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In May of 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer led the men of the 7th U.S. Cavalry out of Fort Abraham Lincoln on an expedition intended to locate and rout tribes of American Indians who were resisting their placement upon reservations. When Custer found these tribes encamped on the Little Bighorn River, he divided his forces into three groups and confronted them on June 25. When additional U.S. forces arrived two days later, this day, June 27, 1876, every man in the five companies under Custer’s immediate command were dead. The lone survivors were a few horses, including Comanche, the former mount of Captain Myles W. Keogh. Although Comanche had been wounded in seven places, he was the only horse found wandering the battle-site that the cavalrymen believed could survive. The other horses had to be put down. As a result Comanche became the sole survivor of Custer’s company who fought in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Comanche began his cavalry career in April of 1868 when 1st Lieutenant Tom Custer purchased the horse along with forty-one other mustangs. The horse was soon sold to Captain Myles Keogh for $90 and received his name five months later after being wounded by a Comanche arrow during a skirmish in southwest Kansas. Following the death of Captain Keogh at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Comanche returned to Fort Lincoln where he was nursed back to health by blacksmith Gustave Korn. The famous horse quickly became a favorite ride of the ladies at the fort. However, their constant rivalry over Comanche caused such a disturbance that the commanding officer of the 7th Cavalry, Colonel Samuel Sturgis, issued a statement decreeing that the horse was never to be ridden again and was to live out his days in comfort and ease as a living reminder of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

From there on out Comanche lived a life fluctuating between beloved pet and downright nuisance. Although Comanche was honored as a war hero, he was something of an irritant. Accustomed to eating whiskey bran mash during his recuperation from wounds received at the Little Bighorn, Comanche degenerated into a drunk. Following his recovery he hung around the fort’s canteen on paydays, begging beer from the soldiers. When not panhandling, or sleeping off his hangovers, Comanche was often found rooting through gardens and overturning garbage cans. Despite his behavior, the horse was treated as a valued member of the 7th Calvary until his passing away in 1891 at the age of twenty-nine. Following his death, Comanche was preserved by Kansas University taxidermist Lewis Lindsay Dyche. Apart from an appearance at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, Comanche has remained on display at the University of Kansas ever since.

Written by Lane Sunwall


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Rombeck, Terry, "Stuffed Celebrity's Move a Painstaking Ku Affair: Fears of Disintegration Accompany Relocation of Little Bighorn Survivor", The Lawrence Journal-World http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/jan/14/stuffed_celebritys_move/ (accessed June 4, 2008).