“The only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn”-General Orders 7, April 10th, 1878

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227. LUCE, Edward S[mith]. Keogh, Comanche and Custer. [St. Louis: John F. Swift] Privately printed, 1939. [i-ii] iii-xvii [1, blank], 1-127 pp., frontispiece portrait, plates. 8vo, original blue cloth, gilt. Gilt on spine faced, binding lightly rubbed, overall very good. Privately printed, scarce work.
     First edition, limited edition (unnumbered). Dustin 456 (p. 398 in W. A. Graham, Custer Myth: A Source Book of Custeriana, Stackpole Books, 1953). Howes L553(“aa”): “Small edition.” Luther, Custer High Spots, pp. 51 & 96. Luther, High Spots of Custer and the Little Big Horn Literature 99 & p. 19: “Three of his appendices add valuable knowledge in regard to the number of recruits in the regiment (much smaller than some historians would lead us to believe) and the killed, the wounded, and the survivors.” Author Major Edward S. Luce was passionately interested in the Battle of Little Big Horn and served with the 7th Cavalry (1907 to 1910) prior to becoming involved with the Custer Battlefield and its preservation. During his stint with the historic site, he devoted most of his time compiling the history of the regiment.

     “Comanche” in the title of the book refers to Major Myles Walter Keogh’s horse, long alleged to be the only survivor of Custer’s Last Stand, or at least according to U.S. Army General Orders No. 7, Headquarters Seventh United States Cavalry, Fort A. Lincoln, D. T., April 10th, 1878:

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.

Brian W. Dippie states that “Comanche’s story is the most popular of the Custer legends”(Custer’s Last Stand: The Anatomy of an American Myth, Missoula: University of Montana Press, 1976). See also Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence, His Very Silence Speaks: Comanche-the Horse Who Survived Custer’s Last Stand (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989). Sometimes we learn more about ourselves from our mythology rather than actual history (whatever that is).

     Robert M. Utley, “‘Whose Shrine Is It?’: The Ideological Struggle for Custer Battlefield,” in Montana: the Magazine of Western History 42:2, Winter 1991, p. 72:

When I first went to work at what was then Custer Battlefield in 1947 at the age of seventeen, I did not know what patriotic orthodoxy was. But we assuredly practiced it. Superintendent Edward S. Luce was an old Seventh Cavalryman, and the story we told was of brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their country and the opening of the West. The Indians were cardboard cutouts, impersonal foils for celebrating the heroism of Custer and his troopers.


Sold. Hammer: $300; Price Realized: $367.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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