The following is a true story that happened to me and my family on a vacation trip to the Little Big Horn Battlefield in the summer of 1992. I have a great-great uncle named Myles Keogh, who rode with Custer and was the Commander of Company "I". I wanted to see just where he died. I had to explain to the Rangers who I was and how I was related to Myles, and after I told them in detail my relationship, they allowed me and only me to go to where he died and do a rubbing on his stone.
It was about 105 degrees and we then drove out to Reno-Benteen (Ridge) Battlefield. We were the only ones foolish enough to go out there in that heat, and there was not a soul in sight. When we parked and got out and started to snoop around, a soldier in full uniform came up over the ridge from the direction of the river! We started talking with him about the battle, and the kids were asking questions. He looked wiped (bushed/tired) so I went to the cooler and gave him a cold soda. He looked at it very strangely, but didn't open it.
We explained our relationship to Myles and the soldier started telling us things that only a person who knew Myles could know. For example, Myles was a spy/informer/assassin for President Grant. Grant hated Custer for a slight at the end of the Civil War, and Custer was going to run for President after the battle (common knowledge). Then the soldier told us how Uncle Myles was loved by his men because he shared his liquor. This was something I always wondered about, but I didn't want to ask him if Uncle Myles was a mean drunk. Myles had numerous casks of whiskey with the pack train.
Here's how Custer was shot as he tried to cross the Little Big Horn River in a flanking maneuver. The soldier told us that Uncle Myles was a crack shot with a 44-40 rifle. After Cluster's battalion was pushed up onto Custer Hill by the Indians, Myles tried to save his own company, but before he left, and knowing it was a futile effort to escape, Myles put a round into Cluster's head for getting all of his troopers killed.
Suddenly, the soldier said that he had to get along and he turned and went back over the ridge and out of sight, and we went to the car. We thought this was pretty interesting but didn't give it too much thought. But then I started to wonder how he could have known all this because everyone that went with Custer was dead and the story couldn't be told unless that soldier was there himself!
I'll never forget the soldier. Honestly, the air seemed charged-electric when he came into view.
- His eyes were piercing, like he was looking right through me.
- His voice sounded hollow and distant, with a slight drawl.
- He was a sergeant; his uniform was dusty-dirty and well worn.
- He wore a kepi.
- He wasn't clean-shaven, but he wasn't bearded. He looked weathered and raw.
- He seemed awestruck by my wife and kids, like he had a wife and kids and missed them very much. (If he was a re-enactor he could have won an Oscar with his performance.)
- He never acted or sounded like a Ranger in a "living history" mode; he just referred to each area as "over there," not by its common National Memorial name.
- And he didn't point with his finger, but just like a Native American, he pointed with his nose, throwing his head back and using his nose as a pointer.
That area around Reno-Benteen and the path to Uncle Myles' marker stone was the most electric, spirit-filled place I've ever been. I could almost hear the war cries of the Sioux warriors. Not spooky, but -- this'll sound stupid or crazy -- almost like the old Twilight Zone episode about the National Guardsmen who go back to the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
I am a very believable Civil War re-enactor, but that Soldier never strayed out of character. I've never see anything as authentic as he was. That's something me, the wife and the kids still talk about.