A Civil War Biography

Davis Tillson

Tillson was born 14 April 1830 in Rockland, Maine. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1849 but was forced to resign before graduating due to a foot injury. The injury eventually led to the foot being amputated. He was elected to the Maine legislature in 1857 and in 1858 was named adjutant-general of the state. He supported the campaign of Abraham Lincoln and following the inauguration was appointed collector of customs of Maine's Waldoboro district. He resigned this position to join the 2nd Battery 1st Maine Mounted Light Artillery in which he was made a captain when the battery mustered in 20 November 1861.

Due to the Trent Affair, the 1st Maine remained in Augusta and Portland to counter any possible action from the British until 2 April 1862 when the 2nd battery was ordered to Washington where it was attached to the 2nd brigade of Irvin McDowell's 2nd division in the Army of the Rappahannock. Tillson was promoted to major on 22 May 1862. He was chief of artillery in Edward O C Ord's division assigned to the Washington defenses.

At Cedar Mountain on 9 August 1862 Tillson commanded the artillery in McDowell's III Corps having been assigned as chief of artillery. Tillson continued as chief of artillery during the three day artillery fight at Rappahannock Station and at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 24 December 1862 and assigned as inspector of artillery. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 21 March 1863, to rank from 29 November 1862, and on 29 March 1863 was ordered to Cincinnati, Ohio and assigned as chief of artillery in the Department of Ohio where he was in charge of the defenses of Cincinnati and the works on the Louisville and Nashville railroad. While assigned in Ohio he raised and organized two regiments of heavy artillery. In December 1863, he was ordered to Knoxville, Tennessee, to supervise the defensive fortifications there. He also was given command of the 2nd brigade of the 4th division in the XXIII Corps which he led in several engagements with Confederate cavalry and irregulars.

While in Knoxville he applied to Ulysses S. Grant, then the overall western theater commander, for permission to raise a regiment of colored artillery to defend the city. The 1st regiment heavy artillery US Colored Troops was mustered into service on 20 February 1864 and assigned to Tillson's 2nd brigade. The 3rd North Carolina mounted infantry, also made up of colored troops, was organized in Knoxville in June 1864 with Tillson's urging and, attached to Tillson's 2nd brigade, was primarily occupied with scout and patrol duties. Tillson was given command of the District of East Tennessee in January 1865. He ended the war in command of the 4th division XXIII Corps assigned to the Department of the Cumberland. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 13 March 1865.

When the war ended he offered his resignation, but the request was denied and he was put in charge of the Freedman's Bureau in Tennessee then Georgia. The Freedman's Bureau, more formally the Bureau of Refugees Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, was established by the US Congress in March 1865 as part of the War Department to assist newly emancipated slaves to adjust to their new lives, to deal with the numerous refuges created by the war, and to restore abandoned land and property. Tillson retired on 14 January 1867. He remained in Georgia engaged in cotton planting for a year then returned to Rockland. In 1870 he established a granite quarry on Hurricane Island in Penobscot Bay. Granite from Tillson's quarry is one of the major components of the Washington Monument. Tillson died 30 April 1895 in Rockland.

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