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Digital Collections : General Orlando M. Poe Collection

General Orlando M. Poe Collection, 1836-ca. 1890


Orlando Metcalfe Poe was born on the family farm in Navarre, Ohio on March 7, 1832. He attended several public schools and two years in Canton Academy in Canton, Ohio before ultimately attaining his dream – attending the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Poe excelled particularly in mathematics and graduated sixth in his class of 1856. After graduation, Poe sought to put his engineering skills to work for the military. He moved to Detroit to join the Topographical Engineers. Wartime duties for topographical engineers included surveying positions of the army and its enemy, sketching routes of the enemy and preparing maps of battlefields. In peacetime, they surveyed and charted the nation’s rivers and lakes.

During the Civil War Poe was known for his bravery, intelligence, and athleticism. Because of his successful command of a number of significant battles, he was selected by General William Sherman to be his chief engineer. Poe oversaw the burning of Atlanta and continued as engineer for Sherman’s March to the Sea. After the war, Poe once again served as engineer to General Sherman. Poe distinguished himself with his lighthouse design on Lake Huron and is responsible for many lighthouses, canals, and locks on the Great Lakes in Michigan. His work on the locks at Sault Ste. Marie opened up the shipping industry in the area and assisted in the creation of the U. S. steel industry. He died October 2, 1895, as a result of multiple broken bones he suffered while inspecting the Soo Locks in Michigan.

About the Collection

The collection, donated to the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections in 1986 by Poe’s family, consists of 80 cabinet card portraits of military officers, most dating from the Civil War era; one Civil War-era stereocard; one cabinet card of Thomas Nast; three mounted albumen prints; one engraved portrait of W.T. Sherman;  two 5 x 8 inch glass plate negatives of General Poe; a list of “delinquencies and demerits” accrued by Poe while attending the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1854-1855; an account book of Poe’s expenses while a West Point cadet (1852-1856); Poe’s picture of the hook used by Sherman’s Army; the Register of the officers of the Army of the United States, dated August 1836; Poe’s wife Eleanor’s visiting list “Washington, March 1869-” and diary with household accounts and references of personal correspondence (1863-1870); and letters from Poe’s son, Charles (“C.C. Poe”), written to his parents and brother Orlando Warner "Winnie" Poe, the bulk of which dates from 1884-1887. The photographic material is in Photographic Archives and the manuscript material is in Rare Books.

Two of the three mounted prints and the stereocard are of Poe with fellow soldiers and officers; one mounted print is of Poe with his West Point classmates. The 80 cabinet cards of generals are likely from the same set. All the cards have cream-colored fronts, no photographer’s stamp or name, and they all have a small, beveled, reddish gold edge. Seven of the generals are identified as CSA (Confederate States of America) and the rest are USA (Union generals). Many include “Corps of Engineers” or “Corps of Topographical Engineers.”

For the digital collection, we have chosen to focus on the materials relating to military service, so Mrs. Poe’s books and son’s correspondence have not been digitized at this time.

About the Cataloging

Unless otherwise noted, titles were derived from the inscriptions on the cabinet cards themselves, probably handwritten by Orlando M. Poe. Most dates are estimates. Date Original for the generals’ cabinet cards refers to the albumen photoprint. The cabinet cards themselves were created circa 1866-1892. Biographical details were derived by research into the lives of the generals. Whenever available, rank and brevet rank of the generals have been included; brevet referred to a warrant authorizing a commissioned officer to hold a higher rank temporarily, but usually without receiving the pay of that higher rank except when actually serving in that role.

Conditions of Use

The University of Louisville welcomes fair use of this website and its contents. If you wish to publish, broadcast, or publicly display these materials, please notify Archives and Special Collections. In addition, it is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions, which may include paying fees for commercial use. For further information about permissions, use, and ordering reproductions, see Order Reproductions, or contact Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville.

To cite an item from this collection, please use the following format:

[Image Number], General Orlando M. Poe Collection, 1986.87, Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

To cite the digital version, add its Reference URL (found by following the link in the header above the digital file).


The photographs in the General Orlando M. Poe Collection were scanned by Marcy Werner in 2010, and the manuscript materials were scanned by Rachael Ritter in 2011, as 600 ppi, 24-bit RGB TIFF files, using a BetterLight overhead scanning setup including a Linhof Kardan M camera with 135mm Rodenstock lens. The images were cropped and rotated using Photoshop version CS4. Rachel I. Howard converted the TIFFs into JPEGs of 600 pixels on the long side, using IrfanView version 4.27, and uploaded the JPEGs into CONTENTdm version 5.3.1.

Amy Purcell, assisted by Rachel I. Howard, researched and created metadata for the collection in accordance with the University of Louisville Digital Initiatives data dictionary (PDF). Terri Holtze designed the HTML pages.


“Orlando Metcalfe Poe.” Arlington National Cemetery Website ( Accessed 8 April 2011.

Eicher, John H. Civil War high commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Sherman, William T. Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1889. 2nd ed., revised and corrected.

Taylor, Paul. Orlando M. Poe, Civil War General and Great Lakes Engineer. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2009.

“List of Civil War Generals.” Wikipedia ( Accessed 8 April 2011.

General Orlando Metcalfe Poe
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