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.
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.
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
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".