west point

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if and why was he court marshaled at west point?

-- Anonymous, August 30, 2000



Having joined the United States Army out of necessity on May 26, 1827 at the age of 18, Poe enlisted as Edgar A. Perry for five years. During his almost two full years, he consistently received good evaluations, carried himself very well and was well thought of by his peers and officers alike. While Poe did quite well in the military, reaching the rank of Sergeant Major, Regiment of Artillery, Poe was rapidly tiring of the demands and military routine and wished to leave the military service to pursue his writing. He applied for release and was it granted on condition that he provide a substitute at his own expense.

Having little or no money, he requested funds from his foster-father John Allan with the caveat that he wished to and would seek appointment to the West Point Military Academy. John Allan assited Poe in acquiring letters of recommendation, even penning one himself. Perhaps against better judgement, John Allan relented and supported Poes release from the United States Army.

Poe made application to West Point in early 1829 but was told that there were numerous requests ahead of him and that there may be room for him by September of 1829. Poe was granted and entered West Point as a cadet in June of 1830. As before at the University of Virginia, John Allans financial support was intermittent, meager and often ill- timed. In October of 1830, John Allan remarried a Ms. Louisa Gabriella Patterson. This concerned Poe and, as was his nature, he fought with Allan in their correspondence. Allan finally responded to Poe that he wished never to hear from him again. Poe, angered and frustrated still needed Allans permission to be released from West Point. Ultimately, after receiving no reply from Allan, Poe wrote and threatened to simply neglect his studies, his duties and stop attending classes and church.

Ranked as third in languages (French) and thirteenth in mathematics in a class of about 90, Poes ranking fell rapidly as he made good on his threat. On Tuesday, February 8, 1831, with more than 60 violations that made up two specific charges with multiple specifications, Poe pleaded guilty to all but the first specification listed under charge one. He was found guilty and dismissed from West Point effective Sunday, March 6, 1831. Poe left for New York on Saturday, February 19, 1831.

I regret that I do not have immediate access to the specific allegations or I would have included them here. In fact, they were rather minor, inconsequential charges. Poe was viewed by many at the Academy as an amusing, intelligent, creative and gregarious individual, with a flair for the dramatic that tended to embellish stories for the sake of the listener. In his eight months as a cadet, he had made many friends that would speak well of him later.


-- Anonymous, August 31, 2000

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