“I’ve got a quote in my book that every American bullet fired in
the war was encased in Butte copper,” said Robison, who’ll be
part of Sunday’s program at Fort Missoula.
They’re not forget-me-nots, but they could be called that. The scientific name for the tiny blue flowers that grow in France’s Forest of Verdun is Sisyrinchium montanum. “They call it the blue-eyed grass of Montana,” a national forest official in Douamont told the American Foreign Press in 2016.
Douamont is lined with graves of 80,000 of the 300,000 French and German soldiers who died in the 300-day Battle of Verdun in 1916, the year before the United States entered World War I. The flowers aren’t native, Patrice Hirbec told the news service. They were introduced to Verdun as seeds on the hooves of United States Army horses.
It wasn’t a good war to be a horse. It’s said that on one day during the Battle of Verdun, 7,000 were killed in the shelling. Estimates vary but somewhere between 6 million and 8 million horses, mules and donkeys died during the four years of conflict.
It’s a good bet many of them started their journeys in Montana. The Army had remount stations in Oklahoma and Virginia, but the biggest producer of war horses was Fort Keogh, near Miles City, according to historian Ellen Baumler.
In “Montana Moments: History on the Go,” Baumler wrote that Fort Keogh became the largest horse ranch in the United States after war broke out in 1914. In one three-month period, the military post on the Yellowstone purchased 155,000 horses, and it took 45,000 acres of forage to sustain them.