In 1863, when the Civil War was raging in the United States, Emperor Maximilian, backed by the French Army, had taken Mexico City.
Things looked bleak for the Republican army of Benito Juárez. Holed up near the border with a ragtag group of guerrillas, he knew he had to obtain modern artillery from the north to defeat the invaders. The ports were blockaded and the land route across the Chihuahua Desert was perilous; pack horses or mules would die on the journey from dehydration.
One of Juárez’s officers, Colonel Jesus Carranza, came up with a unique idea. His family had a ranch that purchased camels from the U.S. government. Juárez had heard about these animals and knew of their prodigious capacity for transporting baggage and equipment in the deserts of Egypt and Tunisia with little or no water. After establishing headquarters at Paseo del Norte, he sent word to his emissary Matías Romero to obtain advanced weapons from the United States that could be used to aid his armies to the south and east. Camels provided the ideal solution, and his young colonel would have them furnished with saddles and pack frames, and train soldiers to load and ride them. Thus, the Mexican Army gained a critical and timely advantage over the French.