Hinds County Gazette Article: Key to the Past
By Rebecca Blackwell Drake and Pattie Adams Snowball
Recently, while exploring century-old newspaper clippings in the Gillespie Collection, a faded article entitled An Interesting Event, published in the Hinds County Gazette in 1909, caught the eye. The opening paragraph read: “Readers of the Gazette will remember that a year ago or more, the results of correspondence between Park Commissioner Rigby of Vicksburg and Capt. [W. T.] Ratliff of this place, the precise spot where Gen. Lloyd Tilghman was killed in the battle of Baker’s Creek, on the 16th May 1863, was located by Ex Congressman J. G. Spencer and Z. Wardlaw of Utica.”
For well over a century, little has been known regarding the dedication of the General Tilghman Monument located on the Champion Hill battlefield. The monument was funded by Frederick and Sidell Tilghman, sons of General Tilghman who were only teenagers when their father was killed during the battle. The tragedy of his death would haunt them for the remainder of their lives.
After the war, Tilghman’s widow, Augusta Boyd Tilghman, moved from Paducah, Kentucky, to New York City where her sons, Frederick and Sidell, became active members of the New York Stock Exchange. Over time, both brothers amassed a fortune working as stockbrokers on Wall Street.
As early as 1902, Sidell and Frederick began making plans to erect three monuments in memory of their father. The first monument was dedicated May 15, 1909, in Paducah, Kentucky. This work, a life-sized statue of General Tilghman, was sculptured by Henry H. Kitson, artist from Boston. The second memorial, also designed by Kitson, was dedicated on May 18, 1909, at Champion Hill on the exact site where Tilghman was killed. The third and final monument, a dramatic life-sized sculpture of Tilghman, was dedicated at the Vicksburg National Military Park in 1926. The sculptor for this monumental work was Frederick W. Sievers from Richmond, Virginia.
In 1909 when the Tilghman brothers began their travels to Kentucky and Mississippi to unveil the monuments in memory of their father, they had an entourage of prominent men traveling with them: Charles Turner, banker from New York City; David Butcher, lawyer from New York City, who in 1898 won a law suit against Britannia Steamship; and Henry Hudson Kitson, artist.
Immediately after the May 15th dedication of the Tilghman Monument in Paducah, the entourage took a train south and arrived at the Vicksburg National Military Park on May 17th. Plans were made to meet the next day at 8:00 a.m. on the Champion Hill battlefield to dedicate the monument which had been placed on the exact site where General Tilghman had been killed. The granite monument with a bronze inscription weighed two tons and had been hauled from Connecticut.
On May 18th, as the group assembled on the battlefield, an unidentified “woman florist” from Vicksburg decorated the memorial monument with Easter lilies. The photographer, most likely also from Vicksburg, photographed those in attendance. Unfortunately no one thought to record the names of those who were present for the occasion.
A week following the dedication, the May 27th issue of the Hinds County Gazette featured an article giving the details of the event and named everyone in attendance: “On Monday of last week, Capt. Ratliff received notice from Park Commissioner Rigby that the Tilghman Bros. and party would be on the famous battlefield next day at 8 o’clock. At the appointed hour, Capt. Ratliff found on the ground the Tilghman Bros., their cousin Oswald Tilghman of Eastern Maryland, who was a member of Gen. Lloyd Tilghman’s staff during the war, David Butcher, a lawyer from New York City, Charles Turner, a banker from same city, Henry H. Kitson, a sculptor from Boston, Mass., Sid E. Thomas, W. M. Robb and J. W. Ratliff of Edwards, Miss. and a lady florist of Vicksburg.
“The greetings were cordial and the discussion of the events of the battle were entered into, as well as the movement of the different commands that participated in it, after which the “marker” was decorated, and a photograph taken of it, as well as of the group of men in attendance including the present owner of the farm on which the “marker” rests, Ike Caston, a Colored man.” In later years, most copies of that particular issue of the Hinds County Gazette became extinct. One of the only copies to survive was saved by Mrs. H. B. Gillespie of Raymond.
Since the Tilghman brothers were from New York, only one copy of the photograph remained in the State of Mississippi and it was the property of Capt. W. T. Ratliff of Raymond who was present at the dedication. After his death, his daughter, Miss Mary Ratliff, inherited the photograph and attempted to identify those in the picture before donating it to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. However, due to the passage of time, Miss Mary failed to recognize those in the photograph except for H. H. Kitson, artist, the Ratliff brothers from Hinds County, and Commissioner William T. Rigby from the Vicksburg National Military Park. Unfortunately, Miss Mary attempted to identify the only woman present as Matilda Champion, the Grand Dame of Champion Hill, but that was incorrect. Matilda Champion, age 80, had passed away in 1907, two years prior to the monument dedication.
Not only did the Hinds County Gazette article, An Interesting Event, provide the clues as to those who were present for the dedication but also helped to determine the exact date of the event which had never been known. In the final paragraph of the article the journalist wrote: “Everything connected with the events of the day passed off pleasantly, and was an inspiring occasion to the two old soldiers present Oswald Tilghman and Capt. Ratliff to see the Sons of veterans from both sides in the mighty conflict, coming together in beautiful harmony on ground where 46 years and 2 days ago, such a mighty struggle took place.”
The General Lloyd Tilghman monument is located on the Raymond-Edwards Road near Baker’s Creek and was the first to be erected on the Champion Hill battlefield. Thanks to the Gillespie Collection, century-old newspaper clippings saved by members of the Gillespie Family of Raymond, the thirteen people who were present for the 1909 dedication can now be identified, thus saving another portion of Mississippi history for generations to come.
“An Interesting Event,” Hinds County Gazette, May 27, 1907
Tribute To General Lloyd Tilghman by L. S. Flatau, Cowan's Battery, First Mississippi Light Artillery
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