Short URL for this page:

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

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

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Uncle Sam's Camels

The Journal of May Humphreys Stacey
supplemented by the Report of
Edward Fitzgerald Beale

edited by
Lewis Burt Lesley, M. A.
Associate Professor of History
San Diego State Teachers College

The Author

The most detailed account that I could find of Lewis Burt Lesley's life (Oct. 11, 1897–May 19, 1954) is the following obituary, which appeared in the Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Aug., 1954), pp322‑323 — my additions marked in color.

Lewis B. Lesley of the history department at San Diego State College died in May at the age of fifty‑six. He was born in San Diego and received his B. A. from Stanford (1920) and his M. A. (1923) and Ph. D. (1933) from the University of California, where he was a student of Herbert Eugene Bolton. After teaching a year in Principia High School, Lewis came to San Diego State College in 1924, where he rose through the ranks to professor. His connection with San Diego State was continuous except for a year at Pomona College and three years as operations analyst for the Army Air Corps. He made a deep impression upon his students.  p323 He was a popular and active member and lecturer before many clubs and societies. His publications include Uncle Sam's Camels (Cambridge, 1929) and a history of San Diego College. His doctoral dissertation on "The Struggle of San Diego for a Southern Transcontinental Railroad Connection, 1859‑1879"º was never published as a whole, but parts were utilized in four articles.

A. P. N.

As we can see from his doctoral dissertation (usually cited as The Struggle of San Diego for a Southern Transcontinental Railroad Connection, 1854‑1891, University of California at Berkeley, 784pp), Prof. Lesley's field of interest was primarily the exploration of the Southwest and of California; he also published a number of scholar­ly papers, reviews, and popular articles, among them "A Southern Transcontinental Railroad into California: Texas and Pacific versus Southern Pacific, 1865‑1885" (Pacific Historical Review 5:52‑60, Mar. 1936) and "The Entrance of the Santa Fé Railroad into California" (Pacific Historical Review 8:89‑96, Mar. 1939); a review of A Pathfinder in the Southwest: The Itinerary of Lieutenant A. W. Whipple During His Explorations for a Railway Route from Fort Smith to Los Angeles in the Years 1853 and 1854 by Grant Foreman, (Pacific Historical Review 10:361‑362, Sep. 1941); and a review of Polish Pioneers of California by Miecislaus Haiman, (Pacific Historical Review 10:383‑384, also Sep. 1941).

He is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, under a plain U. S. Government-issue serviceman's tombstone.

The Work

The book is well summarized by its subtitle, The Journal of May Humphreys Stacey supplemented by the Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale (1857‑1858). Prof. Lesley seems to have been the first person to find and publish the Stacey diary — here, a surprising and regrettable omission: he never mentions the manuscript, its condition, or its location — and made it intelligible by bracketing it with brief and very readable accounts of how the camels came to be in the United States and assigned to the Beale expedition (Part I), then what happened to them afterwards (Part III). Lieutenant Beale's Report, an appendix that takes up half the book, supplies the broader framework, since he was the man in charge of the expedition, whereas Stacey was merely one of its members and one, it should be added, not directly involved with the camels nor even terribly interested in them and rarely mentioning them: he seems to have been one of the mule handlers: Prof. Lesley doesn't tell us.

The work is inscribed,


Herbert Eugene Bolton

master teacher
sincere friend

 p. vii  Preface

Herein is brought together the story of the little-known camel experiment during the fifties of the last century, an episode constituting one step in the consolidation of a nation. The Journal of May Humphreys Stacey is edited and published for the first time; the Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale, who headed the expedition, is printed in full in the Appendix, thus bringing that in the contribution out from its obscurity as part of a government document. These two journals, together with introductory and concluding chapters, constitute an attempt on my part to bring together a history of the fate of the camels in the West. In many of the footnotes will be found extracts from Beale's Report at points where Lieutenant Beale referred to the camels or to matters of particular interest to the readers of Stacey's Journal.

Thanks are due to the family of May Humphreys Stacey, especially Bridgham Curtis, Mrs. Edward Curtis, Mrs. C. C. Eyre, Miss Natalie R. Stacey, and George D. Curtis, who have made this publication possible. I am also deeply indebted to Dr. Herbert E. Bolton of the University of California for his constant encouragement, one of his many splendid traits which has led his students on in their historical research even in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers.

L. B. L.

Bancroft Library, University of California
Berkeley, California
August, 1929

Organization of the "Camel Brigade"


The Journal of May Humphreys Stacey, supplemented by selections from the Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale

May 1857 June July August September October


The Camel Dispersion


Appendix: The Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale to the Secretary of War concerning the Wagon Road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River, April 26, 1858 (35th Congress, 1st session, House of Representatives, Executive Document, Number 124)

transmittal letters June 1857 July August September October January 1858 February



[decorative delimiter]

Technical Details

Edition Used

The book was first published in 1929 by Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), but the 1929 copyright was not renewed in 1956 or 1957 as was required by the law at that time in order to be maintained, and the book has thus been in the public domain since Jan. 1, 1958: details here on the copyright law involved. The edition transcribed here is the 1970 reprint by The Rio Grande Press, Inc. (Glorieta, NM), which opens with an additional "Publisher's Preface" by Robert B. McCoy: its two pages remain under copyright and are therefore not reproduced onsite, but the loss is negligible since they add nothing of value.


The book contains 4 illustrations: 2 photographs of May Stacey (frontispiece and p16) and 2 engravings of camels (pages 10 and 12). In addition, the inside covers, front and back, have identical copies of the map of Stacey's route from Indianola to California; but it's hard to read, the placenames in particular being in minute letters and in two instances altogether impossible to decipher: it may also have been drawn for the 1970 reprint, which would make it still copyright, so I haven't reproduced it.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

Several raw photocopies of Beale's Report are available elsewhere online. Stacey's Journal and Lewis Lesley's original material (Parts I and III, and his Bibliography) did not seem to be online anywhere before this transcription.

At any rate, my transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed was very well proofread, with only four typographical errors I could find; since they are trivial, I made the corrections, merely marking them with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. In Beale's Report, the pagination as originally printed in the Congressional document is also shown, p3in the left margin. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchors at their exact places in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: A camel, saddled, standing against a bare desert backdrop.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is, of course, a camel: gratefully lifted, with its desert, from a photo taken by my friend Jona Lendering on one of his many research trips in the Near East; and duly Americanized by the addition of those red, white, and blue stars.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Site updated: 8 Mar 16