Photo of barrage balloon from America from the Great Depression to World War II, at the Library of Congress.
Today in Odd History
Congress Appropriates $30,000 Toward Creation of Camel Corps (March 3, 1855)
Floyd, unfortunately, was wrong. When the Civil War began, Congress largely forgot about the Camel Corps. Most of the remaining camels were auctioned off in 1863. Others wandered into the desert, where prospectors shot them. A few had been captured by the Confederacy, which used them to haul cotton into Mexico. Beale kept a small herd, which roamed freely on his ranch when he wasn't using them to carry supplies to Fort Tejon. And a few were purchased by a man called Hi Jolly (the Americanized version of his real name, which was Hadji Ali), one of the original drovers. He ran a freight business with them, hauling goods from the Colorado River to the mining camps to the east. When the business failed, Ali sadly released the camels into the desert. He eventually married a Tuscon woman, and moved with her and their two children to Quartzsite, Arizona, where he mined with a burro, which must have been as irksome to him as his camels had been to the soldiers in Texas. According to one historian, "The final, sad act of the drama occurred on Dec. 16, 1903 when 75-year-old Hi Jolly was sitting in a saloon.... A prospector stumbled in, telling of a huge, red camel wandering nearby. Jolly rushed outside and was never seen alive again. According to local legend, his withered body was found weeks later in the remote desert. There he lay with lifeless arms wrapped around the neck of the last camel in the West." According to another account, Ali died in 1902 at age 73 and was buried in the Quartzsite Cemetery. Either way, his grave is marked by a massive monument commemorating his life in the US Camel Corps.
The tragic, but probably apocryphal, tale of Ali's death in the desert is not the only legend to have sprung up around the story of the Camel Corps. In 1883, a woman's trampled body was discovered near a thorn bush, which was festooned with clumps of wiry red fur. The hoofprints in the mud around her were twice the size of a horse's hooves. A few days later, some large animal crashed through a miners' tent, again leaving behind enormous hoofprints and strands of red fur. The sightings continued for the next decade. Witnesses eventually realized that the creature, which had come to be known as "The Red Ghost," was a camel, but the story grew stranger when a rancher reported that the beast had a rider. The next time it appeared, to a group of prospectors, they saw something fall from its back. When they retrieved the object, it turned out to be a human skull. In 1893, a farmer in Arizona saw the Ghost grazing in his vegetable patch and shot it. The rider was gone, but the straps which had held it on were still in place. No one has ever solved the mystery of who the rider was, or how he came to die upon the back of one of the last remaining members of the Camel Corps.
Camels for Uncle Sam, by Diane Yancey
An illustrated, entertaining introduction to the Camel Corps for children, grades 4 to 7.
More about animals in the military:
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