Edgar Allan Poe at West Point Remains a Strange Military Tale (2024)

Art is a funny thing. It’s subjective, and this can often lead to credit for said art coming much later than maybe it should. Love him or hate him, Edgar Allan Poe has solidified himself as one of the best writers in the history of the United States, but before he was a gothic icon, he not only attended a military school but also enlisted. Edgar Allan Poe at West Point was a bit of an odd part of the school’s history, but odd and Poe have always been synonymous.

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What Military School Did Edgar Allan Poe Attend?

Edgar Allan Poe went to West Point in a move that is often the beginning of one’s military career but was actually the end of his. On July 1, 1830, Poe joined the Army Academy, and during this time, his personal life would also become a bit rocky.

Only months later, Edgar Allan Poe faced continued problems in his family life involving his foster father and his new wife, as well as contention in his own marriage.

These events would help create the beginning of the end. The final chapter of Edgar Allen Poe at West Point if you will. Military life isn’t for everyone and Poe decided that it was time for him to exit.

Why Did Edgar Allan Poe Leave West Point?

Ultimately, Poe’s foster father disowned him, leading to his decision to leave the academy on purpose. The West Point-Edgar Allan Poe connection would come to an end when he deliberately got himself court-martialed. But that was all part of the plan and would help birth a literary legend.

Poe’s actions found him tried on February 8, 1831, for gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders. He began refusing to go to his obligations, including classes, formations, and church. Despite pleading not guilty, he was found guilty and forced out of West Point.

Afterward, he went on to release Poems, his third volume of such works, and left New York. After moving to Baltimore and losing his brother on August 1, 1831, Poe took his writing career much more seriously. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Firearm

Despite being court-martialed at West Point, Poe was actually in the U.S. Army. Before attending the academy, he enlisted as a Private on May 27, 1827, under the name Edgar A. Perry. A Boston native, Poe, or rather Perry, served at Fort Independence.

This was when Poe began his writing career. The first book he released was known as Tamerlane and Other Poems, only it wasn’t well-known. Very few copies were ever printed, and while this was just the beginning of his storied career, it was a slow start, to say the least.

By November, Poe became a tradesman working to help prepare artillery shells, and it looked as if his military career was off to a great start. But military life isn’t for everyone, and Poe learned this the hard way. Despite advancing quickly, he wanted to leave early.

On top of lying about his name, Poe had also lied about his age, claiming to be 22 years old rather than his real age, which was 18 at the time. It was well stated that Poe and his foster father had a troubled relationship, and so in order to leave, Poe’s CO, Lieutenant Howard, said that he could receive a discharge but must make amends with Allan first.

This would eventually come, but not without Allan first ignoring him for months. After finally receiving his help, Poe found someone to take his place as a Soldier and was set to go to West Point instead of serving.

For years, Poe’s work continued and eventually ended up being a global inspiration that continues to this day following his time at West Point. In January 1845, he penned his most famous poem titled “The Raven,” and despite the difficulties of becoming a writer during the time, he’d go on to enjoy an illustrious career.

Sadly, and under mysterious circ*mstances, Edgar Allan Poe’s writing career was cut short after he died at the age of 40. But his work is still around and influencing other writers nearly 200 years later.

Related read:

‘The Pale Blue Eye’ Is a Creative Take on a Literary Legend

In one of the latest stories to do so, The Pale Blue Eye isn’t just a film aiming to showcase Edgar Allan Poe, but it also highlights his time at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The premise of the film follows an alcoholic retired detective named Augustus Landor in 1830. Tasked with investigating the hanging of Cadet Leroy Fry by the military, he receives help after recruiting Edgar Allan Poe at West Point, along with another cadet interested in helping.

There’s mystery, drama, and a host of spooky content. More murders will follow, black magic may be involved, and grisly victims are found all along the way. No need to spoil it, but there is one area we will disclose: if you’re looking for the absolute true story of Edgar Allan Poe and West Point, this isn’t it.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of inspiration here. The cast of The Pale Blue Eye is stocked full of quality acting prowess, including Christian Bale, Harry Melling (who portrays a young Poe), Gillian Anderson, and Lucy Boynton. You can check out The Pale Blue Eye trailer above and watch the film, now streaming on Netflix.

Edgar Allan Poe, West Point Connection Maintains a Unique Place in Military History

The Edgar Allen Poe-West Point connection wasn’t the beginning of a storied military career, but rather the end of one, and yet, it remains a unique piece of the school’s history. While America didn’t gain one of its greatest fighters, we did receive several literary classics. Poe wasn’t cut out for service, but his delivery of the written word won’t soon be forgotten.

Suggested read: The Surprising Story of Bob Ross’s Military Career

Poe Image: Library of Congress​

As an enthusiast with a deep understanding of literature and historical contexts, let's delve into the intriguing connection between Edgar Allan Poe and his time at West Point, exploring the evidence and details that make this aspect of his life a fascinating chapter in both literary and military history.

Edgar Allan Poe's Military Journey:

Edgar Allan Poe's foray into the military world began when he enlisted as a Private on May 27, 1827, under the alias Edgar A. Perry. His service commenced at Fort Independence, where he not only shouldered military responsibilities but also embarked on his writing career. During this period, he produced his first book, "Tamerlane and Other Poems," signaling the inception of a literary genius.

Poe's military trajectory seemed promising as he advanced quickly, even contributing to artillery shell preparation by November. However, military life did not align with his aspirations, prompting him to seek an early exit. Beyond his alias, Poe had lied about his age, complicating matters. His strained relationship with his foster father, John Allan, played a pivotal role in his decision to leave.

West Point Interlude:

Edgar Allan Poe's association with West Point unfolded when he joined the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1830. Contrary to the usual narrative, this was not the commencement of his military career but rather its culmination. His time at West Point was marked by personal turmoil, with family issues and marital discord exacerbating his challenges.

The turning point came when Poe's foster father disowned him, prompting Poe to strategically orchestrate his exit. In a bold move, he got himself court-martialed, facing charges of gross neglect of duty and disobedience of orders. Despite pleading not guilty, he was found guilty and expelled from West Point. This event, while concluding his military stint, laid the foundation for Poe's transformation into a literary legend.

Literary Triumphs Amidst Military Setbacks:

Following his departure from West Point, Poe dedicated himself to his writing career, releasing "Poems," his third volume of works. The adversities he faced, including the loss of his brother and the complexities of his personal life, fueled his creative endeavors.

Despite being court-martialed, Poe's time at West Point marked a significant phase in his life. His poem "The Raven," penned in January 1845, became one of his most famous works and a timeless piece of American literature. Poe's literary legacy, shaped in the aftermath of his military setbacks, endures nearly two centuries later, inspiring writers worldwide.

The Pale Blue Eye: A Cinematic Exploration:

In a contemporary context, the film "The Pale Blue Eye" offers a creative take on Edgar Allan Poe's time at West Point. Set in 1830, the movie revolves around an alcoholic retired detective investigating a cadet's hanging at the military academy. Augustus Landor, the detective, enlists the help of Edgar Allan Poe at West Point, adding an intriguing layer to the narrative. While the film takes creative liberties, it provides inspiration and showcases the enduring fascination with Poe's multifaceted legacy.


Edgar Allan Poe's stint at West Point serves as a unique intersection of military history and literary genius. His departure from the academy marked the end of a military career that wasn't his calling but paved the way for an extraordinary literary journey. The challenges he faced, both within the military and in his personal life, contributed to the creation of timeless literary masterpieces, ensuring that Edgar Allan Poe's impact extends far beyond the confines of military history.

Edgar Allan Poe at West Point Remains a Strange Military Tale (2024)


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