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Van Cortlandt Park

General Josiah Porter map_it

History

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This sculpture of General Josiah Porter (1830–1894) was created by William Clark Noble (1858–1938) and dedicated in 1902. It was commissioned at a cost of $20,000, and was a gift to the City of New York by the National Guard Association of New York State.

Porter is reputed to have been the first Harvard College graduate to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was made a first lieutenant in the Massachusetts Volunteers in 1861, and promoted to captain that same year. In 1865, he commanded the 22nd Regiment of the National Guard of New York (who would sponsor the statue), and in 1867, received the rank of major. Porter’s distinguished service led him to be promoted to colonel in 1869, and then to major general and adjutant general in 1886.

For his “fidelity as a patriot, his qualities as a soldier, and his services in behalf of the National Guard,” which he helped to found, General Porter was found worthy of a permanent bronze effigy. The New York National Guard memorial committee selected Noble, a well-known sculptor of his day who had studied with Horatio Greenough (1805–1852), one of the first significant American-born sculptors. The granite pedestal was designed by architect Harry E. Donnell. Noble, a member of the National Sculpture Society and the National Arts Club, also crafted the bronze figure for the Brooks Memorial in the Church of the Incarnation at 209 Madison Avenue.

The statue of Porter is a faithful depiction of the general in full dress uniform, chapeau in hand. In 1998, the Porter statue was reset on its base, and underwent a surface cleaning and conservation by the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program. Further funds are sought to model and replicate Porter’s missing bronze sword; the original dress sword is in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

The statue stands adjacent to the Van Cortlandt House, an 18th-century historic house, operated since 1896 as a museum by the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York. The park’s parade grounds, directly in front sculpture and house, were once used by the National Guard’s Squadron A for polo matches.

General Josiah Porter Details

  • Sculptor: William Clark Noble
  • Architect: Tainter [alternatively Harry E. Donnell]
  • Description: Standing figure on integral plinth, on pedestal
  • Materials: Bronze, Westerly, R. I. Granite
  • Dimensions: Figure H: 8'; Pedestal H: 7' W: 8'3" D: 8'3"
  • Cast: ca. 1902
  • Dedicated: 1902
  • Foundry: Gorham Mfg. Co. Founders
  • Donor: National Guard Association, New York State
  • Inscription: Front side:
    MAJOR GENERAL / PORTER / ADJUTANT GENERAL / STATE OF NEW YORK/
    1886-1894 /

    Proper left side:
    ERECTED BY / THE NATIONAL GUARD OF NEW YORK / IN APPRECIATION OF HIS FIDELITY / AS A PATRIOT, / HIS QUALITIES AS A SOLDIER, / AND HIS SERVICES ON BEHALF OF / THE NATIONAL GUARD. /

    Back side:
    JOSIAH PORTER / 1ST. LIEUT. 1ST. BATTERY / MASS. VOLS.
    1861. / CAPTAIN, JULY 1861 TO / SEPTEMBER 1862. / CAPTAIN 22ND. REGIMENT
    N.G. N.Y. / JUNE 1865, / MAJOR, MAY 1867. / LIEUT. COLONEL, JANUARY
    1869. / MAJOR GENERAL AND / ADJUTANT GENERAL, 1886.

    Proper right side:
    HE LABORED / TO INCREASE THE EFFICIENCY, / PERFECT THE DISCIPLINE AND / ELEVATE THE STANDARD OF / THE NATIONAL GUARD. /

Please note, the NAME field includes a primary designation as well as alternate namings often in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, but not necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the year listed reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8143

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