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Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

From The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, prepared under the direction of the Secretary of War, by Bvt. Lieut. Col. Robert N. Scott, Third U. S. Artillery, and published pursuant to act of Congress approved June 16, 1880 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1882). Series I—Volume IV, pp. 581-94.

General Butler’s Report

[page 581]
Report of Maj. Gen. Benj. F. Butler, U. S. Army, commanding expedition.

U. S. FLAG-SHIP MINNESOTA, August 30, 1861.

GENERAL: Agreeably to your orders, I embarked on the transport steamers Adelaide and George Peabody 500 of the Twentieth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Weber commanding; 220 of the Ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel Hawkins commanding; 100 of the Union Coast Guard, Captain Nixon commanding, and 60 of the Second U. S. Artillery, Lieutenant Larned commanding, as a force to operate in conjunction with the fleet, under command of Flag-Officer Stringham, against the rebel forts at Hatteras Inlet.

We left Fort Monroe on Monday, at 1 o’clock p.m. The last ship of [page 582] our fleet arrived off Hatteras Inlet about 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon. Such preparations as were possible for the landing were made in the evening, and at daylight next morning dispositions were made for an attack upon the forst by the fleet and for the landing of the troops.

Owing to the previous prevalence of southwest gales a heavy surf was breaking on the beach. Every effort was made to land the troops, and after about 315 landed, including 55 marines from the fleet and the regulars, both the iron boats, upon which we depended, were being made by Lieutenant Crosby, U. S. Navy (serving with the army as port captain at Fortress Monroe), who had volunteered to come down with the steam-tug Fanny, belonging to the Army, to land in a boat from the war steamer Pawnee, resulted in the beaching of the boat, so that she could not be got off.

It was impracticable to land more troops because of the rising wind and sea. Fortunately, a 12-pounder rifled boat gun, loaned us by the flag-ship, and a 12-pounder howitzer were landed, the last slightly damaged. Our landing was completely covered by the shells of the Monticello and the Harriet Lane. I was on board the Harriet Lane, directing the disembarkation of the troops by means of signals, and was about landing with them at the time the boats were stove. We were induced to desist from further attempts at landing troops by the rising of the wind, and because in the mean time and the fleet had opened fire upon the nearest fort, which was finally silenced, and its flag struck. No firing had opened upon our troops from the other fort, and its flag was also struck. Supposing this to be a signal of surrender, Colonel Weber advanced his troops already landed upon the beach.

The Harriet Lane, Captain Faunce, by my direction, tried to cross the bar to get in the smooth water of the inlet, when fire was opened upon the Monticello (which had proceeded in advance of us) from the other fort. Several shots struck her, but without causing any casualties, as I am informed. So well convinced were the officers of both Army and Navy that the forts had been surrendered at this time, that the Susquehanna had towed the frigate Cumberland to an offing. The fire was then reopened (as there was no signal from either) upon both forts.

In the mean time a few men from the Coast Guard had advanced up the beach with Mr. Wiegel, who was acting as volunteer aide, and whose gallantry and services I wish to commend, and took possession of the smaller fort, which was found to have been abandoned by the enemy, and raised the American flag thereon.

It had become necessary, owing to the threatening appearance of the weather, that all the ships should make an offing, which was done with reluctance, from necessity, thus leaving the troops upon shore, a part in possession of the small fort, about 700 yards from the large one, and the rest bivouacked upon the beach, near the place of landing, about 2 miles north of the forts.

Early the next morning the Harriet Lane ran inshore for the purpose of covering any attack upon the troops. At the same time a large steamer was observed coming down the sound inside the land, with re-enforcements for the enemy, but she was prevented from landing by Captain Johnson, of the Coast Guard, who had placed the two guns from the ship and a 6-pounder captured from the enemy in a small sand battery, and opened fire upon the rebel steamer. At 8 o’clock the fleet opened fire again, the flag-ship being anchored as near as the water allowed and the other ships coming gallantly into action. It was evi-[page 583]dent, after a few experiments, that our shot fell short, and increased length of fuse was telegraphed, and firing commenced with the shells of fifteen seconds’ fuse.

I had sent Mr. Fiske, acting aide-de-camp, on shore, for the purpose of gaining intelligence of the movements of the troops and of the enemy. I then went with the Fanny, for the purpose of effecting a landing of the remainder of the troops, when a white flag was run up from the fort. I then went with the Fanny over the bar into the inlet. At the same time the troops under Colonel Weber marched up the beach, and signal was made from the flag-ship to cease firing.

As the Fanny rounded in over the bar, the rebel steamer Winslow went up the channel, having a large number of secession troops on board, which she had not landed. We threw a shot at her from the Fanny, but she probed to be out of range. I then sent Lieutenant Crosby on shore to demand the meaning of the whit flag. The boat soon returned, bringing Mr. Wiegel, with the following written communication from Samuel Barron, late captain in the U.S. Navy:

                                                                                                                        Fort Hatteras, August 29, 1861.
Flag-Officer Samuel Barron, C. S. Navy, offers to surrender Fort Hatteras, with all the arms and munitions of war. The officers allowed to go out with side-arms and the men without arms to retire.                                                                                                                                  S. BARRON,
Commanding Naval Defenses Virginia and North Carolina.

And also a verbal communication, stating that he had in the fort 615 men and 1,000 more within an hour’s call, but that he was anxious to spare the effusion of blood.

To both the written and verbal communications I made the reply which follows, and sent it by Lieutenant Crosby:

                                                                                                                                                   AUGUST 29, 1861.
Benj. F. Butler, major-general, U. S. Army, commanding, in reply to the communication of Samuel Barron, commanding forces at Fort Hatteras, cannot admit the terms proposed. The terms offered are these: Full capitulation; the officers and men to be treated as prisoners of war. No other terms admissible. Commanding officers to meet on board flag-ship Minnesota to arrange details.

After waiting three-quarters of an hour, Lieutenant Crosby returned, bringing with him Captain Barron, Major Andrews, and Colonel Martin, of the rebel forces, who, on being received on board the tug Fanny, informed me that they had accepted the terms proposed in my memorandum, and had come to surrender themselves and their command as prisoners of war.  I informed them that as the expedition was a combined one from the Army and Navy, the surrender must be made on board the flag-ship to Flag-Officer Stringham as well as to myself. We went on board the Minnesota for that purpose. On arriving there, the following articles of capitulation were signed, which I hope will meet your approval. [See Appendix A.]

I then landed, and took a formal surrender of the forts, with all the men and munitions of war, inspected the troops to see that the arms had been properly surrendered, marched them out, and embarked them on the board the Adelaide, and marched my own troops into the fort, and raised our flag upon it, amid the cheers of men and a salute of 13 guns, which had been spotted by the enemy.

The embarkation of the wounded, which was conducted with great care and tenderness from a temporary wharf erected for the purpose, took so long that night came on so dark that it was impossible for the pilots to take the Adelaide over the bar, thereby causing delay.

I may mention in this connection that the Adelaide, in carrying in the troops, at the moment that my terms of capitulation were under [page 584] consideration by the enemy, had grounded upon the bar, but by the active and judicious exertions of the Commander Stellwagen [Henry S. Stellwagen], after some delay, was got off. At the same time the Harriet Lane, in attempting to enter over the bar, had grounded, and remained fast. Both were under the guns of the fort. This to me was a moment of the greatest anxiety. By these accidents a valuable ship of war and a transport steamer, with a large portion of my troops, were within the power of the enemy. I had demanded the strongest terms, which he was considering. He might refuse, and, seeing our disadvantage, renew the action. But I determined to abate not a tittle of what I believed to be due to the dignity of the Government, not even to give an official title to the officer in command of the rebels. Besides, my tug was in the inlet, and at least I could carry on the engagement with my two rifled 6-pounders, well supplied with Sawyer shells.

Upon taking possession of Fort Hatteras I found that it mounted ten guns, with four yet unmounted, and one large 10-inch columbiad all ready for mounting. I append the official muster roll of Colonel Martin, furnished by him, of the officers and men captured by us.*

[*Roll omitted. It gives a total of 691 prisoners.]

The position of the fort is an exceedingly strong one, nearly surrounded on all sides by water, and only to be approached by a march of 500 yards circuitously over a long neck of sand, within half musket range, and over a causeway a few feet only in width, and which was commanded by two 32-pounder guns, loaded with grape and canister, which were expended in our salute. It had a well-protected magazine, and bomb-proof capable of sheltering some 300 or 400 men. The parapet was nearly of octagon form, inclosing about two-thirds of an acre of ground, well covered, with sufficient traverses and ramparts and parapets, upon which our shells had made but little impression.

The larger work nearer the inlet was known as Fort Hatteras. Fort Clark, which was about 700 yards northerly, is a square redoubt, mounting five guns and two 6-pounders. The enemy had spiked these guns, but in a very inefficient manner, upon abandoning the fort the day before. I had all the troops on shore at the time of the surrender of the forts, but re-embarked the regulars and the marines.

Finding it impossible without a delay of the fleet, which could not be justified under the state of facts at Fortress Monroe, and owing to the threatening appearance of the weather, I disembarked the provisions, making with the provisions captured about five days’ rations for the use of the troops. On consultation with Flag-Officer Stringham [Silas H. Stringham] and Commander Stellwagen I determined to leave the troops and hold the fort, because of the strength of the fortifications, its importance, and because, if again in the possession of the enemy, with a sufficient armament, of the very great difficulty of its capture, until I could get some further instructions from the Government. Commodore Stringham directs the steamers Monticello and Pawnee to remain inside, and these, with the men in the forts, are sufficient to hold the position against any force which is likely or, indeed, possible to be sent against it

The importance of the point cannot be overrated. When the channel is buoyed out any vessel may carry 15 feet of water over it with ease. Once inside, there is a safe harbor and anchorage in all weathers. From there the whole coast of Virginia and North Caro-[page 585]lina, from Norfolk to Cape Lookout, is within our reach by light-draught vessels, which cannot possibly live at sea during the winter months. From it offensive operations may be made upon the whole coast of North Carolina to Bogue Inlet, extending many miles inland to Washington, New Berne, and Beaufort. In the language of the chief engineer of the rebels, Colonel Thompson, in an official report, “it is the key of the Albemarle.” In my judgment, it is a station second in importance only to Fortress Monroe on this coast. As a depot for coaling and supplies for the blockading squadron it is invaluable. As a harbor for our coasting trade, or inlet from the winter storms or from pirates, it is of the first importance. By holding it, Hatteras light may again send forth its cheering ray to the storm-beaten mariner, of which the worse than vandalism of the rebels deprives him. It has but one drawback, a want of water; but that a condenser, like the one now in operation at Fortress Monroe, at a cost of a few hundred dollars, will relieve.

I append to this report a tabular statement of the prizes which have been taken into that inlet within a few days, compiled from the official documents captured with the fort. [See Appendix C.]

I add hereto an official report of the chief engineer of the coast defenses of the rebels. [See Appendix B.]

Please find also appended a statement of the arms and munitions of war captured with the fort, as nearly as they can be ascertained.*

[*Omitted, but see p. 592.]

While all have done well, I desire to speak in terms of especial commendation, in addition to those before mentioned, of the steadiness and cool courage of Col. Max Weber, whom we were obliged to leave in command of a detachment of 300 men on a strange coast, without camp equipage or possibility of aid, in the face of an enemy of 600 strong, on a dark and stormy night; of Lieutenant Colonel Weiss, who conducted a reconnaissance of 20 men; of the daring and prompt efficiency of Captain Nixon, of the Coast Guard, who with his men occupied Fort Clark during the first night, although dismantled, in the face of an enemy of unknown numbers.

I desire to commend to your attention Captain Jardine, of the New York Ninth, who was left in command of the detachment of his regiment when the unfortunate casualty to the Harriet Lane prevented Colonel Hawkins from landing.

Permit me to speak of the efficiency of the regulars, under Lieutenant Larned, who worked zealously in aiding to land their comrades of the volunteers overwhelmed with the rolling surf.

I desire especially to make acknowledgements to Messrs. Wiegel and Durivage, volunteer aides, who planted the American flag upon Fort Clark on the second morning, to indicate to the fleet its surrender, and to prevent the further wasting of shells upon it; a service of great danger from the fire of their own friends.

I make honorable mention of young Fiske, who risked his life among the breakers, being thrown on shore, to convey my orders to the troops landed, and to apprise them of the movements and intentions of the fleet; also my thanks for the valuable aid of Captain Haggerty, who was employed in visiting the prizes in the harbor while we were agreeing upon the terms of capitulation.

Of the services to the country of the gentlemen of the Navy proper I may not speak, for one ought not to praise when he has no right to censure, and they will be appropriately mentioned, I doubt not, by the commander, who is capable to appreciate their good conduct. But I am emboldened to ask permission, if the Department shall determine to occupy the point as a permanent post, that its name may be changed by general order from “Fort Hatteras” to “Fort Stringham.”

[page 586] But of those gentlemen who served under my immediate command I may make honorable mentions I have before done, of the zealous, intrepid, and untiring action of Lieutenant Crosby, who took an armed canal-boat, the steam tug Fanny, from Fort Monroe to Hatteras Inlet, in order that the expedition might have the aid of a steamer of the lightest draught.

Captain Shuttlework, of the Marine Corps, deserves well for his loyalty and efficiency in his active detachment of marines.

Much of the success of the expedition is due to the preparation of the transport service by Commander Stellwagen, and the prompt presence of mind with which he took the troops from their peril when the Adelaide touched on the bar is a rare quality in an officer in danger.

Although Captain Faunce, of the revenue service, now in command of the Harriet Lane, was unfortunate enough to get his vessel on one of the numerous sand bars about the inlet, it happened, I believe, in consequence of a determination, creditable in him, to aid me by being near to cover the troops in landing.

Captain Lowry, who had the George Peabody in charge, brought in his vessel with safety, with the troops, who were pleased with his care and conduct. He still remains at the inlet.

In fine, general, I may congratulate you and other country upon a glorious victory in your department, in which we captured more than glorious victory in your department, in which we captured more than 700 men, 25 pieces of artillery, 1000 stand of arms, a large quantity of ordnance stores, provisions, 3 valuable prizes’, 2 light-boats, and 4 stand of colors, 1 of which had been presented within a week by the ladies of New Berne, N.C., to the “North Carolina Defenders.”

By the goodness of that Providence which watches over our nation, no one, either of the fleet or army, was in the least degree injured. The enemy’s loss was not officially reported to us, but was ascertained to be 12 or 15 killed and died of wounds, and 35 wounded.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, U. S. Army, Commanding Volunteers.

Maj. Gen. JOHN E. WOOL,
Commanding Department of Virginia.

[Appendix A.]

Articles of capitulation between commanding officers of the Federal and Confederate forces at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina.

U. S. Flag-Ship Minnesota, August 29, A. D. 1861.

Articles of capitulation between Flag-Officer Stringham, commanding the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and Benjamin F. Butler, major-general, U. S. Army, commanding on behalf of the United States Government, and Samuel Barron, commanding the naval forces of the defense of North Carolina and Virginia, and Colonel Martin, commanding the forces, and Major Andrews, commanding the same forces, at Fort Hatteras:

It is stipulated and agreed between the contracting parties that the forces under the command of the said Barron, Martin, and Andrews, and all munitions of war, arms, men, and property under the command of said Barron, Martin, and Andrews, be unconditionally surrendered to the Government of the United States in terms of full capitulation.

And it is stipulated and agreed by the contracting parties on the part [page 587] of the United States Government that the officers and men shall receive the treatment due to prisoners of war.

In witness whereof we, the said Stringham and Butler, on behalf of the United States, and the said Barron, Martin, and Andrews, representing the forces at Hatteras Inlet, hereunto interchangeably set our hands this 29th day of August, 1861, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth year.

Flag-Officer Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Major-General, U. S. Army, Commanding.
Flag-Officer, C. S. Navy, Comdg. Naval Defenses Va. and N. C.
Colonel Seventh Regiment Infantry, N. C. Vols.
Major, Commanding Forts Hatteras and Clark.

[Appendix B.]

FORT HATTERAS, July 25, 1861.

COLONEL:  The day before yesterday we hoisted our glorious flag over Fort Clark, a strong battery I have nearly finished, of five heavy 32-pounders, about half a mile from Fort Hatteras, which secures to us a cross-fire upon the bar and the entrance to this inlet. I now consider this inlet secure against any attempt of the enemy to enter it. Our force of men I think rather weak to resist a land attack, in case the enemy should effect a landing in the bight of Hatteras. If we had three or four additional companies here I should feel quite safe even in that event.

As I have before remarked, this inlet is the key to Albemarle Sound, and it cannot be too strictly guarded. We certainly are under the espionage of the United States steamers, as they are seen every day or two in the offing, although they keep without the range of our guns. If I had received the 10-inch columbiad, we could have damaged them some on their last visit, three days since.

We now have two privateers in this harbor, besides the war-steamer Winslow, the Gordon, of Charleston, Captain Lockwood [Thomas J. Lockwood], armed with three guns—a fine large steamer. She returned this morning with a prize brig laden with three hundred and sixty hogshead of molasses. We have also a saucy-looking little pilot schooner, the Florida, mounting one 6-pounder rifled cannon. She captured a prize two days since, took her crew out, and sent her in with her own men. A United States steamer gave chase to the prize, and they were obliged to beach her on Nagg’s Head. She, of course, is a total loss.

                              Yours, respectfully,
Major, Chief Engineer Department Coast Defense.
            Col. WARREN WINSLOW, Military Secretary.

[page 588]

[Appendix C.]

Report of Colonel Weber

Report of Col. Max Web, Twentieth New York Infantry.

FORT HATTERAS, N. C., September 5, 1861.

SIR:  I take the first opportunity which is offered to me by the arrival of a steamer from Fortress Monroe to report to you the action of the troops who were landed and acted under my command in the capture of Fort Hatteras.

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