Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman was the famous Revolutionary War hero, who in 1781 carried the message of Cornwallis' surrender from Yorktown, Virginia, to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He was 37 years old when he made this heroic ride a deed worthy of remembrance. The award of a horse and a sword, as a token of gratitude from Congress, reached his widow five years after his death.

He was born in Talbott County, Maryland, in 1744 and was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1762.

Col. Tench Tilghman died in 1786 and the hardships of his heroic ride are thought to have contributed to his early death. At his death, Washington wrote: "He had as fair a reputation as ever belonged to a human being."

The body of Tench Tilghman was moved in 1972 from St. Paul's Burial Ground, Lombard Street, Baltimore, Maryland, to the family plot near Oxford, Talbott County, Maryland.

On October 11, 1981, to commemorate the bicentennial of his historic ride, the Colonel Tench Tilghman Chapter NSDAR placed a bronze plaque and granite footstone at his grave.

Additional Resources:

"The Worthies of Talbot County"

Tench Tilghman's Swords

Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman

Tench Tilghman

Caroline F. Loughborough was a member of the Col.Tench Tilghman Chapter. She published a book of poetry entitled Fragments. Her poem is reprinted with permission of the family.


It was a son of Maryland,
Tench Tilghman was his name,
Who with the glorious tidings once
To Philadelphia came.

He rowed him to the Eastern Shore,
Across Chesapeake Bay,
By hoof and spur he must travel then
All the rest of the way.

Bleak and dark and sleeping was
The land through which he rode
But he made it bloom like a garden bright
With the jubilance he sowed.

Rap, rap, rap, on a farmer's door,
The folk came dazed and awed;
"Listen, the Lord Cornwallis' self
Has yielded up his sword.

A horse, a horse for the Congress,
I ride to tell them all,
Stint me no mount till my race is done
At Independence Hall."

They stinted him not. "God speed yen fast;
Here's a horse and food and drink."
They held their lanterns high for 'his start.
On, on, -- with never a wink.

Till after four days of riding hard,
Into the Quaker town
He rattled safe with his mighty news,
"Cornwallis has gone down."

'Twas then a baby nation grew
Suddenly tall and straight,
And kicked its cradle over - "Behold
I'm come to Man's estate."

'Twas then the silent watches heard
Old Independence Bell
Boom the message that ringeth yet,
"Midnight, and all is well."

Copyright 1931 by Caroline Loughborough