Thomas Weir (American soldier)
|Thomas Benton Weir|
|Born||28 Sept 1838|
|Died||9 Dec 1876
New York City
|Allegiance||United States of America
|Service/branch||United States Army
|Years of service||1861–76|
|Rank||Captain (Regular Army)|
|Commands held||Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry|
Captain Thomas Benton Weir (1838–1876) was an officer in the 7th Cavalry Regiment (United States), notable for his participation in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand, where Weir led a force that attempted to come to Custer's aid, but was driven back to established defensive positions. A hill on the battlefield, Weir Point, is named in his honor and marks the furthest point of the advance of the would-be relief force.
Reportedly deeply depressed by his experience in the historic battle, Weir's health declined, and he died only a few months afterwards.
Civil War Experience
Weir graduated from the University of Michigan in June 1861. On August 27, 1861, he enlisted in Company B of the 3rd Michigan Cavalry and earned quick promotion to First Sergeant. By October 1861, he earned promotion to 2nd Lieutenant in October. In June 1862 Weir was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.
Shortly afterwards, he was taken prisoner by the Confederate States Army and was promoted again to Captain during the seven months he was held captive. After his release, Weir was given the job of Assistant Inspector General on the staff of (brevet) Major General George Armstrong Custer.
Battle of the Little Bighorn and Weir Point
During the Indian Wars on the Great Plains, Weir commanded Company D of the 7th Cavalry under Custer, as part of a two-pronged attack on a large Native American encampment on the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25, 1876. Custer had led a detachment north to attack the camp from that direction. Three companies, with Major Marcus Reno in overall command, attacked the south end of the village, but Reno's forces retreated from their initial attack on the south end of the village to a hilltop nearby, now known as Reno Hill, where they were joined by another three companies including Weir's Company D led by Captain Frederick Benteen as well as a pack train carrying supplies.
Weir (and eventually other soldiers including Benteen) moved north from the defensive position in the direction of the sound of firing from the direction where Custer had headed. Weir and those soldiers retreated to Reno Hill under attack where they were under further attack until relieved by Alfred Terry two days later, when the Native American warriors withdrew.
Also known as Weir Ridge, Weir Point is about three miles south from where Custer and the soldiers with him were killed. Weir Point is the location where Captain Weir and those with him realized that Custer was beyond their aid, and that hostile warriors were advancing towards the relief force in substantial numbers. From Weir Point the surviving members of the 7th Cavalry withdrew back to the already-established defensive positions on Reno Hill.
In the present era, Weir Point is a modest pull-off on the paved lane that ends at Reno Hill, also known as the Reno-Benteen Battlefield. Weir Point is marked with an illustrated roadside sign naming the hill and showing an artist's rendition of what the artist believed Weir and those with him saw: clouds of dust rising from the bluffs to the north where Custer and his men were wiped out.
Weir's Decline and Death
Deeply shaken by his experience after the famous battle and showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress, Weir's mental health declined rapidly. Weir wrote letters to Custer's widow, Elizabeth Bacon Custer, hinting at untold matters regarding her husband's death. Formally posted back to New York City on recruiting duty, in the final months of his life he refused to go outside, began to drink heavily and in his last days was said to be extremely nervous, to the point of being unable to swallow. He died in New York City less than six months after Custer's death, reportedly in a state of extreme depression. He was buried at the Fort Columbus post cemetery on Governors Island in New York City. In the 1880s his remains were reinterred at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.
- A portrayal of Weir from the TV movie Son of the Morning Star: Weir disobeys orders as he tries to save Custer on YouTube