June 25,1876;The Horse who Survived

Posted on June 6, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history, riding.

by Diana Linkous
comanche-horse

photo: US Calvary;Comanche the war horse, after a battle in 1870

Comanche, a famous war horse, born June 25, 1861, fifteen years to the very day before the battle of “The Little Big Horn”, was a 15 hand bay gelding, thought to be part mustang and part Morgan. He was bought by the U.S. Army in 1868 in St. Louis, and sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A handsome looking horse, he was purchased by Captain Myles Keogh  for $90 to be used as his personal mount.  In the fall of 1868, his unit fought the Comanche tribe in Kansas. During the battle the horse was wounded. Unaware, Captain Keogh continued to fight from his back until the battle was over. Afterward, he discovered an arrow broken off in the horse’s hindquarters. As a tribute, he earned the name Comanche for his bravery in continuing to carry his master despite his own pain.

In 1870 during a battle again against the Comanche tribe, the war horse was wounded in the leg. He was lame for over a month this time, but finally recovered. Then, in 1871, Comanche was wounded in battle once more, this time in his shoulder.   The cavalry was very proud of this brave horse who  recovered quickly, then bravely returned to battle despite being wounded so many times.

On June 25, 1876, Captain Keogh rode Comanche into the valley of the Little Big Horn and the battle known as Custer’s Last Stand. This time they were fighting the Soux and Cheyenne tribes, and it was the last great battle for the Native Americans. They defeated the 7th cavalry and killed every soldier. The only member of the 7th cavalry left alive after the battle was Comanche.  Comanche was found two days after the battle with many wounds, and was very weak and barely able to stand. He was taken in a steam boat to Fort Lincoln, where he was so weak he had to be supported by a sling. He was nursed back to health, once again recovering from his battle wounds.

Comanche was officially retired and it was ordered that no one would ever ride him again. His faithful groom, Gustav Korn,  seen in most photos holding the horse, stayed with him. Comanche was given the title  “the Second Commanding Officer” of the 7th Cavalry, and his only duties were to be led in the front of official parades occasionally. In December, 1890,  Gustav was called back to duty for the battle at Wounded Knee.   He was fatally wounded.  Comanche had lost his faithful friend. On November 7, 1891, downhearted from waiting for  Gustav’s return, Comanche passed away. His body was mounted and put on display at the University of Kansas, where it stands to this day.

A reader’s comment: Captain Miles Keogh was an Irish mercenary. Early in his career he had served as part of the Pope’s private Vatican Army. He was awarded a medal, that he always wore on a chain around his neck. When the Cheyenne killed him on the Little Big Horn, they discovered the medal. Recognizing it as a religious device, they left his corpse alone. His was the only 7th Cavalry KIA whose body was not mutilated. During the US Civil War Captain Keogh served on the staff of the great cavalry officer, Brigadier General John Buford (1st Cavalry Division). They intercepted the leading elements of Robert E. Lees Army of Northern Virginia in front of Gettysburg on June 30, 1863 and held them up until the rest of the Federals could arrive on the field. Hence, they were instrumental in the Union victory in that important battle. Captain Miles Keogh introduced the famous cavalry canter song “Garry Owen” to the 7th Cavalry Regiment. It remains so to this day, and the slogan and greeting among members of the 7th is “Garry Owen.” It is a very stirring tune. Aloha, Mark Mallory.

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