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The idea of importing camels into Australia was influenced by the use of camels in the American west. In 1836 during the Seminole Indian War of Florida, US Army Lieutenant George Crosman believed camels would be ideally suited to the arid conditions of the southern US and Mexico and proposed the US import camels to aid westward expansion.

In 1847, Crosman convinced fellow officer, Major Henry Wayne, of the plan. Wayne told Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi who became Secretary of War in March 1853.  Davis proposed a Camel Military Corps to Congress Western and the formation of a wagon route from Texas to California 'For military purposes, and for reconnaissances, it is believed the dromedary would supply a want now seriously felt in our service'. Camels were to be used as a substitute for the horses and mules currently employed. Congress appropriated US$30,000.

On 4 June 1855, Major Henry Wayne was sent to North Africa aboard the USS Supply, where he bought 32 animals. The first animal was purchased in Tunis, but as the Crimean War (?) was on, the supply of camels was limited. Wayne visited Malta, Greece and Turkey (exact locations uncertain, possibly also Constantinople and Alexandria – but camels were purchased from ports and not the same districts as Australia sourced camels from). Most camels were purchased in Egypt.

One cow gave birth at sea and 33 animals were landed at Indianola, Texas on 29 April 1856 with five camel drivers; three Arabs and two Turks. They were placed in the care of Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale and was the start of the US Camel Corps. Forty-four more camels were imported later.

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www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2017, Dave Phoenix