Texas Camel Corps
In 1843, Captain George H. Crosman encouraged the U.S. Department of War to use camels for transportation. The idea gained traction when General Edward F. Beale explored Death Valley with Kit Carson, when it occurred to him that camels in the Arizona desert would do better than horses. In 1853 under Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, U.S. forces were required to operate in arid and desert regions, and the idea was finally taken seriously. In 1855, the U.S. Supply sailed from New York City to the Mediterranean, where twenty-three camels were acquired along with five drivers. The ship sailed again the following year, and returned with forty-one camels. During the summer of 1856, the camels were driven to Camp Verde via Victoria and San Antonio. The camels proved exceedingly strong and were able to move quickly across terrain which horses found difficult. During an 1859 survey of the Trans-Pecos region to find a shorter route to Fort Davis, the Army used the camels, as well as an 1860 survey.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the Camel Corps was mostly forgotten. Handlers had difficulty with their camels spooking the horses and mules. May of the camels were sold to private owners; others escaped into the desert throughout the West. Feral camels continued to be sighed in the Southwest through the early 1900s, with the last reported sighting in 1941 in Douglas, Texas.
In 1997, Doug Baum brought two camels to Texas to start the Texas Camel Corps. Nine camels currently make up the unique herd. Baum travels the state with his camels, guiding treks and participating in historical reenactments to educate people about camels and the obscure role they played in 19th Century Texas. Baum also takes his camels to schools and community events, and he opens his Valley Mills Farm outside of Waco for public visits by appointment.