Thomas Ward Custer
1845 - 1876
Thomas Ward Custer, younger brother of George Armstrong Custer, died with his brother at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. He was 31.
Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio on March 15, 1845. The fourth of five children, Tom was five and a half years younger than his famous brother George.
George graduated from West Point in 1861, and participated in the First Battle of Manassas. His exploits were legendary during the Civil War, as he rose to Brevet Major General by war’s end at the young age of 25.
But at the same time, younger brother Tom was compiling an impressive record of his own, although big brother George would always overshadow him.
Tom tried to enlist in the Union army when he was sixteen, but had to wait another year before being accepted. Enlisting as a private, Custer by war’s end had attained the rank of Brevet Major, and had earned two Medals of Honor, one of only four men in the history of the military to do so.
His first Medal of Honor came from his capture of rebel colors at Namozine Church in Virginia, and the second for similar actions at Sailor Creek, Virginia.
After the war, Tom joined his older brother in the 7th Cavalry. In 1868, he was a first lieutenant in Company B, and was wounded in the hand during a skirmish with the Cheyenne Indians.
In 1870, the 7th Cavalry was assigned duty in the South as part of Reconstruction. The next assignment took the unit to Dakota Territory where the Sioux Indians were on the warpath.
In February 1876, war with the Sioux had begun, and the 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, was dispatched as part of General Alfred Terry’s command to quell the rebellion.
By this time, a third Custer brother, Boston, had been recruited by the 7th Cavalry as a civilian packer.
On the morning of June 25, Custer’s men spotted a Sioux village in the eastern corner of Montana near the Little Big Horn River. Custer ordered an attack, and split his command into three units.
Before the other two units could rejoin him, an Indian force too large for the 7th to contain attacked Custer. Custer and the 7th were wiped out to the last man.
Three Custers died on that June 25, 1876 date at the Little Big Horn---George, Tom and Boston. George and Tom were buried next to each other where they fell. Their bodies were later reburied---George at West Point and Tom at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The remains of most of the other soldiers, including brother Boston, were left at the battle site.