Tilghman Davis

Youngest son Tilghman Davis began his work as an enslaved person as a child and became a house servant as an adult, and eventually a driver or coachman for the Ridgely family. This high-status position involved driving the carriages and caring for the carriage and racing horses, as well as the personal horses of the Ridgely family.

Despite this more “elevated” position with the household, the upheavals of the Civil War led the young man to take a dramatic step. In spring 1863, Tilghman and nine others sought their freedom from Hampton, most from the Hawkins purchase. They were all captured and held in the Baltimore City jail. While we know that John Ridgely offered Tilghman, his brother Louis and a fellow enslaved man George Humphreys to a Union Army recruiting officer in 1864, we do not know if he entered military service

The dark blue with gold trim livery worn by Tilghman Davis
Livery coat and cape worn by Tilghman Davis, 1888. Image courtesy, Maryland Center for History and Culture.

Not to be downloaded or reproduced without written permission of the Maryland Center for History and Culture

After Emancipation, Tilghman lived in Baltimore City, where African Americans were establishing schools, churches, and political, civic, charitable, fraternal, and benevolent organizations, all of which supplied support for the recently emancipated. Tilghman had a wife, Elizabeth and they had eight children. The family lived at several residences in Baltimore City neighborhoods including Mount Vernon and Bolton Hill.

In later years, Tilghman returned to paid employment with the Ridgelys as a coachman when the family moved seasonally to the city, an occupation confirmed in the recent rediscovery of his 1888 coachman’s livery in the collection of costume material donated by the Ridgely family to the Maryland Center for History and Culture in 1944. Tilghman’s fine livery coat and cape is replete with buttons with the Ridgely family crest. This traditional garb would have been worn by Tilghman when he was fulfilling his duties as a carriage driver.

Last updated: February 20, 2023

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