Tuesday, August 9, 2011

General Fitz John Porter Statue

The equestrian statue of General Fitz John Porter is located in Haven Park near the intersection of Pleasant and Edward Streets.

Fitz John Porter’s birthplace is the Matthew Livermore House at 32 Livermore Street, within sight of his statue. The home originally stood on the north side of Livermore Street but was moved to the opposite side to make room for Haven Park.

General Porter attended West Point, commanded troops during the Mexican-American War, instructed Cadets at West Point, and then served as a Union general in the American Civil War. He became a trusted advisor and friend to controversial General George McClellan and expertly commanded his V Corps.

During the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, Major General John Pope managed to snatch defeat from certain victory by losing control of the battlefield and mismanaging his troops. Among his mistakes were several conflicting and misinformed orders to the V Corps, which was reinforcing his Army of Virginia. Had General Porter followed Pope’s instructions to the letter, the V Corps would have suffered complete destruction and the Union an even more decisive loss. Unimpressed, General Pope arrested General Porter for disobeying his orders.

The kangaroo court martial that followed involved political cronyism, media sensationalism, and ignorance of the facts. They convicted Fitz John Porter of disobedience and misconduct in the face of the enemy. Kicked out of the army on January 21, 1863, he was lucky to have escaped hanging. The public branded him a coward.

I attended a short ceremony in Haven Park on the morning of August 6, 2011, marking the 125th anniversary of General Porter’s complete exoneration. He had spent the rest of his life battling the charges against him and finally prevailed when, in 1878, an army commission reviewed all the facts and ruled that he had acted commendably. The President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, reversed the original court martial verdict on August 5, 1886.

After Civil War hero Fitz John Porter died on May 21, 1901, Portsmouth received a $30,000 donation from the estate of R. H. Eddy of Boston, whose will stipulated that the money be used to erect a bronze equestrian statue of his long-time friend. A gifted historical sculptor, James E. Kelly of New York, created the monument, and Mayor William E. Marvin dedicated the sculpture on July 1, 1906.

The memorial plaque reads as follows:

On this site
was born
Fitz John Porter
Aug. 31, 1822
While his father
Capt. John Porter, U. S. N.
commanded the Portsmouth Navy Yard.
Graduated from West Point, July, 1845.
Distinguished himself and was wounded in war with Mexico
1846 – 1847.
Instructor of Artillery and Cavalry
West point 1854 – 1855.
Asst. Adjt. Gen. Utah Expedition 1857.
During Civil War
Brev. Brig. Gen. U. S. A. June 27, 1862.
Maj. Gen. U. S. Vol. July 4, 1862
Commanded 5th Army Corps.
Cashiered Jan. 21st, 1863.

The case of Gen. Porter was reviewed by
a Board of Officers appointed by
President Hayes
consisting of
Lieut. Gen. J. M. Schofield
Brev. Maj. Gen. A. H. Terry
Brev. Maj. Gen. G. W. Getty

Hon. Joseph H. Choate, counsel for Gen. Porter

The Board fully exonerated him.
Their judgment was approved by
General U. S. Grant
Finally by both Houses of Congress.
He was restored to his former
rank in the Regular Army
President Cleveland.

Died at Morristown, New Jersey,
May 21st, 1901.

1 comment:

  1. Delighted that this most excellent officer is being honored however belatedly. He suffered unnecessarily because of Gen. Pope's incompetency and history, as well as the review commission, exonerates him.