Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Tilghman House and Civil War Museum

My wife and I had the pleasure of touring The Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum in Paducah, KY. It is a hidden treasure in the city that was the scene of the most difficult time of Major General Charles F. Smith's military career. The museum devotes most of its attention to its former occupant General Tilghman and General Nathan B. Forrest's raid on the Union supply depot and fort.

The museum is filled with many items from the Civil War era. The emphasis is on the three generals who had an impact on Paducah.

General Lloyd Tilghman

Gen. Tilghman Statue
Tilghman was commissioned colonel of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry on July 5, 1861, shortly after the start of the Civil War. He was promoted to brigadier general in the Confederate States Army on October 18. 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 he was finally chosen for the task. The original sites for Forts Henry and Donelson were selected by another general,Daniel S. Donelson, but Tilghman was then 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.") He also was desultory in managing its needed construction and that of the small Fort Heiman, located on the Kentucky bank of the Tennessee, and quarreled with the engineers assigned to the task. He did manage to do a more creditable job on the construction of Fort Donelson, which was sited on dry ground, commanding the river.
General Lloyd Tilghman
On February 6, 1862, an army under Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attacked Fort Henry and Tilghman was forced to surrender. (This was not his first encounter with Grant. Tilghman was in Paducah when Grant captured that city the previous September.) Prior to doing so, he led the vast majority of his garrison troops on the 12-mile road to Fort Donelson, and then returned to surrender with a handful of artillerymen who were left defending the fort. The biggest factor in the defeat of Fort Henry was not the naval artillery or Grant's infantry; it was the rising flood waters of the Tennessee, which flooded the powder magazines and forced a number of the guns out of action. (If Grant's attack had been delayed by two days, the battle would have never occurred because the fort was by then entirely underwater.) Tilghman was imprisoned as a prisoner of war at Fort Warren in Boston and was not released until August 15, when he was exchanged for Union general John F. Reynolds. Tilghman is remembered as brave and gallant in surrendering with his men

Mrs. Augusta Tilghman
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. In the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863, he was hit in the chest by a shell fragment and killed in the Battle of Champion Hill. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx,New York City.

The Battle of Paducah

The Battle of Paducah was fought on March 25, 1864, during the Civil War. A Confederate cavalry force led by Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a successful raid on Paducah, Kentucky on the Ohio River.
Gen. Nathan Bedford
In March 1864, Forrest set out from Columbus, Mississippi, for raiding in West Tennessee and Kentucky, with a force of just under 3,000 men. His object was to recruit soldiers, re-equip his men with supplies, and disrupt Union Army activities. He reached Paducah on March 25 and quickly occupied the town. The Union garrison of 650 men under Col. Stephen G. Hicks withdrew to Fort Anderson, in the town's west end. The fort was supported by two Union gunboats on the Ohio River, and Hicks began shelling the area with his artillery.
Forrest tried to bluff Hicks into surrendering, warning him, "... if I have to storm your works, you may expect no quarter." Knowing the fort could not be easily taken, Hicks rejected the demand.

Model of Fort Anderson
With the Union garrison holed up in their fort, Forrest's men began loading any Union Army supplies they could use into wagons and destroyed the rest. They rounded up all the army horses and mules they could find. A portion of Forrest's men from Kentucky decided to attack Fort Anderson on their own, much to his irritation. This attack constituted the Battle of Paducah. It was repulsed, causing the Confederates heavy and needless casualties. In reporting on the raid, many newspapers stated that Forrest missed more than a hundred fine horses hidden by the Yankees. As a result, Forrest sent Colonel Abraham Buford back to Paducah in mid-April and he captured these horses.

Casualties during the Paducah raid totaled 90 Union soldiers and 50 Confederates, most of them during the attack on the fort. The raid was counted as a victory for the Confederates because they had fewer casualties and gained some supplies, but they achieved little beyond destroying Union supplies and capturing needed cavalry mounts. They did not take the fort or alter control of the region. The raid put the Union Army on notice that Forrest and other Confederates raiders could still strike deep into Union-held territory.

U. S. Grant and the Jews

Grant Expelled the Jews
Newspaper Account
A portion of the museum is dedicated to Gen. Grant's treatment of the Jewish population in Paducah. On December 17, 1862, under the terms of General Order No. 11, US forces required thirty Jewish families to leave their long-established homes. Grant was trying to break up a black market in cotton, in which he suspected Jewish traders were involved. Cesar Kaskel, a prominent local Jewish businessman, sent a telegram complaining about the situation to Pres.Lincoln and met with him; together with similar actions by other Jewish businessmen and loud complaints by Congress, he succeeded in seeing the order revoked within a few weeks.

Collections at the Museum

Baxter Baxter
Ass't Manager

Many thanks to our host Mr. Bill Baxter, Manager of the Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum, for a delightful and informative tour.

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