There was something about putting the truth on paper, bringing facts into the light of day where everyone could look at them, that made my fingers move faster – it was becoming one of my favorite sensations on earth. ― Lois Lane: Double Down
Let’s all just stop to appreciate the fact that Tench Tilghman was Washington’s Aide-de-camp for over seven years and was only a volunteer for four of those years and just how dedicated he was to his work. Washington stated in a letter that Tilghman didn’t want or believe he should have the same rank as Alexander Hamilton and Richard Kidder Meade and that he also didn’t want to get paid for any of his services, so he turned down any effort to do either of those things. He did the job because he wanted to do the job and wanted nothing in return for it. It was at the pressing of his fellow aides and also Washington’s insistence that he get recognition for all of his hard work since joining the staff, that Tench Tilghman was finally appointed an Official Aide-de-Camp on June 21, 1780 and maintained that position until nearly the end of the war. But that wasn’t enough for Washington. Not only did Washington want him to be an aide, he wanted Tilghman to be allowed to hold a line command as Lieutenant Colonel as well and petitioned Congress to grant it for him. They would finally grant it to him in May of 1781.
In the winter of 1780, he was the only aide at headquarters and did all of the work by himself. When Alexander Hamilton’s fight with Washington broke out on February 16, 1781, Hamilton stated to James McHenry in a letter that he’d quit but had to remain at headquarters working “till more help arrives. At present there is besides myself only Tilghman, who is just recovering from a fit of illness the consequences of too close application to business.” Tilghman had overworked himself so much that winter that it caused him to fall seriously ill and he was forced to take an almost month and a half long break the moment Hamilton returned to headquarters that January. Washington even set a rule in place afterward that stated no less than 3 aides be present at headquarters at all times in order to prevent something like it from happening again.
Tilghman’s modest and disinterested hard work deserves all of the recognition, regardless of what the man says.