The Grave of Douglas the Camel

Rachel Fordham

Our family recently travelled from Denver to Orlando, then up to the Outer Banks area of North Carolina and back to Denver making a giant loop. We stopped at historical sites all along the way and loved every minute of it (that’s not true, there were a few minutes of bathroom emergencies we could have done without and an encounter with fire ants that was less than pleasant).

In order to see as much as we could I planned ahead. This trip was three weeks and I wanted to make the most of it.

I found a road trip app that let me put in stops and map my route out (I got so much use out of this tool). Confession- I became slightly addicted to this app. It was so much fun! If you zoomed in on an area it would show you suggestions of things to see there and with one click you could add it to your route. Not only was this awesome for finding stops for our road trip, it was also fantastic for finding lesser-known pieces of history.

Today I want to tell you about Douglas the Camel (and his friends). I zoomed in near Vicksburg, Mississippi and discovered Ironclad ships, a coca cola museum and the Grave of Douglas the camel. Most people would have clicked the little x but wouldn’t read on, because who has time because who has time for a camel grave while on vacation, but I’m an author of historical novels and am always on the lookout for historical tidbits. So, I of course read more. Not only did I learn about Douglas who fought with the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, Company A (also known as the camel company), died in this battle and was rumored to have been eaten by Union soldiers but I went down a rabbit hole and discovered more.

Douglas the Camel

Jefferson Davies (before becoming the President of the Confederacy) was Secretary of War for the U.S. and he gathered funding to have camels shipped to the US for use in the conflicts in the southwest and for exploration. The idea was that they would do better on long journeys and in areas with less water. The experiment was granted funding and soon camels were brought from the Mediterranean and North Africa. To the founders of the project’s dismay, they proved unmanageable and spooked the horses. Essentially the project failed and the camels were sold at auctions to work in circuses and in mines (among other things). Some even were let go and roamed the American southwest for years.

My imagination has been running since learning about Douglas (one of the few camels to actually fight in the civil war). I’ve been wondering about the other camels, and ideas of camels and cowboys have been running through my brain like a stampede.

A lot of my story ideas start with a trigger moment. One tour of an old post office and Yours Truly, Thomas started percolating. One mention of orphan trains and The Hope of Azure Springs niggled its way into the forefront of my brain. One viewing of Blossoms in the Dust and I wanted to write A Life Once Dreamed and one handsome dentist husband led me to writing A Lady in Attendance.

Will Camels meandering across the American southwest become a story? I don’t know, but I love that I now know about Douglas and the failed camel experiment that left these hardy desert animals behind!

Rachel Fordham is the author of The Hope of Azure Springs, Yours Truly, Thomas, and A Life Once Dreamed. Fans expect stories with heart, and she delivers, diving
deep into the human experience and tugging at reader emotions. She loves connecting with people, traveling to new places, and daydreaming about future
projects that will have sigh-worthy endings and memorable characters. She is a busy mom, raising both biological and foster children (a cause she feels passionate
about). She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

Today, Rachel is giving away a signed copy of A Lady in Attendance. To be entered in the random drawing answer this question–What’s the most interesting or unusual historical fact you’ve discovered on a vacation or when reading?

Get your copy of  A Lady in Attendance HERE.


Website    Instagram: @rachel_fordham



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47 thoughts on “The Grave of Douglas the Camel”

  1. We have traveled to Williamsburg and Virginia. There is a lot of historical places in the areas. Thank you for the opportunity.

    • I was supposed to go to Williamsburg on my last vacation but ended up changing the route. Can’t wait to go someday.

  2. It wasn’t in reading but watching a movie and then I looked it up to see if it was true. That was about the camels in the west. The movie stars James Garner and is called One Little Indian I think. Do not enter me in the contest.

  3. Rachel I have always loved these camels. I read about them living on in the wild and I don’t think anyone has seen one for years and years. But I like to imagine some hidden desert oasis somewhere as a herd of very sneaky camels still thriving in America.

  4. I learned about the camels recently, but I hadn’t heard of Douglas.

    I’ve been to so many historical places in the US, but I can’t think of anything fascinating to share.


  5. In 1913 it was legal to mail children. With stamps attached to their clothing, children rode trains to their destinations, accompanied by letter carriers. One newspaper reported it cost fifty-three cents for parents to mail their daughter to her grandparents for a family visit. As news stories and photos popped up around the country, it didn’t take long to get a law on the books making it illegal to send children through the mail.

    • This piece of history has always been fascinating too me. Can you imagine being sent through the mail!

  6. For me was reading about the horse mobiles, just like today’s modern book mobile that the libraries used during the depression in eastern kentucky to get books into the hands of children as well as adults and the struggles these librarians had to get the adults to accept the books. Only the bible was allowed in most homes in the hills.

  7. I just got home from vacation, visiting several National parks and historical sites along the west. I did learn a little about white Buffalo and how they were thought to be very sacred to the Indians and then I learned about the phases of lakes and huckleberries. Kind of lame but you know, interesting to learn.

  8. We visited the Loneliest Road in the US and found a tree where people throw up shoes. We also stayed in a haunted hotel but alas no ghosts were seen by us.

    • How funny! We stopped at a grave that’s famous for people leaving gifts for a child they think brings good luck.

  9. I learned about the Poison Squad while reading, and also about the original Good Housekeeping test kitchens, both of which led to cleaner food, more truthful advertising, and the start of the FDA. It was fascinating!!

  10. I was in Oklahoma for my son’s graduation from basic training. I got to see Geronimo grave stone.

  11. Did know somewhat about the camels from reading a historical romance. Recently while reading learned about the Poison Squad- which like the character in the book shocked me with how many men actually volunteered for this. Also learned about the Good Housekeeping test kitchens.

  12. Visiting Leadville was fascinating and gave me much pleasure. The town was so interesting and the founding by immigrants who were successful merchants made this trip worthwhile and enjoyable.

  13. While visiting the British Isles recently, my parents went to many of the hometowns of our ancestors. They learned a story from the journal of one of them about how when he was a boy, this man would get up and eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, no sugar or sweeteners on it, then go work in a mine all day with no lunch, and come home to no dinner. Then he’d wake up and do it all over again the next day. It’s incredible that any of these people survived! His growth was probably stunted as a result, but he survived it!

  14. I first heard about the camels when I read a historical fiction book a few years ago and then looked it up to see if it was true. I think it’s so interesting. Who says you can’t learn things when reading fiction? lol

    What app did you use on your trip? It sounds like something I need to look into. We really enjoy traveling and like to see historical and lesser-known spots. My husband and I both love history and are trying to pass that on to our kids.

  15. I’ve been to Andersonville twice, I’ve been to St Augustine and Savannah. I love seeing the old architecture of houses and other buildings. I’ve heard about the camels before, there was an episode about them on one of the old westerns I watch, but right now, I can’t remember which one!

  16. Welcome, Miss Rachel. We’re happy to have you. The strangest place I’ve seen is the Corn Palace in Mitchell, Souith Dakota. They have murals made of all different colors of corn. And have live performances of all sorts of things. I can’t say it made me want to write a story about corn though but it was interesting. Wishing you much success with your new book. Enjoy your stay.

  17. I have enjoyed visiting historical sites in the southwest and western states. Something I just learned from reading a new book relates to WWII history. I didn’t know that the Luftwaffe bombed neutral Dublin, Ireland, during 1941.

  18. When I went to one of my high school reunions our class toured the local museum, a house built in the early 1800’s. We were shown the secret hiding place under a bedroom floor where those seeking shelter on the Underground Railroad were hidden. The house also has access to the tunnels which lead to the Hudson River a few hundred yards away. Some of the men from our class had been in the tunnels and caves when we were kids. There are diaries and old letters telling about the experiences of some of the families who took part in this humanitarian effort. I shiver just thinking about spending hours in that dark hole under the floorboards.

    One of the caves in the river is known locally as Cooper’s Cave for James Fennimore Cooper of Last of the Mohicans fame and was the inspiration for part of that story. The Fennimore family lived nearby.

  19. I loved reading the book The Last Blue by Isla Morley, I loved that book and I had no idea that blue people had really existed and how some people were so prejudice with them. Thank you for sharing about your trip and your findings. I have heard about how they had tried camels, never heard of Douglas the camel though. Once a year here in my town where I live we have Living History Days , we live in a town that used to be a fort many, many years ago. And people dress up as old soldiers and they come from different parts of the state and some also bring camels, it is so very interesting and there is a lot to be learned. Have a great weekend and stay safe. Happy to hear that you and your family enjoyed your vacation. God Bless you and your family. Thank you for the chance.

  20. Well, I never knew that dead letter post offices existed until I read Yours Truly, Thomas. 😀

  21. I’m not sure how interesting or unknown it is, but on a trip to visit some historical homes in the Nashville are we learned that during the Civil War, just before a particularly terrible battle, that the Union army marched right past the Confederate army without being stopped. The reason for this was because the Confederate army hadn’t received any orders to stop the Union army, so the Union just went right past their encampment and set up for battle within the Nashville area. I thought that was pretty amazing.

  22. I have always been interested in the Civil War. I guess its because a lot of it was here in my state. We have a lot of historical sites to visit here in KY.

  23. For many generations, the Buganda kingdom traded the children of the king with the children of the religious leader for two years. The children of the king learned more about life outside the castle and got to know their people better. The children of the religious leader learned about life at the castle, national leadership, and prepared to take over (at least in the interim) should anything happen to the king’s family. It fascinated me. Many things on that trip did.

  24. What an interesting post. When we had children with us while traveling, I planned the trip very carefully.It was years ago, so no cell phones or apps to rely on. That is a handy device because I am always looking for the odd, out of the way stuff to visit. Now that it is just my husband and I on most trips, we sort of wing it. We headed for Alaska in May of 2019. The only planned dates and reservations we had to deal with was the cruise & land tour out of Vancouver and the flight back to Seattle to get our RV. I had a list of things I wanted to see and a loose routing for a few sections. We were on the road for 2 1/2 months and covered 13,000 miles (I think that number is too high, but that is what my husband gave me). Anyway, it was a great trip, we discovered unexpected things and found some we want to go back and explore more.

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