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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Thirty-Second Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 8th, 1901.

 p204  Fitz John Porter
No. 1238. Class of 1845.
Died, May 21, 1901, at Morristown, N. J., aged 78 years.

Fitz John Porter, who was born in Portsmouth, N. H., June 13, 1822, was a son of Commander John Porter of the United States Navy. He was a student at Exeter Academy and, in 1841, was appointed by the President to the West Point Military Academy, where he was graduated number eight in the class of 1845, of which there are now but two survivors. He was assigned to the Fourth Artillery, in which he became Second Lieutenant March 18, 1846.

 p205  Porter served in the Mexican War, became First Lieutenant May 29, and received the brevet of Captain, September 8, 1847, for services at Molino del Rey, and that of Major for Chapultepec. During the assault on the City of Mexico, he was wounded at the Belén Gate.

Porter and his classmate, Professor Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Henry Coppee, dined with the writer a few years ago, who recalls with pleasure their agreeable recollections of Scott's brilliant Mexican campaign, in which they had participated.

In July, 1849, Captain Porter was appointed Assistant Instructor of Artillery at the Academy; in 1853‑4 he was Adjutant there, and then was Instructor of Artillery and Cavalry. In 1856 he was appointed Adjutant General, and served under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Sidney Johnston in the Utah expedition of 1857‑60. Later he was on duty in New York City as Assistant Inspector General and superintended the protection of the railway between Baltimore and Harrisburg, Pa., during the Baltimore riots.

When communication was interrupted with Washington at the opening of the Civil War, Porter assumed the responsibility of replying in the affirmative to telegrams from Missouri, requesting permission to muster troops for the protection of that State. His act was approved by the War Department. On May 14, 1861, he became Colonel of the Fifteenth Infantry, a new regiment, and three days later was made Brigadier General of Volunteers and assigned to duty in Washington.

In 1862, General Porter participated in the Virginia Peninsular campaign, served during the siege of Yorktown, and upon its evacuation, was Governor of that place. He was assigned to the command of the Fifth Corps, which formed the right wing of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan's army, and fought the battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines' Mill. At Malvern Hill he commanded the left flank, which mainly resisted the assault of that day.

 p206  Porter received the brevet of Brigadier General in the regular army for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Chickahominy, June 27, 1862. A week later he was made Major General of Volunteers, and temporarily attached to General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John Pope's army of Virginia. His corps, although ordered to advance, was unable to move forward at the second battle of Bull Run, but in the afternoon of the following day it was actively engaged, and to its obstinate resistance it was mainly due that the defeat was not a total rout. Charges were brought against Porter for his inaction on the first day, August 29, 1862, and he was deprived of his command, but was restored at the request of McClellan, taking part in the Maryland campaign.

On November 27, 1862, Porter was arraigned before a Court Martial in Washington, charged with disobeying orders at the second battle of Bull Run, and on January 21, 1863, he was cashiered, "and forever disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the government of the United States, for violation of the 9th and 52d Articles of War." The justice of this severe verdict has been the subject of much controversy. General Porter made several appeals for a reversal of the decision of the Court Martial, and many petitions to open the case were presented to the Presidents during the succeeding eighteen years, as well as memorials from various legislatures, and on December 28, 1882, a bill for his relief was taken to the Senate, under the action of an advisory board appointed by President Hayes, consisting of Major Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Schofield, Terry and Getty. On May 14, 1882, the President remitted so much of the sentence of the Court Martial as forever disqualified Porter from holding any office of trust or profit under the government, but the bill for his relief failed in its passage.

A technical objection caused President Arthur to veto a similar bill that was passed by the 48th Congress, but another was passed subsequently which was signed by President Cleveland, and he was restored to the United States Army as Colonel,  p207 August 5, 1886. After his term of service as President expired, though he had received and refused numerous petitions to open the case, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant studied it more carefully with the aid of additional evidence received from southern sources, and published his conclusions in December, 1882, in an article entitled, "An Undeserved Stigma," in which he magnanimously said he was perfectly convinced of General Porter's innocence.

In 1869 the Khedive of Egypt offered him a commission of Major General, which he declined. After leaving the army, General Porter engaged in business in New York City; was subsequently Superintendent of the New Jersey Asylum for the Insane, and in February, 1875, was appointed Commissioner of Public Works. Later he was Police Commissioner for four years, then became Commissioner of the Fire Department; his last employment being that of Cashier of the New York Post Office. On his recent retirement from this office, in 1897, General Porter removed with his family to Morristown, New Jersey, where he died after a lingering illness, May 21, 1901. His military funeral at Trinity Church, New York, was largely attended, and the burial was in the family plot at Greenwood.

Fitz John Porter possessed what old Fuller quaintly called "a handsome man-case," and many accomplishments; was an able commander of spotless character and courtly manners, being altogether one of the most lovable and refined gentlemen that the writer has enjoyed the privilege of including among his many army acquaintances and friends. Conversing with General Grant concerning Porter's case, he remarked to the writer in 1884: "In my judgment, no officer of the American army has suffered such injustice and torture as General Porter suffered for nearly twenty years, and yet there are prejudiced people, mental Bourbons, who to this day believe, that he was a disloyal traitor, who should have been shot."

Jas. Grant Wilson

New York, June, 1901.

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Page updated: 21 Nov 13