Custer’s Last Stand – June 25, 1876
One of the most storied events in the history of the American West was the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn, otherwise known as “Custer’s Last Stand.” George Armstrong Custer, whose earlier cavalry career included the interception of the General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox , was assigned as Commander of the 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley , Kansas . When ordered to move a band of Indians toward a large American cavalry force, the ambitious and often arrogant Custer became over-zealous, and as they reached the Sioux encampment, he divided his regiment and decided to fight. Custer’s force was entirely annihilated within a short time. The other regiment force was rescued by supporting cavalry four days later, and the search for survivors of Custer’s troops began. Not one man was found alive and only one horse survived – Comanche.
After the Battle of the Little Big Horn, a horse was found in a thicket with seven arrows in his body. The horse, named Comanche, was a gelding ridden by Captain Keogh, one of Custer’s officers. The horse’s wounds were treated and he was carefully loaded onto a riverboat. The US Cavalry headquarters allowed Comanche complete freedom for the rest of his life at Fort Riley, Kansas. Comanche was officially retired and it was ordered that no one would ever ride him again. He was called “the Second Commanding Officer” of the 7th Cavalry. His only duties were to be lead in the front of official parades occasionally. The Seventh Cavalry’s commanding officer insisted that Comanche be saddled for all engagements and official occasions, but he could never be ridden again. Comanche became a national celebrity. On his death, his obituary appeared in newspapers throughout the country. Comanche was taxidermied after his death, and is now exhibited at the Museum of Kansas University.
It is said he developed a fondness for beer in his later years, and was such a pet at the fort that he was often indulged in this habit. He lived to the age of 29.