Thomas Weir (American soldier)

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Thomas Benton Weir
Thomas B. Weir (US Army officer).jpg
Born September 28, 1838
Nashville, Ohio
Died December 9, 1876
New York City
Place of burial Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861–76
Rank Union army cpt rank insignia.jpg Captain (Regular Army)
Commands held Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry

American Civil War

Indian Wars

Captain Thomas Benton Weir (September 28, 1838 -– December 9, 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. Weir served under General George Armstrong Custer during the American Civil War, and after the conflict, with Custer up to the famous battle. During the fight, Weir disobeyed orders to remain in a defensive position at Reno Hill and led a cavalry group that attempted to come to Custer's aid, but was forced to return in the face of overwhelming numbers of Native American warriors. A hill on the battlefield, Weir Point, is named in his honor and marks the farthest point of Weir's advance.

Reportedly deeply depressed by his experience in the historic battle, Weir's health declined, and he died only a few months afterwards, aged 38.

Civil War Experience[edit]

Weir was born in Nashville, Ohio. He 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 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.[1]

Battle of the Little Bighorn and Weir Point[edit]

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 General Alfred Terry two days later, when the Native American warriors withdrew.[2]

Weir Point[edit]

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.[3]

Weir's Decline and Death[edit]

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.[4] 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.[2] 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.

Media portrayal[edit]

The role of Captain Weir is played by noted author and actor Robert Schenkkan in the 1991 television movie Son of the Morning Star.[5]

External links[edit]