Thomas Weir (American soldier)
|Thomas Benton Weir|
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.
Civil War Experience
Weir graduated from the University of Michigan in June 1861. He enlisted to fight in the American Civil War in late August, and was promoted 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
During the Indian Wars on the Great Plains, Weir commanded Company D of the 7th Cavalry under Custer, joining him in the attack on a large Native American encampment on the Little Bighorn River in Montana on June 25, 1876. Subordinate to Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen, Weir disobeyed orders to remain on what is now called Reno Hill. Instead, Weir (and eventually other soldiers including Benteen) moved north to attempt to support Custer, who had led a detachment to attack the encampment from that direction. The effort was too late to save Custer and over 200 of his men, all of whom were killed.
Also known as Weir Ridge, Weir Point is about three miles south from where Custer and the soldiers with him were killed after they had first attacked the Native American village. At Weir Point, the relief force is said to have realized that not only was Custer beyond help, but that Native American warriors were present in very large numbers. From this area 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 in 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.