Horace Porter was a lieutenant colonel, ordnance officer and staff officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, personal secretary to General and President Ulysses S. Grant and to General William T. Sherman, vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company
and U.S. Ambassador to France from 1897 to 1905. In 1866, he was appointed to the brevet grade of brigadier general, United States Army.
Porter was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania on April 15, 1837, the son of David R. Porter, an ironmaster who later served as Governor of Pennsylvania. 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.
Porter served in the Union Army in the Civil War, reaching the grade of lieutenant colonel by the end of the war. He initially served in the ordnance department of the Union Department of the South, Army of the Potomac, Department of the Ohio, Army of the Cumberland and Military Division of the Mississippi. 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). On June 26, 1902 or July 8, 1902, Porter received the Medal of Honor for the Battle of Chickamaugaas. In the last
year of the war, he served on the staff of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, later writing a lively memoir of the experience, “Campaigning With Grant” (1897).
On July 17, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Porter for appointment as brevet brigadier general, to rank from March 13, 1866, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on July 23, 1866. From April 4, 1864 to July 25, 1865, Porter was aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant with the grade of lieutenant colonel in the regular army. From July 25, 1866 to March 4, 1869, Porter was aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant with the grade of 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.
Porter had refused to take a $500,000 vested interest bribe from Jay Gould, a Wall Street financier, in the Black Friday gold market scam. He told Grant about Gould's attempted bribery, thus warning Grant about Gould's intention of cornering the gold market. However, during the Whiskey Ring trials in 1876, Solicitor General Bluford Wilson claimed that Porter was involved with the scandal.
Resigning from the army on December 31, 1873, Porter became vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. 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).
Porter was president of the Union League Club of New York from 1893 to 1897. In that capacity, he was a major force in the construction of Grant's Tomb.
Horace Porter died in New York City on May 29, 1921. He was buried in West Long Branch Cemetery, West Long Branch, New Jersey.