BEALE'S CROSSINGBEALE’S CROSSING
The picture was taken from a vantage point on the southern edge of the sandy bluff where Fort Mohave was built, At the time of the uprising the river flowed through the middle of the cultivated farmland in the mid-ground.
A fellow in the Quartermaster Corps named Major George Crossman came up with the notion of using camels for military transportation during the Seminole War in Florida during the 1830s. Camels could travel a long way without water; they could carry much more weight than a mule, and would eat anything a goat would eat and several things that no self-respecting goat would ever consider eating. The idea did not take root in the War Department until 20years later during the administration of President Franklin Pierce. The always forward thinking Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, finally got behind the camel experiment when he observed on a map that much of Western America was a “great desert”. Much of that country was arid, but it was mostly a high grassy plain, not a desert. In any event appropriations were passed to fund an experimental camel corps in 1856. The first boatload of camels stepped ashore at Indianola, Texas on February 10, 1857 and with them came half a dozen or so camel wranglers. One of them called himself Hadji Ali. The term “hadji” was a title more than a name. A hadji was a guy who had made the
THE CROSSING THESE DAYS
The river has been channeled to flow past the Avi Casino and somebody has built a bridge to provide access to the Casino.
pilgrimage to Mecca. He was a veteran of the French Army who had served in Algeria as a camel wrangler and had a facility with the French and English languages. He enlisted for the camel experiment at Smyrna, Turkey. His dad was from Syria and his mom was Greek. His “Greek” name was Fillipuo Tedora. American soldiers soon began calling him Hi Jolly and that is how he is known to history. Because of his past experience in the French Army he understood military service and with his language skills became the lead camel caretaker. The Pierce Administration came to a screeching halt in March of 1857 when James Buchanan ascended to the Presidency and John Floyd became the new Secretary of War. The always forward thinking Jefferson Davis ascended to the Presidency of the Southern Confederacy when Uncle Abe Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860. Floyd inherited the camel experiment and with some misgivings allowed it to go forth. He was far more interested in fighting the Mormon War than he was in the camel experiment. Another remnant of the Pierce Administration that Floyd inherited was a proposed route for the transcontinental railroad along the 35th
MOHAVE VILLAGES THESE DAYS....
The Avi Casino now occupies land at Beale's Crossing where once a thriving village stood.
army topographical corps was charged with surveying that route in 1853, but they did not build a road to follow. It made good practical sense to bundle the camel experiment with the road construction project. A political favorite named Edward F. Beale was named to lead the road construction project. Beale was a very capable man. He had been a naval lieutenant, a hero of the Mexican War, an international spy, and the intrepid traveler who brought the first samples of California Gold to Washington City. The gold samples are what drove westward expansion across America and the railroads followed. Free land for a growing nation and settlement on that land followed the railroad. Beale was a sort of national hero for getting that whole movement started with the gold samples. It became known general as the California Gold Rush. The road building expedition got underway on August 27, 1857 from Fort Defiance in what was then New Mexico Territory. Fort Defiance happened to be situated very near the 35th
Parallel and very nearly atop the present state boundary in Eastern Arizona. The plan was to follow a route first explored by Lt Amiel Whipple in 1853 and 1854 from
To escape certain massacre the Rose Party abandoned their possessions and fled towards the conical peak in the background. That peak marks the entrance to Oatman Canyon where the Udell Family was waiting at a spring with no livestock.
Fort Smith, Arkansas to California. Beale hired a guide named Savedra in Albuquerque who supposedly knew the route and locations where water and grass could be found along the way. Within a couple of weeks Savedra became hopelessly lost and the expedition nearly perished of thirst, but they reached the Colorado River near the Mohave Villages safely on October 18, 1857. They rested and traded with the Indians on the 19th
. Despite being lost they were almost exactly on the 35th
Parallel. The river was high and dangerous but because of the villages both side sides had good landings. The wagons were all floated across the river on the 20th
using inflatable rubberized air bags. It was the first river crossing ever successfully attempted using that method. Whipple’s route dipped south along the Big Sandy and Bill Williams Rivers to a crossing nearer Lake Havasu. They then moved back north until they reached the Mohave Villages near the 35th
Parallel. The route Beale found west of Flagstaff eventually became the corridor used by Route 66 as far as Oatman. Beale was now once again on track with the Whipple route. Beale attempted to cross his livestock on the 21st
Beaver Lake was a backwater to the river. The Mohave village was located on the west side of the lake. The Casino has a golf course that is irrigated by river pump. The irrigation runoff drains into the original lake basin. This water hazard was once the lower end of the lake.
nobody knew if camels could swim a swift river. Major Wayne, the commanding officer of the Camel Corps down in Texas said that camels could not swim. Hi Jolly said he had never heard of a swimming camel. They decided to try and cross some horses and mules first and let the camels watch. Maybe the camels would follow that example. What happened was that half of the animals in the first attempt at the crossing got swept away and drowned. The Indians were waiting downstream, pulled the dead animals out of the river and made a fine supper of them that evening. When the camels saw those other animals get swept down the river screaming in panic they would not go near the landing. Beale was at his wits end. He thought about trying to lash the camels to the air bags but it seemed like an inherently bad idea. Hi Jolly could swim and suggested crossing the largest and strongest camel alone and see if the other camels would follow. That big camel took to the mighty river like an otter and just frolicked his way across. When the other camels saw how much fun it was they
PAH UTE SPRING
This is Bishop's camel fort at Pah Ute Spring. A rock inscribed with Bishop's name was found here during the 1930s and is now part of the collection at the museum in Barstow.
hopped in too and frolicked across of their own accord. Not a single one of them got swept away or drowned. That place became known as Beale’s Crossing. The remaining horses, mules, and cattle crossed with minimal loss. The sheep, dogs, chickens and pigs came across the river on rafts floated by the air bags. Beale hired some Indian guides to show him the water holes on across to Cajon Pass and then down the Old Spanish Trail through San Bernardino to Los Angeles and up over the Grapevine to Fort Tejon, which is also very near the 35th
Beale happened to own a ranch in partnership with Samuel A Bishop that adjoined Fort Tejon. Among the many good deeds that Sam Bishop had done in his lifetime was to advocate for better treatment of Indians. They were terribly abused by the whites, Mexicans, and the Church, and Sam Bishop had become a sort of de-facto agent and protector for them. Beale needed to carry his final report on the road job and the effective use of the camels back east to the Secretary of War, John Floyd. He took off from the ranch in December of 1857
These are the ruins of the brief military presence established as Fort Paiute. The army used Bishop's camel fort as a corral for their cavalry mounts.
with wagons loaded with his road construction gear and ten pack camels, dropped down to Los Angeles to pick up additional supplies and then headed up the Old Spanish Trail to meet a military escort waiting at Cajon Pass. The soldiers were being sent to the river to investigate rumors that the Mormons were inciting Indians to attack emigrant trains in that area as, in fact, the Mormons had. They had murdered the entire Fancher Train at Mountain Meadows except for a few very small children who could be raised in the Faith. The soldiers did not find any Mormons or Indians lurking along the Mohave Road making ready to pounce on unsuspecting travelers. When the soldiers reached Beale’s Crossing they were astonished to see a steamboat bobbing around at the landing. It was Captain George Johnson’s side wheeler, the General Jessup, taking on a load of firewood. Johnson was as astonished to see the camels as the Mohaves had been to see the steamboat. Johnson had taken his steamboat up the river from Fort Yuma to see how far towards Utah the river was navigable under steam power. The Mormon War was still raging merrily along and the river
HI JOLLY MONUMENT
Final resting place for both Hi Jolly, the faithful camel wrangler, and Topsy the last surviving camel. Visit the cemetery in Quartzsite to pay your respects. The cemetery is located behind the World Famous Quartzsite Yacht Club. Long Time No Sea.....
might be a vital connection for assault or supply between Fort Yuma and Utah. Johnson helped Beale across the river with the wagons, supplies and tools, and Hi Jolly took the camels back to Fort Tejon.
Settlement in Kansas had been proceeding briskly but had become a battleground between Abolitionists and Pro Slavery factions. Many of those settlers, fearing for their safety in Bleeding Kansas, had decided to move on to the salubrious climate of California where they could live in peace. The Overland Route passing through Utah was ill advised because of the Mormon War and travelers coming down the Santa Fe Trail from Bleeding Kansas were directed to use the new Mohave Road. Back in Washington City Beale had been prevailed upon by Secretary Floyd to complete the road along Whipple’s Route between Fort Smith, Arkansas and Cajon Pass. As the weary months drug on across 1858 the Mormon War had run its surly course, the camels had gnawed out a nice pasture for themselves at Tejon Ranch, and a few hearty pioneers had begun crossing the Mohave Road. The Leonard Rose Party of emigrants out of Keosauqua, Iowa was the first to bounce themselves down the
Mohave Road. They were a pretty strong outfit when they were all together and might have driven off an attack, but they suffered from lack of water found along the way just as Beale had done and they had to split up with small groups advancing from one water hole to the next. The first of them to arrive on August 27, 1858 at Beale’s Crossing were the Rose, Brown, and Bentner Families along with all of their combined livestock. They were the first white people that the Mohave had ever seen who were not soldiers. Those families looked pretty meek and easily intimidated and they were. The first afternoon the Mohaves blatantly stole some cattle and oxen and made a fine supper of them. The whites did not retaliate so the Mohaves took more the next day, and the next after that. During the afternoon of the 30th
of August as the emigrants were working on some rafts to float across the river their camp was attacked by a sassy party of Mohave warriors. The emigrants fought bravely and after a desperate battle lasting two hours the Mohaves were driven off. After darkness fell the emigrants took their wounded
and made good their escape but they had to abandon all of their livestock and possessions to do so. They made their way back to the Udell Family who were waiting at a spring, but the Udells had no livestock either. They had sent all of their animals forward to the river expecting no trouble. The Udells had to abandon all of their possessions too and the whole sad bunch had to make for Albuquerque pretty much afoot and destitute. Surely they would have perished one by one along the dusty trail, but they had the good fortune of meeting another emigrant train headed for the crossing. They were the Hamilton Train, also from Iowa, and Hamilton was an acquaintance of Rose. Hamilton took them in, shared his dwindling supply of provisions and they all headed back to Albuquerque. Just as they were all about to start thinking about eating their hats, shoes, and saddle blankets they met the Smith Party. The Smith’s had 500 head of cattle so there was no longer much danger of starving. The whole shebang started back for Albuquerque. It was soon deemed advisable to send an advance party of the 30 most fit forward to the Zuni Villages to bring word of the Mohave Uprising to the army. On November 1, 1857 the emigrants straggled in to the Zuni Villages. It had taken 62 days, since the attack, for them to reach safety. The army supplied them food, clothing, blankets, and shoes but there was still about 130 miles to reach Albuquerque. They all rested a few days before shoving off and reached Albuquerque in another couple of weeks. All of the surviving emigrants eventually made it to California. Leonard Rose had to delay his trip to California because he was too destitute to go on. He took a job as a waiter in Albuquerque, but soon moved up to Santa Fe and purchased the La Fonda Hotel with funds borrowed from a brother. It was a kind of seedy dive, but he restored it to respectability before flipping it and moving on. A La Fonda Hotel up in Taos thrives to this day. Alpha Brown’s wife, Mary, and stepdaughter, Sarah Fox, also remained awhile in Albuquerque. Mary Brown was the needful widowof a Mason and survived the winter along with Sarah, or Sally as she was called, at the largesse of the order of Masons. Sally picked up a pocketful of walnuts along the river one day and told her mom that she would start an orchard with them in California. They eventually settled near Vacaville and Mrs Brown started up her own boarding house. Sally planted her walnuts and one of them produced a tree that grew to a huge size. A hundred years later that tree was still an attraction in Vacaville. A motel, over-priced restaurant, and gift shop collectively called the Nut Tree sprang into existence there. The Nut Tree was a popular stopover for gamblers rushing back and forth between the Bay Area and Reno for maybe 50 years. Sally’s tree did pretty well for itself.
The Mohaves had also been disrupting the U S Mail being carried along Mohave Road, but word of the uprising had found its way into California in November of 1858. The public outcry was loud enough that the Army responded with a fair amount of alacrity. The mail must get through and the uprising could not be allowed to interfere with military plans to attack the Mormons from the river if need be. In December Major William Hoffman lead a company of the Sixth Infantry and an escort of dragoons out of Fort Tejon on a reconnaissance to establish a military post at Beale’s Crossing. They arrived at the river on January 9, 1859 and fought a brief skirmish in which 18 Mohaves were reported killed. Hoffman’s force was badly outnumbered and he chose to withdraw rather than attempt to make what might be a costly stand. It was the right choice, but it gave the Mohave a taste of victory over the Army and they became even sassier about the mail. Hoffman retreated back to Fort Tejon and began the task of assembling a much larger force which gathered at Fort Yuma with the intention of striking all of the Mohave camps along the river up to the crossing where he would build a new fort. Beale, in the meantime, had completed his road from Fort Smith to a winter camp at Hatch’s Ranch near Fort Union, New Mexico. From there he sent his clerk, Fred Kerlin, down to Mesilla and then over the Butterfield Trail by stagecoach to Los Angeles. Kerlin was to purchase supplies and arrange with Sam Bishop to bring the supplies by camel train to the Mohave Villages. When he first learned of the hostilities in Los Angeles Kerlin applied for a military escort for Bishop’s camel train but the request was denied. On March1, 1859 Bishop set out from Los Angeles with 40 hired men, six wagons - each pulled by a team of six mules, adequate riding stock and 20 camels. Along the way they picked up four more guys who worked for the mail contractor and had failed to obtain safe passage for the mail carriers. They gladly joined Bishop’s merry band. The Mohave were not unaware of what was descending upon them; they knew that Bishop was coming from the west; they knew that Beale was coming from the east; they knew that Bishop and Beale would converge at the crossing. Mostly what they knew was that Hoffman was coming up the river from Fort Yuma with a thousand or so soldiers and he was intending to destroy all villages, camps, and food crops that he found. Families from those villages began to concentrate in the big villages at the crossing. Some Paiutes and Yumas joined them. By the time Bishop arrived at the Beaver Lake Village on March 19, 1859 there were maybe about 1800 warriors to oppose his crossing. He tried crossing twice but was driven back both times and fought a couple of sharp engagements. Bishop’s men were well armed and the Mohave could not advance inside the range of the guns; they lost maybe 30 warriors in those fights. Like Hoffman before him Bishop chose not to make what might become a costly stand and on the morning of March 22nd
decided to retreat back to Pah Ute Spring about 20 miles to the west. At the spring Bishop built a strong defensive position as he waited for Beale. The camel fort was a rock wall with a commanding view built on a bluff above the spring. It was four feet high, forty feet wide and one hundred feet long. It stands there to this day. He then sent two messengers in search of Hoffman requesting military assistance in crossing the river. The messengers, Eckhart and Renfroe, survived the dangerous journey and located Hoffman at a new supply depot called Camp Gaston near where the thriving little town of Palo Verde would later be built. Hoffman had come only about 60 miles up the river from Fort Yuma. He cheerfully denied Bishop’s request for assistance. During their visit to Camp Gaston, Renfroe had somehow managed to shoot himself in the leg and had to remain with the army. Eckhart returned alone on April 5 with the sad news that Bishop was on his own. While Eckhart was gone Bishop kept the others busy by improving the road through Pah Ute Canyon where the spring was located. Hoffman’s refusal to provide assistance forced Bishop to take drastic action. He sent the wagons and mule teams loaded with provisions for the journey back to Fort Tejon. With them went half of the men. Most of the provisions he buried inside the camel fort. He took all 20 camels, and men to ride them and returned to Beale’s Crossing. At daybreak on the morning of April 7 as they approached the Beaver Lake village they found a force of maybe 500 warriors blocking the river. Bishop formed up in four rows of five and assaulted the Mohave position with guns blazing. A charging camel is a spectacle to behold. The Indians scattered like bowling pins in all directions. The camel charge easily broke through, turned left at the river and quickly outran all pursuit. They made a safe crossing upstream, bypassed the village on the east bank and went in search of Beale. It was the first, last, and only camel charge ever to take place in this hemisphere and it was done by twenty daring civilians with no military training or experience. Late in April Bishop and Beale finally met up near the San Francisco Peaks. Many of the surviving emigrants had joined up with Beale in Albuquerque and continued on to California under his protection. Hoffman finally arrived at Beale’s Crossing on May 2 with his army. The Mohave conceded their country to him. Fort Colorado was built on a low sandy bluff on the east side of the river. Hoffman returned to Fort Tejon. Fort Colorado was under the command of Captain Lewis Armistead with Captain Richard Garnett second in command. Peace had returned to Beale’s Crossing, but Armistead and Garnett would be called upon to defeat a recalcitrant band of Mohaves later that fall. It marked the end of the Mohave Uprising. The Mohave Road flourished with emigrant travel even though the fort was abandoned in 1861 due to the outbreak of the War Between the States. Armistead and Garnett both joined the Confederate Army. Both of them became brigade commanders in General Pickett’s Division and both were killed during the charge at Gettysburg. After the war the Mohave Wagon Road remained an important route until the transcontinental railroad reached completion. Fort Colorado was rebuilt as Fort Mohave and an outpost for escort protection along the road called Camp Paiute was built at Pah Ute Spring. The soldiers used Bishop’s camel fort as a corral. When Hoffman passed through there on his way back to Fort Tejon his men discovered the provisions buried there, knew they belonged to Beale and stole them. Hi Jolly accompanied all movements of the camels until such time as the experiment was abandoned and the camels auctioned off. He continued to serve the army as a scout, packer, courier, and interpreter for the next 30 years. He eventually married a Tucson girl under the name of Philip Tedro and began a boisterous family of his own. He died in 1904 prospecting for gold out in Quartzsite and is buried there. The last surviving camel was finally rounded up in Baja California. It was given the name of Topsy and became an attraction in the Los Angeles Zoo. When Topsy died in 1934 the remains were cremated and buried alongside Hi Jolly and a stone monument was placed over the graves. A camel named Douglas fell into the hands of the commanding officer of Company A, 43rd
Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Confederate Army and became a sort of pet and mascot for the Bloody 43rd
. Douglas was killed by a federal sniper during the Battle of Vicksburg, buried where he fell and eventually given a headstone to mark his final resting place. Douglas was the only camel to be killed in the line of duty. Officially the camel experiment failed, but they behaved better in every respect than the ornery mule.
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