|by Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence
were ours for the taking, and detailed records of the voracious mustang round-ups that
continued for decades were not kept. These horses were rounded up by cowboys and
mustangers for cattle drives, personal use, sport, profit or combinations thereof, and
many of them were sold to the army. The round-ups were often cruel, frequently
employing the method of “creasing,” in which a bullet was fired at the upper part of a
horse’s neck, causing temporary paralysis by striking a nerve. Sometimes – many
times – the shooter aimed badly and fatally wounded the mustang; other times he
injured the horse permanently and left him to wander the desert until he bled to death or
was attacked by a predator.
Comanche was a survivor, one of thousands of horses who lived through a creasing (at
least without visible damage) and was then sold to the army. It was probably in 1868
that he and an unknown number of horses were driven north across mustang and cattle
trails, most likely following the Kickapoo Trace, a rutted and dusty by-way through the
unfamiliar and rough terrain of Indian territory and into Missouri, where Jesse James
and other outlaws were still fighting the Civil War after it ended, ranging the state
where brother had literally fought brother, carrying out raids on herds of mustangs that
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1. The legend is that Comanche was the only survivor of Custer's Last Stand.
However, there were other horses that survived
that were confiscated by the Indians.
2. Capt. Myles Keogh. Comanche was his personal war horse.
3. Comanche was nursed back to health. He became a symbol of the Battle of
Little Bighorn. An order was issued that a comfortable saddle be created for
Commanche, but he was not to be ridden. He was saddled and draped in
mourning, led by a solider of Company 1, during ceremonial occassions. He was
well cared for and buried with full military honors (one of only two horses given
that honor) when he died in 1890 at the age of 29.
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One of the first things you should do when analyzing an old photo is to look at any
writing that appears. To give readers an extra hint, I left part of the sign showing at the
lower left of the picture.
This is hard to read, but it is possible to puzzle out that it says, "Comanche - the Only
Surv..." Surfing on combinations of words such as: "Comanche, famous horse" or
"Comanche, only surv" (without the quotes) would bring up many sites with
Comanche with caretaker Gustave
Korn. Photo courtesy of the Library of
Congress, available from the Denver
Public Library's Western Image
Who were these horses that appear in
nearly every painting of the Western
conquest, every bar-room poster of
Custer gallantly fending off his mounted
opponents? Many of them were once
wild, living on the open range, rounded
up and pressed into service by the US
army. Often they were not named but
given numbers – and they were enlisted
by the thousands. These beleaguered
four-legged troops were the great unsung
heroes of that horrible firestorm in the
greasy grass, and while Custer may have
gone down in history as the man who
was killed as he made his last stand, so
too do the horses of the 7th Cavalry deserve their place for serving with him, protecting
him, as he went down.
There was one horse in particular who – unlike many of the others, had a name - and
whose story has been passed down through military historians, newspaper accounts of
the time, and chroniclers of matters equine. His very name embodies the fateful clash
of civilizations that concluded in about twenty minutes (“the time it took the sun to pass
the width of one teepee pole,” according to a Native American witness); it was
Comanche, assigned as a replacement for his number because of the silent courage he
displayed while farriers removed an arrowhead embedded deep in his flesh following a
battle with Comanche Indians. Comanche went on to become an American hero - “the
lone survivor of the Little Bighorn” – a label that was glorious but not true because
there were many survivors, including scores of Native Americans who wiped out
Custer and his gray horse unit on June 25, 1876.
Most likely, Comanche was born around 1862, on what was once called the Great
Horse Desert of Texas, a vast region that was home to hundreds of thousands of
Comanche in Kansas, the horse was
wounded in the hindquarters by an arrow,
but continued to let Keogh fight from his
back. Thus the horse was named
“Comanche” to honor his bravery.
Comanche was wounded many more
times, always exhibiting the same
Eight years later, on June 25, 1876,
Captain Keogh rode Comanche at the
Battle of the Little Bighorn, led by Lt Col.
George Armstrong Custer. The battle
|Comments from Our Readers
mustangs. Comanche bore the markings of the
early Spanish horses – the bay or claybank horse
(though often inexplicably referred to as dun or
buckskin in many accounts) had the tell-tale black
dorsal stripe down his back which today can still be
seen on some wild horses in the high deserts of
Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. He
also had a small white star on his forehead. He was
an odd-looking horse, with a big head and thick
neck that were out of proportion for his body, and
he had legs that seemed slightly too short; possibly
he was the most misshapen of the foals born that
year although there certainly could have been others.
No one knows how old he was when he was taken
off the range; it was the era of the great plundering,
when immense populations of birds and mammals
Comanche is often described as the sole survivor of
Custer's detachment, but like so many other legends
surrounding the Little Bighorn battle, this one is false. As
historian Evan S. Connell writes in Son of the Morning
Comanche was reputed to be the only survivor of the
Little Bighorn, but quite a few Seventh Cavalry mounts
survived, probably more than one hundred, and there was
even a yellow bulldog. Comanche lived on another fifteen
years, and when he died, he was stuffed and to this day
remains in a glass case at the University of Kansas. So,
protected from moths and souvenir hunters by his
humidity-controlled glass case, Comanche stands
patiently, enduring generation after generation of
undergraduate jokes. The other horses are gone, and the
mysterious yellow bulldog is gone, which means that in a
sense the legend is true. Comanche alone survived.
He looked a LOT like Stonewall Jackson's Little Sorrel, but luckily I finally found the
exact pic of Comanche. Great quiz that made me search a lot. Now, I know more than
I ever thought I would about the famous horses of the Civil War! LOL.
This took a few searches but I finally found the answer looking for “famous horse”
images. This particular steed showed up in the following website where people choose
their favorites from a series of pictures-
The horse of the photo-quiz , Comanche, ranks with The Trojan Horse, Justin Morgan,
Man ‘O’ War, and Trigger. Turns out he was indeed “special” because he was the only
survivor from the 5 companies that were with Lt. Col. George Custer in the June 25,
1876 Battle of Little Big Horn. The owner and last rider of Comanche was Captain
Myles Keogh. Comanche was badly wounded but was rescued and taken to Fort
Abraham Lincoln, south of Mandan, North Dakota. In doing searches about Comanche
I noticed he became the subject of a song (1960) by Johnny Horton entitled “Comanche
- The Brave Horse”. This is somewhat amusing and can be found at:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFg0rYAG7UU Don Draper
I am working on todays's quiz. So far I think the horse might be Rienzior renamed
Winchester. He was Col Philp Sheirdan's horse during the Civil War and is now stuffed
and at the Smithsonian. I have not found a picture of the horse but did find a
description. It said the horse had three white socks. The picture you show does not
have the lower part of the horses legs, so I cannot tell about the socks. Am I on the
right track or should I keep looking fr more horses? Sharon Martin
Based on the dress of the soldier and the background scene, I guessed that it was the
horse from Little Big Horn. Having grown up in a "border town" to the reservation, I
am very familiar with the story of Little Big Horn and the Indian Wars. Very interesting
photo from the time period. Love the old photos! Evan Hindman
I knew this had to be picture related to Native American history from the pic but I've
never heard of Comanche before - more interesting animal trivia! Nicole Blank
I have to throw in the towel on this one, but it has been enlightening. I have read about
and seen more Civil War horse stories and pictures that have revealed an entirely new
part of history for me. Coming from the south, I am acutely aware of the general
history of that war, but never thought about the horses! Alas, I have not found this
exact picture and will be away from the computer the rest of the week. Nevertheless, I
am quiting having enriched my knowledge of Civil War horses. I have always meant to
tell you that even when I do not get the answer, I find the quizzes great fun. Thank
you! Maureen O'Connor
The tents and the uniform made me think of Custer immediately. I searched for
Custer's horse on Google images and there it was. The site is www.sonofthesouth.net.
This was fun putting on my horse sleuthing cap to discover all the tidbits about his
horse, Comanche. Now that the puzzle is solved, I'll eat my Sunday dinner! First things
first!!!!!! Grace Hertz
This was actually fairly easy because I seemed to remember something about a horse
which survived the Battle of Little Big Horn so I searched that and there he was.
Sans TinEye, this was solved solely with Google. An interesting puzzle. At first, I
thought this was General U. S. Grant's horse "Cincinnati". Stan Read
This was a fun story and I did not use tineye. Found it on my first search though.
Lucky I guess. Margaret Waterman
Because of the Army setting, at first I thought of, and googled, "Pershing horse", but
that didn't pan out. Then I thought of Custer, and it was easy from there. If you look
along the bottom edge of the cropped photo (after enlarging), you can make out
"commanche, only survi..." but until I knew what I was looking for, I could not read
the letters. Collier Smith
I did not use Tineye but I did immediately guess correctly! Jessica Jolley
Hello Colleen: I never went to tineye--- scout's honor. The caption on the bottom of the
contest photo (taken by John C. Grabil in 1887) was the big clue. This is a photo of a
horse named Comanche (means in Ute: one who wants to fight). Mike Dalton
I think Custer should have been stuffed. Sherry Marshall
I’ve actually been to the Little Big Horn battlefield. Its an interesting place of grasslands
on rolling hills and deep ravines. When you see the topography and consider how many
Indians there were, you realize how big a fool Custer was. John Chulick
I have always thought about the horses in all of the films of battles that I have seen
over the years. I can’t imagine the fear that they must have felt and to not have just
bolted from the battlefield was testament to their loyalty. Since they don’t allow “any
animals to be harmed in the making of this film” you rarely get a depiction of what it
was like in real battle for the animals. Very sad; it was nice to see that someone finally
gave credit to the horses. Now, about stuffing it and putting it in a museum, I’m not
sure how honorific that was... Barbara Battles
I do feel sad when I see the pain and suffering that so many animals have had to endure
thru no fault of their own. It's good that we have the opportunity to feel that pain now
and hopefully not repeat our mistakes. There are so many Animal Rights groups to
protect them now. Edee Scott
Commanche was a story I well remember, and it always stood out in my mind. I read
there was something about the Indians not wanting to take Commanche or shoot him,
as the reins were still entangled in the owners hands, and they thought the magic was
too big - if even in death the owner could hang onto his horse.
I remember well the story that Disney did about the horse as well. Although it started
out with the horse orginally belonging and being broke by an Indian boy and eventually
made into a calvary horse........ true or not, its an intriguing story. Pam Long
I had a flash of "I know that" which might have misled me. I googled "last horse" "little
big horn" to make sure of my answer. Marjorie Wilser
Google: special horse last person ride after Tamura Jones
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
|Answer to Quiz #253
April 18, 2010
|Mr. Rick and the Quiz Kids Ace Another One! Hi Ho Silver, Awayyyyyyy!
Sandra McConathy Don Draper
Caroline Pointer Sharon Martin
Evan Hindman Nicole Blank
Daniel E. Jolley Gary Sterne
Jim Baker Donna Jolley
Karen Kay Bunting JoLynn Pfeiffer
Peter Norton Edee Scott
Dennis Bussey John Chulick
Fred Stuart Debbie Johnson
Deborah Lee Stewart Deborah Lee Stewart
Jim Kiser Judy Pfaff
Carole Cropley Tamura Jones
Grace Hertz Ben Truwe
Milene Rawlinson Margaret Paxton
Barbara Battles Frank P. Nollette
Beth Long Diane Burkett
Stan Read Margaret Waterman
Pam Long Marilyn Hamill
Bill Utterback Collier Smith
Robin Spence Jessica Jolley
Suzanne Rude Sherry Marshall
Charles Grabs Bill Hurley
Michele Lee Amundsen Terri Burris
A. J. Morris Jocelyn Thayer Richard Wakeham
Robert W. Steinmann, Jr. Marjorie Wilser Walter Wood
Robert Edward McKenna, QPL
happened to cross their paths. The trail
ended in St. Louis, where just days after
running free on the open range, the
horses were funneled into crowded
corrals, awaiting buyers from the army.
On April 3, 1868, Comanche was sold to
the army for the average price of $90. A
week after his purchase, Comanche and
an unknown number of horses were
loaded onto railroad cars and shipped
west to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where
they arrived around the middle of May
and were each branded with the letters
1. What is special about this horse?
2. Who was the last person to ride him?
3. What was he used for after that?
TINEYE SPOILER ALERT.
Try to do this puzzle without the assistance of Tineye. It will be more fun.
|Suggested by long time Quizmaster Linda Williams.
|Quiz Number 253, 18 April 2010
Comanche the horse survived in some way,
Of the Little Big Horn infamous day.
Last ridden by Maj. Keogh in the disturbing fray.
Little Big Horn rider it did not betray,
Easy life for Comanche was its rich reward,
Eluding the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Indian hoard.
Now that I have tried a different poetry form,
For several reasons I will stick with the norm.
Robert Edward McKenna
Quiz Poet Laureate
Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD
Understudy to Quiz Poet Laureate
Robert Edward McKenna
US on the left shoulder, the regiment number on the left thigh and the letter C for
cavalry. Sometimes the letter of the company to which the horse was assigned was
added to the brand. Custer’s 7th cavalry unit had been stationed in Kansas and had lost
a number of horses that spring. Custer sent his brother, First Lieutenant Tom W.
Custer, to buy remounts. After looking them over in the corrals, he purchased 41,
including the horse that would soon be named Comanche. Once again the horses were
loaded onto a train, where they stood head to tail in crowded cars and shipped the short
distance to Hays City, near Ellis, Kansas where Custer and his troops were encamped.
Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry liked the 15 hand bay gelding and bought him
for his own personal mount, to be ridden only in battle. In 1868, while fighting the
become famous when their entire detachment was killed. Comanche was found two
days after the battle, badly wounded. After being transported to Fort Lincoln, he was
slowly nursed back to health.
After a lengthy convalescence, Comanche was retired. In April, 1878, Colonel Samuel
D. Sturgis issued the following humane order:
"Headquarters Seventh United States Cavalry, Fort A. Lincoln, D. T., April 10th, 1878.
General Orders No. 7.
(1.) The horse known as 'Comanche,' being the only living representative of the bloody
tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be
a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh
Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred
as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate
struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner
in which all went down on that fatal day.
(2.) The commanding officer of Company I will see that a special and comfortable
stable is fitted up for him, and he will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under
any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work.
(3.) Hereafter, upon all occasions of ceremony of mounted regimental formation,
saddled, bridled, and draped in mourning, and led by a mounted trooper of Company I,
will be paraded with the regiment.
By command of Col. Sturgis, E. A. Garlington, First Lieutenant and Adjutant, Seventh
The ceremonial order evoked another contribution to the Comanche saga which saw
print before the legend could get out of hand. A reporter for the Bismarck Tribune went
to Fort Abraham Lincoln to interview Comanche. He "asked the usual questions which
his subject acknowledged with a toss of his head, a stamp of his foot and a flourish of
his beautiful tail."
His official keeper, named as Farrier John Rivers of Company I, Keogh's old troop,
saved "Comanche's reputation" by answering more fully. Here is the gist of what the
reporter learned (Bismarck Tribune , May 10, 1878):
Comanche was a veteran, 21 years old, and had been with the 7th Cavalry since its
Organization in '66.... He was found by Sergeant [Milton J.] DeLacey [Co. I] in a
ravine where he had crawled, there to die and feed the Crows. He was raised up and
tenderly cared for. His wounds were serious, but not necessarily fatal if properly looked
after...He carries seven scars from as many bullet wounds. There are four back of the
foreshoulder, one through a hoof, and one on either hind leg. On the Custer battlefield
(actually Fort Abraham Lincoln) three of the balls were extracted from his body and the
last one was not taken out until April '77…Comanche is not a great horse, physically
talking; he is of medium size, neatly put up, but quite noble looking. He is very gentle.
His color is 'claybank' He would make a handsome carriage horse...
In June, 1879, Comanche was brought to Fort Meade by the Seventh Regiment, where
he was kept like a prince until 1887, when he was taken to Fort Riley, Kansas. As an
honor, he was made “Second Commanding Officer” of the 7th Cavalry. At Fort Riley,
he became something of a pet, occasionally leading parades and indulging in a fondness
Comanche died in 1890. He is one of only two horses in United States history to be
buried with full military honors, the other being Black Jack.
His remains were sent to the University of Kansas and preserved, where they can still
be seen today in the university's Natural History Museum.
|Peter's Comments about the Puzzle
|What marvelous paths this picture led me to! Based on the soldier's
uniform I Googled "Civil War stallion" images thinking it might have
been, say, Grant's horse; then I sped through many dozens of
pictures until this one showed up. I then spent about two and a half
hours reading accounts of the battle and the general treatment and
veterinary care of cavalry horses in that period. One discussion was
on a blog with a link to an entry on 19th-century styles of facial hair
– I've had a beard most of the time since 1968 (sometimes coming
off for a play, once in a while because I think I'd like a change, but
shaving is so barbaric), so I'm always curious about why facial is
these days so often looked upon as either an oddity or a political
statement; then I wound up in the weather station on Mount
Washington, New Hampshire in April, 1934 for the recording of the
greatest natural wind velocity ever measured by anemometer. It's
hard to stop following this stuff, but I really want to be able to get
somewhere at a particular time tomorrow morning!
I've been dedicated to nonviolence ever since I first learned that I
have a choice in the matter; nevertheless, I find descriptions of
military action, tactics, strategy and logistics endlessly fascinating.
My own little perversion.
Traveller was purchased by General Robert E. Lee in 1862
and is considered by many to be the most famous horse of
the Civil War. The horse had been named Jeff Davis prior to
General Lee’s purchase. General Lee rode Traveller through
the majority of the war, including the battles at Gettysburg,
Manassas, and Fredericksburg. After the war, Traveller
went with General Lee to Washington College. After Lee
died, his trusted horse marched in his funeral procession.
Traveller is also the “author” of a ghost-written volume that
tells about the Civil War as seen through a horse’s eyes.
General Ulysses Grant’s favorite war horse
was named Cincinnati. He was the son of
Lexington, one of the fastest racehorses of
the time and property of General William
Tecumseh Sherman. General Grant was
given Cincinnati as a gift in 1864 and rarely
allowed anyone else to ride him. General
Grant rode Cincinnati throughout the war
and to his surrender meeting with General
Robert E. Lee. The horse stayed with
Grant at the White House after he became
president and lived until 1878. Grant’s
other horses included Methuselah, Rondy,
Fox, Jack, Jeff Davis and Kangaroo.
|Lexington was the horse of General
William Tecumseh Sherman during the
Civil War. A famous Kentucky racehorse,
Lexington was relied upon for his speed
during the war. Lexington carried General
Sherman through Atlanta in 1864 and to
Washington for the final review of his
army. His son, Cincinnati was a gift to
General Ulysses Grant.
In the spring of 1861, while he was in command at
Harper's Ferry, Jackson acquired the horse that he rode
throughout the war. Although the horse was originally
purchased by Jackson as a gift for his wife and initially
named "Fancy," this name was short-lived. Jackson decided
to keep the horse, and it was universally known as "Little
Sorrel." Described as small (approximately 15 hands) and
gaunt, but with remarkable powers of endurance, Little
Sorrel remained Jackson's favorite and he was riding this
horse when he was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville.
After the war, Little Sorrel first returned to North Carolina
with Mrs. Jackson, and subsequently was sent to VMI,
where he grazed on the VMI Parade Ground and was a
favorite of cadets. He died in March 1886, at the age of 36,
and his mounted hide is now on display in the VMI
Museum in Lexington, Virginia. Little Sorrel's bones were
cremated and interred on the grounds of VMI in 1997.