Tilghman, Tench

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Tilghman, Tench

TILGHMAN, TENCH. (1744–1786). Aide-de-camp and military secretary to Washington. Maryland-Pennsylvania. Born in Talbot County, Maryland, on 25 December 1744, Tilghman graduated in 1761 from what became the University of Pennsylvania and became a merchant in Philadelphia. On the eve of the Revolution, and in opposition to his Loyalist father, he liquidated his business and in 1775 was secretary and treasurer of the Continental Congress's commissioners to the Iroquois. In July 1776 he was commissioned captain of an independent company that subsequently joined a Pennsylvania battalion of the Flying Camp. On 8 August 1776 he began his duties in Washington's headquarters as a volunteer military secretary. On 1 April 1777 he was given the rank of lieutenant colonel, but his volunteer status without pay was continued until the Continental Congress responded favorably to Washington's personal appeal of 11 May 1781 that Tilghman receive a formal commission.

Honored by Washington with the mission of taking news of the Yorktown surrender to the Continental Congress, Tilghman reached Philadelphia at 3 a.m. on 22 October 1781. A week later the delegates resolved that he be given a sword and horse in gratitude for his service. Tilghman served as Washington's personal secretary for seven years, longer than any of the other thirty-two aides, becoming a close friend of the commander in chief. On 9 June 1783 Tilghman married his cousin, Anna Maria, younger daughter of Matthew Tilghman (1718–1790), a powerful Maryland political figure and member of Congress. Two years after entering into a business association in Baltimore with Robert Morris, Tilghman died on 18 April 1786.


Harrison, S. A., ed. Memoir of Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman, Secretary and Aid to Washington. Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell, 1876.

Shreve, L. G. Tench Tilghman: The Life and Times of Washington's Aide-de-camp. Centreville, Md.: Tidewater, 1982.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles