Scouting the Southwest | US Camel Corps
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Scouting the Southwest | US Camel Corps

August 12, 2019

Love it or hate it, the military is often
on the cutting edge of technology. There’s nothing like a good war to get the
military to think outside of the box and come up with new solutions to old problems. Usually that problem is how can we kill people
but like… from a distance. But seriously, along with things like rockets,
the internet and even wifi started off as a military idea. Not all of their ideas were winners though. This video was brought to you by Skillshare. In the 1840s, Manifest Destiny was all the
rage, Americans were crossing into the west by the tens of thousands and we were staking
claim to basically everything the light touched. It was one of the primary motivations behind
the Mexican American War. When it became apparent that the United States
was about to capture all of this new land from Mexico, people were already thinking
of ways to cross it. You see, the southwestern United States is
a literal desert. The sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi was
filmed near Yuma, Arizona. So donkeys, mules, horses, and humans had
a hard time crossing that desert due to a lack of water. In 1847, before the war was even over, Major
G.H. Crosman and Major H.C. Wayne submitted a report
to the War Department, which is now the Department of Defense, suggesting that camels might be
the way to go. For strength in carrying burdens, for patient
endurance of labor, and privation of food, water & rest, and in some respects speed also,
the camel and dromedary are unrivaled among animals… They will go without water, and with but little
food, for six or eight days, or it is said even longer. Their feet are alike well suited for traversing
grassy or sandy plains, or rough, rocky hills and paths, and they require no shoeing… The report reached the Senate Committee on
Military Affairs, which is now known as the Senate Armed Services Committee, where it
was mostly laughed off as ludicrous. Some senators even said that the desert is
too cold. Which it is believe it or not, but camels
live in the desert, they’re already used to that. One senator who really took to the proposal
and tried for several years to get it implemented, was Jefferson Davis, a man famous for always
supporting good ideas. In 1853, Jefferson Davis was appointed Secretary
of War under President Franklin Pierce. He continued to pressure Congress and the
President to allocate funds for a small experiment to see how viable the idea was, which they
finally did in 1855. Congress granted $30,000 to the project, about
$866,000 in 2019 money… which is about one-tenth of the price of a single M1 Abrams tank. Davis wasted no time and two months later,
Major H.C. Wayne and Lieutenant D.D. Porter of the USS Supply were sent to the
Mediterranean to purchase the first batch of US camels. Major Wayne went on his own little side quest
to learn about camels first. He stopped at the London Zoological Gardens
to learn about their care and then interviewed members of the French Camel Corps in Paris. Yes, there was a French Camel Corps, they
just used them to colonize Algeria. Then he went to the Crimea, where camels were
actively being used by the British in the Crimean War against Russia. It was there that Wayne decided dromedaries
were preferable to camels. Back in the day, the term “camel” usually
specifically referred to the two-humped Bactrian camel, it was significantly larger and slower,
but could carry more weight. A dromedary is the one humped Arabian camel. It was quicker, could still carry a considerable
load, and was much easier to ride, in fact Arabian camels had been used for military
purposes for as long as the horse. Some militaries even outfitted them with cannons… I know that’s just a drawing so you might
not believe me. So here’s a real picture, look at that,
that’s awesome! Ahem, so anyway, Wayne and Porter were ordered
to buy several different kinds of camels from different places in order to test which ones
would be suitable in America. The story of their adventures is actually
kind of funny. They became somewhat experts in the camel
trade and were able to refuse gifts of diseased, worthless camels from the viceroy of Egypt. Porter even had to construct a “camel deck”
on the ship because they were so much larger than horses. In the end, they paid about $250 each for
33 camels from five different countries. Twenty one larger Arabian camels for general
hauling, nine swift dromedary camels for chasing off Indians – direct quote from Jefferson
Davis – two Bactrian two-hump camels, and one Booghdee hybrid camel with only one hump. A few camels died on the trip over. But also, a few were born, so in May 1856,
34 camels landed in Indianola, Texas, beginning the US Camel Corps. The Texans laughed at Wayne, saying there
was no way a camel could carry more than a mule. And I’ll give it to them, camels do look
pretty awkward. But in front of a crowd, Wayne loaded four
bales of hay, weighing a total of 1256 pounds onto one camel, and it stood up and walked
away without any struggle. To convey to you the surprise and sudden change
of sentiment when the camel, at the signal, rose and walked off with his four bales of
hay, would be impossible. This was enough to make front page news in
Texas. Mules can carry about 300 pounds, a Bactrian
camel can carry up to 1500, one of the larger Arabians can carry 1000 pounds, and the swifter
dromedaries can only carry 700. Which is still more than double what a mule
can carry. The Camel Corps was stationed at the newly
constructed Camp Verde, Texas, about 60 miles north west of San Antonio. But it wasn’t just camels that were recruited
into the Army. Major Wayne also hired five Arabs and Turks
to help teach the Americans how to properly care for and ride the camels. They actually make an appearance in several
movies about the Camel Corps. Praying, caterwauling heathens, that’s what
they are. Don’t seem to matter much how man looks
to god, long as he looks. The most famous of them was Hi Jolly… though
his real name was actually Hadji Ali and the Americans just couldn’t pronounce that. Though that wasn’t his real name either. It was actually Philip Tedro, he was a half-Greek,
half-Syrian from Turkey, though it wasn’t actually Turkey at the time, it was still
the Ottoman Empire. But like many people who convert to Islam
and complete the Hajj, he changed his name to Hadji Ali. Many of my fellow veterans will probably recognize
that word as the derogatory term for Muslims. But it actually just means “someone who
has completed the Hajj” the closest Christian word would be Pilgrim. Think back, Pilgrim. So when you call someone a hadji, you’re
basically calling them a pilgrim. Well take some advice, Pilgrim. Do you know how or when that term became a
pejorative? It comes from Jonny Quest, the 1960s cartoon. This character is named Hadji, he’s actually
Indian, and while there are Indian Muslims, it’s pretty clear in the show that he’s
Hindu. But you know, all brown people are basically
the same, I guess. Anyway, Hadji Ali or Hi Jolly, was so important
to the project that he also appears in every movie about the Camel Corps. While we’re performing introductions, let
me introduce you to Hadji Ali from Smyrna, we call him Hi Jolly. How do you do? Effendi. Here you are Hi Jolly, no pork in yours! Okay! Hadji Ali’s the name, or if you prefer as
your barge driver so quaintly called me, Hi Jolly! Ha ha! Camel instructor extraordinaire, at your service,
sir. The guy playing Hadji Ali in this one is actually
Italian, but you know, all brown people… I sure am glad whitewashing is no longer a
thing in Hollywood. It took the Americans a while to get used
to the camels, the saddles are a bit awkward, and camels are notoriously ill-tempered and
stubborn. They also smell different, not any worse than
a horse, but different. Which always made horses, donkeys, and mules
afraid of them because they were this weird foreign smelling animal, they’d always be
restless when camels were around. It was such a problem that Brownsville, Texas
banned them from the city limits. But Wayne continued to acclimate them and
even began running experiments, when it became obvious that camels weren’t well suited
for combat. They’re unwieldy in close quarters and can’t
sprint for very long like a horse. In short bursts, camels have a top speed of
40 miles an hour, while a horse is only 30, but can sustain it for much longer. But the camel did beat the horse when it came
to long distances. During one experiment, he set a team of six
camels against a team of six mules in a race to San Antonio and back while carrying a cargo
of oats. The mules carried 1800 pounds and took five
days, while the camels carried 3600 pounds and took only two days. That’s double the cargo in half the time. So it became pretty clear that the camels
were much better suited for transporting cargo as part of a wagon train. In 1857, Buchanan was sworn in as president. As a result, Major Wayne was transferred to
another post and Jefferson Davis was out as Secretary of War… but I have a feeling we’ll
be hearing from him again . And their replacements were impressed with the camels so far. So in June of that year, they were set to
the task of helping E.F. Beale create a wagon road across the 35th parallel, from Fort Defiance,
Arizona to the Colorado River. Kind of like the Southwest’s version of
the Oregon Trail. He took 25 camels with him in the ultimate
test of their ability, it’s actually the plot of every movie featuring the Camel Corps. Except for Hawmps which is just terrible. And look what gets off the boat, a bunch of
raunchy, mangy… hawmps. The expedition left in August 1857, and it
took a while before Beale really warmed up to the camels. They pack their heavy load of corn, of which
they never taste a grain; put up with any food offered them without complaint, and are
always up with the wagons… It is a subject of constant surprise and remark
to all of us, how their feet can possibly stand the character of the road we have been
traveling over for the last ten days. It is certainly the hardest road on the feet
of barefooted animals I have ever known. You see, while horses need horseshoes, camel
toes can take quite a beating… I’m sorry. The camels travelled 30-40 miles a day, they
basically ate whatever they could find on the trail including cactus, and would go 8-10
days without water. The horses and mules would start to freak
out from thirst after only 36 hours. Here’s a painting from the artist that went
along with the expedition, as you can see, the horses and mules are basically drowning
themselves in the river, while the camels are just hanging out in the back giving absolutely
zero f***s. Several times during the trip, they got lost
while looking for a waterhole and it was the camels that went out searching that saved
the day. I believe at this time I may speak for every
man in our party, when I say that there is not one of them who would not prefer the most
indifferent of our camels to four of our best mules. They arrived at the Colorado River in October
1857, which was the biggest test, because for those of you familiar with fording rivers,
things don’t always go your way. This was compounded by the rumor that camel’s
can’t swim. It’s said that camels can’t. Is it true that camels can’t swim? I don’t know, we’re about to find out. Camels, can’t swim! No, instinctively afraid of the water. They can swim, in fact, the older of the two
movies shows them doing it… Okay we’ll just ignore that really bad cookie
cutter frame there… The point is that they totally c- what?! WHAT?! I think we’re gonna need CaptainDisillusion
to crack this one. All the camels, fully loaded successfully
swam across the Colorado River, which is an average of 300 feet wide. Two horses and ten mules drowned during the
same attempt. Beale’s expedition continued to Fort Tejon,
California, a distance of 1200 miles covered in four months. He left the camels there and retraced his
steps a year later. Extending the road from Fort Smith, Arkansas,
through Fort Defiance, Arizona, to Fort Tejon, California. Much like the Oregon Trail, Beale’s Wagon
Road later became a railroad and then a rather famous highway where you can get your kicks… Route 66. You can still hike the trail and find signs
like this. The camel experiment was declared a huge success. The Secretary of War petitioned Congress to
buy 1000 more camels in 1858, 1859, and again in 1860. But then the Civil War happened, starring
our old friend Jefferson Davis. Because of Beale’s expeditions, 31 camels
were in Fort Tejon, California, which remained part of the Union, they were used for local
hauling and map surveying during the war. 80 camels were still in Camp Verde, Texas
and were captured by the Confederacy. Many of the camels were abused or even killed,
but a few of them were put to use by the Confederate Quartermasters. An entire infantry company in Mississippi
used a single camel to carry their luggage around. Apparently even Robert E Lee was impressed
by the camels. When the war ended, all of the remaining camels
fell under US control again, but they didn’t know what to do with them. Because the railroad was about to render them
obsolete. The first transcontinental railroad was underway
and as a result, people didn’t really do wagon trains anymore. So some of the camels were sold at auction. Camels went to circuses or civilian transportation
companies, even Hi Jolly bought a few and used them for several years. Others were simply turned loose in the desert. Wild camels were spotted for decades afterwards,
Douglas MacArthur apparently saw one in 1885, there were sightings in 1901 and 1913, and
even one near the Salton Sea in California in 1941. But that’s nothing compared to the Legend
of the Red G host. In 1883, a woman in Arizona was trampled to
death by a camel who left behind tufts of red fur, then it terrorized prospectors in
the surrounding area and was rumored to be carrying a dead rider on its back. Once, a hunter took a shot at it and the head
fell off, because why not, right? It made its way down to Mexico, where it was
known as el Fantasma Colorado and was eventually shot and killed in 1893, still wearing a harness
but the rider must have been shaken off. And because everything comes full circle,
legend has it that the rider was Hi Jolly… even though he was still alive at the time. Hadji Ali died in 1902 and he was such an
important local figure that they put up a pyramid shaped monument in his honor in Quartzsite,
Arizona. It also contains the ashes of Topsy, the last
US branded camel, which died in 1934 at the age of 80. One of the other camels’ bones were sent
to the Smithsonian and are still on display, even mentioning its time in the Camel Corps. The camel experiment was never officially
called the US Camel Corps. But I mean, c’mon, what a cool name. And because of the success of the experiment
camels were imported and used all over the west by civilians starting their own camel
corps small businesses. Using skills you can master at
by going to Skillshare is an online learning community
with over 25,000 courses taught by experts in their field, or desert, wherever. Take this course in debt financing to learn
how to fund your small business the smart way and don’t overpay for mangey diseased
camels. Then take this course in project management
so you can successfully communicate with and hire the best camel trainers this side of
the Mississippi. You can learn this, and much more for less
than $10 a month. But if you head over to,
you can get 2 months of unlimited access to all of Skillshare’s courses for free, you’ll
also be supporting the channel when you do. While the military may have been the source
of the ultimately failed camel experiment, the idea was eventually picked up by civilian
companies. Maybe not to the extent that Wayne, Beale,
or Davis would have liked, but that’s due more to the railroad than to the camel. While you may think it was a silly idea to
bring a foreign animal to the United States to try and change the culture and landscape… I’d remind you that horses are foreign to
America too. The United States is a nation of immigrants,
not only with its people but with its ideas, we often borrow foreign ideas and make them
better. Hamburgers, pizza, even the car, are all foreign
inventions. The camel was a foreign idea that probably
would have worked if not for the bad timing of the Civil War. And an even better foreign invention coming
along. Many of the things you probably thought were
American aren’t, so take a look around, you’re surrounded by foreign ideas, which
isn’t so bad, because now, you know better. The State of the Union is on Tuesday, so join
us for some group therapy, I’ll also be at Vidcon London next week so there won’t
be a new video for a while. But if you’d like to add your name to this
list of camel jockies, head on over to Don’t forget to survey that subscribe button,
follow me on twitter and facebook, and join us on the subreddit!

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I thought the Mexican-American was fought to free the people from the regimen of the tyrannical Mexican government… or so I was told in /pol/.

  2. Getting rid of the camels seems like a mistake. Sure, the transcontinental railroad (Central & Union Pacific) was completed in 1869, but the Southern Pacific RR wouldn't be finished for nearly two decades after the camel experiment was discontinued.

    Furthermore, even the railroad existed, the desert would still be there. Surely the US Army realized they might need to pursue hostile Native American tribes across the SW desert away from the railroads? Or simply patrol the Mexican border? Why not do so with camels, at least to haul your supplies? The camels aren't good in a cavalry charge, but they seem fine for mounted infantry or simply hauling supplies (not every fort was on a railroad).

  3. I propose an even more audacious plan. We shall take Pemberton's trolley'ed car on rails across the desert from sea to sea! We could have the ever expendable Chinamen build it for us.
    "You fool! The those metal tracks would melt in the deserts!"
    gets laughed out of room

  4. 15:30 horses are actually endemic to what is now the Great Plains, but they crossed over to East and Central Asia around the time of the last Ice Age. Like humans did, but in reverse.

  5. We use camel's extensively in Australia.. and we called the camel drivers Afghans.. now we have estimated population up to 900000 camels Running Wild in Australia… camel's help to open up Australia.. Australia was a mate on the camel's back.. most Explorers use them.. the ones that didn't paid the price…

  6. Did you just call replacing a mediterranean guy with ANOTHER mediterranean guy "whitewashing"?
    I hate to tell you this, but Italians are very far from being considered "white" on any level.
    Im pretty liberal too man, but knock it off.

  7. Can you please do less videos on the united states/founding fathers/military? I am not from the us and i dont care what george fitzgerald jefferson left toenail looked like. Love your videos though, especially enjoyed the ones debunking columbus and gandhi

  8. hey can you talk about ? i feel like there’s something they must be gaining besides just impeaching trump, right?

  9. I believe horses evolved in the Americans and migrated to Asia across the Bering land bridge about the some time people were going the other way. The remaining population becoming extinct with much the the other mega-fauna in the hemisphere. The new world then remained horseless until the Spanish reintroducing them in about the 16th century.

  10. Never seen that cartoon I'm not American and I wasn't around in the 60's 😉 but if he is Hindu why is he wearing a turban? Sikh's wear turbans not Hindu's!

  11. You might like to know that camels originated in North America some 45 million years ago and therefore they probably have more right to be there than any people do :p

  12. Horses have a sprinting speed of 45 mph, and a sustained speed of 30-35 mph. Also, horses are not really foreign to North America. The same species of horse we have today (Equus ferus) was the one that died out some 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. Horses were reintroduced here.

  13. 15:30 Horses, or the Equus genus specifically, actually evolved in the Americas *

    * – and then moved across the Bering land bridge
    – those who remained were killed by the humans coming the other way over the land bridge
    – they spread through Eurasia, Middle East and Africa. Some were domesticated and selectively breed into the modern horse breeds we have today, others didn't and evolved into wild horses like the Zebra
    – reintroduced into the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 15-16th century.

    Their path across the world is the opposite of the Homo Sapiens path.

  14. I feel it necessary to point out that both horses and the entire dromedary family evolved in North America. They either left over the bering land bridge, were hunted to extinction, or in the case of the Llama/alpaca, moved to South America. Love the channel, bro, even if you are an army puke instead of a proper squid.

  15. [7:00] That first Hadji Ali looks an awful lot like Timothy Carey, one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite (and also, least favorite) actors.

  16. This video was kinda swallowed by the algorithm, I usually click your videos the second they come out but in this case I didn't even know it existed.

  17. I'm surprised the camels weren't snapped up by prospectors and small miners given their ability to haul so much more than mules.

  18. Canon mounted dromaderies are awesome for Will E. Coyote Logic. They probably can't not survive a single shot because of the recoil.

  19. Through irony or coincidence, I've now lived at both ends of the US Camel Corps' history. Was born in Arizona, where Hi Jolly, a Turkish man hired by the Army to assist in their camel experiment, later retired and the corps disbanded. I now live about 15 minutes from what was Indianola. To my knowledge, there is no historical commemoration to them in Calhoun County, TX, but there is a monument to Hi Jolly and the Camel Corps by his grave in Quartzite, AZ.

  20. I’m Texan and I can say that isn’t true because if it is true that would make headlines.

    (in 1848)

  21. "Some militaries even outfitted them with cannons. I know that's just a drawing, so you might not believe me. So here's a real picture. LOOK AT THAT! THAT'S AWESOME!"

  22. Camels and horses also both started out in North America and their migration to the old world was relatively recent. There was also once a bill in congress to import hippos to the USA and to turn them loose in the Mississippi river. thats no shit. look it up.

  23. Wow! Amazing work! I'm actually an Israeli citizen and I can't believe how I never knew about how camels were important. I always knew they were working animals but I never knew how monumental they were to human history, especially military history. Just WOW! I just found my spirit animal srsly

  24. When did acting become a profession where you had to play your own ethnicity I can understand why black face is bad. But acting is playing a character and they don't seem to portray him in a bad light. It only counts when Europeans play minorities though. Nobody cares if an American plays a Norwegian for example. Double standards

  25. What a story.Your videos are great.Espesially that stories that one never gets to hear about.Only one thing i d like to say.Horse was not an alien specie in America.Well during the colonazation era it was and maybe you are reffering to that era specificaly,but horses as a specie began in America.Man hunted horses to extincion and man brought them back to their birth land and horses took the land back,filling up a role in the ecosystem,lost four thousands of years.Well,in the Us anyway.Any existing problems that have to do now with the presents of thousands of wild horses in the US have to do with the luck of their natural pretadors who were also hunted down to extinction or die out due to climate changes or habbitad destruction,like so many other species did.Actually horses have a fasinating history and i thing a video about that history and the problems that the Us coverment is having right now with that issue,will be awesome.I know that there are a lot of videos out there,relative to the matter,but i m sure you ll find a way to make it even more interesting and fun.Thanks.

  26. Technically camels are native to the Americas and migrated over to Asia and they were brought back but considering they left North America thousands of years ago I guess you could ignore that ancient history.

  27. I'm a fan, but this one is too long for the topic. Interesting topic, but too too long and drawn out for the topic. The whole Haji aside is especially too long. Though I loved the film clips. P.S. "That's double the cargo in half the time!" Yes, you just told us. The repeat, especially in ALL CAPS voice, is unnecessary.

  28. Terrific video. Way to hold back in the humor when the subject matter had you covered. Please make more military-minutae videos! Perhaps Hannibal's elephants, if your want to stick to animal-themed?

  29. Camels are easily some of the most zero fucks giving, stubborn and badass animals out there.

  30. You don't do well in Google's analytics because you have a wide range of content but that's why I love your channel.♥

  31. One camel can carry up to 1000lbs. Meanwhile, I just saw a clip that showed a camel not being able to stand up with just one woman on top of it…

  32. 15:28 , sorry buddy first inaccuracy I have heard. Doesn't effect the great video, but yea Horses are thought to have originated in North America, but who knows I am not an expert.

  33. I've never seen your laugh, despite so many of your videos being hilarious, you've always managed to maintain your "serious man" character… So this literally made me LOL.
    You could say it was the straw that broke the camel's toe…

  34. "[…] borrow foreign ideas an make them better […] Pizza" thats the funniest thing I have heard in a while…

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