George Armstrong Custer and "Garryowen"
Countless books have been published about George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. At the time the battle that took place along the Little Bighorn River in Montana represented the largest single Indian War military loss. An interesting side story about Custer's 7th Cavalry was their unofficial regimental marching song "Garryowen". Marching tunes have been used in the military for centuries. They are used today.
All branches of the military are known to have cadence calls. The cadence call requires no musical instruments and sometimes the lyrics are composed of call outs and answers. When you look back to the time before mechanized transportation, a marching song during a protracted hike helps build cohesion, keeps the troops in step and makes a long march a bit less weary. Essentially these tunes add rhythm to a march. A march is work and you could say these are "work songs". In the U.S. these cadences are sometimes referred to as "jody calls". The name Jody appears in many traditional military cadences thus the term "jody calls".
The Story Behind Garryowen
The story is that George Custer first heard the tune being sung among his Irish troopers. Some historians believe it was introduced to Colonel Custer by Captain Myles W. Keogh, one of his officers. Keogh's father reportedly had been with the Fifth Royal Irish Lancers who had used this song.
It originated just outside Limerick, Ireland and translates into "Owens Garden". Custer liked it and started humming it himself. He also thought the tune matched up pretty well to a regiment of Cavalry horse soldiers on the march. The tune actually was used by Irish regiments as a drinking song and some say it's quick stepped rhythm can be traced as far back as the early 1800's. It's first introduction among U.S. soldiers was in the early 1860's during the Civil War.
There were revisions to it's lyrics over time. The sites below offers you the words that went along with the tune:
Here is another site that tells you all about the history of the 7th Cavalry Regiment:
In 1981 the Army's First Cavalry Division made "Garryowen" it's official song.
The Custer Battlefield Museum is located in Garryowen, MT. The site is right along Interstate-90 a few miles south of the Custer Battlefield and about 55 miles northwest of Sheridan, Wyoming. This museum offers a vast display of photos, weaponry, paintings, manuscripts and many many more interesting artifacts. Several events are scheduled including reenactments of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The museum also offers internships for interested students. If you are in the general area I think this would make an excellent stop. Another story I believe you'll find interesting is George Armstrong Custer's Washita River Battle in 1868.
The museum web site tells you much more of what to see and do there:
LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD RIDE VIDEO