In the late 1850s, the U.S. Army conducted an experiment using camels as pack animals in the American Southwest. Camels from the Ottoman Empire were shipped to the United States at the order of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. The camel experiment proved successful, but the Army showed little interest in continuing with the program. However, before any internal struggle about its adoption could arise, the Civil War broke out in 1861, and the idea was abandoned.
Meanwhile, a dromedary named Douglas, also known as "Old Douglas," ended up in the Confederate Army. Douglas was purchased by planters in Mobile, Alabama, who wanted to test whether camels could be effective on their plantations. However, the camels did not prove successful in that regard.
Douglas was given to Col. William Moore of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment at the start of the Civil War. He became a pack animal and mascot for the unit, earning the regiment the nickname "Camel Regiment." Douglas grazed freely outside of the camp and only returned when called. He faithfully carried supplies for the regimental band during marches and participated in battles such as Iuka, Corinth, and Vicksburg.
Interestingly, the Union troops at those same battles included the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose mascot was an eagle named "Old Abe." Thus, it is believed that a camel and an eagle fought on the same battlefield during the Civil War.
Tragically, Douglas was shot and killed during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863, supposedly by a Union skirmisher. This angered the men of the 43rd Mississippi, who vowed revenge on the soldier responsible. Col. Robert Bevier of the 5th Missouri gathered six sharpshooters to kill the Union soldier, but the outcome remains unknown.
While Old Abe survived the war, Douglas was consumed by starving Confederates at Vicksburg. His remains were buried in his own grave, which can still be found today in Vicksburg's Cedar Hill Cemetery.
In conclusion, the U.S. Army's camel experiment in the 1850s proved successful, but it was not pursued further due to the outbreak of the Civil War. Douglas the Dromedary became a mascot and pack animal for the Confederate 43rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, earning them the nickname "Camel Regiment." Unfortunately, Douglas was killed during the Siege of Vicksburg, and his story remains a unique footnote in military history.