Appel, David

About the author

David Appel joined the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1946 as book editor. He started the paper’s book review section, and held regular author lunches. He was a keen student of American history, particularly of George Armstrong Custer, and he wrote an historical novel about the only survivor of Custer’s forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn: the horse Comanche.

Appel’s book was the basis for the Walt Disney film Tonka. His was not the only book on the subject of Comanche, who captured popular imagination. Margaret Leighton also wrote on the horse. Comanche was ridden by Captain Keogh at the Battle of Little Big Horn, and was left injured, but alive, after the battle. The horse was nursed back to heath, and then retired. Colonel Samuel D Sturgis issued the following order:

The horse known as ‘Comanche,’ being the only living representative of the bloody tragedy of the Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, his kind treatment and comfort shall be a matter of special pride and solicitude on the part of every member of the Seventh Cavalry to the end that his life be preserved to the utmost limit. Wounded and scarred as he is, his very existence speaks in terms more eloquent than words, of the desperate struggle against overwhelming numbers of the hopeless conflict and the heroic manner in which all went down on that fatal day.

Finding the book
Reasonably easy to find. It was not published in the UK.

Links and sources
David Appel – obituary (New York Times)
More on Comanche (Wikipedia)
The New York Times on the Disney film Tonka
Margaret Leighton’s book on Comanche

Bibliography (horse books only)


EM Hale/World Publishing Company, Cleveland, 1951, 224 pp, illus James Daughterty

Comanche was the only creature; man or horse, to survive from Custer’s forces at the battle of Little Big Horn. The horse made up in character and bravery what he lacked in looks.