Today in Texas History – April 29

From the Annals of the Dromedaries –   In 1856, 53 camels disembarked at the Port of  Indianola.  The camels were part of a 10-year U.S. Army transportation experiment initiated by then U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to deal with the harsh conditions in the arid southwest regions acquired in the Mexican-American War.  Secretary Davis and his military advisers believed that if camels could be used in Sahara Desert and arid regions that they might be answer for the arid semitropical regions of Texas and the desert southwest.  Accordingly, Congress passed “The Camel Appropriation Act” authorizing the purchase and transport of the beasts.  The US Navy was tasked with transporting the camels from the Middle East to Texas, while the US Army would take charge of the camels for the experiment.

After a harsh sea voyage in which the camels became violently seasick,  the animals were turned over to Major Henry C. Wayne who was pleased at the reaction the camels had to the lush vegetation afforded them on the Texas coast.  On June 6, 1856, Wayne gave the order to initiate the “Texas Camel Drive” from Indianola to San Antonio.    The camel caravan arrived in San Antonio within two weeks and Wayne reported to Washington that the utility and the cooperation of the camels was excellent.  Wayne was ordered to find a permanent camp for the camels and quarters for the personnel.

In July, Wayne left San Antonio and made his way to Fort Martin Scott near Fredericksburg.   From there Wayne scouted for a new camp site ultimately settling on a spot near Kerrville called Verde Creek close to the Guadalupe River.  On August 30, he named the site Camp Verde and the camels now had a permanent home. The camp was to be a US Cavalry post under the direction of  Lt. Colonel Robert E Lee who had just been to Fort Mason in 1856 with the primary task of protecting frontier settlers from raids by the Comanche, Kiowa and other tribes. However, Lee was also charged with protecting the camels.

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