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.
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.