That Greece Might Yet Be Free: the Struggle for Greek Independence from the Ottoman Turks: The War of Greek Independence 1821 to 1833 by W. Alison Phillips with a Short Historical Record of the Battle of Navarino by Herbert Russell
The fifteenth century brought about the destruction of the Roman Empire of the East when the Ottoman Turks, under the sickle moon banner and the fervour of Islam, finally broke through the walls of Constantinople in 1453. With the establishment of Istanbul as the centre of Ottoman power astride the Bosphorus, the Turks could confidently look back to Asia for all they had achieved, and westwards towards Europe for all that could be won. The tide of Ottoman invasion ultimately turned at the walls of Vienna in 1683, but before and after that reverse there were several Christian nations which were held in Turkish thrall for centuries. None felt the heel of oppression and occupation more keenly than Greece. No country, so different in culture and religion stood closer to Turkey. No people had born its shackles longer and or had fostered such a deep abiding enmity. By the early 19th century the Ottoman Empire was in decline and the movement for a reclaimed Greek nationalism saw its opportunity and rose in armed revolt. The ensuing conflict was a predictably bitter and bloody affair, which saw one of the most significant naval engagements of the age at Navarino. This special Leonaur edition contains a detailed history of the war which led to Greek victory, together with an essay specifically about the Battle of Navarino. Also included are images and maps which did not accompany original versions of the texts.
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In March, Lycourgos, with some 2,500 men, landed at Koutari, and, calling on the unwilling Chiots for aid, proceeded to lay siege to the Turkish garrison. From the first he proved himself totally incompetent. Not only did he mismanage the operations on shore in every possible way, but he neglected utterly the all-important precaution of keeping the command of the sea.<br>
The news of the attack on Chios roused Sultan Mahmoud once more to fury; the ladies of his harem, too, indignant at the devastations committed in their mastic gardens by the insurgents, clamoured for the suppression of the revolt; and preparations for this were pressed on with unwonted vigour. On the 11th of April, without any resistance on the part of the Greeks, the Capitan Pasha, Kara Ali, landed 7,000 troops on the island. Lycourgos and his rabble had proved their courage by murdering in cold blood the crew of a Turkish felucca which had run ashore, and in general by massacring all the Mussulman captives who fell into their hands. They now, at the approach of the Ottoman force, took to their boats and fled, leaving the wretched Chiots to their fate.<br>
The ‘blood bath’ that followed is the most horrible episode in a history of horrors. The Turkish commander, aided by the local Mussulman authorities, made some effort to curb the excesses of the troops, less, perhaps, in the interests of humanity, than in those of the imperial revenue. But the Ottoman soldiery had been reinforced by hordes of fanatics, who had crowded over from the mainland to share in the holy war; and these it was impossible to control. A few of the islanders succeeded in escaping in Greek vessels; and even these poor wretches were usually robbed of everything they had saved from the wreck of their homes by the boatmen, who made the surrender of all they possessed the price of safety. (Cf. Gordon, i. The Philhellene Jourdain himself saw, on the island of Psara, many victims of this ‘atrocious speculation.’ Mémoires historiques, &c. i.).<br>
Of the rest of the inhabitants, some 27,000 are said to have been put to the sword, while 43,000 were collected and sold into slavery; and of a once flourishing community of a hundred thousand souls, barely two thousand remained to people the island.<br>
The unhappy Chiots were not long unavenged. On the 10th of April the Greek fleet put to sea under Admiral Miaoulis; and on the 31st, a naval engagement was fought off Chios, but without result. The Greeks then determined to have resort to their favourite device of fire-ships. On the 18th of June, the principal officers of the Turkish fleet assembled on board the flagship, to celebrate the feast of Bairam with the Capitan Pasha. The night was pitch dark; but the admiral’s vessel, decorated from masthead to waterline with coloured lanterns, was a blaze of light. On board, some three thousand men were celebrating the great Mohammedan festival with laughter and music; and, in the universal jollity, but a poor watch was kept.<br>
Suddenly, through the lines of the Turkish vessels, glided, like dark shadows, two Greek fire-ships. One of these, steered with admirable precision by Kanaris, made straight for the flagship of the Capitan Pasha; and, unobserved, the cool-headed Greek ran his bowsprit into an open port of the Turkish vessel, fixed his grappling irons, fired the train, and, quietly slipping with his men into a boat, rowed off, while the fire-ship burst into flame. In an instant, sails and cordage being soaked in turpentine, the fire ran up the rigging, and, carried by the wind over the Ottoman ship, rapidly enveloped it in a mass of flame.<br>
An awful scene followed. Completely taken by surprise, the Turks had no time to save themselves. The few boats that were launched were, for the most part, swamped by the panic-stricken crowds that leaped into them. The other ships of the fleet sheered off, to avoid sharing the fate of the admiral, or to escape the hail of bullets from her exploding guns. Of the whole 3,000 men on board, but very few survived. Kara Ali himself was struck by a falling yard, and carried dying ashore. The second Greek fire-ship, less fortunate, or less skilfully steered, did not effect anything. This episode, when:<br>
Twice twenty self-devoted Greeks assailed<br>
The naval host of Asia, at one blow<br>
Scattered it into air—and Greece was free, Savage Landor.<br>
. . . .earned for Kanaris a fame which spread far beyond the limits of the Greek world, and which, among the Hellenes themselves, will endure as long as there is a Greek Nation to cherish the memory of its heroes.<br>
The frantic delight with which the news of this exploit was hailed at the time was possibly not shared by the surviving Chiots. Several hundred of them, captive on board the Turkish ship, had perished with it. The miserable island, too, was now exposed again, by way of reprisals, to a second devastation, which completed what the first had left undone; and even the mastic villages, whose industry was so indispensable to the ladies of the Sultan’s harem, were this time not spared. Their vengeance sated, the Turks sailed away to take refuge, from Kanaris and his fireships, under the guns of the Dardanelles.<br>
The news of the massacre of Chios awoke the Greeks to some sense of the seriousness of their position. But, in the meantime, while they had been wrangling and intriguing, Sultan Mahmoud had been making preparations for a first great effort to reconquer Greece. The troubles with Russia, in which the execution of the patriarch had threatened to involve him, had been smoothed over; and, above all, the destruction of the power of Ali Pasha had set free the army of Khurshid for the suppression of the Hellenic revolt. Mahmoud, deceived by the ease with which the insurrection had been suppressed in Thessaly, Macedonia, and Epirus, believed that his troops would experience little difficulty in the task of reducing the whole of Greece. The plan of campaign which he devised was a good one, and, if properly carried out, promised to be successful.<br>
Nauplia, the most important fortress in the Morea, with its two impregnable citadels of Palamidi and Itsh-Kalé, had now for months been blockaded by the Greeks, and its relief was the first object of the Ottoman campaign. So far, the place had resisted all the efforts of the Greeks to capture it; and an attempt made by Hypsilanti, in December, 1821, to carry the castle of Palamidi by storm, had ignominiously failed. But the garrison, now reduced to the last stages of starvation, could not expect to hold out much longer; and on the 30th of June a capitulation was actually signed, by which the Turks agreed to surrender, if not relieved within twenty-five days. If, then, the Ottoman campaign was to attain its object, there was little time to lose.