Sunday, May 5, 2013

Camels in Texas

Stop #3 on the 2013 Rosenberger Summer tour was a spur-of-the-moment side trip to Camp Verde.  This local attraction is just about 20 miles from Kerrville, Texas, where our RV rally was held.

This post office/general store building was built in 1900 to replace the original swept away in a flood in 1857. The post office/general store quickly became an important part of the military post and the community that grew up around it.

Camp Verde had been built and staffed by the U.S. Army in the late 1840s.  It was established to help protect settlers moving into the Texas Hill Country from Indian raids..

 In 1854, Jefferson Davis, who was at that time U.S. Secretary of War, for the United States of America, proposed a bold new "experimental weapon" for use by the U.S. military: camels.
Davis' plan was to use the camels instead of horses or mules to transport equipment and supplies over long distances.  Congress appropriated $30,000 for the project and the first shipment of camels arrived from Egypt in April of 1856.  Thirty-three camels of various types were accompanied by four experienced camel drivers, who were promptly given American nicknames: Greek George, Long Tom, Mico, and Hi-Jolly.
Camp Verde had been chosen as the location for the "camel experiment" and that first load of camels and drivers arrived at that destination in August of 1856.  A second load of 40 animals arrived the following spring.  The camels passed every test of their ability, carrying heavier loads and traveling longer distances than the horses and mules used by the military for transport.
Then the nation was torn in half by the Civil War.  During the winter of 1861 Fort Verde was captured by the Confederacy.  Four years later when it was recaptured by the U.S. military, the Fort's camel population had risen to more than 100. 
 Despite the success of the "camel experiment," the War Department needed all available funds for the reconstruction of the South after the devastation of the Civil War.  So the use of camels by the U.S. army had to be halted.  The Camp Verde fort was deactivated in 1869.
The gift shop at Camp Verde keeps the spirit of the "camel experiment" alive in art work and wood carvings of camels which they offer for sale along with many unique and decorative items.  The restaurant offers a variety of delicious food options -- but none of them include camel meat, and we were glad!  What a fun and informative day we had at Camp Verde.