The Richmond History Podcast

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poet in the Military

Poe in uniform
On a recent visit to The Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA, one of the most historic of sites for the US army, the mannequins that look like they haven’t been repositioned in decades were themselves interesting history. The stories of the residents of the fort like pre Civil War Robert E. Lee, post Civil War, imprisoned Jeff Davis, the large number of slaves swarming the fort to cross Union lines in search of freedom, and the building itself are compelling enough to quickly forget about the dated displays.

On May 26, 1827, more then 30 years before shots were fired at Fort Sumter, a man calling himself Edgar A. Perry enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the First Artillery at Fort Independence in the Boston Harbor, then transferred to Fort Moultrie on Charleston, SC's Sullivan Island, before setting sail for Fort Monroe on Dec 11, 1828.1  Perry is better know today, and then, as Edgar Allen Poe.  Perry... or Poe also lied about his age.  The 18 year old Poe said he was 21.

Poe was a good soldier.  While at Fort Moultrie he was promoted to an officer doubling his pay to $10.00 per month, and within 19 months of enlisting he attained the highest rank for a non-commissioned officer, Regimental Sergeant-Major.1  While at Fort Monroe, he was praised by his superiors for his exemplary service, yet he was only there from Dec 15, 1828-April 14, 1829.  He enlisted for a 5 year term1 but was officially discharged on April 15, 1829 after less then 2 years.  He had written several letters to his adopted father in Richmond, VA, John Allen, asking for help getting out of the military as early as Dec of 1828.  Allen wouldn't comply until Poe asked for help getting an appointment as a Cadet at West Point.1  When he was finally discharged from the army, it was under an agreement that he would pay Sargent Samuel Graves to finish his enlistment but Graves never received the payment.  Between his time in the First Artillery and his appointment to West Point he went to Baltimore to visit some family where he met his cousin and future wife Virginia Clemm1 and in Dec 1829 published the book "Al Aaraaf Tamerlane and Minor Poems".
Edgar Allen Poe

Poe stayed at West Point for less then a year of 4 years for which he signed up.1  Unable to get permission to resign, he got himself kicked out.1  On Jan 5, 1831 he was removed from West Point after being found guilty of Court Marshall for "gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders".  He must have been pretty well liked at West Point because before he left he hit up his fellow Cadets for either $.75 or $1.25 each (conflicting sources,) for subscriptions for to book of poems.  He raised enough money to convince a New York publisher to print Poems by Edgar Allen Poe, Second Edition.  The book was dedicated to "The US Corps of Cadets".

Poe returned to Fort Monroe to read his now famous poems to the soldiers in 1849.  Among others he read Ulalume and a new poem Anna Bell Lee.  Poe died Oct 7, 1849, less then a month after that reading at Fort Monroe.  Anna Bell Lee would be published posthumously.1

All information is from The Casemate Museum exhibits unless specified.

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1 comment:

  1. woow ! Very interesting post I like your website keep up the great posts
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