Camels were actually present in the southwest for some time. In 1855, under the direction of then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Congress appropriated $30,000 for "the purchase and importation of camels and dromedaries to be employed for military purposes." He thought the animals could haul supplies between remote military outposts so 75 camels were imported. Several stationed in Camp Verde, in central Texas, were used for supply trips to San Antonio. In 1857, Edward Beale led a five month 1,200 mile expedition of more than two dozen camels to California.
After Texas seceded from the Union, Confederate forces seized Camp Verde and turned the camels loose. These and other camels released from other facilities roamed the southwest and parts north for many years. Sightings of camels were reported until the early 20th century.
The camel laws on the books of some states probably made a lot of sense to politicians at the time.
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