b. 28/12/1854 Fife, Scotland. d. 03/12/1928 Hot Springs, South Dakota.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 25/06/1876 Little Big Horn, Montana.
Thompson was born in Markinch in Fife, Scotland. After emigrating with his family to the United States in 1865, Thompson lived near Pittsburgh, and later in Indiana County, PA, where he worked as a miner. He enlisted in the United States Army in September 1875, serving in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment's C company from 1875 until 1880. His commanding officer was Capt. Thomas Custer.
In 1876, while serving under George Armstrong Custer in the eastern Montana Territory, he took part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Had his horse not given out on the bluffs above the river as the regiment reached the battlefield, Thompson would have died with Custer. As it was, Thompson and a companion named James Watson fell behind, but continued on toward the river. Unable to rejoin their own company, the two later climbed back up the bluffs and joined surviving elements of the regiment, under Major Marcus Reno. Thompson took part in other parts of the battle and was wounded in the hand and arm. In spite of his wounds, he made trips outside the lines to obtain water for the wounded, an act that gained him one of 24 Medals of Honor awarded for the battle.
After the fight, he was evacuated to Fort Abraham Lincoln by steamboat. When his hand had recovered sufficiently, he wrote a lengthy account of the fighting. Notably, he said he had been in a hiding place from which he had seen Custer near the river, and had also witnessed the beginning of the fight in which Custer was killed. By implication, he may have been the last white man to have seen Custer alive.
After an honorable discharge, he resided first in Lead, SD, where he worked at the Homestead Mine. Later he moved to Alzada, MT, where he became a rancher. He married Ruth Boicourt in 1904. They had two children, Susan and Peter Jr., born in 1906 and 1909.
After having voluntarily brought water to the wounded, in which effort he was shot through the head, he made two successful trips for the same purpose, notwithstanding remonstrances of his sergeant.
BURIAL LOCATION: WEST LEAD CEMETERY, LEAD, SOUTH DAKOTA.
Masonic Section Block 9 Grave 1
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