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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Eleventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 17, 1880.

 p67  William B. Weir
No. 2318. Class of 1870.
Killed, September 29th, 1879, near White River Agency, Colorado; aged 30.

William Bayard Weir was born at West Point, N. Y., Sept. 25th, 1849. His father was Robert W. Weir, who filled for so many years the position of Professor of Drawing at the United States Military Academy. His boyhood was passed at West Point, and on the 18th of June, 1866, he entered the Academy. On the 15th of June, 1870, he was graduated seventh in his class, and assigned as Second Lieutenant to the Fifth Regiment of Artillery. He served with his Regiment from Sept. 30th,  p68 1870, until July 8th, 1873, at Fort Warren, Mass., Fort Monroe, Va., and Fort Sullivan, Me. From July 16th, 1873, until Nov. 30th, 1874, he was on Signal duty at Fort Whipple, Va. On the first of November, 874, he was transferred to the Ordnance Department, and promoted to the grade of First Lieutenant. At Watervliet Arsenal, N. Y., he served until March 8th, 1878, when he was assigned to duty at Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming, and on the 1st of November took charge of the Ordnance Depot at Cheyenne.

When Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wesley Merritt, in command of the troops at Fort D. A. Russell, was ordered to the relief of Capt. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Payne in the White Pine country, Lieut. Weir, feeling it to be his duty, and against the earnest entreaties of his friends, offered his services and was appointed aid on the staff of Gen. Merritt. The circumstances attending his sad end are related in the following extract from a letter written by Lieut. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.C. D. Parkhurst, Fifth Cavalry, an officer in Gen. Merritt's command.

"Camp on White River, Col.

Nov. 11th, 1879.

"Owing to the impracticable nature of the road which had been tried south from here towards Grand River, Gen. Merritt was desirous of obtaining any information possible concerning any other more practicable route. For this purpose, and particularly as the men who call themselves guides here don't seem to know anything about the country, Lieut. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hall, with a small party of citizens and soldiers, was ordered to proceed south, (west of what is called the "Great Hog‑back" on the maps) and observe the nature of the country for wagons, &c., Lieut. Weir went with him, at his own request, as I understand, for the purpose of getting a chance for hunting any game which might be found on the way. This was Oct. 20th, and to accompany Hall, Weir and their party, a company of cavalry or two, under Capt. Wessells, were ordered to meet them at the site of the Agency, but from some misunderstanding Hall and his party did not wait for them, but pushed on ahead, and the Cavalry were finally ordered to follow on their trail for ten or twelve miles and there await their return until five P.M., and if they had not returned by that time to return to camp.

Meanwhile Hall and his party were pushing on south, and at about twenty miles from here, and at about one P.M., a large band of deer crossed their trail. Weir, and a citizen scout named Hume​a followed them to try and get a shot at them, and the rest of the party rode on.  p69 They had hardly gone a mile when they heard firing in their rear, but naturally supposed it came from Weir and his companion firing at the deer, and consequently paid no attention to it then; but almost immediately discovering a fresh Indian pony trail and thereby seeing there were Indians close about, Hall and his party turned and galloped back to join Weir. They had gone but a short distance when they were attacked themselves, and forced to find shelter in a ravine, where they were corralled until after dark, and then made their escape, came direct to camp and gave the alarm.

Gen. Merritt at once ordered a battalion to go to their rescue (Weir and Hume's), if they should possibly be still alive, or to find and bring in their bodies if they were dead; and by 9 P.M., Col. Sumner's battalion of the Fifth Cavalry was in the saddle and away — and before daylight was on the ground. As soon as it became light enough to see, a hunting party was sent out to examine all the ground. Lieut. Hall being of the number, and in a few moments the sad fact was plain to all that Weir was dead, as we could see his body being brought in by the men sent to search for him.

His body was found in a narrow ravine into which he probably had ridden in pursuit of the deer; at the mouth of the ravine and on the left was a ledge of rocks, and it must have been from this point that the shot was fired. He was shot but once, the ball going in under the left eye, and coming out behind the ear. He must have died instantly. There was no mutilation of any kind, in spite of what the papers say to the contrary, as I was present and saw the body when first brought in. He evidently had been shot from his horse, had fallen and possibly been dragged by the stirrup for a short distance, but that was all. His face had as peaceful an expression upon it appears to have he had gone to sleep, unconscious of the horror of his situation, or that a fatal shot had been fired at him.

As soon as his body was found it was carried back to camp, and there prepared to be sent to the railroad and thence to his friends. (Hume's body was found and buried a few days after.) I cannot give expression to the intense sorrow that his death caused in camp. Every one knew him to be a perfect gentleman, and had the warmest regard for him, and that he should die in such a manner was a shock to every one that will long be remembered."

 p70  It is not enough to say that in the death of Lieut. Weir the country lost a valuable soldier; his family a devoted son and brother; and his friends a cherished companion. He was more. His sterling character gained the respect of every one, and his manly and gentle manner endeared him to all. The purity of all his thoughts and actions and his constant religious life have ever distinguished him. His duty to God, to his family and to himself, guided him in every thing he did. While at the Military Academy we were room-mates and most intimate friends, and during those four years, he never relaxed one moment in striving to do his best, even so far as to endanger his health during the last year of the Academic course. Through many discouragements he persevered to the end, guided almost wholly by the sense of duty so firmly inculcated in him by his early teachings and not actuated solely by the desire of obtaining class honors on account of the advantage and distinction attending their attainment. A marked feature of his character was his tender regard for the feelings and opinions of others, and in his speech he never used a harsh word, either in speaking to or of others, and his manner was always gentle and mild.

His remains were brought to West Point where funeral services were held Nov. 5th; ten of his class-mates acting as pall-bearers.

(Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.B. H. Randolph, First Lieut. Third Artillery)

Thayer's Note:

a Ganoe calls him Hammer (The History of the United States Army, p351).

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Page updated: 2 Aug 14