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The U.S. Army and the Great Camel Experiment

Chris Jackson, Getty Images

In 1843 the Quarter Master General of the United States received a letter from Captain George H. Crosman stating the importance for the U.S. Army to use camels in the military. Crosman believed camels would have an advantage over horses by scaring them before a confrontation could begin. Native Americas used horses.

It took six years but in 1854, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis tried to talk the U.S. Senate into the idea. He argued the camels would need little upkeep, could transport troops, carry heavy loads and would be a reliable means of transportation.

Congress allotted $30,000 for the camel experiment and 33 camels and five Arab handlers were brought to the United States in 1856 with an additional 47 camels arriving in 1857. The camel experiment seemed to be doing well until the outbreak of the Civil War, by the time the war was over, Reconstruction was more important than camels.

 In 1866 the Army sold the camels that were remaining with most ending up in carnivals and zoos around the country.

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