upon an American shore. To hear about six or seven hundred guns of immense caliber spitting forth their lurid thunder in an unbroken succession, while the frightful clamor was conveyed by water to distant shores is an occurrence seldom and far between. I regard the sight as far transcending any I ever witnessed, or probably ever will, this side of eternity.

Monday, December 26th

This morning exhibited several of our troops still on shore, having several prisoners captured last night. The atmosphere has been very foggy all day—the attack has not been renewed on the Fort—so we spend the day in drifting about and look at each other. About 10 o’clock this morning Gen. Butler put to sea and disappeared in the distance; we all wondered where he was going but no one knew. The troops expressed great fear that he intended giving up the siege; as they were all eager to land and charge the fort, believing they could take it. They say they do not want to return without doing something.

Tuesday, December 27th

This morning we were still lying near the rebel Fort Fisher. Several gun-boats had left during the night, leaving us, naturally, to infer that the expedition contemplated no further aggression. Shortly afterwards our troops on shore began to re-embark, and all necessary preparation is being made to leave. Several soldiers and a few officers expressed considerable regret as they do not wish to return without landing the infantry and charging the fort; others seem delighted at the prospect of returning; while others say they are here to obey orders and do not care what they do, that they only have their time to put in, anyhow.

Shortly after 12 o’clock, we all put to sea, leaving Fortress Monroe. During the day, one of the soldiers died, belonging to the 37th U. S. C. T. I was called upon to inter the body; which was done by sewing it in a large cloth, and tying a bag of stone coal to his feet, and laying it on a plank, which, after the ceremony was ended, was slid overboard. The sight produced a solemn sensation in all. All due respect was paid to the occasion by every officer on board the ship, from the general to the humblest private. Many had never seen such an instance before, nor had the chaplain ever attended on such an occasion.

Wednesday, December 28th

After traveling all night, we found ourselves this morning off Cape Hatteras light-house. The weather was ordinarily warm, the wind was blowing a little more than usual; but shortly after sunrise however, it cleared off most beautifully, and the blue ocean presented all of those ravishing charms which is so natural to an admirer of physical grandeur. In the afternoon, the weather changed and a dense black cloud lowered over us, having the appearance of a harbinger of awful consequences; but it resulted only in darkening the sky, and passed away. Finally, Cape Henry light-house appeared in view, at which sight several rejoiced. Passing on, we soon anchored again in the harbor at Fortress Monroe. Here, the boys spent the entire night in singing, laughing, cheering, &c.

Thursday, December 29th
Having anchored all night off Fortress Monroe, we received orders this morning, at daybreak, to proceed up James River to our old quarter, which we did more than willingly, the weather being much colder than any we had felt since we left this place. So up James River we came, passing several points made memorable in bygone days…and stopped at Jones’ Landing, where we disembarked, and several bid the ship adieu with a hope never to see it again. So, after some difficulty with my horse in getting him ashore, I took passage on his back, and here I am.

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