A Florida woman recently filed a lawsuit in Mississippi’s Harrison County Circuit Court against the United Sons of Confederate Veterans, claiming that a camel named Sir Camelot attacked her at Beauvoir, the site of the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library.
Davis, the president of the Confederacy, lived at the Biloxi home from 1879 until his death in 1889. The Sons of Confederate Veterans now own the house, having upheld the promise that “once the last veteran, wife, and/or widow leaves here, then property would be shrine to Jefferson Davis.”
It’s where Davis wrote his memoir, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” and where tourists come for the history as well as to see the animals on its grounds, including goats and Sir Camelot the camel.
Sylvia June Abbott visited the estate on Oct. 20, 2015, the lawsuit stated.
The suit claims the camel “attacked” her, causing “serious injuries and fractures, including, but not limited to, injuries to her back and wrist,” the suit claims. It added that she “also experienced physical and metal pain and suffering and has undergone treatment with physicians.”
“June was basically just walking across the grounds and this camel charged at her, stampeded her, and ended up biting her,” Abbott’s attorney, Charles M. Thomas, told the Biloxi Sun Herald. “It’s kind of ridiculous to think there are aggressive animals walking around on the property where this sort of thing can happen.”
The camel originally arrived at the home in March 2015 and was named Sir Camelot by a 9-year-old who won a naming contest, according to Beauvoir’s Facebook page. According to the Sun Herald, it was a tourist draw, though Davis did have an unusual connection with camels.
When Davis was the United States secretary of war, he “inaugurated an interesting and important experiment for the purpose of determining whether camels could be used for transportation purposes in the United States,” wrote LSU professor Walter Fleming. Indeed, Beauvoir’s website stated, “In May 1856, Davis engineered the importation of 33 camels for use by the US Army in the desert southwest.”
The lawsuit called Sir Camelot “dangerous” and claimed the animal has “a propensity toward attacks,” though no specific attacks are mentioned.
Some, however, disagree with this characterization. To many, the camel is merely a living local legend, adored for his goofy name and supposed love of caffeine — Sir Camelot reportedly loves Dr Pepper and coffee.
“He’s just an absolute asset when it comes to field trips. Kids love him and he loves the kids,” Beauvoir programs and events coordinator Kitsaa Stevens told the Sun Herald.
A photograph on Beauvoir’s Facebook page shows a man kissing the camel. The animal’s large lips engulf most of the man’s face. Still, both parties sharing the kiss appear to be calm.
In December 2015, though, the Beauvoir board passed a motion to remove the camel and goats, citing aggressive behavior. The goats were butting car doors. It is unclear what the camel did.
But when the number of visiting tourists dropped, the animals were returned in June 2016.
Abbott is seeking recompense for medical expenses, future court costs and mental anguish. She also seeks punitive damages.
Beauvoir’s executive director, Tom Payne, didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Sun Herald or the Hattiesburg American.
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