|Orlando Metcalfe Poe||Seeing The Light|
Orlando Metcalfe Poe was born on March 7, 1832, in Navarre, Ohio. Entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1852, he graduated sixth in his class in 1856. Poe attained the rank of First Lieutenant while appointed to the position of assistant topographical engineer on the survey of the northern Great Lakes from 1856-1861.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Poe assisted in organizing the Ohio volunteers, and later became a member of General McClellan's staff, in which capacity assisted in organizing the defenses of Washington D.C. against the Confederate forces. On September 16, 1861, Poe attained the rank of Colonel, and was placed in charge of the 2nd Michigan Volunteers. Poe went on to command this regiment successfully during both the Peninsular and Maryland campaigns, and was commissioned as Brigadier-General on November 29, 1862. He later served as chief engineer of the XXIII Army Corps in the capture of Confederate forces occupying Knoxville, Tennessee.
Poe then assumed the position of Chief
Engineer of the Army of the Ohio, and successfully directing the defense
of Knoxville against Confederate General James Longstreet's forces. Poe's continuing success was not going
unnoticed, and General W.T. Sherman selected Poe as his Chief Engineer
in April of 1864.
After the War
In this capacity, Poe was responsible for all lighthouse construction, and he was largely responsible for the design of a style of lighthouse tower that has become known as the "Poe style" tower. These towers are all tall brick structures, with a gentle taper from bottom to top. All of the Poe designed feature graceful embellishments in the form of masonry gallery support corbels and arch topped windows. Exemplified by the towers at Grosse Pointe and Presque Isle, all together Poe was responsible for the construction of a number of such towers throughout Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron.
In 1883, Poe became Superintending Engineer of improvement of rivers and harbors on Lakes Superior and Huron, where one of his most important projects was the development of the St. Mary's Falls Canal on the St. Mary's River between Lakes Superior and Huron. Also during this time, on behalf of General of the Army, he provided a brief history of the origins of railroad construction in America to Congress.
Poe was also responsible for significant improvements made to the Detroit River and the ship channels in Chicago, Duluth, and Buffalo.
Many consider Poe's crowning achievement to be the engineering, design and supervision of a new lock to at Sault St. Marie during the 1890's. This project was instrumental in the development of commerce on the Great Lakes, permitting large ore carrying vessels from mining regions bordering Lake Superior to access the lower Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard. At a length of eight hundred feet, and with a width of 100 feet wide, the new lock was the largest in the world, and in honor of the designer was named "Poe Lock," a name that it carries to this day.
Orlando Metcalfe Poe died in Detroit on Oct. 2, 1895 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Sarah Edmonson was born in 1841 in New
Brunswick, and as an itinerant bible-seller made her way to Flint
Michigan. Assuming a male identity under the name Frank Thompson, she
volunteered in Company F, 2nd Michigan Battalion under Colonel Poe. Her deception must have been wholly
effective, as she took part in the Battles of Blackburn's Ford, Bull Run
and the Peninsula campaign. In 1862, she was made an aide to
Colonel Poe, and in this position undertook at least two intelligence
missions behind Confederate lines "disguised as a woman." She accompanied the 2nd Michigan to
Kentucky in 1863, and for as yet undetermined reasons, deserted soon