DATE: February 4, 1998
Subject: Remarks to Board of Public Works, February 4, 1998
Governor Glendening, Comptroller Goldstein, Treasurer Dixon, ladies and gentlemen
Today we are here to ask the Governor to accept an extraordinary gift to the state, and to bring closure to an agenda item of the Board that dates back to the late 1970s. In doing so, we will be paying tribute to one of Maryland's most distinguished soldier-citizens of the Revolutionary War, Tench Tilghman.
On December 26 of last year, Mrs. Judith Oates passed away, leaving the state these two swords
as a permanent memorial to her direct ancestor, Tench Tilghman. It was her intent that they be displayed near his portrait in the Old Senate Chamber.
Thanks to 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.
With us today are members of the family: Susan Goldsborough Glynn, Max Faulkner and Edward Tilghman, as well as members of the law firm representing her estate: Barbara Spicer and Muriel Davidson.
We could not be more pleased and proud to add these two swords to the state's collection. It is rare to be presented with an artifact that so tangibly relates to one of the most critical periods in the state's and the nation's history.
That these swords were Tench Tilghman's and that he wore them as aide-de-camp to George Washington from the dark days of Valley Forge to the victory at Yorktown, is confirmed by the magnificent portrait of Washington, Lafayette and Tilghman that hangs in the Old Senate Chamber. Complete and installed in 1785, it depicts in easily recognizable detail the hilt of the dress sword you have before you.
Next to the sword in the painting are the officials 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, probably in this very room wearing this sword, he informed Governor Thomas Sim Lee of the British defeat. Lee had already informally heard the news 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 Rockhall, 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 this 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.
On the 16th of this month in a special ceremony celebrating Washington's Birthday, the swords will go on exhibit in the Old Senate Chamber, where Comptroller Goldstein will give the principal address. The importance of these swords to our appreciation of the history of our state and nation is without question. Tench Tilghman is an outstanding example of the the degree to which men and women were willing to sacrifice themselves to the the cause of American Independence. For five years, he served as Washington's aide without pay. Washington sought to reward him with a commission as Lt. Colonel
In 1781, he wrote Congress:
We are indeed most grateful to Mrs. Oates for her gift. Before you, you see the swords. Below us is the portrait, and in the Archives is the inventory of the estate taken at Tench Tilghman's death that proudly lists both these swords.
We appreciate your approval of the agenda item before you today. I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.