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Fitz-John Porter Court-Martial: 1862-63

Porter's Retreat At Second Manassas, Court-martial Follows Lincoln—pope Meeting, Porter Found Guilty On Key Charges

Defendant: Fitz-John Porter
Crimes Charged: Disobedience of orders in violation of the Ninth Article of War; misbehavior before the enemy by shamefully retreating, in violation of the Fifty-second Article of War
Presiding Officer: D. Hunter
Court: E. A. Hitchcock; Rufus King; M.Prentiss; James B.
Ricketts; Silas Casey; James A. Garfield; N. B. Buford;J. P. Slough.
Chief Prosecutor: J. Holt, Judge-Advocate-General
Place: Washington, D.C.
Date of Trial: November 1862-January 1863
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Cashiered and dismissed from the army and disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the government of the United States

SIGNIFICANCE: Following the defeat of Union forces at the Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run) in August 1862 Major General John Pope, the commanding officer, attempted to place blame on Major General Fitz-John Porter. The ensuing court-martial was politically motivated and the verdict is widely believed to have been a great injustice.

Fitz-John Porter was a New Hampshire native, born in 1822, and a career military officer. He graduated from West Point in 1845, and was appointed to the artillery. He fought in the Mexican campaign under General Zachary Taylor in 1847, and was wounded at Chapultepec. He returned to West Point as an instructor from 1849 to 1855, and then went back to service in the adjutant general's department as a captain, and participated in the campaign against the Mormons. Following the outbreak of the Civil War he proved a very successful leader and was rapidly promoted, becoming a colonel in the 15th Infantry in May 1861, and then a brigadier general of the United States Volunteers in August 1861. He commanded a division of the Army of the Potomac from the fall of 1861 to the spring of 1862, and in July of that year achieved the rank of major general in the volunteers. During his service with the Army of the Potomac he became a close friend of General George Brinton McClellan, an alliance which proved damaging to him in the political climate that ensued.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882