Portrait of Fitz John Porter

On January 21, 1863, Fitz John Porter was dismissed from the army and “forever disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the Government of the United States.”  A review board reversed the findings in 1878.  [Wikimedia Commons]

Fitz John Porter - Facts

August 31, 1832 - March 21, 1901

Key facts about Fitz John Porter was a corps commander with the Union Army whose career was ruined by court martial proceedings over his performance at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

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Full Name:

  • Fitz John Porter

Birth Date:

  • August 31, 1832

Birth Location:

  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Parents:

  • John and Eliza Chauncey (Clarke) Porter

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1845)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Colonel (USA)
  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Harriet Pierson Cook (1857)

Place of Death:

  • Morristown, New Jersey

Date of Death:

  • March 21, 1901

Place of Burial:

  • Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York

Significance:

  • Fitz John Porter’s father was commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
  • Fitz John Porter’s cousins were Admirals David Dixon Porter and David Glasgow Farragut, and Commodore William D. Porter.
  • Fitz John Porter received his early education at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.
  • Fitz John Porter graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1845.
  • Fitz John Porter stood eighth in his class of forty-one graduates at the United States Military Academy.
  • After graduating from United States Military Academy, was brevetted a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery, stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
  • Fitz John Porter was promoted to second lieutenant on June 18, 1846.
  • Fitz John Porter was promoted to first lieutenant on May 29, 1847.
  • Fitz John Porter served in the Mexican-American War.
  • Fitz John Porter was brevetted to captain on September 8, 1847, for bravery at the Battle of Molino del Rey during the Mexican-American War.
  • Fitz John Porter was wounded at the attack against Belén Gate (September 12–13, 1847) during the capture of Mexico City during the Mexican-American War.
  • Fitz John Porter served as a cavalry and artillery instructor at the United States Military Academy from 1849 to 1853. He later was adjutant to the Academy’s superintendent, Major General John Gross Barnard, until 1855.
  • Fitz John Porter served at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as assistant adjutant general in the Department of the West in 1856.
  • Fitz John Porter married Harriet Pierson Cook of New York on March 19, 1857. The union produced four children.
  • From 1857 to 1858, Fitz John Porter served under future Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston in the Utah Territory during the Mormon Rebellion.
  • Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Fitz John Porter reorganized the defenses of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina until late 1860.
  • Fitz John Porter aided in the evacuation of army personnel from Texas after the Lone Star State seceded from the Union on February 2, 1861.
  • When the Civil War began, Fitz John Porter was promoted to colonel on May 14, 1861, and placed in command of the newly-created 15th U.S. Infantry.
  • Fitz John Porter was promoted to brigadier general in the volunteer army in July 1861, effective May 17, 1861.
  • Fitz John Porter initially commanded the 1st Division of the 3rd Corps during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862.
  • Fitz John Porter performed well at the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek, the Battle of Gaine’s Mill, and the Battle of Malvern Hill, during the Seven Days Battles.
  • Fitz John Porter was promoted to major general of volunteers on July 4, 1862 for his distinguished service during the Peninsula Campaign.
  • Fitz John Porter’s Corps was attached to Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia during the Northern Virginia Campaign (July–September 1862). Porter made no attempt to hide his displeasure about the reassignment, or his dislike of Pope.
  • Fitz John Porter earned the enmity of Major General John Pope’s supporters, including General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and President Abraham Lincoln when they obtained copies of telegrams Porter sent to Major General Ambrose Burnside that were critical of Pope.
  • At the Battle of Second Battle of Bull Run, Fitz John Porter ignored several unclear or contradictory directives that Major General John Pope issued. Porter also did not execute a direct order to strike the flank of Stonewall Jackson’s command because Porter had information that Pope did not have when the order was given.
  • Following the Union defeat at the Battle of Second Battle of Bull Run, Major General John Pope placed much of the blame on Fitz John Porter and relieved him of his command.
  • Fitz John Porter was present at the Battle of Antietam, but Major General McClellan held his corps in reserve.
  • On November 27, Fitz John Porter appeared before a court-martial in Washington and was charged with disobeying orders at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
  • On January 10, 1863, a court-martial found Fitz John Porter guilty of disobeying orders at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
  • On January 21, 1863, Fitz John Porter was dismissed from the army and “forever disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the Government of the United States.”
  • In 1878 a review board chaired by Major General John Schofield reversed the findings of Fitz John Porter’s court-martial.
  • On May 6, 1882, President Chester A. Arthur restored Fitz John Porter’s rights to hold public office.
  • On August 5, 1886, President Grover Cleveland approved legislation restoring Fitz John Porter to the rank of colonel (to rank from May 14, 1861), but without back pay.
  • Fitz John Porter retired from the military on August 7, 1886.
  • After the Civil War, Fitz John Porter held several public offices in New York City, including commissioner of public works, police commissioner, and fire commissioner.
  • Fitz John Porter died at age 78, on March 21, 1901, at Morristown, New Jersey.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Fitz John Porter - Facts
  • Coverage August 31, 1832 - March 21, 1901
  • Author
  • Keywords Fitz John Porter
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 30, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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