General Lloyd Tighman

I will end my series on the biographies of the Confederate generals at Fort Donelson with Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman upon whom fell the unenviable task of constructing Forts Henry, Heiman and Donelson after they had been laid out, and then commanding their garrisons until he surrendered at Fort Henry.

Photo of Lloyd TilghmanEarly Life

Lloyd Tilghman was born in “Rich Neck Manor”, Claiborne, Maryland, great-grandson of a Maryland representative to the Continental Congress and grand-nephew of a man who had served on George Washington’s staff during the American Revolution.  He attended the United States Military Academy and graduated near the bottom of his class in 1836. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons, but resigned his commission after three months. [ed. You could do that in 1836 because of the scarcity of trained engineers in the civil sector.]

He worked as an engineer from 1837 to 1845, before rejoining the Army during the War with Maxico.  He arrived in Corpus Christi in September, 1845, as a sutler but when the army discovered that he had been a lieutenant in the Dragoons and graduated from West Point, General David Twiggs made him aide de camp of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons. Tilghman spent most of the war designing and building fortifications and would later become the captain of the Maryland and District of Columbia Volunteer Artillery, operating six light artillery pieces.

Following the war, Tilghman resumed his profession as an engineer of railroads.  In 1852, he moved to Paducah, KY, with his wife Augusta Murray Boyd, and their sons and daughters to work for the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.  Ironically, he took up residence in a house across the street from the hotel which would become the headquarters of the Union garrison in 1862.


Civil War

Simon Bolivar Buckner commissioned Tilghman as colonel of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry [CSA] on July 5, 1861.  He faced an impossible task: to arm and clothe his unit without help from the state, which was still stating that because of Kentucky’s neutrality, it could not supply arms or accoutrements to men leaving the state to fight for either side.

He became a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army on October 18, after Kentucky troops were accepted into the Confederate Army.

When General Albert Sidney Johnston was looking for an officer to create defensive positions on the vulnerable Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, he was unaware of Tilghman’s presence in his department and another officer was selected.  However, the Richmond government pointed out Tilghman’s engineering background and Johnston appointed him he to the task.

General Daniel S. Donelson, another West Point graduate, but more a politician than an engineer, had already marked the sites for Forts Henry and Donelson.  Tilghman was placed in command and ordered to construct them. The geographic placement of Fort Henry was extremely poor, sited on a floodplain of the Tennessee River, but Tilghman did not object to its location until it was too late. Afterward, he wrote bitterly in his report that Fort Henry was in a “wretched military position … The history of military engineering records no parallel to this case.”  [ed. Read about the Battle for Fort Henry at the Shiloh Trilogy page of this website.]

Construction of both forts, as well as the smaller Fort Heiman across the Tennessee River from Fort Henry, went slowly due to material shortages and quarrels among the leaders managing the task.  Nevertheless, he did manage to do a more credible job on the construction of Fort Donelson, which lay on dry ground, commanding the river.

On February 6, 1862, an army under Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attacked Fort Henry.  Tilghman was still inside Fort Henry when the attack began, having decided to share the fate of the garrison as a rear-guard while the bulk of his forces escaped down the 12-mile road to Fort Donelson.  Of course, the attack on Fort Henry on February 6th need not have taken place at all, since the fort flooded completely on February 8th .

Tilghman joined Simon B. Bucker in captivity at Fort Warren in Boston and was not released until August 15, 1862 when he was exchanged for Union general John F. Reynolds, a hero of Gettysburg.

Returning to the field in the fall of 1862, Tilghman became a brigade commander in Mansfield Lovell’s division of Earl Van Dorn’s Army of the West following the Second Battle of Corinth. Shortly thereafter, General Lovell was recalled and this division passed to William Loring.  Subsequently, the division received orders to Pemberton’s Army of the Mississippi for the defense of Vicksburg.

At the Battle of Champion Hill, May 16th, 1863, Tilghman led his brigade of Mississippians as while Loring was out maneuvered by McClernand  Assigned to be the rearguard during Loring’s retreat, he was killed by a fragment from a Federal shell which passed completely through his chest.  The remainder of the division escaped the Federal encirclement.

After his enlistment with the Confederate Army, Tilghman’s wife, Augusta, had moved to Tennessee for a time.  She returned to New York City after the war. At her orders, 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.

Opinions on Tighman’s actions to prepare the forts vary among commentators.  Although all admit that remaining with the Fort Henry artillerists to the bitter end was an act of gallantry, some have stated that he was dilatory in their construction and as a result, the forts were vulnerable when Grant attacked.  Others state that allowing himself to be captured with the rearguard created a vacuum in leadership which allowed the rapid investment of Fort Donelson and resulted in the indecisive John Floyd coming into command at Fort Donelson.

In my opinion, both of these criticisms are unfair.  It is true that the forts were not complete by the time that Grant launched his campaign.  However, to blame Tilghman for their lack of readiness in the face of materiel shortages and poor siting is unfair.  It also detracts from Grant’s boldness in launching his campaign in the middle of winter specifically to avoid allowing the Confederates time to complete the fortifications, the decision to rely on Flag Officer Foote to maintain control of the rivers for supplying his army at a time when the roads were seasonably unusable, and on the excellent cooperation between Grant and Foote to execute the campaign.

General Bushrod Johnson

After the discussion of the more famous Confederate generals at Fort Donelson, I would feel remiss to leave without posts about the two generals who participated but who are rarely presented: Bushrod Johnson and Lloyd Tilghman.  Today’s post covers Johnson’s biography.

Photo of Bushrod JohnsonBushrod Johnson was born in 1817 and raised as a Quaker in Belmont County, Ohio. During his youth, he worked on the Underground Railroad with his uncle. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1840 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Infantry.  Classmates from the Class of 1840 include opposing generals George Thomas and W.T. Sherman and Confederate generals R.S. Ewell, P.O. Hebert, J.P. McCown. And J. Jordan.

He fought in the Seminole War in Florida and in the War with Mexico.  He saw combat at the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma and Monterrey. He was then transferred to Gen. Winfield Scott’s army for the Vera Cruz campaign. Instead of being given a combat role, Johnson was appointed acting assistant commissary, but was forced to resign from the Army in October 1847 after (rightfully) being  accused of misappropriation of government property.

Johnson landed a job teaching at Western Military Institute in Georgetown, Ky.  Eventually, Johnson became headmaster and married Mary Hatch. They had a son, Charles, who was an invalid and required continual care. Mary died of “nervous fever” in 1858. Johnson hired a nanny and continued to teach.  In 1855, WMI moved to Nashville where it merged with the University of Nashville. WMI continued as a prep school offering high school instruction. Johnson taught natural philosophy and chemistry at the Western Military Institute and mathematics and engineering at the University of Nashville. During this period he was active in the state militias of Kentucky and Tennessee, rising to the rank of colonel.

After he sent his son to live with family in Ohio, Johnson entered Confederate service on June 28, 1861 as a colonel of engineers in the Tennessee Militia.  A week later this commission was changed to be in the Confederate States Army. He assisted in the layout and construction of Fort Donelson and was promoted to brigadier general on January 24, 1862. Following the fall of Fort Henry, Johnson took command of the garrison of Fort Donaldson and the survivors from Fort Henry, sixteen regiments organized into four brigades.  However, he commanded the army at Fort Donelson for less than a day as the higher ranking Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow arrived that evening.

He commanded his own division at Donelson, but it was Pillow who led the Left Wing (Johnson’s Division and Floyd’s Division of Virginians, now commanded by Colonel Gabriel Wharton) during the attack of the 15th.  The fort and its army surrendered to Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on February 16, 1862, but two days later Johnson was able to escape by simply walking away through the porous Union Army lines.

Johnson commanded a brigade in Cheatham’s Division at the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862.  He assumed command of the division when Cheatham was wounded but was himself severely wounded by the concussion of an artillery shell.

After recovering from his injury, he rejoined the Army of Tennessee during the invasion of Kentucky in the summer of 1862.  Here, he commanded a brigade of mostly Tennesseans in a division commanded by his former comrade at Ft. Donelson, Simon B. Buckner.  He led the brigade through most of the battles of 1862-3, serving under Patrick Cleburne after Buckner transferred to command in East Tennessee.  At the battle of Chickamauga and the Siege of Knoxville, he led a provisional division under James Longstreet, consisting of his own brigade and two other western brigades.  His division led the penetration through the Federal lines at Chickamauga which led to the rout of the enemy army.

Promoted to major general on May 21, 1864, Johnson served as a division commander, first during operations against Butler around Petersburg and during the subsequent siege.  South Carolinian troops from Johnson’s Division captured three stands of colors and 130 prisoners in the Battle of the Crater, although Johnson, himself, did not participate in the fight.  His men fought in the last battles of the siege: White Oak Road, Five Forks, and Sailer’s Creek where the Federal cavalry destroyed his own and Picket’s divisions.  Johnson, Pickett and their corps commander, Lt. Gen. Richard Anderson, saved themselves only to be relieved of duty by Lee on April 8, 1865. That was the day before Lee surrendered the rest of his army to Grant at Appomattox.

Following the war, Johnson returned to teaching in Nashville.  He rose to the position of co-chancellor of the University of Nashville in 1870 with former Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith. His health failing, he retired with his invalid son in 1875 to a farm in Brighton, Illinois, where he died in 1880. He was originally buried in Miles Station, near Brighton, but was reinterred in 1975 to Old City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee, to be next to the grave of his wife, Mary.

Johnson appears to have been a competent general during the first years of the war but seems to have been held back because of a lack of political connections and, possibly residual suspicion over the misappropriation incident. However, it appears that sometime during the Siege of Petersburg, Johnson may have lost hope in Confederate victory.  The battle of the Crater took place while he sat through breakfast, even though one of his brigades was the point of the Federal attack.  Certainly he lost the confidence of Robert E. Lee as a result of that battle.  His performance at Five Forks and Sailor’s Creek showed a lack of initiative but, perhaps, is understandable given the starvation and overwhelming numbers of enemy faced by the Army of Northern Virginia during April 1865.

General Simon Bolivar Buckner Part 3



Governor Simon Bolivar BucknerThe Federals paroled Buckner on June 9, 1865.  However, the conditions of his parole prohibited him from returning to Kentucky for three years.  He remained in New Orleans during this period as a member of the staff of the Daily Crescent newspaper, and later served of the board of directors of a fire insurance company, of which he became president in 1867.

Buckner returned to Kentucky when he was eligible in 1868 and became editor of the Louisville Courier.  Following lengthy legal battles, he returned to his estate, Glen Lily, in Munfordville in 1877 with his daughter and widowed sister, his wife having died in 1874.  The three worked together to restore the estate until 1883 when his daughter married and moved to Louisville and his sister died.

Alone now, Buckner turned to politics.  He had been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1868.  By 1883, Buckner was a candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but withdrew his name in a three-way race and was subsequently rewarded when J. Proctor Knott won the election and appointed Buckner to the board of trustees for the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College (later the University of Kentucky) in 1884.

On June 10, 1885, Buckner married Delia Claiborne of Richmond, Virginia. Buckner was 62; Claiborne was 28.  Their son, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., was born on July 18, 1886.


Governor of Kentucky

In 1887, Buckner won election to governor of Kentucky over the Republican candidate by a plurality of 16,797 votes in a four-way race.  As governor, Buckner proposed a number of progressive ideas, most of which were rejected by the legislature. Among his successes were the creation of a state board of tax equalization, creation of a parole system for convicts, and codification of school laws. His failed proposals included creation of a department of justice, greater local support for education and better protection for forests.

A major financial scandal erupted in 1888 when Buckner ordered a routine audit of the state’s finances which showed that the state’s longtime treasurer had mismanaged the state’s revenue and embezzled the state’s money for the past sixteen years.  Faced with the prospect that his malfeasance would be discovered, the Treasurer absconded with nearly $250,000 of state funds.

During the 1888 session, the General Assembly passed 1,571 bills, exceeding the total passed by any other session in the state’s history. Only about 150 of these bills were of a general nature; the rest were special interest bills passed for the private gain of legislators and those in their constituencies. Buckner vetoed 60 of these special interest bills, more than had been vetoed by the previous ten governors combined. Ignoring Buckner’s clear intent to veto special interest bills, the 1890 legislature passed over 1,800 special interest bills. Buckner vetoed 50 of these. His reputation for rejecting special interest bills led the Kelley Axe Factory, the largest axe factory in the country at the time, to present him with a ceremonial “Veto Hatchet”.

When a tax cut passed in 1890 in spite of Buckner’s veto drained the state treasury, the governor loaned the state enough money to remain solvent until tax revenue came in. Later that year, he was chosen as a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention. In this capacity, he unsuccessfully sought to extend the governor’s appointment powers and levy taxes on churches, clubs, and schools that made a profit.


Later career

After his term as governor, Buckner returned to Glen Lily. In 1896, the National Democratic Party split from the Democratic Party over the issue of using silver as a form of currency in addition to the existing gold standard.  The new party nominated Buckner for vice president on a ticket with former Union general John Palmer (Illinois).  Palmer and Buckner both had developed reputations as independent executives while serving as governors of their respective states. Because they had served on opposite sides during the Civil War, their presence on the same ticket emphasized national unity. Despite receiving endorsements for major national newspapers, the ticket was hurt by the candidates’ ages, Palmer being 79 and Buckner 73. They received just over one percent of the vote in the election.

Following this defeat, Buckner retired to Glen Lily and remained active in politics but split from the Democratic Party.  At 80 years of age, Buckner memorized five of Shakespeare’s plays when cataracts threatened to blind him.  An operation saved his sight.

On a visit to the White House in 1904, Buckner asked President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint his only son as a cadet at West Point, and Roosevelt quickly agreed.  That son, Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., became the commander of the US force which invaded Okinawa in 1945.  He was killed on Okinawa during mopping up operations. Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. was the most senior American officer killed in action during WW2.

Following the deaths of Stephen D. Lee and Alexander P. Stewart in 1908, Buckner became the last surviving Confederate soldier with the rank of lieutenant general.  In 1912, his health began to fail and he died on January 8, 1914, after a week-long bout with uremic poisoning.  He lies in Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.