Lifestyles

Camels made long journey to aid in desert exploration

I have heard this story about a Lt. Beale bringing camels when he surveyed a road through Mohave County. Where did he get the camels?

A: From the Army at Camp Verde, Texas, which was 60 miles north of San Antonio, Texas.

In 1836, a Maj. George Crossman tried to get the Army to use camels, but they resisted.

This idea came within the sphere of a fellow officer, Maj. Henry Wayne. By 1848 when half-a-million square miles increased the U.S. territory, Maj. Wayne approached the government as to the feasibility of using camels.

There were no railroads, few trails, and he felt that camels might be the things to establish express routes across the new country.

In 1851, he convinced Mississippi Sen. Jefferson Davis to submit a bill to congress to appropriate funds to initiate this experiment. It was approved in the Senate but not the House of Representatives. A Vermont Senator, George Perkins Marsh, published two works on camels in 1854, stressing how they could also be beneficial to the Indians.

Jefferson Davis, holding the office of the secretary of war by 1855, finally convinced Congress to approve $30,000. He appointed Maj. Henry C. Wayne to spearhead the trip to purchase the camels. Lt. David D. Porter was appointed to be captain of the USS Storeship Supply, which had to be converted to all the facilities necessary to transport a number of camels, food, etc., to the U.S.

Maj. Wayne and Lt. Porter were successful in their maiden voyage for this purpose, losing only one camel en route in the Mediterranean.

They debarked the camels at Powder Horn landing, and drove them 3 miles north to Indianola, Texas. As less than the allotted funds had been expended, permission was granted for Lt. Porter to return for more camels.

Let us look on the side of the camel in this story.

It was peaceably living in an area where many of his ancestors had lived, was cared for by attendants who recognized his needs and wishes, and understood his style of language. Now someone comes along leading him into a strange thing that is rocking on the water! Many were seasick (along with the new men brought as attendants), and the sea was so rough in the Mediterranean that they had to be knelt down on the straw and strapped down to keep from getting injured Š or squashing some unfortunate attendant.

They had sufficient amounts of hay, grain, water, etc., and had daily baths.

When they were forced to stay tied down too long because of the rough weather, the attendants had to rub their muscles to keep them from going weak and falling when they tried to stand up. When you weigh an average of 900 pounds and stand seven to nine feet tall there is a distinct possibility of this happening!

Time passed and calmer seas prevailed at which time they were allowed to stand.

It was discovered the attendants hired on this first trip knew as much about camels as a city boy does about raising cattle!

Females giving birth suffered from the lack of proper care, losing eight of ten by time the ship reached port.

When they reached port and felt the solid earth under them after nine weeks, Š "they became excited to an almost uncontrollable degree, rearing, kicking, crying out, breaking halters, tearing up pickets, and by other fantastic tricks demonstrating their enjoyment of the 'liberty of the soil.'"

The males became so pugnacious that they had to be restrained from attacking one another. As soon as they were quieted down enough to travel, they were driven to a temporary corral, at Indianola.

A large shed 200 by 12 feet and 12 feet high was constructed along with a fenced corral.

Materials for fence building were scarce in this region, so the builders constructed what would have been sufficient for horses and mules. It was made out of prickly pear cactus. The camels really enjoyed this delectable meal!

Maj. Wayne had no further interest in traveling to the east again, so he accompanied the first group of camels from Indianola to a final stop at Camp Verde.

Here he remained, acclimating the camels, training the attendants and awaiting the return of Lt. Porter with the second group numbering 41, on Feb. 10, 1857. Along with this group came eight experienced men to attend the camels, including Hadji Ali (Hi Jolly) and George Caralambo (Greek George).

After these camels were assimilated with the first group, Lt. Edward F. Beale arrived under the instructions of Secretary of War John B. Floyd to take a number of the camels on to Albuquerque and Fort Defiance on the Arizona-New Mexico border.

His orders also instructed him to survey a reliable wagon road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River utilizing the camels as pack animals. He arrived at the Colorado River on Oct. 18, 1857.

History records he accomplished this admirably along with many other ventures for which he either received orders, or as a volunteer.

The camel experiment with the U.S. Army faltered primarily due to "the outbreak of the Civil War, and its major supporter becoming the president of the Southern States; and the lack of trained or sympathetic army needed to handle camels properly."

Without outside agitation, the camels adjusted remarkably to the plodding miles and the large loads. (If the load was too much the camel refused to get up!)

The sole remaining physical remains of any of these first groups of camels are of Seid, a large white dromedary to whom Lt. Beale became quite attached.

The whitened bones were sent to the Smithsonian Institution with the notation made about Jefferson Davis's costly and futile experiment.

Truxton is named after a family member of Lt. Beale; Beale's Springs near Kingman, is in recognition of his entourage camping in that area; and one of the major thoroughfares in Kingman is named Beale Street.