Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/147

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143
JEFFERSON DAVIS'S CAMEL EXPERIMENT

the animal, but Davis convinced him that camels were useful in parts of Asia where the extremes of heat and cold were greater than in the west. Senator Rantoul objected that the proposition was extravagant and others that it was ludicrous. The appropriation was not made.[1]

A year later, when Davis had returned to Mississippi, Bissell, of Illinois, introduced into the House a bill carrying a $20,000 appropriation for the purchase of camels. Both Evans, of Maine, and Shields, of Ohio, who supported the measure, spoke of it as originating with Davis. The remarks made show that the War Department had considered the matter carefully and favored the measure. The house passed the camel bill but it was lost in the senate.[2]

By this time the public was becoming familiar with the proposal to import camels and numerous suggestions were made to the government. John Eussell Bartlett, the author and etlinologist, who for three years (1850-1853) had worked on the southwestern boundary, was of the opinion that camels should be used in that region. George Eobins Gliddon, the archeologist, who had lived in Egypt for twenty-three years, wrote a memorial to congress declaring that the project was feasible. Another eminent person, who was exerting himself to get the government to make the experiment, was George Perkins Marsh, the philologist and diplomat, who had lived in the Levant and who was acquainted with the camel in Turkey and Italy. To help the cause he delivered a lecture in 1854 at the Smithsonian Institution and also wrote a little book which was published in 1856: "The Camel, his Organization, Habits and Uses, considered with reference to his Introduction into the United States."[3] The general interest in the camel project caused the organization of "The American Camel Company," of New York, which proposed to import burden camels for use in the west. About 1857 the company landed one shipment in Texas, but nothing is known of further activities.

In 1853 Jefferson Davis returned to Washington as secretary of war and at once took up the question of importing and experimenting with camels. He had already made extensive researches into the history and habits of the camel when a member of the senate committee on military affairs. Now Major Wayne, of the Quartermaster's Department, and Lieutenant Beale and Captain Adams, of the Fort Yuma post, were directed to prepare information with reference to the use of camels on the western deserts. In his report at the end of the year[4]

  1. Cong. Globe, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., March 3, 1851. See Marsh, chap. 17, and Leonard, p. 15, in regard to Napoleon's camel corps and Wayne's translation of Columbari's Zemboureks about the Persian dromedary artillery.
  2. Cong. Globe, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., August 28, 1852.
  3. Marsh, "The Camel," chap. 17, on Introduction into the United States, and chap. 17, on Military Uses of the Camel.
  4. House Ex. Doc, No. 1, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 24.