Sunday, September 26, 2010

West Point Research Trip- Pat & Don Reporting

Photographs from the West Point Archives: General Porter's funeral procession outside Trinity Church, NYC and General Pope's order books from headquarters during the battle of 2nd Manassas.

Friday, 17 September 2010

We arrived at the USMA Cadet Library for our research right on time. The current library is all new to us. It was still under construction when we retired from West Point in 2006. It surely is a grand building. We wended our way up stairs and elevators, through hallways and foyers until we reached Room 314. Waiting for us was a cart with a huge variety of materials! We got right to work searching through the books and papers carefully laid out for our use.

At the table next to us was a Lt. Col. researching material for his dissertation in History. His topic is how West Point graduates of the 19th century applied their knowledge acquired at West Point as cadets and their experiences in the military to civilian jobs in New York City after leaving the military. Wow!! He overheard us talking with the librarian, Peggy, about Porter and what we hoped to accomplish. He immediately struck up a conversation with us and we found out, not surprisingly, one of the West Point graduates he was researching is Fitz John Porter! We started sharing information, told him ALL about Strawbery Banke and our 2011 exhibit and then we all shared the materials supplied by the library for our respective research topics. He is most interested in our exhibit for 2011. Of course we made certain to give him the web site address for Strawbery Banke so he can keep up with our activities and the blog about Porter.

Peggy, the librarian, was most accommodating making copies of materials for us and allowing us to take photos of others too fragile to copy. We actually found the order book that General Pope used at the battle of 2nd Manassas...some written in his own hand. We were able to touch and hold these 2 small volumes...and it was beyond words! The dates of the order books were 25 August 1862 to 2 September 1862. We saw orders written by Pope and his chief of staff regarding some troop placements, supplying wagon trains with ammunition and supplies and having others ready to move out the injured during the battle.

Other letters and correspondence were sent to Fitz John Porter from Joshua Chamberlain written in his own hand, General James Longstreet and General Daniel Butterfield. We made photos of these and some of them were photocopied. Many letters expressed feelings of sympathy to Porter regarding his treatment after 2nd Manassas. Many were written in the 1880's. Former officers of both armies were very disheartened about the way Porter was arrested, court martialed and subsequently cashiered from the Army.

We saw many photos in the files as well. One that we took a photo of was a picture of Fitz John Porter's funeral procession in NYC in May 1901 outside of the Trinity Church. We also recently discovered that Joshua Chamberlain was a pall bearer at Porter's funeral. Several other photos depicted Porter in the field at his headquarters with other officers and even with President Abraham Lincoln! It was so exciting to be able to not only see these photos but actually hold them and take photos of them...without a flash of course. We can't wait to share what we have already found on our journey!! And we still have another research appointment on Monday, 20 September 2010 at the research annex.

Oh...everyone we meet is so interested in Strawbery Banke and what we do. (But we talk it up all the time anyway...even when I recently broke my ankle I was telling the x-ray technician during my x-rays, and later the orthopedic doctor, about Strawbery Banke. I really need to get those business cards done.) We are telling them what we and the other staff members do at the Banke. Everyone is really impressed with and interested in our museum and projects and many go to the web site to check it out before we even leave our research area! They are quite interested how we are integrating a US Army Civil War Officer with a background of a maritime community.

More will follow after the next research session.

Your intrepid travelers...

Don & Pat Trefethen

Monday, September 13, 2010

Civil War Roundtable- Recent Event & Contact Information

Meeting: Friday, September 10, 2010
The Civil War Roundtable of New Hampshire will feature at our next meeting, a very special guest:

Patrick Falci who portrays General A. P. Hill. The topic will be “Up Came Hill: A.P. Hill at the Battle of Sharpsburg.”
Mr. Falci portrayed Gen Hill in the movies Gettysburg and Gods and Generals and was historical consultant on both for director Ron Maxwell.

Our meeting begin at 7:15 with coffee at 6:45. We meet at the Epping Town Hall in Epping, NH and are open and free to the public.

Details at: or email or call 978.994.4717

The CWRT of New Hampshire is a non-profit organization.

Grove Farm, FJP HQ and Confederate Hospital

A bit further down Sharpsburg Pike from Pry Farm is the Grove Farm, known as Mt. Airy which was FJP's Headquarters and hospital for the confederates. Lincoln spent time here during his for day visit and Sharpsburg residents, including one of the Grove's daughters, recalled his presence and kind, gentle interaction with the Confederate wounded. Contrary to some opinions, it is here, behind Mt. Airy (rather than Pry Farm) that the famous photographs of Lincoln and his commanders were taken.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pry Farm, General McClellan's HQ at Antietam

Dane and I spent time at the little visited Pry Farm and barn on the way to Antietam Battlefield. This was McClellan's HQ and also the Union hospital, where rows of Union soldiers were tended to in the barn. Its location on steep rise makes it possible to survey the area for miles around. In the late Maryland summer (August 28, 2010) the fields were dry and crackling, crickets and grasshoppers chirped loudly, air was hot and humid, grass broke under your feet. There was little in the way of tree cover in the farming area from Boonesboro to Sharpsburg. On arrival, we heard a banjo jam session coming from the barn and were invited in. Living in history does not get much better than this. The stillness of our morning there is what I remember as a child growing up nearby. The carnage in front of Dunker Church, the Sunken Road--all landmarks which still exist as they did while the savage battle was under way. The Pry Family was uprooted from their farm and lost virtually everything to the Union troops--their livestock, hay and foodstuffs, for which they received little compensation many years later.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Pat and Don Report on 2nd Manassas Discoveries

Today (Sunday, 29 August 2010) Don and I went to Manassas. We have only toured the 1st Manassas battlefield in the past. The Park Service has finished an older farm (Brawner Farm) at the beginning of the 2nd Manassas battle site with a really neat fiber optic light map showing how the battle progressed. It was very interesting and helped us understand the battle before we left for the field. We watched it twice! There are a few other info panels in the building including one about our buddy FJP. We began our tour but had some questions so we went back to the main building at Henry Hill. This is where we got the best information yet...
A very knowledgeable and helpful park ranger was there and we told him we were beginning research on Porter and started talking with him. We told him why we were researching and for whom. He spent quite a bit of time with us going over reproduced maps of the battle and showing us on the maps where things happened and why. We were unfortunately too late for a battlefield walk over the area Porter fought. We talked more and told him about the exhibit for next season. He was very interested. I told him we're still early in our research and didn't have any leads yet on any items or artifacts that were Porter's. He then told us that in 1947 Porter's granddaughter donated/gave some items that had belonged to her grandfather to the Park Service at Manassas!!!
The ranger (Hank Elliott) told us the park supervisor was in his office and they have some papers related to Porter's court case (later one), letters from Grant and McClellan, portraits of Porter, his official and original West Point Commissioning papers (commissioning him as a 2ndLT) received when he graduated from the US Military Academy in 1845 and a pair of his field glasses!!! We don't know when Porter used the field glasses but they have them there in the vault. Ranger Elliot asked the supervisor if it would be possible for us to do some research there for our exhibit and we were told yes...and we can most likely go into the vault with the supervisor and see the papers, portraits, glasses, etc. and even hold them!! Ranger Elliot is quite knowledgeable about Porter and has done a great deal of research about him. He helped with the new exhibit at the Brawner Farm and did the Porter panel in there. He told us that when we return to research he would personally take us on a tour of the areas Porter was in when he was there at Manassas. He says a lot of them are gone...lost to development...and some are on private land. But we will certainly take him up on his offer. He said for us to send him an e-mail before we go there so he can schedule it.
Hank also gave us the names of a couple of other men who have researched Porter or 2nd Manassas. One is John Hennessy who is the Chief Historian at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP. He worked at Manassas in the 1980's and is still a ranger. He has done in depth studies of Porter and is currently writing about him to put in a new guidebook Manassas is writing. Another Porter scholar is Brian Burton. He wrote a very good book called "Return to Manassas"...about 2nd Manassas. He is in the process of writing a scholarly biography about Porter.
So...other than that we have had a great time in Gettysburg. We are now...obviously...planning a return trip to Manassas and a trip to Fredericksburg. Not sure how soon...but we'll be doing this.

Pat and Don Reporting

First Battle of Manassas pictured above

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to Fitz John Porter, 31 August 1822

In 1862, Porter had little time with Battles at Antietam and Manassas to contemplate his 40th birthday.

Next year in late August (2011) we will be celebrating Fitz John Porter's birthday with a full weekend encampment on the grounds of Strawbery Banke Museum. Follow us as the details unfold!