Fighting at Fort Fisher in North Carolina
On Dec. 24, 1864, a Union amphibious expedition under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler began shelling Fort Fisher, a Southern fortification defending Wilmington, North Carolina. The Northern objective: to shut down one of the last major seaports of the Confederacy still open in the South. But attempts by an infantry division that disembarked to probe the fort's stout defenses met with resistance and a Federal attack withered once Confederate reinforcements approached. Amid deteriorating weather conditions, Butler called off the expedition in late December 1864. A dispatch by The Associated Press dated Dec. 28, 1864, quoted reports as saying the fort was "much damaged" by the engagement with "all the barracks and storehouses burned" though Union forces failed to seize it. The dispatch noted that Northern infantry troops actually had gotten close enough to capture a rebel flag from the outer defense works before withdrawing.
Union forces led by Maj. Gen. William Sherman reached Savannah near the Georgia coast in December 1864, and the news spread quickly throughout Northern newspapers this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. "Savannah Occupied by Gen. Sherman" read one headline on a dispatch from The Associated Press dated Dec. 25, 1864. It said Sherman had recently taken 800 prisoners, guns and ammunition. And in a famous line remembered long after, Sherman wrote President Abraham Lincoln: "I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousands bales of cotton." AP dispatches said Confederate ironclad vessels were blown up and the navy yard burned at Savannah. The dispatch said the city of some 20,000 was quiet, and one officer called it an "almost bloodless victory."