By Kathleen Y’Barbo
The image of camels is integral to some versions of the nativity story. Legend holds the three wise men traveled via the beasts to find the Savior. Camels have also historically been thought of as the means of transportation in many countries of the
Would you believe, however, that camels also have an association to historical
Here’s what Lieutenant William H. Echols reported to Congress in 1861:
After his proposal to build a transcontinental railroad along the line of the thirty second parallel had been blocked by sectional politics over slavery in the territories, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, an experiment to solve the need for transportation across the "Great American Desert" to the new state of California and to the intervening army post, introduced in 1856 and 1857 seventy five camels into Texas. Although many Congressmen considered the camel plan unrealistic and fantastic, an appropriation of thirty thousand dollars had been made for the purpose. After all, were not camels the logical beast of burden with which to cross the desert?
The first of two shipments was landed in Indianola on May 14th 1856, and then was moved to Camp Val Verde, the eastern terminus of the projected camel route, located just south of the preset day Kerrville. Test were begun immediately to determine whether the camels or the tried and true mules pack mules were superior modes of transportation in the Southwest. One test was the reconnaissance expedition of Lieutenant William H. Echols in the summer of 1860 into the perilous Big Bend Country. Echols' journal of the expedition appears below not only because of the interest in the camel experiment but because of its description of that part of Texas. There were also other trips, some extended as far as California; but with the outbreak of the Civil War the military personnel were recalled from the Texas frontier, and within a few years the abandon camels had vanished. (Lieutenant William H. Echols, "Report," in United States, Thirty-sixth Congress, Second Session, Senate Executive Document, No. I (Washington, I861), 37-50.)
Something to think about, isn’t it? There among the cowboys and cattle roamed camels. Can you imagine?