Call in the Camelry!

Posted by on August 29, 2010

It’s no surprise to see a statue of a famous war hero or general perched atop a noble steed, but how surprised might you be to find that his hoofed friend had humps? Cavalry operations have been common among in military outfits since nearly the beginning of warfare, predated by only infantry and chariotry, playing famous roles in countless conflicts whether part of the Roman Legion or Civil War troops. Soldiers have actually found themselves riding on the back of many beasts over the centuries. Hannibal, a Carthaginian general, was elephant aided in his from trek from the Iberian Peninsula across the Pyrenees and Alps mountain ranges to the boot of Italy. Camels of course, with their propensity for hauling heavy objects and endurance to travel great distances even under stressful conditions, were not left out of arsenal come wartime.The first use of soldiers riding on camelback in combat occurred in 547 BC, during the Battle of Thymbra, which pitted Cyrus the Great of Persia against Croesus of Lydia. Though outnumbered, Cyrus the Great’s troops defeated Croesus’ company, with their camels putting a scare into the opposing side’s horse battalions. This paved the way for camels to be widely used as anti-cavalry units throughout history. Many Arab and North African militaries used armored camels and riders, leading to success against in the Muslim conquests that helped build the Ottoman Empire. Though even most history buffs would not associate the United States with camel based military units, a troop of camel riding military army men actually set hoof on American soil in the mid 19th century. The U.S. Camel Corps was an experiment conducted by the US Department of War to gauge the animals’ effectiveness in the desert areas of modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. The herd consisted of 21 camels purchased in Smyrna, Turkey, and brought back to San Antonio. Overall, the camels faired well, but as conflict de-escalated in the Southwest, and more pressing issues developed with the outbreak of the Civil War, the Camel Corps was discontinued.

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