My Georgia History

Charles Dawson Tilly

Charles Tilly’s picture hanging in the rotunda.

Charles Dawson Tilly was born June 16, 1845  in Carlow, Ireland.   “He entered Dublin University at an early age and finished his education in Paris.  He then came to the United States and in 1869 was induced to go to Augusta, Georgia by Major Branch, of the firm of Branch  Scott & Co., and whose employee he continued until 1873, when he entered upon business on his own account.  He was always noted as a businessman of energy and correctness.  It is said he had an uncle who was a clergyman of the established Church of Ireland.  His mother and father had been dead for some years.  A sister is said to have married an English nobleman.”  [facts per his obituary, 1875]

Mr. Charles Tilly had moved into the house owned by Mary Clarke de L’Aigle on Green Street in Augusta.

Mary Clarke de L’Aigle House

Mary de L’Aigle was a widow with three children who had turned her home into a boarding house to help make ends meet.  Mary built the house in 1873 and Charles Tilly had rented a room in the basement of the house.  The house still stands today across from the Signers’ Monument.

The year was 1875 and Charles Ratcliff lived in Augusta.  Word got to Charles Tilly that Radcliffe was accusing Tilly of having an affair with Mary.  Well, Charles Tilly did the proper thing.  As a gentleman he told Radcliffe to take back his words, or he would challenge him to a duel.  Charles Ratcliff did not take back his words and prepared to duel with Tilly.  The date was, December 15, 1875, down on Sandbar Ferry Road near the Savannah River.  Dueling was legal at the time and over the years many duels had been fought there.  On this day, Charles met Charles dueling with pistols.  In the fight

Charles Dawson Tilly grave stone

Charles Tilly was mortally wounded.  He was taken back to his room, in the de L’Aigle house, where he died two days later on December 17, 1875.  Mr. Tilly was buried in the family plot of the young widow whose honor he was defending in the duel.

Later the law changed in Georgia and dueling became illegal.  The last legal duel was between Charles Tilly and Charles Radcliff.  Mary Clarke de L’Aigle’s daughter, Louise, donated money years later to build the office building of Magnolia Cemetery in honor of her mother and ordered that Mr. Tilly’s portrait be hung in the rotunda where it hangs today.

Written by Mark Woodard

Research sources:

1. Jerry W. Murphy, Records Clerk Public Works Cemeteries Section, Augusta, Georgia

2. “Cemetery holds wealth of history” Augusta Chronicle April 20, 2002, Staff writer Sylvia Cooper.

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