Was Edgar Allan Poe a West Point Cadet?

Was Edgar Allan Poe a West Point Cadet?

When you think of Edgar Allan Poe, images of dark, mysterious tales and haunting poetry likely come to mind. What you probably don't picture is Poe decked out in a military uniform, marching in formation, and studying artillery manuals. But believe it or not, this master of the macabre (grim, gruesome, or horrifying) once tried his hand at being a West Point cadet. Spoiler alert: It didn’t go exactly as planned.

Poe's Pre-West Point Adventures

Before we dive into Poe’s military misadventures, let’s rewind a bit. Born in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe’s early life was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Orphaned young, he was taken in by John Allan, a wealthy but stern merchant from Richmond, Virginia. Their relationship? Rocky, to say the least. Poe’s stint at the University of Virginia ended abruptly due to financial woes and a penchant for gambling. With few options left, Poe enlisted in the Army in 1827 under the pseudonym “Edgar A. Perry.”

He actually did quite well in the Army, rising to the rank of sergeant major. But our brooding poet had bigger dreams—or at least different ones. With some nudging (and financial backing) from his foster father, Poe secured an appointment to the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point in 1830.

Edgar Allan Poe at West Point Academy

Poe at West Point: A Comedy of Errors

Poe’s arrival at West Point seemed like a fresh start. Here was a chance to shine, to show discipline, to… Oh, who are we kidding? Poe’s time at West Point was nothing short of a disaster, albeit an entertaining one. Imagine the guy who wrote "The Raven" trying to conform to military discipline. Yeah, it was never going to end well.

From the get-go, Poe’s rebellious nature clashed with the academy’s strict regimen. While he was undeniably bright—excelling in subjects like languages and mathematics—his disdain for the military life was palpable. Poe started skipping classes, neglecting his duties, and creatively violating dress codes. Rumor has it he showed up to formations wearing nothing but his hat and belt, a fashion statement that was not well received by his superiors.

Poe’s antics inevitably led to a court-martial in January 1831. Charged with “gross neglect of duty” and “disobedience of orders,” Poe saw his exit strategy materialize. He was dismissed from West Point, likely with a sense of relief and a dash of defiance.

The Aftermath: From Cadet to Literary Legend

Post-West Point, Poe turned his back on the military for good and embraced his true calling: writing. Shortly after his expulsion, he published a book of poems aptly dedicated to the “U.S. Corps of Cadets.” It seems despite his rebellious exit, he held some camaraderie with his fellow cadets.

The rest, as they say, is literary history. Poe went on to pen some of the most iconic and spine-chilling stories in American literature. Tales like "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and his epic poem "The Raven" solidified his place as the master of the macabre.

Conclusion: Poe’s Short-Lived Military Career

So, was Edgar Allan Poe a West Point cadet? Yes, indeed he was—for a brief, chaotic, and rather humorous stint. His time at the academy was marked by rebellion and an undeniable mismatch between his creative spirit and military discipline. While Poe’s career as a cadet was short-lived, it’s a fascinating footnote in the life of a man who would go on to become one of America’s greatest literary figures.

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

West Point Army Nudge Printing Apparel Shirts and Stickers