Douglas the Camel or “Old Douglas” was a domesticated camel used by Company A of the Forty-third Mississippi Infantry, part of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Douglas was originally part of a U.S. War Department program called the Texas Camel Experiment. It was believed that camels could be used as a possible alternative to horses and mules. Jefferson Davis who became Secretary of War in 1853 was a strong believer in the use of camels in military operations.
The camels were used in several expeditions to the southwest. The camels proved to withstand the brutal heat and scarcity of water much better than horses and mules. In the spring of 1861, Camp Verde fell into Confederate hands until recaptured in in 1865.
It is not known how Douglas, a dromedary (one hump) camel, came to serve with the 43rd Mississippi Infantry. He was a gift to Colonel W.H. Moore, who assigned him to carry the instruments and knapsacks for the regimental band. Douglas participated in the Battles of Iuka and Corinth under Major Generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn, respectively, before being shot by a Union sharpshooter on June 27, 1863, during the Siege of Vicksburg. Douglas routinely broke free of his tether, but usually used his freedom to graze. However, on that fateful day in 1863, he wandered into no man’s land between the Union and Confederate armies and paid the ultimate price.
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