Peter Thompson wasn’t the only Indiana Countian to fight in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Pvt. John McGuire, who also survived, was born near Tunnelton in 1854 and spent his later years in Saltsburg. The parallels between Thompson and McGuire are striking: Both worked on farms in the southern portion of the county, both enlisted in the U.S. Army in Pittsburgh, both were members of the 7th Cavalry’s Company C, both were stranded by lame horses at the battle site and both were wounded — each in the right elbow.
But while Thompson received the Medal of Honor for his actions, McGuire did not.
“He petitioned to be awarded the Medal of Honor — he felt he was entitled to it,” said historian David Lonich, who wrote about McGuire in an article for Western Pennsylvania History magazine, “From the Monongahela to the Little Bighorn: Western Pennsylvanians in Custer’s Command.”
“If he actually did what he said he did, he should have been given the Medal of Honor. I guess he couldn’t find enough verification.”
Because of his disabled mount, McGuire was assigned to guard the pack train, which carried supplies. During the second day of the battle, Indian warriors pinned down troops on a hilltop and subjected them to “withering fire,” according to McGuire. Nevertheless, he risked his life to retrieve a runaway mule.
“The Indians had the soldiers surrounded,” Lonich said. “They were sniping at them, just picking them off. He was gathering up their mules when one that was loaded with ammunition broke away and was running straight toward the Indians. McGuire says that he rushed out and grabbed the mule under enemy fire and dragged the mule back. If he hadn’t acted above and beyond the call of duty, that ammunition would have been lost to the enemy.”
McGuire and Thompson did cross paths during that portion of the battle. Thompson recalled McGuire calling out to him at one point; McGuire recalled seeing Thompson go for water. And both were treated at the makeshift field hospital where, as McGuire described it, “every so often a bullet would whiz through the tent.”
After the battle, McGuire, Thompson and the other wounded traveled by steamboat down the Missouri River to the hospital at Fort Lincoln in the Dakota Territory, headquarters of the 7th Cavalry. Thompson was discharged from the Army in 1880; McGuire, despite his useless right arm, served until 1889.
He died in 1932 and is buried in Livermore Cemetery, Derry Township.