Thomas Ward Custer

 

Thomas Ward Custer (March 15, 1845 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army officer and two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor in the US Civil War. He was a younger brother of General George Custer, perishing with him at the Battle of the Little Big Horn on Last Stand Hill, June 25, 1876. He was born in New Rumley, Ohio, the third son of Emanuel and Maria Custer.

He successfully enlisted in the Union Army in 1861, at age 16, after lying about his age in a previous attempt while still 15. Initially Tom served as an enlisted man until he was commissioned a second lieutenant and later became his brother's aide-de-camp and accompanied him throughout the last year of the war. Tom distinguished himself by winning successively the brevets of captain, major, and lieutenant colonel, although he was barely twenty years of age when the Civil War ended.

Tom was the first man to be awarded two Medals of Honor, both for capturing Confederate regimental flags, one of just nineteen two time winners in US history. On the second occasion he was shot in the face, but was so determined to continue fighting that his division commander had him put under arrest just to get him to a field hospital. Ironically his older brother, George, was the first Union soldier to capture an enemy flag in that war.

He was wounded at Washita in 1868, served in the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873, and the Black Hills Expedition of 1874. He was promoted to Captain in 1875 and was given a command in the 7th Cavalry. Tom died with brothers, George and Boston within yards of one another on Last Stand Hill during the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Thomas Custer's body had been so heavily mutilated it was only possible to identify him by means of a tattoo he was known to have had. It was widely rumored that Rain-in-the-Face, who had escaped from captivity, after being arrested by Thomas, and was a participant at the Little Bighorn, had cut out Tom Custer's heart and eaten it as revenge. Years late Rain-In-The-Face denied such an action stating "I wouldn’t eat a white man’s stinking heart.".

Like the others on the battlefield, a marble marker rests at the approximate place where his body was found. Tom and General Custer’s markers are next to each on Last Stand Hill. The General died a little higher on the hill, near the Monument. Some say they were buried in the same battlefield grave. Tom Custer was exhumed the next year and reburied in Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

It’s a shame Thomas Ward Custer is such a forgotten hero. His bravery in battle possibly even exceeded older brother George’s. The General himself would state often, that it was Tom who should have been the general, not himself. I would love to see a biography or motion picture about Tom, although I think in today’s politically correct climate it will never happen. American’s don’t seem to care about heroes like Tom Custer anymore, to read a book may pull them away from some TV reality show drivel too long.

 

Tom Custer

Gravesite

LBH Marker

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The above video is from my friend who authors Custerwest.org .

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