Tom Custer's Civil War Career
and Beyond


Second Lieutenant Tom Custer (standing) with George Armstrong Custer and Libbie Custer
in the final months of the Civil War.
Reproduced courtesy of the Library of Congress.

"Tom should have been the General"

by Rosemary Pardoe

The original version of this article appeared in the December 1998 issue of Crossfire (#58), the Journal of the American Civil War Round Table (UK). It was slightly revised and expanded for a reprint in Volume 3, Number 1, of Roger Young's sadly short-lived The Guidon, a special Tom Custer edition, published in October 1999. I am continuing to enlarge it as I obtain additional material and carry on my research. All comments and suggestions are very welcome. E-mail me at:

There have been a number of other articles written on Tom Custer (for my bibliography, click on the link below), but most pass quite swiftly over the Civil War period, particularly dismissing the three years before he joined his brother's staff in late 1864 in no more than a few sentences. With a couple of honourable exceptions, these articles are also full of inaccuracies, among them such basic errors as giving the wrong date for one of the actions for which Tom was awarded his Medals of Honor, and giving Tom's age at enlistment as anything from seventeen to nineteen instead of sixteen (admittedly, he lied about his age, but the facts are easy enough to find). Even "A Beau Sabreur" (1887), the tribute by Tom's sister-in-law, Elizabeth Custer, can by no means always be taken as gospel, for it is very much a tribute, and a gushing one at that. Until Carl F. Day's Tom Custer: Ride to Glory was published in May 2002, there had never been a full-length biography of Tom (for more on Carl Day's book, and a second biography by Roy Bird, see "Tom Custer Biography Reviews" below).


Main Tom Custer Article ("Tom should have been the General")


Tom Custer Chronology

Tom Custer and Civil War Links

Letter from George A. Custer to General Thomas concerning Tom Custer

Tom Custer Biography Reviews


For further information on the American Civil War Round Table (UK), and Crossfire, visit its web site.

Visit my other Civil War Page, about another younger brother of a Civil War hero: Tom Chamberlain.

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Last altered November 6, 2005.

Bar by the Civil War Spider