The President of the United States
in the name of
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
THOMAS W. CUSTER
The sole Army recipient to have this distinction bears a name familiar to nearly every American, but this man's heroism was almost completely overshadowed by his brother's flamboyance. Second Lieutenant Thomas W. Custer, Company B, 6th Michigan Cavalry, earned his first Medal of Honor on May 10, 1863, at Namozine Church, Virginia, when he captured an enemy flag. He was 18 at the time.
Two years later, on April 6, 1865, young Custer leaped his horse over the enemy's line of works and fearlessly dashed up to the Confederate color guard. When close to the colorbearer, Custer took a shot in the face which nearly knocked him off his horse, but he remained upright in the saddle and fired at the Confederate holding the flag, hitting him and causing him to reel. Frenzied, Custer reached out and clutched the flag, then spurred his horse and dashed back to Union lines, his trophy held high.
Riding up to his brother Brevet Major General George A. Custer, the lieutenant told him, "The Rebels shot me, but I have their flag." He turned to return to the fight, but the general, realizing the severity of Tom's wounds, ordered him to the rear. His brother refused, so the young major general placed him under arrest and had him escorted to the aid station.
Lieutenant Custer recovered from those wounds and proudly wore his two Medals of Honor, much to his brother's chagrin. Tom would die at the general's side at the Little Big Horn Battle in 1876.
Birth: Mar. 15, 1845
Death: Jun. 25, 1876
BURIED: Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery
Plot: Section A, Grave 1488
Double Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Born Thomas Ward Custer, the fifth son of Emanuel Custer and Maria Ward Kirkpatrick, in New Rumley, Ohio. At the age of 16, after one failed attempt, he lied about his age and joined the 21st Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861. Two weeks later he was mustered in as a private in Company H. They saw several small skirmishes and took parting the Battle of Stone's River, Murfreesboro on December 31. In April 1863 he was assigned to escort duty on the staff of the 21st Ohio's division commander. He then served at Missionary Ridge and Chattanooga on the staff of Major General U.S. Grant, and then saw duty with the staff of the Fourteenth Corps at the rank of corporal. By the summer of 1864, his elder brother, George Armstrong, obtained for him a commission in the 6th Michigan Cavalry and a position as his aide-de-camp. During the 1865 campaign they saw action at Waynesboro, Dinwiddie Court House, and Five Forks. At the battle at Namozine Church he earned the first of his medals with the capture of enemy colors. The Citation read: "Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, Company B, 6th Michigan Cavalry. Place and date: At Namozine Church, Va. Date of issue: 3 May 1865. Citation: Capture of flag on 10 May 1863." Several days later at Sailor's Creek, he charged the breastworks and snatched at the enemy colors, demanding surrender. He was shot in the face but refused to give up his prize. He shot the standard bearer and rode off with the colors. He second Citation read: "Place and date: At Sailor Creek, Va, April 1865. Date of issue: 26 May 1865. Citation: 2d Lt. Custer leaped his horse over the enemy's works and captured 2 stands of colors, having his horse shot from under him and receiving a severe wound." He had to be threatened with arrest to stop him from returning to the battle before reporting to the surgeon. He continued to serve as his brother's aide-de-camp until January 1866 when he mustered out of the 6th Michigan and received a commission in the regular army joining the 7th Cavalry as a first lieutenant. He was wounded at Washita in 1868, served in the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873, and the Black Hills Expedition of 1874. He was promoted to Captain in 1875 and was given command of Company C of the 7th Cavalry. On June 25, 1876, five companies of the 7th Cavalry were wiped out in action against the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The three Custer brothers, George, Thomas, and Boston were found within yards of one another. Thomas Custer's body had been so grotesquely mutilated it was only possible to identify him by means of a tattoo he was known to have had. Thomas Custer was initially buried on the battlefield, but was later exhumed and reburied in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. (bio by: Iola)
Cause of death: Killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn