2005-09-29 / Front Page
Footstone honors Civil War hero
Gen. Horace Porter gets special grave marker in church cemetery
BY SUE MORGAN
While most Americans might have studied about American patriot John Paul Jones and Gen. Ulysses E. Grant in high school history class, it is highly unlikely that many have heard of Brig. Gen. Horace Porter.
Yet, had it not been for Porter, a locally connected Medal of Honor recipient who served as a captain in the Civil War, Jones and Grant might not have received proper tombs, according to Beth Woolley, a board member of the Long Branch Historical Association.
Now thanks to Woolley and some local history buffs, Porter, a onetime Elberon resident related by marriage to President Abraham Lincoln, has a fitting final resting place sporting an engraved footstone to note his status as a 1902 Medal of Honor recipient.
About 30 of those history aficionados, including some dressed in Civil War military uniforms, gathered at Porter’s grave site inside the Old First United Methodist Church cemetery, here, to dedicate the footstone during a short ceremony led by the Monmouth County-based Camp 17 of the Sons of Union Veterans.
Despite his busy life as a commander serving under Grant in the Union Army, and then as a high-level aide when the victorious general became president, Porter later found time to write books, run a thriving business and search for the body of Jones, who had died in Paris in 1792.
Toward the end of his 84 years of life, Porter resided in Elberon on the west side of Ocean Avenue, between Park and Lincoln avenues, according to information provided by Woolley, an organizer of Sunday morning’s event.
A special footstone like the one dedicated and placed inside the cemetery off Locust Avenue is generally used to mark those who receive the Medal of Honor, which is the highest military award presented by the U.S. government, explained Woolley, owner of Peaceable Kingdom Memorials, a Long Branch-based monument company.
However, for some unknown reason, Porter, who received the honor for gallantry in the Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War, never received the footstone at his grave, she said.
Woolley recently made connections to obtain the footstone to show Porter’s status as a Medal of Honor awardee. Yet, the more she learned about the man who served as Grant’s captain of ordnance and close confidant, Woolley realized that he deserved special notice from the nearby community.
“I couldn’t just put [the footstone] in the ground without some type of special ceremony,” said Woolley, who also serves on the board of the Long Branch Historical Museum Association, known more informally as the Church of the Presidents.
“You had to pay tribute to the man when you read about his life,” Woolley continued.
Woolley contacted the Sons of Union Veterans group to set up the ceremony as well as local historical and veterans associations.
Representatives from area American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) groups, the two Long Branch historical associations and the West Long Branch Historical Association came out to recognize Porter and oversee a dedication of the marker 84 years after his passing.
Woolley, Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider, Long Branch Veterans’ Affairs Coordinator Mike Winnick, and Camp 17 Sons of Union Veterans leader Clark McCullough of Middletown were among the speakers.
After the Civil War, Porter served as an executive secretary to Grant during his presidential term from March 1869 to January 1873. He retired from the U.S. Army at the end of 1873.
Entering the business world, Porter worked as the vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Co.
From 1897 to 1905, he served as U.S. ambassador to France, later receiving that nation’s Cross of the Legion of Honor for his accomplishments there.
“It’s France’s highest civilian award,” Woolley explained.
Over six years, and at his own expense, Porter searched the ground under Paris for the body of Jones, a Revolutionary War-era American patriot.
After finding and returning Jones’ body to American soil, Porter campaigned to see that the patriot’s body was buried in Annapolis, Md. When Grant died, Porter successfully advocated for a special tombstone for the former general and president inside Arlington National Cemetery, Woolley explained.
The footstone in the West Long Branch burial ground is a way for local residents to return the favor, she noted.
“It is the least that we can do to honor a man who did so much to make sure that John Paul Jones and Ulysses S. Grant had fitting tombs,” Woolley said.
A native of Huntington, Pa., Porter was the son of a two-time governor of Pennsylvania, David Rittenhouse Porter, who was a great-uncle-in-law of President Abraham Lincoln, according to information provided by Woolley.