John M. Porter Memoir

Manuscript Collection #653
Porter, John Marion
Physical description
0.073 Cubic Feet, 1 item , consisting of 151 typed pages.
Preferred Citation
John M. Porter Memoir (#653), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Memoir (1861-1865) including correspondence, transfer and escape of prisoners, details of sabotage of a Union train.

Biographical/historical information

Mr. Porter resided in Butler, Kentucky, and enlisted in the Confederate Army on November 2, 1861, in the Buckner Guides, a cavalry company under General Albert Sydney Johnston. When the Guides disbanded in mid-1862, he briefly joined the 8th Texas at Tuscumbia, Alabama, before joining a cavalry company under the command of Captain John H. Morgan. Morgan later became a general in command of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry and Porter remained with this regiment for the duration of the war. At the war's end, Porter was lieutenant of Company C of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry.

Scope and arrangement

This is a memoir (written in 1872) of John M. Porter's activities during the Civil War.

Division of sentiment in the border states of Kentucky and Tennessee over the justification for the war and disagreement over President Lincoln set the background for the memoir (p. 4). This theme is reflected through notations concerning rural networks of farms that either protected or opposed Union or Confederate armies.

Porter describes joining the Buckner Guides (pp. 8-9) and night scouting missions around and behind enemy lines (p. 10). He details the defense and fall (February 1862) of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River (pp. 12-21) as well as his capture, transfer to St. Louis, Missouri, with other prisoners, and escape (p. 22).

Not long after rejoining his unit, the Buckner Guides disbanded and Porter joined the 9th Kentucky Cavalry (pp. 30-31). Morgan's raids into Kentucky and Tennessee involved disruption of Union troop movements and supply lines, and surprise attacks which led to battles and skirmishes. Porter details skirmishes at Cynthiana, KY (pp. 42-44); McMinnville, TN (pp. 47-48); Gallatin, TN (pp. 49-50); Hartsville and Scotsville Pikes, TN, which led to the capture of Union General Johnson (pp. 51-52); Perryville, KY (pp. 60-61); Nashville, TN (pp. 69-70); Carthage, KY (pp. 74-75, 77-78); Elizabethtown, KY (pp. 78-79); Rolling Fork River, KY (pp. 80-81); and Liberty and Snow Hill, TN (pp. 84-93). A map of Liberty and the surrounding area is included (p. 86). Descriptions of the actions of Col. Basil Duke are given in connection with raids in Kentucky (pp. 46-47, 80-81).

Porter details the sabotage of a Union train (pp. 114-115); picket duty near McMinnville, TN (pp. 117-118); and his capture in Kentucky (p. 125). Detailed descriptions reflect his imprisonment on Johnson's Island in the Sandusky Bay area of Lake Erie off the coast of Ohio, including food, climate, a failed escape attempt, and the burial of a fellow prisoner (pp. 127-137). Additionally, there are two sketches of this prison, one on the verso of the title page and the second on page 131.

Released in a prisoner exchange (February 1865), Porter was transported to Richmond, VA, where he notes inflation in prices of goods (p. 139) and discusses the evacuation of Richmond and President Jefferson Davis' retreat to Danville, VA (pp. 140-141). Traveling south in search of an army not near surrender, he describes the destruction along the path of Sherman's "March to the Sea" (pp. 146-147).

Administrative information
Custodial History

September 9, 1993, 1 item, 0.073 cubic feet; Memoir (1861-1865) entitled "A Brief Account of Experiences of Hon. John M. Porter During the War For Southern Independence," including correspondence, transfer and escape of prisoners, details of sabotage of a Union train. Typescript copy of original. Donor: Mr. Stuart V. Carter, Jr.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. Stuart V. Carter, Jr.

Processing information

Processed by D. Painter, May 1995

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Morgan, John Hunt, 1825-1864
Porter, John Marion, 1839-1884
Corporate Names
Confederate States of America. Army. Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, 9th
Confederate States of America. Army. Morgan's Cavalry Division
Prisoners of war--United States--Diaries
Sherman's March to the Sea--Personal narratives
Kentucky--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
Tennessee--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Prisoners and prisons
Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives