Edward Fitzgerald Beale, George Hampden Crosman, Jefferson Finis Davis, President Franklin Pierce, The National Musuem of the United States Army, U.S. Army Camel Corps

The Experimental U.S. Army Camel Corps

In 1836, U.S. Army Lieutenant George Hampden Crosman, a 1823 West Point graduate, proposed the idea of having camels assist the military with the movement of essential supplies along desert terrain in the western United States. At first, his idea was dismissed by his superiors and he only garnered a few political supporters of the idea.

Jefferson Finis Davis, who served as the U.S. Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857.

In 1853, Jefferson Finis Davis was appointed as Secretary of War by President Franklin Pierce. Jefferson Finis Davis actively supported the idea of a U.S. Army Camel Corps and lobbied Congress to fund the use of camels in the military. In 1854, Jefferson Finis Davis stated in his annual report to Congress the need to utilize camels from the Middle East in the U.S. Army and congress compiled a bill on the measure soon after the report.

On 3 March 1855, Congress had a majority vote on an appropriation bill that stated within it’s Shield Amendment:

“And be it further enacted, that the sum of $30,000 be, and the same is hereby appropriated under the direction of the War Department in the purchase and importation of camels and dromedaries to be employed for military purposes.”

U.S. Army Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale has been commissioned by President James Buchanan to survey and. Hold wagon roads from New Mexico to California. Years after assisting with that commission Edward Fitzgerald Beale helped initiate the camel corps experiment, and authorized several camels to assist with the transportation of army equipment among desert terrain from the “Beale Road” that he had helped create between New Mexico to California.

Photograph of Edward Fitzgerald Beal.

However, horses and mules were used in addition to camels for transportation, and the camels presence frightened those animals, thus making transportation of supplies more difficult along rugged routes. Therefore, the U.S. Army Camel Corps was eventually disbanded and the army returned to just using horses and mules for the transport of goods.

A single camel at the Drum Barracks in San Pedro, California. (Photograph may of been in the 1850s).

The National Musuem of the United States Army has additional information on the history of the former Army Camel Corps.

Photograph of Major General George Hampden Crosman.

Author’s Note:

During the U.S. Civil War George Hampden Crosman served for the Union Army as a Major General. George Hampden Crosman was the Chief Quartermaster of the Department of Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah from April 29 to August 24, 1861; and for the rest of the war he was in charge of the Quartermaster’s Department at Philadelphia, Pennslyvania and Depot of Clothing and Equipage, for the Schuylkill Arsenal, from September 27, 1861, to August 27, 1864.