In 1855 Congress decided to try an interesting experiment; they appropriated $30,000 to import camels to America to carry army equipment in the southwest and engage in military operations against the Indians. US Army Major Henry Wayne was sent overseas to purchase them.
A year later he landed on the Texas coast with more than thirty camels and eight camel drivers. His arrival created quite a commotion. Crowds gathered on the pier to view the US Camel Corps, but after being confined to a ship for weeks the beasts were in no mood for company. They bawled and kicked and broke their harnesses. Horses panicked and bolted, overturning wagons and sending people running and screaming.
The camels were quickly moved to Camp Verde and joined by a second shipment, but even there they caused havoc; They roamed the camp freely and ate their way through cactus fences onto private property, scaring livestock, chasing children and trampling gardens.
Containing them, however, was easy compared to loading them. Their humps required special saddles and pack frames. During placement cattle had to be made to kneel, stand and kneel again. The men were ill prepared for all the growling, spitting, bleating and snarling that went on during loading.
Camels were not only vindictive they were also unforgiving and held a grudge. Some soldiers soon lost patience and tried to teach the animals a thing or two with whips. Used to working with relatively tame horses and mules they must have been shocked when camels fought back with sharp teeth and deadly jaws. Some were even knocked to the ground and crushed.
Once loaded, however, camels proved their worth. They could carry six to eight hundred pound loads; more than four times what a mule could carry. They could easily travel up to forty miles per day and were happy to eat whatever desert brush could be found along the trail. While horses and mules would make frantic dashes to water holes, camels never drank a drop even after traveling days in searing heat.
By 1858 camels were working throughout the Southwest and did much to help the westward expansion and helped establish the Butterfield Overland stage routes.
The Camel Corps came to an end with the first shot of the Civil War. Westward expansion was abandoned as Union soldiers were called back east and the US Government’s camel experiment officially ended in 1863.
Maggie Michaels is sent to Arizona Territory as an undercover mail order bride to track down the notorious Whistle-Stop Bandit. If she doesn't prove the suspect guilty before the wedding—she could end up as his wife!
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This was so interesting and something I certainly didn't expect!ReplyDelete
Hi Connie, I always laugh when I think of those cowboys battling camels. That was something they didn't expect!ReplyDelete
Thank you for stopping by and have a great day!
I bet those people watching the cranky camels being unloaded wondered what in the world their government officials were thinking. Can't you imagine a cowboy trying to rope a camel? Makes me chuckle to think about it.ReplyDelete
Hi Vickie, I got a good laugh thinking about it, too. Somehow a cowboy doesn't look the same astride a camel.Delete
I like the lipstick on the picture of the camel's head! How very interesting about the camels brought to the US. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)comReplyDelete
Hi Sharon, yes that photo made me laugh. I shudder to think what might have happened to the person who put it on her. lolDelete
Wow, never knew about this! Thanks for the interesting tidbit, Margaret.ReplyDelete
Interesting facts about the camel corp. Have you used or do you plan to use camels in your stories?ReplyDelete
Hi Keli, I mentioned the legend of the Red Ghost camel in Gunpowder Tea. Camels were supposedly given to carnivals and zoos after the experiment, but visual spottings of camels in the wild continued for years.Delete
Margaret, I will be 80 in just two weeks, and I don't ever remember hearing this about us using camels. Oh my. What a cranky animal. I didn't know they were that bad. I would not have wanted to have to deal with them, but it was very interesting to hear. So much history I've learned about America since I've been on the Author sites. So glad I got started tho. But, spend way too much time on my computer now. I wish I had kept notebooks about the many things in History that I've learned. A big thanks for this post. Your new book looks and sounds great. Would love to win it sometime, or maybe get it as a gift. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <ReplyDelete
Hi Maxie, happy birthday! Hope you have a fun day planned. It is amazing how much history there is to learn. Isn't it great that no matter are ages, there's always something new and exciting to learn?Delete
Enjoyed your post, Margaret. Camels are interesting creatures. We've had several in our Christmas pageants in past years and they are rather unpredictable. When they turned to stare at the choir from the center stage, their eyes were fascinating, almost like they were contemplating what to do with you. :)ReplyDelete
Love this post! Too fun! Reminds me of the movie "Hawmps!" starring Slim Pickens and Benji (love that dog). Of course there were several fabulous camels starring in the film as well. ;)ReplyDelete