Captain Weir

Publié le par custerwest


Inspired by a love of history and its amazing accounts of human endeavor, model making and dramatic representations of the people, places and things that have shaped our culture.The greatest hero of Little Bighorn

Answering the call of duty… against all odds

By David Cornut
Author of “Little Bighorn, autopsie d’une bataille légendaire” (384 pages, France, 2006)
Sources quoted in the text.
Captain Thomas B. Weir was the commander of company B, in Benteen’s battalion. On June 25, 1876, Weir followed Benteen in his scout on the South of the valley, looking for “satellite villages” (other Indian villages around the main one).
When Benteen understood that the scout didn’t give any results, he came back on Custer’s trail. He had specific orders to follow Custer’s steps and to send him a note about the results of his scouts. Benteen didn’t send any note to Custer (disobedience of order) and moved on the trail with considerable slowness.
He then stopped his column to water the horses at a name later called “the morass”. Shots were heard in the valley, a sign that the battle was beginning on Custer’s side. Private Jan Moeller and Sergeant Windolph heard the firing, as well as Lieutenant Godfrey.
Captain Thomas Weir became very impatient. Lieutenant Godfrey stated that many officers became “uneasy by the lengthy stay. One subaltern wondered why the “Old Man” (Benteen) was keeping them out of the battle for so long.
Captain Weir’s anger grew. He said to Benteen: “We ought to be over there!”
Benteen ignored him. Weir went to his company, mount up and moved towards the sound of the guns. It was a disobedience of orders, because, as Godfrey stated, “his position in the column was that of second unit.”
Benteen eventually moved behind Weir.
It was the first time Captain Weir was leaving his command because of Benteen’s indifference to the ongoing battle. It wouldn’t be the last.
Sources: Hammer, Custer in ’76, page 75
Hunt; I fought with Custer, page 81.
Sklenar, To Hell with Honor, pages 224, 365 note 18
The battle was still on in the valley of the Little Bighorn. However, Captain Benteen’s battalion was still out of the fight. Benteen travelled at three miles an hour, when Custer’s other battalions did the same in an hour less time.
Benteen was slow, and there is no explanation for this betrayal. He just acted as if no battle was going on. He just ignored his duty.
He then met Daniel Kanipe, who was carrying a vocal order by Custer. Benteen learnt that Custer was asking for immediate reinforcements, but didn’t act at all. His battalion was still moving at trot. He even stopped in front of a lone tepee to examine it. He was wasting time, and didn’t care about it.
Soon, another messenger appeared. Private Giovanni Martini was carrying a written order by General Custer: “Benteen, come on, be quick, bring packs.” The packs were not the entire pack train, as it is often stated, but the “extra ammunitions”. Every soldier knew it, as lieutenant McClernand clearly said in his articles and book.
Benteen had to pick the extra ammunition up and then to go quickly towards Custer. Did he act as his orders urged him to? Not at all. He didn’t go at a gallop, but at a walk or a trot (Lieutenant Godfrey). Custer’s men had moved on the same ground on overall speed or fast trot.
Captain Weir was outraged again. Ignoring Benteen’s orders once more, he moved quickly, left the command and reached Reno Hill the first. Again, Thomas Weir was the only one in Benteen’s troops who acted like a soldier.
Sources: Hammer, Custer in ’76, pages 75-76
Gray, Centennial Campaign, page 183
McClernand, On Time for Disaster, page 71-88
Benteen’s battalion reached Reno Hill, found Reno’s battalion, which had suffered of casualties after its commander had left it without any bugle in the woods. Benteen dismounted and stayed on the hill with Major Reno.
Both never acted to support Custer at any kind. They had orders to “come quick” and knew that the main duty of any soldier is “to support the commander at any level” and to “go to the sound of the guns”. But nothing happened.
They just stayed on the hills, while shots and volleys were heard in the valley, coming from Custer’s men.
Lieutenant McDougall testified: “It appeared to everyone that all should go to support of Custer”.
Lieutenant Godfrey wrote: “I thought General Custer was below us and we could join him that we gad no water and a few wounded; that we would have our casualties and burdens increased on the morrow.”
Sitting Bull :
Journalist: “Were not some warriors left in front of these entrenchments on the bluffs, near the right side of the map? (Reno Hill) Did not you think it necessary – did not the warchiefs think it necessary – to keep some of your young men there to fight the troops who had retreated to these entrenchments (Reno’s and Benteen’s men)?”
Sitting Bull: “No.”
Journalist: “Why?”
Sitting Bull: “You have forgotten.”
Journalist: “How?”
Sitting Bull: “You forget that only a few soldiers were left by the Long Hair on those buffs (Reno Hill). He took the main body of his soldiers with him (Custer’s battalion) to make the big fight down here on the left (Medicine Tail Coulee).
Journalist: “So there were no soldiers (warriors) to make a fight left in the entrenchments on the right hand bluff (Reno Hill, Reno’s and Benteen’s position)?”
Sitting Bull: “I have spoken. It is enough. The squaw could deal with them. There were none but squaws and papooses in front of (Reno’s and Benteen’s men) that afternoon.”
Lieutenant Edward McClernand, of Terry’s column, arrived on the battlefield on June 27, 1876. He drew maps of the battlefield and wrote several articles on the battle. Here’s what he wrote on Major Reno, who was the senior commander of Reno Hill: “Some of (Reno’s) officers looking from the edge of the bluffs (from Reno Hill) at the large number of mounted warriors in the bottom below (the valley of the Little Bighorn), observed that the enemy suddenly started down the valley, and that in a few minutes scarcely a(n Indian) horseman was left in sight. Reno’s front was practically cleared of the enemy.
It is not sufficient to say that there was no serious doubt about Custer being able to take care of himself. (Custer) had gone downstream with five troops, heavy firing was heard in that direction, it was evident a fight was on (…) Reno with six troops (…) still ignored the well known military axiom to march to the sound of guns.”
Weir was livid. Private John Fox heard this conversation between Captain Weir and Major Reno:
Weir: “Custer must be around here somewhere (shots were heard) and we ought to go to him.”
Reno: “We are surrounded by Indians (it’s false. There weren’t any Indian around Reno Hill) and we ought to remain here.”
Weir: “Well, if no one else goes to Custer, I will go.”
Reno: “No, you cannot.”
Weir was so angered that he left Reno, mounted up and went towards the sounds of the guns with his orderly. Lieutenant Edgerly saw his commander leaving and followed him with the whole company D. As Edgerly understood afterwards, Weir had disobeyed orders. Both Benteen and Reno didn’t want to move.
Sources: Hammer, Custer in ’76, page 71
Gray, Centennial Campaign, page 183
McClernand, On Time for Disaster, page 71-88
Captain Michael J. Koury, Diaries of Little Bighorn, page 11  
“Wild Life on the Plains”, in Cyclorama of General Custer’s Last Battle, compiled by A. J. Donnelle, Promontory Press, 1889, pages 21-23

Benteen eventually followed Weir, but only 30 minutes after him. The battle was still raging on, as Historian Gregory Michno shows in his book “Lakota Noon.” (he makes the timeline of Custer’s movements with Indian testimonies)
Despite what countless books said, when Weir reached a peak named afterwards Weir Point, Custer’s battle was still raging. Little Bighorn specialist Wayne Michael Sarf admits that many officers on Weir Point “apparently saw more than they would later admit. There is little doubt that (Lieutenant) Edgerly destroyed the portion of a letter to his wife dealing with the Weir Point episode.”
Sergeant Charles Windolph remembered what he saw on Weir Point : “Way off to the north you could see what looked to be groups of mounted Indians. There was plenty of firing going on.”
Lieutenant Hare was interviewed by Walter Camp, who wrote: “While out in advance with (Captain Weir’s) Company D, the Indians were thick over on Custer ridge and were firing. (Hare) thought Custer was fighting them.”
Private Edward Pigford: “at first when looked toward Custer ridge the Indians were firing from a big circle, but it gradually closed until they seemed to converge into a large black mass on the side hill toward the river and all along the ridge.”
 Captain Weir was watching his comrades battling without helping them, because Benteen and Reno were still on their hill. When Benteen eventually reached Weir Point, he put an American flag on the peak to “show my position to Custer. The bugle began to sound on Custer Hill, which means that Custer was watching the flag or the dust of the other battalions and was using the bugle as a signal. Custer’s men asked for help, after having waited for Benteen and Reno… during more than two hours!
Sitting Bull: “As (Custer’s soldiers) they stood to be killed they were seen to look far away to the hills in all directions and we knew they were looking for the hidden soldiers (Benteen’s and Reno’s soldiers) in the hollows of the hills to come and help them.”
A little band, led by warchief Low Dog, eventually attacked the men on Weir Point while the battle on Custer Hill was still raging (see Michno). Benteen decided to withdraw his troops, according to Private George Glenn and Lieutenant Francis Gibson. The troops fell back without any rear guard, just like Reno had done in the woods. Lieutenant Godfrey decided to deploy his men on his own initiative. He later said to the Reno Court of Inquiry:
Question by the court: “Was the engagement severe in and around (Weir Point)?”
Answer by Lieutenant Godfrey “No severe engagement at all (on Weir Point).”
Question by the court: “Was there much firing on the part of the Indians down at that point up to the time to command started to go back (from Weir Point to Reno Hill)?”
Answer by Lieutenant Godfrey: “No, sir.”
Question by the court: “State if the Indians drove (Weir’s and Benteen’s) command from that position (Weir Point).
Answer by Lieutenant Edgerly: “They did not. The orders were to fall back and we fell back.”
400 men fell back without ever supporting the last stand. Custer would never have the support he had asked for during more than two hours. His heroic last stand would end at 6.20 p.m., almost at the time Reno had reached Reno Hill again.
A betrayal had just happened at Little Bighorn. A betrayal that would be covered during a century, and which is still covered up by many scholars and historians.
Major General Thomas Rosser, cavalry officer during the Civil War, wrote in 1876:
“As a soldier, I would sooner lie in the grave of General Custer and his gallant comrades alone in that distant wilderness, that when the last trumpet sounds, I could rise to judgment from my part of duty, than to live in the place of the survivors of the siege on the hills.”
Sources: The official recording of the Reno Court of Inquiry, 1879
Nightengale, Little Big Horn, pages 129, 184-185, 190
Unger, The ABCs of Custer’s Last Stand, pages 191-218
Sklenar, To Hell with Honor, page 302
Michno, Lakota Noon, page 233-287
General Thomas Rosser, Chicago Tribune, August 8, 1876
Captain Weir went back on Fort Lincoln with a look of a “broken man” (lieutenant Garlington). He perhaps even tried to commit suicide by jumping in a stream while the 7th was moving back to the fort.
Captain Weir was so sad because he knew that his comrades, his friends, his brother in arms had been deliberately betrayed from start to finish. From Benteen’s dawdling to his refusal to leave Reno Hill, from Reno’s disastrous offensive to his cowardice in battle, everything was made to blow any chance of victory up.
Captain Weir wrote to Libbie Custer: “I know if we were all of us alone in the parlour, at night, the curtains all down and everybody else asleep, one or the other of you would make me tell you everything I know.”
Thomas Weir began to drink too much, and died on December 9, 1876. Cause of death: “melancholia.”
The Army and Navy saluted his death:
(Brevet) Colonel Weir was in the prime of life, 38 years of age, and no preliminary announcement of illness preceded the report of his death, which occurred suddenly in New York on Saturday, December 9, of congestion of brain. Colonel Weir was buried on Governor’s Island with military honours on Wednesday, December 14.
The only loyal officer of Reno Hill, one of the greatest – yet not honoured enough – heroes of Little Bighorn, Thomas Benton Weir, was dead. He wouldn’t be at the Reno Court of Inquiry to tell his story and destroy Reno’s and Benteen’s perjuries. On March 22, 1879, Captain Benteen help a journalist to write an article in the Army and Navy Journal. He wrongly accused Weir of being drugs addicted, which should explain his anger towards Benteen and Reno.
Thomas Weir’s ghost still haunted the traitors of Little Bighorn.
Sources: Army and Navy Journal, December 9, 1876
Army and Navy Journal, March 22, 1879
Son of the Morning Star, pages 284-285

Publié dans LBH : Captain Weir

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