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Home > Close-Ups > The Comanche Mystery Solved

 

 

The Comanche Mystery Solved

  

If you read my update from Syracuse, New York, in 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 1876 near the Little Bighorn River in Montana.  My friend Marilyn thought Comanche was buried next to Keogh in a cemetery in Auburn, New York, and we spent some time there in vain searching; we found Keogh 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.

 

I inquired about Comanche's fate recently at Fort Lincoln State Park near Bismarck, North Dakota, Custer's home before he rode off to glory, and learned the story.  Here it is:

 

Comanche was rescued from the battlefield 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 group that fought their own battle a few miles away, while Custer's 280 men were being wiped out).  At Fort Lincoln, Comanche was cared for by a private in Keogh's Company, Gustave Korn.  

 

Korn, it seems, led an interesting life.  He was with Keogh and 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 when the 7th Cavalry was transferred there.  By the way, after Comanche returned from the Little Big Horn, orders were issued that no one should ever ride him again -- the only time in American history that the 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, and was 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 -- a rather odd fate for such a noble horse -- and can been seen today at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  

 

I hope Marilyn reads this and stops wandering through that cemetery.

 

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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.

 

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Above left:  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:  Biography of Sergeant Gustave Korn who cared for Comanche for 14 years until he was killed at the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.