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tv   The Civil War Union General Fitz John Porter  CSPAN  January 30, 2022 6:00am-7:01am EST

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american people's ability if they know and if they have leadership. and no one can move without some leadership. and for the time being you feel that we are bereft of leadership. yes. take a closer. look at the spouses of our nation's presidents their private lives public roles and legacies watch all of our first ladies programs online at first ladies dot so over the past few years i've had the good fortune of working with kevin on our new book coming out soon coming soon from sabbath beatty, but we did a lot of our writing last year during the shutdown. we were both home. we both had some time and you know if i woke up in the morning and was at my desk and writing by 6. am i pretty good about myself i felt accomplished and we worked off a shared document so we could see when each of us were in their editing when we were
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working and you know, i remember the first day sitting down and and i saw well kevin was on here at 4am. he he must not have been sleeping. very good. he must had a rough night. it was the same story the next few days. he's on there for 30. he's on there for he wasn't having a hard time sleeping. that's literally what time he wakes up and starts work unbelievable. so kevin has an outstanding work ethic that i've never seen. he's an outstanding historian and we're happy to and lucky to have him here. so kevin pawlak is a historic site manager for the prince william county office of historic preservation and a certified battlefield guide at antietam national battlefield and harpers ferry national historical park. he graduated from shepherd university with a bachelor's degree in history. kevin is the author or co-author of five books on the american civil war including the emerging
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civil war. all right. good afternoon. again, everybody. gosh, i've got all sorts of things to say before we even get into the topic of fitz john porter this afternoon, but what john eric did not tell you is i all go to bed by 3 pm. so i've got about 15 minutes before i have to sit down here what chris also did not tell you and what was not indicated in my bio was that i used to be on the board of emerging civil war. so we are a great group of colleagues, but be prepared for that as well. in all seriousness seriousness though. this is a topic that's near and dear to me. i went to shepherd university and the battle of shepherdstown is fought right down the road from shepherd university and that was really my first battle if you will that i kind of
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tackled and started to really learn a lot about and study about and that's fell into the story of today's topic the story of fitz john porter, which is a story of well, i'm sure many of you know, a lot of the story it is a long story. in fact when putting together this talk, i wanted to get a sense of just how big the story was and how much it has talked about and what i was able to tally is that official government testimony. for the story of fitz john porter totals 3,028 pages just to give you an idea of that that's a lot of pages, but i have some helping tools here. paige gibbons backus my co-worker did a book drop a couple years ago. there we go. the three volumes that savage beta just published or the batch elder papers, but wait, that's not even 3,000 pages. let's throw in bud. robertson's biography of stonewall jackson. and that is just the official testimony related to the case of
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fitz john porter. there are 393 books in print that have fitz john porter's name in the title. they rage they range from pamphlets to books of several hundred pages and then if you want to find out more about fitz john porter, it's great if you have a subscription to, you just type in his name and you find 45,633 hits alone. so there's a lot to cover here. and it's not going to happen in 45 minutes, and i know the theme of this week has fallen leaders, but the unofficial theme has been scheduled changes. so john eric doesn't know this yet, but i'm going to be speaking to you for the next four hours now. he just panicked a little bit there. he's gonna have a hard time driving me off the stage. all right, but let's honestly get going with it. it is a long story and it is a story that has a lot of intrigue has a lot of he said she said sort of thing between john pope dan is of the official president of the new fan club.
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it's a fan club of one for john pope back there. but of course he started that last night, but where i want to start is actually after fitz john porter dies. and while porter was still alive, there was an effort that had been made one of his cousins very wealthy cousin of his donated or gave rather to the city of portsmouth, new hampshire fitz, john porter's hometown $30,000 to erect a monument. two fitz john porter in his hometown. and this was while porter was still alive that sculptor james kelly began to sculpt this monument porter was a witness to some of the early versions of it and basically every time he saw he just stood there in silence and looked at it and didn't say all that much. but the story of the monument is not quite as easy as we would like to think because the story of porter's monument there in portsmouth is a long one. i mentioned it goes on it the effort begins in the late 1890s porter dies in 1901. but it took about five years for the monument to be completed at least to be dedicated from the
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time that it was erected in 1901 veterans opposed its original location in the center of the city of portsmouth. there is no ceremony to attend the groundbreaking of the monument in 1903 construction lasted an additional two years and the monument set unceremoniously adjacent to porter's, new hampshire home in haven park. unded a sack covered fitz john porter's face on top of the horse. then later somebody had the nice thought of replacing the sack with at least the united states flag, but still it covered porter's face vandals chipped away at the statue stone base. a rogue citizen finally removed porter's patriotic cover over his face in the middle of the night and the monument was then unofficially finally dedicated. even in death fitz john porter is a controversial figure. and i'm sure many of you have different thoughts about porter today, but hopefully we can try
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to rectify just a few of those for you what i want to do today with this is not go so much into the court-martial trial. we will a little bit of course, but it's 3,000 pages of testimony. that could be an old whole symposium onto itself. let alone just one talk as part of a symposium. but what i want to do is is kind of bring fitz john porter to light as a person. when his wife, excuse me, when his daughter was interviewed about the monument standing there in the center of portsmouth, which i'll show you at the end of the presentation. this is the monument as it's being made by sculptor james kelly. his daughters complaint was that it made porter look like a general not like a man. not like a human and i think so often in this case of fitz john porter in the story of fitz john porter. we've lost track of fitz john porter the man and how this long struggle to gain back his reputation that lasted 24 years and i would say even last until today and will last well after we are long gone is is a long struggle that where we lose the site of of porter the man
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himself and how this affected him and how this affected his family. so who was porter the man? here he is early on in 1861. he puts together a pretty impressive resume prior to the american civil war. he's graduate of the west point class of 1845. he graduates eighth out of a class of 41. of course. he's one year before the famous class of 1846 that boasts graduates such a stonewall jackson and george b. mcclellan a man who is going to forever be attached to fitz john porter and porter attached to him. porter is going to serve in the mexican war in the united states artillery. he will be breveted twice. basically a temporary rank for the bravery that he showed on the battlefield. he's going to be wounded once as well and then he will return to the united states military academy at west point to become a an instructor of artillery he instructs hundreds of cadets that all thought very highly of him though also had some problems with him and we'll get to that in a little bit as well. porter's going to help out with the hunt for john brown in kansas prior to the civil war
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and the most notably porter is going to serve as albert sidney johnston's chief of staff during the utah war or the mormon war as it's known in the late 1850s. so by 1861 when the civil war officially kicks off fitz john porter. and somebody who is very highly thought of in the united states army. he's so highly thought of in fact in that point that november of 1860 just as troubles are beginning to brew of course abraham lincoln has been elected to the presidency of the united states porter is dispatched on a trip down to charleston, south carolina to explore the federal fortifications down there most notably fort moultrie and fort sumter what porter finds is that the commander down there fell by the name of gardner is not fit for duty and so porter writes back to general in chief winfield scott suggesting that someone else take charge of the fortifications there in charleston porter never specifies who but that man of course ends up being major robert anderson who is going to be the defender of fort sumter when it is fired upon in april of 1861.
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so when the civil war then ultimately begins porter is going to she before the civil war begins before those first shots are fired. i should say during the secession winter porter is also going to go to texas and aid in removing federal soldiers and federal ordinance and arms from the state of texas to get them on boats to bring them back up north while texas of course is in the middle of its secession when the war begins finally in april of 1861. porter will go north to pennsylvania to harrisburg. he will muster organize and help transport some of pennsylvania's volunteers to the nation's capital some of the first offenders of washington dc during that early spring of 1861 of the the first year of the war while he is there in pennsylvania porter has given explicit orders that if he needs to use his own initiative he is welcome to and at that point washington dc's communications with the outside world at least directly by telegraph had been cut off and so washington, i need decisions that secretary of war simon cameron president
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abraham lincoln or general chief winfield scott had to make naturally we're going to becoming days late they did not have inst. education with the outside world while porter was in harrisburg, pennsylvania word reached him about trouble brewing in the city of saint louis and porter actually gave orders on his own initiative and even signed it under winfield scott's name to appoint nathaniel lyon as commander of federal forces in saint louis. and of course nathaniel lyon is going to be instrumental and helping to keep the state of missouri in the union that was porter's call to make that decision. lastly fitz john porter is going to serve as robert patterson's chief of staff in the 1861 shenandoah valley campaign, which of course is part of the larger first manassas campaign and porter will come under some scrutiny for that. but while thinking about this and all the places that fits down porter is within just the first few months of the war. i started thinking about him not as fitz john porter, but i think he's almost like the forest gump of 1861 in the civil war. he seems to pop up everywhere and as a part of every crucial
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decision that the united states government makes in the early months of the american civil war now following the will defeat the battle of first bull run porter is going to be called east by his good longtime friend, george brinton mcclellan the man you see there in the top center of the screen. of course the man that will be linked to porter and once again porter will be linked to him pretty much non-stop for the rest of their lives. porter immediately is going to be given a brigadier general star at george mcclellan's recommendation and when word of this leaks out one man in particular serving in the west at this point who had graduated from west point three years prior to porter is going to write a private letter indicating how frustrated he is that men like porter who are junior to him are being promoted above his own rank that man is none other than john pope. so pope is going to come into play pretty early on into porter's story the other man that's pretty upset by all of
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this is john martindale pictured here on the left. not somebody you'll find in a lot of civil war books and we'll talk more about why that is in just a moment martin dale was graduate of the united states military academy in 1835, and he too was frustrated that porter had suddenly been vaulted over him, but eventually porter rose to take command of a division in george. mcclellan's army of the potomac. and star rose in the army because of his disciplined approach to creating what was called one of the army's best divisions indeed within his first few weeks in command of that division porter is going to quell two mutinies within some of his regiments and is very quickly going to settle them into a strong inefficient division of the army. however, this was not always so and all porter star was always on the rise. he did make quite a few enemies during this time as well. which brings us back here to one of his brigade commanders that's going to be assigned to the division of fitz john porter. john martindale. martindale was a republican and an antislaveryman fitz. john porter was a democrat while
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he didn't necessarily agree with slavery. he was not an abolitionist by any stretch of the imagination but one of the regiments that was from the rochester new york area the 13th, new york one of those mutinous regiments that porter had to help quell. was under the command of john pickle a another graduate of west point pickle was an intense abolitionist as fitz john porter described him and during the encampments around washington dc in the fall of 1861 learned that one of the officers of his regiment in the 13th, new york had a slave with him. pickle got involved and intervened and was able to entice that slave to join him to run away to pickle's tent where pickle protected him. from the evils of slavery that officer protested directly to porter the officer who had just lost his servant and porter ordered that slave to be returned back to his original owner. so he's not making friends with
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martindale pickle and some of these quote unquote intense abolitionists as porter described them then in october this man here on the right henry wilson a united states senator and not just a united states senator, but the chairman of the senate committee on military affairs brought his 22nd, massachusetts infantry a regiment that he had raised into martindale's brigade. as soon as wilson arrived he being a republican wasn't once again informed of this return slave incident that had just happened within porter's division, but then also wilson's men stripped a nearby house of weatherboards to use as floors for their tents. now, this would become quite commonplace later on during the american civil war but in the fall of 1861 the prevailing opinion was not to try and deal a lot of destruction to the southern homefront and the southern countryside as union. troops occupied them porter corrected wilson, though. however, john martindale offered to pass along porters recommendation that these troops
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return the weatherboards to wilson and so martindale personally went to wilson said what fitz john porter's preference was and ultimately, martindale apparently passed it along in a way that was not favorable towards porter. and so porter was once again making enemies of not just martindale, but now henry wilson the chairman of the senate committee on military affairs and an avid republican in the united states congress at this point. so in porter's own words, he said these few incidents in early 1861 caused him to run a foul of quote influential antislavery senators and representatives and porter was there by regarded as a sympathizer to the confederates. despite that though historic continued to rise in george mcclellan's eyes and in the eyes of most of his soldiers and one soldier the 13th, new york samuel partridge said of porter that he commanded quote the best 13,000 soldiers in the world, and he described porter as a father-like figure not just to
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him but to all the men of his division and what you can see down here is one of these large reviews that took place of the army of the potomac in the fall of 1861 porters division was always the centerpiece of those reviews even being witnessed as by such dignitaries as president abraham lincoln himself partridge continued. however about porter. he said a handsome man. he is slender, but erect a few gray hairs among his raven locks a full black beard kept neatly trimmed and i like a diamond slow and deliberate in his speech with a low clear distinct utterance prompt and decisive in his actions cold heartless and passionate and a terrible terrible terrible disciplinarian. but such a splendid soldier ed. i honor admire revere and could almost devote my life for that man. so what you find is porter being a strong disciplinary and clearly partridge has to spell that out three separate times in his letter to mention that but still somebody who is loved by
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his men and is going to be loved by the men of his division and ultimately the core that he will rise to command also later on in the war, but we are getting there so during this time of inaction the thing that's important to remember is that a schism has grown between the army and the federal government that's going to continue to grow as the war progresses over how to prosecute the war and both sides are going to view each other's actions and words with intents skepticism. often not looking for the facts. just looking for sound bites looking for words of what they think of each other and how they expect the war to be carried out. so porter is going to lead his division during the early stages of the peninsula campaign and will convert of course into these seven days porter's going to be appointed as the director of the siege at yorktown. that was his official title appointed by george mcclellan above the above the rank of many other men that were actually senior to porter in the army of the potomac while porter is there and while this might seem
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like mcclellan is just trying to favor some of his favorite generals porter was perhaps the union general that more. so even than mcclellan was very much aware of the confederate defenses at yorktown and that was because of porters affinity for the united states balloon corps in the aeronautics corps led by professor thaddeus lowe. porter would go up daily. sometimes twice a day in those balloons several hundred feet above union lines sketch out confederate positions watch confederate troop movements and things like that and one morning on april 11th. 1862. porter decided to get up early and to send in one of those balloons by himself. he wakes up gets into the balloon. he begins getting the process of getting the balloon ready the balloon starts ascending and all the sudden porter feels a quick tug as he's standing in the basket and then that tug disappears entirely important just realizes that the tether that had tethered that balloon to the ground had snapped. and porter begins ascending very very rapidly hundreds ultimately
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up to an altitude of about 1,000 feet above him as he is ascending very quickly. he is yelling down to the men below him in the camp and they are yelling at him to grab the valve to put more air into that balloon or helium. rather. i don't know how hard or balloons work. i'm his story and two get the balloon back down to the ground unfortunately for porter. the valve had been tied up in the netting at the bottom of the balloon, which was about 10 feet above him. now porter was a relatively tall man for his time. he was five eleven, but he's not 10 foot tall and so porter has to shimmy up the ropes from the basket. i know i'm just getting i see people's mouths opening. i'm just getting nervous saying this. get drink some water before i do this. who i was debating whether or not i was going to even tell the story. i hate heights porter would learn to hate heights, too. so he's a thousand feet in the air. he's shimmying up the ropes from the basket to the bottom of the balloon. he's able to grab the valve and knock it down. so it's hanging in the basket.
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but now as porter is in the balloon or he's at the bottom of the balloon holding on to this rope. is trying to feel with his feet for where the basket is below him and he's so high in the air that the basket is swaying back and forth. and he has to drop into this thing. so he watches it for a couple of times drops down and incredibly lands in the basket. what a relief we survived that story. that's probably the worst part of the whole story porter is eventually then able to pull down on the valve while he was up so high in the air though. he got so high that he could see sun rising over the eastern horizon and could actually make out fortress monroe on the eastern tip of the peninsula and looking to the west he could see the spiers of richmond. porter's gonna pull down on the valve. he sways back and forth between union and confederate lines, finally once the wind bounces him back over union lines. he pulls real hard on that valve and he ends up crashing into an unmanned tent of the 72nd
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pennsylvania infantry's camp and porter survives that but he never did go up in a balloon ever again. but if it of looking at the confederate lines and surveying the confederate lines. i think it's quite interesting that of the the three plaques that are on porter's monument in portsmouth, new hampshire one of those plaques depicts him in a balloon. you can see up here and that is supposedly a depiction of the april 11th terror ride that he takes over the virginia peninsula. so of course mcclellan will break the siege of yorktown move his army closer to richmond in the middle of the peninsula campaign on may 18th. 1862. mcclellan is going to create two additional army corps the fifth and sixth core that he is going to give the fifth court to fitz john porter and the sixth corps will go to william b franklin. mcclellan's appointment of porter caused renewed jealousy among the other core commanders in the army of the potomac over porters and mcclellan's ever growing close relationship during this time mcclellan as i mentioned asked if he could even
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break up the core organization to a point his own commanders that rather than having lincoln and secretary of war edwin stanton appoint them as they did lincoln said no and he saw this as an effort quote to pamper one or two pets. that's how he referred lincoln did to porter and franklin samuel heinzelman who was commanding of the union third corps on the virginia peninsula wrote this in his diary the conduct of general mcclellan is great dissatisfaction in this army. particularly about general porter and hindselman wrote as well that a trio of three different officers approached the general about this. growing dispute over the relationship between mcclellan and porter and one of those men quipped to heinzelman that quote his name would have to be changed to porter before he would able be able to in the army. nonetheless porter has been going to be given a very important task during the seven days battles or seven days campaigned and late june and early july of 1862. most notably.
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he will be defending the right flank of the army of the potomac on the north side of the chickahomy when he is going to be assaulted. by robert e. lee's army of northern virginia. here is a map. let's see kind of it's a civil war trust map great map not knocking it, but it's at a weird angle, but nonetheless here is porter's core on the north side of the chickahomy. i love what what doug had said last night about the chickahomy that it is a it's not a river at all. it's it's really a just a joke of a river, but nonetheless it's enough to divide porter and separate porter's core from the rest of the army of the potomac ultimately porter is going to fight and win a defensive battle. battle of beaver, dam creek or mechanicsville on june 26th of 1862 the next day he will fend off one of the largest attacks of the entire american civil war at gaines's mill. ultimately porter's line is going to be broken. he's driven back across the chickahominy river to the south side. and of course george mcclellan is going to begin his change of
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base to the james river and looking for a new supply base at harrison's landing. porter is going to perhaps his finest hour. is going to be the leading the defense of the army of the potomac at malvern hill on july 1st of 1862 and brian burton one of the most recent historians of the seven days campaigns is going to write that porters performance was not perfect, but overall it stood out brightly. and so basically i think that's you know, not a bad thing necessarily that porter is able to prove himself as a good and able field commander for george mcclellan and the army of the potomac the other good thing about porter was of course as you can imagine the union army whether you want to call it a change of base or not. they were withdrawing in the face of the enemy. they were retreating back towards the james river ultimately and mcclellan said and many cases his morale did sag quite a bit during this retreat of the army of the potomac but mcclellan took note of porter and here's what he had to say about porter during the
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seven days campaigns. he said porter stuck through it almost nobly and he was all that i thought. him and more nothing has depressed him. he is always cheerful active and ready and is much more efficient than all put together. so despite the setbacks despite his men. winning victories at mechanicsville and malvern hill and then still having to withdraw in some cases against porter's wishes and porter expressed those wishes to mcclellan, but perhaps not strongly enough. porter remained very positive, and i'm sure i'm sure that was part of the reason the fifth core was able to fight so well during the seven days the fifth core ultimately suffers 50% of all union casualties during the seven days campaigns one core suffers 50% of an army's casualties now one other incident is going to happen with our good friend john martindale here who's still commanding a brigade and fitz john porter's core at this point during their treat from malvern hill martindale called together several of his commanders and he was so frightened that in the
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darkness confederate troops might swoop down upon them that martindale offered to surrender he and his command porter caught wind of this relieved martindale of command on august 4th, and he pressed charges against him for quote misbehavior in the presence of the enemy. keep that charge. in mind martindale survived unscathed but porter later believed that he was quote used by secretary stanton and members of the committee on the conduct of the war to injure me and to aid my downfall. nonetheless the seven days campaigns comes to an end and the war in virginia takes a dramatic turn when john pope the man here, of course at the top left of the screen that dan talked about last night takes command of the army of virginia and the war is changing incredibly at this point at a very fast pace in the eastern theater of the war. now john pope is going to issue those famous or infamous generals orders, five seven and eleven that you heard dan quote last night, and i won't go back
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into too much detail about those but very much pope is advocating a much harder war against the southern populace against the southern civilians against southern cities and towns. remember fitz john porter is a democrat. he is a war democrat, but like george mcclellan believes that the war should be fought between opposing armies not between opposing societies. supporter gets an opportunity to vent his frustrations about how the war is changing while he is sitting in the army of the potomac's camp on july 17th, 1862 and he writes to a fellow by the name of joseph kennedy who was chief of the census bureau in washington and there's some dispute as to how exactly porter was able to contact kennedy and even how well he knew him and this is ultimately one of porter's faults in his life as he places trust in a lot of people and no matter how little he knows them. he is willing to vent his frustrations openly to them. supporter wrote to kennedy on july 17th 1862 quote.
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i regret to see that general pope has not improved since his youth remember they were crossover at west point once and has now written himself down what the military world has long known and -- not sure if i can say that on c-span, i might get bleeped out for that one, but nonetheless that was porter's words not mine kennedy. however, while porter is writing to him in confidence kennedy is going to show this letter to secretary of state william seward. william seward is going to show the contents of this letter and porter's words about john pope to president abraham lincoln, and then abraham lincoln is going to pass this letter along to john pope. come early august of 1862. the army of the potomac is going to be ordered off the virginia peninsula to begin moving north to join with john pope's army of virginia. one of the first men were excuse me, one of the first army corps to go. actually the first is fitz john porter's fifth corps on its way to john pope. this is where the story gets
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very interesting and moves pretty quickly. however, one thing i will say and this happens very much and fitz john porter's life and throughout his trial not just in the winter of 62 to 63, but also in the subsequent trials that take place in the 1870s porter's correspondence is very much cherry picked. by historians today by historians back then or by judge advocate generals but one note that porter writes on august 12 1862 to a fellow named jay howard foote who is a man seeking a position on porter's staff is very telling him to be a perfectly honest with you when i was preparing this talk. i had never seen this letter before it's never been quoted in histories of second manassas of the changing war of histories written about the pope porter controversy anything like this, and i think it's very telling about porter the man. whoever rules makes no difference principles and not men should be our motto and he who leads to victory is the one we want. of course, i prefer mcclellan to anyone. but my loyalty to him does not
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debarmy from giving all my efforts to anyone else to crush. the rebellion is my aim and to do it effectively and soon is my earnest wish. porter writes that literally days before his core begins leaving its encampment around harrison's landing along the james river heading back to the tip of the virginia peninsula to then be put on boats shipped up the chesapeake bay in the potomac river to join john pope's army of virginia does porter prefer george mcclellan? yes, does he not like john pope? yes, but porter is a professional soldier. he has been serving the united states army for 17 years. and one man, john pope is not going to change all of that. once porter begins moving his core to fort monroe. he did so very quickly in fact his core, march 25 miles in the first day from their camps around harrison's landing two, fort monroe despite orders from george mcclellan to slow down and not move his core so far
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away from the rest of the army. porters eager to get out of there, but even though he knows he's going to john pope's command. that doesn't stop him from still marching as quickly as his men possibly could and i should also say any relationship takes two people to make a successful relationship. john pope is one part of the pope porter relationship fitz. john porter is the other so for john pope pope did show some disdain for porter? no doubt. of course, he's armed with the kennedy letter that porter writes on july 17th were porter refers to him as an --. but pope tells one of his staffers daniel ruggles just as the fifth corps has arriving in northern virginia not to allow any of mcclellan's staff at the table. and then suddenly pope asked ruggles too if he thought porter would fail him during the coming campaign. so already pope is not placing much trust in porter. porter is not placing much trust in pope. this is a recipe for disaster and unfortunately that disaster is going to come on the
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battlefield where thousands of men's lives are at stake. now for the second manassas campaign when porter joins pope pope's line is along the rappahannock river on august 23rd of 1862. three days later. excuse me, two days later the army of northern virginia the command of robert lee of course is going to split into sending stonewall jackson's column of soldiers about 24,000 men around pope's right to sever pope's supply line at bristow station, which there's a great battlefield park there if anybody wants to come out and visit me after the symposium is done. i'll tell you all about it more in detail, but nonetheless the purpose of this movement has been to force pope away from the rappahannock river and cut his supply line the orange and alexandria railroad. and so what ends up happening is jackson cuts the rail line at bristow station and then moves up to manassas junction pope decides to go after jackson and he pulls his men away from the rappahannock to move four jackson's command. and as pope says try to bag
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jackson, so pope is asking for expediency from his commanders. he's asking for his army. for commanders to move their men quickly to try and get jackson while they still can before jackson gets away. the evening of august 27th after federal troops have recaptured bristow station. pope is going to send out an order to his core commanders specifically to porter to move to bristow station by daylight the next morning and pope tells porter very specifically to begin marching his men at 1am the morning of august 28th to reach bristow station by the time the sun rises later that morning porter in his officers believe that this march would not work and so they decided that it would be better for their men because of traffic jams because of how dark it was at that point. it would be better for their mentally two hours later at 3am instead porter does not inform pope about this, but i will say porter is not the most egregious offender of pope's orders for his army to concentrate because when phil kearney the division commander in the army of the potomac's third corps gets this
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order he tells the courier to go to hell and then he's going to march on his own time. nonetheless porter's corps reaches bristow station by about 10:30 that morning he meets with pope there. pope doesn't express any feelings of failure on porter's behalf. that porter has let him down at all. but porter from bristow station is going to continue keeping up correspondence. and again, this is a running theme with porter. he's having these correspondence that he is constantly talking to pope's communication lines had been cut by jackson when jackson cuts the orange and alexandria railroad, and so the only way that washington dc could get pretty much instantaneous information about what was happening on the front lines was from fitz john porter who had established a telegraphic connection with ambrose burnside who was in the area around fredericksburg. and of course here is burnside down here. and porter is going to write multiple letters to burnside updating burnside about the campaign and burnside will then forward them on to the authorities in washington
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general in chief henry hallock secretary of war stanton and president lincoln, and i'm not going to quote all of these you can find these pretty easily in books, but one of the things that porter says in one of his letters written from bristow station, he says, i hope mack mcclellan is at work and we will soon get ordered out of this it would seem from proper statement of the enemy that he was wandering around loose, but i expect they know what they are doing, which is more than anyone here or anywhere knows. so again porter now in official correspondence this time is insulting john pope and indicating that pope has no idea what he is doing. porter then goes on to tell burnside at the end of one of these letters. he says most of this is private, but if you can get me away, please do so make what use of this you choose so that it does good. burnside forwards the entire messages without cutting out the private extracts between porter and burnside himself and the reason that burnside later gave is because he believed these were the only means of
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communication with general pope that we had. despite porter's negative words burnside was not disturbed by them. he later testified that nothing led me for one moment to feel that. he meaning porter would not do his whole duty. come the morning of august 29th following the fight at bronner's farm the opening fight of the battle of second manassas, john pope has now located stonewall jackson's wing of the confederate army. and pope is going to order his army once again to concentrate. pope orders porter to march towards manassas junction porter reaches there the morning of august 29th, and then immediately upon reaching there. he is told to turn back around move up what's known as the manassas gainesville road if any of you are familiar with the road network and prince william county. it's today's wellington road, and porter is going to be moving against the left or excuse me the right end of stonewall jackson's line while pope is hammering it in the area north of the old manassas battlefield
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porter is going to be separated. he's over here on this map from john pope's army by several miles and over inhospitable terrain. one important thing to realize in all of this is john pope's idea of the situation there at the front is completely different from reality. john pope is of the opinion. that this is the situation jackson's line is perpendicular to the warrenton turnpike modern us 29 and porter is well behind jackson's line. all porter has to do is continue moving up the manassas, gainesville road and strike jackson's men in the rear and porter will then excuse me. pope will then have been able to have bagged jackson and have defeated a sizable portion of the army of northern virginia in reality. jackson's line is not as pope thinks it is this bottom map. hopefully oops. hopefully you all can see this jackson's line is instead posted along and behind an unfinished
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railroad that runs roughly parallel with the warrenton turnpike not perpendicular as pope believes that it does as soon as porter arrives at a small stream known as dawkins branch, which you can see here on the map down here. a couple of miles south of pope's left he is going to receive a long side urban mcdowell who is a company importer at this point. a in order known officially as the joint order and i'm going to read most of this in its entirety for you. it's written from army of virginia headquarters at centerville on august 29th, 1862, and it reads generals mcdowell and porter you will please move forward with your joint commands toward gainesville. i sent general porter written orders to that effect an hour and a half ago heintzelman siegel in reno are moving on the warrenton turnpike. and must now be not far from gainesville. i desire that as soon as communication is established between this force and your own the whole command shall halt. it may be necessary to fall back behind bull run at centerville
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tonight. i presume it will be so if any considerable advantages are to be gained by departing from this order, it will not be strictly carried out. anybody else is confused as i am. pope tells porter three different things. advanced move towards gainesville, but he never says anything specifically about attacking the enemy. uh pope is also going to tell porter that it may be necessary to fall back behind bull run that night and to not move so far away that he's not in a position where he cannot reach bull run that night. pope is later going to claim that this was an explicit attack order to order itself. dan is raising his arms up in the air. yep. dan didn't even get to this part last night. so i have carte blanched with how i want to talk about this story. thank you, dan. we account how many jabs we could get at each other mcdowell after reading this order decides to take his command up the suddenly road before he leaves. he tells porter that porter is a too far out in advance of the
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rest of the union army and he's also going to inform porter. he shows porter a bit of information that he has just received that a sizable body of confederate troops have just passed through gainesville indicating to porter that unlike what pope thinks there are confederate troops out there in front of him preventing him from reaching the right end of stonewall jackson's line. porter is going to receive pretty much the same information from his skirmishers on the front lines and then at 4:30 pm. pope is going to send unequivocally and attack order to porter. porter receives this order but when he receives this order will be debated for the next two decades. ultimately pope was of the opinion that the order reached. from about here all the way down to here in 30 minutes. now there's no such thing as northern virginia traffic back then but i can guarantee you nothing moves fast along northern virginia's roads whether you're in 1862 or 2021
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as we've all found out. just trying to get down here this weekend. um porter however is really in all reality going to receive the order about 6:30 pm and he is going to not be able to attack despite because some of his subordinates are indicating to him that they do not believe in attack will work. they think that there is a strong confederate force in front of them which in reality there is and so ultimately porter is going to pull back the night of august 29th and the morning of august 30th is going to rejoin john pope and the rest of the army of virginia. near the site of the first manassas battlefield porter is then going to stage the largest federal attack of the entire battle of second manassas the afternoon of august 30th when he is attacking the deep cut and as deep section of the unfinished railroad porter orders is 6,000 men forward shortly after three pm. you can see this arrow here. it is described by some of its participants union participants, especially as the hottest fight
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i was in during the war which belies any thought of porter not putting in his all into this campaign and into this battle porter himself was riding amongst his men yelling for them form here men. and as one soldier recalled he said of porter he seemed to be exerting himself as much as it was possible for a man to exert himself ultimately. this attack would be bloodily repulsed and you can see the dangers of this attack as it is going in towards jackson's line. the other wing of james longstreet that john pope has lost sight of has lost track of is right on porter's flank porter's attack. here's a painting of what that looked like is going to be driven back and ultimately james longstreet is going to launch the second portion of robert e. lee's army along in a large attack over 25,000 men along the warrenton turnpike. their objective is henry hill, of course for the battle of first manassas comes to its climactic or its climax really not its end, but it's climax on the afternoon, july 21st 1861 just under half of the men defending henry hill the crucial
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piece of ground at this point because of the federals lose henry hill the confederates will have access to the stonehouse intersection here and they will have access to the stone bridge. the only route that porters army can take to get back across bull run and back to safety porter is going to help stage that defense of henry hill and he is ultimately going to at least preserve enough of that position that porters are excuse me pope's army is able to escape back to the defenses of washington. it could be argued almost that porter did more to stave off total federal defeat by his stand at henry hill, then he could have done to create total federal victory along dawkins branch on august 29th of 1862, but this is only just going to begin porter's troubles unbeknownst to porter as he is embarking on the maryland campaign in early september of 1862 abraham lincoln is going to institute a court-martial to look into charges be impressed against him by john pope. however, porter is never going
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to find out about that court marshal being formed because it never even meets porter doesn't know for the next 17 years. he doesn't find out it until 1879. but nonetheless porter is going to serve. throughout the maryland campaign and in the fall of 1862 november the 12th of 1862 porter will be removed from command of the fifth corps to go back to washington dc to respond to a new court-martial trial of which he is the defendant. the court martial itself was made up of nine generals that were bouncing around washington dc at that period at that time of the war. historian william marvel who just wrote an excellent biography of fitz john porter wrote that quote the court betrayed an effort to orchestrate a conviction many of these men were no friend of porters by any stretch of the imagination. david hunter was a radical republican ethan hitchcock was in edwin stanton's back pocket silas. casey was somebody who had a
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grudge against porter because porter had tried to remove him from command months earlier napoleon buford was in the back pocket of secretary of the treasury sam and chase rufus king and james ricketts both came under scrutiny for their performance at the battle of second manassas. and so this might be a chance for them to clear their names and to find somebody else for a scapegoat benjamin franklin and john slow porter had no problems with but the man there at the bottom is going to plague porter longer than anybody else as a member of this court-martial and that is the republican james garfield who will of course become president of the united states, but we are going to get there porter is being tried. for eight different counts a violating the ninth article of war which is disobeying a lawful order in the face of the enemy. and the 52nd article of war misbehavior? in the face of the enemy sounds familiar to john martindale, certainly. porter's trial is going to last for 45 days at convenes for 30
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sessions 40 witnesses testify and i don't have time to go into the trial all that much but in the end porter is going to be found guilty. of all eight counts and on january 21st 1863. he will be cashiered from the army. he is going to find out not by official order, but by a reporter of the new york times who confronts porter in the parlor of willard's hotel in washington and tells him. that he has been convicted of all those charges and has been cashiered from the army after having served in that united states army for 22 years. judge advocate general joseph holt is going to write the review of the case that lincoln is going to go over and read. and holt is going to base most of his guilty plea, excuse me guilty sentence on porter based around that correspondence that porter had sent to burnside. and one of the things that holt is going to say said it may be safely a form that they those bits of communication express on
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the part of the accused and intense scorn and contempt for the strategy and movements of the army of virginia awareness and disgust for his association with it added to a bitter fling at his commanding general. ultimately what you need to know about this trial is what it boils down to is did porters words. hinder his actions. did they hinder his duty to the united states army and took pope? i do not believe that they did. but nonetheless now fitz john porter career of 22 years in the united states army is over. and two days later, he will write this letter to george mcclellan. this is a terrible blow. but my conscious innocence will sustain me. and my indignation will enable me to fight it out. thus begins a 24-year long fight. by fitz john porter to have his name cleared. it is a fight that will consume most of his money.
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most of his time most of his patients but nonetheless it is a fight porter believes that he can win. initially though. he's going to run into trouble because the the public the presidents and the aftermath of the american civil war all republican and this becomes the case of fitz john porter becomes a political pinata. anybody any republican that wants to score easy political points with their constituents. all they need to do is make a speech talking about fitz john porter the trader and they're gonna get easy political points right there. ulysses ask grant is initially against porter having a retrial having a new hearing president rutherford hayes here is initially going to feel the same way, but ultimately he is won over and in 1878. he commissions what it becomes known as the schofield board three united states army generals john scofield alfred terry and george getty to re-examine new evidence in the case of fitz john porter 16 years after the original trial porter was ecstatic having said i have stood the kicking so long
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i can bear the batting now for a time and bat away. he would almost all of the information that was found. the new evidence that was brought forward in throughout 1878 and 1879 would ultimately essentially clear porter's name. the only thing that the scofield board did not clear him of was the tone of his correspondence with burnside. which would of course be the bane of porter's existence. however, despite being cleared by the schofield board porter is still looking for reinstatement. in the army, he became ecstatic when an 1884 finally a democrat became the president of the united states grover cleveland and on july 1st, 1886 the 24th anniversary of malvern hill and the date which fitz john porter had thus been celebrating his birthday on since 1862 has actual birthday was august 31st right in the midst of all these troubles for him. and so he never celebrated his birthday again on august 31st. president cleveland signed a
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bill allowing porter's reinstatement as a colonel in the united states army porter's nomination was approved on august 2nd 1886, and i gotta do the math again 135 years ago this day fitz john porter retires as a colonel in the united states army. having finally cleared his name. he dies from complications of diabetes on may 21st, 1901 and he's buried in greenwood cemetery in brooklyn, new york. for i want to end is back with that statue. and poured at the end of porter's life. so i mentioned there are 393 printed books that have fitz john porter's name just in the title. that number would balloon quite a bit more if you think about all the books that at least reference fitz john porter's involvement in the civil war, but one of the earliest historians who did not have the pleasure of knowing porter. but had the the opportunity to tell porter's story was otto eisenshimel. he was an austrian american chemist that became a historian.
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he wrote the book the celebrated case of fitz john porter. well, i didn't have the chance to know porter to meet porter. he got a chance to meet porter's daughter. mrs. evelina porter doggett and he sat down with her one night and during the course of the conversation eisen shiml asked her did your father ever get over his sad experiences later in life. and evelina replied never his unjust condemnation had broken something within him. he was always very quiet and reserved even toward his own family. he rarely talked at the supper table and afterward would read his paper in the library or on the porch and sometimes play a game of chess with one of my brothers. but there was a faraway looking his eyes and i doubt if he gave gave full attention to the game. early in the evening. he would go up to his room to spend the rest of the evening reading or writing. i was his daughter and his companion. but even i never was allowed to share the deep misery which had seared his soul beyond.
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hope of healing. porter was given a rare. gift to members of american society and equestrian statue not everybody gets that. porter does and it was dedicated finally on july 1st 1906 the 44th anniversary of the battle of melbourne hill porters. great victory as he viewed it. one of porter's staff members alexander webb delivered one of the speeches to dedicate the monument and he said it was a symbol of national justice. to have this monument now dedicated but i think the best epitaph for fitz john porter is what appears on his grave in brooklyn. i have fought the good fight. thank you all very much. i'll be happy to take any questions. question or two of them making my way over there, you know those orders that join order of august 29th is just perfectly clear in my mind.
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probably those orders probably arrived. oh that order to attack 435 five minutes after cutting those orders loose at least. about this traffic you're talking. yes, karen, just curious. with a corporates ever identified who or the main? drivers of the court market pope was behind it. however pope was never oh, yes. he was pope was never because of i'm no lawyer. like i said, i'm a story pope could not porter tried to have this uncovered. he was never told who was bringing the charges against him. benjamin roberts who was on pope's staff. pope got him to bring the charges against porter and there was some sort of loophole that porter and his lawyers were trying to work through that if pope had in fact been the one bringing the charges in the court martial was illegal and it would have been a moot point, but they were never told who was providing.
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the the charges against porter they just say you're exaggerated against it reported. oh, no, there's there's nobody was ever taken at fault for why porter porter had his own reason or his own opinions as to that but nobody was ever officially said, you know, i mean plenty of historians have done it since but nobody officially in the report said, you know, this was pope's fault. this was mcdowell's fault, they weren't looking for that at second manassas. they were looking for simply exonerating porter. yep. hi, i'm doug dan hurley from chesapeake. had a question about lincoln's role in the trial was this an attempt also to kind of break the democratic co. s a purge going on in the army of the potomac at this point to purge democratic leaning generals from the army of the potomac or at least those generals who speak out about that william franklin becomes one of those as well.
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lincoln's role is is very interesting supposedly in 1864. lincoln had said that if new evidence had been presented he would be interested in retrying porter that was according to his son robert lincoln who was tied into all this because he becomes a member of some of these presidents' cabinets, but yes lincoln i think was looking at this as a purge of he couldn't get at mcclellan and so porter was the one that fell yeah for one more question for you kevin a comment though before we hear that question if you listen, he's asked grant says, you know, this is the man that won the american civil war. is in support of john pope's testimony and in this this case against john, you know, john fitzporter. it sounds to me like there's very little that porter, you know could dispute if grant supports pope in this. thanks for the softball dan because pope later turns or excuse me, grant later turns and actually ends up supporting porter in all of this.
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so thank you. yes. see dan's not doing himself any favors. jim rosebrook from frederick, maryland. so at what point does porter become aware of the burnside angle in sending the letters to through the command in washington and if it was before the maryland campaign you think that affected the relationship between porter and burnside and even mcclellan at that point? all right. here's where the other three hours of my presentation comes in. i've done a lot of looking into this. this has been a fascinating topic to me that there's this conspiracy basically to oust burnside from command of the ninth court during the maryland campaign because he passes along these letters to washington. there's a lot of debate as to when porter finds out about this and finds out that burnside has passed those letters along with all of his words about pope. pope meets with porter on september 2nd before they get into back into washington and supposedly pope says to order
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that he was pleased with porter, but that he had been shown some documents where porter had said some not nice things about pope. spend debated what those documents are i believe that it was just the kennedy letter that pope had seen which we do know for sure. nonetheless porter is starting to build his case immediately on september 6th. he writes to burnside asking for copies of those dispatches. i think he can he can smell the room a little bit and realize what's happening to him. however, though porter is not in my opinion looking for revenge on burnside in the midst of the maryland campaign. and i have a couple of reasons for that one is when mcclellan is removed from command who remember has done so much for fitz john porter when mcclellan is removed from command. he writes a letter to his wife and we love putting stock into everything. everybody writes their wives during the civil war right and porter writes his wife and says paraphrasing slightly, but so something along the lines of if
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burnside is my friend, and i will do my duty in support him. even if he was not my friend, so he says pretty clearly he still is his friend. also when abraham lincoln comes to visit the army of the potomac in early october of 1862 supposedly according to porter lincoln pulls porter aside and says, you know, we saw these these dispatches from burnside and i don't think there was anything harmful in them. so it becomes a factor much later on in 1880 burnside is going to be serving as a member of the united states senate when all of this is being kicked around and burnside. essentially is arguing that porter should get a new hearing at least not a retrial but a new hearing at the very least and burnside then goes into consultation with president james garfield one night and when he comes out, he gives a speech on the floor of the united states senate the next morning against a rehearing for fitz john porter. and according to porter that was when their friendship was
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severed in 1880 not in 1862. ladies and gentlemen, kevin pawlak c-spanz american history tv continues now you can find the full schedule for the weekend on your program guide or at since c-span was founded in 1979 historian and author richard norton smith has taken part in many of the network's programs forums call-ins and special projects as well as on book tv and american history tv c-span sat down with him for nearly eight hours to get his insights on american history popular culture good books and more. and up next part 5 of that conversation which focuses on the year 1968 television and ronald reagan. you have always been a big fan of anniversaries. well, i guess any historian would welcome the opportunity to remind people that there was a past.


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