James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

June 25

Miles Keogh’s Horse

By John Hay (1838–1905)

  • Colonel Miles Keogh was a young Irishman who was with General Custer in the fight on the Little Big Horn. In this fight, June 25th, 1876, every man of the United States force was killed, Col. Keogh’s horse being the only thing left alive on the battlefield.

  • ON the bluff of the Little Big-Horn,

    At the close of a woful day,

    Custer and his Three Hundred

    In death and silence lay.

    Three Hundred to three Thousand!

    They had bravely fought and bled;

    For such is the will of Congress

    When the White man meets the Red.

    The White men are ten millions,

    The thriftiest under the sun;

    The Reds are fifty thousand,

    And warriors every one.

    So Custer and all his fighting men

    Lay under the evening skies,

    Staring up at the tranquil heaven

    With wide, accusing eyes.

    And of all that stood at noonday

    In that fiery scorpion ring,

    Miles Keogh’s horse at evening

    Was the only living thing.

    Alone from that field of slaughter,

    Where lay the three hundred slain,

    The horse Comanche wandered,

    With Keogh’s blood on his mane.

    And Sturgis issued this order,

    Which future times shall read,

    While the love and honor of comrades

    Are the soul of the soldier’s creed.

    He said—

    Let the horse Comanche

    Henceforth till he shall die,

    Be kindly cherished and cared for

    By the Seventh Cavalry.

    He shall do no labor; he never shall know

    The touch of spur nor rein;

    Nor shall his back be ever crossed

    By living rider again.

    And at regimental formation

    Of the Seventh Cavalry,

    Comanche draped in mourning and led

    By a trooper of Company I,

    Shall parade with the regiment!

    Thus it was

    Commanded and thus done,

    By order of General Sturgis, signed

    By Adjutant Garlington.

    Even as the sword of Custer,

    In his disastrous fall,

    Flashed out a blaze that charmed the world

    And glorified his pall,

    This order, issued amid the gloom

    That shrouds our army’s name,

    When all foul beasts are free to rend

    And tear its honest fame,

    Shall prove to a callous people

    That the sense of a soldier’s worth,

    That the love of comrades, the honor of arms,

    Have not yet perished from earth.