Three Autograph Letters Signed by Horace Porter, Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary and Staff Officer, Breveted Brigadier General, Pullman Railroad Vice President, Diplomat, and Orator.
Horace Porter, Raconteur
Raconteur, Orator, Author
American soldier and diplomat Horace Porter distinguished himself as a Civil War officer, secretary to General, later U.S. President Grant, and ambassador to France.
For services at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, Porter was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In April, 1864, he was appointed aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant and was with him at Appomattox.
After the war he remained a member of Grant’s military staff and later served as one of his presidential military secretaries. Porter delivered one of the orations at the dedication of Grant’s Tomb.
This collection of three autograph letters signed by Horace Porter from 1887–1890 shed light on his post-war reputation an orator, raconteur, and leader in civic affairs.
The most interesting letter appears to be to one William Carey, Esq., likely an editor at Century magazine. Written on April 19, 1888, Porter returns a corrected proof of an “army story:”
That army story top of p. 251 is now, by the sanctity of our united efforts, been brought within the radius of the purity of the readers of the Century, and as John Phoenix said Prof. Barnard’s dissertation on the gyroscope, it could be read in a family even where there were female children. Of course the adaptation of an army story is often like the English adaptation of of a French play, wherein the loss of chastity on the part of the heroine is “adapted” into the act of receiving a kiss. But one cannot keep being good and pure in this country.
In a June 1887 letter to Henry C. Bowen, Esq. of Woodstock, Connecticut Porter mentions that he has just returned from a commencement at Princeton College and refers to the lack of a “written out” copy of a speech that he is to deliver in July. Porter adds, modestly, “I will have to depend on your reporter [stenographer] if, indeed, it is thought worthwhile to pursue any record of the remarks.”
In Porter’s third letter here, addressed to New York militia General Lloyd Bryce (1851–1917) in May 1890, he responds to a solicitation to comment on a magazine article and refers to an upcoming symposium. At that time, Bryce was the editor of the North American Review. Porter writes:
I returned home this morning and have your note of the 6th instant inviting me to say something in regard to Professor Smith’s article in your May number. I will look into the subject at once and try to make a contribution to the symposium you mention by the twelfth instant.
In addition to writing speeches and articles on the Civil War and railways, Porter was the author of West Point Life (1866) and Campaigning with Grant (1897).
Later Life of Horace Porter
After leaving the army and resigning from government service in 1872, Porter became a local representative and vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company and president of the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway.
In 1892, Porter became the president of the Grant Memorial Association and helped organize fundraising for the construction of the late U.S. President’s tomb in New York City. Porter delivered one of the orations at the tomb’s dedication in 1897.
That same year, Porter was appointed U.S. ambassador to France. In 1905, after resigning his diplomatic post, Porter remained in France to locate the body of U.S. naval hero, John Paul Jones. When Jones’ body was returned to the United States for burial at Annapolis, Porter was called upon to deliver the oration at the dedication of Jones’ tomb.
Description: Three Autograph Letters Signed by Horace Porter, Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary and Staff Officer, Breveted Brigadier General, Pullman Railroad Vice President, Diplomat, and Orator.
New York City, June 22, 87, April 19, 88, and May 8,90. Three ALsS. , , and pp, respectively. Small octavos; with embossed “P” letterhead. Folds; very good.
Refs. DAB. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York, 1898).