Archive for March 26th, 2013

Within the Chilson collection, there is a great wealth of information on the Battle of Little Bighorn. Within these books, there are a delightful little bunch of narratives regarding the animals of Little Bighorn, most of them focusing on Keogh’s horse Comanche.

One book, Marching with Custer by Elwood L. Nye, outlines the hardships the animals with Custer’s command experienced. In particular, the long march before the battle and the subsequent exhaustion of the horses is emphasized. Nye writes: “The ponies were so exhausted toward the end that when Custer ordered some of the scouts forward in pursuit of fleeing Sioux as the regiment approached the Little Big Horn, they refused to go because of the condition of their animals. Some of the scouts dropped out completely during the last few miles of the approach, saying their horses were too poor (meaning in too poor condition), to go on” (Nye 32). Included at the end of the book is a collection of woodcuts, drawings, and photographs of Custer mounted on a horse.

Another book, His Very Silence Speaks: Comanche—The Horse Who Survived Custer’s Last Stand by Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence, is a very detailed account of Comanche’s life, including his role in the regiment, the legends and stories that followed him, and the artwork created of him. In one amusing story, Comanche’s growing taste for alcohol is described. During his recovery after the Battle of Little Bighorn, Comanche was given whiskey bran mash. If he ventured into the soldier’s canteen, he was given buckets of beer to enjoy (Lawrence 107).

An old-fashioned narrative written from Comanche’s perspective, titled Comanche: The Story of America’s Most Heroic Horse by David Appel, is full of illustrations. Though it might not be entirely historically accurate, the pictures are lovely.

Comanche at Battle of Little Bighorn

Illustration from Comanche: The Story of America’s Most Heroic Horse page 221.

Works Cited:

Appel, David. Comanche: The Story of America’s Most Heroic Horse. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1951. Print.

Lawrence, Elizabeth Atwood. His Very Silence Speaks: Comanche–The Horse Who Survived Custer’s Last Stand. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989. Print.

Nye, Elwood L. Marching with Custer: A Day-By-Day Evaluation of the Uses, Abuses, and Conditions of the Animals on the Ill-Fated Expedition of 1876. Arthur H. Clark Company, 1964. Print.

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