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 Myles Walter Keogh

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Myles Walter Keogh

  • Birth 25 Mar 1840 Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland
  • Death 25 Jun 1876 Little Big Horn Battle Site, Big Horn County, Montana, USA
  • Burial Auburn, Cayuga County, New York, USA
  • Plot Section 74 (Mount Hope) on top of Mound
  • Memorial ID 2159

United States Army Officer. A distinguished Civil War soldier who was later killed at the Little Big Horn, the best known battle of the Indian Wars, Keogh first captured the popular imagination as the rider of "Comanche," the celebrated equine survivor of the fight. His body was also one of the few among the 7th Cavalry dead that had not been mutilated by the victorious Indians, who may have been wary of the unusual Papal medals he carried, or impressed by his bravery, as evidence suggests he was the particularly heroic officer described in Native American accounts. The Irish-born cavalryman's colorful life subsequently gave rise to numerous legends, some more rooted in negative ethnic stereotypes than in fact. Unlike most of his immigrant countrymen, Myles Walter Keogh was a scion of Ireland's landed gentry, and had enjoyed a privileged childhood relatively unscathed by the ravages of the great potato famine. Born at Orchard House, near Leighlinbridge in County Carlow, he was the youngest son in the large family of John Keogh, a gentleman farmer, and his blue-blooded wife, the former Margarete Blanchfield of Clifden Castle in Kilkenny. A sensitive but adventurous boy, he had been inspired by the storybook "Charles O'Malley the Irish Dragoon" to pursue a more exciting life, and in 1860 withdrew from St. Patrick's College at the Pope's call for young Catholic men to defend the Church against revolutionary forces in Italy. There his bravery at the battles of Ancona and Castelfidardo was recognized with a Papal knighthood and the Pro Petri Sede medal, but his overall experience left him disillusioned with Vatican politics. While still in Rome he was approached by American bishops recruiting experienced foreign officers for the Union army, and after marking his 22nd birthday at sea, arrived in the United States in April 1862. Quickly commissioned a captain and dispatched to the Shenandoah Valley as an aide-de-camp, he continued to serve as a staff officer throughout the Civil War, but seized every opportunity to prove himself in combat. The favorite aide of General John Buford, who eventually died in his arms in December 1863, he subsequently served with General George Stoneman, and after being captured with the general on his ill-fated cavalry raid of 1864, spent two harrowing months as a prisoner of war before being exchanged. His service record, studded with citations for gallantry in action, included the battles of Port Republic, Second Manassas, Antietam, Aldie, Brandy Station, Gettysburg and the Atlanta campaign. Breveted to the ranks of Major and Lieutenant Colonel for valor at Gettysburg and Resaca, respectively, he secured a post-war commission in the newly-formed 7th Cavalry on the basis of outstanding testimonials from Generals Stoneman, Meade, Thomas, and others. Tall, strikingly handsome, and impeccably groomed, the young Irishman who was said to be "unsurpassed in dash" and to ride "like a centaur," also cut a romantic figure in society. He was unlucky in love, however, and never married. Although nominally in command of the 7th's Troop I until his death ten years later, he was frequently away on detached service and official leaves of absence, and missed all of the regiment's major engagements until its doomed expedition against the Sioux and Cheyenne in the spring of 1876. Keogh maintained his debonair facade and formidable professional skills to the last, but privately struggled with depression. Profoundly affected by a series of untimely deaths among those closest to him, including the woman he'd hoped to marry, he also felt the financial strain of providing dowries for his sisters in Ireland, and frustration with Indian warfare. He returned to his native Carlow twice during this time, but despite his homesickness, became an American citizen and deeded his Clifden Castle inheritance to a sister. Initially buried in a hastily dug, individual grave on the battlefield like the other slain officers in Custer's command, his remains were recovered a year later and re-interred in Auburn, New York on October 25, 1877, an occasion marked by city-wide official mourning and an impressive military procession to the cemetery. The prominent Throop-Martin family, with whom Keogh had become friendly after his comrade General A.J. Alexander married Evelina Martin, was responsible for his burial in their Fort Hill plot and the design of his monument, which bears the inscription "The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring." The marble cross atop his grave was added later at the request of a sister in Ireland.

Bio by: Nikita Barlow





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2159
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Myles Walter Keogh (25 Mar 1840–25 Jun 1876), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2159, citing Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, Cayuga County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .