Civil War Wiki
Fitz John Porter
[[Image:File:Fitz John Porter.jpg|center|200px|border]]Fitz John Porter
photo taken in 1862
Personal Information
Born: August 31, 1822(1822-08-31)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: May 21, 1901 (aged 78)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: United States Army
Union Army
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Major General
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Unit: {{{unit}}}
Commands: V Corps, Army of the Potomac
Battles: Mexican-American War
  • Battle of Molino del Rey
  • Battle of Chapultepec

American Civil War

Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

Fitz John Porter (August 31, 1822 – May 21, 1901) (sometimes written FitzJohn Porter or Fitz-John Porter) was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War. He is most known for his performance at the Second Battle of Bull Run and his subsequent court martial.

Although Porter served well in the early battles of the Civil War, his military career was ruined by the controversial trial which was called by his political rivals. Afterwards he worked intensely to restore his tarnished reputation for almost 25 years, when he was finally restored to the army's roll.

Early life and career[]

Porter was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He came from a family prominent in American naval service; his cousins were William D. Porter, David Dixon Porter, and David G. Farragut. Nevertheless, he pursued an army career. He graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1845, standing eighth out of 41 cadets, and was brevetted a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery.[1]

Porter was promoted to second lieutenant on June 18, 1846 and First Lieutenant on May 29, 1847. He served in the Mexican-American War and was appointed a brevet captain on September 8, 1847, for bravery at the Battle of Molino del Rey. He was wounded at Chapultepec on September 13, for which he also received a brevet promotion to major.[1]

After the war with Mexico ended, Porter returned to West Point and became a cavalry and artillery instructor from 1849 to 1853, and then became adjutant to the academy's superintendent until 1855. He next served at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as assistant adjutant general in the Department of the West in 1856, where he was brevetted to captain that June. Porter then served under future Confederate Albert Sidney Johnston in the expedition against the Mormons in 1857 and 1858. Afterwards Porter inspected and reorganized the defenses of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina until late 1860, when he aided in the evacuation of army personnel from Texas after that state seceded from the Union.[2]

Civil War service[]


Union General Fitz John Porter (seated in chair) and staff

After the start of the Civil War, Porter became chief of staff and assistant adjutant general for the Department of Pennsylvania, but he was almost immediately promoted to colonel of the 15th Infantry on May 14, 1861. In August, he was promoted to brigadier general, backdated to May 17 [1] so he would be senior enough to receive division command in the Army of the Potomac, newly formed under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. Soon Porter became a trusted adviser and loyal friend to McClellan, but this association with the soon-to-be-controversial commanding general would prove to be disastrous for Porter's military career.

Porter led his division at the beginning of the Peninsula Campaign, seeing action at the Siege of Yorktown. McClellan created two provisional corps and Porter was assigned to command the V Corps. During the Seven Days Battles, and particularly at the Battle of Gaines' Mill, he displayed a talent for defensive fighting.[3] At the Battle of Malvern Hill he also played a leading role. For his successful performance on the Peninsula he was promoted to major general of volunteers on July 4, 1862.[1]

Second Bull Run[]

File:Second Bull Run Aug29 1200.png

August 29, noon; Longstreet's Corps arrives, Porter's Corps stops and does not engage

Porter's corps was sent to reinforce Maj. Gen. John Pope in the Northern Virginia Campaign, a reassignment that he openly challenged and complained about, criticizing Pope personally. During the Second Battle of Bull Run, on August 29, 1862, he was ordered to attack the flank and rear of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's wing of the Army of Northern Virginia. Porter had stopped at Dawkin's Branch where he had encountered Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry screen. On August 29 he received a message from Pope directing him to attack the Confederate right (which Pope assumed to be Jackson on Stony Ridge), but at the same time to maintain contact with the neighboring division under Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds, a conflict in orders that could not be resolved. Pope was apparently unaware that Confederate Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's wing of the army had arrived on the battlefield and the proposed envelopment of Jackson's position would have collided suicidally with Longstreet's large force. Porter chose not to make the attack because of the intelligence he had received that Longstreet was to his immediate front.

File:Second Bull Run Aug30 1500.png

August 30, 3:00; Porter turns and attacks, Longstreet in position to attack and "rolls up" Pope's army

On August 30 Pope again ordered the flank attack, and Porter reluctantly complied. As the V Corps turned to head towards Jackson's right and attacked, it presented its own (and consequently the entire army's) flank to Longstreet's waiting men. About 30,000 Confederates now assailed Porter's 5,000 or so men and drove through them and into the rest of Pope's forces, doing exactly what Porter most feared would come of these orders. Pope was infuriated by the defeat, accused Porter of insubordination, and relieved him of his command on September 5.[4]

Porter was soon restored to command of the corps by McClellan and led it through the Maryland Campaign, where the corps served in a reserve position during the Battle of Antietam. He is famously said to have told McClellan, "Remember, General, I command the last reserve of the last Army of the Republic."[5] McClellan took his implied advice and failed to commit his reserves into a battle that might have been won if he had used his forces aggressively.

Court martial[]

On November 25, 1862, Porter was arrested and court-martialed for his actions at Second Bull Run. By this time, McClellan had been relieved by President Abraham Lincoln and could not provide political cover for his protégé. In fact, Porter's association with the disgraced McClellan and his open criticism of Pope were significant reasons for his conviction at court-martial. The officers of the court were appointed by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who detested McClellan, and most of those officers received promotions after they delivered their verdict.[citation needed]

Porter was found guilty on January 10, 1863, of disobedience and misconduct, and he was dismissed from the Army on January 21, 1863.[1]


After the war ended, Porter was offered a command in the Egyptian Army but declined it,[4] and spent most of the remainder of his life fighting against this injustice. In 1878, a special commission under General John M. Schofield exonerated Porter by finding that his reluctance to attack Longstreet probably saved Pope's Army of Virginia from an even greater defeat. Eight years later, President Chester A. Arthur reversed Porter's sentence and a special act of the U.S. Congress restored Porter's commission as an infantry colonel in the U.S. Army, backdated to May 14, 1861, but without any back pay due. Two days later, August 7, 1886, Porter, vindicated, retired from the Army at his own request.

Porter was then involved in mining, construction, and commerce. He served as the New York City Commissioner of Public Works, the New York City Police Commissioner, and the New York City Fire Commissioner. He died in Morristown, New Jersey, and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.[1] His grave can be found in Section 54, Lot 5685/89.

Namesake and honors[]

In 1904, a statue of Porter designed by artist James E. Kelly was dedicated in Haven Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Template:Libship honor

See also[]

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32x28px United States Army portal
32x28px American Civil War portal



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Eicher, p. 435.
  2. Dupuy, p. 607.
  3. Dupuy, p. 608. "he was a skilled defensive commander who possessed a fine eye for terrain..."
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dupuy, p. 608.
  5. Sears, p. 291; McPherson, pp. 543-44.

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Nathaniel P. Banks |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Commander of the V Corps
May 18, 1862 - November 10, 1862 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Joseph Hooker |- |}

da:Fitz John Porter de:Fitz-John Porter es:Fitz John Porter ja:フィッツ・ジョン・ポーター ru:Портер, Фицджон