What can you tell me about George Custer’s brother, Capt. Tom Custer?

What can you tell me about George Custer’s brother, Capt. Tom Custer?

Channing Greene

Dakota City, Iowa

George Custer was the dominant personality in the Seventh Cavalry. He was an outstanding cavalry officer, possessed with dash and élan. He was flamboyant and the darling of the press. Everyone else, including his younger brother Tom, was part of the supporting cast.

Tom enlisted in the Ohio infantry in 1861. When commissioned a second lieutenant in the Michigan cavalry in 1864, he was assigned to his brother’s staff. Tom earned two Medals of Honor—one of only five soldiers to be so decorated—and the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel by the end of the Civil War.

Described as an “energetic, fun-loving youth,” he was five years younger than George. Tom was also, at times, a hard drinker. He became a lieutenant within the new Seventh Cavalry on July 28, 1866, the same day George became the regiment’s lieutenant colonel.

Tom fought with the Seventh in various campaigns before the ill-fated Battle at the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. He served as George’s aide-de-camp during the battle, and died on Custer Hill with him.

Incidentally, George had another younger brother, 27-year-old Boston, who died near Custer Hill that day, as did George’s brother-in-law, Capt. James Calhoun.

For more information, check out Carl Day’s book Tom Custer: Ride to Glory (University of Oklahoma Press).

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.