Portus Baxter (December 4, 1806–March 4, 1868) was a banker, farmer, and politician from Vermont, United States.
Baxter was born in Brownington, Vermont
, the son of William and Lydia (Ashley) Baxter. After attending local schools, he completed his education at Norwich Military Academy
and the University of Vermont
. He moved to Derby Line, Vermont
in 1828 where he engaged agricultural and mercantile pursuits, which took him down the Connecticut River valley
and into Canada
. He was one of the original incorporators of the Connecticut and Pssumpsic Rivers Railroad, which was planned to almost the entire length of the state on the eastern border.
He became interested in politics early in his career. Baxter served as Orleans County Assistant Judge from 1846 to 1847. He was the only Whig
delegate from New England
who supported Zachary Taylor
for president in 1848. He also strongly supported Winfield Scott
in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1852. Switching parties, he was a presidential elector for John Fremont
In 1860, after many years of urging, he finally ran for Congress, was successful and eventually served three terms, from March 4, 1861 to March 3, 1867, in the 37th, 38th, and 39th Congresses. During the 38th Congress, he chaired the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Navy. He also served on committees of elections and agriculture.
Baxter's time in Congress coincided with the four years of the American Civil War
, and he was such a proponent of Vermont soldiers he earned the nickname, 'the soldier's friend.' One Vermonter's letters document instances where Mrs. Baxter, and other wives and daughters of Vermont's Congressional contingent, were strong supports of the efforts of the Christian Commission
. Baxter also frequently visited the regiments in the area immediately surrounding Washington, D.C.
, watching out for a son who had joined the 11th Vermont Infantry, and sponsoring others in their efforts to get promoted. During the bloody Battle of the Wilderness
in May 1864, Baxter and his wife spent so much time in the hospitals in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia
, tending to wounded soldiers, that they themselves suffered from exhaustion and eventually had to leave to recuperate. Baxter had eight children, of whom three served in the Civil War, Myron and Jedediah were surgeons, and Henry, originally a private, but eventually promoted to captain with a wartime brevet to major.
He remained in Washington, D.C. after completing his last term, and almost exactly a year later, died of pneumonia after only a few days' illness. He had, however, suffered from asthma for several years. His remains were returned to the Green Mountain State, and he was laid to rest in the village cemetery at Strafford, Vermont
. His wife, Ellen Jannette Harris (1811-1882), daughter of Judge Harris of Strafford, whom he married on June 19, 1832, survived him fourteen years.
- "Baxter, Portus (1806-1868)," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 - Present, sited August 13, 2006, located at http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000246; Internet.
- Crockett, Walter Hill. Vermont The Green Mountain State, The Century History Company, Inc., New York, 1921, iii:272, 366, 368, 402, 412, 431, 490, 551, 573, 615, iv:3, 28-29.
- Dodge, Prentiss C., Encyclopedia Vermont Biography, Burlington, VT: Ullery Publishing Company, 1912, p. 74
- Ullery, Jacob G., compiler, Men of Vermont: An Illustrated Biographical History of Vermonters and Sons of Vermont, Brattleboro, VT: Transcript Publishing Company, 1894, Part I, p. 156