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The Army and the Death of Fanny Allan

March 1827 - March 1829


Edgar managed to make a living on his own in Boston, working with among other things, a small newspaper. He had brought some earlier manuscripts with him to Boston and handed these over to a printer by the name Calvin F.S. Thomas. It resulted in a forty page booklet entitled "Tamerlane and other Poems" said to be written by simply "A Bostonian". It consisted of "Tamerlane" and nine other, much shorter poems, most which were written in 1821 to 1822 when Edgar was only twelve to thirteen years old. His youthfulness could be noticed in the poems, especially since the words "youth" and "young" appeared frequently. The poems were heavily influenced by Byron whom inspired many young American poets at that time. In fact the heroine in "Tamerlane", Ada, was named after Byron's daughter and similarities with Byron's work can for example be seen in:

"I reach'd my home -- my home no more" - From Poe's "Tamerlane"

"He entered in the house - his home no more" - From Byron's "Don Juan"

In Tamerlane there could also be seen some vague reflection of Edgars own experience with his unhappy courtship of Elmira Royster and his thoughts of Ellis and Allan and his recent break with them.

The Army

In June or July 1827, when "Tamerlane" appeared, Edgar had recently joined the US Army. He enlisted for a five-year term on May 26, under the name "Edgar A. Perry" and stating his age as 22. The reason for joining the army was possibly enonomic, but some other things could have helped him in making the decision; his grandfather's association with the revolutionary army, his own service in the Morgan Junior Riflemen, Byron's and Tamerlane's martial ambitions or the prospect of family-like camaraderic.
In his company (H) there were 30 privates (counting Edgar) and during the summer and fall of 1827 they were stationed in Boston Harbor at Fort Independence. In November they moved to Fort Moultrie in South Carolina, on an island in the main entrance to Charleston Harbor. Thirteen months later they once again moved, this time to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, in the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, at Old Point Comfort. Little is known about Edgar "Perry's" life during these two years but it is known that the army was not geared for war during this period. The period 1815-1846 has been called "Thirty Year's Peace".
Edgar was appreciated by his superiors and by early 1828 he had become "Assistant to the A.C.S." (Assistant Commissary of Subsistence), with similar duties as General David Poe had done as A.D.Q.M. (Assistant Deputy Quartermaster of the Continental Army). Later the same year he had become an artificer, blacksmith or similar mechanic and earned $10 per month. On New Year's Day 1829 he was promoted to sergeant major for artillery, the highest possible rank for non commissioned officers, above sergeant and just below second lieutenant.

Reconciliation with John Allan

During these two years Edgar had become a friend of Lieutenant Howard which he described as; compassionate, a fatherly man who acted from the "goodness of his heart", and as Edgar also stated: "He has always been kind to me". Edgar even trusted him with his real name and age. Even though he progressed in the army, Edgar felt that he wanted to leave. He had signed for five years but Howard promised to discharge him since he had heard about Edgar's problems with his orphanhood, and the problems at the University and John Allan. Howard would, however, only let him leave if he settled his differences with John Allan.
Lieutenant Howard wrote a letter to John Allan explaining the situation to which John Allan replied: "he had better remain as he is until the termination of his enlistment". Edgar then wrote to John Allan himself, explaining that he made a mistake when he joined the Army but partly blamed Allan for it. He also stated that he had become a better man. Edgar's sense of poetry could be noticed in this letter in the folowing quote:

"I have thrown myself on the world, like a Norman conqueror on the shores of Britain &, by my avowed assurance of victory, have destroyed the fleet which could alone cover my retreat -- I must either conquer or die --- succeed or be disgraced"

John Allan did not reply and three weeks later Edgar wrote him again, summarizing what he had said before and pretended like Allan had never received the letter. Once again Edgar did not get a reply. After another six weeks, now after Edgar's 20th birthday, he wrote again but this time he asked for John Allan's help to enter West Point, stating that he wished to advance his career as a soldier. No one knows if he received a reply to this letter but a reconciliation was in the offing.

Fanny Allan's Death

In his letters to John Allan, Edgar asked about how Fanny was doing. The fact was that she was seriously ill and no improvement was to be seen. She eventually died February 28, 1829, at the age of 44. On her death bed she wished to see Edgar but he was not able to arrive until the night after her burial in Shockoe Hill Cemetery (where Jane Stanard also was buried). Edgar felt guilty for leaving Fanny in her bad condition and once wrote: "I have had a fearful warning & have hardly ever known before what distress was."
Fanny's Death had softened John Allan and he bought Edgar a suit of black clothes, some hosiery, a knife, a hat and a pair of gloves. He also said that he had not received Edgar's letters and agreed to support him in leaving the Army and enter West Point, but more importantly he promised to forgive Edgar for everything.
As Edgar went back to Old Point Comfort he wrote John Allan that except for Fanny's death he felt "much happier than I have for a long time".


Last modified: February 07 2006 19:04:29.