Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/153

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149
JEFFERSON DAVIS'S CAMEL EXPERIMENT

he could not rise; Wayne then put two more bales on, making 1,256 pounds in all. The camel rose easily and walked off. Wayne wrote to Davis that it quite convinced the skeptical and that it caused a Texan poet to break into verse in the Indianola Bulletin. Later Miss Mary A. Shirkey, of Victoria, Texas, knitted from camel's hair a pair of socks for President Pierce. Major Wayne forwarded them through the secretary of war.[1]

During the latter part of May the camels were marched by easy stages to San Antonio where they were kept nearly a month and then removed to Val Verde (Green Valley)—a military post sixty miles southwest of San Antonio. Here at Camp Verde, as it was called, the permanent camel post was located. In September Wayne sent camels and horses to San Antonio for supplies. The camels easily brought 600 pounds each; six of them carrying as much as twelve horses could haul in wagons and in forty-two hours less time; the camels made the sixty miles in two days and six hours, while the horses required over four days. Later tests, made in November and December, 1856, showed that camels could easily climb mountain trails where wagons could not go, and that on muddy roads over which horses could not draw wagons, the camels traveled without fatigue. Only on slippery slopes were they troubled, and at the crossing of streams. Not being accustomed to fording, they had to be driven in by throwing water in their faces. At the end of 1856 Davis reported that in his opinion the experiment was a success.[2]

Davis left the War Department in March, 1857, and was succeeded by John B. Floyd. Wayne was transferred to Washington and the camels were left under the supervision of Captain J. N. Palmer, at Campe Verde. In 1858 the "Société imperiale Zoologique d'acclimatation" of Paris, awarded to Major Wayne a first class gold medal for the successful introduction and acclimation of the camel in the United States. Secretary Floyd was convinced of the usefulness of camels on the western plains, and in his second report, December, 1858, he recommended that 1,000 be purchased. This recommendation was repeated in 1859 and in 1860, but Congress paid no attention to the matter.[3]

After 1857 some of the camels were sent to the army posts at El Paso and Bowie. They were disliked by the army hostlers; the Arabian and Turkish caretakers were regarded with contempt, and it was difficult to get the American hostlers and wagon masters to help in the experiments. The horses objected to the smell of the camels when stabled or picketed near them and the hostlers sometimes turned the camels loose to get rid of them. However, during the four years before


  1. Sen. Ex. Doc, No. 62, 34 Cong., 3 Sess., p. 148-63. Harper's Magazine, October, 1857.
  2. Sen. Ex. Doc, No. 5, 34 Cong., 3 Sess., p. 22.
  3. Sen. Ex. Doc, No. 2, 36 Cong., 1 Sess.