Horace Porter was born on April 15, 1837, in Huntingdon, PA., the son of the governor of Pennsylvania. A good education got him into West Point where he graduated 3rd in the class of 1860. His specialty was ordnance. He was assigned to the Watervliet Arsenal near Albany, New York when the war started in April 1861. He served under several generals through the war mostly as chief of ordnance.
In action during the retreat from Chickamauga, Georgia, Porter was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1902. But the turning point of his career during the war came a month later when he met General Ulysses S. Grant. General Grant was so impressed with Porter’s reports that he got him assigned to his staff as his aide-de-camp.
Porter remained with Grant for the remainder of the war and after. When Grant was elected President, Porter stayed on as Grant’s executive secretary until 1872 when he resigned and took the position of vice-president of the Pullman Railroad Car Company. Porter stayed with the Pullman Co., becoming its president, until 1897 when he resigned and became the ambassador to France.
The highlight of his life, as he claimed, was finding the grave of John Paul Jones, the American revolutionary war naval hero, which had been lost under the 100 years of expansion of the city of Paris, and bringing him home to the United States. He now rests under the chapel at the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
Porter retired from public life and returned home to New York where he gave talks to civic organizations and reunions and worked with veteran organizations until his death in 1921.
I met a fellow Living Historian portraying General Grant on the Gettysburg battlefield several years ago. I had been doing living history as a 1st Sergeant of artillery. After a brief conversation, I discovered that we had lived only one mile apart in Anaheim, California but had never met. And since he lived in Gettysburg and I was looking to move to Gettysburg, he offered me a position on his staff as his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel Horace Porter. I accepted and that’s when I learned of the Confederation of Union Generals.
I readily accepted the persona of Horace Porter as I had read his book, Campaigning With Grant. But the book was more of a character study of Gen. Grant. I found a biography of Porter written by his daughter in 1927. I was surprised by the life of Horace Porter after the civil war. It had been quite fulfilling.
Mike Reetz can be contacted through this web site at Horace.Porter@uniongenerals.org