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Discover Camp Verde Texas, Home of Historic U.S. Army Camel Corps

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Camp Verde Texas is a small Hill Country town heaped in history, tradition, and downright Texas hospitality.  Treat yourself to a road trip through Camp Verde Texas’ stunningly breathtaking countryside. Discover the rich heritage of Camp Verde Texas and its role as a Civil War outpost.

The Hanging Tree

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Photo: livingwitness.net

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Life was rough Camp Verde Texas in the Hill Country during its early settlement. Tough battles and tragedies occurred. One such incident is known as the Bandera Tragedy of 1863. During the Civil War, several Confederate soldiers stationed at Camp Verde Texas detained a group of eight men and one young boy from Williamson County.  The travelers, assuming  a misunderstanding, willingly followed the soldiers to Camp Verde Texas to straighten things out. One account claims the group was headed to Mexico to escape the conflict of the Civil War. Another says they were going to Mexico to buy livestock.

When the group arrived at Camp Verde Texas, the soldiers confiscated the civilians cash but then allowed the nine  to continue on their way. Shortly after the nine left Camp Verde Texas, one of the soldiers suggested they should be hanged for avoiding service to the Confederacy. Major W. J. Alexander assembled a troop of 25 soldiers and led them in pursuit of the men who were found resting under a tree not far from Camp Verde Texas.

While several soldiers in the Confederate regiment refused to participate, others lynched the civilians from the tree, one by one, while the other soon-to-be victims watched. Somehow the 16-year old boy managed to escape.

When the tragedy was discovered the next day, those soldiers that refused to participate gave a full account of the incident and arrest warrants were issued for the soldiers that participated in the crime. But Major Alexander and the guilty men had fled from Camp Verde.

The incident left a hefty weight on the community. Today, the citizens of Camp Verde Texas– all 137 of them as of the 2010 census — still hold a special tribute annually in commemoration of the innocent victims of the Bandera Hanging Tree.

Camp Verde Camel Corps

Discover Camp Verde - Home of Historic US Army Camel Corps

Photo: Flickr/matthigh

Despite the notoriety of the Bandera Tragedy Tree, Camp Verde Texas did contribute a unique function to the Civil War effort — a camel corps. Fort Camp Verde was home to the U.S. Army’s Camel Corps. The camel experiment began with Jefferson Davis, a senator from Mississippi who later became president of the Confederacy. He thought camels could be the ideal pack animal to carry supplies for the troops through the blistering and arid desert of the southwest.

Though the army never fully utilized the animals in the war, the camel corps of Camp Verde Texas helped put Route 66 on the map. Before the war ended, Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale, a former Naval officer and engineer with the U.S. Army, was ordered by the war department to build a government-funded wagon road along the 35th parallel. He was also to test the feasibility of the use of camels as pack animals in the southwestern desert.  He accomplished his task, and this road became part of the legendary U.S. Route 66.

Finally, when the Confederacy and Davis were defeated, the camels became part of the political spoils of war and the corps was disbanded.

Historic Camp Verde Texas General Store

Discover Camp Verde - Home of Historic US Army Camel Corps

Photo: Flickr/matthigh

Visit the historic Camp Verde General Store and enjoy all the tributes and the large metal sculpture commemorating the great camel experiment.  The general store was built in 1857 to serve the needs of the troops stationed at the fort. Today, it continues its tradition as a general store with a great selection of products to satisfy your souvenir needs. The location now offers a restaurant too offering everything from meatloaf to chicken tenders, sandwiches, and salads.

No doubt the owners and employees are well-versed in the history and folklore of the Confederate Camel Corps. And, when it comes to hump day jokes, they have probably heard them all.  Engage at your own risk!

Cowboy Superstitions

Discover Camp Verde - Home of Historic US Army Camel Corps

Photo: Flickr/callumcampbell

Cowboys have their own superstitions; for them, it’s all about their hats.  Never put your hat on the bed. Never lay your hat down the way you set it on your head or your luck will run out. Some cowboys believe a cowboy hat is like an old, faithful pick-up truck.  You just don’t get rid of it. So, it’s a local cowboy tradition to retire old hats along the wall of the Camp Verde restaurant — for good luck.

Hair-Raising Hauntings

Discover Camp Verde - Home of Historic US Army Camel Corps

Photo: www.campverdegeneralstore.com

The Camp Verde restaurant has its own ghosts, too. Ruthie, a young woman in her 20s, reportedly haunts the place according to employees and local cowboys. Some leave her snacks on a plate only to return and find a bite has been taken out of a cookie.  The restaurant menu used to offer a “Snacks for Ruthie” section which listed nachos, tamales, and other snacks. But, it seems to have been replaced by a heartier fare like the “Jolly Reuben” and “Hotsy Totsy”– offerings that sound scrumptious enough to conjure up spirits near and far.

Don’t let the friendly ghost tales deter you from visiting this once remote Confederate outpost in the Texas Hill Country.  This scenic region offers spectacular views through miles of gently sloping hill country and wide open spaces visible from atop any hill or mountain peak. Camp Verde is only 52 miles northwest of San Antonio and ten miles from Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” So, get in the car and visit.