GARFIELD, James A. Autograph letter signed ("J. A. Garfield"), as Congressman, to R. R. Davies, Washington, 7 February 1880. 2 pages, 4to, on House of Representatives stationery, inlaid.
CIVIL WAR SKELETONS STILL RATTLING IN THE CONGRESSIONAL CLOSET
GARFIELD GETS READY TO WAVE THE BLOODY SHIRT OVER THE FITZ-JOHN PORTER CASE. Eighteen years had passed since an enraged General John Pope had Fitz-John Porter court martialed "for disobedience, disloyalty, and misconduct in the face of the enemy" after the Second Battle of Bull Run on 29 August 1862. Convicted after a lengthy, 45-day trial, Porter was cashiered on 21 January 1863. Fifteen years later, General John M. Schofield convened an Army board to reexamine the case, and recommended Porter's sentence be reduced. But a Republican-dominated Congress, filled with many Civil War veterans like Garfield, disagreed with the Board's recommendation. Garfield, with one ambitious eye cocked towards the White House, twists the arm of a potential ally, urging him to get into the fray: "The interesting points in your letter makes me still more regret your decision to keep out of the Porter case, for in spite of the attempts of the Schofield Board to suppress all testimony in reference to the 'animus' of Porter, that will be the controlling consideration in the debate before the American people...It requires no oral testimony to establish that, as their writings, dispatches and intercourse at that time establishes the fact beyond any possible controversy. Still the officers of the Army who have knowledge of the matter...could greatly assist us in making the country understand the case..."
The Porter case was now a weapon in the unrelenting political struggles between Republicans and Democrats. The proverbial "wave the bloody shirt" strategy was still too important for the GOP to show any leniency towards an officer convicted of being soft on the rebels.