About Horace Porter
Horace Porter, (April 15, 1837–May 29, 1921) was an American soldier and diplomat who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Porter was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the son of David R. Porter, an ironmaster who later served as Governor of Pennsylvania. A first cousin, Andrew Porter, would also serve as a Union general. Horace Porter was educated at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey (class of 1856) and Harvard University. He graduated from West Point in 1860 and served in the Union army in the Civil War, reaching the rank of brigadier general. He received the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Chickamauga. In the last year of the war, he served on the staff of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, writing a lively memoir of the experience, Campaigning With Grant (1897).
From 1869 to 1872, Porter served as President Grant's personal secretary in the White House. Porter had refused to take a $500,000 vested interest bribe from Jay Gould, a Wall Street financier, in the Black Friday gold market scam. He told Grant about Gould's attempted bribery, thus warning Grant about Gould's intention of cornering the gold market. However, during the Whiskey Ring trials in 1876, Solicitor General Bluford Wilson claimed that Porter was involved with the scandal. Resigning from the army in December 1872, Porter became vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. He was U.S. Ambassador to France from 1897 to 1905, paying for the recovery of the body of John Paul Jones and sending it to the United States for re-burial. He received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor from the French government in 1904. In addition to Campaigning with Grant, he also wrote West Point Life (1866).
General Porter was also present at the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at the McLean House located at Appomattox Court House. He wrote a very descriptive narration of the event.
Meeting at Appomattox: The exchange of messages initiated the historic meeting in the home of Wilmer McLean. Arriving at the home first, General Lee sat in a large sitting room on the first floor. General Grant arrived shortly and entered the room alone while his staff respectfully waited on the front lawn. After a short period the staff was summoned to the room. Union General Horace Porter described the scene:
"We entered, and found General Grant sitting at a marble-topped table in the center of the room, and Lee sitting beside a small oval table near the front window, in the corner opposite to the door by which we entered, and facing General Grant. We walked in softly and ranged ourselves quietly about the sides of the room, very much as people enter a sick-chamber when they expect to find the patient dangerously ill.
The contrast between the two commanders was striking, and could not fail to attract marked attention they sat ten feet apart facing each other. General Grant, then nearly forty-three years of age, was five feet eight inches in height, with shoulders slightly stooped. His hair and full beard were a nut-brown, without a trace of gray in them. He had on a single-breasted blouse, made of dark-blue flannel, unbuttoned in front, and showing a waistcoat underneath. He wore an ordinary pair of top-boots, with his trousers inside, and was without spurs. The boots and portions of his clothes were spattered with mud. He had no sword, and a pair of shoulder-straps was all there was about him to designate his rank. In fact, aside from these, his uniform was that of a private soldier.”
"Lee, on the other hand, was fully six feet in height, and quite erect for one of his age, for he was Grant's senior by sixteen years. His hair and full beard were silver-gray, and quite thick, except that the hair had become a little thin in the front. He wore a new uniform of Confederate gray, buttoned up to the throat, and at his side he carried a long sword of exceedingly fine workmanship, the hilt studded with jewels. His top-boots were comparatively new, and seemed to have on them some ornamental stitching of red silk. Like his uniform, they were singularly clean, and but little travel-stained. On the boots were handsome spurs, with large rowels. A felt hat, which in color matched pretty closely that of his uniform, and a pair of long buckskin gauntlets lay beside him on the table". Surrender at Appomattox, 1865," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (1997).
Porter was president of the Union League Club of New York from 1893 to 1897. In that capacity, he was a major force in the construction of Grant's Tomb.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and Organization:
Captain, Ordnance Department, U.S. Army. Place and date: At Chickamauga, Ga., September 20, 1863. Entered service at: Harrisburgh, Pa. Born: April 15, 1837, Huntington, Pa. Date of issue: July 8, 1902.
While acting as a volunteer aide, at a critical moment when the lines were broken, rallied enough fugitives to hold the ground under heavy fire long enough to effect the escape of wagon trains and batteries.