Irish history is replete with many warriors who stood and when all else failed, remained standing.
Not one of them holds a candle to Myles Keogh - in terms of bravery, depth and history.
In those 36 years, his life's journey was unlike any other man's travels in history.
Three wars, two continents, one hero.
Author Brian Pohanka put it this way: "In March 1860, Pope Pius IX called upon the young men of Ireland to help preserve the sovereignty of the Papal States, which were threatened with annexation by the armies of Piedmont-Sardinia. While many Italians, sympathetic to the Piedmont-backed revolutionary forces of Garibaldi, viewed the continued existence of the Papal holdings as an impediment to a united Italy, Catholic volunteers from throughout Europe rallied to the Vatican's support.
Keogh was among the 1,400 Irishmen who traveled to Italy, and in July was appointed lieutenant in a four-company battalion garrisoned in the Adriatic port city of Ancona"
"On September 18, the main body of the 18,000-man Papal Army was defeated in the battle of Castelfidardo, and Ancona was soon besieged by land and sea. The outnumbered Papal defenders put up a spirited defense until the inevitable capitulation on September 29, 1860. Following a brief incarceration in Genoa, Keogh and 45 Irish comrades traveled to Rome, where at the invitation of Pius IX they joined the Papal Guard as the green-uniformed "Company of Saint Patrick.
The dashing young lieutenant now sported two medals for valor, the Pro Petri Sede ( his actual medal from the photograph above is seen on the left) and Ordine di San Gregorio (below); but with the fighting over Keogh saw little purpose in remaining at Rome. With Civil War raging in America, Secretary of State William H. Seward began seeking experienced European officers to serve the Union, and called upon a number of prominent clerics to assist in his endeavor.
John Hughes, Archbishop of New York, traveled to Italy to recruit veterans of the Papal War, and met with Keogh and his comrades. One highly decorated officer of the Irish Battalion, John J. Coppinger, had already departed for America where he obtained a commission in the U.S. Regular Army, and others soon followed."
Keogh's Civil War service was exemplary, serving valiently in Gettysburg and many other major battles.
"General Stoneman saw to it that Keogh was promoted Major and acting chief of staff. In that capacity he accompanied the General on a daring raid behind enemy lines to free the Union prisoners incarcerated at Macon, Georgia. If all went well, Stoneman planned to continue on and liberate the notorious stockade at Andersonville. But on July 31, 1864 the Confederates surrounded and attacked Stoneman's troopers outside of Macon. Both Stoneman and Keogh had their horses shot from under them and were taken prisoner. Confined in Macon and later at Charleston, South Carolina, Keogh was fortunate enough to be exchanged with General Stoneman on September 30. "I thank God I was thought enough of by Genl. Sherman to be specially exchanged," Keogh wrote his sister Ellen. "I should have died in a very short time & as it is I am almost broken down."
He was a prisoner of war twice, shot at, missed and led men into battle, time and time again.
Yet, he was not done serving when the South capitulated.
"(After the Civil War) Myles Keogh's initial Regular Army assignment was to the 4th U.S. Cavalry, but he never served with that unit. In November of 1866 he was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas, to become Captain of Company I in the newly formed 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, in which the flamboyant "boy general" George Armstrong Custer was now serving as Lieutenant Colonel. The regiment's 12 companies were more often than not dispersed among various frontier posts, and Captain Keogh was placed in command of Fort Wallace, Kansas, an isolated garrison on the Smokey Hills Trail. He soon discovered how frustratingly different Indian warfare was from European and Civil War campaigning. After a typically unsuccessful pursuit of a Cheyenne raiding party, Keogh informed Regimental Adjutant Myles Moylan, "without knowing exactly where to surprise their camp, or having a guide who can track them at a run, it is a waste of horseflesh and time to endeavor to come up with them.""
In the photo above, Myles Keogh is dressed in black leaning forward, standing next to George Custer, also standing, photographed at a picnic in 1875.
And finally:"Myles Keogh seems to have sensed that the 1876 campaign would be his last, and death was very much on his mind in the days preceding the 7th Cavalry's departure from Fort Lincoln. He gave copies of his will to several comrades, including Lieutenant Nowlan, and took out a $10,000 life insurance policy. Keogh also left a satchel of personal papers with Mrs. Eliza Porter, the wife of Company I's Lieutenant James Porter, and instructed her to burn them should he be killed. Finally Keogh wrote what would be his last letter to Nelly Martin, concluding:
"We leave Monday on an Indian expedition & if I ever return I will go on and see you all. I have requested to be packed up and shipped to Auburn in case I am killed, and I desire to be buried there. God bless you all, remember if I should die -- you may believe that I loved you and every member of your family -- it was a second home to me."
Perhaps the strongest testimony to Keogh's bravery and leadership ability came at Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. The senior captain among the five companies wiped out with Custer that day, and commanding one of two squadrons within the Custer detachment, Keogh died in a "last stand" of his own, surrounded by the men of Company I. When the sun-blackened and dismembered dead were buried three days later, Keogh's body was found at the center of a group of troopers that included his two sergeants, company trumpeter and guidon bearer. The slain officer was stripped but not mutilated, perhaps because of the "medicine" the Indians saw in the Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God") he wore on a chain about his neck. Keogh's left knee had been shattered by a bullet that corresponded to a wound through the chest and flank of his horse, "Comanche," indicating that horse and rider may have fallen together prior to the last rally. The badly injured animal was found on the fatal battlefield, and nursed back to health as a regimental mascot."
May St. Patrick's Day have a different feel to it this year for 'ya.