Camels arrive for trial service in Texas
On this day in 1856, a shipload of camels arrived at the Texas port of Indianola. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had urged Congress to bring the animals from North Africa to help the army in its Indian operations. Major H. C. Wayne sailed to North Africa in the naval storeship Supply in May 1855 and returned with the first thirty-three camels in April 1856. On June 4 Wayne set off with his caravan for the frontier posts. The expedition stopped for a time at Victoria, where the animals were clipped and Mrs. Mary A. Shirkey made camel-hair socks for the president of the United States. At Camp Verde experiments were conducted to test the camels' utility in chasing Indians and transporting supplies. Although more camels were imported, ultimately the experiment failed. Handlers found the animals smelly, obnoxious, and hard to control. Escaped camels roamed the desert for years and got into the folklore of the region.