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Wednesday 26 June 2019

Myles Keogh

Charlie Keegan tells of the grandnephew of an Irish captain killed alongside Custer

MYLES (Miley) Kehoe, who died on Saturday, November 13, aged 86, was grandnephew of Captain Myles Walter Keogh of the 7th Cavalry who was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn -- Custer's last stand.

Myles Keogh (the name sometimes appears as Kehoe) was born at Orchard House, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, in the farmhouse where the soldier's direct descendants still reside. Miley Kehoe farmed the family holding at Orchard all his working life.

He was a life-long Fine Gael activist and staunch member of the Irish Farmers' Association. He walked to Dublin as part of the Carlow contingent in the NFA national rates protest of 1966, when farmers camped out on the steps of Government Buildings.

A dedicated GAA man, Miley provided the local All Blacks Leighlinbridge club with a pitch on his lands at Ballinaboley, until the club obtained its own playing grounds close by.

An aunt of Miley's, Margaret Kehoe, died during the 1916 Easter Rising. The 22-year-old, a nurse at St James's Hospital, went to the assistance of one of the insurgents, Daniel McCarthy, who had been shot and injured. Margaret was shot dead by a British army marksman.

This incident did not deter Miley's brother Blanch Kehoe from joining the British army. A captain in World War Two, he was killed during the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Miley's granduncle Myles Walter Keogh was among 1,400 Irishmen who in March 1860, answered the call of Pope Pius IX to the young men of Ireland to help preserve the sovereignty of the Papal States. The dashing young Carlow lieutenant was awarded two papal decorations, having distinguished himself in the siege of the Adriatic port city of Ancona in Italy.

From Italy, he was recruited to fight on the Union side in the US Civil War and served at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. For his part in the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, Keogh received the brevet rank of major.

After the Civil War he applied for a commission in the regular US army and took part in over 80 engagements. He went on to become a captain in the newly formed 7th US Cavalry. In June of 1876 he rode with Custer "into eternity" in a campaign launched against the Indians in the Black Hills of Montana and Dakota. Custer's 213 men were wiped out through their leader's reckless action on June 25, 1876, at the Little Bighorn, Montana, by the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.

Keogh was senior captain among the five companies massacred with Custer 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. All the bodies were scalped and mutilated but for two -- Custer and Keogh. It is speculated the Sioux may have found the decoration conferred on him by the Pope, the medal he carried on a chain around his neck.

Keogh's horse 'Comanche' was the only survivor of the battle on the army side. The badly injured animal was found days later. When the horse died it was stuffed -- and is now on exhibition in the University of Kansas.

Miley Kehoe's passing breaks a generational link with his famous namesake -- the tall, blue-eyed Carlow soldier of the 19th century.

But the Kehoe name continues to live on in Orchard, through Miley's sons, Blanch and Myles. His wife Grace died in 2005 and he is also survived by his daughters Angela, Eileen, Grainne, Deirdre and his sister Frances.

More Obituaries, Page 33

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