Camels in the Southwest United States…


Army_Camel_Corp_training
Major Wayne was assigned to procure the camels. On June 4, 1855, Wayne departed New York City on board the USS Supply, under the command of then Lieutenant David Dixon Porter. After arriving in the Mediterranean Sea, Wayne and Porter began procuring camels. Stops included Goletta (Tunisia), Malta, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. They acquired 33 animals (19 females and 14 males), including two Bactrian, 29 dromedary, one dromedary calf, and one booghdee (a cross between a male Bactrian and a female dromedary). The two officers also acquired pack saddles and covers, being certain that proper saddles could not be purchased in the United States. Wayne and Porter hired five camel drivers, some Arab and some Turkish, and on February 15, 1856, USS Supply set sail for Texas. Porter established strict rules for the care, watering, and feeding of the animals in his charge; no experiments were conducted regarding how long a camel could survive without water. During the crossing, one male camel died, but two calves were born and survived the trip. On May 14, 1856, 34 camels (a net gain of one) were safely unloaded at Indianola, Texas. All the animals were in better health than when the vessel sailed for the United States. On Davis’s orders, Porter sailed again for Egypt to acquire more camels. While Porter was on the second voyage, Wayne marched the camels from the first voyage to Camp Verde, Texas, by way of San Antonio, Texas. On February 10, 1857, USS Supply returned with a herd of 41 camels. During the second expedition, Porter hired “nine men and a boy,” including Hi Jolly. While Porter was on his second mission, five camels from the first herd died. The newly acquired animals joined the first herd at Camp Verde, which had been officially designated as the camel station. The Army had seventy camels.
On March 25, 1859, Secretary Floyd directed reconnaissance of the area between the Pecos River and the Rio Grande using the camels still available in Texas. Lieutenant William E. Echols of the Army Topographical Engineers was assigned to conduct the reconnaissance. Lieutenant Edward L. Hartz commanded the escort. The train included 24 camels and 24 mules. It set out in May 1859. The expedition arrived at Camp Hudson on May 18. The group remained at Camp Hudson for five days and then departed for Fort Stockton, Texas, arriving on June 12. On June 15, the expedition set out for the mouth of Independence Creek to test the camels’ ability to survive without water. The distance traveled was about 85 miles at four miles per hour. The camels showed no desire for water during the trip, but were watered upon arrival. The party then set out on a 114-mile, four-day journey to Fort Davis near the Rio Grande. During this segment of the journey, one of the camels was bitten on its leg by a rattlesnake; the wound was treated and the animal suffered no ill effects. Upon reaching Fort Davis, the horses and mules were distressed, but the camels were not. After a three-day rest, the expedition returned directly to Fort Stockton. Hartz wrote that “the superiority of the camel for military purposes in the badly-watered sections of the country seems to be well established.”
Early in the Civil War, an attempt was made to use the camels to carry mail between Fort Mohave, New Mexico Territory, on the Colorado River and New San Pedro, California, but the attempt was unsuccessful after the commanders of both posts objected. Later in the war, the Army had no further interest in the animals and they were sold at auction in 1864. The last of the animals from California was reportedly seen in Arizona in 1891.
In spring 1861, Camp Verde fell into Confederate hands until recaptured in 1865. The Confederate commander issued a receipt to the United States for 12 mules, 80 camels and two Egyptian camel drivers. There were reports of the animals’ being used to transport baggage, but there was no evidence of their being assigned to Confederate units. When Union troops reoccupied Camp Verde, there were estimated to be more than 100 camels at the camp, but there may have been others roaming the countryside. In 1866, the Government was able to round up 66 camels, which it sold to Bethel Coopwood. The U.S. Army’s camel experiment was complete. The last year a camel was seen in the vicinity of Camp Verde was 1875; the animal’s fate is unknown.

Categories: Arizona, California, Old West, Texas, Uncategorized, Union | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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