Hailing from New Hampshire, Major General Fitz-John Porter served in the American Civil War in the Union army. Throughout 1862, it was the mission of the Union army to take the Confederate capital of Richmond. President Abraham Lincoln created the Army of Virginia, led by General Pope, to protect Washington and intimidate the nearby Confederate troops. General Porter, with the Fifth Corps of the Army of Potomac, had made disparaging remarks in telegraphs that would later be seen by General Pope on his way to joining Pope’s troops.
Fitz-John Porter was charged with five counts of disobeying orders and four counts for shameful conduct before the enemy, charges that could result in the death penalty. Porter hoped that McClellan would be able to help, but McClellan was dismissed from the army before the trial. In 1863, Porter was found guilty of these crimes and dismissed from the army in this so-called “trial of the century.” He was exonerated in 1886 and had his rank restored to colonel, but would never work in the military again.
General Porter was honored with a statue in his hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1904. A WWII American Steam Merchant ship was named after him, and now his bicorn worn during the time of this great battle has been conserved at MTS. After gentle surface cleaning and polishing of the metallic elements, MTS Director Camille Myers Breeze repaired a tear to the silk lining of the cap. One of the two bullion tassels was reattached, and a custom mount was made of fabric-covered Ethafoam. The hat is now enlosed in a custom-made polypropylene box. The pieces of the original hat box were treated by paper conservator, Bryan Owen, and are now stable enough for display.
To see the entire collection of Major Fitz-John Porter holdings at the New Hampshire Historical Society, visit their online catalog. We are honored to contribute to the enduring history of this New Englander, and hope that others will be inspired to learn more about him.