In the middle of the Mexican-American War, the secretary of the Navy authorized Lt. William Francis Lynch to command an unusual expedition, not south to the war zone, but east to Ottoman Palestine, now Israel and Jordan, to map the Dead Sea. Traversing this backwater of a dying empire, Lynch forged life-saving alliances with a Bedouin sheik and a Hashemite Sharif. Horses weren’t strong enough, so he improvised with foul-tempered camels to haul metal boats overland from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee. He navigated the treacherous, uncharted rapids of the Jordan and braved near starvation before reaching Jerusalem. But why? The expedition followed a long tradition of quasi-scientific expeditions as it attempted to establish that the Dead Sea lay below sea level—but it didn’t generate enough knowledge to justify the expense or the suffering of the fifteen Americans who joined Lynch’s obsessive quest. Was it a publicity stunt? Or the first step in returning Muslim Palestine to its former glory as a Judeo-Christian land of milk and honey? In vivid, absorbing detail, CLASH OF EAGLES masterfully recounts this seemingly foolhardy mission that the Civil War soon derailed. Another hundred years would pass before America again involved itself in the Middle East.
The gripping, forgotten story of America’s first military foray into the Middle East