Thomas Ward Custer rode to his death… along side his brother at the battle of Little Big Horn. The dynamic, rowdy pair had been soldiers nearly all their lives. Tom followed in his older brother’s foot steps, enlisting in the Union army at the age of 16. Though George achieved more fame, he thought the world of his little brother, “Do you want to know what I think of him? Tom should have been the General and I the Lieutenant.” The elder Custer was the youngest man to achieve the rank of Major-General while young Tom was one of 19 men to win the Medal of Honor twice. Personally capturing two Confederate battle flags under severe fire (the second attempt nearly cost his jaw) Tom was undoubtedly a hero. The exploits of his older brother have relegated him to obscurity.
George (Autie, as Tom called him) was austere, devoted, and a teetotaler. Tom tried to emulate his brother, but strayed to drink and hell raising when his sister-in-law Libbie was not near to regulate him. Together, the Custer boys were notorious pranksters, and few familiar with them on the frontier were immune from their antics. Autie Custer had molded the 7th Cavalry into a fast-moving, hard-hitting combat unit; His brother was with him every step of the way. Detractors labeled them the “Custer Clan”, and resented the good fortune which seemed to follow the family, “Custer’s Luck.” That luck ran out on June 25, 1876. George, Tom, and baby brother, Boston Custer died on the dusty hills of Southeastern Montana.
Tom Custer was an American hero… He died bravely on the field of battle fighting for his country. His enemies mutilated his body beyond recognition that day. His remains were only identified by a tattoo on his wrist. Ironic that warriors described as noble by our society are excused for such behavior. Cultural sensibilities must be respected, even in the desecration of the dead. Should we believe this?