O. M. (Orlando Metcalfe) Poe was born on March 7, 1832 in Navarre, Ohio. He attended the U.S. Military Academy, graduating with high marks in 1856 as a Topographical Engineer with the rank of Brevet Second Lieutenant.
While serving in garrison, on surveying expeditions in West Virginia, and on the frontier, Poe was promoted to Second Lieutenant on October 7, 1856 and to First Lieutenant on July 1, 1860. He then served on General McClellan’s staff, 1860-1861, in organizing the defenses of Washington D.C. Poe was commissioned as Colonel of the Second Michigan Infantry from September 16, 1861 to February 16, 1863. Beginning in August 19, 1862, Poe commanded Berry’s Brigade. On November 29, 1862, Poe was appointed as Brigadier General of the U.S. Volunteers. He led his regiment at Williamsburg and Fair Oaks, and commanded the Third Brigade First Division Third Army Corps at Second Bull Run (August-September 1862). Poe led the First Brigade, First Division, Ninth Army Corps of the Potomac at Fredericksburg (November 15-December 15, 1862 and February 11-April 11, 1863), and was leading the same brigade in the Army of the Ohio (March 19-April 11, 1863), when his appointment as Brigadier General expired.
On March 3, 1863, Poe transferred to Engineers, with the rank of Captain. He was promoted to the rank of Major on March 7, 1867, to Lieutenant Colonel on June 30, 1882, and as Colonel on July 23, 1888. He served as Chief Engineer of the Army of the Ohio. In December 1863 Poe was named Assistant Engineer of the Military Division of the Mississippi. In April 1864 he was named General William T. Sherman’s Chief Engineer.
For gallant service in the siege of Knoxville, Tennessee, Poe was name as a Brevet Major on July 6, 1864. He was later promoted to the rank of Brigadier General on March 13, 1865, for gallant and meritorious service in “the campaign terminating with the surrender of the insurgent army under General J. E. Johnston.” [This refers to Poe’s and his unit’s participation in the destruction of Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, and Sherman’s March to the Sea.]
Poe also served as Colonel and Aide de Camp to Gen. William T. Sherman from January 1, 1873 to February 8, 1884.
Continuing in the Regular Army, Poe served as an outstanding engineer on numerous projects on the Great Lakes, including the St. Mary’s Falls Canal, the St. Clair Flats Canal, the Detroit River at Lime Kiln Crossing, the harbors at Cheboygan, Thunder Bay, Saginaw River, the improvement of the mouth of Black River and Rouge River, the Harbor of Refuge at Sand Beach, the improvement of the Clinton River, and the ship canal connecting the waters of the Great Lakes between Chicago, Duluth and Buffalo, which began in 1892. This last work was nearly completed when Poe died on October 2, 1895 at Detroit. One of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is named in Poe’s honor. (This information is from the collection.)