Peter Buell Porter

Peter Buell Porter

Infobox US Cabinet official
name=Peter Buell Porter

title=United States Secretary of War
term_start=May 23, 1828
term_end=March 4, 1829
president=John Quincy Adams
predecessor=James Barbour
successor=John Henry Eaton
birth_date=birth date|1773|8|14|mf=y
birth_place=Salisbury, Connecticut, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1844|03|20|1773|08|14
death_place=Niagara Falls, New York, U.S.
party=Democratic-Republican, Whig
spouse=Letitia Breckinridge Porter
profession=Politician, Lawyer

Peter Buell Porter (August 14, 1773 Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut - March 20, 1844 Niagara Falls, Niagara County, New York) was an American lawyer, soldier and politician who served as United States Secretary of War from 1828 to 1829.


He graduated from Yale College in 1791, studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut, was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Canandaigua, New York in 1793. He served as clerk of Ontario County from 1797 to 1804 and was member of the New York State Assembly in 1802 and again in 1828.

In the fall of 1809, Porter moved to Buffalo, New York and was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Eleventh and Twelfth United States Congresses, serving from March 4, 1809 to March 3, 1813, but declined renomination. During his service in Congress, Porter served on a commission on inland navigation established in 1810 to survey a Lake Erie to Hudson River canal route, and was a leading figure among Congressional "war hawks" and chairman of the committee that recommended preparation for war with Great Britain.

During the War of 1812, Porter was initially quartermaster general of the New York State Militia from May to October 1812. He participated in and criticized General Alexander Smyth’s abortive operations against British Canada in 1812, culminating in a bloodless duel between the two. The historian John R. Elting wrote of the duel, stating "Unfortunately, both missed."cite book|last=Elting|first=John R.|title=Amateurs, to Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812|publisher=Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill|date=1991|pages=51|isbn=0306806533] He later raised and commanded a brigade of New York militia that incorporated a Six Nations Indian contingent and led his command with distinction. For his actions, he was presented a gold medal under joint resolution of Congress dated November 3, 1814 "for gallantry and good conduct" during the Battle of Chippewa, the Battle of Niagara, and the Battle of Erie.

Porter was Secretary of State of New York from February 1815 to February 1816. He was also elected to the Fourteenth United States Congress. Although his term in Congress began on March 4, 1815, the Session began only in December, and he took his seat on December 11, 1815. On January 23, 1816, he resigned, having been appointed a Commissioner under the Treaty of Ghent, which caused a controversy as to the constitutionality of the appointment or its acceptance. [ [ Google Book: "Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856" page 585] ]

He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of New York in 1817, losing to DeWitt Clinton. Porter became a regent of the University of the State of New York in 1824, and served in that capacity until 1830.

From May 16, 1828 to March 9, 1829, Porter served as Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President John Quincy Adams, and was an advocate for the removal of Eastern Indians beyond the Mississippi. He moved to Niagara Falls in 1836 and was a presidential elector on the Whig ticket in 1840. He died at Niagara Falls in 1844, and was interred in Oakwood Cemetery.

Porter married Letitia Breckinridge in 1818 and their son, Colonel Peter A. Porter, became a Civil War hero who bravely died in the bloody Battle of Cold Harbor. He is also the grandfather of Peter Augustus Porter and uncle of Augustus Seymour Porter.


* [ U.S. Army biography]

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