Horace Porter was an American soldier and diplomat who served as a lieutenant colonel, ordnance officer and staff officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War, personal secretary to General and President Ulysses S. Grant. He also was secretary to General William T. Sherman, vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company and U.S. Ambassador to France from 1897 to 1905.
Porter was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, on April 15, 1837, the son of David Rittenhouse Porter (1788–1867), an ironmaster who later served as Governor of Pennsylvania, and Josephine McDermott.
His paternal grandfather was Andrew Porter, the Revolutionary War officer and his paternal uncles included George Bryan Porter, the Territorial Governor of Michigan, and James Madison Porter, the Secretary of War. Among his first cousins was Andrew Porter, a Mexican–American War veteran and Union Army brigadier general. His aunt, Elizabeth Porter, was the grandmother of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Porter was educated at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey (class of 1856) and Harvard University. He graduated from West Point July 1, 1860.
Porter was commissioned a second lieutenant on April 22, 1861 and a first lieutenant on June 7, 1861. During the American Civil War, Porter served in the Union Army, reaching the grade of lieutenant colonel by the end of the war.
During the war, he served as Chief of Ordnance in the Army of the Potomac, Department of the Ohio and the Army of the Cumberland. He was distinguished in the Battle of Fort Pulaski, Georgia, at the Battle of Chickamauga, the Battle of the Wilderness and the Second Battle of Ream's Station (New Market Heights).
From April 4, 1864 to July 25, 1866, Porter was aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant with the grade of lieutenant colonel in the regular army. From 1869 to 1872, Porter served as President Grant's personal secretary in the White House. At the same time, he held the grade of colonel and an appointment as aide-de-camp to General William T. Sherman.
After resigning from the Army, Porter became vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, and later, president of the West Shore Railroad. He was U.S. Ambassador to France from 1897 to 1905, paying for the recovery of the body of John Paul Jones and sending it to the United States for re-burial. He received the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor from the French government in 1904. In addition to Campaigning with Grant, he also wrote West Point Life (1866).
He died in Manhattan, New York and is interred at the Old First Methodist Church Cemetery in West Long Branch, New Jersey.
Books by Horace Porter
In the last year of the American Civil War, Horace Porter served as aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant, then commander of all the armies of the North. This lively 1897 memoir was written from the extensive notes he took during that time. It is...