Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/155

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151
JEFFERSON DAVIS'S CAMEL EXPERIMENT

humped) camels from the highlands of Asia for use in transporting salt from Esmeralda County, Nevada, to the Washoe Silver Mill, a distance of two hundred miles. The discovery of a nearer supply of salt left the camels without regular occupation. Some were used near Virginia City as late as 1876 to carry cord-wood.[1]

When the civil war began the government camels were scattered. Some were at Camp Verde, Lieutenant Beale's herd of twenty-eight was in California, and others at various posts in Texas. Beale, whom in 1861 Lincoln had appointed surveyor-general of California, proposed to Stanton that the government animals, which were scattered about in California doing nothing, should be turned over to him for use in carrying supplies and in making explorations. His request was not granted. In 1863 an attempt was made to use the camels in carrying the mails between New Mexico and California, but the officers in charge of the mails, knowing nothing of camels, objected and they were not used. In 1864 the herd, now numbering thirty-five, was sold to Samuel McLaughlin, who disposed of them later to circuses and zoological gardens.[2]

The herds at Camp Verde and other places in Texas were constantly used by the army quartermasters up to 1861. The ugly animals were well known sights in the towns near Camp Verde and between San Antonio and the gulf coast. But horses were often frightened by them and people began to regard them as a nuisance; Brownsville had an ordinance forbidding them on the streets. When the United States forces were withdrawn from Texas in 1861, the camels fell into the hands of the Confederates who made little use of them and spent little care upon them. They were turned loose to graze and some wandered away. Three of them were caught in Arkansas by union forces and in 1863 they were sold in Iowa at auction. Others found their way into Mexico. A few were used by the Confederate Post Office Department. At the close of the civil war the animals at the Camp Verde station, numbering sixty-six, were advertised for sale. Only three bids were received, one for $5 each, one for $10 each, and one for $31 each. So on March 8, 1866, the quartermaster in New Orleans sold to Colonel Bethel Coopwood the camels then in Texas. Colonel Coopwood carried them to Mexico and disposed of them to traveling circuses.

The stray camels were heard from occasionally—stampeding horses and ravaging fields. The Indians killed and ate some. The Navajos^ it is said, once tied a Mexican shepherd to a camel's back and turned the animal loose. During the seventies soldiers in the southwest reported seeing strange camels.[3] Colonel Philip Reade writes that in July, 1875, he saw a herd of wild camels near Oatman's Flat, on the


  1. Circular No. 53, Bureau of Animal Industry.
  2. Circular No. 53, Bureau of Animal Industry.
  3. Taylor-Trotwood Magazine, June, 1907.