[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
[image ALT: a blank space]

This webpage reproduces a section of
Uncle Sam's Camels

by
Lewis Burt Lesley


Harvard University Press,
Cambridge [Mass.], 1929
As republished by The Rio Grande Press, Inc.
Glorieta, NM 1970

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Part II:
May 1857
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p3  Part I

Organization of the "Camel Brigade"

Buried away in government reports and in books not generally handled by the public is a story of unfailing interest, that of the first and last "Camel Brigade" which made its way from San Antonio, Texas, to Bakersfield, California, in late fifties of the last century. For many years after this unusual experiment frequent reports were made to incredulous listeners concerning camels sighted from trails and camps. Such statements were labelled as effects of the mirages so common to the desert area and invariably suffered the fate of the alleged "fish story." We now know that real camels were wandering the desert wastes, and the story of the transplantation of these animals from the Near East to our own country involved a governmental experiment of great importance. Men and beasts were employed in an attempt to link up the expanding commerce and defence of two portions of a rapidly growing nation, and in the background stands the figure of the romantic militarist, that dreamer of national expansion, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jefferson Davis. If at times the story seems to touch on the comic, one must stop and recall the feverish haste of the period, the confusion of aims, for now the "fabulous forties" were melting into the fascinating fifties, and the locale of the new decade was the Far West.

By the year 1850, the problem of the unification of the East and the West was acute. The Mexican War and the discovery of gold in California had been episodes calling  p4 for immediate governmental aid for the new frontier. In the Southwest there was the frontier to be protected, routes of communication to be laid out, preparations made for the onward march of empire. The "Iron Horse" was about to be extended across the vast area of the West, and the breathless race of the interests of North and South for first honors was introduced in the Southern section of the United States by the strange camel experiment.

Indians, traders, trappers, and pioneers had crossed the trails of the Southwest before, but in the early fifties a new road was visioned by Jefferson Davis, one that would serve as a prelude to the coming of the "Iron Horse." The first suggestion of the use of the camel in this period came from military officials who were constantly combating Indians on the frontier. Supplies were slow in reaching the forts of the Southwest, and it seemed plausible that the rapid-moving camel would solve the problem of transportation in that regard. As early as 1836, Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George H. Crosman, U. S. A., after service in Florida, broached the matter of the camels to the proper authorities in Washington. While in that city he met Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Henry C. Wayne, who took up Crosman's idea, and, in 1848, suggested that the War Department send to the Near East for a group of camels for use in the frontier military service. To Major Wayne goes the credit of pointing out to Jefferson Davis, then United States Senator from Mississippi, the feasibility of such a scheme. Mr. Davis plunged whole-heartedly into the plan and spent a great deal of time in interviews and study on the subject.1

 p5  This was not the first time that the idea of bringing camels from the Old World to the New had been broached. Very early in the history of the Spanish conquest a Biscayan, Juan de Reineza, had attempted to introduce camels into Peru, apparently with some success, for near the latter part of the sixteenth century camels were seen near the base of the Andes Mountains. Another record states that in 1701 a slave trader brought some camels into Virginia. There were also reports of camels in Jamaica.2

In 1853, Jefferson Davis became Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Pierce, and one of his first acts was to turn with renewed interest to his plans for the camel military corps. In his new work Mr. Davis saw even more clearly than before the need of some effective source of relief for the frontier military situation. In his report to the President, dated December 1, 1853, Davis urged Congressional action in the interests of camel importation.3 "For military purposes, for expresses, and for reconnoissances, it is believed, the dromedary would supply a want now seriously felt in our service; and for transportation with troops rapidly moving across the country, the camel, it is believed, would remove an obstacle which now serves greatly to diminish the value and efficiency of our troops on the western frontier."4

Davis' recommendation of 1853 did not succeed in moving Congress to action, but it serve to encourage a group of people in New York who organized and chartered "The American Camel Company," whose object was the  p6 importation of camels to be sent to the West as aids to transportation there. This company early died out.5 In his report of December, 1854, Davis renewed his appeals for Congressional action. "I again invite attention to the advantages to be anticipated from the use of camels and dromedaries for military and other purposes, and, for the reasons set forth in my last annual report, recommend that an appropriation be made to introduce a small number of the several varieties of this animal, to test their adaptation to our country."6

When the Committee met to frame the annual army appropriation bill it omitted any reference to the camels. In the Senate a champion appeared in Senator Shields of Illinois, who amended the bill, attaching an appropriation of $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." The amended bill passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives on March 3, 1855.7

Meanwhile, Secretary Davis was impressed with the enthusiastic reception of his scheme among officers stationed along the frontier; particularly encouraging was the attitude of Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale, then Superintendent of Indian Affairs in California and Nevada. Beale had fought in the Mexican War in California as a Lieutenant in the Navy; he had brought the first California gold East. In every way Beale justified what his friend and fellow traveller, Bayard Taylor, called him —  p7 "a pioneer in the path of empire." After the Mexican War, Beale resigned from the Navy and began a series of exploring expeditions in the Southwest. Late in 1852, he received his appointment as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, as above mentioned, and served in that capacity until 1857.8

While with Kit Carson in an exploration of Death Valley, California, Beale had conceived the idea that the camel would solve the problem of the conquest of waterless wastes of the desert. Particularly was Beale influenced by the reading of Abbé Huc's Travels in China and Tartary, which dwelt at some length upon the values of the camel for commerce and travel. Soon we find Lieutenant Beale in Washington, where he met Davis, and together these two enthusiasts looked forward to the arrival in the United States of the first camels.

At the time that Congress passed the necessary legislation for the importation of the camels, Beale was living in Chester, Pennsylvania, vacationing from the Indian service, and he urged his relative, David Dixon Porter, to apply for the command of the expedition about to leave for the Levant to secure camels for experimental purposes in the Southwest. Porter did as he was requested, and was appointed jointly to share the command with Major Henry C. Wayne, whom we have met before in this narrative.9  p8 Porter was to have charge of the store-ship Supply, which was to convey the animals; Wayne was to take care of the business end of the venture.

Wayne first visited England, where he arrived in June, 1855. After a careful study of the camels at great London Zoölogical Garden, he proceeded to Paris and Genoa, and in the latter city learned of the arrival of Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) Porter at Spezzia, Italy, late in July. While awaiting the arrival of Wayne, Porter had visited the farm of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, about eight miles from Pisa, where there were two hundred and fifty camelsa "doing work equal to that of a thousand horses."

The commanders of the expedition felt that it was high time to secure at least one camel for study and experimentation, and, with this purpose in mind, journeyed to Tunis, where, late in July, they arrived. The first animal was purchased early in August; just a few days before the Bey of Tunis presented Major Wayne with two good specimens. The three animals were loaded on the Supply, where they seemed "as comfortable as if they were on shore."10

It is interesting to note one of the first lessons gained by the commanders concerning the actual nomenclature of "camel land." Natural historians had designated the two‑humped animal as the camel and the one‑humped as the dromedary. Wayne differed with the scientists, and here are his own words: "I shall use the word 'camel' as generic,  p9 including both the two‑humped and the one-humped specie, which I shall distinguish from each other by the qualifications of the countries from which they are said to have originally come — Bactria and Arabia. I shall call the two‑humped animal 'the Bactrian camel,' and the one‑humped 'the Arabian camel,' confining the term dromedary to the saddle or riding variety of the Arabian camel, there being no riding animal, as far as I have been able to ascertain, of the Bactrian species."11

The expedition next visited Malta, Smyrna, Salonika, and Constantinople, reaching the latter city in October. Into the very thick of the forces engaged in the Crimean war went these intrepid searchers for camels, and at Balaklava they learned that the Arabian camel was indispensable to the British military force. The average camel load was 600 pounds, carried 25 to 30 miles a day. A core of men mounted on the camels could make as much as 70 miles in 12 hours! Furthermore, "upon arriving at the scene of operations the dromedaries were made to kneel in a square – forming as it were a base of operations from which others operated as infantry. . . . In case of extremity, the square offered a cover under which the one thousand men could find comparative shelter behind the animals, who were prevented from rising by a hobble on the foreleg, and use their rifles most effectively."12

The Supply now headed for Egypt, where it arrived at Alexandria in December, 1855. A law had been promulgated by the ruler of the country forbidding the exportation  p10 of any camels, but a special permit was granted, and on January 22, 1856, the Supply sailed with nine dromedaries and the Tunis camel on board. On January 30, Smyrna was reached, and the remainder of the shipment was brought together. Then arose the problem of loading the camels on to the ship. First a flat-bottomed boat twenty feet long and seven feet wide was built, and also a large "camel car" which was made to fit snugly into the boat. The camel was coaxed or forced into the car which was then mounted on trucks and rolled down the beach and on to the boat. Two camels were loaded each hour. (See Plate I.)

[image ALT: missingALT.]

Plate I. — Embarkation of the Camels at Smyrna, 1856

(From a Plate in Jefferson Davis' Report to the Secretary of War)

On the morning of the 15th of February, 1856, the strange ship left Smyrna for the United States, with its load of thirty-three camels, and it proved to be one of the most unique and interesting of all nautical voyages. One camel died on route, and two were born. One especially fine animal was on board, an enormous fellow, seven feet and five inches in height, ten feet long, nine feet nine inches in girth, and weighing two thousand pounds. Lieutenant Porter was forced to cut a hole in the floor of the deck which served as the ceiling for the camel stable in order to give room for the hump of the animal!

What a stormy trip it was! Gales all of the way across the Atlantic, and frequently, during weeks on end, it was necessary to tie the camels down in a kneeling position (see Plate II), which did not seem to bother the patient animals in the least. Every care was exercised for the welfare of the camels during the long voyage, and cleanliness was the watchword, thanks to the labors of Lieutenant Porter. The Arabs, brought along to take care of the animals,  p11 proved worthless, and the full burden fell upon the American crew.13

[image ALT: missingALT.]

Plate II. — "Camel secured for a gale" — On board the ship, en route to Indianola, 1856

(From a Plate in Jefferson Davis' Report to the Secretary of War)

After a journey of three months the Supply landed at Indianola, Texas, a small port about one hundred and twenty miles south of Galveston, on May 14, 1856. On being landed, the camels, feeling once again the solid earth beneath them, "became excited to an almost uncontrollable degree, rearing, kicking, crying out, breaking halters, tearing up pickets, and by other fantastic tricks demonstrating their enjoyment of the 'liberty of the soil.' "14

Porter was at once ordered back to Asia Minor to secure another load of camels and was back at Indianola on February 10, 1857, with a fresh supply of forty-four of the animals.

Meanwhile, Major Wayne had proceeded to San Antonio with the camels, where he arrived on June 18, 1856, after a journey of two weeks. The trip was made in hot weather and over dusty roads, but the animals travelled without suffering, and arrived in the best of condition. A temporary camp was made at Major Howard's ranch on the Medina River, twelve miles from San Antonio. Major Wayne seems to have misunderstood his orders, for he was roundly scolded by the Quartermaster-General at Washington for expecting to experiment with camel-breeding rather than to determine only the fitness of the animals for military service.

A permanent camp was selected at Green Valley (Val Verde), about sixty miles northwest of San Antonio, where extensive experimentations were soon undertaken. The  p12 camp was known as Camp Verde. The camels arrived at their new home on August 26th, and were not given any very difficult tasks until Wayne felt they were thoroughly rested from their long sea trip. An interesting sidelight into the earnestness with which Major Wayne pursued his task is revealed in a letter of Jefferson Davis, dated September 24, 1856, where he says, "Will you send me the treatise on the 'Zembourek,' or, 'dromedary artillery,' either the French original or my translation; the original French I would prefer, as I had not time to make with my translation copies of all drawings."15

When the administration of President Buchanan came  p13 into office in March of 1857, John B. Floyd became Secretary of War. At this time Major Wayne was transferred to Washington, and the camels were left in less efficient hands at their camp. Camp Verde was meanwhile attracting more and more attention, and people came from miles around to see the "circus animals."17

Secretary of War Floyd took up the work so earnestly prosecuted by Jefferson Davis and, in the fall of 1857, ordered a survey made of a wagon route from Fort Defiance, in New Mexico, to the Colorado River, near the thirty-fifth parallel. To the gratification of all concerned Lieutenant Edward F. Beale was chosen to head the expedition. Beale was first to go to Camp Verde, at San Antonio, Texas, where a part of the herd of camels was to be put at his disposal, for not only was a new route from New Mexico to California to be selected, but Beale was at the same time to test the fitness of the camel as a beast of burden on the deserts of the Southwest. Thus did Lieutenant Beale become commander of the first and last camel corps organized in the United States.18

At the time of the organization of this expedition Lieutenant Beale was sojourning in the quaint Quaker town of Chester, Pennsylvania. Among his friends and neighbors were several well-known families, that of David D. Porter, Davis Bevan Stacey, Judge Thomas H. Bell, and Dr. James J. Porter. Of course the expedition was the "talk of the town," and young May Stacey (son of D. B. Stacey) and his companion, Hampden Porter (son of Dr. James Porter) and Joseph Bell (son of Judge Bell) prevailed upon Lieutenant  p14 Beale and their parents to be taken along. Beale consented, as did the parents, and in his official Journal of the expedition refers to these eager lads as "my boys, May, Ham and Joe."19 Beale and the "boys" made their way to San Antonio, and the "Wagon Route Expedition" left that town for Fort Defiance on June 25, 1857.

In his book Mesa, Cañon and Pueblo, Lummis, speaking of the "ships of the deserts," says (p80): "An important and romantic chapter in the story of the Great American Desert is almost unknown today. It has never been adequately written, even from the exhaustive official documents in Washington; and it is late to write it now, for the personal recollections which would have embellished it have perished largely with the passing of those pioneers who took part in that curious drama."

In the following pages is published for the first time a journal of that strange camel corps as kept by one of the three "boys" so lovingly referred to by Beale — May Humphreys Stacey. One can easily imagine what it must have meant to a youth of nineteen to be included as a member of such a party. Stacey's Journal in almost every one of its items reveals over and over again the fact that in this lad Beale found a never-failing, brave and energetic aid to his efforts. Whenever there was a particularly hazardous and important piece of work to be done on the expedition, Stacey was always one of the members of the group selected by Beale for the undertaking.

Throughout the editing of the Journal I have drawn  p15 liberally from the log kept by Beale, and these documents, interwoven, tell the story of the "Camel Brigade." The author of this Journal, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel May Humphreys Stacey,d had a background of ancestry traceable to Welsh-Quaker and Dutch sources of the most distinguished types. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2, 1837. His mother, Sara Van Dycke, represented the Dutch stock, and the Welsh-Quaker side came to him from his father, Davis Bevan Stacey.

One of Colonel Stacey's ancestors was John Bevan, a friend of William Penn, and, in 1683, Bevan came to Pennsylvania from Wales, where he rendered valuable service in the settlement of the famous Welsh Tract and in the propagation of the Quaker faith. The great-grandfather of Colonel Stacey was Captain Davis Bevan, who served in the Continental Army.

May Humphreys Stacey had all of the advantages of the surroundings of a refined and well-educated family. He received the private school education available in the town of his birth but read widely in the large family library. From his earliest days Stacey was trained in horsemanship, a training that proved of inestimable value to him in later life. His was to be an adventuresome career. At the age of nineteen there was presented to him, through the long-standing friendship of the families of Stacey and Beale, the opportunity to accompany Lieutenant Beale on the expedition of 1857. The Journal here recorded was written during that experience and stands as a vivid testament of what the adventure meant to this brave youth.

At the end of the thrilling trip across the continent Colonel Stacey remained for some time in San Francisco  p16 with an elder brother. Later, returning to Philadelphia, he was granted a commission in the United States Navy and received his first assignment for duty on the U. S. S. Crusader, which was at that time engaged in the task of intercepting slave traders in the West Indies.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, Stacey was elevated to a position as First Lieutenant in the United States Army and was sent to join the First Battalion of the Twelfth United States Infantry, which was then organizing at Fort Hamilton in the state of New York. Stacey served faithfully all during the arduous Peninsula Campaign of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan and won mention for his bravery during the battle of Gaines' Mill, during which campaign he was badly wounded. As an Adjutant of the Battalion Stacey also served in the battles of the Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. (See Plate III.)

[image ALT: missingALT.]

Plate III. — May Humphreys Stacey as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, 1862 or 1863

It was while he was on "sick leave" in 1863 that the famous "draft riots" broke out in New York City, and Stacey assisted in the command of a small force which succeeded in quelling the riots. Soon our author was back in the field, and we can follow his colorful fighting in Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant's well-known Wilderness Campaign and in the battles of the Fifth Corps from the Rappahannock to the James. During the siege of Petersburg, Stacey was on the staff of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ayres and received two brevets for special bravery in action during subsequent battles.

By August 19, 1864, Stacey was promoted to a Captaincy in the Army, and during the closing campaigns of the war fought under Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hancock and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Humphreys and was again rewarded with brevets into his exceptional service. When the Civil War closed Stacey  p17 continued in the Army. On December 9, 1867, he married Mary H. Banks, daughter of the Hon. Thaddeus Banks, and had three children, Delia, Aubrey, and Cromwell, all of whom are living.

For a time Stacey was attached to the staffs of Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Canby and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Emory and was on field service with his regiment at various posts in California, Nevada, and Arizona, later being stationed in New York at Plattsburg and Fort Ontario.

The years of prolonged service in the Army affected the health of Colonel Stacey, and in his forty-eighth year, February 12, 1886, he died at Fort Ontario, New York.


The Author's Notes:

1 C. C. Carroll, The government's importation of camels: a historical sketch, Washington, 1904, 392. This excellent monograph contains an account of these early efforts.

[decorative delimiter]

2 C. C. Carroll, op. cit., 391.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Report of the Secretary of War, December 1, 1853, 33d Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, Ex. Doc., No. 1, Part II. Washington, 1853.

[decorative delimiter]

4 Ibid., 25.

[decorative delimiter]

5 C. C. Carroll, op. cit., 393.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Report of the Secretary of War, December 4, 1854, 33d Congress, 2d Session, House of Representatives, Ex. Doc., No. 1, Part II, 8.

[decorative delimiter]

7 J. B. McMaster, History of the people of the United States, VIII, 365.

[decorative delimiter]

8 The facts of Beale's life are taken from the standard work on his career: S. Bonsal, Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a pioneer in the path of empire, 1822‑1903. Beale became a Brigadier-General by appointment of the Governor of California, and later served as Minister to Austria-Hungary during the administration of President Grant.

[decorative delimiter]

9 Report of the Secretary of War respecting the purchase of camels for the purpose of military transportation, 34th Congress, 3d Session, Senate, Ex. Doc., No. 62, Washington, 1857, 13‑15. The following account of the journey to the Near East and the return to Indianola, Texas, is taken from this fascinating report of Secretary Davis.

Wayne was afterward rewarded with a gold medal by a scientific society in Paris for his services on this expedition.

[decorative delimiter]

10 Ibid., 26.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Ibid., 52.

[decorative delimiter]

12 Ibid., 31.

[decorative delimiter]

13 For Lieutenant Porter's account of the voyage see ibid., 103‑132.

[decorative delimiter]

14 Ibid., 98.

[decorative delimiter]

15 Ibid., 159. This interesting pamphlet is printed, in its English version, in ibid., 201‑238. The plates are fascinating.

[decorative delimiter]

16 Ibid., 198. Major Wayne to Jefferson Davis, February 21, 1857.

[decorative delimiter]

17 C. C. Carroll, op. cit., 404.

[decorative delimiter]

18 S. Bonsal, op. cit., 201; J. B. McMaster, op. cit., VIII, 366.

[decorative delimiter]

19 E. F. Beale, Report of survey of the wagon road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River, 35th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, Ex. Doc., No. 124, May 10, 1858. This is Beale's log of the journey and is published as the Appendix of this book.


Thayer's Notes:

a A well-informed contemporaneous Italian writer on camels, in a book published in Tuscany (Luigi Lombardini, Sui Cammelli: Pisa, 1879) puts the number of the Grand Duke's camels at about half that. Chapter VI of the book, pp184‑186, is entirely given over to this herd; since it's short and informative, I'm attaching it below, with my translation:

Capitolo VI p184
Origine e vicende dei cammelli di S. Rossore.

Chapter VI
Origin of the Camels of S. Rossore and Their Story

Il primo cammello introdotto in Toscana fu comprato dal Granduca Ferdinando II de' Medici nel 1622 insieme ad uno schiavo che lo guidava. Pare che poco dopo altri cammelli fossero fatti venire dall' Affrica; e tutti assieme mandati nella fattoria di Panna presso Scarperia. Nel 1663 il Generale Arrighetti regalò al Granduca parecchi di questi animali da lui predati nella battaglia data ai Turchi sotto Vienna. È probabile che regalasse con essi anco due schiavi cammellari presi nella medesima giornata, perchè in un documento dell' Archivio delle Reali Possessioni, in data 14 Luglio 16921 si parla di tre schiavi turchi; uno dei quali doveva restare al governo delle cammelle lasciate a Panna, e gli altri due recarsi coi cammelli maschi a Pisa. L' insieme della mandra contava allora quattordici a quindici capi; i quali erano custoditi come oggetti curiosi e di semplice lusso; ma poi dal 1700 al 1738, con nuovi acquisti se n' aumentò il numero.

The first camel introduced into Tuscany was bought by Grand Duke Ferdinand II Medici in 1622 along with a slave that led it. It seems that not long afterward, other camels were brought in from Africa; and all of them were sent together to the farm at Panna near Scarperia. In 1663 General Arrighetti gave the Grand Duke several of these animals that he had taken as booty in the battle given the Turks below Vienna. He also apparently gave with them two camel driver slaves taken the same day, since in a document of the Archive of the Royal Possessions, dated July 14, 1692, mention is made of three Turkish slaves; one of whom was to stay in charge of the camels left at Panna, and the other two to go with the male camels to Pisa. The herd as a whole numbered at the time fourteen or fifteen: they were kept as curiosities and items of pure luxury; but subsequently, from 1700 to 1738, new acquisitions swelled their numbers.

Estintasi la dinastia Medicea e passata la Toscana sotto al dominio della Casa di Lorena, il Granduca Francesco II pensò di formare a S. Rossore un vero allevamento di cammelli, per volgerli ad usi industriali. A questo fine ne fece venire da Tunisi altri venti, tredici maschi e sette femmine; e così in meno di mezzo secolo (1785) la mandra sopra detta arrivò a 134 capi; e crebbe dipoi (1789) fino a 196. Nel 1791 il Granduca Ferdinando III inviò a Vienna al suo fratello Arciduca p185Francesco quattro di questi cammelli due maschi e due femmine che pare non vi si propagassero. A Pisa in quel tempo erano tutti adoperati, forse con poca regola, nel trasportare a basto fieno, legna, materiali da costruzione muraria ec.; il quale lavoro ne fece in parecchi anni perire molti. Ma più della fatica soverchia2 furono esiziali alla mandra i freddi degli anni 1811 e 1812, che la ridussero a meno della metà.

With the extinction of the Medici dynasty and the passing of Tuscany under the dominion of the House of Lorraine, Grand Duke Francis II had the idea of establishing at S. Rossore a true camel breeding establishment so as to put the animals to industrial use. For that purpose he brought another twenty from Tunis, thirteen males and seven females: thus in less than half a century (1785) the above-mentioned herd rose to 134 animals, and it later grew (1789) to 196. In 1791 Grand Duke Ferdinand III sent his brother the Archduke Francis four of these animals: two males and two females, which, however, seem not to have propagated there. At Pisa at that time the camels were all used, if maybe unsystematically, as beasts of burden for carrying hay, wood, building materials, etc.; the work led to the deaths of many of them in a few years. The cold weather of 1811 and 1812 did more harm to the herd than overwork, however, reducing it to less than half.

Infatti nel 18143 vi si contavano solamente 118 capi d' ogni età e sesso, cinquanta dei quali, tutti maschi, adoperavansi nei lavori dell' Azienda di S. Rossore, e quarantasei femmine si custodivano per la riproduzione. Quattro maschi e dodici femmine ne furono spediti nel Marzo del medesimo anno al Re di Napoli, il quale voleva tentarne la riproduzione nei propri dominj; tentativo che andò fallito per motivi che io non ho potuto sapere.

Thus in 1814 there were only a total of 118 of all ages and either sex; fifty of them, all males, were used in the works of the Establishment at S. Rossore, and forty-six females were kept for breeding. Of these, four males and twelve females were sent in March of that year to the King of Naples, who wanted to try breeding them in his domains: an attempt that failed for reasons that I have been unable to discover.

La mandra dei cammelli di Pisa non rimase sempre sotto la stessa amministrazione. A tempo del Granduca Francesco II essa dipendeva dal Governo, ed era diretta da un Soprintendente alle Scuderie e Razze equine reali. Ma dopo il 1765, quella e queste furono assegnate al patrimonio della Corona. Più tardi (1815) la razza dei cavalli fu separata da quella dei cammelli; e così questi andarono di nuovo in proprietà del Governo, che li conservò fino alla costituzione della Lista Civile di S. M. il Re.

The camel herd at Pisa was not always under the same administration. In the time of Grand Duke Francis II it fell under the Government, and was headed by a Superintendent of the Royal Stables and Horse Breeds. But after 1765, the herd and the royal stables were transferred to the privy possessions of the Crown. Later (1815) the horses were split off from the camels, the latter thus becoming once again property of the Government, which kept them until H. M. the King's Civil List was established.

Da un appunto che mi fece pervenire nel 1873 il compianto Santi Cantucci, allora reggente l' Ispezione dei Possessi reali di Pisa, risulterebbe che nel 1810 i cammelli di detti p186Possessi ammontavano a 170; e che nel 1862 erano ridotti a 125. Se queste cifre sono esatte, come ho sicurtà che sieno quelle date prima, i ricordati animali, dal 1810 al 1814 sarebbero diminuiti di 52 capi; dal 1814 al 1862 aumentati di sette capi; e poi sarebbero discesi di nuovo nei quindici anni successivi, perchè al 30 Ottobre 1877 erano in tutti 85 individui tra maschi e femmine. Oggi però (5 Aprile 1878) la mandra ammonta a 120 individui, 41 maschi e 79 tra femmine da frutto e redi; senza contare quelli nati negli ultimi mesi.

According to a memorandum forwarded to me in 1873 by the lamented Santi Cantucci, who at the time was in charge of the Inspection of Royal Possessions at Pisa, it would appear that in 1810 the camels in those possessions numbered 170; and that in 1862 they had fallen to 125. If these figures are accurate, as I am certain the earlier-given figures are, from 1810 to 1814 the number of animals seems to have decreased by 52; risen by 7 from 1814 to 1862; and then apparently decreased again over the next fifteen years, since on October 30, 1877 there were a total of 85 animals, male and female. Today, however, (April 5, 1878) the herd numbers 120: 41 males and 79 breeding and riding females; not counting those born in the past few months.

Lasciando da parte gli acquisti di cammelli fatti molto dopo la prima introduzione di questi animali in Toscana (acquisti che ebbero per oggetto, o di aumentare i cammelli da lavoro, o di apportare compenso a perdite fortuite) la mandra che attualmente si custodisce a S. Rossore ha 255 anni di vita. Il che mostra come la siasi del tutto accomodata alle condizioni nelle quali fu posta, e consente di affermare possa conservarcisi rigogliosa finchè le condizioni stesse non mutino.

Leaving aside the acquisitions of camels made long after the first introduction of these animals in Tuscany (acquisitions aimed at increasing the number of working camels or at compensating for fortuitous losses) the herd currently kept at S. Rossore is 255 years old. This shows that it has become accustomed to the conditions in which it has been kept, and allows it to be stated that it can flourish as long as the conditions themselves do not change.

Contuttociò chi guardi un po' leggermente alle cifre indicate più alto, può sospettare che dalla fine dell' ultimo secolo a' dì nostri, i cammelli di S. Rossore abbiano subito progressivo scadimento, perchè il loro numero è notevolmente scemato. Ma i documenti già addotti e l' ispezione diretta hanno dimostrato e dimostrano che tutte le Amministrazioni a cui questi animali furono successivamente affidati, ne ebbero sempre grandissima cura. D' altra parte la diminuzione del loro numero non attiene a scadimento della razza, sibbene al fatto contrario che essendo questa oramai divenuta stabile, si può senza alcun rischio renderla più proporzionata ai bisogni dell' Azienda, ed ai mezzi d' alimentazione che l' Azienda stessa somministra oggidì.

All in all, a somewhat cursory glance at the numbers given above might lead one to think that from the end of last century to our days the camels of S. Rossore have gradually become enfeebled, since their numbers have considerably diminished. But the documents cited, as well as on-the‑spot inspection, have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate that all the Administrations to which these animals have been in turn entrusted always took the greatest care of them. The decrease in their numbers is thus not due to any enfeeblement of the herd, but rather to the contrary fact that since the herd has stabilized, it can be safely sized to the Establishment's requirements and to the feed supply managed by the Establishment itself.


The Author's Notes:

1 Vedi in fine Doc. No 1.

2 Doc. No 2.

3 Doc. No 3.

The three "Documents" mentioned in the footnotes as being "at the end" are brief letters and reports by officials of the Grand Duchy: the first by Francesco Riccardi, July 14, 1692, and the others by one Batistini (first name not given), both dated March 13, 1814; they are reproduced on pp379‑381 of Lombardini's book.

And for completeness' sake:

[image ALT: missingALT.]

"Dromedaries at pasture": an Italian postcard said to be from the 1920s.

[decorative delimiter]

b The figures (613 pounds, 1256 pounds) are as printed. They are given as 613 and 1296 in Lammons, "Operation Camel", SWHQ 61:34‑35. One would expect 613 and 1226, or at least that the second figure would be double the first.

[decorative delimiter]

c According to the same article in Harper's New Monthly Magazine quoted in Lammons, "Operation Camel", SWHQ 61:34‑35, the newspaper was the Indianola Bulletin.

[decorative delimiter]

d Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army summarizes his later army career as follows (I've expanded the abbreviations):

Stacey, May Humphreys. Born in Pennsylvania, appointed from Pennsylvania. First Lieutenant in the 12th Infantry 14 May 1861; Captain 19 Aug 1864; Brevet Captain 18 Aug 1864 for gallant service during the operations on the Weldon Railroad, Virginia; Major 9 Apr 1865 for gallant and meritorious service during the campaign terminating with the surrender of the insurgent army under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.R. E. Lee and Lieutenant-Colonel 9 Apr 1865 for gallant and efficient service in the engagements on the Weldon Railroad, Va, on 18, 19, and 21 Aug 1864; died 12 Feb 1886.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 7 Mar 16