Thomas Weir (American soldier)

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Thomas Benton Weir
Thomas B. Weir (US Army officer).jpg
BornSeptember 28, 1838
Nashville, Ohio
DiedDecember 9, 1876
New York City
Place of burial
Allegiance United States of America
Union
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service186176
Rank Union army cpt rank insignia.jpg Captain (Regular Army)
Union army col rank insignia.jpg Colonel (Brevet)
Commands heldCompany D, 7th U.S. Cavalry
Battles/wars American Civil War
American Indian Wars
Alma mater University of Michigan

Captain Thomas Benton Weir (b. September 28, 1838 -– d. 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 war continued serving under his command up to the famous battle in 1876. During the Little Bighorn battle, 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.

Contents

Weir and the group retreated back to Reno Hill 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

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 second lieutenant. In June 1862 Weir was promoted to first 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 assigned as Assistant Inspector General on the staff of Major General George Armstrong Custer. [1]

In July 1868, Weir received brevet promotions to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel to recognize his superior performance of duty during the war. [2]

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's company, without orders, (and eventually followed by other soldiers including Benteen) moved north from the defensive position on Reno Hill, heading in the direction of the sound of firing from the direction where they believed Custer and his troops were fighting. However, Weir and the would-be relief were forced to retreat back to Reno Hill under fire where they were under further attack until relieved by General Alfred Terry two days later, when the Native American warriors withdrew. [3]

Weir Point

Also known as Weir Ridge, Weir Point is about three miles south from where Custer and the soldiers with him were killed and about one and a half miles north of Reno Hill. Weir Point is the location where Captain Weir and those with him eventually realized after two hours [4] 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. [5]

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. [6] 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. [3] 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

The role of Captain Weir is played by noted author and actor Robert Schenkkan in the 1991 television movie Son of the Morning Star. [7]

Captain Weir is also portrayed by Roger Clark (better known for portraying Arthur Morgan in the Red Dead Redemption 2 video game) in the 2007 BBC documentary titled Custer's Last Stand

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References

  1. "Thomas Benton Weir (1838-1876)" . Retrieved July 15, 2010.
  2. United States Senate (1887). Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States. XVI. US Government Printing Office: Washington, DC. p. 316 via Google Books.
  3. 1 2 Connell, Evan (1984). Son of the Morning Star. New York: North Point Press. pp. 281–283. ISBN   0-86547-510-5.
  4. Lt. Edgerly (Carroll, The Gibson and Edgerly Narratives, p. 11: "We stayed out there [on the Weir Peaks] about 2 hours, according to my recollection...."
  5. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=86823
  6. http://www.historynet.com/libbie-custer-wounded-thing-must-hide.htm
  7. http://www.hollywood.com/tv/son-of-the-morning-star-59446565/credits/