Monday, March 31, 2014

Captain Keogh’s Love of Horses

Comanche, the favorite mount of Captain Myles Keogh, carried his master into many battles and survived him at the battle at Little Big Horn. Comanche was perhaps a special horse because of the exceptional way Captain Keogh treated his horses. One biographer points out that Captain Keogh was “a noble-hearted gentleman, the beau ideal of a cavalry commander, and the very soul of valor.” By all accounts, his good character extended to the treatment of his horses, and from his personal correspondence it is evident that his horses were important to him. During Keogh’s service in the Civil War, he wrote to his sister about the loss of Tom, an old horse that he had loved much and that had carried him through many charges. “I felt his loss severely,” he said. “I wish you could have seen how he could leap, and he saved my life, whilst riding on a bye road carrying an order. I suddenly rode into a heavy outlying thicket of the enemy. Tom saw them as they rose up to deliver their fire. He jumped sideways over a rail fence into the wood[s] …. and carried me safely out of range. I shall never have a horse like that again.” But a few years later in 1868, Keogh bought the celebrated Comanche. Soon after, during a skirmish with the Comanche Indians in Kansas, the horse took an arrow in his hindquarter, but continued to let Keogh fight from his back. Keogh named him “Comanche” to honor his bravery, and he proved to be every bit as special as old Tom. After the Battle at Little Big Horn, soldiers found Comanche nearly dead from loss of blood, the only living thing on the battlefield. The farrier walked him fifteen miles to the waiting steamer Far West and saved his life. Comanche never worked again, but he often walked, riderless, with the Seventh Cavalry in parades.

Comanche with Private Gustave Korn in June 1877. Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, H-63
He lived to be twenty-nine and died in 1891. University of Kansas taxidermist Professor Lewis Dyche preserved Comanche and he is still on display at the university’s natural history museum.

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