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tv   The Civil War Union General Fitz John Porter  CSPAN  October 30, 2022 2:00am-3:05am EDT

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allen guelzo is a senior research scholar in the council of humanities and the director and the director on politics and statesmanship in the james madison program at princeton university. formerly, he was professor of history at gettysburg college, where i attended two of his talks while visiting the battlefield. i was very impressed, his knowledge and his speaking skills, and he has been on my list of historians to have here at the art of command conference for some time now. alan grew up in pennsylvania and focused his career to build
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biblical studies, receiving his best from karen university in bucks county. he earned his master's degree divinity from the reformed episcopal seminary near where he taught church history for a number of years while earning both his master's and his doctorate degrees in history. from the university of pennsylvania. he became a member of faculty of eastern university in, st david's pennsylvania, and in 2004 left there to join the at gettysburg college, where he taught until his recent to princeton in 2018. alan was awarded bradley prize for his outstanding contributions, which have shaped important debate, thought and research about. the most critical periods of american history. in 2013, he received the guggenheim lerman prize in
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military history for his much acclaimed gettysburg, the last invasion. he has also been awarded the fletcher pratt award from the new york city civil war roundtable and the richard harwell award from the atlanta civil roundtable. in addition, he has enjoyed a long and prolific relationship with the teaching company since 2002. he has recorded the following courses the american mind. the american revolution. the history of the united second edition. mr. lincoln and the life of abraham lincoln. the american founding fathers and the great historians. how the greatest taureans interpret the past. and he has published the following titles. robert e lee a life reconstruction, a concise history, redeeming the great
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emancipator for lincoln. an intimate portrait gettysburg, the last invasion and lightning. a new history of the civil and reconstruction to name just a few of those titles. a columnist from. the weekly standard has written that alan gazzo is one of the most acclaimed civil war historians and one of the country's foremost lincolns scholars. he is the first two time winner of the lincoln prize in 2000 for abraham lincoln redeemer, president and in 2005 for lincoln's emancipation proclamation. the end of slavery in. gales holds as both graceful and erudite. indeed almost poetic. he is of comfortable with military topics, as he is with political, social social and economical aspects of the war
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and its aftermath. please give a warm to allen guelzo as he speaks us about the unhappy fate of fitz john porter. thank you for sharing. first of all, let me say how eagerly i have anticipated being with you all at this art of command conference. not the least. because it allows me to be part of a program organized by childs burden, who has been who has been trying to work me into one of these conferences for some years. and now i'm finally here. better late than never. also, not the least for the fact that i have the pleasure once again of connecting with some old acquaintances from bygone battlefield traipsing explorations. jim burgess and john hennessy. mr. second manassas and also and
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grateful for the opportunity to share space with some people that i have admired greatly over the years. i miss geoffrey wirt because of illness. but eric wittenberg is here and eric knows more about the civil war cavalry than the civil cavalry knew about itself. and i'm i'm also happy to be able to make acquaintance of two others. scott and. and i can't even read my own right. scott patchen and kevin pollack got it right. so it's just it's just great to be here and to be sharing space with all of you to talk about the story of fitz john porter the american civil war was a political war. now, that shouldn't matter hugely to those of us who study the art of command in the war, because it is one of the basic tenets of american system of
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governance that the military remains in strict subordination to civilian authority and soldiers lead apolitical lives, uniform military leaders who have forgotten the strictness of that subordination have from andrew jackson to stanley mcchrystal been reminded of it some very unpleasant ways. but the american civil war was different. it forced political decisions on soldiers at the very beginning and the gaping divisions these decisions created forced an atmosphere of political mistrust and conflict that inhabited every nook and cranny of military command. this is not the way we would prefer to remember the civil war or would rather of it. we would. i be happy if we could think it strictly in terms of the strategic, the tactical or the logistical, as we usually with
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the two world wars. but we cannot. george mcclellan, perhaps the most politically insubordinate general in american, will not allow us, nor will the political leadership that he railed against. abraham lincoln. edwin m stanton. the joint congressional committee on the conduct of the war. and no one offers a more agonizing of how politics elbowed its way into. the art of command in the civil war than major general fitzgerald and porter, whose court martial and dismissal for his conduct second bull run offers a brazen and bleeding of the risks and follies of in a political. fitz john porter daughter was the child of a military, although it was not an association from which she derived much profit. his grandfather had commanded
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privateers in the american revolution, but his reputation was clouded in the postwar war years by rumors to his prejudice for keeping a public house of ill fame in boston and losing ship in such a way as to induce suspicions of his integrity. porter's father, david porter, yet another naval officer managed to wreck his first command and. s reer was plagued by quarrels, mismanagement and alcohol ism. his wife, eliza a clark porter, was the real head of the household, and it was eliza porter who was chiefly responsible for placing her second child, fitzjohn porter as a cadet in the u.s. military academy in 1841, where he graduated eighth in his class 1845. in the same year as charles,
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another victim, civil war politics and, a year ahead of george mcclellan, porter was part of winfield scott's great inland march to mexico city in the mexican war. he earned two brevet promotions captain and major and returned to west point, an assistant professor and temporarily under the superintendency robert e lee in the 1850s. adjutant oliver otis howard remembered porter's conduct as a precise and competent man managing the whole corps of cadets on the parade ground. and i was exceedingly please, howard said, with his military bearing. but if porter was competent, he was also dull. his wife, harriet, that porter was shy and retiring and his would recall that she had never once heard her father laugh.
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when jefferson, secretary of war under president franklin pierce, created to new light regiments in 1855, porter was passed over for a command on them and only the urgent intercession of eliza clark porter won her son a belated posting to the west. even then, it was only as adjutant to the department of the west at fort leavenworth, and the only serious action he saw was his adjutant for albert's annie johnston's bloodless expedition against mormon utah. the outbreak of the secession troubles after election saw, porter buzzing from pillar to post reporting to the war department on a flying visit to charleston and, november 1860, another flying visit to the gulf coast in february 1861 to supervise the extraction of seven companies of u.s. troops
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from secessionist texas, trying to manage the forwarding of pennsylvania militia and the second u.s. cavalry to baltimore and washington in april and as adjutant to major general robert patterson's halfhearted advance into virginia in july of 1861. patterson's failure and subject when shelving might have put a period to porter's war career, but august 1st, 1861, porter directly to george mcclellan, who had just been called from his successful campaign in western to command the dispute routed union forces around washington, d.c.. i can be of much use and render the country essential services. porter pleaded. i cannot bear to see my companions, my juniors, rising to distinction and position while i must plod away in a beaten and sandy track, it is
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not clear exactly when. porter first became an intimate of mcclellan's. there's nothing their student record to suggest any connection and only one stray reference to porter in mcclellan's mexican war papers. but they did quarters at west point when both were on station there in 1850, and they evidently knew each other well enough in the small confines of the pre-war army that porter would urge mcclellan to resign from his civilian job in 1861 and reenter the service. while mcclellan in would remember asking porter as an adjutant when he was first given command of the department of the ohio. in any case, the plea worked on august 7th. porter found commissioned as colonel of the u.s. infantry. three days later, he was a brigadier general of volunteers. by the fall, he was commanding one of mcclellan's divisions.
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it's not clear either. what porter's politics were at first. like so much of the old army porter cultivate a studied distance from politics, partly from the principal of subordination to civilian authority, but partly from the example of what happened to soldiers like winfield scott when they crossed politicians. like president james polk. but the outbreak of the civil war brought a tremendous influx. new volunteer officers into the service in command. the new volunteer regiments. their appointments were the place kings of northern state governors, and they often made no secret their hostility to slavery and to the democratic party. when porter discovered that one of his volunteer colonels john pickel of the 13th in new york had assisted a slave in taking flight from his master porter
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ordered the slave expelled his camps. slavery existed by law, porter explained, as though this was supposed to deal with any. and we in a slave state and the owner was entitled to his servant. and no had the right to use his rank to take property from loyal owner. this tone deafness to the volatility of the slavery question might have stymied any further advance, even for porter in what became known as the army of the potomac, had not the army's commander been george mcclellan, who suffered from more than a little tone deafness of his own on the subject. instead porter grew closer and, more confiding to mcclellan. and mcclellan played porter more and more as a favorite. mcclellan cultivated new democratic politicians and encouraged porter to do
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likewise. he also cultivated new york democratic newspapermen like manton marble of the new york world and unwisely. porter also did so. none of this went unnoticed in congress or the executive mansion. lincoln warned mcclellan in may it had become all well known that you consult it and communicate with nobody but general fitz john porter. when lincoln mandated a reorganization, the army of the potomac into model corps dumais. porter's name was not among the division commanders promoted to corps command. not that this seemed to matter. once the army of the potomac finally embarked on this great peninsular campaign in the spring of 1862, mcclellan appointed fitz john porter director, year of the siege of yorktown and with his usual methodical precision, the
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operations were conducted with skill. but mcclellan's favorite infuriated pro administration officers, including own corps commander samuel heintzelman, who groused that mcclellan is giving great satisfaction in this army, particularly about general porter. no matter. on may 18th, 1862, mcclellan to subdivide the existing corps of the army of potomac and handed one of the new commands. the fifth corps, to porter. the peninsula campaign did not end well for mcclellan, for whom the seven days battle in june concluded with the army of the potomac backed into a tight perimeter around landing on the james river. porter, however, did remarkably well in corps command, gallantly standing off a savage attack by ely's army of northern virginia gaines mill on june 27th and
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mowing down lee's confederates from the heights of malvern. on july 1st, mcclellan and evidently plan to cross to the south side of the james. and at porter's urging his advance. but lincoln was having none it. he had already appointed a new general in chief. henry wager halleck to put a bit in mcclellan's mouth and was offended during a visit to harrison's landing on july eight by mcclellan's arrogant declaration that the president must abandoned any thought of southern slaves, lest the army of the potomac disintegrate as though mcclellan would bear no responsibility for such disintegration. mcclellan was too much the darling of the democratic opposition for lincoln to risk and dismissal. instead ed in late june, lincoln
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created a new army of virginia from pieces of units that had been pummeled that spring in the shenandoah valley by stonewall jackson and put them under the command of major john pope. and in august, lincoln ordered the withdrawal of the army of the potomac. piece by piece from the peninsula and fed those into the structure of the army of virginia pope's official qualifications for command in the east rose from his success. that april in forcing the surrender of the confederate posted island number ten in the mississippi river which pried open the river to federal gunboats as far south as vicksburg. but his real qualifications were political. the son of the one time presiding judge lincoln's old court circuit in. and one of the four officers who formed lincoln's personal bodyguard card for his inaugural trip to washington, pope was
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solidly anti-slavery and hence regarded as the coming man of the army. john pope was everything. mcclellan was not, and porter did not mind saying so. in late july, after pope ha assumed command of army in of virginia, porter described him as what the military world has. long known and ask and will reflect no credit on mr. lincoln july to august. porter up the heat in his letters describing pope to manton marble as and. worse still wishing that mcclwas in command in washington to rid us of the incumbents ruining country. by the time porter in the fifth corps had by rode boat and rail
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reported pope on august 27th. porter earnestly wishing myself away from pope with all our old army of the potomac and, begging ambrose burnside. if can get me away, please. so. porter's opinion of pope had not been improved by the beating elements of the army of virginia received at the hands of stonewall jackson at cedar mountain on august 9th. nor by the disastrous raid jackson jeb stuart staged on polk's communications and supplies at manassas junction on august seventh. the next day, jackson drew off to the old bull run battlefield, luring pope after him under the delusion that jackson is portion of the army of northern virginia was sufficiently isolated that. pope's army could destroy it. marching through the ruins of manassas junction, porter and the fifth corps were ordered to
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take southwest of the suddenly warrenton turnpike. crossroads, at the center of the old 1861 battlefield. under the impression that porter would be able to turn jackson's right flank. but the order's pope for porter's movement at once on the enemy's right flank on august 29th were vague confusing. and above all, late the order for porter attack jackson was written by pope at 430 in the afternoon, but did not reach porter till 630 when dusk was coming on. porter also was beginning to realize what pope did not that the balance of the army of northern virginia under james longstreet was moving into position on jackson's ready to strike a devastating blow at pope apprehensive porter ordered a pullback of his skirmishes a copy of porter's pullback order
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crossed pope's fourth hero attack order and promptly sat down at 850 that night and wrote out yet another order demanding that porter appear him for an explanation. porter did so the next august 30th and tried to convince pope of the trap waiting to spring on him. pope would hear nothing of it. i am positive of that. at:00 on the afternoon of the ener had in his front no considerable body of the enemy. wld laterisevery indication during the night of the 29th and up to 10:00 on morning of the 30th. pointed to the retreat of theen. ldot have been more wrong. no orders thisn. porter later remarked, more
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erroneously stated the of the opposing forces or to more serious disaster. while afternoon. longstreet's 25,000 braves move in line by a single impulse over the fifth corps and everything else that composed pope's left flank. and by that longstreet and jackson had crushed the army of virginia and sent it fleeing in disarray toward washington. john pope his army, now a shambles at once, flailed around for excuses and, found his principal target in porter. i think it my duty to call your attention to the un soldier and dangerous conduct manifested by of high rank. pope wrote to henry halleck early on september 1st and he was particu larly incensed at one command or of a corps who
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fell back to manassas without a fight. nor was there any mystery about whom pope had in mind. pope had his acolytes in the army of virginia fully, much as mcclellan had in the army, the potomac. robert milroy and indiana abolitionists two commanded one of pope's brigades exploded that the defeat at bull run was caused by the treachery and incompetency of the generals. in the interest of mcclellan and a special general fitz john porter most roundly berated george strong. the new york lawyer and treasurer of the u.s. sanitary commission hinted at what would emerge as a continuing theme that f j. porter others had long personally friends ally, eyes and political congeners with jackson lee, joe johnston and
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looking for an opportunity to agree on some compromise or adjustment to turn out lincoln and black republicans and use their respective armies to enforce their decision. north and south the york tribune was even more direct and who had fingered for blame? i was with pope's army as a correspondent, wrote nathaniel page, and porter did intend to help pope win battle. pope submitted a preliminary report. on september 4th. the next day. lincoln suspended porter from command and ordered convening of a court of inquiry into pope's conduct at bull run. that should have spelled the end of military career. it didn't because of the crisis that prevailed in the wake of pope's bull run disaster was so grave that lincoln felt he had no choice but to recall george
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mcclellan first to supervise the defense of washington on september 2nd, and then on september six to resume direction of the army of the potomac. with all of pope's fragments securely under his command. lincoln explained that this vote force was a recognition that mcclellan is a good engineer sir and there is no better organized sir. and he can be trusted to act on the defensive. but behind that rationale was lincoln's fear that although there been a design, a purpose in breaking down pope, there is no remedy present. mcclellan has army with him, and with that restoration of the army of the potomac. mcclellan and got the reinstatement of porter first for command of the capitol fortifications on the south side of the district, and then for the fifth corps again on
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september. the 11th. lee had no intention of challenging the washington fortifications. instead, he crossed into maryland in hopes of rallying slay holding marylanders to take their state out of the union and then to venture brazenly into inflict politicalamage on the northern will to continue the war. the good news for porter wa mcclellan succeeded beyond almost everyxpected action in frustrating lee's. in just two weeks time. macleish rallied a beaten and disorganized army's morale resupply bid and reorganized it with new leadership at the corps level integral, aided and ill trained and ill prepared wave of recruits into his existing forces and them set off in pursuit of lee's confederate. through maryland, mcclellan in fact moved fast that porter only
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caught up with mcclellan on september 14th with a division's of george morrell and george sykes. that was when he resumed complete command of the fifth corps. on that day, mcclellan went to signify victory over lee at south mountain. and then one at least, and in place victory at antietam. three days later. the bad news was that none of this was sufficient to dispel the clouds of mistrust generated by second bull run over either mcclellan or porter. mcclellan fell under immediate suspicion in washington for not pursuing after antietam with sufficient verve, as well as for showing noticeably little enthusiasm for lincoln's issuance of the preliminary emancipation proclamation on september 22nd. if porter, who was even more explicit in his criticism of the proclamation to mount marble on
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september 30th, fared worse. throughout the entire day at antietam, mcclellan held porter and the fifth corps in reserve at his headquarters at the pry house. and the optics of that reserve looked like nothing. so much as a conspiratorial repeat of second bull run. david, a staff officer, noticed that porter spent the day with a telescope surveying, the battlefield and speaking to mcclellan in words so low toned and brief that the nearest bystanders had but little benefit from them, as though the battle was a drawing room ceremony. this arrangement was really not as palsy as it looked through the day. pieces of the fifth corps were detached to prop up edwin sumner's second corps to support a tentative across the middle bridge over the end cheatham creek, and to cover the army's
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trains and reserve artillery so that by the close of the fighting, porter's command was not then 4000 strong and perhaps but little over 3000 men. nevertheless hostile newspaper correspond ents saw only typical porter in action. when burnside is pressed east, wrote the new york tribune's correspondent george smalley, mcclellan turns to porter, whose fifth 18,000 troops are lying fresh and only impatient share in the fight. but porter only shakes his head slowly, and one may believe that the same thought passing through the heads of both generals, they are the only reserves the army. they cannot be spared. even the times of london's correspondent francis charles lawley sang, the same -- song that general fitz john porter
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with 15,000 men in reserve, became the only body on the federal side which was not engaged, nor did it help. porter that on september 20th, the fifth corps was given the job of treading on the retreating confederates heels across the potomac at shepherdstown, only to receive a humiliating brushback. but this was only the beginning of sorrows for porter mcclellan's to chase lee down after antietam heatedly duncan's ire to a hot pitch. and on november 7th, once passed the danger line of the off year congressional elections, lincoln dismissed mcclellan once and fo. clellan obeyed his farewells to the army of the potomac on november 10th, and the uproar of protesearly crossed the boundaries of mutiny. as generalcclean passed along its front. whole regiments broke and
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flocked around him and with entreaties besought him not to leave them, but to say the word. anou soon settle in inon. porter did not that he would do any better.mcclellan you may sor that. my head is lopped. ro to imagine on november 9th and he was right. two days after mcclellan's departure the porter was once again relieved of command of the fifth corps. the troops proof of their grief in many ways at the loss of the honored and beloved commander who had by his heroic bravery in battle and his kindness of heart and camp, endeared himself to them, remembered historian of the fifth corps, william h. powell. but there was nothing like the demonstrations that had tried to persuade mcclellan to defy lincoln's orders. we are not aware, remarked the laconic of the pennsylvania
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reserve division of there being particular amount of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth at the event. the engines of, the post bull run court of inquiry began turning once more, and on november 17th, porter was placed under arrest and confined to the limits of his hotel in. on november 25th, the inquiry was as a court. the court martial required crystal ball to predict its outcome. porter was charged nine violations of the articles of war, all of them centering on his alleged disobedience of john pope's orders on august 29th and 30th. mcclellan called as a witness on january, testified to porter's loyalty, efficiency and, fidelity. but from those accolades were almost the kiss of death. when john pope as a witness, he
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was so comfort of himself that he declared that, had general porter fallen upon the flank of the enemy on the of august 29th, we should have destroyed. void the army of jackson. from there it was only a short distance to the testimony. pope's aide thomas c.h. smith that he had been certain that fitz john porter was a traitor and smith was ready to shoot him that night. so far as any crime before god was concerned. if the law would allow me to do it, the law did not. but it also did not prevent the court martial from finding porter guilty of all but two of the specifications. on january 10th, 1863. curiously, the new york times had predicted that the trial would unanimously acquit general porter of the charges, brought him. and even the new york tribune conceded that outside public
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opinion acquits the general, but not the court, and certainly not abraham lincoln, who not only approved the verdict on january 21st, but was convinced that porter's disobedience of orders and his failure to go to pope's aide at bull run had occasioned our defeat and deprived us of a victory, would have terminated the war. lincoln told his confidant leonard swett that he had read every word in that record and i tell you, fitz john porter is guilty and ought to be shot. he was willing the poor soldiers should die while. he, from sheer jealousy, stood hearing of the guns, waiting for pope to be whipped. porter's inaction at an cheatham only made matters worse, and lincoln told his son robert that the case would have justified his opinion. a sentence death.
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fitz john porter set to work almost at once to a reversal of the verdict. and his chief counsel at the court martial, robert johnson, published a vigorous condemnation. the court martial proceedings raging a greater injustice was never done through the forms of a judicial proceeding than was done the sentence of the court martial in the case of that gallant officer and indeed the entire trial can only be read and was so read by emery upton in 1879 as a kind star chamber proceeding in which porter became the american version of admiral being poor on courage, laz otra, who might insufficient enthusiasm for emancipation wheeled into action only on two days notice by a general, namely john pope, whom few people, even among those who condemned
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porter, were unembarrassed enough praise or promote porter that may have been unimaginative in his decisions. but those decisions were neither decisive in the outcome of second bull run. that judgment belongs on popes and mcdowell's heads, nor treasonous to the union cause and his supposedly baleful influence on mcclellan at antietam owes most of its force to the scandalous irresponsibility of the journalists who had already conceived a narrative to which porter was made to fit. it would take, however, years for porter to get the rehearing he demanded. he found in mining and civil engineering. even in 1871, assuming a job of cleaning up the corruption left behind by boss tweed as commissioner of public works, new york city. but it was not until 1878 that
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porter's case was finally reopened by the war department and. even then, unburied partizan ownership denounced general porter's conduct of the second battle of bull run as essentially traitorous jacob cox, one of the rare abolitionist general officers in mcclellan's army and who served as governor of ohio after the war, wrote a particularly vindictive review of the porter case in 1882, which declared that porter's disaffection to pope had led him to be on the verge criminal insubordination. it was not until 1886 that president grover cleveland, the first democrat president since the war, signed a bill restore ing porter to his original u.s. army rank of colonel porter, officially retired from the army. four days later. weakened by the ravages of
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diabetes, he died on may 21st, 1901. the unhappy fate of fitz john porter is a story of unfairness, even cruelty meted out to a soldier whose only military crime had been the same myopia in the fog of war that afflicts all but the acute possessors of the ku doyle, the coo of the eye. in those last days before him, cheatham, frederick hitchcock was impressed by his of porter, a small, young looking man with full black whiskers and keen black eyes who dressed very modestly with a high black slouch and a much battered gold tasseled band. but it may be difficult to say more than that about him. porter departed, with the sincere regrets of all his, but not near mutiny.
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his humiliation recorded massachusetts soldier was enough. move a heart of stone. but by this time old army had become a heart of stone and porter did not move it much. he was neither a traitor nor idol, nor was he, as otto isaac schimmel wanted to portray him an american dreyfus. so in the end, his condemnation says less about him than it does about the frailty of his condemns even the frailty in this case of a man ordinary as on malicious as abraham. yet fitz john porter was also a man very much mistaken about the nature of the war that he was fighting. he had that he could make pronouncements on civilian policy and on a rival general charged with implementing those policies which no one would notice that he could himself
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with and he administration associations without consequences and that he did not need to concern himself over whether tactical decisions were liable to be understood as political malingering. although americans have liked to imagine that principle of separation of powers organizes the civil military relationship as much as it organizes the branches of government. the truth of that relation is that it's really a one way street. american soldiers may not dally in politics a lesson taught as early as washington's confronts session with his officers at newburgh, but american politicians may even must exercise a controlling influence over the military. we have not entirely behind our earliest as a republic of the tyranny of men, horseback and
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perhaps a republic we never shall. 65 years ago, samuel huntington warned that the essence of objectives control is the denial of an independent military sphere. fitz john porter and the american civil war may be our most enduring reminders of that reality. thank you very much. now i'm told it's question. i'll start off very good. not james longstreet involved in the review, this condemnation. i know of no commentary that long straight offered on the porter case. you might think that he might have had a thing two to say if he did. i am not aware of it. robert e lee did, curiously
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enough, not publicly, though porter wrote to leader lee after the war in effort to get lee's read on happened to pope at second bull run and lee responded to porter's inquiry. but was it was a very amber aguas response, which made it clear that lee was telling porter that he really didn't want to get involved, and so he didn't. i'm not sure what would have accomplished for porter to have invoked robert e lee speaking on his own on his behalf. but nevertheless, porter at least made the effort, and lee gave a response. but a response. the porter was able to, to any useful degree. yes. provide us with any details. the finding of the 1878 reopening of the court martial. did the court have any particular findings? the the 18 778 re reopening of had come after years and years
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and years of common tarry dispute disagree ment in public and private over the fitz john porter affair. and when a new court. a new inquiry is opened in 1878, under under president term under president. a good deal of the angst and the anxiety had leaked away over years and there was a more dispassion and an attempt to understand happened with porter. a second bull run. nevertheless the inquiry does not go enough to actually recommend and and put into place kind of reinstitution of that is going have to happen by an act of congress and that gets slowed down congress for another eight years as once the political partizanship comes out of hiding and manifest itself. so it's not for another eight years after that court inquiry
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that that legislation out of congress and is signed by president cleveland in. the process though it's it's interesting that members of the original court inquiry which included man who would be elected president in 1880. james garfield emery upton to garfield after the the reopening of the court of inquiry he and upton really scored severely for his participation in the original of inquiry that had condemned porter. upton made it very clear that from upton's point of view anyway, and by this point in 1878, upton is a is a force to be reckoned with in professional military circles. upton makes it clear that garfield was just absolutely dead wrong about porter and should come clean and admit it. garfield writes back to porter once again. you get a real waffling response
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like, well, you know, there may be some aspects of what you say that is true, but basically garfield not going to do anything about it, which puts something of a of a dark stain on on garfield's reputation that way. garfield, of course, had politics. and coming up in 18 the 1860s, during the war, he was something a protege of salmon. he was an ohioan, for one thing. and he moves up through the ranks, into congress, and it's very clear that he is very sympathetic to radical republicanism. he once referred to abraham lincoln as a second rate illinois lawyer. that's gives you some idea of garfield perspective on things. so upton wants to take garfield to the perverse little house to spank him. but garfield does not want to really does not want to admit that a terrible injustice was to
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fitz john porter. it really has to take agonizing process going through congress efforts to get bills passed in congress, restoring porter, and then a president who's willing to sign it, that that takes a long, long time in the life of fitz john porter. yes, there's a comment. i guess it's not at all coincide. at all that cleveland is the first democrat president after lincoln. yes. and one could draw a of unpleasant conclusions from that poor cleveland. cleveland includes a confederate former confederate general in his cabinet, sends captured confederate battle flags back to the south. and one could say, well, of course, cleveland would do that, wouldn't they? and yet i think that's jumping too much to a conclusion. yeah, cleveland did sign the bill, but the bill itself, the
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very fact that it passed both houses of congress was a recognition that something had had gone disastrously awry. the court martial in, 1863. and i think the sense that that was the case would probably have prevailed even if a republican president had been in office by by 1886, when cleveland received this legislation from congress. enough tempers have cooled that people are able to see somewhat more clearly that that what happened in that court martial was was a kangaroo court in the worst sense of the word. that doesn't mean that everybody agreed with it. jacob dalton cox's of the porter case in 1882, after the court the the the subsequent court of inquiry had moved in the direction of recommending reinstatement jacob dalton cox comes still singing the same vitriol like song about porter
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and one can only read cox's comment and then also the book that cox writes in in the wartime series. to which palfrey writes book about. and cheatham says the same things about porter that george smalley put into his correspondence in the new york tribune. there were people who were simply unreconciled to and they remained unreconciled to him. and there are people today who remain unreconciled to porter. my opinion is that there they are. they are wrong. and i say this with some hesitation because i am after all, a lincoln person and there is a there's a certain difficulty for for lincoln people to say that abraham lincoln committed an injustice and that i feel a certain degree of that reluctance. and yet a feeling reluctance is
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not the same thing as historical. and i cannot review the porter case without coming of the conclusion that this was a political a political and was meant as mcclellan's was meant to send a very and unambiguous message to the army about who it should be obeying. the message the message was sent. don't know if it was entirely well read. late as 1863. you still have people like john sedgwick wanting to make the rounds of the army the potomac could take up a collection to put up a monument to jack mcclellan. and stanton, of course, vetoes that there will be a lot of people will continue to balk in the army at the political
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direction the war is taking. but their influence dramatically over the course of 1863. and when takes charge in 1864. there is simply no question from that point onwards about convergence of the political and military opinion on where the war should be heading. but that that takes time but to come to the point i as a lincoln person, i my first instinct is always to assume abraham lincoln, a man who speaks about malice toward none and charity for all, would not embrace his hands in an injustice to an officer like porter and yet, even abraham lincoln, as a human and makes mistakes. in this case, he made a mistake and it was a serious one. and i have to say that. yes. is there any evidence to suggest
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that during the time that fitz john porter was making rather controversial statements in writing or verbally, that was receiving any counselor guidance to to calm things down? or was it just not in his in internal constitution to do that? you you might have. why some people didn't tell him to cool it and they did not most like more often it was a case people would receive this course. well in case of matt marble marbles not published in porter's correspondence. so there's a sense in which what the really incendiary things that porter writes to mount in marble do not get into into public circulation. the very fact that he wrote them to the editor of a new york newspaper betrays a failure of of wisdom and prudence on porter's part that makes you scratch your head. he might have been a fine officer from a military point of
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view, but the moment he he stepped away from that to being offering political opinions, that's the moment at which you have to say that here was a catastrophic failure of of common judgment. marble does not publish this kind of correspond this in the new york world. but that's not the only correspondent a number of letters including the letter the original in which porter suggests that pope is an -- that went to ambrose. and went to burnside because at that point in the campaign burnside is an alexander adria he's acting as something of a relay point for communications from the army of virginia. back washington dc burnside gets this letter which porter assumes he is writing to burnside as a friend and burnside just passes it on to halleck halleck, who didn't end well.
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halleck takes this to lincoln. lincoln is reading this and lincoln is saying, see, see? they are trying undercut the administration. they're trying to undercut the war effort. so in that respect, somewhat unwittingly, burnside acts as the person who communicates porter's opinions and they become fairly widely known. some people have suggested that it that action of burnside's that caused mcclellan to turn on burnside during the maryland campaign. i don't know that there's hard and fast evidence for that. that's a supposition no more than something you can easily. but you could see where if porter is a favorite of mcclellan. mcclellan finds out that, in fact burnside has been responsible for on what was otherwise private communication, when mcclellan would begin to take a somewhat dim view of poor
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burn. i think there are other ways and other rationales for mcclellan's relationship with burnside in the maryland campaign, but it is an entry giving a suggestion, and more than one person has made that suggestion. but it was a serious lapse of judgment on porter's part simply to assume that. what he was writing to burnside was was going to be kept entirely between the two of them. it's i have to say, it's a little bit like, you know, sending emails today to people. you know, we assume that we're sending an email and it's in private to someone. and the fact it no it's not that whole system is owned by google or by whomever you use or whatever server you use and can easily be subpoenaed and appear in a court of law and then you find yourself in difficulty. so we have gotten to the point today. i think we're a lot at a lot of people always write an email assuming that someone else quite conceivably could be reading this later on and you better
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phrase it that way with that view, perhaps porter should have thought about that before he was writing to burnside. he didn't, and the results were fatally to porter's career. i see question in the back as it is clarifying on lincoln's role didn't it? are you saying that lincoln knew it was an injustice that the work or or was it more of him didn't have the information for he or he knew and he thought it for the greater good of, you know, making sure he kept it i think made a serious mistake of judgment. i think that lincoln already had concluded as early as july of 1862, if not before that, that mcclellan had to go. and also that anyone who was joined at the hip with george mcclellan was probably going to have to go as well.
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is he conscious of doing an injustice will lincoln is not the sort of person who gets up in the morning and says, what kind of injustice can do to somebody today? but he can be convinced that it's so because of a long train of actions which have got him to the point of believing that in fact the leadership, the army of the potomac is politically hostile and is perfectly willing to betray the administration to serve its own purposes well once arrive at that point, then you're going to read anything as even faintly negative. any suggestion, even faintly adverse as gospel, truth and. you're going to act on it accordingly because you don't feel you have much choice. there. an interesting question, though. did lincoln actually the court martial proceed things before he confirms on january 21st, 1863, lincoln claimed that he had bill marvell is i, i think with more
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than a little substance suspicious that lincoln ever had the time to wade through 900 pages of that court martial proceeding that lincoln, in fact, relying on a digest of it presented to him. to him by who knows whom stanton halleck people who already had been sharpening their knives for mcclellan and any mcclellan writes so that hangs out there as a possibility. lincoln claims he read the inquiry proceedings. but there is some question as whether that was the case. did he read the whole thing, skim it? we just don't know. but the action that he finally with porter, is defensive because he believes that the leadership of the army of the potomac could conceivably be construed a threat. he's doing it because he's protecting the constant
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government of the united states. he's protect king the anti-slavery cause. you can talk yourself into a number of positions when you that you're under the kind threat that it seemed was case i was saying to john hennessy just before we started here that it's it has seemed to me for a long time. that one of the most critical moments in the history of the civil war is the six weeks between battle of antietam and. lincoln's decision to sack mcclellan and i say that that's a critical period and people say, well, how could it be a critical period? no battle taking place and no major battles taking place? well, yes, there's perryville. people in the east, of course, pretend that nothing happened west of the appalachians and the civil war here. that's that's our mistake. but in that six weeks, i think there's some real question to what mcclellan thought he was going to do. he had already given lincoln his
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opinion of things in the harrisons landing letter on july 8th and harrison's letter is, as i've observed in some earlier, one of the most insubordinate things military officer has ever delivered to his civilian commander in chief basically telling lincoln, don't, don't dream about emancipating slaves, you know, what business of it was. mcclellan's and the answer was none. and then this business mcclellan goes into about oh well you know if you make a decision like that it's going to disintegrate the army a minute you're in command of the army i mean don't you have a little bit of responsibility for whether the army just disintegrates or not. and here's mcclellan trying to it off on to lincoln lincoln takes the letter folds put in his pocket, goes back to washington and sells cabinet. we're going to have to emancipate the. one thing you did not do to, abraham lincoln, was paint him in a corner. that was a big mistake.
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so when you move to that period, september 17th and november 7th, there are a lot of voices suggesting to mcclellan that he should take unilateral action when mcclellan instance receives the official word of the emancipation proclamation, which comes to him as a war order, he actually delays having it read to the army. he delays so he can consult with his new york democratic political friends. what should i do now? they're horrified at the question. i know you have to implement this and he does, but he does so with an order which is fatal, ambiguous. it's like, well, you know we we have to obey the civilian authority. and if you disagree with the emancipation, the proper place to take disagreement is to the polls. it doesn't really sound like a ringing endorsement of the
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commander in chief and. then there is this question that i've seen crop up increasingly. i saw it in the columns written by union veteran henry goddard in the years after the war and and in two columns that he wrote in 1904, goddard about the rumor, a letter that was sent on the 18th of september, the day after the at antietam, a letter sent by mcclellan to robert e. lee suggesting that the events of september chiefs had demonstrated that the two armies had fought themselves to a standstill, and that it was now time for mcclellan and lincoln to mcclellan lee to join hands. march washington and put an end to the war. no, and i read that in goddard's
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court. my first reaction was skepticism. all right, this is 1904. we're a good long ways off from this. this is hearsay of hearsay of hearsay. you know, don't any attention to it. then you begin to find newspaper reporting about this letter in other places keeps cropping up. and while i don't think there's ever going to be any absolute evidence of this. the fact that people thought that something like that could happen says a lot just on own about in that six week period about what he might have contemplated doing. well, being george, he spent most of his time contemplating rather than. and so he finally does walk away from the army. but of course, he walks away from the army to walk into politics and against lincoln. in 1864.
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but does raise these awful when we think about when we think about critical periods of the civil, we tend to think in terms of battlefields, armies. i would like to suggest that we think about. a six week period that is not dominated by a battle, you know, framed by one in cheatham. i'd like us, to think about that period as a period when it all could have very, very, very and the history that we now know as the result of the civil might have taken disastrously different turn.


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