The University of North Carolina Herbarium has
few specimens collected by Francis Peyre Porcher; all are from South Carolina.
According to the Harvard University Herbaria’s
database of botanists, herbaria that hold F. P. Porcher’s
material include CHARL, DBN, E, and E-GL.
Rutkow, Ira M. (1991) Francis Peyre
Introduction to a reprint of Resources
of the southern fields and forests, medical, economical, and agricultural
/ by Francis Peyre Porcher. Originally published: Charleston:
Evans & Cogswell, 1863. San Francisco: Norman Publishing.
Francis Peyre Porcher was born in St. John’s, Berkeley County, South
Carolina, on December 14, 1825. Among
his paternal descendants were Isaac Porcher, a French Hugenot
physician, who left France at the time of the revocation of the Edict of
Nantes (1685) and eventually settled in South Carolina. Porcher’s father
William was also a physician, and his mother was Isabella Sarah Peyre. One of his
mother’s grandfathers was Thomas Walter, a well-known English botanist, who
came to South Carolina during the eighteenth century and made a study of the
plants in the region.
Porcher received his elementary, secondary, and
college education in his native state.
He first attended Mount Zion Academy and then went to South Carolina
College where he received his A. B. in 1844.
Three years later Porcher graduated from the
Medical College of the State of South Carolina as valedictorian in a class of
seventy-six. His fifty-five-page
thesis, “A Medico-Botanical Catalogue of the Plants and Ferns of St. John’s,
Berkeley County, South Carolina” (Charleston:
Burges & James, 1847), would prove to be the forerunner and
foundation of a remarkable series of pamphlets and books on similar
subjects. From fall 1847 through
winter 1849, Porcher pursued post-graduate medical
studies in Paris and Florence.
In 1849, Porcher returned to Charleston where he
began to practice medicine. That same
year he presented a lengthy report at the annual meeting of the American
Medical Association entitled “A Sketch of the Medical Botany of South
Carolina” (Philadelphia: T.K. &
P.G. Collins, 1849). Settling into
practice, Porcher eventually joined with another
physician, Belin Flagg, and established the
Charleston Preparatory Medical School in 1852. …
Porcher continued his botanical studies and in 1854
presented another extensive report to the American Medical Association, which
was entitled “The Medicinal, Poisonous, and Dietitic
Properties of the Cryptogamic Plants of the United
States” (New York: Baker & Godwin,
Porcher served in the Civil War from the beginning,
first as surgeon to the Holcombe Legion until March 1862, then at the Naval
Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, and finally in the South Carolina Hospital at
Petersburg, Virginia. He was among the
most well known of Confederate physicians.
Shortly after the hostilites [sic]
commenced, he was asked by Surgeon-General Samuel P. Moore (1813-1889) to
prepare a treatise on southern botany.
Porcher’s 594-page Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical and
Agricultural; Being Also a Medical Botany of the Confederate States; with
Practical Information of the Useful Properties of Trees, Plants, and Shrubs
(Charleston: Evans & Cogswell, 1863) was the culmination of the research that Porcher had started while in medical school and is
considered among the most important medical works to be published in the
Confederacy. This book has been
credited with maintaining the Southern war effort for many months longer than
if it had not been written. It was
Moore’s hope that the volume would enable medical officers to supply many of
their drug needs through the preparation of medicines from plants indigenous
to the southern states. The content
proved so popular that southern newspapers published extract from the book to
encourage the collection of plants and the preparation of botanical remedies. It was considered of such value that a
revised edition of 733-pages was issued in 1869.
Following the end of the war, Porcher returned to
Charleston where he was on the staff of the City Hospital from 1866 to
1887. He resumed his academic chairs
and continued his prolific contributions to medical journals. From 1873 to 1876, he again served as
editor for the Charleston Medical
Journal and Review. Porcher was identified with a number of learned societies
… he was a member of the Elliot Society of Natural History…
He was first married to Virginia Leigh of Richmond in 1885. They had five children, one of whom became
a physician. Following Virginia’s
death, Porcher married Margaret Ward of Georgetown,
South Carolina. They had four
suffered a paralytic cerebrovascular event in the
fall of 1895. He died on November 19
of that year and was interred in Charleston.