Thomas Bestford served with the Union Army during the American Civil War. He volunteered to serve in the 9th Regiment, Pennsylvania Cavalry (92nd Volunteers) on 31st October 1861, joining up for a term of three years. He was recruited from Dauphin and Luzerne Counties, Pennsylvania.
The 9th Regiment was mustered at Camp Cameron near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It left the state by boat for Louisville, Kentucky, on 20th November 1861. It then moved to Jeffersonville, Indiana, serving there until 10th January 1862, when it was ordered to the front in Kentucky until 5th March 1862. It then saw action in Tennessee.
Thomas Bestford deserted on 13th December 1862. Desertions were very common during the American Civil War. During the course of the war (12th April 1861-9th April 1865) over 200,000 Union soldiers deserted, and slightly more than 130,000 Confederate soldiers did likewise. This represented a rate of 1 in 5 so far as the Union side was concerned, and around 1 in 3 for the Confederacy. Interestingly, only 147 deserters were tried and executed. It seems that both sides were desperate to get men back into service rather than to execute them.