In the 1800’s the US Army tried to put camels to military use in the American Southwest. This experiment was eventually abandoned, and many of the camels escaped into the desert
On April 26, 1843, Captain (or possibly Lieutenant) George H. Crosman encouraged the United States Department of War to use camels for transportation. His report was ignored. In 1847 or 1848, his arguments, augmented by those of Major Henry C. Wayne, won the attention of SenatorJefferson Davis. Davis was unsuccessful until appointed as Secretary of War after the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848). When the US forces were required to operate in arid and desert regions, the President and Congress began to take the idea seriously.Newly appointed as Secretary of War by President Franklin Pierce, Jefferson Davis found the Army needed to improve transportation in the southwestern US, which he and most observers thought a great desert. In his annual report for 1854, Davis wrote, “I again invite attention to the advantages to be anticipated from the use of camels and dromedaries for military and other purposes…”On March 3, 1855, the US Congress appropriated $30,000 for the project.Drawing of loading a camelMajor Wayne was assigned to procure the camels. On June 4, 1855, Wayne departed New York City on board the USS Supply, under the command of then-Lieutenant David Dixon Porter.After arriving in the Mediterranean Sea, Wayne and Porter began procuring camels. Stops included Goletta, Malta, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. They acquired thirty-three animals, including two bactrian, twenty-nine dromedary, one dromedary calf, and one booghdee (a cross between a male bactrian and a female dromedary). The two officers also hired five camel drivers. On 15 February 1856, USS Supply set sail for Texas. On 29 April 1856, Supply arrived at Indianola, Texas. Large swells made the transferring the camels to a shallow draft ship for landing impossible; Supply and a shallow draft vessel had to go to the mouth of the Mississippi River to find calmer waters for the transfer. The shallow draft vessel arrived at Indianola and unloaded the camels on May 14, 1856. During the transit of the Atlantic, one male camel had died, but two calves were born and survived the trip. The expedition therefore landed with a net gain of one camel. All the animals were in better health than when the vessel sailed for the United States.On Davis’ orders, Porter sailed again for Egypt to acquire more camels. In late January or early February, USS Supply returned with a herd of forty-one camels. While Porter was on his second mission, five camels from the first herd died, leaving the Army with seventy camels.