Next morning the fleet bombarded with such success as to silence many of the guns opposed to them. But on Christmas Day General Weitzel reported that an assault would fail; whereupon General Butler concurred and retreated, much to the rage of the fleet, which thought quite otherwise.
In a few days General Terry arrived with the same white troops reinforced by two small colored brigades, making a total of eight thousand men. To these Porter, strongly reinforced, added a naval brigade, two thousand strong, that volunteered to storm the sea face of Fort Fisher. These gallant men had only cutlasses and pistols--except the four hundred marines, who carried bayonets and rifles. They were a scratch lot, from the soldier's point of view, never having been landed together as a single unit till called upon to assault the most dangerous features of the fort. Yet, though they were repulsed with considerable loss, they greatly helped to win the day by obliging the defenders to divide their forces. As Terry's army was, by itself, four or five times stronger than Lamb's entire command the military stormers succeeded in fighting their way through every line of defense and compelling a surrender. They did exceedingly well. But their rear was safe, because Bragg had withdrawn the supporting army for service elsewhere; while, in their front, the enemy defenses had been almost torn out by the roots in many places under the terrific converging fire of six hundred naval guns for three successive days.
When Fort Fisher surrendered on the fifteenth of January (1865) the exhausted South had only one good port and one good raider left: Charleston and the Shenandoah.
CHAPTER X. GRANT ATTACKS THE FRONT: 1864
On March 9, 1864, at the Executive Mansion, and in the presence of all the Cabinet Ministers, Lincoln handed Grant the Lieutenant-General's commission which made him Commander-in-Chief of all the Union armies--a commission such as no one else had held since Washington. On April 9, 1865, Grant received the surrender of Lee at Appomattox; and the four years war was ended by a thirteen months campaign.
Victor of the River War in '63, Grant moved his headquarters from Chattanooga to Nashville soon before Christmas. He then expected not only to lead the river armies against Atlanta in '64 but, at the same time, to send another army against Mobile, where it could act in conjunction with the naval forces under Farragut's command.
He consequently made a midwinter tour of inspection: southeast to Chattanooga, northeast to Knoxville and Cumberland Gap, northwest to Lexington and Louisville, thence south, straight back to Nashville. This satisfied him that his main positions were properly taken and held, and that a well-concerted drive would clear his own strategic area of all but Forrest's elusive cavalry.
It was the hardest winter known for many years. The sticky clay roads round Cumberland Gap had been churned by wheels and pitted by innumerable feet throughout the autumn rains. Now they were frozen solid and horribly encumbered by debris mixed up with thousands upon thousands of perished mules and horses. Grant regretted this terrible wastage of animals as much in a personal as in a military way; for, like nearly all great men, his sympathies were broad enough to make him compassionate toward every kind of sentient life. No Arab ever loved his horse better than Grant loved his splfndid charger Cincinnati, the worthy counterpart of Traveler, Lee's magnificent gray.