G H Heap, E F Beale and D D Porter’s Roles
in the Camel Experiment in the Southwest US
This is my working hypothesis – the way I see it as of this moment!!
David Adams wrote: If you have some time you might also want to discover the story of the importation of the camels to Texas by kinsmen; Gwenn Harris Heap 1817 PA – 1887, David Dixon Porter 1813 -1891 and Edward Fitzgerald Beale 1822 -1893.
a good picture of the roles of David D Porter and Gwenn H Heap are in this article
“THE GOVERNMENT‚ÄôS IMPORTATION OF CAMELS: A HISTORICAL SKETCH. ”
By CHARLES C. CARROLL, A. M., Editorial Office, Bureau of Animal Industry.
” [A Bill] appropriating $30,000 “to be expended under the direction of the War Department in the purchase and importation of camels and dromedaries to be employed for military purposes” became law in March 1855. “Secretary [of War] [Jeff] Davis” lost no time in beginning …[the] experiment. In May he directed Major Wayne to proceed to the Levant, stopping in England and France for the purpose of interviewing military men in those countries in regard to the camel and its uses in war. The Secretary of the Navy placed at the disposal of Mr. Davis the storeship Supply, with her crew, under the command of Lieut. David D. Porter (afterwards Admiral Porter), for the purpose of transporting the animals to [Texas.] [Wayne] joined Lieutenant Porter and the Supply at Spezzia, Italy, June 24.
“In the meantime Lieutenant Porter, having discharged his cargo of supplies for our Mediterranean squadron, and entering heartily into the spirit of the camel enterprise, had visited the farm of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, near Pisa, where camels had been bred and used for two hundred years. The original stock had come from Egypt, and a sufficient number were kept by the Tuscan ruler to perform the work of 1,000 horses. The animals were found to be performing hard work daily, being forced to carry loads as high as 1,300 pounds each, and toiling from sunrise to sunset. Despite this arduous service, they were badly treated by unappreciative keepers; were forced to obtain their entire subsistence by their own gleanings from nearly barren tracts of land covered with stunted pines and scanty grass, and were never housed, although the climate was hot in summer and cold in winter. The number was limited, but this seemed to be because the Grand Duke did not permit them to be used off his own estates.
“In order that they might be able personally to study the animals, ascertain how the voyage would be likely to affect them, and how the arrangements they had made for embarking and stabling would work, Major Wayne and Lieutenant Porter determined to secure one camel at the first opportunity. They accordingly sailed directly for Tunis, where early in August they bought their first animal. Upon applying for a permit to bring it off, the Bey of Tunis graciously presented to the United States through them two other camels-one, at least, a fine animal, that subsequently became the veteran of the herd and proved himself a sturdy sailor, for he accompanied the ship for over 10,000 miles and was landed in good health on American soil nine months after his embarkation.
The ship USS SUPPLY, commanded by LT David Dixon Porter, left New York 3 June 1855.
Major Henry C. Wayne and Lt. David D. Porter were put in command of securing the camels from the Middle East. The first shipment of nine swift dromedaries from Egypt, 20 burden camels, plus four others of mixed breed arrived on the naval ship, Supply, on April 29, 1856.
A good description of David Dixon Porter’s role is in “The Second Admiral” by Richard S. West Jr.
1937 pgs 64-68. This was the scheme of Jeff Davis then Secretary of War. D Adams
“The voyage was resumed and Constantinople reached early in October. From this city the officers, leaving the ship, made a side trip to Balaklava, in the Crimea, to learn what they could about the camels that were used in the Crimean war. The English quartermaster gave them an opportunity of inspecting the animals in the possession of the English, and they gained much information which they regarded as pertinent and valuable. They were told that in the conquest of Sind some 25,000 camels had been used by Gen. Sir Charles Napier, an unusually acute student of transportation problems; and so satisfactory had they proved in the Crimea that the numbers on hand at Balaklava were to be increased for the next campaign. Here the Arabian, or one-humped, camel was used almost exclusively. The average load was 600 pounds, carried 25 to 30 miles a day. A corps of 1,000 men mounted on 500 camels had rendered most effective service under General Napier. It was often marched 70 miles in twelve hours. On arriving at the desired point, the camels were left with the keepers and 500 men operated as infantry, the camels, kneeling and hobbled in a hollow square, even serving as a breastwork in case of necessity. The Bactrian, or two-humped, camel also was found at Balaklava, but, though stronger and heavier than the Arabian, was not so much used because of the difficulty of placing the load over his two humps and because slower in pace. Both officers were enthusiastic over what they saw and heard of the camel in the Crimea, Lieutenant Porter declaring that in the United States, at any point south of 36?(about the latitude of Raleigh, N. C.), the camel would be fostered with the greatest care, and that its value there for labor would be much greater than that of the horse. He expressed the hope that he might see the day when every Southern planter would be using the camel extensively, and he thought this not improbable, as a good work animal might then be imported from Smyrna for about $300.
“Two of the three camels procured at Tunis had shown symptoms of the itch; and, as it was feared that they might infect the ship with the disease, they were sold. Their lazy life on the vessel, coupled with good care and abundant food, had so fattened them that there was no trouble in finding a Turkish butcher, whose bid of $44 for the two was accepted. The Sultan, professing great interest in the experiment of our Government, offered to present 4 of his finest animals, but, as they had to be fetched from Asia, our officers deemed it imprudent to wait. Persia had been thought to be the best place to procure fine camels, but it was now so late in the season that the mountain passes were filled with snow and ice, and a trip to that distant country would have been difficult, if not impossible. So the Supply was headed for Egypt, arriving at Alexandria in December. Major Wayne journeyed on to Cairo, where he purposed buying 20 dromedaries. An unexpected obstacle was encountered in the “custom of the country.” In order to avoid having all his good camels and horses sent out of his domain to supply the wants of the Eastern war, the viceroy had made a law that no animal of any kind should be exported, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he was prevailed upon to issue a permit, first for the exportation of 2 camels, then of 10. The last concession came too late, however, as, wearying of the slow processes of oriental routine (the negotiations being conducted in due form through the American consul), Major Wayne had determined to sail after loading but 3 camels. But now the viceroy himself had become interested in the experiment of the United States, and proposed to present the Government with 6 dromedaries. It seems to have been the, intention of the ruler to present 6 of his finest beasts, and on learning of the proposed gift the major and lieutenant were aroused to the highest pitch of pleased anticipation, particularly as they had met with such ill success in their purchases and had been so worried by the unforeseen rules against exportation. They expected nothing less than a group of lithe-limbed, deep-chested racers of the best blood of Oman or Nubia-the flower of the royal herd, with pedigrees reaching back toward the beginnings of recorded time. After a week of impatient waiting, they were informed that the present of the potentate was in readiness in the palace yard, and, upon going to embark it, their chagrin was severe when, instead of the swift, well-kept dromedaries of the desert, they found a wretched half dozen of the commonest street camels of Alexandria, their hanging heads showing the spirit broken by ill usage, half denuded of hair by the itch, and loathsome from disease. Lieutenant Porter spurned the gift and took little pains to conceal his disgust. The viceroy’s minister was informed of the miscarriage of his master’s well-intended liberality, and the blame was laid on the rascally subordinates to whom the selection of the present had been entrusted; and, after another week of waiting, 6 fairly good camels were forthcoming. Thus, when the Supply sailed on January 22, 1856, she had on board 9 dromedaries and the Tunis camel.
“Our officers reached Smyrna January 30, and, by having sent in advance Mr. Gwynn H. Heap, they were able to assemble rapidly the remainder of their shipment andprepare pack saddles and covers. This latter item was carefully attended to, as it was certain that properly fitting saddles could not be obtained in the United States. Mr. Heap’s acquaintance with the languages and customs of the East, gained while serving as vice-consul at Tunis, enabled him to purchase the animals to the best advantage.
Lieutenant Porter solved, with his customary intelligence, the problem of loading the camels into the ship. He built first a boat 20 feet long and 7 feet wide, flat-bottomed so that it would easily slide up on the beach. He then constructed the “camel car,” very strongly made and bound with iron, with a door at each end, and shaped to fit snugly into the boat. The camel was coaxed into the car, or, if he withstood coaxing and refused to enter, ten sailors with a block and tackle forced him in. The car, mounted on trucks, was then rolled down the beach and into the boat. The car weighed 1,000 pounds and by means of it the animals, averaging in weight 1,400 pounds, but going as high as 2,000 pounds, were loaded into the ship at the rate of one each half hour.
The home voyage was begun February 15, 1856, with 33 animals, as follows: Nine dromedaries, or runners, 23 camels of burden, and 1 calf. Among them were 2 Bactrian males (two humped) for use in breeding with the Arabian female. The offspring, called a “booghdee” (male Tuilu and female Maya), is always one humped and much heavier than the pure Arabian and on this account is greatly prized as a burden-carrying animal. Mr. Heap had picked up a fine Tuilu, an enormous fellow 7 feet 5 inches in height, 10 feet long, 9 feet 9 inches in girth, and weighing when in good condition 2,000 pounds. Lieutenant Porter was obliged to cut a hole in the floor of the deck which served as the ceiling of the camel stable in order to accommodate this Tuilu‚Äôs hump. Seven males were included in the load, the remainder being females, not counting the booghdee, which will not breed.
It was an interesting voyage home. The staunch little sailing craft met the most tremendous gales in the Mediterranean and was buffeted by unusually heavy weather during most of her trip across the Atlantic. It was often necessary, in order that they might not be injured by the tossing of the sea during the more violent storms, to tie the camels down in the position they assume when kneeling to receive their burdens, which posture they held for days at a time, eating and drinking much as usual and suffering no harm beyond a temporary stiffening of the joints.
The camels occupied a huge stable between decks. A thoughtful contrivance was a covered structure 60 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 10 feet high, which was placed on the upper deck, above the animals’ quarters. Along the sides of this were placed at frequent intervals large portholes fitted with glass windows and heavy shutters. A hatch was provided in the top so as to let the animals down to their deck, and this aperture, being so far above the upper deck, could be kept open even during storms when it was necessary to close the portholes. Thus fresh air was assured in all kinds of weather-a very important matter on shipboard.
The success of this part of the experiment was due to the sagacity and watchfulness of Lieutenant Porter, who reduced the care of the animals to a military basis. He promulgated a set of “rules and regulations for the camel deck,” requiring, among other things, that one person should always be on watch; the camels to be fed and watered every day at 3 o’clock precisely; the females having young to be fed and watered, in addition, at 7 o’clock in the morning; the deck never to be wet except by order; the hayracks to be filled every two days, and the amount of food to be kept account of; the camels never to be struck with anything but the flat-of the hand; their beds to be littered down before sunset: each camel to be curried and brushed half an hour every day and their feet and legs to be well rubbed; their feet to be cleaned with soap and water twice a week; particular care to be observed in putting hay under their knees and haunches when they lie down; ” the least thing the matter with an animal to be reported at once.” The strictest cleanliness was exacted, the stalls being cleaned daily, and frequently whitewashed. The daily ration of food consisted of a gallon of oats, 10 pounds of hay, and a gallon of water to each animal, this being varied by occasional portions of crushed pease or barley made into a dough ball; salt was served once a week. The animals got along very well on this regimen, although their natural diet consists of the leaves and tender branches of all kinds of trees and shrubs, while they have a special fondness for dried bushes of a bitter and astringent flavor and seem to consider prickly and thorny vegetation a dainty.
Six Arabs, one of them a Bedouin of the desert, were engaged to go along with the ship, with the idea that they would be useful in caring for the animals, but they proved helpless in bad weather, and their services were unnecessary in good weather. A Turk was also employed because he represented himself to be a “camel M. D.,” perfectly familiar with the management of camels, their diseases and treatment. This gentleman turned out to be an Oriental Sangrado. His cure for a cold was a piece of cheese; for swelled legs, tea mixed with gunpowder; and for some further trifling complaint he gravely proposed to tickle the animal’s nose with a chameleon’s tail. He was soon set aside by the common sense of Lieutenant Porter. In giving birth, one of the camels died, this being attributed to an injury received in loading. Two young ones, born soon after leaving, Smyrna, were so much treated by the camel doctor that they also died; four others born during the voyage were kept out of his hands and would have come on very well, but one was starved because the mother could not be induced to rise and suckle it during a ten days’ storm; another was accidentally lain on by an old camel and crushed. The other two were successfully reared, and, having the run of the camel deck, amused the whole ship by their friskiness and precocity; they were thoroughly at home in the worst of weather, perfectly steady on their legs, going about the deck without falling during gales that forced even the sailors to hold on to some support. Such remarkable seamanship was attributed to the fact that they were born at sea.
In the cargo were 4 Pehlevans-camels which had been taught to wrestle, a sport which is common in the East. It seems that without any training at all the animals engage in contests which are a sort of wrestling bouts. Whenever two males meet for the first time, especially if there are any females about, an encounter of this kind is indulged in. The camel that is thrown to the ground acknowledges his inferiority by scarcely daring thenceforward to look at the females. . . One of the Arabs employed by Major Wayne amused himself on the voyage by training “Uncle Sam,” a month-old camel, to wrestle, a pastime at which he soon became so proficient and which he liked so well that it was found necessary to tie him up, as he developed the trick of making sudden rushes at the men and throwing them to the deck.
By his intelligent and energetic care Lieutenant Porter thus kept his charges in excellent health, and landed safely at Indianola, Tex., May 14, 1856, 34 camels (a gain of 1 on the voyage), all apparently in really better condition than when taken from the sandy wastes of their native deserts.
. . . . . . . ..
Something over $20,000 of the sum appropriated by Congress was yet unexpended, and in June Lieutenant Porter was furnished with $10,000 of this and directed to fetch home on the Supply another shipload of camels. The storeship then lay at New York, and, as food for the return trip, she took on board l5O bales (about 20 tons) of hay, 6,000 gallons of oats, 10 barrels of beans, 500 gallons of barley, 50 pounds of powdered sulphur, and 50 pounds of lard. The Department commissioned Mr. Heap at $2,000 a year and expenses and sent him on ahead directly to Smyrna, where, by the time that Porter arrived in November, he had collected from the interior a shipment of fine young animals. The Sultan of Turkey, through our minister at Constantinople, presented 6 dromedaries, which were included in this shipment. On the whole, this shipload was a much finer lot than those procured on the first trip. At Smyrna Lieutenant Porter employed nine men and a boy at $15 a month each and brought them along to help care for the animals. The Government continued to employ some of these men, together with some of those who were brought over on the first trip, for many years at $10 to $15 a month. One of them at least, Hiogo Alli, remained in the service as camel driver, interpreter, or mail carrier until 1870, when, on being discharged, he filed a claim for further employment on the ground that such was due him under the contract made in 1856.
Lieutenant Porter sailed for home November 14, and, although meeting the roughest weather he had ever encountered, he lost but 3 camels on a voyage of eighty-eight days, and was able to turn over to Major Wayne, at Indianola, February 10, 1857, 41 animals, all in fine condition. The new animals were taken to Camp Verde, which was now officially designated the camel station. Up to this time Wayne had lost 5 of his first herd-2 by Spanish fever (a disease incident to acclimation), 1 by epilepsy, 1 from the bite of a particularly ferocious companion, and 1 from blows probably inflicted by a mule driver who did not take kindly to the foreign beast. The second shipload thus raised the camel herd to 70 in number.
In February, 1857, the Senate directed the Secretary of War to furnish it with a report regarding his camel experiment. This report was submitted the same month, and is a well-written and comprehensive document comprising the letters of Lieutenant Porter and Major Wayne, together with the information they had obtained and the conclusions they had drawn.
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A picturesque chapter in the development of the West began in 1854, when camelcaravans appeared on the American plains. After the Mexican War a large territory had been acquired in the Southwest, inhabited mainly by Indians and Mexicans. When the War Department established a chain of Army posts throughout this area it was confronted immediately with a supply problem. The difficulties of transportation brought many suggestions for improvement, including the use of balloons for this purpose. Beale’s active and energetic mind searched for a solution. The use of camels was suggested to him by reading E. R. Huc’s Souvenirs d’un voyage dans la Tartarze, le
Thibet, et la Chzne, which had been translated by William Hazlitt in 1852. In later years Beale told his son that the idea occurred to him when he was exploring Death Valley with Kit Carson, with the Abbe’s book in his saddlebag.
At this time the Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis, later President of the Confederacy. To him Beale presented the idea, fortified by many quotations from travel books to show the camel’s usefulness in arid countries. Davis became a fellow-enthusiast, and authorization of the project followed. The Navy provided a ship which was dispatched to the Near East, under the command of Beale’s friend and relative, David D. Porter, of later Civil War fame. In Smyrna, Egypt and Tunis some thirty-three camels were purchased and brought back to the United States, and on a second voyage forty-four more. It was Beale’s duty to convoy the camels from Texas to California, which he did in 1857. In his official report he commented enthusiastically on the advantages of camels as pack-animals:
“They are the most docile, patient and easily managed creatures in the world, and infinitely more easily worked than mules. From personal observation of the camels I would rather undertake the management of twenty of them than of five mules. In fact the camel gives no trouble whatever.
Kneeling down to receive his load, it may be put on without hurry at the convenience of the master, and the process of packing is infinitely easier than mule packing. These animals remain quietly on their knees until loaded. Contrast the lassoing, the blinding, the saddling, the pulling and hauling of ropes, the adjustment of the pack, on an animal like the mule, flying around in all directions, to say nothing of a broken limb received from one of its numerous kicks, with the patient quiet of the camel kneeling for its load.”
“We had them on this journey sometimes for twenty-six hours without water, exposed to a great degree of heat, the mercury standing at one hundred and four degrees and when they came to water they seemed to be almost indifferent to it. Not all drank and those that did, not with the
famished eagerness of other animals when deprived of water for the same length of time.” They created a furor in California, where most of the inhabitants had never seen a camel. The public reaction may be gauged from a Los Angeles newspaper account:
“Gen. Beale and about fourteen camels stalked into town last Friday week, and gave our streets quite an Oriental aspect. It looks oddly enough to see, outside of a menagerie, a herd of huge, ungainly, awkward but docile animals, move about in our midst, with people riding them like horses. They bring up weird and far-off associations to the Eastern traveller, whether by book or otherwise, of the lands of the mosque, crescent or turban, of the pilgrim mufti and dervish, with visions of the great shrines of the world, Mecca and Jerusalem, and the toiling throngs that have for centuries wended thither; of the burning sands of Arabia and Sahara, where the desert is
boundless as the ocean and the camel is the ship thereof.”
“These camels under charge of Gen. Beale are all grown and serviceable, and most of them are well broken to the saddle and are very gentle. All belong to the one-hump species, except one which is a cross between the one and the two-hump species. This fellow is much larger and more powerful than either sire or dam. He is a grizzly-looking hybrid, a camel-mule of colossal
proportions. These animals are admirably adapted to travel across our continent, and their introduction was a brilliant idea, the result of which is beginning most happily. At first Gen. Beale thought the animals were going to fail; they appeared likely to give out, their backs got sore. But
he resolved to know whether they would do or not. He loaded them heavily with provisions, which they were soon able to carry with ease, and thence came through to Fort Tejon, living upon bushes, prickly pears and whatever they could pick up on the route. They went without water from six to ten days and even packed it a long distance for the mules, when crossing the deserts. They were found capable of packing one thousand pounds weight apiece, and of traveling with their load from thirty to forty miles per day, all the while finding their own feed over an almost barren country. Their drivers say they will get fat where a jackass would starve to death. The
‘mule,’ as they call the cross between the camel and the dromedary, will pack twenty-two hundred pounds.”
Undoubtedly the use of camels in the United States would have continued but for the pending outbreak of the Civil War, which eclipsed everything not directly concerned. The difficulties of the experiment were magnified, of course. Many soldiers did not like the animals, and neglect and misuse of the herds took their toll. Some camels wandered away and reverted to a natural state, so that for years afterwards an occasional astonished traveler would behold a wild camel in the distance. Finally an Army board reviewed the camel situation, and brought the experiment to an
end. Those remaining were sold at auction, some being purchased by Beale himself for his California ranch.
From the 1877 Harper’s Weekly Magazine
Camels in Nevada delivering military supplies from San Antonio to Los Angeles in 1857
At the same time, Bishop was using the original camels to haul freight for Beale’s work crews, and his own. . . .
East of the river, Bishop’s men encountered a large force of Mojaves who showed all signs of wanting an open battle. Bishop mounted his civilian packers and laborers onto the camels of this party and charged. They routed the Mojaves. It was the only camel charge staged in the west and the Army had nothing to do with it. Then Bishop moved on eastward to find Beale. . .”
Sources, References and Other sites on the subject:
“The first camel importation was followed by a second, consisting of forty-one beasts, which were also quartered at Camp Verde. In the spring of 1857 James Buchanan’s secretary of war, John B. Floyd, directed Edward Fitzgerald Beale to use twenty-five of the camels in his survey for a wagon road from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, across the thirty-fifth parallel to the Colorado River.”
HANDBOOK OF TEXAS ON LINE – CAMELS