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Comanche: Survivor of the Little Bighorn Battle
Comanche the Horse
Have you ever been to Montana and stood on the hillside at Little Bighorn? Standing there trying to imagine the battle that was fought there. It is hard to imagine while standing there on a nice day with a gentle breeze that blood was spilt on the grassy hill. The lone survivor of the 7th Calvary was not a man but a horse according to legend. Some historians say there were other mounts that survived and even a bulldog but the story sounds better with Comanche being the lone survivor. I think one of the reasons this became popular to make him the sole survivor was that he was a steadfast and loyal mount. With his breeding being that of Mustang and Morgan horse’s, two sturdy and strong breeds. He was bought by the U.S. Army in 1868 in St Louis, Missouri where he was the sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
While at Fort Leavenworth Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry liked the 15 hand gelding. Keogh would buy him for his personal mount and only to be ridden in battle. His first test at being a tough and sturdy came in a battle fighting the Comanche in 1868 in Kansas. During this battle the horse was wounded in the hindquarters by an arrow but never gave up and never dismounted Keogh during the fight. For his bravery he earned the name Comanche and would be wounded many times during the years. Comanche held true to his name and always showed the same toughness.
Battle of Little Bighorn and the Survivor
Some eight years later on June 25, 1876, Captain Keogh rode Comanche at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, led by Lt Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The 7th Cavalry and including a column of 700 men suffered a most overwhelming defeat. Five of the Seventh’s companies were completely wiped out. Laying dead on the battlefield were 268 US soldiers including Keogh, Custer and two of his brothers.
Two days after the battle Comanche was found badly wounded. It was said that he crawled into a ravine to die. Though his wounds were serious but not life threatening if properly cared for. He had been shot at least 7 times and carried the scars the rest of his life. It was said that at first the soldiers that found him where going to put him out of his misery but they spared him instead. Also was said he kept looking for someone and seemed disappointed when that person did not show up. He was described as medium build, gentle with a noble look. After much rest and recovery Comanche would retire and orders were given that he should never be ridden again. He was even made an honorary Second Commanding Officer of the 7th Cavalry. While at Fort Riley he led parades, was treated as a pet and liked to drink beer. There is a story that when he was found on the battlefield he was given Cognac which he also had a taste for. He was beloved by all and died 15 years after the battle of Little Bighorn.
Comanche: Rest in Peace
Comanche died on November 7, 1891 and received full military honors. Only one other horse ever received this honor and that being Black Jack. Comanche was about 30 years old when he passed away and had been a 21 year veteran. His remains were sent to the University of Kansas and preserved where he stands eternal in the university’s Natural History Museum.
Many overlook these noble animals or mistreat them but they deserve our respect. They helped man farm, used as transportation and have gone into battle with their riders. They have been loyal and hard working. Some have shown great bravery never backing down when the going got tough.