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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

sojourn the most exciting period of his life, as the great attention accorded it in
his autobiography indicates. Regrettably, there is little on his work in natural his-
tory in early Texas, or on his Civil War experiences. On the whole, however, this
superb volume is a valuable contribution to the literature of early Texas and will
attract a wide audience, including historians of the region, of Native Americans,
and of the environment.
Southern Methodist University JAMES O. BREEDEN
Noble Brutes: Camels on the American Frontier. By Eva Jolene Boyd. (Plano, Tex.:
Republic of Texas Press, 1995. Pp. xx+255. Acknowledgments, introduc-
tion, prologue, appendix, bibliography. ISBN 1-55622-379-X. $12.95,
On June 24, 1857, a U.S. Army expedition left Camp Verde, near Kerrville,
Texas, with twenty-five camels, each with a pack weighing more than 550
pounds. One of the strangest expeditions ever to cross the American West, it was
led by Edward Fitzgerald Beale on a mission to survey a road between Fort
Defiance, New Mexico, and the Colorado River, and to test the practicality of
using camels for military purposes. At the conclusion of the expedition four
months later, Beale, who had first advocated using camels in the Southwest in
1852, described the animal as "the salt of the party and the noblest brute alive"
(P- 99).
The army's decision to act on the suggestions of Beale and others was imple-
mented in 1855 when Secretary of War Jefferson Davis secured an appropriation
to purchase and import camels for military use. A merchant ship, the Supply, was
sent to the Levant to acquire camels and transport them to the Texas coast.
Thirty-four were unloaded at Indianola in May 1856, and several others arrived
a few months later. Camp Verde was established as the camel experiment's head-
quarters and became known as "Little Egypt."
After Beale, William H. Echols and Edward L. Hartz led expeditions into the
Big Bend in 1859 and 1860. Both men were impressed by the animals' ability to
go for long distances and periods without water, to carry immense loads, and to
sustain themselves by foraging on almost any plant in any environment. The
only problem was that the rocky soil caused sore feet, which could be remedied
by special leather shoes.
Boyd devotes six of her eighteen chapters to commercial uses of the camel in
mining, timber, and farming enterprises in California, Nevada, Washington,
Montana, and Arizona. More camels were brought from Siberia; breeding efforts
were successful, and a few of the army camels survived many years after the
experiments were terminated because of the Civil War. Years later, their services
replaced by machines, camels roamed freely, and inspired a genre of folklore.
The author relates some of the tales.
She also documents sightings of feral camels up to 1946, although she does
not mention a camel supposedly seen by hikers in the Davis Mountains in the



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 5, 2016.

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