History took center stage this winter at Museum Textile Services when a rare example of a Civil War bicorn, or chapeau-de-bras, arrived along with its original cardboard box. The hat was made by Warnock & Co. of New York, which specialized in military headwear. The bicorn is constructed of beaver fur with a leather band around the inside of the cap. The cap is lined with purple silk imprinted with the Warnock & Co. label. The hat box is made of cardboard with a blue exterior and red paper tape around the edges. A Warnock & Co. label reading “From St. Nicholas Hotel No. 519 B-Way New York Warnock & Co. Fashionable Hatters” identifies the original owner of the bicorn as none other then the notorious “Mr. Fitz Porter 66 Union Place.”
General Jackson of the Confederate army attacked Manassas on August 26, leading to what would later be called the Second Battle of Bull Run. Pope tried to destroy Jackson’s divisions before he could retreat, but Jackson remained strongly on the defensive. General Longstreet of the Confederate army flanked Pope with the remaining 5 of General Lee’s divisions. The only thing left to do was retreat by the time Union reinforcements arrived.
The battle was so devastating that the Union feared they might lose their great capital. As chaos ensued, President Lincoln dissolved the Army of Virginia and thus Pope’s position. General McClellan was in charge of maintaining the capital. Pope felt that McClellan set him up for failure and blamed McClellan for the loss of this battle. Pope knew he could not file charges against McClellan, but he could file them against McClellan’s assistants, Fitz-John Porter and a General Franklin.
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.