Before he became president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis had a distinguished career in American politics, including a stint as Secretary of War in the mid-1850s. He is perhaps best known for his experiments with using camels for military transportation in the southwest. Yet the camel story is more than a whimsical footnote in American history. Davis unintentionally set of a camel craze in the deep South, where cotton planters began to use camels on plantations. More ominously, the sudden demand for camels also provided slave smugglers with an extraordinary opportunity to increase their illicit activities under the cover of legitimate camel importation. Exploring this previously hidden dimension of the camel experiment reveals a broad network of government officials, merchants and sundry shady characters, all of whom were dedicated to maximizing slavery’s profitability and expansion.