Friday, February 25, 2011

FJP Lecture Series

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

Lectures and Programs,NH Civil War Roundtable

Be sure to check out the lecture series hosted by the NH Civil War Roundtable

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

CooperArtist, Ron Raiselis, Creates FJP Mold

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.

Monday, February 7, 2011

James E. Kelly, sculptor of Gen. Porter Equestrian

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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D. to present Porter Lecture, 2/12/11


General Fitz John Porter: Monument to Memory at Haven Park
Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D.
Chief Curator
Strawbery Banke Museum

"I fought the good fight"
General Fitz John Porter's Headstone

It was 1891 and Major General Fitz John Porter (1822-1901) was traveling with his daughter, Eva, for a visit to New England and Portsmouth, New Hampshire “my boyhood home,” he writes to a long time friend. The return to Portsmouth represented an arduous and tortured journey “home” and may be viewed as the final leg of his life’s journey: a life full of personal trial and pain, but ending, ultimately with exoneration and public accolades.

Born in Portsmouth, NH on Livermore Street (house extant), Porter’s prowess as a military strategist came early: he came from a family of prominent Naval officers (Admiral David Dixon Porter, William D. Porter and David G. Farragut were all cousins), attended Phillips Exeter Academy and was enrolled at West Point, where he graduated 8th in his class of 41 cadets. Distinguished during the Mexican American War, he rose quickly during the early years of the Civil War, playing a key role with Major General George McClellan (1826-1885)—however, their friendship, and shared political background, had disastrous results for Porter’s military career.

While much is known about his successes—especially at Malvern Hill and during McClellan’s peninsular campaign-- and his subsequent court-martial instigated by General John Pope (1822-1892), the focus of this talk will be the importance of monuments to memory and their changing representation over time.
The equestrian monument by sculptor James E. Kelly at Haven Park perfectly encapsulates Porter’s importance during his life and after death—even to the present day. The monument and the artist’s interviews bring the memory of Porter and his triumphs to vivid memory. When set within the larger context of his courtmartial and later criticism over his NYC position, the monument becomes one not just to Porter’s life but to the controversy and schisms which caused a divided America to fight during the Civil War, a battle which in many regards, continues to today.

Newly uncovered materials, many never before available or known to the public, will further bring this dynamic personality to life including: the field glasses he used for early balloon surveillance, volumes of letters from colleagues and even CSA leaders testifying on his behalf to overturn his conviction, early photographs and the exciting recent discovery of his 1860 US Army field officers presentation sword, a rare piece of militaria (only 500-600 issued) which becomes symbolic of his rise, fall and reinstatement.

This paper is part of a larger sesquicentennial commemoration being held at Strawbery Banke Museum.

Current List of Primary Sources
Fredericksburg National Battlefield
Manassas National Battlefield
Phillips Exeter Academy
Portsmouth Athenaeum
US Military Academy (West Point)

One of a series of lectures at the Life and Death in the Piscataqua, the talk will be well illustrated.