Poe, George Washington (ca. 1800–1844)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 29, 2017

George Washington Poe, soldier, was probably born near Cincinnati, Ohio, about 1800. He moved to Texas in 1834 with his wife, Frances, with whom he lived until 1839. In October 1835 Poe was serving as a volunteer captain in the artillery branch, assigned to mounting the army's cannons. By November 6 he was with the artillery company engaged in the siege of Bexar. On December 30, 1835, he was acting adjutant general of Gen. Sam Houston's army with the rank of captain and was stationed at army headquarters in Columbia. Among his duties was supervising the construction of fortifications at Galveston and Velasco. On January 16, 1836, the General Council commissioned him third lieutenant in the artillery regiment of the yet-unformed regular army, but by January 30 of that year Houston was referring to him as "major," no doubt his volunteer rank.

On February 2, upon hearing rumors that Houston had been superseded in command by Francis W. Johnson and James W. Fannin, Jr., Poe wrote to Houston that he and his fellow staff officers "do not nor will not know any other General than Sam Houston" and assured him that "there is no other man in Texas capable of leading an army into the field." Nevertheless, in the vacuum of leadership created by the confusion of command, Poe began to report directly to President Henry Smith, whose orders he vowed to obey even "if they are to march to the devil." By March 6 Poe had been appointed assistant inspector general of the army and was commanding the 120-man garrison at Velasco, a force that he had personally trained; "a finer looking set of men I never want to have," he boasted. Momentarily expecting an amphibious assault upon that place, he wrote an urgent appeal to the editor of the Mobile Register outlining the grave peril of the Texas colonists and calling upon United States citizens, "by the sacred ties of country, language, habits and kindred," to come to their assistance. When the General Council established a regular army for the Republic of Texas on March 10, 1836, Poe was commissioned a captain of artillery. In a letter to Thomas J. Rusk dated March 13, 1836, Poe protested that he should have been made a major, objecting that "I do not like that men by nature intended for farmers & not soldiers & whom education has done nothing for" had been made his superiors. On March 14 Poe left Velasco with his company and a five-gun artillery battery to join Houston, and by March 23 he was with the army at Beason's Crossing on the Colorado River. Many sources place him at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. On May 3 Poe was at army headquarters at San Jacinto, and on June 4 he commanded the artillery piece that fired a salute over the remains of Fannin's command at La Bahía. After serving on court-martial duty through June and July, he was chosen by 116 fellow officers and men to present a petition to Sam Houston to return and take command of the army. Poe was named acting paymaster general on October 12, 1836, and charged with the responsibility for establishing a pay department for the Army of the Republic of Texas, which he based on that of the United States Army. At the funeral of Stephen F. Austin on December 29, 1836, he served as marshal and led the procession. On February 28, 1837, Houston ordered auditor John W. Moody to audit Poe's accounts as paymaster general and acting quartermaster general; by that time Poe had achieved the rank of colonel. On June 5, 1837, the House of Representatives validated his claims.

After leaving the army Poe established residence in Houston, where he engaged in land speculation. On November 13, 1838, Houston nominated him as stock commissioner of the Republic of Texas and submitted the nomination to the Senate for confirmation. Poe died in 1844 and his wife in 1871. In 1874 Mrs. Poe's heirs filed suit for possession of her undivided half interest in the league and labor headright issued to Poe in 1838, but after years of litigation and appeal their claim was denied.

John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Telegraph and Texas Register, January 16, 1836, December 27, 1836, July 8, 1837, December 6, 1837. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Poe, George Washington,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/poe-george-washington.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 29, 2017

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