Paducah’s Civil War general perished nearly 150 years ago “with the Lord’s Prayer upon his lips.”
So said Fred G. Neuman in his 1922 book, Paducahans in History.
Confederate Brigadier Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, 47, died at the battle of Champion Hill,MS, on May 16, 1863. He was afoot and "sighting a howitzer" when a Union cannonball struck him in the hip, Neuman wrote.
Yet the artilleryman "directing and sighting the gun….by the advice of General Tilghman" said the western Kentuckian was mounted. “His last words to anyone were in the highest compliment to me, praising my excellent marksmanship, except the words he spoke as he fell from his horse after a three-inch rifle shot had cut him nearly in two, and as he careened and fell he said to his son, who caught him, 'Tell your mother; God bless her,'" L.S. Flatan, he wrote in Confederate Veteran magazine.
The Rebels lost the battle. But Paducah Confederate veterans and their families gained a hero.
The local United Daughters of the Confederacy and the general’s sons, Frederick and Sidell, funded the construction of a nine-foot bronze statue of the fallen general. Perched on a stone base, the likeness was unveiled on Fountain Avenue on the 46th anniversary of Tilghman's death.
Also in 1909, the sons placed a commemorative stone on the spot where their father's life ended.
Yankee and Rebel monument-studded Vicksburg National Military Park, near Champion Hill, includes a 1926-vintage bronze likeness of Tilghman, too. It shows the general dismounted and brandishing a sword in front of his horse.
Before that memorial went up, the Tilghman siblings, who lived in New York City, evidently decided a statue wasn't enough to commemorate the family name in Paducah. So they donated money to help start Augusta Tilghman High School, which was named for their mother. ATHS opened in 1921 and was replaced by Tilghman High School in 1956.
Interestingly, there was more to a Grant-Tilghman connection than the battle of Champion Hill.
Grant took Paducah in September, 1861. According to Grant, Tilghman exited Paducah just before the Yankees hit town. (Tilghman’s old brick home at 631 Kentucky Avenue is a Civil War museum.)
In February, 1862, Tilghman surrendered earth-walled Fort Henry, TN, to naval forces under Grant. But before year's end, he was exchanged for a captured Union general.
According to Neuman’s book, the fatal Yankee projectile hit Tilghman at 5:20 p.m. The general “lived about three hours after being carried to the shade of a peach tree” and died in the arms of his adjutant, Powhatan Ellis.
But according to James W. Raab's book, Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman: A Biography, the general was on foot. The author added that a fragment from an exploding shell, not a cannonball, struck Tilghman "in the upper part of his stomach." The jagged chunk of iron tore through the general, nearly cutting him in two. The violent impact left him unconscious and lying on the ground.
Immediately, soldiers dashed off to find his 17-year-old son, Lt. Lloyd Tilghman Jr., who soon arrived. "With grief and lamentations," the youth "cast himself on his dying father.” Troops who witnessed the “distressing scene” were moved to tears, Raab wrote.
Two months later, Lloyd Jr. was thrown from his horse and killed.
His parent was buried in Vicksburg, which fell to Grant's besieging army on July 4, 1863. But in 1901, Tilghman's remains were transferred to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx where he was reburied next to Augusta, who died in 1898. His old nemesis, U.S. Grant, who became president after the war, rests eternally about a dozen miles away in his famous Manhattan tomb.