5th New Hampshire enlistees salute General Fitz John Porter on Sunday August 21, 2011.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Following the Battle at Malvern Hill on July 1st, 1862, FJP moved to Harrison's Landing along the James River to rendezvous with Gen. McClellan. This semi relaxed camp scene, with General Porter seated, and posed young African American woman who is clearly meant to be in the photograph (laundress?) was probably taken a few days later, around July 4th.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Strawbery Banke Curatorial Intern, summer 2011
Last week Salem State University held a one-week intensive class at Strawbery Banke, taught by Chief Curator Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D. and Professor Dane Morrison, focusing on New England's contribution to the Civil War. On Tuesday I was asked to do a brief presentation on clothing during the war era, and in preparation I had the chance to look at some wonderful pieces in the Strawbery Banke collections! I thought I would share my photographs of those pieces with our readers.
This blue silk gown is an exquisite piece of 1860s day wear, with gathered self-fabric trim at the dropped shoulders, fringed pagoda sleeves and acorn tassels at the front closure. The pattern is a fashionable one for the time, when large plaids and stripes were popular for women's clothing. The bodice is fitted with darts in the front, placed directly over two bold blue stripes and causing them to taper down towards the skirt, adding to the illusion of a small waist. Interestingly, women in the 1860s did not wear tight-laced corsets to achieve their figures, unlike the fashions of the later 19th century. Rather, corsets mainly provided support while dropped shoulder seams and hoops worn under the skirts made the waist look smaller by comparison. We unfortunately did not have a hoop to display this dress over, so I will have to leave that to your imagination.
Be sure to zoom in on the photographs for a look at the decorative details of this gown-it is well worth it.
This is a simpler day gown, from the very late 1850s or very early 1860s. The cut of the dress is the same as the blue gown, and again the bodice is fitted with darts in the front, but it lacks any form of ornamentation. The bodice has bishop sleeves, a more practical style than the flared pagoda. This particular dress is made from textured silk, but similar gowns with darted or gathered bodices could be made from cotton or calico prints, depending on one's financial means.
The less expensive cotton gowns would be what you might expect to see in a Civil War encampment, if a woman were following her husband in the army. Gathered bishop sleeves were more practical for working in camp; also, hoops were very impractical and would not be worn. The hoop had its dissenters, as working women would have known well. In one example from 1860, a mill owner put out a statement that, "It is always a pleasure for us to see our workpeople, and especially our comely young women, dressed NEAT and TIDY.[but] the present ugly fashion of HOOPS. is almost impossible and highly dangerous. We now request all our Hands, at our Factory to leave HOOPS AND CRINOLINE at home" (http://www.blockaderunner.com/nlc/info.html)
Strawbery Banke also owns a young lady's gown from c. 1840, which I included because it shares some features with young ladies' fashion during the Civil War. Girls and young teenagers could wear gowns with short sleeves, as this example shows. Skirts were also shorter for young people, starting below the knee for girls, and extending gradually to ankle-length by the age of 18. Girls generally did not wear hoops, only enough petticoats to hold their skirts out to a generous size.
And finally, a detail shot of a layered and fringed pagoda sleeve on a deaccessioned gown from Strawbery Banke. The silk is shattering badly on this gown, but it makes an amazing study piece. The pattern is unusual, being almost a watercolor-look broken impression of a plaid!
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Hero or Coward? The Story of General Fitz John Porter is now available for online purchase! For full details, including extras such as content and image previews, Antiques Auction Forum podcast by Martin Willis, book synopsis and author biographies for Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D., Dane Morrison, Ph.D. and Rick Schubart, Ph.D. please visit the publisher's website:
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
The Field Glasses
In 1862, as part of a new Union strategy to use hot air balloons both for surveillance and possible battle, it is Porter who first scrambles into a balloon basket invented by New Hampshire native, Thaddeus Lowe. Porter makes aerial drawings of Confederate camps at Yorktown using these field glasses. He made use of the surveying and drafting skills he learned at West Point. Note that the field glasses are well used, dented and bent, no doubt due to incidents such as the one on 2 April 1862, which are discussed in previous blog posts. The glasses were put on deposit at Manassas Battlefield by Porter’s daughter Eva in 1947.
Bronze Bas Relief Portrait of General Fitz John Porter
Strawbery Banke Museum’s cooper, Ron Raiselis recently envisioned a wood carved portrait medallion of General Porter. Once he began working with the project, the concept of creating a clay model for casting developed. After studying numerous images of General Porter, the artist’s intent was to make Porter appear a bit older than he had as a uniformed officer, in the post court-martial years, with a slightly preoccupied look and somewhat care-worn visage. The first study was very different from the final—it was more abstract. In the final version, Mr. Raiselis refined the piece to more fully reflect Porter’s personality. The sculptor of the Porter equestrian monument, James E. Kelly, had also been asked by the family to complete a portrait bas-relief, so it has been a true addition to the visual body of work on FJP.
Ron Raiselis, artist
Gift of Steve and Julia Roberts, 2011
Casting by Skylight Studios, Inc.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Monument and Memory
Kimberly S. Alexander and Dane A. Morrison
New Hampshire is the State of my birth, and my daughter, Eva, desires to go and I wish to take her there, to Exeter my [very early?] school home and to Portsmouth my birth place.
Major General Fitz John Porter to General William Buel Franklin, c. 18 June 18941
In1894, retired Major General Fitz John Porter (1822-1901) traveled with his daughter, Eva, to revisit New England and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, places that recalled simpler times in “my boyhood home,” as he wrote to an old friend.2 The decision to return to the Portsmouth that he still called “home” may have been one vexed between memories both cherished and troubled. Perhaps the 72-year old Porter thought of it as the final leg of his life’s journey. His had been unusual: Dedicated to the highest standards of soldiering, stumbling on official censure, recommitted to defending his honor, and ending, ultimately, with exoneration and public accolades.3 On his journey to Portsmouth, amidst reaquaintances and reunions, his thoughts must have returned to the single defining moment of his life, in the year 1862, the year that saw his greatest victories and rapid downfall.
* * *
Long after the final battle had been won, Porter’s wife and staunchest support, Harriet, urged the General to agree to sit for the sculptor for the statue that would later grace Haven Park in Portsmouth. As she confided to sculptor, James Edward Kelly (1855–1933), “That it was she who continually urged Porter forward saying why shouldn’t you go out and show your face—you’ve done nothing wrong. And so she had him go everywhere with her.” Harriet was instrumental in securing and working with Kelly, a renowned artist of powerful Civil War monuments, who had designed the statue of General John Buford, dedicated at Gettysburg Battlefield in 1895. Kelly, who would become a fast friend and even serve as a pallbearer at Porter’s funeral, asked what would have happened to Porter had she not been by his side to which she remarked essentially, that he would have wasted away to a shell. She discussed his casual handsomeness as a young man, but that the “trouble” had ruined his health and she poignantly asked the sculptor to show him as youthful rather than as “the wreck” he had become. During the sittings, their repartee was playful. Harriet interrupted frequently, advising, “Fitz sit up straight,” advising the General to pose as though he were in the saddle, and asking Kelly to obscure his bald spot. Clearly, she had a vision of her husband that she would present to the public.
* * *
Kelly’s grand equestrian monument to Porter at Haven Park in Portsmouth, is a complex representation of this man and his world. The dedication on 1 July 1906, three years after the General’s death and 44 years to the day of his victory at Malvern Hill, was attended by veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic and of the Spanish American War and featured a parade and an oration from his friend and comrade, General Alexander Webb. The four-sided base incorporates a plaque and three panels that commemorate highlights of Porter’s career. Nowhere does the monument attest to the greatest battle he fought—his sixteen-year struggle for exoneration. This seems perplexing until we consider the complicated aftermath of the Civil War, in which, as David W. Blight observes, survivors sought a lens through which "contending memories clashed or intermingled" around "the tangled relationship between two profound ideas¾healing and justice. This “tangled relationship” unfolded even before the planning of the site: First, Portsmouth inhabitants were reluctant to accept the $30,000 gift to the city from Porter’s closest friend and Boston cousin, Richard Henry Eddy, to erect the monument, and then, even during construction, a vandal defaced granite slabs that were being prepared. In an essay on “Myth and Memory,” Schultz and Morrison suggest why Porter’s monument tugged so powerfully on bitter memories, observing, “place takes on a particular mnemonic resonance when associated with extraordinary human events, most often involving tragic, sometimes wasteful sacrifice. A place is remembered far more vividly for those who suffered or died in it than for those who lived in it, and the most memorable places are often those where, it seems, lives were squandered. Tragedy can transform a place into a shrine.” What further complicates the issue is Porter’s grand equestrian is its lack of connection between the place and the events—not surprisingly a common feature of New England’s Civil War monuments. Forty years after the war, Haven Park had come to commemorate the complicated constellation of victories and losses that survivors remembered from the War; for some, the unstated losses—what was left out of the monument, was the more important enshrinement.
Today, most visitors to Portsmouth walk by General Fitz John Porter without a second glance. Yet, it remains an astonishing testament to the memory of a war both distant and ever present in our national consciousness.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
General Fitz John Porter's Field Glasses and the "Yankee" Balloon Episode
In 1862, as part of a new Union strategy to use gas-filled balloons both for surveillance and possible battle, it is General Porter who first scrambles into the basket of a gas-filled balloon, invented by New Hampshire native, Thaddeus Lowe. Porter made the first aerial drawings of Confederate camps at Yorktown using these field glasses. He made use of the surveying and drafting skills he learned at West Point. Note that the field glasses are well used, dented and bent, no doubt due to incidents such as the one on 2 April 1862, which are discussed below. The glasses were put on deposit at Manassas Battlefield by Porter’s daughter Eva in 1947. ( Courtesy of Manassas Battlefield National Park.)
Avidly supported by President Lincoln, who was intrigued by using balloons to spy on the enemy, the balloon was an important – though short-lived--vehicle for reconnaissance for the Union Army. The Union Army Balloon Corps was created, operated by the New Hampshire born aeronaut and balloonist, Thaddeus S.C. Lowe.
General Porter immediately recognized the benefits of balloon surveillance. At 7 am on April 12, 1862, the air of the Union camp just outside of Yorktown was tense and filled with cries of, “The balloon is loose!” In the distance, a hot air balloon floated out over the encampment and toward Yorktown, where the Confederates began firing at it. Porter, who wanted a better look at the enemy and their position, was stuck inside the basket, helpless and unarmed as he was fired upon. Although he began throwing the sand bags overboard, the ropes attached to the gas valve were tied up, about six feet above the basket and he could not control them. Lowe (who was fortunately at the scene) began shouting instructions to Porter. “Open the valve! Climb the netting and pull the valve rope!” The men below took up the call as well. Soon they saw Porter descending from above them. Having reached the rope, Porter opened the valve too much. Acting quickly, he saw a tree and took his chances, jumping into the branches, hanging haplessly tangled in the balloon, the gas filling his lungs. Even before he was safely on the ground, Porter, with his field glasses in hand, began recounting what he had learned of the enemy camp and positions. So well-known was this escapade that it is recounted on the Haven Park equestrian monument.
With scant training, the “Yankee Balloon” episode reveals much about Porter- clever, skilled, fearless with perhaps a touch of recklessness thrown in. It also reveals Porter’s calm and cool demeanor even under direct fire in an air balloon struggling to stay out of enemy terrain with a wind shift. Valor, heroism, courage under fire.
Robert Sneden, a mapmaker for the Union Army, recalled the danger of the incident:
Porter, fearing that he would be carried beyond to the James River unless he could descend, became desperate, climbed out of the car and gave the valve line a hard jerk, which opened the valve wide. It also made him lose his grip on the ropes and he fell into the basket, one half of his body hanging over the side with the balloon 2,000 feet above the earth.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Conflicting Quotes on the Court-Martial of General Fitz John Porter
"...[Porter] suffered a judgment of infamy for the single offense of having been one of the wisest, noblest, and bravest of our Army's commanders." Alexander McClure
“I do not hesitate to say that, if he had discharged his duty as become a soldier under the circumstances, and had made a vigorous attack on the enemy, as he was expected and directed to do, at any time up to 8 o’clock that night, we should have utterly crushed or captured the larger portion of Jackson’s force before he could have been by any possibility sufficiently reinforced to have made an effective resistance.” General John Pope
“Pope will probably try to blame Porter, and lay the blame of the whole matter on him, on the ground of disobedience of orders. General Porter disobeyed no orders...” Stephen M. Weld, Aide de Camp
“Fitz John Porter has fought more battles, won more victories, and possesses more brains and patriotism, than every man of the court which tried him, and the hounds who assailed him.” The Laconia Democrat, 13 February 1863
“When he came back from Washington, he wanted to shrink away and hide himself. But I said to him, ‘What have you done? Why should you hide? Why don’t you go out and show yourself? Show that you are not afraid – that you are not conscious of having done anything.’ And I used to drag him out.” Mrs. Harriet Cook Porter
Images shown: Maps of 2nd Manassass showing troop locations (assumed) with actual view showing Porter and overwhelming Confederate presence; Porter in full military dress ca. July 1862, just 6 weeks prior to 2nd Manassas, Porter's court-martial.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Further details to follow.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Experience the Past!
HST 410/HST 709 Institute in Local History
New England in the Civil War
11-15 July 2010 8:30-4:30
Dr. Kimberly Alexander, Chief Curator, Strawbery Banke Museum
Dr. Dane Morrison, Professor of Early American History
What was New England’s contribution to the Civil War? What was the experience like for those who fought and those who remained at home? How did the great and the ordinary think and write about their experiences of victory and loss?
In this one-week Institute held at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH., we will search for the answers to these questions and more on the site of one of the country’s most respected outdoor history museums. Entering the worlds of soldiers and families, abolitionists and draft dodgers, widows and orphans, we will use Strawbery Banke Museum as text and site. The course will be of particular interest to students in Public History, Education, American and Museum Studies, and Theater, as we explore New England’s Civil War on a 10-acre site comprised of 35 historic houses, replete with gardens, archaeological discoveries, artisans and role-players—along the banks of the Piscataqua River. Through a medley of lectures, discussions, and walking tours, we will go behind the scenes and engage the best practices of museum professionals in art, architecture, education, gardening, and more.
For information on course credit for graduate and undergraduate students, contact www.salemstate.edu or www.strawberybanke.org (under "education").
JANUARY 21, 1863.
"The foregoing proceedings, findings, and sentence in the foregoing case of Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter are approved and confirmed, and it ordered that the said Fitz John Porter be, and he hereby is, cashiered and dismissed from the service of the United States as a major-general of volunteers, and as colonel and brevet brigadier-general in the regular service of the United States, and forever disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the Government of the United States."
General Ellis Spear
(write up, courtesy of the JLC CWRT)
A native of Warren , Maine a graduate of Bowdoin College , Class of 1858, General Spear commanded the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment longer than any other officer.
In 1862, he was mustered in as captain of Co. G, commanding more than two dozen of his own recruits, and served at the head of that company until promoted after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Gen’l Spear served in all of the engagements of that regiment from Antietam to Appomattox and mustered out of service in 1865 with the rank of Brevet Brigadier General.
Now the Solicitor of Patents for the government in Washington , D.C. , the general has consented to discuss incidents and anecdotes of his distinguished military career during the Great Rebellion of 1861-1865, now 25 years past.
Following General Spear’s appearance, historian Tom Desjardin will answer questions regarding the 20th Maine Regiment and the Civil War in our country.
Tom Desjardin is a historian whose work focuses on the history of Maine and on the Civil War. He is an 11th generation Maine native and holds a Ph.D. from U Maine. He is a leading expert on the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment and its famous commander Joshua Chamberlain. Tom has been particularly fascinated with Spear’s story since meeting his grandson Abbott Spear in the early 1990s and learning about General Spear’s dry wit and dark, tragic perspective on the Civil War. By appearing as Spear around 1890, Tom will give a first-person perspective on the Civil War and actions of the 20th Maine , including the postwar relationships of the veterans and their differing ways of trying to explain their experiences in combat as well as life in camp during the lulls between battles.
Tom has written four books, appeared in a number of television documentaries, and served as the historical advisor to actor Jeff Daniels in his role as Chamberlain in the movie Gettysburg . He has taught history at Bowdoin College and the University of Maine at Augusta and lived and worked for six years at Gettysburg . He is currently the historian for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
For more info, please go to www.cwrt-nh.org
For those interested, some members will be dining at Telly's prior to the meeting. To dine with us, please RSVP by Thursday at 6:30 to ensure room at the table. Those who come unannounced make for a crowded dining experience.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
“Traitor to my country! When did treason so endeavor to maintain the authority of the Government? Traitor to my country! When did treason to labor and peril life to rescue it from destruction? Traitor to my country! Indifferent to the honor of its flag! . . . If the charge had not assumed the solemn form that has been given to it, it would be received everywhere where my whole conduct is known, as ludicrous, false, or the creation of a morbid or distempered brain.”
Saturday, May 14, 2011 9 AM – 2 PM
Discover Portsmouth Center, 10 Middle St.
Elizabethada Wright Artist Daniel Minter David H. Watters
Rivier College, Nashua NH Portland, Maine University of NH
Is there a Civil War monument in your town?
Does it make a reference to slaves or abolition?
Liz Wright, Daniel Minter and David Watters will lead a discussion
of attitudes of white Yankees toward slavery and race after the war.
7th Annual Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail Symposium
Co-Sponsored by UNH Diversity Initiatives and Seacoast African American Cultural Center
Free admission. Pre-register for lunch $15 firstname.lastname@example.org 603-431-2768
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Revolutionary war patriot, Samuel Cutts meets Paul Revere @ S... on Twitpic
Samuel Cutts suit, c. 1775-1785.
Mannequin and styling, Schaeffer Arts
Strawbery Banke Museum Collections
Photograph, Astrida Schaeffer
More to come on this important surviving example of Portsmouth's Revolutionary War era men's wear.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Friday May 6th at Strawbery Banke Museum and the Portsmouth Athenaeum:
“Fire on the Water: Portsmouth’s Kearsarge Sinks the Deadly Confederate Raider Alabama”
6 May “Fire on the Water: Portsmouth’s Kearsarge Sinks th... on Twitpic
"Civil War General Fitz John Porter: Hero or Coward? You Decide" www.strawberybanke.org
Sunday, April 17, 2011
"...[the first court martial panel] had been studiously organized to convict." (Alexander McClure)
"...[Porter] suffered a judgement of infamy for the single offense of having been one of the wisest, noblest, and bravest of our Army's commanders." (A. McClure)
Quotes provided courtesy Richard Adams, Historian
Gift of General McClellan to General Fitz John Porter (of McCllellan on horsback) Courtesy, National Park Service, Manassas National Battlefield Park, #MANA1838.
“My God! If I can’t depend on Fitz John’s decision I don’t know what I can depend on.”
“Take him for all in all, he was probably the best general officer I had under me. He had excellent ability, sound judgement [sic], and all the instincts of a soldier. He was perfectly familiar with all the details of his duty, and excellent organizer and administrative officer, and one of the most conscientious and laborious men I ever knew. I never found it necessary to do more than give him general instructions, for it was certain that all details would be cared for and nothing neglected. I always knew that an order given to him would be fully carried out, were it morally and physically possible. He was one of the coolest and most imperturbable men in danger whom I ever knew, like all his race.”
Monday, April 11, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The opening of the exhibition "General Fitz John Porter: Hero or Coward?" is in just a month-- May 1st. Full rooster of events through October coming shortly. The catalog will be available in May as well. Details to follow.
General Fitz John Porter's 1860 Field Officers Regulation Presentation Sword. Recent acquisition by Strawbery Banke Museum
Image courtesy of Brian Smestad, Blue Tree LLC
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Footsteps of Heroes: Civil War Walking Tours of Newburyport
With the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War in April, Bill & Liz Hallett are hosting two walking tours in April.
Join us on Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 10 a.m. or Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 2 p.m.
The 90 minutes walking tour features sites and stories of Newburyport ’s Civil War history including Albert W. Bartlett and the first troops who left the Clipper City; stories of the shipyard; a local politician (and dear friend of Jefferson Davis) who almost ran against Lincoln for president; stories of Frederick Douglass’ visit; a Newburyporter who would become a Confederate General and more!
The tour begins and ends at 57 State St (Arthur Page Insurance Co). Please wear appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Tips are welcome and a portion of which will go to historic preservation.
For more information, please email:
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Among the many programs offered as part of the Fitz John Porter exhibition is a lecture and music series: Join prominent speakers and musicians as they highlight issues and share music related to the Civil War and the sesquicentennial commemorations. Follow our website as dates and times are confirmed. The series is not to be missed!
Confirmed speakers include:
Col. Frederick L. Borch III, Regimental Historian and Archivist, Judge Advocate General Corps, U.S. Army, and author of Judge Advocates in Combat (2001) and Geneva Conventions (2010). Sunday 30 October 2011
Dr. Brent Glass, Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
J. William Harris, Department of History, University of New Hampshire, and author of Deep Souths (2001) and The Hanging of Thomas Jeremiah (2009).
Dr. Rick Schubart, History Faculty, Phillips Exeter Academy and a scholar of early American and Civil War history.
Richard Spicer, conductor, historian and educator at Boston Conservatory and Tufts University
Be sure to check out the lecture series hosted by the NH Civil War Roundtable @www.cwrt-nh.org
Dr. Rick Schubart, FJP exhibit consulting curator, Civil War scholar, Phillips Exeter History Faculty and Strawbery Banke Museum Trustee, will present "Lincoln in Exeter" on March 15th 2011. Not to be missed!
Also, of particular interest to those interested in the Porter, McClellan, Pope story, historian Carol Bundy will present "February 1863: George McClellan's Visit to Boston" on June 17, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Strawbery Banke Museum's Cooper, and artist, Ron Raiselis, recently turned his attention to creating a a likeness of Fitz John Porter. After extensive study of photographs from different times in Porter's life, and from differing perspectives, he developed this striking, care-worn visage. The clay mold now awaits casting--hopefully in time for the exhibit opening in May 2011.
Creating the Porter portrait cast is of particular interest as the sculptor of Porter's grand equestrian monument, James E. Kelly, apparently also designed a death mask for Porter and possibly a portrait bust. Raiselis, like Kelly before him, has found a thought provoking and complex subject in General Porter.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
James E. Kelly (July 30, 1855-May 25, 1933) was a noted American illustrator and sculptor, who was known for his works of people and events associated with American Wars, the Civil War in particular. Although only six years old when the War broke out, it nonetheless left an indelible impression on him. His interviews with his subjects often provide information not found anywhere else. William Styple's 2005 publication, Generals in Bronze brings many of these significant interviews together. The artist's interview with General Porter and his family members toward the close of Porter's life are especially enlightening as to Porter's character and the support of his devoted wife, Harriet Pierson Cook Porter, and their children.
In addition to the majestic equestrian of Porter, located at Haven Park in Portsmouth, NH, Kelly designed the striking 6th New York Monument at Gettysburg (above), "Stanton's Ride" (above) and the John Buford Monument (not pictured), among numerous others. His bas relief panels, as at the FJP monument, are especially note worthy and frequently found in this work.