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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Museum honors horse's gallantry
Comanche: Equine Survivor
of "Custer's Last Stand"

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Many historians agree the most famous horse in Western history was Comanche, a mount serving the 7th Cavalry, Comanche's military record begins in 1868 and ends at his death in 1891.

However, the stuffed mount still can be seen in the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History in Lawrence, Kansas.

The somewhat small bay horse was captured running with a band of wild horses and sold to the 7th Cavalry in 1868 in St. Louis. He later became the mount for Capt. Myles Keogh, a decorated Civil War veteran originally emigrating from Ireland.

The pair were stationed on the Great Plains and were involved immediately in the Indian Wars in an effort to subdue the wild tribes to reservations. Comanche proved his worth in late 1868 during a battle with Comanche Indians. Though wounded with an arrow in his hindquarters, the brave horse carried Capt. Keogh as needed until the battle ended.

After recovery, and two years later, in another skirmish with Indians, Comanche was wounded in the leg but again, never faltered in his duties. Later, he recovered fully a second time. A year later in 1871, the records show he was wounded a third time during battle suffering a wound in his shoulder yet once again carried on with his rider's commands.

On June 25, 1876, Gen. Armstrong Custer led the 7th Cavalry into battle in the Little Bighorn River valley, where he and 267 other men in the regiment died at the hands of the Indians. Comanche, again seriously wounded for the fourth time, was found standing beside the body of Capt. Keogh and others in his command. This time his heroism was fully recognized.

The horse was shipped by steamer to Fort Lincoln to recover. He received the honorary title of Second Commanding Officer and was retired from further service. He was used in ceremonial parades by being led with Cavalry riding boots being reversed in the saddle stirrups honoring the fallen Cavalrymen.

Comanche was allowed the run of the post grounds, becoming a favorite pet to all including visitors and guests of the fort. During this time he acquired a taste for beer, probably because of all the toasts made to his heroism and valor in battle.

Capt. Keogh's orderly, a Sgt. Korn, cared for the mount until 1890 when he was killed at the Battle of Wounded Knee the last battle of the Indian Wars. Comanche was transferred along with his unit to Fort Riley, Kan., where he finally passed away at the age of 29 years.

Lewis Dyche, a well-known Kansas taxidermist mounted Comanche and the famous horse was exhibited at the Worlds Fair in Chicago in 1893.

There are two misconceptions about Comanche. He was not General Custer's mount as some believe. Also, he was not the only surviving horse at the battle of the Bighorn. Several mounts survived the battle but those not wounded were confiscated by the Indians.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"

September 25, 2007 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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