Brigadier General Robert Charles Tyler was something of an enigma. He had been wounded
three times and had lost a leg in the battle of Missionary Ridge. He was
credited with capturing four guns at Chickamauga! He is said to have fought
at Belmont, Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Hoover’s Gap, Chickamauga,
and Missionary Ridge. His
remains were placed in the cemetery at West Point.
There has yet to be a report of anyone visiting there who knew him.
General Tyler’s grave is an oddity and a tourist attraction because it is
a twin grave. He shares it with
his next in command, Captain C. Gonzales, a native of Pensacola, FL, and a
very close friend. “Friends in life, together in death, General Robert
Tyler and Captain Gonzales share a last resting place,” is the way Dorothy
Young describes their final resting place in the Confederate cemetery just
off the intersection of U. S. Highway 29 and Georgia Highway 18 in West
Tyler first appeared on April 18, 1861, six days after the bombardment of
Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. On that day, he stepped into the
recruiting office in Jackson, Tennessee with a group of volunteers from
Shelby County. Mustered into the 15th Regiment of the Tennessee
Infantry, he signed his name as "Robert C. Tyler" in a clear, bold
hand that gave evidence of a good education for the time. Under
"age" he wrote "28" and claimed Memphis as hi residence.
Tyler rose rapidly in the enlisted ranks By August, 1861, he was a
major and quartermaster to General Gideon Pillow, and later as a lieutenant
colonel, led his regiment at the battle of Belmont in November 1861.
Wounded at Shiloh, by July 1862, he was colonel of the 15th, and that
autumn, served as provost marshal of Bragg's army in the field. He
received a desperate wound at Chattanooga in November 1863, while at the
head of Bate's old brigade, necessitating the amputation of his left
While convalescing, on March 5, 1864, he received promotion to brigadier
general. He apparently had no home to go to while recovering from his
wound. Instead, he went to West Point, Georgia and its small
Confederate hospital there. He wasn't forgotten by his former comrades.
Bate's old brigade took Tyler's name and bore it proudly until the end of
remained in West Point during the rest of the war and possibly helped
construct the earthwork fort which bore his name. On April 15, 1865,
Tyler had presented his spurs and gold-headed cane to Miss Sallie Fannie
Reid at an evening party. The next morning, he rode to the fort.
It was Easter Sunday, and though Lee had surrendered and Johnston was on the
run, Tyler intended to defend West Point with a handful of militiamen and
conscripts against a full brigade of Federal cavalry advancing on the
It was about this time he realized that Richmond, the Confederate Capitol,
had fallen and he knew the end of the war was near. He did
ended! Because he
desperately wanted to be around for the final defeat of the South, and to
have all of his accomplishments/victories duly recognized, he was imbued
with a strong sense of urgency in his mission at West Point.
To the men who fought and the women and children who suffered and struggled
through it all, this day-long skirmish was truly a “battle.”
In magnitude, however, it did not compare with other famous battles
of the war; Manassas, or instance, in
which nearly 20,000 died (Gen. Pope vs. Lee August 30,1862) and Gettysburg where 40,000 were said to be killed (Gen. Meade vs.
Lee July 1, 1863). Call it what you will, a full-fledged “battle” or
merely the last “skirmish” of the war, it was the end of life for 76
brave souls, Union and Confederate alike, who fell fighting for a cause in
which they truly believed and are now buried in the Confederate Cemetery.
This information is recorded on the marker near the cemetery. (one way to
reconcile the difference between the number 19, which is what Archivist
Allen says is the number of Confederates killed, and the number 76, which
the historical marker indicates is the number of persons buried in the
Confederate Cemetery, is to assume this is a combination of both Confederate
and Union casualties.)
Grave sites of Tyler and Gonzales in Confederate Cemetery
Donald J. Downs, "Last Fort or Redoubt Battle
of the War Between the States"