Posted By:J. R. Bob Powell
Subject:Thomas W. Custer (1845-1876)
Post Date:August 01, 2005 at 12:44:14
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Forum:Battle of Little Big Horn Forum
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Thomas Ward Custer, younger broher of Lieutenant Colonel (Brevet Major General) George Armstrong Custer, was born in Ohio in 1845 and grew up in Monroe, Michigan. He enlisted as a Private, Company H, 15th Ohio Infantry in Sepember 1861 and served three years as an enlisted man prior to being commissioned Second Lieutenant of Troop B, 6th Michigan Cavalry in 1864.

Brother George, by then a Brigadier General of Volunteers commanding Third Cavalry Brigade, Army of the Potomac, obviously pulled some strings, evidenced by the fact that Brother Tom was appointed an Aide-de-Camp on George's staff upon his arrival and served thusly for the remainder of the war.

Tom Custer was the very first to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. His first was for action near Namozine Church, Virginia on 3 April 1865 and his second was for action at Sayler's Creek, Virginia on 6 April 1865 - three days apart. Not so astounding when you consider Brother George was the recommending officer (not to detract from Brother Tom's gallantry and courage).

Mustered out of Volunteer Service as a Brevet Major in November 1865, Tom Custer secured a commission as Second Lieutenant, First U. S. Infantry in February 1866. When Seventh Cavalry was formed five months later, Brother George was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment and secured a transfer and promotion for Brother Tom. The two served together for the remainder of their lives. regiment.

Promoted to Captain in December 1875, Tom Custer was commanding Troop C when he died at the Little Big Horn. According to actual accounts of members of the burial party, Tom Custer's remains were horribly mutilated. So much so that he was only recognizable by tattoos on his arms. This was ascribed to an incident that occurred at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory several years earlier.

Rain-in-the-Face and several other Indian leaders had come to the fort for a parlay. There was a disturbance and Tom Custer, serving as Officer of the Day, ordered them all locked in the guard house. The Indian leaders were humiliated and Rain-in-the-Face reportedly swore that, if the opportunity ever came, he'd cut Tom Custer's heart out and eat it.

According to after-action reports, Tom Custer's abdominal cavity had been roughly incised but no one actually checked whether the heart was missing. For years, Rain-in-the-Face reportedly boasted of fufilling his threat but, over the years, as the Custer Legend grew and sympathy for the Indians waned, he gradually adpoted the position that did nothing.

Tom Custer's remains were removed to the Post Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which is now Leavenworth National Cemetery.