James Dean Tilford, Sr. – Colonel, United States Army

James Dean Tilford of North Dakota
Appointed from New York, Private, Troop C, New York Cavalry, July to 25 November 1898
Appointed Second Lieutenant of Infantry, 10 April 1899
Transferred to the 1st United States Cavalry, 10 May 1899
Promoted to First Lieutenant, 2 February 1901

NOTE: Colonel Tilford was born at Fort Abraham Lincoln, North Dakota and died in 1952 in Sarasota, Florida.

Research regarding the Colonel continues.


Colonel Tilford (1877-1952) is buried in Section 2, Grave 1205, of Arlington National Cemetery, along with his wife, Helen M. Ferguson Tilford (1883-1953).  They are buried with the Colonel's father, Joseph Green Tilford, Brigadier General, United States Army.

Buried nearby (Section 2, Grave 1172-2) is the Colonel's son, James Dean Tilford, Jr., Major, United States Air Force (1921-2000) and his wife, Emily Jane Tilford (1924-1997).

The following documents concerning Colonel Tilford
were supplied by Richard Tilford:

James Dean Tilford

Born on 15 July 1877 at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, the son of Joseph Green Tilford and Cornelia Van Ness Dean Tilford.  He prepared for Princeton under a private tutor.

After leaving Princeton in 1899, he entered the United States Army, completing three years of service in the Philippines and elsewhere.  He was appointed First Lieutenant, First United States Cavalry at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.  He was subsequently promoted to Captain and Assistant Quartermaster for a period of four years and for a period of time was on duty at Havana, Cuba, in connection with the raising of the USS Maine.

From The 50th Year Reunion Book of the Princeton Class of 1901:

Colonel, United States Army (Retired)

Dean was born July 15, 1877 at Fort Lincoln, Nebraska.  He left college in 1898 to join the United States Army and saw service during the Spanish-American War in Puerto Rico.  He then served in the Philippines where for three years he fought in the insurrection there.  He then went through the Ute Indian Campaign in South Dakota in 1907, the second Cuban Intervention in 1908 and was at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914.  When the United States entered World War I, Dean was a Major of Cavalry and was quickly promoted to Colonel in command of the 314th Ammunition Train, 89th Infantry Division.  He served in the St. Mihel offensive and the Toul Defensive Sector.

After the war he was, for a time, assigned to Boston as Federal Instructor with the Massachusetts National Guard.  He retired, after a distinguished military record, in 1923.

He married Helen Morewood Ferguson in 1912.  Their children were: James Dean, Jr. (born January 17, 1921), Princeton 1943; Mrs. Martha Ferguson Green.  They also have three grandsons.

His clubs are: Fisher’s Island, New York; Rolling Rock Club, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Army & Navy Club, Washington, D.C.

His address is: Fisher’s Island, New York.

Letters from the Class:

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, September 21, 1904

Dear Frank:

Your last appeal for help just received and after a trip to Fort Clark, Texas, my station, at last reached me here.  Please let me know the amount you want from me and I will send check.

My only excuse for not witing long ago is the fact that I have but recently returned, after over three years in the Philippines, and they say that after one has spent one year there he loses whatever intellect he ever possesses, and so lay it all to my mental condition.

Since leaving Princeton I received an appointment in the First United States Calvary, and my first station was Fort Yates, North Dakota.  In September 1900, we sailed for the Philippines, and for three years assisted our “little brown brothers” in learning the benefits of civilization.  Knocked about Japan and China a bit in 1900 and 1902, and in October 1903, returned to God’s country.

Am not married, and see no immediate prospects of attaining that happy state.  Just now I am attending the United States Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and will probably remain here all winter.  While on leave this simmer met George Priest and “Coon” Boyd.  Parson haste.  Let me know all my back dues and I will “fork up.”

Give my best to all the class.

Very sincerely, J. D. Tilford, 1st Lieut. 1st Cavalry


J. D. Tilford
Captain & Quartermaster
March 31, 1911
Quartermaster supervising shipment of such remains as may be removed from the wreck of the Battleship “Maine.” Left Newport News, Virginia, June 9 and arrived at Havana, Cuba June 12, 1911.

SPECIAL ORDERS                                                              WAR DEPARTMENT
No. 111                                                                             Washington, May 12, 1911


10. Captain James D. Tilford, Quartermaster, will proceed without delay to Havana, Cuba, for the purpose of supervising the preparation and shipment to the United States of such remains as may be removed from the wreck of the battleship “Maine,” and upon the completion of this duty will return to his proper station.  In making the journey to Havana, Captain Tilford will proceed via this city for the purpose of consulting with the Quartermaster General of the Army with reference to the duty contemplated.  The travel directed is necessary in the military service.


Major General, Chief of Staff

Adjutant General

Havana, Cuba, August 18, 1911

The Quartermaster General
United States Army
War Department, Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to submit the following report:

Up to date twenty-three bodies have been recovered from the Battleship USS Maine.  I believe that the identification of Assistant Engineer Merritt’s (Darwin R. Merritt) remains is positive.  His body was found in exactly the position that Ensign Boyd testified that he last saw Mr. Merritt.  The height of the skeleton and the skull exactly fit the description of Mr. Merritt; besides this portion of an officer’s uniform and buttons from an officer’s coat were found with the bones.  I send herewith a dentists description of the fillings found in the teeth of the skull marked “A.”

There is absolutely no way of identifying the other remains found, but I have prepared a list which is submitted herewith and marked “B,” showing where these bodies were recovered.  In no case was a vestige of clothing or anything found with these remains that gives any clue to who they were.

Upon the arrival of the “North Carolina” in this port, it seemed to me a most opportune time to ship Mr. Merritt’s remains back to the United States and I took up the matter with Captain Marah, the Commanding Officer of the ship.  He sent a cablegram to the Secretary of the Navy, stating that if no reply was received he would take the remains on board.  So far as I know no reply was received by him up to the date of the sailing of the ship, and I assumed the responsibility of turning the remains over to him.

Fifteen of the remains of the unidentified dead are in La Cabana Fortress under a Cuban military guard; seven more bodies will be sent there in a few days.

The three months employment of O. B. Jenkins as official undertaker will terminate August 9th and I see no reason why his employment be continued.  To my mind but few if any bodies remain in the wreck, and these few bones could be handled by the force working on the wreck.  Mr. Jenkins has been a most intelligent and hard working expert in his business and he can leave behind such instructions that would cause the remains to be properly placed in caskets.

I desire to state that every courtesy has been extended to me by the representatives of the Cuban Government, and particularly by Major Pujol, the commanding officer at La Cabana Fortress.

I have never asked for anything from the “Maine” Commission that has not been furnished at once.  They have at all times granted me every possible assistance.

Very respectfully,

Captain, Quartermaster, U.S.A.


Twelve of the bodies in cases marked 1, 2, 3, (four in each case) were found on the starboard side forward of the conning tower between 49 and 50 (Engineer’s lines) in a space of fourteen by fifteen feet.

Box marked No. 4 contains one unidentified U.S. Sailor, found on berth deck over boiler room amidships.

Box marked No. 5 contain the remains of one unidentified U.S. Sailor found on berth deck over boiler room amidships.

Box No. 6 contains the remains of one unknown U.S. Sailor found on berth deck over boiler room amidships.

Box No. 7 contains the remains of one unknown U. S. Sailor found on berth deck over boiler room amidships.

Box No. 8 contains the remains of Assistant Engineer Darwin R. Merritt, found on berth deck, centerline 31.

Box No. 9 contains the remains of one unknown U. S. Sailor found in tourist’s pantry, berth deck.

One case containing parts of five unknown bodies which were found on the berth deck, port side, amidships.


A full set of teeth.  The first and second molars were filled with gold filling and both bicuspids were filled with gold.

Batangas, P. I., December 21st 1901

J. D. Tilford
First Lieutenant, 1st Cavalry
Commanding Troop “D”

Report of scout December 19th and 20th.  Casualties Troop “D”, None.  Killed 17, wounded and captured 2 insurgents.  Captured 16 rifles, 506 rounds of ammunition; 14 war bolos; 1 rifle Krag No 116971; 1 belt; 2 haversacks; 1 canteen; 1 cup marked “L – 20th.

Native guide slightly wounded.

1st Lieutenant J. D. Tilford
Batangas, Batangas Prov, P.I.
December 22nd 1901

Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant General, 3rd Separate Brigade, Batangas, Bantagas, P.I.  This is one of the many successful expeditions that this young officer has made in the past year.  If there is any way of rewarding him for his service I hope it will be done.

(Sgd)  A. B. Wells
Colonel, 1st Cavalry

A True Copy

Headquarters 3rd Separate Brigade, Department of North Philippines
Batangas, Bantagas Prov., December 24th 1901.

1st Lieut. J.D. Tilford
1st Cavalry. P. I.


It gives me much gratification to be able to commend you for your work in locating and destroying the band of insurgents which you did so successfully on the night of December 29th near Barrio of Slranglupa on top of the Loboo Mountains.

This together with other similar work of yours, recently reported to me, shows the efficient, soldierly qualities so necessary for a young officer to possess.

Very respectfully

(Sgd) J. F. Bell
Brig. Gen. U.S.A.

A True Copy

Batangas, P.I. Oct. 24th 1901

J. D. Tilford
1st Lieut. 1st Cavalry

Report of Scout Oct. 20th to 22nd 1901, vicinity of Taysan

1st Endorsement
Batangas, Batangas Province, P.I.
October 24th 1901

Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant General, 1st District, Department of Southern Luzon, Batangas, P.I.

Few expeditions in this province against the enemy have been attended with greater hardships than that of Lieut. Tilford’s.  The expedition was out in a drenching rain for two nights, so dark as to render necessary the lighting of candles in order that the dim trail of the insurgents might be followed over the high peaks and across ravines and canyons, making it necessary to lower the animals down the sides of the mountains by lariats into the ravines below.

Considering the condition of the weather and the almost insurmountable obstacles overcome by him, this preserving young officer merits a favorable note from superior headquarters.

(Sgd) A. B. Wells
Colonel 1st Cavalry

A True Copy


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/15/1883
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/06/1953
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 11/10/1953


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 07/15/1877
  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/30/1952
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 01/05/1953

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