Van Cortlandt Park

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General Josiah Porter

History

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

Who is this monument dedicated to?

General Josiah Porter (1830–1894) 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, and in 1867, received the rank of major. Porter’s distinguished service led him to be promoted to colonel in 1869, and in 1886 to major general and adjutant general—the highest ranking military official in the New York National Guard.

How was this monument created?

The monument was dedicated in 1902 in front of the historic Van Cortlandt House facing the Parade Ground, which opened in 1901 when three polo fields were created. The National Guard used the field for drills, mock battles, and polo matches prior to World War I.

This sculpture of General Porter by William Clark Noble (1858–1938) was commissioned by the National Guard Association of New York State to honor his “fidelity as a patriot, his qualities as a soldier, and his services in behalf of the National Guard,” which he helped to found.

The 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, NYC Parks’ Citywide Monuments Conservation Program conserved the sculpture and reset it on its pedestal, and in 2016 the program replicated the statue’s long-missing sword, with reference to Porter’s actual dress sword as well as historic images.

The 18th-century Van Cortlandt House has operated since 1896 as a museum by the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York. 

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  • Standing figure on integral plinth, on pedestal
  • Standing figure on integral plinth, on pedestal

General Josiah Porter Details

  • Location: Behind Van Cortlandt House, Broadway at 245th Street
  • 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 namingsoften in common or popular usage. The DEDICATED field refers to the most recent dedication, most often, butnot necessarily the original dedication date. If the monument did not have a formal dedication, the yearlisted reflects the date of installation.

For more information, please contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8163

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

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