The Other Four-Legged
Military Animal

Just prior to the American Civil War, the cavalry were supplied with four-legged animals to perform their military duties. We, of course, know that they were supplied with horses. Fewer, however, know about the experiment in the use of camels for military men to perform their duties.

For several years before the outbreak of the Civil War, the United States Army conducted an experiment using camels as pack animals in the Southwest. This desert region's punishing climate and terrain took a terrible toll on the horses and mules upon which the Army had always depended. The suggestion that camels might fare better than these traditionally used mounts under desert conditions was met with ridicule and opposition by some, but with eager interest by others.

It was George H. Crosman, a U.S. Army second lieutenant who fought in the Seminole wars in Florida, who first proposed the introduction of camels to America. His argument, articulated here by his friend and fellow camel enthusiast E. F. Miller of Ipswich, Massachusetts, was:

For strength in carrying burdens, for patient endurance of labor, and privation of food, water & rest, and in some respects for speed also, the camel and dromedary (as the Arabian camel is called) are unrivaled among animals. The ordinary loads for camels are from seven to nine to ten hundred pounds each, and with these they can travel from thirty to forty miles per day, for many days in succession. They will go without water, and with but little food, for six or eight days, or it is said even longer. Their feet are alike well suited for traversing grassy or sandy plains, or rough, rocky & hilly paths, and they require no shoeing...

Reasonable though this was, no one in Washington took Crosman seriously, until he befriended Henry C. Wayne, a Quartermaster, and fellow major (Crosman had been promoted several times by then). Wayne was able to convince Jefferson Davis, a senator from Mississippi, that the Army should give camels a trial.

In his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, Davis regularly advocated for the importation of camels on an experimental basis, but to no avail. It wasn't until Davis was appointed Secretary of War in 1852 that he was able to make an official recommendation on the subject of camels. Even then, it took another three years, during which time the matter was much discussed in the press, before the government took action. On March 3, 1855, Congress appropriated $30,000 for the project, and the stage was set for the birth of the U.S. Camel Corps.

The ship USS Supply, with Lieutenant David Dixon Porter in command, set sail from New York on June 3, 1855. Aboard was Major Henry C. Wayne, charged by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis with the responsibility of procuring camels for the U.S. Army.

In Egypt, they discovered a plentiful supply of camels, but government regulations forbade them being taken from the country. Many bribes and negotiations later, the USS Supply headed for home with 33 camels and five camel-drovers who had been hired to care for the animals en route, and to educate American soldiers about the animals when they arrived. The two-month trip home was far from smooth. There were storms at sea, during which the camels had to be lashed down in a kneeling position to prevent injuries. Also, the camel-drovers proved lax, and neglected their charges. Eventually, however, on April 29, 1856, the Supply and its crew arrived at the port of Indianola, TX with 34 camels–one more than they had started with.

Soon the camels took up residence at Camp Verde, and Wayne sent very favorable reports about them to Secretary of War Davis. However, Wayne and Davis had a falling out over whether or not to breed the animals (Davis was against it) and eventually, in frustration, Wayne requested a transfer. A series of leadership changes followed, during which time the camels were put to little use. However, in June of 1857, the Camel Corps was assigned to survey the unexplored territory between El Paso and the Colorado River. The party, led by Edward Fitzgerald Beale, consisted of 25 camels, 44 soldiers, 2 camel-drovers (Greek George and Hadji Ali, whose name had been anglicized to Hi Jolly), and numerous horses and mules. At first, the camels did not meet Beale's high expectations, and often arrived in camp hours later than the horses and mules. But after a few days on the march, they hardened to their task, and soon outstripped the other animals, often leading over terrain where mules and horses balked.

More importantly, the camels proved their mettle when the expedition became lost and its water supplies dwindled. Only the camels were fit to go on. They found a river 20 miles from camp, and led the expedition to it, then looked on with indifference as men, mules, and horses gulped the water they were desperate for. Triumphantly, the Camel Corps pushed on to the Colorado River, its mission a success. The camels had won over the skeptics among the party. There were others in Washington however, who had not seen the beasts in action, and who remained unconvinced of their worth.

By 1860, the nation's mind was on the imminent Civil War, and the camels were all but forgotten. In the course of the War, the Camp Verde herd was little used by the Confederate forces who were in charge there. The same was true of the camels that had remained in California after the Beale expedition: they were cared for, but seldom put to use. In November of 1863, the California herd was put up for public sale. Camels were sold to zoos, circuses, mining companies, and a few individuals, such as Edward F. Beale, who allowed his camels to live out their lives in comfort on his ranch. The Texas herd was auctioned off in 1865, though some of the camels sold were later reclaimed as stolen property by the government, which promptly released them into the desert. The short, colorful career of the U.S. Camel Corps had come to an end.

With the first shots of the Civil War, the Camel Military Corps was as good as dead. Most of the animals were auctioned off, although a few escaped into the desert where most were shot by prospectors and hunters as pests.

URL Correction for Google Earth

I made an error in the URL for Google Earth in the previous issue of this newsletter. The correct URL is:

The Other Side of Abraham Lincoln

Every American knows Abraham Lincoln as the emancipator of slaves, the man who held America together in its darkest days, and one of the country’s most mythic figures. But few know the Lincoln who battled suicidal urges and at times called himself “The loneliest man in the world.” Academy Award-winning producer Vikram Jayanti goes inside a life scarred by loss, a mind ravaged by tragedy, a man whose grand achievements were fueled by his own personal turmoil, in The History Channel special presentation LINCOLN, airing Monday, January 16, 2006, 8-11pm ET/PT.

Born in the back woods of Kentucky in 1809, Abraham Lincoln witnessed the deaths of his infant brother, his mother, and grandparents before the age of ten. He was raised by an abusive father. One biographer calls it "almost farcial" how many awful things happened to Lincoln at a young age. Lincoln was prone to depression brought about by self-doubt and personal crises. Jayanti delves into personal diaries and family histories, and consults with the foremost Lincoln biographers in the world to draw a complete personal portrait of the sixteenth president, asserting the amazing strength that enabled his greatest accomplishments was a result of decades spent battling and overcoming his own personal demons.

To help promote the Lincoln documentary, the History Channel has a game online where some players will receive prizes for winning the game. The game can be accessed at Good luck in playing the game.

December Brain Teaser

A woman gave birth to two boys on the same date, within about twenty minutes of each other, and yet they were not twins. How could this be?

Answer: She gave birth to triplets!

January Brain Teaser

A father and son are involved in an automobile accident. The father is dead at the scene. The son is flown to the emergency room of a hospital in critical condition. The doctor walks in and states "I can't treat this patient because he is my son." How can this be?

Answer: Next issue. (No prizes offered for correct answer.)

PS: If you make any money by winning bets on these brain teasers, a little commission would be nice :-)

December Contest

QUESTION: What was the name of the incident sparked by British troops firing into a crowd and killing five American colonists?

ANSWER: The Boston Massacre.

This contest had the fewest entries of all the contests in the entire two years of its existance: Twenty-two people entered the contest. Six were disqualifed due to an incorrect subject heading, incorrect answer, or did not indicate which ONE prize they wanted if they won. This left sixteen people still eligible to win. Three prizes went unclaimed.
The November contest winners were:
  • Lindsay Wood - California
  • T. Sherman - Minnesota
  • Sha Zameen Razeek - Sri Lanka
  • Miss M F S Donnelly - Australia
  • Maggie Van Vliet - Canada
  • Linda Jitmoud - Wisconsin
  • David Vice - Kentucky

This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, send by email an essay of not more than 75 words relating why you want to win it. One grand prize will be awarded. DO NOT answer the alternate question in this email.

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question below and indicate which ONE prize you want if you win. (Only one of each is available.)

Alternate Contest Question: Only one American president did not have a traditional First Lady. Who was he and why was someone other than the president's wife made First Lady?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Monday, January 16, 2006. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the newsletter.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but can only win one prize.

  • To enter either contest, email your essay or answer to

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading. Include ONLY your essay and NOT the answer to the alternate contest question. (Only one grand prize is available.)

  • If entering for any of the alternate contest prizes, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading and answer the Alternate Contest Question.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • Entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize.

  • Subscribers entering the Grand Prize contest and submitting an essay of NOT MORE THAN 75 words in length, correct subject heading, and submission received by the deadline, will be considered for winning. All other Grand Prize entries will be disqualified.

  • From subscribers entering the alternate contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE alternate contest prize they want to win, NINE will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.

Grand Prize
(One winner will be selected)

John F. Kennedy Archive
  • JFK Biography Booklet 1966
  • Biographical Card Collection From Childhood to Presidency
  • Campaign Advertisement
  • Five Different Original Campaign Buttons
  • First Day of Issue Envelope For JFK Birthday 1964
Alternate Contest Prizes
(Only one of each offered)

Conquest of Hawaii
Documentary Produced by the History Channel

Little House on the Prairie
As Long As We Are Together (2 Hour Movie)

Music CD & DVD
Two CD set of Big Band Era Music
And One D-Day Documentary

PBS DVD Activity Kit
Liberty's Kids

Excellent for Instilling a Love of History in Kids

Original Historic Newspapers

Original Columbian for the Country historic newspaper from 1819

Original New-England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser (Boston) historic newspaper from 1825

Original Union (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1847

Original Sacramento Daily Union historic newspaper from 1868

Original Public Ledger historic newspaper from 1895
That's it for this issue.

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