Robert A. Tilton
Corporal, Company C

Born April 30, 1844, Moscow, New York.

Robert Antis Tilton enlisted in Company C of the Fifty-First Illinois at Middleport, at the age of 17. The family was opposed to his joining the volunteer army, but Robert was adamant. He enlisted along with his older brother Albert, and Albert, eight years Robert's senior, kept a nervous fraternal eye on him. On October 12, 1861, Albert wrote home from Camp Douglas to explain to the Tilton family in New York, "You will no doubt be surprised to hear of my being here & to tell the truth I am somewhat surprised myself.... Bob is with me, mainly for the reason that he was bound to go and said he was going in another reg if I did not allow him to go with me. I tried to dissuade him from going at all but it was of no use. He said he was going to war 'whether or no'."

Robert thrived under the controlled ardors of Camp Douglas. Albert wrote on November 9, 1861, "We are pretty comfortably fixed, get plenty to eat & are getting as 'hearty as bucks'. Bob in particular is getting so fat & large that you would hardly know him and he enjoys camp life exceedingly. He is a good boy & attends strictly to his business - takes hold with the largest & strongest and does as much work as any of them. On February 4, Albert wrote about Bobís first brush with ill health, "Bob is usually well. His head and ears have been troubling him some of late & he is at present quite deaf but he thinks it is mainly from a cold. He will soon be all right again. He is 7th Corporal & goes by the came of Corporal Bob at head quarters (where he is a general favorite) & all through the regiment... and will be promoted as soon as an opportunity offers."

The regiment left Chicago on February 14. On March 1, Albert wrote that Robert was recovering from a severe ear ache and had developed a pain in the side, which the two brothers variously diagnosed as an "attack of pleurisy" or a "spell of lung fever." Albert added, "I will see that he has proper care if such can be had."

The seventeen-year-old innocent, off to slay his country's enemies, wrote to his mother from his camp in the field near New Madrid, Missouri on March 20, 1862:

The officers of our Company are as follows
Co C
Capt N B Petts
1 Lieut A M Tilton
2 Lieut A Eads
7th Corpl R A Tilton

But, back in New York, the Tilton family was alarmed that one of their favorite sons, corporal or not, was falling ill when the regiment had barely left camp for the field. The family at home began to pressure Albert, who was first lieutenant of Company C, to get Robert a furlough. Albert was not ready for that. On March 31, he wrote:

Bob is better & getting along nicely now & thinks he will be able to stand the test although the proposition in your letter to have him go home on sick furlough made him feel homesick & anxious to be trying it on at once. This arrangement, although it would suit me as well as it would Bob, is practically impossible for several reasons among which are the following: We have not been paid off since the 1st Jany & consequently have no funds. A furlough could not be processed on any consideration for the length of time necessary to go the distance specified, nor do I think he could get leave of absence to go so far from his regiment, even were there plenty of time. And more than this I do not want to use my influence to get any man discharged for physical disability. That is the surgeonís business and any attempts by me to get Bob discharged, although it might prove successful, might be looked upon by the field officers as showing the white feather on his part, just as we come to the point when every man is needed. Bob has always stood high with them & I do not wish to have him do anything or do anything myself that will in the least detract from it. There are some things to which death is preferable. We shall both return before the year is out when we all will feel better to think he did not go.

Robert survived April, the month when the regiment finished its tasks at Island No. 10, took the steamers for Fort Pillow, turned around and took the steamers to Hamburg Landing, and started slogging toward Farmington and Corinth. He wrote home on April 9 after the chase after Mackallís troops and the surrender of Island No. 10, "I am OK from the effects of the march excepting my feet are pretty sore. If we are in pursuit of the enemy, I can march 20 miles a day almost. Our boys were surprised as so was Albert to see me stand such a hard march, but I came out pretty tired, but all OK." Robert participated in the regimentís engagements of May 3, May 8, and May 9 around and beyond Farmington, Mississippi, but on some days he was excused from his duties with the regiment. On May 11, Albert was optimistic, reporting that Robert was energetic and optimistic, "He was out with us 2 days & says he would have gone out the 3d day had he not have supposed, as did we all, that we were merely going out to camp & would not see the enemy. He says he has made up his mind to go every time after this & then he wonít miss any of the fun." But a week later Robert was in the hospital at Hamburg Landing, and Albert was quickly alarmed—suddenly alarmed enough to forget his reservations about a sick leave for Robert. On May 22, Albert wrote to his father: "Bob is sick in Hospital with acute Rheumatism & the Doctor says in a bad fix. He would have & intended to have sent you some money, say $20.00, but being so sick I am going to try to get him a furlough for 2 or 3 weeks to go up into Illinois & if I succeed in doing so, he will need all his money."

Robertís health was now irreparably shaken. The regiment pressed on from Farmington toward Corinth, participating in the siege, participating in the clumsy pursuit of Confederates at the evacuation of Corinth at the very end of May. In mid-June Albert was still trying to get through the red tape to Robertís furlough. Albert wrote home, "Bob is back from the hospital - pretty well - but is about to get a leave of absence for 30 days. He will go to Gilman [Illinois] where Hen [the second Tilton brother Henry] now is. He is suffering from cutaneous eruptions all over his body making him sore in the joints & affecting him so that he can hardly get sleep enough to keep him up. He's getting perceptibly weaker every day & I have been trying several days to get him a furlough with I think good prospects of success."

Finally, at the first of July Robertís furlough was approved. Albert started him on his way north to Illinois. "I went as far as Corinth with him & processed transportation for him to Columbus, KY & hope he may have as good luck in getting along from there. He went in company with one of our officers who has resigned & was on his way to Chicago and who will do anything he can for him. Bob has been getting gradually but surely worse day by day although he has been up & about nearly all of the time. Some of the time he has suffered considerably and had great difficulty regards getting enough sleep to keep him alive during the day. He is reduced almost to a skeleton & probably would not have lived e months without change of air and diet. He was to have left Corinth the morning of the 2d and will probably reach Middleport on the 4th as the cars run from Corinth to Columbus direct. There he goes by boat to Cairo & cars to Gilman & Middleport. I think he will stand the journey well and expect to hear in a few weeks that he is very much better & improving rapidly. His furlough lasts 20 days but if at that time he is unable to join the regt he gets a certificate to that effect from the nearest army surgeon. If you could conveniently, twould be well to take a trip in that direction. A few days of your care of him would no doubt do more to restore him than all the surgeons in the army."

Robert arrived safely in Illinois. He visited his brother Henry in Gridly [a small Illinois town near Middleport]; then he stayed with the family of a family friend named Wil. At first Robert seemed to do well. Albert wrote to family in New York on Sunday evening, July 20, 1862: "I have had one letter from Bob since he went north. He was then in Gridly with Henry. I am anxious to hear from him." But a few days later, there was bad news from the family friend Wil. Albert wrote back to Wil on July 26, "I write on my knee in pencil & in a hurry. Poor Bob. I was very much surprised and astonished to hear of his sudden sickness in your first letter, and exceedingly grieved to receive the news that physicians had given him up. I do hope he may live through & that Mother may arrive before anything very serious happens. Bob was a brave boy & only consented to be sent north, when he found he could not stand it here. He has always stood up like a man to all kinds of marching and skirmishing as well as the best. If ever I breathed or thought a wish or desire, I do now and that is that he may recover surely & speedily."

On August 3, anxious for news of his brother, Albert wrote to New York, "I rec'd 2 letters from Wil saying Bob was very ill & fears expressing that he would not live through it. I haven't heard for over a week but I hope & trust those fears were groundless. I cannot make it seem otherwise. Wil said he had telegraphed for you. I hope you went immediately. His last letter was dated 18th July & I am very anxious to hear from him. It may be all over with Poor Bob by this time but I pray not."

Watching over him. Albert anguished on, but Robert had already become a casualty of war and war medicine—dying on July 23 at the home of friends in Middleport. Albert wrote to his parents:

"I rec'd your letters of the 28th & 29th ult a few days since, both at the same time, and although I had heard the sad news by a letter from the Capt's wife [the wife of Captain Nathaniel Petts of Company C, resident of Middleport] & also from Wil a few hours later—I could not reconcile myself to it any more than at first. I had no idea that in less that 4 weeks from the time of his leaving here I should hear of his death and now that is so. I can hardly realize it. bob was very much beloved by all here especially the officers, who admired his aptness & his patience under sufferings, which stouter men would have quailed under. It is a great consolation to know that he fell into good hands. I am sure that Mr & Mrs Raff & family & the other friends about Middleport did as well by him as could anybody except yourself. Had I known that he was dangerously sick, I should have written you to go & see him immediately but hearing from him that he had arrived safely I supposed that with change of air & diet he would commence improving & continue to do so & that in all probability he would be back again in 6 weeks. But it was ordained otherwise & we must submit. I have the satisfaction of knowing that I did everything I could for him—first in advising him not to enlist & afterward in watching over him & helping him along in every possible way."

He will think himself in heaven. We have left one letter out. It was written by Robert on May 3, 1862 from near Farmington, Mississippi; Robert wrote, "Albert will be happy he says if he ever gets back home with Hen & myself and drinks out of the old well. He will think himself in heaven. He looks for the day when we will all be at home together, god knows I do too. "

Robert's Cemetery Marker ~ Albert's Cemetery Marker ~ Henry's Cemetery Marker


Tilton Family Plot
Leicester Cemetery, New York


Tilton Family
Headstone


Robert
and Henry Jr.

Click any small picture to see a larger one.
Photo on left shows the Tilton Family cemetery plot; the four small stones at left are those of Albert, Henry, Robert, and "Mother" (Susan). The other photos show views of the headstone, with dates of the family dead.


Tilton Brothers Graves
Leicester NY

Robert's remains were transported from Illinois back to Moscow, New York. The oldest brother Albert Tilton, Captain of Company C, died in Utah in 1876, and his body was also returned to New York for burial. Henry Tilton, Jr. died at Andersonville in October, 1864. He is buried there in Grave Number 11230. His stone in the Leicester Cemetery is a memorial marker. A fourth brother, the youngest, William also enlisted; he survived the war—and his three brothers by more than forty years and was buried in Wisconsin. All Leicester Cemetery photographs on this page and other pages of this website are courtesy of Douglas Morgan of the Livingston County Historical Society in Geneseo, New York.

Sources:
Robert Tilton's picture - photocopy of photograph - Library of Congress.
Tilton Family Papers, Library of Congress.
Photography from Leicester Cemetery by Douglas Morgan, Livingston County Historical Society, Geneseo, New York