Edward Jay Allen served in the Union forces during the Civil War. His first military duty was as a volunteer aid to General Fremont, at the battle of Lewisburg, Virginia, May 25th, 1862.
The 155th Pennsylvania Volunteers, a new regiment that had been recruited at Pittsburgh towards the close of the summer of 1862, was organized in September, and Allen was selected its Colonel. South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member John Ewing also served with the 155th.
At Fredericksburg, the command of the brigade devolved upon Colonel Allen, who won by his gallantry the earnest praise of General Humphreys. Soon after the close of this campaign he was prostrated by a rheumatic attack, and though he remained nominally at the head of the regiment until after the battle of Gettysburg, he performed no further field duty, and on the 25th of July was obliged to resign.
The 155th served at the battles of Wilderness and Petersburg as well as Antitem, and were present at Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. It was through the ranks of the 155th that the message came that the surrender was about to occur.
Following the war, Colonel Allen helped to form the Pacific and Atlantic Telegraph Company of which General Edmund Kirby Smith served as president from 1866 to 1868. This company merged with SFF&HC member Andrew Carnegie's Keystone Telegraphy Company in 1867.
Colonel Allen was married in 1857 to Miss Elizabeth W. Robison. They were the parents of the following (and this list may be incomplete):
- Elizabeth Robinson Allen (Baylies) 1905-1947
- Winthrop Allen
- Hervey Allen
- Helen Allen (Hunt) 1901-1970
- Edward Jay Allen, Jr.
- Amelia Frances Allen (married SFF&HC member William T. Dunn)
Col. Allen was a poet of some note. On July 30, 1896 at Clarion, Pennsylvania, the 155th held a grand reunion, which more than 120 veterans attended, including Col. Ewing. Col. Allen was unable to attend; however, he sent his greetings in a letter written from Beach Haven, New Jersey, accompanied by a poem he wrote for the occasion, entitled, "Fall In! Comrades".
Here is part of the poem: