The Story of 18 Saudis Who Participated in the American Civil War

The Story of 18 Saudis Who Participated in the American Civil War

Okaz, Saudi Arabia, July 12

It seems as if the relationship between the Saudis and the Americans is older and deeper than what many researchers and scholars tend to believe. In fact, it goes back, according to some historians, to 1861, during the American Civil War. Back in the day, US President Abraham Lincoln and his team were struggling to restore the unity of their country and wage war against the Confederacy., The second reign of Faisal bin Turki Al Saud, from 1843 to 1865, overlapped the period during which Lincoln headed the United States, from 1861 to 1865. At the time, the Second Saudi State was flourishing, and trade was booming between Nejd and the Levant. Camel caravans traveled up and down the Arab Peninsula, carrying goods, merchandise, food, and spices. When Abraham Lincoln and his army realized they were incapable of conquering the seceding states, they looked for alternative ways to transfer weapons and equipment to and from the frontlines. Therefore, the American Army sent a delegation to Australia, which was known for raising camels, and then to Baghdad, which was famous for being the most important camel market in the world. The American delegation arrived in Baghdad and discovered that the best camels were the Najdi camels. Indeed, they bought about 800 camels from the merchants who had just come from Saudi lands to sell their camels in the Baghdad markets. But they didn’t just stop there; the Americans also contracted with 18 Saudi men who are skilled camel breeders, to travel back with them to America. The Saudi men made the journey across the world, where they helped establish the United States Camel Corps. They trained American soldiers on how to transfer equipment on the camels’ backs and maintained the health and vitality of the camels. In doing so, they contributed to the birth of the current America. In fact, during the operation, three of the Saudis found their deaths and 15 survived. Most of them were honored with the establishment of memorials, at least one of which still exists under the name “Tomb of Hi Jolly” (or “Hadji Ali”) in the state of Arizona. This story is a reminder that the relationship between the two countries, the United States and Saudi Arabia, rests on far more than just oil and weapons, as some people try to portray. The blood of the Saudis and the Americans are mixed on the soil of each of them and contributed to preserving their security and independence, even before the emergence of oil. The United States of America was, and still is, a favorite destination for Saudis, especially those looking for superior education, and the Saudi state contributed to this from an early age by sending hundreds of thousands of its leading researchers to study at American institutions. Eighteen Saudi camel trainers who came from the depths of the desert and worked for the American army a century and a half ago contributed to the journey of the American people toward their future civilization, whose superiority we witness today. It is an undeniable history, a mutually beneficial relationship, and an overlap of interests between two allied nations. –Mohammed Al-Saed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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