Little Bits of History

June 4

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 4, 2017

1855: Major Henry Wayne leaves New York City aboard the USS Supply. Wayne, born in 1815 in Savannah, Georgia, was an officer in the US Army (later to join the Confederate Army) at the time of his mission. He had fought in the Mexican-American War and after its end, befriended George Crossman. It was Crossman’s idea to bring camels into the American southwest hoping they could handle the conditions there better than horses. The idea was first presented in 1836 but found little support anywhere. Wayne felt a more detailed study was needed and first recommended the idea to the War Department in 1848. Mississippi Senator, Jefferson Davis, was unable to convince Congress to fund the experiment.

Davis became Secretary of War in 1853 and successfully urged Congress to pass a bill creating the US Camel Corps. The experiment would test the theory and stated camels would be required in war zones which were arid or desert-like. US President Franklin Pierce, just having taken office in March, agreed the Army needed better transportation options in the southwest. On March 3, the day before Pierce took office, Congress appropriated $30,000 for the project. On this day, Major Wayne left New York City aboard the Supply, captained by Lieutenant David Dixon Porter. Porter would eventually become an admiral in the US Navy as part of the legacy of one of the most distinguished families in US Navy history.

Supply was a sailing ship first purchased for use during the Mexican-American War. The stores ship, or a ship designed to stow goods and supplies, was crewed by a compliment of 40 officers and enlisted men. They sailed to the Mediterranean Sea and made stops in Goletta (Tunisia), Malta, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. They had a total of 33 animals in their holds (19 females and 14 males). Most of the camels were dromedaries with two Bactrian (two humps instead of the single humped dromedary). There was one dromedary calf and one booghdee (a cross between a Bactrian and dromedary). Also purchased during the trip were proper camel saddles and covers since these were not available in the US. They also hired five camel drivers before setting sail back home on February 15, 1856.

The animals were to be tended to with the utmost care and without any experimentation. Even so, one male died en route. Two calves were born so that 34 beasts were brought safely to and unloaded in Indianola, Texas on May 14. All the animals were in better health than when they were purchased. Porter sailed back for a second buying trip while Wayne marched the camels westward. Porter returned in February 1857 with 41 more camels. The animals were brought to Camp Verde where there was now a herd of 70 camels for the Army to test. While they were able to withstand arid desert conditions better than horses, the program eventually failed, in part because it had been sponsored by Davis and the US Civil War had begun.

Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

They sit there in committees day after day, And they each put in a color and it comes out gray. And we all have heard the saying, which is true as well as witty, That a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee. – Allan Sherman

A camel is a very awkward animal to ride, and it’s very hard to get used to because they’re not very graceful. – Gigi Hadid

A camel makes an elephant feel like a jet plane. – Jackie Kennedy

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