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The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America's Desert Military Experiment 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0425245699
ISBN-10: 0425245691
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Editorial Reviews


“A fascinating portrait of the American West during its formative and most exciting period…Johnson reaches deep into the essence of how America came to be.”—Bevin Alexander, author of Sun Tzu at Gettysburg

About the Author

Forrest Bryant Johnson was born in Louisville, Ky. and graduated from the University of Louisville. He served nine years with the U.S. Army, rising from the rank of Private to Captain. This background proved valuable for researching his latest historical nonfiction, The Last Camel Charge. Johnson, a resident of the southwest for thirty years, is an experienced explorer and conducts scenic off-road desert tours. He reports with authority on the history of the Mojave Desert and the plants and animals surviving in its harsh environment. He lives in Las Vegas and is the author of Hour of Redemption and Phantom Warrior.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; 1 edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425245691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425245699
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America's Desert Military Experiment by Forrest Bryant Johnson (Berkley, 2012#, is everything you wanted to know about American history from 1820 to the Civil War wrapped around the U.S. Army Camel Corps like a pig in a blanket. That's right--Camel Corps! Born from the need to explore and traverse the wild, dangerous and unforgiving deserts of the American Southwest and the Utah Territory in the mid-1800's, the U.S. military undertook a bold and radical experiment and purchased camels to bear the burden of transporting men and materiel across the Mojave, and other inhospitable areas, and to serve in battle when needed, which they did into the Civil War #tiny spoiler alert#. These exotic #and dirty) beasts were better suited to desert travel than horses or mules and were virtually sun resistant. The trick was getting a horse-loving military establishment to buy into the idea. Forrest Johnson, noted author of Hour of Redemption and Phantom Warrior, among others, sinks the hook into the reader from the first page with a masterful twist, and seasons each chapter with a lively blend of American heroes and infamous villains that create an eye-popping page turner that every American will learn from and enjoy. Camel Charge is history at its finest--not a staid retelling of dry facts, but an historical oasis teeming with interesting characters and an amazing central story that quenches and satisfies to the last drop. After reading the book, the reader will have a new appreciation, and perhaps a grudging respect, of the role camels played in the taming of America. The Last Camel Charge is a great read, and without reservation, is a literary horse of a different color. Get the book!
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Format: Hardcover
Every so often an author creates a solid book chock full of excitement, suspense and an almost romantic view of history. Books that come to mind are The Killer Angels and The Red Badge of Courage. What makes them classics is that they approach history from the personal touch, not from the historical. It would be wrong to classify The Last Camel Charge as mesmerizing, suspenseful, catastrophic or a page-turner, a can't-put-it-down book. Better to let the reader immerse himself in something special, the love of men for camels, their entrance into the Southwest, their superiority over horses and mules, and their moment of greatness.

Read The Last Camel Charge and all of these terms will present themselves. There will be but one sadness as you read it. That will come when the book is ended and there is finally no more to enjoy. Your adventure into history will have ended and there will be sorrow the Charge is done. And that is when you will again lift Forrest Johnson's monumental work and read it again, for it is that kind of book.
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Format: Hardcover
...This reads like an "alternate history" novel... with connections to all kinds of important people and events of the day. As one reviewer here said... I too was very sorry to reach the end of the book.

...Turns out that much of what I thought that I knew about the "failed" experiment was false. The camels *could* be managed. While horses and mules first exposed to camels often panicked... in short order the strangeness (especially the odor) and size (seemed like maybe giant predators) wore off. After a brief period the animals could all be kept together without the slightest problem and they could be pastured together as "friends" (except for male camels with other males during the "rut...")

...Camels could carry two to four times the load of a mule (males being larger). Camels not prone to "bad nerves or hysteria" unlike horses and mules. In the entire Southwest there was only one plant that the camels would not eat... otherwise the nastiest, thorniest bushes were not only consumed... but much preferred to tall green grass.

...Contrary to previous accounts, camels could handle stones on the terrain... A leather "shoe" handled the problem. Camels did very well on snow... (though on severe ice on a slope they might travel the worst of it on their knees) Where previous accounts did not get it wrong was the smell... (The camels in Lawrence of Arabia might look a touch strange to a Bedouin because they had been washed by the production crew...)

...American Naval officers came up with a way to safely transport camels on sailing ships, even in the worst storms. Other American officers came up with much better packs and saddles.

...The Arabs say that the camel was specifically designed by Allah...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you've ever studied any history mentioning the US government's experiment in using camels just prior to the Civil War, chances are you were told it was a failure, but as this fast moving, draws you right in, reads like a novel history amply demonstrates, the camel experiment was a complete and total success, exceeding even proponents' wildest hopes.

The Problem was the acquisition of a vast unwatered desert region as part of the settlement ending the Mexican-American War, territory that the Army would need to be able to control. The new national border would need to be patrolled, forts would need to be built and kept supplied, wild places would need to be explored and mapped, roads would need to be surveyed and built, and a watch at the very least would need to be kept on two restive populations: the various Indian tribes and the Mormons, especially as large numbers of settlers began to head west through this region to California, and for this task the horses, donkeys, and mules that served quite well in other parts of the country were not entirely up to the task. To take one example it took two additional mule-drawn wagons just to haul the food and water necessary to get one mule-drawn wagon full of supplies through to Camp later Fort Yuma on the Colorado River.

It is not known who deserves the most credit for suggesting the use of camels (several people seem to have come up with the idea independently), but it wasn't until March 3, 1855, that Congress finally authorized $30,000.
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