The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966

he America Camel Eperiment
A Reappraisal
THOMAS L. CONNELLY
WHEN SECRETARY OF WAR JEFFERSON DAVIS STUDIED THE
1856 dispatches from his purchasing agents, he proba-
bly tried to envision the results of his forthcoming
experiment with the use of camels in the United States. It had
been a long, hard fight for Davis, one which had begun in 1851
when, as a member of the United States Senate Committee on
Military Affairs, he had introduced the first resolution providing
an appropriation to purchase camels for experimentation. After
almost four years of pleading, cajoling, and debating, congress
finally had been stirred in 1854 to appropriate $30,000 for the
project.
A multitude of books and articles have been written on the
operations of the experiment, dealing with the period from Major
Henry Crossman's original suggestion in 1836 to the dispersal
of the camels in the years immediately after the American Civil
War. Writers have generally concerned themselves with a narra-
tion of the events connected with the camel's introduction, how-
ever, and have usually ignored both the reasons behind the ex-
periment and the causes for its failure. Three major problems
appear to be in need of reappraisal: the reasons for the experi-
ment; what those in charge of the project expected the camel to
be able to do; and why the idea did not succeed.
1For a general discussion of the experiment, see Walter Lynwood Fleming,
"Jefferson Davis's Camel Experiment," Popular Science Monthly, LXXIV, 141-152;
Lewis B. Lesley, "The Purchase and Importation of Camels by the United States
Government, 1855-1857," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXXIII, 18-83; Earl
W. Fornell, "A Cargo of Camels in Galveston," ibid., LIX, 40-45; Frank Bishop
Lamons, "Operation Camel: An Experiment in Animal 'Tansportation in Texas,
1857-186o," ibid., LXI, 20-50; Lewis B. Lesley (ed.), Uncle Sam's Camels: the
Journal of May Humphreys Stacy Supplemented by the Report of Edward Fitz-
gerald Beale (I857-858) (Cambridge, Mass., 1929); William Lewis, "The Camel
Pack 'rains in the Mining Camps of the West," Washington Historical Quarterly,
XIX, 271-284.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/. Accessed September 16, 2014.