DANVILLE — If Capt. Tilmon Dwight Kyger could see his 8-foot tall monument today, he would be proud.
For decades his tombstone had looked rather forlorn. It was covered with tree sap, dirt and moss stains. The spire lay broken near the base. A falling tree branch had taken it down during a windstorm. The inscribed reference to his military service looked like “78th” Illinois Infantry, but I knew he had been in the 73rd.
My eyes strained as I attempted to read the Bible verse in small script along the bottom of his epitaph. Now, everyone can clearly see that he was an officer in the famed 73rd Illinois Infantry, the regiment that coined the phrase, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” The two-line verse on the lower part of the stone is easily read, as well.
Several years ago when I first saw his marker, which is south of the Colonel Harmon gravesite in Block One at Spring Hill Cemetery, I felt sad. Here was a brave soldier who rose in rank to become an officer. He had fought hard, risked his life over and over, led his men through battle after battle, and endured cold, heat and sickness to preserve a broken nation and to help free a people. But his stone was deteriorating, and part of it was in pieces on the ground. It reminded me of last year when we dedicated a military marker for Medal of Honor recipient Martin McHugh (McCue) at Resurrection Cemetery. With no evidence of his gravesite, he had been lost for more than 100 years.
I realized that in generations to come, even though Capt. Kyger’s monument would likely still be there, it would become just another faded tombstone and he would become a faded memory.
While researching for an article this past Christmas about Civil War soldiers 150 years ago, I was re-reading the regimental history of the 73rd Illinois Infantry. I saw references to T.D. Kyger and a drawing of the young captain. But when I looked at his image, my mind suddenly pictured his stone in need of repair and restoration.