President Miller, members of the Senate, Governor Glendening,
Treasurer Dixon, Comptroller Goldstein, ladies and gentlemen
Tonight we are about to unveil a new exhibit in this room,
the first since 1983 when, with the generous support of Senate's Past,
we placed the life-like representation of Washington in his uniform there
on the spot where he resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief, and
temporarily borrowed the actual commission from the Library of Congress
for display nearby. In unveiling this new exhibit fifteen years
later, we pay tribute to one of Maryland's most distinguished soldier-citizens
of the Revolutionary War, Tench Tilghman and to the man he served so well,
On December 26 of last Year, Mrs. Judith Oates passed
away, leaving the state the two swords you are about to see.
She intended them as a permanent memorial to her direct
ancestor, Tench Tilghman. She instructed that they be displayed near his
portrait here in the Old Senate Chamber.
Through the efforts of Comptroller Goldstein, General
Orwin Talbott, then Governor Harry Hughes, and former Treasurer William
S. James, the state had expressed a genuine interest in the swords in the
late 1970s, offering to purchase them for exhibit in the State House. Mrs.
Oates preferred to keep them, feeling that they were worth more than the
state was able to offer, but at the urging of a friend, Cecil Bishop, who
was helping her plan her estate, and with encouragement from people like
Joe Coale, she decided to give them to the state in her will.
I suspect that Nancy German was quite surprised to find,
when she called on President Miller's behalf for any suggestions we might
have for tonight, that we would suggest a major exhibit and would ask for
the Senate's help in carrying out Mrs. Oates wishes. Nancy, whose tasteful
handling of these ceremonies every year brings special meaning to being
a member of the Maryland Senate, checked with the President and then asked
us to proceed. Once Governor Glendening had given his approval of
the acceptance of the gift, a case was designed and built by Rob MacAdam
of the Archives' staff, under the close supervision and direction of Mimi
Calver and with the assistance of Carol Borchert. To preserve the
swords properly we consulted with leading conservation authorities, including
our own Hanna Szcezepanowska, and used the opportunity to install a state-of-the-art
security system to prevent any unauthorized removals. After tonight,
when the alarm is set, the slightest motion near the painting or the swords
will alert security to the intrusion.
That the swords you are about to see were Tench Tilghman's
and that he wore them as aide-de-camp to George Washington from the dark
days of Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown, is confirmed by the magnificent
portrait of Washington, Lafayette and Tilghman at Yorktown that
hangs here over the fireplace. Completed and installed in 1785, this life-sized
painting by Charles Willson Peale depicts in easily recognizable detail
the hilt of the dress sword.
Next to the sword in the painting are the official dispatches
that Tench Tilghman, carried to Congress in Philadelphia, following the
defeat of the British at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Tilghman's
journey took him first to Annapolis where, wearing this sword, he informed
Governor Thomas Sim Lee of the British defeat. Lee had already heard the
news informally from the French and had dispatched the State House messenger
and janitor, Jonathan Parker, with the unofficial news.
Philadelphia, used to rumors and wary of celebrating too
soon, waited anxiously for the official dispatches Tilghman carried. He
took the ferry to Rock Hall, stopped briefly to rest and see his family,
and continued on his journey to Philadelphia where he arrived in the wee
small hours of the morning of the 24th. Five days after he began
his ride, Tilghman first delivered the news to the President of Congress,
Thomas McKean. That afternoon, in full uniform and wearing his dress sword,
he delivered his dispatches to Congress and answered questions about the
battle. In appreciation of his service, Congress would later vote him a
horse and another sword.
That night a torchlight celebration was held in Philadelphia
in honor of Colonel Tilghman and the British defeat. "those
citizens who chuse to ILLUMINATE on the Glorious Occasion, will do it this
evening at Six, and extinguish their lights at Nine o'clock," reads the
broadside calling for the parade, adding that
Decorum and harmony are earnestly recommended to every
Citizen, and a general discountenance to the least appearance of riot.
The importance of these swords to our appreciation of the
history of our state and nation is without question. They
provide a tangible link to Tench Tilghman who provides us with an oustanding
example of the degree to which men and women were willing to sacrifice
themselves to the cause of American Independence. Comptroller
Goldstein has eloquently outlined Tilgman's career for us tonight.
There is little to be added, except, perhaps, to note that in the months
following Yorktown, Tench Tilghman invested his energies in the economic
future of the country, turning to business in Baltimore, where he supplied
his old friend George Washington with goods, and with suggestions for improvements
to Mount Vernon, and where he launched a partnership with Robert Morris,
the financier of the Revolution, that proved of great importance to the
economic well-being of this state.
Over the mantle you see the Peale portrait containing
the detail of the sword Tench Tilghman wore at Valley
Forge, at Yorktown,in this State
House, and before Congress in Philadelphia. In
the Maryland State Archives is the inventory of the estate taken at Tench
Tilghman's death that proudly lists both swords and valuing the Dress Sword
at over 3 pounds, twice the usual amount for such a sword. Indeed,
according to one appraiser who has examined both swords, the sword in the
painting is so rare with its gold inlay that he has never seen another
like it, for sale, in a private collection, or on public display.
We are indeed most grateful to Mrs. Oates for her gift.
Let us now unveil the swords themselves, uniting them
with the only known portrait from life of their owner, Tench Tilghman,
who stands there proudly with his close colleague Lafayette, and
his Commander-in-Chief George Washington, whose birthday we also celebrate