Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/148

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144
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

Davis made a strong recommendation to Congress in favor of an experiment. He went into details about the great extent of newly acquired territory, its lack of navigable streams and of good roads, and the absence of grass and water for long distances. With horses, mules and oxen long circuitous routes had to be followed; the cost of transportation alone in this region was for one year nearly half a million dollars; and Indians made attacks and escaped because they could not be followed into the deserts and mountains; moreover, the Pacific coast, 120 days distant, was defenseless and for that reason quicker and better transportation must be provided.

Congress refused to make the desired appropriation and in December, 1854, Davis renewed his request for money to make the experiment. When the army appropriation bill was reported it carried no appropriation for the purchase of camels, but Senator Shields of Illinois and some western representative secured the amount of $30,000 for this purpose. The bill became a law on March 3, 1855, and Davis at once proceeded to send for the animals.

The camels could be procured only from the Levant. The mission to the Orient was first offered to Major Crossman, who nearly twenty years before had first suggested the use of camels. He declined, and Davis sent Major Wayne and Lieutenant David D. Porter of the Navy. Wayne was to go to England and France to secure further information about the camel, and Porter was to take the storeship Supply to the Mediterranean and meet Wayne at Spezzia. Davis furnished Wayne with a digest of all that was known about the camel and his letters of instruction show that the secretary possessed full knowledge of the subject.

Wayne visited first the Zoological Gardens in England and reported that camels had been reared there under such conditions that he was certain of success in the United States. Next he went to Paris to consult with the French officers who had made use of camels in Algeria.[1] From the information secured he decided that the African camel would not succeed in America as well as the Asiatic. He adopted the following classification: The Bactrian was the large two-humped animal, the Arabian the one-humped, and the "dromedary" was merely a swift Arabian, not a burden camel. These were points then confused by naturalists.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Porter had gone ahead and inspected at Pisa the camel herd of the Duke of Tuscany. These were descendants from Egyptian stock and had been used in Italy for two hundred years. There were 250 of them. Porter wrote, and they performed the work of 1,000 horses—some of them carrying as much as 1,200 pounds at a load; but he considered them overworked and badly cared for.[2]

  1. See Marsh, chap. 17.
  2. See Leonard, p. 13.