Tench Tilghman Delivers The Good News
Tench Tilghman was an aide-de-camp to General Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Tilghman was one of those necessary players in the game who have all but vanished into the ether of our nation’s history. One of the reasons for this was his death soon after the war.
Without him, however, the Patriot Cause may never have been won.
When the American Revolutionary War began, many families were split between Patriots and Loyalists. Maryland’s Tilghman family was no exception.
As with many wealthy colonial families, the Tilghmans had worked closely with the British government for a long time. It was a difficult decision to risk your livelihood and security for what may have seemed like a cause with little reward.
When the family split, Tench Tilghman sided with his uncle, Matthew, and joined the Patriots. His relationship with two of his brothers was permenately damaged.
Tench Tilghman joined the Maryland militia but was quickly transferred to the Continental Army. The bright young man was immediately placed in General George Washington’s ‘family,’ serving as an aide-de-camp.
Tilghman became a personal secretary to Washington, taking dictation for correspondence and General Orders. (Though it should be noted that Robert Hanson Harrison also wrote a substantial amount of Washington’s letters.) Much of Washington’s communications with the French Generals are in Tench’s hand, as Tench was fluent in their native tongue. Additionally, he helped translate for the Baron von Steuben during his overhaul of the Continental Army.
At age 31, Tilghman was slightly older than most of Washington’s ‘adopted sons’ but he still formed close relationships with many of these men. Notably, due to his comfort speaking French, Tench grew close with the Marquis de Lafayette.
Delivering the Good News
Tilghman stayed with the Continental Army for the entirety of the Revolutionary War.
Tench was present for the Victory at Yorktown and, after the British surrendered, was given a special task.
Washington asked Tilghman to ride to Philadelphia.
He was to inform the Continental Congress the Americans had won the Revolutionary War.
Tench Tilghman was giving the honor of letting the leaders of the United States that their independence was secured.
Unfortunately, Tilghman became sick near the end of the war. His health continued to decline over the ensuing years.
Tench Tilghman passed away just a few years later at the young age of 41. He’d dedicated his life to his country, but was prevented from playing an extended role in the American Founding due to his early demise.
Tench Tilghman actually has a number of books about him (I told you he was underrated), but the only biography I have read that I can recommend is ‘Washington’s Loyalist.’ I’m sure the others are good but since I have not had the opportunity to look at them I don’t feel right making a recommendation.
I will, however, add that ‘George Washington’s Indispensable Men’ is another book that heavily features Tilghman but, since Tench has entire bios about him, I had to pick a book focused entirely on him.
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