Ambrose Tyler was born in New York State and came to Michigan with his parents when he was 5 years old. He helped his parents on their farm in Hillsdale and – like many farm boys – initially didn’t enlist in the Civil War. The people in charge of such things said the Southern Insurrection wouldn’t last more than a few weeks. They were certainly wrong!
When the southern rebels didn’t give in and young boys began coming home dead or dismembered, President Lincoln called for 300,000 more men. General McClellan’s army was meeting with failure and “the Young Napoleon,” as they called him, proved he was no army commander.
Mr. Lincoln assigned Henry Waldron of Hillsdale the duty of recruiting a regiment in Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe Counties. Mr. Waldron would travel the countryside, speaking at town meetings, large and small, and calling for men to do their patriotic duty and enlist. In Hillsdale, there was a “Great War Meeting” called on August 12. All stores were closed for the afternoon, bells were rung, and all were told that every man in the County was expected to be present. Men were told, “Don’t wait for the draft!” And in less than two months, 1000 officers and men – the 18th Michigan Infantry - was mustered into service.
The recruits camped – and drilled just East of Hillsdale – on the Emery property next to the Emery Mills. The location was considered a good one, due to the “healthy spring water and conveniences for bathing.” On the day the 18th left camp at Hillsdale, the soldiers marched into town to the depot, many town folks marching right along with them. At the Depot, 1,000 local soldiers boarded the long train to Toledo. At Hudson and Adrian it seemed as if the entire towns had turned out to greet them and bid “God speed.” While waiting at Toledo on the march to the front, an elegant flag of the finest material and workmanship, which had been ordered made by the Hon. Henry Waldon for his regiment, arrived by express.
Ambrose had enlisted as a Private in August of 1862. In March of the next year, he was taken prisoner at Danville, Kentucky and held for seven long months before being exchanged. He felt lucky not to have to endure the horrible prisons further south - at Andersonville and Cahaba – that many of his soldier brothers did. Many of those who survived were never the same. And of those who did, 75 from the 18th Michigan perished in the horrible explosion of the Sultana Steamer, on its way north from Memphis.
Ambrose Tyler was promoted to full Corporal on June 1, 1865 and mustered out later that month, with a lasting affliction being a diseased heart. He continued his association with other veterans through the local Dickerson post of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).
In 1868, Ambrose was married to Louisa White in Branch, they had five children, and he went back to farming.
After surviving all the horrors of the War, plus capture, Corp. Tyler was to die in a freak accident on the streets of Hillsdale on August 25, 1903. Being accompanied by David Watkins of Cambria, he was walking home to his place on South Norwood Ave. at about 10:00 at night, when he stepped off the curb onto Manning Street, at Bacon, and stepped into the path of a team of horses pulling a wagon. Watkins was able to jump back out of the way, but Ambrose wasn’t as lucky. The team and baggage wagon were owned by the Smith Livery, just a half block away, and were turning south onto Manning Street.
Dr. Whelan, also a Civil War Veteran, was summoned and had Ambrose taken to his home, where he died two hours later, never regaining consciousness. The coroner, William Siddall, another Veteran, decided against an inquest.
Ambrose Tyler was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, in Soldier’s Circle, with many fellow Civil War soldiers.
- Carol A. Lackey