A Civil Discussion: Major Robert and the Mojave Road


The Mojave Road can occupy the thoughts and desires of many desert adventurers out here in the sand, and most have an opinion to share.  From Fort Mohave (originally, Camp Mohave)*, in Arizona, to Camp Cady, northeast of Newberry Springs, there are so many choices of where to go and what to see out there, that a disagreement or two might be inevitable.

*Military science:

The difference between a camp and a fort is a military state of mind.  A camp is intended to be temporary, while a fort is expected to be permanent.    For example, The Marines have no forts.  They expect to be taking ground, and not keeping it.  Even so, Camp Pendleton is as permanent a place as you can find.  On the other hand,  Camp Cady at the end of the Mojave Road was well on its way to full status as a permanent fort in 1871, just before it was abandoned.   The military is funny that way.

Soda Springs in the 1860s.
The Mojave Road welcoming committee.


Some people might disagree on the exact route and mileage of the Mojave Road.  So, if they were to meet to discuss the different points of view, it would be good idea for order to prevail during the meeting. 

In fact, those in attendance might even refer to the time honored “Robert’s Rules of Order” to maintain a sense of decorum and civility during the debate.

Robert’s Rules of Order. The antithesis of a Jerry Springer episode.

You know, it’s funny how things in this world that are seemingly unrelated sometimes can cross paths.  A coincidence if you will.    

So, it might be a surprise to learn that Henry M. Robert, the author of the  “Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies,” also known as “Robert’s Rules of Order” (first published in 1876), played a very important part in the establishment of the Mojave Road and its military presence.  

As a matter of fact, Major Henry M. Robert surveyed the road and helped give us the route we know today.  If he only knew what he started . . .



In 1867, Major Henry Robert was a member of the Brevet Major General Irvin McDowell’s party that traveled the Mojave trail to visit all of the outposts, forts and other sites that made up the newly formed Division of the Pacific, a command made to save the reputation of General McDowell.   

 Decorum dictates that I pause here to tell you about General McDowell.

General  Irvin McDowell. You might look this unhappy too if you just lost the first battle of the Civil War.

A few years earlier, in 1861,  General McDowell commanded Federal troops at the opening battle of the Civil War at Bull Run, Virginia.    It didn’t go as planned, and Confederate troops chased the U.S. Army from the battlefield.  

Thus, it was thought best to transfer the hapless McDowell to the Pacific, far, far away from the war.  


It was the responsibility of Major Robert to establish the mileage between each outpost along the Mojave Trail.  Before this, he was a military engineer in charge of designing fortifications to protect Washington, D.C. during the Civil War and, later, in charge of troops building a lighthouse in California.   Major Robert was a firm believer in protocol, as illustrated by this notice to his troops in 1872:

Notice.–Any person employed on this work–Cape Foulweather Lighthouse–who shall speak disrespectfully, on or off duty, of the President of the United States, or any member of the Cabinet, or any superior officer of the Government, will be immediately discharged. 

~Henry M. Robert, Major of Engineers, U.S.A.

Above Camp Rock Spring on the Mojave Road. The spring is below, just beyond the big cholla cactus.
Rock Spring, loved by desert critters.
Marl Spring.


Once, while trying to speak at a church meeting,  then retired General Robert was dismayed by the lack of order and civility among the congregation.   Drawing from military discipline and protocol, Robert wrote his famous book of rules. 

By the time of his death in 1923, the good General had seen his book of parliamentary processes revised four different times.

General Henry Robert.

Today, more than 140 years later, the book has been translated into many languages and is still used all over the world to provide needed structure to meetings that range from small clubs, to government bodies.

With that, this meeting is adjourned. Now, where did I put that gavel?

Soda Spring. Today’s Zzyzx, California.

By the way, the original Mojave Road, from start to finish, and as measured by Major Henry M. Robert, goes from Camp Mohave (Fort Mohave) Arizona, to Drum Barracks, near Long Beach, California.

Now I make a motion to end this blog post.  Can someone second the motion?



 Camp Cady. End of the road but not the end of adventure.

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