Thursday, April 16, 2009
Last General Killed in the Civil War - West Point, Georgia
Brigadier General Robert C. Tyler is often overlooked in writings about Civil War generals, but the Tennessee born Confederate commander holds a unique place in the history of the war. He was the last general of either side killed in action in the Civil War.
Born in 1833, Tyler lived in Tennessee, Maryland and even California before the war. In 1856 he took part in one of filibusterer William Walker's expeditions to Nicaragua. By 1861 he was back in Tennessee, where he volunteered as a private in Company D, 15th Tennessee Infantry. His military abilities were apparent and Tyler quickly advanced through the ranks.
A devoted supporter of General Braxton Bragg, Tyler achieved a staff position with the army and went on to command the combined 15th and 37th Tennessee Infantries. At the Battle of Chickamauga, "with the yells of demons" he led his men in a wild charge that ovewhelmed a Union battery. Falling wounded in the second day of fighting at Chickamauga, he was praised by other officers for his bravery, with one lieutenant colonel noting that "never did I see greater courage and daring."
Tyler recovered and commanded a brigade in Bragg's siege of Chattanooga. He was severely wounded at Missionary Ridge. Surgeons amputated his leg after the battle and while most such wounded soldiers would have gone home to recuperate, Tyler had no home. Instead he wound up at West Point, Georgia, where there was a Confederate hospital and where his friend, Captain Celestine Gonzalez of the 1st Florida Infantry commanded the small post.
When the Union column of Colonel Oscar H. LaGrange arrived in West Point on April 16, 1865, General Tyler took up positions in Fort Tyler overlooking the town. Despite an overwhelming superiority in numbers, it took the Federals almost an entire day to reduce the fort. When they finally did, Tyler lay dead beneath its flagstaff. According to local legend, he swore to the citizens of the town that he would either defend them or die in the effort. He kept his word.
The last general on either side killed during the Civil War, General Tyler was laid to rest in the Fort Tyler Cemetery, located opposite the Chattahoochee River from the fort. He is buried in a common grave with his friend, Captain Gonzalez, who also fell in the defense of Fort Tyler.
To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/forttyler2.