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

1 comment:

  1. Pat and Don- Your "travelogues" are interesting and are helping us move the project forward in such a positive manner, with so many new discoveries. Thank you!