1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Porter, Fitz-John

PORTER, FITZ-JOHN (1822–1901), American soldier, was born at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the 31st of August 1822. He was the son of a naval officer, and nephew of David Porter of the frigate “ Essex.” He graduated at the United States Military Academy in 1845 and was assigned to the artillery. In the Mexican War he won two brevets for gallantry-that of captain for Molino del Rey and that of major for Chapultepec. He served at West Point as instructor and adjutant (184Q"1855), and he took part in the Utah expedition. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 he was employed on staff duties in the eastern states, and rendered great assistance in the organization of Pennsylvanian volunteers. In the absence of higher authority Porter sanctioned on his own responsibility the request of Missouri Unionists for permission to raise troops, a step which had an important influence upon the struggle for the possession of the state. He became colonel of a new regiment of regulars on the 14th of May, and soon afterwards brigadier-general of volunteers. Under McClellan he commanded a division of infantry in the Peninsular campaign, and directed the Union siege operations against Yorktown, and he was soon afterwards placed in command of the V. army corps. When the Seven Days' battle (q.v.) began Porter's corps had to sustain alone the full weight of the Confederate attack, and though defeated in the desperately fought battle of Gaines's Mill (June 27, 1862) the steadiness of his defence was so conspicuous that he was immediately promoted major-general of volunteers and brevet brigadier general U.S.A. His corps, moreover, had the greatest share in the successful battles of Glendale and Malvern Hill. Soon afterwards, with other units of the Army of the Potomac, the V. corps was sent to reinforce Pope in central Virginia. Its inaction on the first day of the disastrous second battle of Bull Run (q.e.) led to the general's subsequent disgrace; but it made a splendid fight on the second day to save the army from complete rout, and subsequently shared in the Antietarn campaign. ~ On the same day on which McClellan was relieved from his command, Porter, his warm friend and supporter, was suspended. A few days later he was tried by court-martial on charges brought against him by Pope, and on the ZISL of January 1863 was sentenced to be cashiered “ and for ever disqualified from holding any office of trust under the government of the United States.” After many years Porter's friends succeeded (1878) in procuring a revision of the case by a board of distinguished general officers. This board reported strongly in Porter's favour, but at the time the remission of the disqualifying penalty was all that was obtained in the way of redress. General Grant had now taken Porter's part, and wrote an article in vol. 135 of the North American Review entitled “An Undeserved Stigma.” Against much opposition, partly political (1879–1886) and a veto on a legal point from President Arthur, a relief bill finally passed Congress, and Porter was on the 5th of August 1886 restored to the United States army as colonel and placed on the retired list, no provision, however, being made for compensation. After the Civil War General Porter was engaged in business in New York, and later held successively many important municipal offices. In 1869 he declined the offer made by the khedive of the chief command of the Egyptian army. He died on the 21st of May 1901, at Morristown, New Jersey.

See, besides General Grant’s article, Cox, The Second Battle of Bull Run as connected with the Porter Case (Cincinnati, 1882); Lord, A Summary of the Case of F. J. Porter (1883), and papers in vol. ii. of the publications of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts.