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.