Digest>Archives> November 2005

The Lighthouse Man Who Was Ordered to Burn Atlanta

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Brigadier General Orlando M. Poe. Photograph ...

Born in 1832, Ohio native Orlando Metcalf Poe began his military career in 1856. There is no way he could have imagined at that time where his career would lead him.

He worked his way through the ranks to become a brigadier general. During the War Between the States, under orders from his commanding officer, General William Tecumseh Sherman, Poe led the Burning of Atlanta which thoroughly destroyed the city.

At the conclusion of the war, Poe became the engineer and secretary of the Lighthouse Board and was promoted in 1879 to chief engineer of the Upper Great Lakes Lighthouse District.

Under his direction, a number of lighthouses, which became known as “Poe” style towers, were built on the Great Lakes such as the New Presque Isle Lighthouse.

In later years, he used his engineering skills on many other government projects such as building and designing a new lock at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which led to the vast improvement of shipping commerce on the Great Lakes.

There are many interesting historical stories like this that revolve around the men and women who worked for the United States Lighthouse Service. Yes, it’s true! One can learn more about early United States history by studying lighthouses than from any other single source.

This story appeared in the November 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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