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.
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 or 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
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.
In the dream of the Northern poets,
The brave who in battle die
Fight on in shadowy phalanx
In the field of the upper sky;
And as we read the sounding rhyme,
The reverent fancy hears
The ghostly ring of the viewless swords
And the clash of the spectral spears.
We think with imperious questionings
Of the brothers whom we have lost,
And we strive to track in death’s mystery
The flight of each valiant ghost.
The Northern myth comes back to us,
And we feel, through our sorrow’s night,
That those young souls are striving still
Somewhere for the truth and light.
It was not their time for rest and sleep;
Their hearts beat high and strong;
In their fresh veins the blood of youth
Was singing its hot, sweet song.
The open heaven bent over them,
Mid flowers their lithe feet trod,
Their lives lay vivid in light, and blest
By the smiles of women and God.
Again they come! Again I hear
The tread of that goodly band;
I know the flash of Ellsworth’s eye
And the grasp of his hard, warm hand;
And Putnam, and Shaw, of the lion-heart,
And an eye like a Boston girl’s;
And I see the light of heaven which lay
On Ulric Dahlgren’s curls.