Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea/6

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Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea (1849)
by William Francis Lynch
560987Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea — 61849William Francis Lynch



MARCH 25. At 8 A.M. anchored off the town of Beïrût, and went on shore to call upon the Pasha, who is also a Mushir, which, next to the sovereignty, is the highest rank in the Ottoman empire.

Entering the palace, and passing through a suite of rooms crowded with attendants, we found the Pasha, in the most remote one, seated à la Turque upon an elevated divan. Introduced by our consul, I was graciously received, and the usual preliminaries of sherbet, pipes and coffee having been discussed, I presented the imperial firman. With an air of deep respect he carefully read it, and professed his readiness to obey it.

In making out the instructions to his various subordinates in our contemplated route, a singular difficulty was presented. He was uncertain whether the eastern side of the Jordan was included in his jurisdiction or in that of the Pasha of Damascus, with whom, although of an inferior rank, he was unwilling to interfere. To my suggestion of sending a messenger to Damascus, he with some hesitation confessed that he would not like by such a step to betray ignorance of the extent of his jurisdiction. We consulted a chart, but as the limits of his pashalic were not geographically defined, it threw no light upon the subject. We at length ascertained that jurisdiction vested in the Pasha of Damascus, and to that functionary a messenger was forthwith despatched.


As this circumstance reflects discreditably upon the Pasha, I would omit it, although a feature in the government and condition of the country, but that he was soon after recalled, and there is no possibility of his ever seeing this recital, or of his interests being affected by it. He evinced during the interview much thirst for information, and like his master, the Sultan, expressed a wish to know the results of our labours.

The Rev. Eli Smith, of the American Presbyterian mission, although in ill health, exerted himself in our behalf, and to him we were indebted for securing the services of an intelligent young Syrian, named Ameuny, for our dragoman or interpreter. I also engaged an Arab, named Mustafa, as cook. The other gentlemen of the mission rendered us all the assistance in their power, and cheered us with cordial good wishes for our success.

We received here two pocket chronometers forwarded by Dent from London; and I had the satisfaction of engaging Dr. Anderson, of New York, as physician and geologist, while we should be descending the Jordan, and exploring the Dead Sea.

An English party having been recently attacked, in attempting to descend the Jordan, the tribes might yet be in an exasperated state, and in the event of gun-shot wounds, surgical aid would be indispensable. Lieutenant Molyneux, Royal Navy, the commander of that party, having, like Costigan, the only man who preceded him, perished of fever caught on the Dead Sea, I felt it a duty to secure the valuable services of Dr. Anderson. I directed him to proceed across the country, to make a geological reconnoissance, and to join us, if he could, on the route from Acre to Tiberias.

For the purpose of making some necessary pecuniary arrangements, I was introduced by Mr. Smith to a wealthy Syrian merchant. When informed of the nature of our undertaking, he first said, “It is madness;” but the moment after, forgetful of the comforts and luxuries around him, he turned to me, and, with his soul beaming in his eyes, exclaimed, “Oh! how I envy you!”


Our consul, Mr. Chasseaud, was indefatigable in his efforts to facilitate us; and notwithstanding the weather was tempestuous, with incessant rain, we were ready at the expiration of the first twenty-four hours. H.B.M. Consul-General, Colonel Rose, was kind and obliging. Besides partaking of his hospitality, I was indebted to him for a letter to Mr. Finn, H.B.M. Consul at Jerusalem, — rendered the more acceptable, as our country has no representative there.

Beïrût is a Franco-Syrian town, with a proportionate number of Turkish officials. The customs of the east and of the west are singularly blended, but the races remain distinct, separated by difference of complexion and of faith. The most striking peculiarity of dress we saw, was the tantur, or horn, worn mostly by the wives of the mountaineers. It was from fourteen inches to two feet long, three to four inches wide at the base, and about one inch at the top. It is made of tin, silver, or gold, according to the circumstances of the wearer, and is sometimes studded with precious stones. From the summit depends a veil, which falls upon the breast, and, at will, conceals the features. It is frequently drawn aside, sufficiently to leave one eye exposed, —in that respect resembling the mode of the women of Lima. It is worn only by married women, or by unmarried ones of the highest rank, and once assumed, is borne for life. Although the temple may throb, and the brain be racked with fever, it cannot be laid aside. Put on with the bridal-robe, it does not give place to the shroud. The custom of wearing it, is derived from the Druses, but it is also worn by the Maronites. Its origin is unknown; it is supposed to have some reference to the words, “the horns of the righteous shall be exalted,” and other like passages of Scripture.


The illimitable sea was upon one side, the lofty barrier of the Lebanon on the other, with a highly-cultivated plain, all verdure and bloom, between them. But so indispensably necessary did I deem it to reach the Jordan before the existing flood subsided, that no time was allowed to note the beauties of the surrounding scene. It seemed better to descend the river with a rush, than slowly drag the boats over mud-flats, sand-banks, and ridges of rock.

MONDAY, MARCH 27. At night, got under way; but the wind failing, and a heavy sea tumbling in, we were compelled to anchor again.

Tuesday, 28. A.M. The wind light, and adverse, — employed in packing instruments, and making all ready for disembarkation. 3 P.M. Sailed with a fine breeze from the north-west. At midnight, having passed Sidon and Tyre, heaved to off the White Cape (“Album Promontorium” of the Romans, and “Ras-el-Abaid” of the Syrians), the north extreme of the bay of Acre.

At daylight filled away, and the wind blowing fresh, sailed past the town of St. Jean d’Acre, its battlements frowning in the distance, and anchored under Mount Carmel, before the walled village of Haifa.

With great difficulty I landed through the surf, in company with our dragoman and our vice-consul at Acre, who had come with us from Beïrût. We were in danger of perishing, and were only rescued by the Arab fishermen who came to our assistance. They are bold and dexterous swimmers, as much at home in the water as the natives of the Sandwich Islands.

The increasing surf preventing further communication with the ship, we proceeded first to Haifa and thence to the convent for a bed, for in the village there was no accommodation. The first thing in Syria which strikes a visitor from the western world, is the absence of forest trees. Except the orchards, the mountains and the plains are unrelieved surfaces of dull brown and green. No towering oak, no symmetrical poplar, relieves the monotony of the scene. The sun must surely be the monarch of this clime, for, outside the flat, mud-roofed, cube-like houses, there is no shelter from his fiery beams.


The road to the convent led for a short distance through an extensive olive orchard, and thence up the mountain by a gentle ascent. On the plain, and the mountain side, were flowers and fragrant shrubs, — the asphodel, the pheasant’s eye, and Egyptian clover. The convent stands on the bold brow of a promontory, the terminus of a mountain range 1200 feet high, bounding the vale of Esdraelon on the south-west. The view from the summit is fine. Beneath is a narrow but luxuriant plain, upon which, it is said, once stood the city of Porphyraea. Sweeping inland, north and south, from Apollonia in one direction to Tyre in another, with Acre in the near perspective, are the hills of Samaria and Galilee, enclosing the lovely vale of Sharon and the great battle-field of nations, the valley of Esdraelon; while to the west lies the broad expanse of the Mediterranean. But the eye of faith viewed a more interesting and impressive sight; for it was here, perhaps upon the very spot where I stood, that Elijah built his altar, and “the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

We were cordially received by the monks, “Bon frere Charles” in especial, who, as it was Lent, regaled us with vegetable soup and fish. Within the convent is the celebrated grotto of Elias, with a beautiful marble rotundo in front, and a chaste and richly decorated chapel above it. In front of the main building is a tent-shaped mausoleum, erected over 2,000 Frenchmen, who, sick, and unable to defend themselves, were massacred by the Turks. The convent was then used as a hospital. The word “Carmel” means garden. Mount Carmel has been visited by Titus, St. Louis, and Napoleon.

We procured here some of the flint nodules resembling chalcedony, in the form of fruit, — petrified, it is said, by a curse of the prophet, who was refused some of it by the proprietor when he was faint and weary. They are nothing more than round hollow pieces of flint, with smooth and coloured protuberances within.


FRIDAY, MARCH 31. Wind changed off shore with a smooth sea. Sent to Acre for horses, and hoisted out the two “Fannies” and landed them with our effects. Pitched our tents for the first time, upon the beach, without the walls of Haifa. A grave-yard behind, an old grotto-looking well (then dry) on one side, and a carob tree on the other. This tree very much resembles an apple tree, and bears an edible bean, somewhat like the catalpa, which, in times of scarcity, is eaten by the poor. It is supposed to be the “husk” spoken of in the beautiful and touching parable of the prodigal son. Indeed, I have heard oriental scholars maintain that “husk” is not the proper translation of the Hebrew word. The fruit is called (by the Christians) St. John’s bread, and the tree, which is an evergreen, “the locust tree,” from the belief that its fruit is the locust eaten with wild honey by St. John in the desert. For the first time, perhaps, without the consular precincts, the American flag has been raised in Palestine. May it be the harbinger of regeneration to a now hapless people!


We were surrounded by a crowd of curious Arabs, of all ages and conditions, — their costumes picturesque and dirty. The rabble already began to show their thievish propensities by stealing the little copper chains of our thole-pins. They thought that they were gold. Great fun to our sailors putting together the carriages, which with the harness were made in New York for the transportation of the boats. The men were full of jokes and merriment, at beginning camp life. Mustafa, the cook, prepared our first tea in Palestine.

We had two tents made of American canvass. They were circular, so constructed that the boats’ masts answered as tent-poles to them. The officers occupied the small and the men the large one. We had each, officers and men, a piece of India-rubber cloth, two yards long, to sleep on, and a blanket or comforter to cover us.

Night came, and the sentries were posted. The stars were exceedingly brilliant; the air clear and cool — almost too cool, — and the surf beat in melancholy cadence, interrupted only by the distant cry of jackals in the mountains. These, I suppose, are the foxes whose tails were tied together by Sampson.

SATURDAY, APRIL 1. A day of tribulation. A little past midnight, the tinkling of bells announced the arrival of our horses, followed soon after by a screaming conversation in Arabic between the dragoman (interpreter) within our tent and the chief of the muleteers outside. Our sleeping was excessively uncomfortable, — what from the cold, and the stones on the ground, and the novelty, we scarce slept a wink. Some began to think that it was not a “party of pleasure,” as an illiberal print had termed it. With the first ray of light, we saw that our Arab steeds were most miserable galled jades, and upon trial entirely unused to draught. It was ludicrous to see how loosely the harness we had brought hung about their meagre frames.


On trial, as an exhibition of discontent, there was first a general plunge, and then a very intelligible equine protest of rearing and kicking. After infinite trouble, and shifting the harness to more than a dozen horses, we found four that would draw, when once started. But the load was evidently too much for them. We then chartered an Arab boat, to convey the boats, sails, and heavier articles, across the bay to Acre. Still, the horses could not, or would not, budge; so that we were compelled to re-launch the boats, and send them to the ship, which had sailed over, and was then blazing away, returning a salute of the town. With a sailor mounted on each of the trucks, the horses were at length made to draw them, by dint of severe beating. The road along the beach was as firm and hard as a floor. About half a mile from our camping-place, a branch of the Valley of Esdraelon opened on the right, drained by the “Nahr Mukutta” (the river of the ford), the Kishon of Scripture, near which Sisera was murdered by Jael after his host were defeated by Deborah and Barak.

It was to the brink of the Kishon river that the 450 prophets of Baal were brought from Mount Carmel, and put to death by order of Elijah.(1 Kings 18:15-40) The half-frightened horses dashed into the stream, which they crossed without difficulty, it being only about eighteen inches deep, and as many yards across. Onward we went, occasionally coming to a dead halt, rendering necessary, renewed applications of the cudgel, — for lighter instruments of persuasion were of no avail.

The road ran along the beach, — in fact, the beach was the road, curving gently towards the north, and eventually to the west. Passing the wrecks of several vessels, buried in the sand, about six miles from the Kishon, we came to the river Namaane (Belus), nearly twice as deep and as wide again as the first. Pliny says, that near this river some shipwrecked Phoenician sailors discovered the mode of making glass, by observing the alkali of the dried seaweed that they burned, to unite with the fused silex of the shore.


Thence, the beach sweeps out into a low projecting promontory, on which stands “Akka,” the “St. Jean d’Acre” of the Crusades, and the “Ptolemais” of the New Testament.

Akka derived its name from the church of St. Jean d’Acre. It has been esteemed the key of all Syria; and Napoleon, when he saw it, exclaimed, “On that little town hangs the destiny of the East.” It checked him in his victorious career, and he, who had never known a reverse, recoiled before it. An English fleet, a few years since, however, proved that it was not impregnable, and its walls and bastions are yet in a dilapidated state, but they are now being thoroughly repaired and strengthened.

It being necessary to see the consul and the governor, I preceded the party to the town. At the outer gate of this fortified stronghold, two or three soldiers were standing, and there was a guard-room just within it. I made my way, as well as I could, to the house of our consul, to which the stars and stripes occasionally beckoned me, as, from time to time, I caught a glimpse of them, floating above a lofty turret.

Riding through a mass of masonry, with every conceivable name in the science of fortification, — through tortuous, ill-paved streets, and narrow bazaars and covered ways, I found myself at the bottom of a “cul-de-sac.” Dismounting before a low gateway, flanked by a gallery of blank walls, ascending a stone stairway, and passing through courts and ruined buildings, I reached the consul’s house, and was in a few moments seated on his divan.


Had I not been in so much anxiety about our operations, the whole scene upon my entrance into St. Jean d’Acre would have been exceedingly interesting. It is the strangest-looking place in the world, besides its being so renowned from the days of chivalry to the English bombardment. Perhaps no other town in the world could have stood the hurtling of the iron hail-storm as well. In some places, but comparatively few in number, there were chasms, showing where a cannon-shot had passed; in others, the shot had formed a lodgment, and remained a fixture; and in others, again, had only made an indentation and fallen to the ground.

A short distance within the gate was a narrow bazaar, roughly paved, about two hundred yards in length, with small open shops, or booths, on each side. They only exhibited the common necessaries of life for sale. A short distance farther, opposite to the inner wall, was a line of workshops, mostly occupied by shoemakers. These, with a few feluccas in the harbour, presented the only indications of commerce.

In the walls of our consul’s castellated bomb-proof house several shot were lodged; and in the court I stumbled over broken bomb-shells and fragments of masonry. From the flat terrace roof we looked down upon numberless neighbours: women with golden hair-ornaments and ragged trousers, for they were too large to be called pantalettes. There was, on an adjoining terrace, a young girl with a glorious profusion of curling tresses, which, from beneath a golden net-work on her head, fell gracefully down upon her dumpy form. Besides a boddice, or spencer, she wore a short pelisse and full trousers, which, to say the least, were rather the worse for wear. I should have admired the dark, wild-looking eye and the luxuriant hair, had it not been whispered to me that in the morning her beautiful head was seen undergoing a more critical examination than would be necessary with one of our fair countrywomen.


The consul having prepared himself, we went forth to seek the governor, who, with his suite, had gone outside the walls. There were few people in the streets, but I noticed that the turban was more generally worn than in Beïrût, Smyrna, or Constantinople. Civilization has scarce landed upon these shores; and in Syria, we may look for more unadulterated specimens of the Muslim character than in the capital of the empire.

We found the governor just outside the gate, seated in the most democratic manner, against the side of a thatched hut, a café, I believe. He received us courteously, and we were immediately provided with seats. It was a singular place of audience, and contrasted strangely with the sparkling gem upon the finger of the governor, the amber mouth-piece of his chibouque encircled with diamonds, and the rich dresses and jewel-hilted swords of some of his officers: but I liked it; there was no pretension or parade, and it looked like business; moreover, it had a republican air about it that was gratifying.

In this public place, the parley was held, and the horses that he had furnished were abused in unmeasured terms. His officers and ourselves were seated upon stools and benches; the attendants were in front, and the rabble stood around and listened to the talk.

Sa’id Bey, the governor, is about forty-five years of age. He is a Syrian by birth, an Egyptian by descent, and almost a mulatto in complexion. He was dressed in plain blue pantaloons and a long blue surtout, and wore a black beard and the red tarbouch. His countenance indicated cunning, if not treachery. The crowd seemed to be on such familiar terms with their superiors as would have been edifying to the citizens of some of our own states at home.


In brief terms, I told the governor how worthless the horses proved which he had sent. He professed his deep sorrow, but asked what could he do, for there were none better to be procured. I then proposed oxen, but he stated that it was then the height of seed-time, and that without great injury to the husbandmen he could not take them. This was confirmed by our dragoman and a Syrian gentleman, a Christian convert, educated by the missionaries at Beïrût. Of course, although burning with anxiety to proceed, I would not consent to profit by an act of injustice. From the governor’s manner, however, I suspected that he was coveting a bribe, and determined to disappoint him.

Assuming a high stand, I told him that we were there not as common travelers, but sent by a great country, and with the sanction of his own government: — that I called upon him to provide us with the means of transportation, for which we would pay liberally, but not extravagantly. That his own sovereign had expressed an interest in our labours, and if we were not assisted, I would take good care that the odium of failure should rest upon the shoulders of Sa’id Bey, governor of Acre. By this time a great concourse of people had gathered around, and he said that he would see what could be done, and let me know in the course of the evening. The Supply had in the mean time weighed anchor, and stood close in shore to land the provisions and things sent back in the morning. The boats of the expedition had also arrived, as well as the trucks drawn round the beach. The governor and his officers came to look at them, followed by nearly the whole population of the town. Such a mob! such clamour and confusion! I requested the governor to employ the police to clear a place for us to pitch our tents upon the beach. He did so immediately, but it was of no avail; for the crowd, driven off at one moment, returned the next, more clamorous than before: and he confessed that he had not power to prevent the townspeople from gratifying their laudable desire for information, — not to speak of acquisition, for they are notorious thieves. But for its vexation, the scene would have been very amusing. In the midst of this Arab crowd were many women, with coloured trowsers, and long coarse white veils; and some stood in the grave-yard immediately behind us, in dresses, veils and all, of common check, black and white.


Finding it utterly impossible to land our effects and encamp in this place, we returned and pitched our tents on the southern bank of the Belus.

encamped on the southern bank of the Belus
encamped on the southern bank of the Belus

But even here the crowd followed us, evincing a curiosity only to be equalled by our own brethren of the eastern states.

Since the authorities could not or would not protect us, we determined to take the law into our own hands and protect ourselves, and accordingly posted sentinels with fixed bayonets to keep off the crowd. Jack did it effectually, and the flanks of two or three bore witness to the “capable impressure” of the pointed steel; after which we were no more molested. We then hauled the boats up to a small green spot beside the river, and a short distance from the sea. Behind us was the great plain of Acre. While thus engaged, some Arab fellahin (peasants) passed us, their appearance wild, and their complexions of the negro tint.

With conflicting emotions we saw the Supply, under all sail, stand out to sea. Shall any of us live to tread again her clean, familiar deck? What matters it! We are in the hands of God, and, fall early, or fall late, we fall only with His consent.


Late in the afternoon, I received an invitation from Sa’id Bey to come to the palace. Ascending a broad flight of steps, and crossing a large paved court, I was ushered into an oblong apartment, simply furnished, with the divan at the farther end. I was invited to take the corner seat, among Turks the place of honour. Immediately on my right, was the cadi, or judge, a venerable and self-righteous looking old gentleman, in a rich cashmere cloak, trimmed with fur. On his right sat the governor. Around the room were many officers, and there were a number of attendants passing to and fro, bearing pipes and coffee to every new comer. But, what specially attracted my attention, was a magnificent savage, enveloped in a scarlet cloth pelisse, richly embroidered with gold. He was the handsomest, and I soon thought also, the most graceful being I had ever seen. His complexion was of a rich, mellow, indescribable olive tint, and his hair a glossy black; his teeth were regular, and of the whitest ivory; and the glance of his eye was keen at times, but generally soft and lustrous. With the tarbouch upon his head, which he seemed to wear uneasily, he reclined, rather than sat, upon the opposite side of the divan, while his hand played in unconscious familiarity with the hilt of his yataghan. He looked like one who would be. . .

“ Steel amid the din of arms,
And wax when with the fair.”

Just as we were seated, an old marabout entered the room, and, without saluting any one, squatted upon the floor and commenced chanting verses from the Koran. He had a faded brown cloak drawn around him, and a dingy, conical felt hat, such as is worn by the dervishes, upon his head. His whole person and attire were exceedingly filthy, and his countenance unprepossessing in the extreme.


The company sat in silence while he continued to chant verse after verse in a louder and yet louder tone. At length the governor asked the cause of the interruption, but received no answer; save, that the last word of the verse which the madman or impostor was reciting at the moment was sent forth with a yell, and the next verse commenced in a shriller key than the one which had preceded it. The whole council (for such I suppose it may be called) now resigned itself to the infliction; and, with a ludicrous, apologetic air, the cadi whispered to me, “It is a santon!”

At length the marabout paused for want of breath, and the governor repeated his former question. This time there was a reply, and a very intelligible one. He wanted charity. A sum of money was directed to be given to him, and he took his departure. Surely this is a singular country! Such an importunate mode of begging I never saw before, although I have been in Sicily. I relate the circumstance, with no farther comment, exactly as it occurred.

When we were again quiet, the governor stated that since he had parted with me he had received the most alarming intelligence of the hostile spirit of the Arab tribes bordering on the Jordan, and pointed to the savage chief as his authority. He named him ‘Akil Aga el Hasseé a great border seikh of the Arabs.

‘Akil Aga el Hasseé.
‘Akil Aga el Hasseé.

The governor proceeded to say that the “most excellent sheikh” had just come in from the Ghor, where the tribes were up in arms, at war among themselves, and pillaging and maltreating all who fell into their hands. He was, therefore, of opinion that we could not proceed in safety with less than a hundred soldiers to guard us; and said that if I would agree to pay twenty thousand piastres (about eight hundred dollars), he would procure means for the transportation of the boats, and guaranty us from molestation.


He could not look me in the face when he made this proposition, and it immediately occurred to me that the Bedawin sheikh had been brought in as a bugbear to intimidate me into terms. This idea strengthened with reflection, until I had reached a state of mind exactly the reverse of what Sa’id Bey anticipated.

The discussion lasted for some time, the governor, the cadi, the sheikh, and others, whose names and rank I did not know, urging me to accept the offer. This I positively declined, stating that I was not authorized, and if I were would scorn to buy protection: that if draught horses could be procured or oxen furnished, I would pay fairly for them and for a few soldiers to act as scouts; but that we were well armed and able to protect ourselves.

Finally, the governor finding that I would not embrace his terms, although he mitigated his demand, urged me to abandon the enterprise. To this I replied that we were ordered to explore the Dead Sea, and were determined to obey.

He then advised me, with much earnestness, to go by the way of Jerusalem. As he was too ignorant to understand the geographical difficulties of that route, I merely answered that we had set our faces towards the Sea of Galilee, and were not disposed to look back. The sheikh here said that the Bedawin of the Ghor would eat us up. My reply was that they would find us difficult of digestion; but as he might have some influence with the tribes, I added that we would much prefer going peaceably, paying fairly for all services rendered and provisions supplied; but go at all hazards we were resolutely determined. Here the conference ended, it having been prolonged by the necessity of conversing through an interpreter, which had, however, this advantage, that it gave me full time to take notes.


Without the court I overtook the sheikh, who had preceded me, and asked him many questions about the tribes of the Jordan. In the course of the conversation showed my sword and revolver — the former with pistol barrels attached near the hilt. He examined them closely, and remarked that they were the “devil’s invention.” I then told him that we were fifteen in number, and besides several of those swords and revolvers, had one large gun (a blunderbuss), a rifle, fourteen carbines with bayonets, and twelve bowie-knife pistols, and asked him if he did not think we could descend the Jordan. His reply was, “You will, if anybody can.” After parting from him, I learned that he was last year at the head of several tribes in rebellion against the Turkish government, and that, unable to subdue him, he had been bought in by a commission, corresponding to that of colonel of the irregular Arabs (very irregular!), and a pelisse of honour. It was the one he wore. It was now near nightfall and the gates were closed I therefore accompanied our consul to his house for refreshment and a bed, for I had eaten nothing since early in the morning. It was a great disappointment to me to be separated from the camp; for, apart from the wish to participate in its hardships, I was anxious to consult with Lieut. Dale, who had cheered me throughout the day by his zealous co-operation.

On reaching the consul’s, I was told that some American travelers from Nazareth had called to see me in my absence, and were to be found at the Franciscan Convent. Thither, I immediately hastened, anxious alike to greet a countryman, and to gather information, for Nazareth was nearly in our contemplated line of route.

They proved to be Major Smith, of the United States’ Engineers, an esteemed acquaintance, and Mr. Sargent, of New York, together with an English gentleman. Their account confirmed the rumour of the disturbed state of the country, and they had themselves been attacked two nights previous, at the foot of Mount Tabor.


I can give a very inadequate idea of my feelings. To turn back, was out of the question; and my soul revolted at the thought of bribing Sa’id Bey, even if I had been authorized to spend money for such a purpose. I felt sure that he had exaggerated in his statement, and yet the attack on our countrymen, so far this side of the Jordan, staggered me. Had my own life been the only one at stake, I should have been comparatively reckless; but those only can realize what I suffered, who have themselves felt responsibility for the lives of others.

From all the information I could procure of the Arab character, I had arrived at the conclusion, that it would tend more to gain their good-will if we threw ourselves among them without an escort, than if we were accompanied by a strong armed force. In my first interview with Sa’id Bey, therefore, I only asked for ten horsemen, to act as videttes, which, under the impression that they would be insufficient, he so long hesitated to grant, that I withdrew the application, and resolved to proceed without them. He afterwards pressed me to take them, and, calling upon me at the consul’s, offered to furnish them free of cost; but I was steadfast in refusal. The attack upon our countrymen, however, indicated danger of collision at the very outset, and I determined to be prepared for it. On leaving the Supply, I had placed a sum of money in charge of Lieutenant-Commanding Pennock, with the request, that he would, in person, deliver it to H.B.M. Consul at Jerusalem. Partly for that purpose, and in part to make some simultaneous barometrical observations, he had sailed for Jaffa, which is about thirty miles distant from the Holy City. To him, therefore, I despatched a messenger, asking him to call upon the Pasha, and request a small body of soldiers to be sent to meet us at Tiberias, or on the Jordan. This precaution taken, my mind was at ease, and, indeed, I was half ashamed of the previous misgivings; for, from the first, I had felt that we should succeed.


In the camp, the day passed quietly. At one time, there was a perfect fête around it, — peddlers, fruit-sellers, and a musician with a bagpipe, who seemed to sing extemporaneously, like the Bulgarian, at San Stefano. At length, the crowd becoming troublesome, a space was cleared around the encampment, and lines of demarcation drawn. Crosses were then made at the corners, which, from some superstitious feeling, the people were afraid to pass.

In the evening, at the consul’s, we received many visitors, scarce any three of whom were seated, or rather squatted, in the same attitude. There is no part of the world I have ever visited, where the lines of social distinction are more strictly drawn than here. In the present instance, the highest in rank were squatted, à la Turque, with their heels beneath them, upon the divan. The next in grade were a little more upright, in a half kneeling attitude; the third, between a sitting posture and a genuflexion, knelt with one leg, while they sat upon the other; and the fourth, and lowest I saw, knelt obsequiously, as if at their devotions. It was amusing to see the shifting of postures on the entrance of a visitor of a higher rank than any present; — when the squatters, drawing themselves up, assumed a more reverential attitude, and they who had been supported on one knee, found it necessary to rest upon two.

I was particularly struck with these evolutions, on the entrance of a fine old man, an Arab nobleman, called Sherîf Hazzâ of Mecca, the thirty-third lineal descendant of the Prophet. He was about fifty years of age, of a dark Egyptian complexion, small stature, and intelligent features. His father and elder brother had been Sherîf's, or governors of Mecca until the latter was deposed by Mehemet Ali.


He was dressed in a spencer and capacious trousers of fine olive cloth. His appearance was very prepossessing, and he evinced much enlightened curiosity with regard to our country and its institutions. We were told that from his descent he was held in great veneration by the Arabs; and I observed that every Muhammedan who came in, first approached him and kissed his hand with an air of profound respect.

Sherîf of Mecca.
Sherîf of Mecca.

He was as communicative about his own affairs as he was inquisitive with respect to us and our country. Finding that he was now doing nothing, but inactively awaiting the decision of a law-suit, I suddenly proposed that he should accompany us. At first he smiled, as if the proposition were an absurd one; but when I explained to him that, instead of a party of private individuals, we were commissioned officers and seamen, sent from a far distant but powerful country to solve a scientific question, he became interested. I further added that, with us, I knew he believed in the writings of Moses; and that, with solutions of scientific questions, we hoped to convince the incredulous that Moses was a true prophet. He listened eagerly, and after some farther conversation, rose abruptly, and saying that he would very soon give me an answer, took his departure. I had, in the mean time, become very anxious; for it seemed as if he had been providentially thrown in our way. But it was necessary to conceal my feelings, for it is the nature of this people to rise in their demands in exact proportion to the anxiety you express; and even if he were to consent to accompany us, he might rate his services at an exorbitant price.


Sooner even than, in my impatience, I had anticipated, he returned and accepted the invitation, shaming my previous fears of imposition by saying that he left the remuneration of his services entirely to my own appraisement. He also brought a message from ‘Akil, the handsome savage, to the purport that Sa’id Bey was a humbug, and had been endeavouring to frighten me. Sherîf thought it not unlikely that the shiekh might also be induced to accompany us, if the negotiation were conducted with secrecy.

This Sa’id Bey is an instance of the vicissitudes of fortune in the Ottoman empire. Holding an office under Ibrahim Pasha, when the Egyptians were in possession of the country, he was detected in malpractices; and at the restoration of Acre to the Turks, was found in chains, condemned to labour for life. He now walks as master through the streets which he formerly swept. When the company had retired, the consul, “on hospitable cares intent,” being a bachelor, superintended in person the preparation of my bed. Among other things, he had spread upon it a silk sheet, soft and fine enough to deck the artificial figure of a city belle, and sufficiently large for the ensign of a sloop-of-war.

Although the couch was luxurious, the balm of refreshing sleep was long denied, and for hours I laid awake and restless, for I was not alone — the fleas were multitudinous and remorseless.

There seemed to be no alternative but to take the boats apart and transport them across in sections, unless camels could be made to draw in harness, and I determined to try the experiment. During the night, I suffered dreadfully from the nightmare, and the incubus was a camel.

SUNDAY, APRIL 2. In the afternoon, when the religious exercises of the day were over, the experiment of substituting camels for draught horses was tried and proved successful; and my heart throbbed with gratitude as the huge animals, three to each, marched off with the trucks, the boats upon them, with perfect ease.


The harness, all too short, presented a fit-out more grotesque even than that of a diligence in an interior province of France; but, with alterations, it answered the purpose, and we felt independent of Sa’id Bey, for camels, at least, could be had in abundance. Determined, therefore, not again to have recourse to the grasping governor, I contracted with Sa’id Mustafa, a resident of the town, for the necessary number of camels and horses.

The first attempt to draw the trucks by camels was a novel sight, witnessed by an eager crowd of people. The successful result taught them the existence of an unknown accomplishment in that patient and powerful animal, which they had before thought fit only to plod along with its heavy load upon its back.

The qualities of the camel, uncouth and clumsy as he is, are scarcely appreciated in the East, or he would be more carefully tended. It is a matter of surprise that the Romans never employed them. King Porus of India used them against Alexander, and the Parthians against Crassus; but, I believe, as far as history tells, the Romans never employed them in warfare, nor in any manner as means of transportation.

MONDAY, APRIL 3. We were moving betimes, packing up and waiting for the camels to transport our baggage, the boats having gone ahead. After many vexatious delays, made a start at 2:30 P.M., but soon after two of the camels breaking down, we were compelled to camp again. While Lieut. Dale was getting the camp in order, I rode out into the plain after the boats and a part of the caravan which had gone ahead with the bedding. About five miles from town I overtook them and turned them back. As the sun sank beneath the Mediterranean, which lay boundless as the view to the west, the mountains and the plain presented a singular appearance.


At times, from the mountains to the sea the land was entirely concealed by mist, which condensing as the heat decreased, had the effect of a mirage, and seemed to extend the plain as far in one direction as the sea did in another, and made them one illimitable green, except where large spots of the surface were decked with the daisy, the anemone, and the convolvulus, which, intermingling in beautiful contrast, presented a mosaic of emerald, ruby, turquoise and gold.

Here and there, scattered upon the plain, were conical-shaped green tents, with tethered horses feeding near them; some of the last, belonging to the Pasha, were beautiful Arabians, exceedingly quick and graceful in their movements.

Just without the town we met the Bedawin sheikh ‘Akil , who handed me a letter sent by express from our consul at Beïrût. The sheikh, on his way to Abelin, one of his villages, was kind enough to be the bearer of the letter. It contained the required firman from the Pasha of Damascus. ‘Akil was dressed in the same scarlet cloak, flowing white trowsers, and red tarbouch and boots as in the council two days previous. He was mounted on a spirited mare, and long after our parting I could see his scarlet cloak streaming in the wind as he scoured across the plain.

We camped on the same spot we had occupied the two preceding days, and were soothed with the promise of having a sufficient number of camels in the morning. The Sherîf paid us a visit and promised to join us on the route, as he feared that Sa’id Bey would detain him if he heard of our engagement. The son of Dr. Anderson had come with us from Beïrût, and proposed remaining at Acre until he heard from his father, and with him I left the following letter for the Doctor, in the event of our not meeting for some time:


“DEAR SIR: — Having at your request associated you in the expedition under my command, with the express understanding that you are to make no communication, verbal or otherwise, of the labours or results thereof, of yourself or any member pertaining to it, save to myself officially, until relieved from the obligation by the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, I beg leave to name a few points, in the elucidation of which, I believe, as well as hope, that you can materially aid us.

“The geological structure and physical phenomena of the shores of the Dead Sea and the terraces of the Jordan, and if time permit, of the ranges of the Lebanon also, constitute in their investigation one of the most interesting and important objects of the expedition.

“The volcanic phenomena of the Dead Sea require the strictest investigation, that in connexion with a line of soundings by the surveying party, the presumed fault running north and south through it may be verified or disproved.

“It is desirable to obtain mineralogical specimens, to ascertain if the surrounding regions be volcanic, and for the future purpose of comparing them with similar specimens from Vesuvius or some modern active volcano, in order to ascertain whether or not modern volcanic productions differ from more ancient ones.

“The nature of the soil, on the eastern shore especially, as formed by disintegration, and the nature of the vegetation as connected with it, are points of useful enquiry.

“The soil in which grapes of such extraordinary size are said to grow should be collected for analysis, to ascertain if the chemical composition has any influence on the size of the fruit.

“In a minute examination for volcanic characters, parts of the eastern coast maybe found to consist of basaltic rocks, with a crystalline structure, perpendicular to the surface, and disintegrating in such a manner as to present perpendicular cliffs. Trap rocks may be found cropping out through other rocks, more or less homogenous in their appearance, with small disseminated crystals sometimes magnetic. The dark basaltic rock is said to be frequent near Tiberias. Rocks containing fossils claim particular attention, and as many varieties of fossils should be collected as possible.

“Specimens of mud from various parts of the sea, river and lake should be collected and placed in air-tight vessels.

“It is said that the mountains of the west coast consist principally of a bituminous limestone, which inflames, smokes, and is fetid. Lumps of sulphur as large as a walnut have been found at Ain el Feshkha. On the west coast small fragments of lint, flesh red and brown, have also been found; and on the banks of the Jordan, nearly opposite Jericho, rolled pebbles of white carbonate of lime with thin veins of quartz.

“Although not immediately within your province, I invite your attention to Cochlae and Conchae. Specimens of any species of crustacaea, even the most minute are very desirable.

“It is most important to ascertain whether birds live on the shores, or fish within the depths, of the Dead Sea; and not less, to not carefully every stream and fissure, their direction and their depth, and to ascertain, if possible, whether the former are perpetual, or only temporary, torrents.

“It is not my intention to limit your inquiries, or to pretend to instruct you, on a subject wherein you are so much better informed than myself; but to give you an idea of the general range of investigation, deemed most advisable to attain a satisfactory result.

“Henry J. ANDERSON, M. D.”