A black chaplain in the Union Army reports on the struggle to take Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in the winter of 1864–65
Hold Fort Fisher or I cannot subsist my army.” So wrote General Robert E. Lee in the waning days of 1864 as he watched one Confederate seaport after another fall to the Union armies. Fort Fisher, the strongest fortification yet built in North America, guarded the approach to Wilmington, Norht Carolina, the last haven of blockade-running supply ships and Lee’s major supply depot. As the noose closed around Lee’s army in Virginia, General Ulysses S. Grant decided to launch the largest amphibious attack of the Civil War against the fort.
Among the nearly eight thousand Federal troops sent to sea were several regiments of black sodiers. For a year and a half they had shared increasingly in the fighting, and their successes had helped Northern forces bring the war to its critical last months. The First Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, recruited in Washington early in 1863, formed part of the amphibious army that would attack Fort Fisher. It had the honor to have on its roster of otherwise all-white officers the first black man commissioned as a chaplain in the Union army, Henry M. Turner.
As pastor of Israel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, Turner had attracted the attention of black and white alike in wartime Washington. He gained a reputation as a powerful preacher, ardent supporter of black civil rights, articulate journalist, and advocate of the use of black troops. As chaplain of the First Regiment, he participated in its battles and wrote of its trials and victories, including the assault on Fort Fisher. His account of that battle was first published in The Christian Recorder, the official journal of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in January and February, 1865. It has not been published since.
Major General Benjamin F. Butler commanded the Union troops who sailed form Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, in December, 1864. Rear Admiral David Porter directed the fleet of fify-four warships that would bombard the fort, which stood at the southern tip of a long, narrow peninsula guarding the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Porter had distinguished himself on the gunboats of the Mississippi. Butler, although he had gained national attention by recruiting and sucessfully using black troops in Louisiana, also had gained the distrust of General Grant because of his timid fighting in Virginia. The amphibious plan called for Porter’s ships to bombard Fort Fisher into silence while Butler’s troops landed to the north. When the defenders seemed to have been subdued, the Federal soldiers were to attack the enormous earthworks by land. But poor coordination between the general and the admiral contributed to the failure of the Christmas Day assault. Butler, fearful of an attack from his rear by rebel land forces, pulled his troops off the beach. The entire naval and transport armada sailed ingloriously back to Bermuda Hundred, and Lee’s lifeline to Europe still held.
For the soldiers involved, the grand design against Fort Fisher remained a mystery until the day of the assault. Turner recorded in his journal the unfolding of the great expedition:
Thursday, December 8th, 1864 After marching hither and thither for several [days] and passing through the ordeal of the reorganization of the 10th and 18th Corps into the 24th and 25th Corps, we received, on yesterday evening, orders to prepare to move at a moment’s notice. Tents were instantly struck, and everything movable packed up for the contemplated journey. Shortly afterwards we were informed that nothing besides one suit of clothing and five days’ rations could be carried.
About 8 o’clock we broke camp and moved off in light marching order, amid a thousand speculations as to our destination. Thus marching for about three miles, we halted near Gen. Butler’s signal station, or Point of Rocks. Here we bivouacked for the night, but were occasionally interrupted (very pleasurably so) by the arrival of different regiments, which continued to cluster around us until nearly day this morning.
During the night the weather changed cooler, the water froze, the winds blew, and we shivered and clustered around small campf ires. Once in a while the smoke got disagreeable, by rushing up our olfactories and making our eyes smart, which caused considerable sneezing and moving from one side of the fire to the other, and cracking jokes over the smoke following the one who was the prettiest.
At the dawn of day, the drums beat and off we started. But instead of one regiment, there was a whole division on the move. Troops for miles in length were seen performing the war tramp, and moving in majestic procession. Whilst generals, colonels, and their respective staff were dashing in different directions to regulate their various commands, onward, however, the seried line proceeded until we halted at Bermuda Hundred, where the James River teemed with transports of every size, dimension, and description. Our division stopped for some hours in an old field fronting the wharf… to give time for the embarcation of a white division which arrived before us. There we remained till late in the afternoon when our turn for embarking on the transports arrived. The 4th U.S.C.T. then moved up to the wharf and commenced to go aboard, and other colored regiments in turn, and thus they continued to embark until our whole division were stored away on the boats, to completely effect which required a very late hour. My regiment and the 37th U.S.C.T. having taken quarters on the Hermon Livingston , Gen. Payne’s [Brigadier General Charles J. Paine] headquarters boat, we moved out in the centre of the James River to rest for the night. Every one being very tired, we took our blankets and laid down anywhere to rest. Soon silence prevailed and all were asleep. But about 1 o’clock at night this recuperating slumber was terribly broken by the cold bracing winds of the north, and such shivering and rattling of teeth I never heard. Fire was sought for in vain. Blankets sufficient to repel the cold were also sought in vain. But the night had to be disposed of in the best manner possible, which I assure you was very badly to all above either of the decks. The troops in the steerage fared much better in consequence of the great number which tended to keep each other warm.
Friday, Dec. 9th This morning we left Bermuda Hundred, came down the James River, and anchored off Fortress Monroe, in the Hampton Roads. The weather is exceedingly cold. The ship has no heating facilities. Everybody complains. Some of the soldiers are frost-bitten. We have all suffered severely today. I thought strongly of my comfortable home; but I am willing to suffer with my regiment, knowing that they have no more at stake than myself.
Saturday, Dec. 10th This morning found us still at anchor. Gen. Payne goes ashore. The weather is still very cold. The transport is disagreeably crowded, and we can hardly find room to turn around.
The only thing I have truly enjoyed since I came aboard this boat is the sumptuous meals which are cooked and served up so finely. This provision is only made for the officers, and none bears off more table incumbents than this dear brother. The soldiers have to prepare their own grub.…
This afternoon I asked permission and went ashore and saw Chaplain Asher of the 6th U.S.C.T. He says they have comfortable quarters on his boat, and I also learn from others on shore that all have better quarters than we. I returned to my ship late at night on a steam tug in company with Gen. Payne and several other officers. I had to hunt several hours to find it in consequence of the dense fog. It is still cold, and the soldiers talk more about home than I ever heard them before.
Sunday, Dec. llth Still at anchor; large fleet collected in Hampton Roads; boats of all sizes moving in every direction; weather still cold; wind very high; several soldiers complain of frost bites; I never felt more like resigning.
The curiosity to know of our destination has given rise to many speculations. Some say we are going to Savannah, Charleston, Hilton Head, Mobile, &c.; others say to the Shenandoah Valley, East Tennessee, Harper’s Ferry, &c. But no one knows, therefore we solace ourselves by the old adage, that “Soldiers have no right to think, much less to know.”…
Monday, Dec. 12th This morning I returned from Norfolk to Fortress Monroe. The wind being very severe, and the waves rolling very high, and our steamboat being very light, she was tossed about so recklessly that considerable apprehension was felt in behalf of our safety. The captain informed me that the boat was perfectly safe and immediately turned to one of his crew and ordered him to prepare the lifeboats, which was a contradiction of the statement just made to me. We arrived safe at Fortress Monroe and saw Gen. Butler moving around in some haste, preparing the expedition for what may be a perilous adventure. Here I spent the day in chatting with different persons about the Fort until near night, when I went aboard my boat in a yawl. Our boat is still lying at anchor at this place.
Tuesday, Dec. 13th This morning when I awoke, I found our boat was in motion, and the whole fleet moving. But, to our great surprise, instead of going South we were running up the bay towards Washington. All day we continued to run up the Bay and Potomac River, so late in the afternoon that the boys of the gallant 1st U. S. C. T. began to look cheerful and smile at each other as they seemed to get in sight of Washington, D. C. Indeed, we came so near to the city that I knew of no stopping place that high up except Alexandria or Washington. I was so confident that I was to be home in an hour or so that I commenced to fit up and prepare for it.
Just as the regiment had got on the heel of excitement and began to sing, “We are Going Home,” the steamer Baltic, which was leading the fleet, turned square around in the middle of the Potomac and started right back from where she came; and the whole fleet followed her and back we went.
This threw the privates and several officers into a hubub. We were all disappointed except the generals who understood the programme, for such boat-whirling is seldom seen. As a revenge for not carrying us to Washington, officers and men all rushed to their respective quarters determined, if possible, to dream into reality the pleasure which we expected on our arrival in the city.
The design of carrying the fleet up the Potomac River was, I suppose, a strategical feint. Next time they take me so near my wife and children, I hope they will take me a little further.
Wednesday, Dec. 14th This morning we halted and anchored somewhere in the mouth of Chesapeake Bay; all in great suspense yet; no one knows our destination; twenty transports loaded with troops stand huddled together far away from bottom or shore; bands are played; drums are beaten; songs are sung; cheers are given. About two hours before sun-down, signals were given and off we started, bound round Cape Hatteras, the place so many dread. The winds were calm, and we promised a safe trip.…
Friday, December 16th Last night the fleet all stopped off [New Inlet, North Carolina], some twenty miles from land. We have had fine weather for two days. The ocean is perfectly smooth. Not being able to find anchorage, the vessels were compelled to float about.
The weather is very warm here. We have to pull off our surplus clothes. Water is getting scarce, and our fine tables are getting more common.…
Sunday, December 18th We still float in the same place. Every body wonders why we lie here; but no one, with the exception of General Butler and Admiral Porter knows.
I counted more than thirty ships lying around us. Today being Sabbath, I propose to preach for my regiment; but the officers request me to preach to them first. At the time appointed, I proceeded to do so; but disliking some misconduct exhibited by men whose character should be exemplary, I stopped immediately without pronouncing the benediction, and left the place to hold service with my regiment. We had a glorious meeting. The cause of my stopping the services which I was conducting with the officers was not that I felt myself to be personally insulted, but because I considered their conduct very ungrateful to God.
I was amused this morning at a colored boy who came to wait on the table. He was so much surprised at seeing me, a colored man, eating with white officers, that he did nothing but stand back and look at me. I suppose that he never saw such a sight before.…
Monday, December 19th This morning we were still at the old place.… The weather was smooth and calm. About ten o’clock the wind commenced to blow, and increased in violence until late at night. The waters rolled in great torrents and the ship was tossed as a mere bubble over the seemingly frightened billows of the great deep.
Last night, being Sabbath evening, the officers of our regiment set a noble example to the others by spurning to indulge in an exercise upon which God would frown in terrible vengeance.
I am proud of our officers in two respects—they will reverence the Sabbath, and honor Divine service. Every body wanted to disembark. We were all tired of the ship, and wanted to see land once more.
I counted forty-two ships today, lying around us. Our numbers seemed to increase. I fear for the monitors tonight. The waters are very rough.
Tuesday, December 20th Still lying off [New Inlet]. Last night a heavy gale blew nearly all night. This morning the wind was quite moderate, but the waters were rough. A great many were sea-sick. The universal cry all day was, “We want to land.” About ten o’clock today, I counted sixty-three vessels, some of which were monitors. Today I raised some excitement about my horse. I declare, he is ruined forever. The officers laughed at me, and one reproved me from the Bible and told me that I should be more composed, even if I had lost my life, much less my horse.
This afternoon a heavy northerly wind set in. About five o’clock we received orders to put into Beaufor, N.C., for the purpose of getting coal and water. We are now, while I am writing, on our way there. The gale is terrible, and the ship seems to ride mountain high. I can only say, “Save, Lord, or we perish!”
Wednesday, December 21st This morning we came up to Beaufort, having had a considerable gale all night. Before the pilot-boat could convey us over the bar and bring us into the harbor, the wind began to blow more terribly, until the waters became too rough for us to attempt to cross the bar, and so we were compelled to make for the sea, with our water and coal nearly exhausted, and not knowing how long the storm would last. We all felt very solemn and anxious in regard to our safety, besides the dreadful thought that if the vessel did not founder, perhaps we would have to endure the pangs of hunger and be left without steam-fuel far out on the ocean’s bosom. However, we then had only time to think of the ship, which was new, and had never before been in such a gale.
About twelve o’clock the ocean was covered with white foam and rolling waves; but still the wind increased, and higher did the billows roll until great mountains, towering apparently up to heaven, came dashing along in sublime vengeance.…
Many, for a while, tried to laugh and shake off their fears; but about eight o’clock we all ceased laughing. I had been praying all the time, and I believe many others were. Now all began to feel serious and solemn. Even the crew looked and spoke apprehensively. Finally, an awful sea came and broke in our wheel-house. Still the raging waters and howling winds grew worse.
At last many of us gave up all hope. I lay down and bade my mother, wife, and children farewell, and after asking God to protect them and bring us together in heaven to be separated no more, I begged the Lord to put me to sleep, and that if it was His will that the ship should be dashed to pieces, I should remain asleep and be spared the heartrending spectacle of nearly fifteen hundred men launched into eternity in one moment.
God answered my prayer. I went quietly to sleep; and when I awoke, I found that the storm had subsided, and the ship was again on her way to Beaufort, where we are this morning (December 22d.)
The whole fleet was in that storm. We have not yet heard of the casualties.
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!…
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.… 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[ing] 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. … 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 … to re-embark, for what reason I know not.…
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 for Fortress Monroe.…
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 severely, causing the ship to rock 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 quarters, 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.
Turner and his fellow soldiers did not rest long. Furious at the failure to close the port of Wilmington, General Grant replaced Butler with Major General Alfred H. Terry. Terry and Porter again took to sea on January 4th. On the 13th, 8,000 men landed north of Fort Fisher where they quickly dug in against an expected land attack from the north. Half the force guarded the rear while the others attacked the fort on January 15th, after three days of naval bombardment. The Confederate land attack that could have saved Fort Fisher never came, so it fell after a day of hand-to-hand fighting and many casualties on both sides. Although Chaplain Turner’s regiment braced for the expected counter-attack, Turner himself went with the white troops who stormed the fort. Written just three days afterwards, here is his account of the battle and its aftermath:
The details of the capture of Fort Fisher I presume you have read long before this will reach you, for our mail facilities are so poor here that my letter has been unnecessarily detained. On Sabbath afternoon, of the 15th inst, about 3 o’clock, we had so fortified ourselves in this place that the General concluded he could venture to attack Fort Fisher. Consequently two brigades of the white troops were marched down from before our works, which were thrown up to protect our rear in case the rebels should come down the river side and attempt to capture or bother us while we made a land attack upon the fort. I might here say that our naval fleet had been bombarding the fort nearly three days before the infantry had got in such a position to carry the fort with safety. Notwithstanding my regiment was not engaged on the fort, yet it fell to my lot to accompany the attacking party, as I had been chosen by Surgeon Barnes (medical director) to act as his aide for the occasion, which was no easy job, considering the land was sandy and no horses were to be had. Shortly after our forces were drawn up in front of the fort I was ordered to the rear with a dispatch, which prevent me from seeing the strategical maneuvering of our commanders in preparing for the desperate contest. By the time I had returned, however, they had approached near enough to commence the attack, and with an awful yell and dauntless courage, they could be seen running over an open space in all apparent fearlessness, intent upon capturing the strong works which then lay in full view to every soldier. But the rebels replied to the charge and yelk of our boys with the most awful volleys of musketry, grape, and canister.…
And thus the contest raged from that time until about 10 o’clock at night on our left toward the sea-shore. Finally the marines and sailors came off the gunboats and war-ships, and helped to charge the fort. They were cut down in frightful numbers. They fell so thick and with such destruction that the marines at one time broke and fled; but the sailors stood their ground. Thus the sailors actually evinced more courage and bravery than the marines. The land forces on the left, however, in no instance broke nor exhibited any cowardice, yet they were terribly slaughtered. Never had I seen grape and canister used so effectively as the rebels used it on our troops on this occasion. At one time I thought they could never stand it; neither do I believe they would have stood, but for the fact that they knew the black troops were in the rear, and if they (the white troops) failed, the colored troops would take the fort and claim the honor. Indeed, the white troops told the rebels that if they did not surrender they would let the negroes loose on them. But it was a noble sight to see our troops hanging on to the sides of the fort like so many leeches sticking to an afflicted man. Each embrasure was formed by high mounds of earth being thrown up on each side of the guns; and after our troops gained a foothold on the fort, each party would stick to those mounds and fight around them. You would constantly see them, by two’s and three’s, fall off and roll to the bottom and there lay weltering in their blood and gore, manifesting the greatest agony amid the death heaves which, too often, lasted but a few moments.…
The battle raged amid the terrific fire of deadly missiles until after dark, when I was so exhausted that I could no longer stand up, for I had been seeing after our killed and wounded up to that time. About this time I retired some distance from the scene of conflict and lay down until about ten o’clock, when the news spread that Fort Fisher had surrendered. The guns then ceased firing, and a great shout rang through every camp. … At this news I jumped up and went to survey the fort and behold the results of our conquest.
And great was the scene. The fort had been ploughed by our shells until every thing looked like a heap of destruction. All the barracks had been burned to the ground, and dead bodies were lying in desperate confusion in every direction. In some places they were lying in piles and heaps. Several rebels had been utterly buried by our shells. Guns of the largest caliber had been broken to pieces and their carriages swept from under them. The wounded were groaning and begging for assistance. The soldiers were ransacking every nook and corner in search of trophies and other memorials, such as tobacco, segars, clothes, pistols, &c. The surrendered rebels were standing in the centre of the fort and speaking in audible tones of the bravery of the Yankee soldiers. Many seemed glad they were in our hands, while others seemed anxious to know if we were going to kill them. Yet we all talked and laughed so freely with the rebels that they soon came to the conclusion that we would not kill them and seemed quite well pleased after a short time.
After walking around the fort for some time, viewing it by the light of the moon, I found myself shot at twice from some unknown corner. This led me to believe there were rebels still secreted in some undiscovered spot whom we had not found. Others were similarly fired upon, but could not tell who had done it. So I left for camp and told several to stay away, otherwise they would be blown up. Nothing disastrous, however, occurred that night. But at an early hour the next morning, my attention was attracted by an awful explosion which I perceived had taken place toward the fort. The said earth was seen flying in great banks towards the very heavens, and the debris were spreading like monster wings, and the shafts of vengeance seemed to be flying from the mouth of an awful crater to the summit of the angry elements.… This threw every body in anxious suspense, and many speculations were indulged in. But a few minutes only intervened before the intelligence spread every where that one of the magazines had blown up. This circumstance cast a more serious gloom over our army than all the casualties which had happened on the previous day and caused more oaths to be uttered than I ever heard before in the same length of time. Many were for killing all the rebel prisoners, while others were for blowing them up, too, &c. I immediately started for the fort to see for myself the dreadful scene of carnage. I found the news true. A magazine had exploded, and hundreds of our men were, apparently, the deadly victims of the misfortune.…
It fell to my lot to bury with religious ceremony many of our noble dead, which I did with a sensation not felt in any previous instance since I have been connected with the army. It would be impossible to describe what I witnessed among the wounded. But one thing I must mention as a fact. I found twice the number of rebels calling upon God for mercy to what I found among our own wounded soldiers. One rebel particularly, whom I passed, was saying in a most pathetic tone, “O, Lord God, have mercy on me! Please have tender compassion on one who is a sinner, and comfort me in this my hour of trial! O, Lord, have mercy on me this one time more.” When I commenced talking with him, and he discovered I was a chaplain, his countenance seemed to be illuminated with joy. But the prayers that went up from the rebel wounded completely bought off my prejudice, and I rendered them every comfort in my power.…
I asked several rebel officers if they killed the colored prisoners they took. They told me they did not. They also told me if they were free men from the North, or even from any slave State in our lines, they were treated as other Yankee prisoners are; but if they were slaves, whose owners were in the Confederate States, and such colored men could be identified, they were treated as house-burners and robbers. And as for you, said they, you would get the same treatment as other Yankee officers.
I learn General Butler has been removed because he failed to land his troops and attack Ft. Fisher on Christmas day. The wisdom of Gen. Butler in that case was admirable, because I have been told by quite a number of rebels, as well as by a large number of colored persons, that twelve or fifteen thousand rebels were here that day, and waiting for the Union troops to land, so as to capture the whole expedition. They all say if the Union forces had landed that day not a man would have escaped. Besides that, when we landed and went back in the woods, we found tents enough—made of boards and brush—to hold at least ten thousand troops. A colored woman told me that the rebel soldiers were so thick that day that they nearly smothered her waiting for our troops to land, but that they were not expecting us at this time. Will the Government see it’s wrong and replace Gen. Butler and beg his pardon? If they don’t do it, some judgement will surely follow. I believe the removal of General Butler is a harbinger of some national calamity, as firmly as I believe I am alive today. I would be afraid to publish the indignant expressions I have heard uttered by the colored troops about the removal of General Butler; but some are willing to lay down their arms.
With the port of Wilmington closed, Richmond could not long stand. In a few weeks, when Lee surrendered, Turner’s regiment had pushed inland and taken Raleigh, North Carolina. After the war Turner settled in Georgia as a missionary to the freed slaves. He served in the state legislature during Reconstruction but later urged blacks to leave the United States and settle in Africa. Later he became a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He died in 1915.