The Comanche Mystery Solved
If you read my update from Syracuse, New York (News: August 8, 2001),
you know that there was some confusion regarding the whereabouts of the horse, Comanche. As you may recall, Comanche, ridden by Captain
Myles Keogh, was the sole survivor of "Custer's Last Stand" in June 1876, the famous battle fought between Colonel George Custer's
7th Cavalry and a few thousand Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, who he had stumbled across, near the Little Bighorn River in Montana. Custer
and 267 of his men were wiped out in what was the largest defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Army during the Indian wars of the 1800s.
When I visited my friend Marilyn in upstate New York in August 2001, she took me to the cemetery (gee, some friend, huh!) in Auburn where
Keogh was buried. Marilyn and I are history buffs so she wanted to find Captain Keogh's grave. She thought Captain Keogh's horse,
Comanche, was also buried in that cemetery, so we spent some time there searching. Ultimately we found Keogh's grave but no Comanche.
Above left: We stopped by the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn to look for the grave of Captain Myles Keogh, a casualty
of Custer's Last Stand in Montana. Keogh's horse, Comanche, was the cavalry's only survivor of that battle and Marilyn (far left) was sure that
Comanche was also buried in the cemetery. The skeptical Mike (right) tried to convince Marilyn that they don't bury horses in cemeteries.
Above right: We never did find Comanche, but we did find Myles' grave. Marilyn is still convinced that Comanche
is buried there somewhere.
About a month later, I inquired about Comanche's fate during my lengthy stay at Fort Lincoln State Park near Bismarck, North Dakota.
Fort Abraham Lincoln had been the home of Custer and the 7th Cavalry before they rode off to their fate in Montana. I learned Comanche's
story there, so here it is:
Keogh's horse, Comanche, was rescued from the battlefield in Montana a few days after Custer's defeat and was transported by steamship down
the Missouri River to Fort Lincoln, along with wounded and dying members of the Reno-Benteen group (a detachment of the 7th Cavalry that had
fought their own battle a few miles away while Custer's group was being wiped out). Comanche was cared for at Fort Lincoln by a private
in Keogh's Company, Gustave Korn.
Korn, it seems, led an interesting life. He was with Captain Keogh and Colonel Custer at the beginning of the Battle of the Little
Bighorn but his horse bolted and, after retrieving it, he joined the Reno-Benteen group and thus survived the battle. After returning
to Fort Lincoln, Private (later Sergeant) Korn took care of Comanche for the next 14 years at Fort Lincoln and later at Fort Meade, South
Dakota after the 7th Cavalry was transferred there. By the way, after Comanche returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln from the Little Big Horn,
orders were issued that no one should ever ride him again – the only time in American history that the U.S. Cavalry ever issued such an
order. And no one ever did, not even Korn.
Sergeant Korn was killed in the last conflict of the Indian wars, the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890, one of the few U.S. troops to die
in that one-sided massacre. It's said that Comanche lost his will to live when Korn didn't return and he died a year later.
Comanche was stuffed – an odd fate for such a noble horse – and can been seen today at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Hopefully Marilyn will read this and stop wandering through that cemetery.
Above left: An 1873 photo of the officers of the 7th Cavalry at Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck, three
years before the Battle of the Little Big Horn. That's the hatless Colonel George Custer on the left standing next to his wife, Libbie.
Unfortunately, Myles Keogh hadn't joined the 7th Cavalry at Fort Lincoln yet so he's not in this photo.
Above center: Colonel George Custer. He graduated 34th out of 34 at West Point but a few years later during
the Civil War became the youngest general in the history of the American Army at age 23. Custer fought with the 5th Michigan Cavalry during
the Civil War while my great-great-grandfather,
Ransom Myers, fought with the 10th Michigan Cavalry.
Above right: That's Sergeant Mark taking us around the grounds of Fort Lincoln during my visit in September, 2001.
We got a great tour of the Custer House, which is in the background.
Above left: A cavalry charge at Fort Lincoln.
Above center: The barracks of Company I, 7th Cavalry at Fort Lincoln. The 66 men in this company were
led by Captain Keogh who was, as opposed to Custer, quite a competent leader.
Above right: A biography of Sergeant Gustave Korn. Korn cared for Comanche for
14 years until he was killed at the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.