The Tillman Men in the Civil War

After a summer break from my family history blog while I moved, traveled, and pursued my art interests, I’m finishing up the series on our McCune and Cousins ancestors who served in the Civil War with the next two posts. Today’s blog post features the Tillman men of Upson County, GA.

I last wrote about the Civil War service of Andrew J. “Frank” McCune, Granddaddy Bill’s paternal grandfather. The Tillman men were from Granddaddy Bill’s maternal side of the family. His great-grandfather, George Taylor Tillman (1822-1877), his grandfather, John Wesley Tillman (1843-1897, father of Carrie Tillman), and his great-uncle, Joseph Doras Tillman (1844-1927) were all residents of Upson County, GA, and served in the Confederate Army. The three men are included in the History of Upson County, Georgia, in a list naming the privates who served under Capt. John Lewis, Company I, 32nd Ga Regiment. I’ve also located their Confederate military records on to confirm their service.

Upson County is where Thomaston is located and the current home of James McCune and Mark and Julie McCune Jones. My parents, James and Mary McCune, moved to Thomaston in 1971 with my sister, Julie, and me , but we never knew our ancestors were from there until I began my genealogy research.

George T. and his father, William Aaron Tillman (1778-ca1865), were farmers and landowners in Upson County. I’ve seen their surname spelled various ways in different records: Tighlman, Tilmon, and Tillman. To keep it simple, I’ll use the Tillman spelling uniformly. In 1852, William Aaron owned 202.5 acres valued at $1500[1]. In 1871 George T. Tillman owned 202 acres valued at $1500[2]. Following his father’s death in circa 1865, George T. was appointed the administrator of his father’s estate and possibly inherited that land. Then in 1873 he owned 140 acres valued at $800, and his son, John W. Tillman, owned 10 acres at $200[3]. By 1878, after their father George T. died, John W. owned 68 acres and his brother, Joseph, owned 100 acres[4]. So once again in our family tree, we see that our ancestors were farmers who left their lands to fight in a war and then returned home to continue farming.

If George entered the war in 1862, he was an older soldier at 40 years of age. John Wesley would have been 19 and his brother, Joseph, 18. From my research, it appears that all three men were in the Woodson Guards, Company I, 32nd Georgia Regiment. This regiment convened in Savannah in May 1862 and included men from the Georgia counties of Burke, Clay, Dougherty, Emanuel, Jasper, Monroe, Talbot, Upson, and Washington. They defended Savannah, fought in a North Carolina campaign, and engaged in fights at Battery Wagner, Olustee, James Island, Waynesborough and Honey Hill.[5]  The brothers served until 26 Apr 1865 when they surrendered with their regiment in Greensboro, NC, at the end of the Civil War. So I wonder who looked after their farm land during the years they were gone. I don’t have any evidence that they owned slaves so I assume their wives and children, and maybe older male relatives, worked the fields.

The Battle of Olustee on 20 Feb 1864 in north Florida was a significant battle for this regiment.  There’s a complete website dedicated to it, and every February a battle re-enactment is held. Read about it at The Olustee Battlefield Historic Park is just south of Osceola National Forest between Jacksonville and Lake City, FL, and can be reached on U.S. 90.

On the day of the battle, the Union Army was under the command of Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour while the Confederate Army was led by Brig. Gen. Joseph Finegan. The 32nd Georgia Infantry was under the command of Maj. Washington Holland in Col. George Harrison’s Brigade. The Confederate side won and the Union soldiers retreated to Jacksonville[6].

If you visit the website, click on the link “Confederate Order of Battle” and then “32nd Georgia Regiment” for a muster roll of enlisted men. This is how our ancestors are listed:

Tillman, George -Private.

 Tillman, Joel Dorsey (or Joseph Doras) -Appointed

Musician of Co. I, 6th Regiment Ga. State Troops October

18, 1861. Mustered out April 1862. Enlisted as a Private

in Co. I, 32d Regiment Ga. Inf. May 7, 1862. Surrendered,

Greensboro, North Carolina, April 26, 1865. (Born in

Georgia, November 23, 1844. Died in 1927.)

 Tillman, John Wesley -Appointed Musician of Co. I, 6th

Regiment Ga. State Troops October 18, 1861. Mustered out

April 1862. Enlisted as a Private in Co. I, 32d Regiment

Ga. Inf May 7, 1862. Sick in Georgia Hospital at

Savannah, Georgia,  August – November 1862. Surrendered,

Greensboro, North Carolina, April 26, 1865[7].

John Wesley Tillman, l, and his brother Joseph Doras (photo owned by Robert Hurst and used with permission of Thomas R. Fasulo, website manager for Battle of Olustee website (
John Wesley Tillman, left, and his brother, Joseph Doras. (Photo owned by Robert Hurst;  permission to use image granted by Thomas R. Fasulo, website manager for Battle of Olustee website (

As you can see, John and his brother, Joel or Joseph, were listed as musicians. According to the website, the instruments played were drums, fifes, and bugles, but I don’t know which ones our ancestors played. The website further explains:

Field musicians represented the communications network of the Civil War army, not the “entertainment” – that was the job of the “band.” Ideally, during the war, each company in an infantry regiment had a drummer and a fifer. A regiment usually had at least one bugler, and buglers were assigned at the brigade level and division levels as well. The buglers would send orders through the levels of command, and ultimately, the fifers and drummers would relay the signals to the men in the companies. Unit preludes, or special calls designed to apply only to a certain unit, were used when a signal was to apply only to that unit.[8]

So it appears that John Wesley and Joseph had significant responsibilities to their regiment and fellow soldiers. Musicians had to be “on ready” at all times.

The entry mentions that John Wesley was a patient in the Georgia Hospital at Savannah from August to November 1862. I don’t know if he was ill or wounded. If he filed for a war pension in his later years, I haven’t found it online yet, but new records are being added daily, and maybe one day I’ll learn more about his Confederate service.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia online, I learned that early in the Civil War Georgia hospitals were placed under the direction of Samuel H. Stout, an administrator from Tennessee. The Georgia Volunteer Infantry was part of the Army of Tennessee, CSA. There were two types of hospitals, field hospitals that accompanied the armies and general hospitals set up in towns and cities. An interesting bit of information is that both Columbus and Thomaston were among 39 Georgia towns that hosted hospitals at different times during the war. These general hospitals were typically located in towns near railroad lines so injured and sick soldiers could be more easily transported. As the war progressed, the hospitals were constantly relocated to avoid dangers. Many hospitals had to surrender to Union soldiers[9].

Civil War hospital (Wikimedia Commons, image in public domain).
Civil War hospital (public domain image from NARA, accessed 8/15/16)

The Savannah hospital evidently didn’t last long because Fort Pulaski was captured by the Union Army in April 1862 and the portside of the city was blockaded. Then it fell to Sherman in December 1864.

Our 2x Great-Grandfather John Wesley must have been fairly sick or hurt to spend four months in the hospital. I learned from several online reference sites that medical knowledge during the mid-1800s was very rudimentary, to say the least. Knowledge of how diseases spread was virtually non-existent. Most doctors had only a couple of years of medical training, didn’t know about good hygiene and sanitation, had never performed surgeries or treated gunshot wounds, and were infiltrated with quacks[10].

Twice as many Civil War soldiers died from diseases as from war injuries. The top three killers were typhoid, dysentery, and pneumonia. Other illnesses that infected the ranks were malaria, measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox. Poor hygiene, contaminated food and water, close contact with other sick soldiers, inadequate latrines and sanitation removal, and mosquitoes and lice were some of the causes of widespread illnesses and death. Opium, mustard plasters, mercury, chalk, quinine, and turpentine were some of the “meds” used.  Chloroform saturating a cloth held over the nose was used for anesthesia and whiskey was administered for pain, if they were available. Doctors didn’t wash their hands or sanitize their surgical instruments between patients. Blood poisoning and gangrene were common following amputations and surgery[11].

Even though we don’t know exactly what happened to John Wesley, any of the maladies described sound equally horrible. He survived, continued to fight, and married Rebecca Oaks of Upson County in 1866. John Wesley and Rebecca had nine children. The 1870 U.S. census shows him living two houses down from his father’s farm with his wife, Rebecca, and two young children and working as a farmhand. The 1880 census shows him still farming and now supporting seven children. His death on 12 Jun 1897 at age 54 is recorded in the Tilghman-Tillman Family History. I haven’t located a newspaper obituary notice or death record for him and don’t know where he’s buried.

His brother Joseph lived 30 more years. I located a pension record for him which was filed in Taylor County, GA, in 1910. According to the record, he owned one mule, valued at $125; two hogs worth $20 and household and kitchen furniture valued at $150. His total annual earnings came from crops on a “one-horse farm[12].” His pension was approved. I’m not sure if Joseph ever married because none of the censuses I’ve found him in name a wife and/or children with him. In 1870 he lived with his parents, in 1880 he lived with his mother, in 1900 he lived with a nephew, and in 1920 at age 75 he was in the home of his sister in Pike County, GA, and is listed as a widower. J.D. Tillman died 26 Oct 1927 and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Thomaston, GA.

Gravestone of George Taylor Tillman, Brown Cemetery, Upson County, GA (
Gravestone of George Taylor Tillman, Brown Cemetery, Upson County, GA.

Our 3x Great-grandfather, George T. Tilman, died in 1877 and is buried in Brown Cemetery with his wife Almeda in rural Upson County. These are the graves that Mike and I were able to find many years ago. His simple tombstone is inscribed “G. T. Tilman, Co. I, 32 Ga. Regt.[13].

Remarkably, these three men lived through the Civil War and are among at least five of our ancestors who fought  and lived to tell about it. I’m sure there are others that I haven’t identified yet. In the next blog, I’ll tell you about Grandmother McCune’s grandfather, Eli Fletcher Williams, from Alabama. And then I’m leaving the Civil War behind!




[1]   Upson County, Militia District 537, 1852, Georgia Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892, digital image, ( accessed 2015).

[2] Upson County, Militia District 537, 1871, Georgia Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892, digital image, ( accessed 29 Aug 2016).

[3] Upson County, Militia District 537, 1873-1877, Georgia Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892, digital image, ( accessed 29 Aug 2016).

[4] Upson County, Militia District 361, 1878-1822, Georgia Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892, digital image ( accessed 29 Aug 2016).

[5] Eastern Digital Resources, Research OnLine ( 8/11/16), Georgia 32nd Infantry Regiment.

[6] Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park Citizens Support Organization, Battle of Olustee ( (accessed: March 2016), “The Battle of Olustee.”

[7] Battle of Olustee  ( March 2016), “Confederate Order of Battle” and USGENWEB (

[8] Battle of Olustee ( accessed March 2016), “Olustee Battle Reenactment.”

[9] Schroeder-Lein, Glenna R., “Confederate Hospitals,” New Georgia Encyclopedia: History and Archaeology: Civil War & Reconstruction, 1861-1877  ( accessed 15 August 2016).

[10] Goellnitz, Jenny, comp., “Civil War Medicine: An Overview of Medicine,” eHistory, The Ohio State University Department of History ( accessed 11 Aug 2016).

[11] Ibid

[12] Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960, database image, ( accessed 28 Jul 2016).

[13] U.S. Find a Grave Index, 1600s – Current ( accessed 2015), gravestone image added by Thomaston-Upson Archives.


  1. Charles McDaniel said:

    Read your excellent article. I have extensive information on the Tillman family. Happy to share. The McDaniel family and Tillman family had land very near each other and married. The McDaniel family Cemetery is just across the Flint river in ,Talbot county ,near the Brown Cemetery. It is my understanding the Tillman brothers are buried in the confederate section of Glenwood in Thomaston or at least one of them.

    February 8, 2017
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Thank you, Charles. I would love to see your Tillman information. Thank you for your offer. I’ll be in touch.

      February 8, 2017
  2. Bill Hines said:

    Hello Christine

    My brother has done some research on our family and has been a member of the Son’s of the Confederacy . I am impressed with what you have published. Hope you dad is doing well.

    March 24, 2017
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Hi Bill,
      Glad you enjoyed the family history posts. Genealogy has been an interest of mine for many years. Dad is doing well at 86! Thanks for the contact.

      March 24, 2017
  3. Billy McDaniel said:

    I have information on the Tillman Family, will be glad to share it.

    July 11, 2017
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Yes, thank you, I would welcome your information. I’m traveling out-of-state right now, but will contact you in August.

      July 11, 2017
  4. Christiane (Tillman)Williams said:

    I loved this article on the Tillman family! I shared it with my father, and he loved it. He never had the opportunity to meet his grandfather Isaac Frank Tillman. It meant a lot to him to see a photo of his great grandfather, John Wesley. Thank you for sharing.

    December 29, 2017
    • Christine Ellington said:

      Thank you for your comment, Christiane. I’m so glad your family enjoyed the article, and your father got to see a photo of John Wesley Tillman! It’s great to hear from more cousins!

      January 1, 2018

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