General Tilghman was a very devoted Confederate, giving his life for the cause he truly believed in. But what do we know about his life besides his residing in Paducah, serving in the Confederate Army, and losing his life to a cannonball at Champion’s Hill, Mississippi in May 16, 1863?
Tilghman was born on January 26, 1816, near Claiborne, Maryland. His family had an illustrious military history; his grandfather, Tench Tilghman, was one of George Washington’s senior aide de camps, and served with the Continental Congress. Because of the family's connections, Lloyd was admitted to West Point. He was soon brevetted to Second Lieutenant of the First Dragoons.
Tilghman studied as an engineer. The railroads, which were expanding, needed good engineers to assist in the expansion, and Lloyd was successful in his endeavors. When he graduated from West Point in October 1836, he decided he would resign his commission, and try his luck in the civilian engineering field.
He worked as an engineer from 1837 to 1845, when he decided to join the Army. The Mexican War was afoot, and Lloyd felt his responsibility to once again serve his country. He arrived at Corpus Christi in September, 1845, and became a sutler supplying the Army. Once the army discovered that he had been a Lieutenant in the Dragoons at West Point, General David Twiggs made him aide de camp of his own unit, the 2nd Dragoons. Tilghman would become involved in building fortifications and would later command a light artillery battery of six guns. The Mexican War ended in 1848, and Lloyd had learned lessons taught by wartime experience which would later stand him in good stead.
Tilghman became an engineer of railroads after that war. In 1852, he moved with his family, wife Augusta Murray Boyd, and sons and daughters to Paducah, working as engineer for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.
In December 1860, Tilghman decided to join the Kentucky State Guard, which became one of the best state militia organizations in the United States. Tilghman became a Major in the Paducah Southwest Battalion. When the bombardment of Fort Sumter began in 1861, the Civil War became a reality. At the time, Tilghman was commander of the western division of the Kentucky State Guard. Tilghman made his decision to join the southern cause, when on June 5, 1861, he and the Third Kentucky Infantry, Company D, joined the Confederacy. He and his commander of the Kentucky State Guard, Simon Bolivar, saw that the government was not following the constitutional rule of State’s Rights. They saw the state being 'invaded' by Union forces despite its stand of neutrality.
After Tilghman resigned from the Kentucky State Guard, he became commander of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry, CS. He had an impossible task: to arm and clothe his unit without help from the state, which was still stating that in order to remain neutral, it could not supply arms or accoutrements to men leaving Kentucky to fight for either side.
Tilghman was sent to Forts Henry and Donelson, to fortify their defenses. The forts were not properly equipped and were in terrible condition. With 1000 unarmed men, Tilghman was placed in a dire situation. Tilghman made the best of the situation, working diligently in building earthen works, rifle pits, and securing the approaches to the forts. By January 1862, he felt that the work on the two forts had progressed. But he knew that the men who were there and unarmed, could not hold the fort against Union troops, who were better armed, and would arrive shortly.
On February 6, 1862, the attack began, on Fort Henry. The lower part of the fort was under water. One of Tilghman’s 24 pounder cannons burst, rendering it unusable. Then he lost the 10 inch Columbiad cannon when it was accidentally spiked. Several of the 32 pounders were also lost. Tilghman should have retreated with the large force of Confederates he sent to Fort Donelson, which was higher on the river. But seeing how valiantly his remaining men were working to hold Fort Henry, he decided to stay till the end of the battle. Tilghman himself manned one of cannons. He surrendered after the battle, having saved the Confederate Army that had escaped to Fort Donelson.
Unfortunately, by being heroic and staying at Fort Henry, and not removing himself to Fort Donelson, he left a void in the chain of command at Donelson. He was captured and held in a Federal prison at Fort Warren, and later, released in August 1862.
He returned to the Confederate cause, renewing his efforts to thwart the enemy, equipping the thousands of men who were released along with him. He also had to form them into artillery, infantry, and cavalry units to make them a fighting force to be dealt with.
The last battle Tilghman fought was at Champion's Hill, in the Vicksburg Campaign. Tilghman was ordered to hold the Federal forces in check, while the Confederates fell back from a brutal battle. During the ensuing melee, Tilghman delegated himself as a common soldier, ignoring his rule of commanding general and acting with courage. He decided to personally help with the trajectories of a cannon, whose aim was off. Tilghman was killed by an artillery shell fragment which almost cut him in two. He lived three hours; his son, Lloyd Tilghman, Jr, was to die three months later in a similar episode.
Sadly, the surrender of Vicksburg cut the Confederacy in two, and from that moment on, the war was fought to Lincoln’s advantage.
Tilghman lived in the home at 7th and Kentucky Avenue in Paducah, while he was in the employ as a railroad engineer. After his enlistment with the Confederate Army, his wife Augusta moved to Tennessee for a time, but returned to the North, to New York, after the war. The family would never return to Paducah to live. Tilghman was removed from his Mississippi grave and placed in a tomb at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City. Augusta died in 1898, and was buried next to the General.
Their son Frederick, along with two other sons of the General, helped raise the funds for the Paducah monument, which cost approximately $10,000 at the time. The base cost $5,000, the money being raised by Paducah Chapter #341, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The bronze likeness in Lang Park, for which Paducah #341 supplied the granite base, approximately 7 feet in height, shows Tilghman in his uniform, in a standing pose, one hand on the hilt of his sword, proudly looking towards the South.
Tilghman is also depicted in a huge statue at Vicksburg, which was donated to the National Battlefield by sons Fred and Sidell. It shows Tilghman standing next to his horse, sword raised in defiance of the enemy.