Amazing – How Camels First Came To El Paso
The US Army Cavalry started out on horseback but a couple of units, one based in El Paso, took another approach.
"Wild" camel sightings were reported into the early 20th century and were initially thought to be ghosts or demonic animal spirits. In the 1880's, sightings of the "Red Ghost" were reported in Arizona.
Supposedly, it trampled a woman to death and stood 30 feet tall. One story said it couldn't be roped, another said it vanished into thin air while being chased and one claimed it ate a grizzly bear.
The cavalry escorted settlers heading west and crossing some parts of the country, (especially the desert Southwest), was especially challenging. So, in 1836, Lt. George H. Crosman came up with a new idea. Camels.
“The ordinary loads for camels are from 700 to 900 pounds each, and with these they can travel from 30 to 40 miles a day, for many days in succession. They will go without water, and with but little food, for six or eight days, or it is said even longer. Their feet are alike well suited for traversing grassy or sandy plains, or rough, rocky hills and paths, and they require no shoeing…” - click2houston.com
Everybody ignored him until 1847 when Jefferson Davis, (yes, THAT Jefferson Davis), brought the idea to Congress. They pretty much laughed their asses ... err, camels ... off.
Speaking of asses, mules were a cavalry favorite for carrying supplies and the mule owners and traders weren't too happy about camels coming in so they also offered a lot of resistance to the idea.
Davis wasn't giving up though and once appointed Secretary of War, he ordered that a bunch of camels be purchased, trained and put into service. Their home base was near San Antonio at an outpost named Camp Verde but some of them found their way to Fort Bliss.
Camp Verde was deactivated in 1869 but the general store is still there and they sell lots of camel stuff.
Anticipating great demand, many peeps started importing camels but once the railroads were established, they weren't as necessary and most were sold to circuses, zoos or released into the wild.
This led to occasional sightings of them up until the early 20th century. As of today, no "wild" camels are known to exist but, once upon a time, they roamed the desert Southwest.
No "Army" camels exist anymore either. Probably because of this guy ...
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Gallery Credit: Val Davidson