Greek War of Independence

Exodus of Mesolonghion - Eleutheroi Poliorkimenoi


The town of Mesolonghi was built on a piece of land projecting into a huge lagoon. The lagoon is dotted with small islands which played a major role in the defense of the town. The most important islands were Vasiladhi and Kleisova. The huge turkish ships could not enter the lagoon and the small boats would meet hostile fire from the island of Vasiladhi. The landward side of Mesolonghi was protected by a law wall and a deep ditch just outside the wall. The engineer Michalis Kokkinis fortified and raised the walls. Along the walls he had ntapies or bastions built, as emplacements for the forty-eight cannons. The ntapies were named after famous Greeks or foreigners. From west to east the names of the ntapies were: Sahtouris' bastion, Kyriakoulis Mavromichalis, William Tellos, Lord Byron, General Norman, Andreas Miaoulis, Markos Mpotsaris, William of Orange, Skederbeys (Georgios Kastriotis) and Franklin of America.

On March 1825, Resit Pasha or Kioutahes led his huge army of 50000 men south from Arta. Kioutahes had been appointed by the Sultan as Rumeli Valesi and his first job was to conquer Mesolongi. Sultan had said to him: 'Mesolongi or your head.' This was the way that were treated by the barbarian Sultan his subordinates. Among Kioutahes' generals were Ismail Pasha Pliasa, Banous Servanis, Agovasari, Tahir Ampaz. The mount Makrinoros was left unguarded by Greeks who left when they saw the Ottoman army approaching. Kioutahes had with him 4000 christian slaves who would work on the Turkish entrenchments. The garrison of Mesolonghi had 3000 armed men who were under the leadership of Stournaris, Notis Botsaris, Tsogkas, Razikotsikas, Iskos, Grigorios Liakatas, Dimitrios Makris and others. The Souliot captain Notis Botsaris was appointed as commander in chief of the town's defense. Among the civilians was the Swiss philhellen Mayer who edited the first Greek newspaper Ellinika Hronika. On 15 April 1825, the first Turkish body came and set camp next to Kakavos, commanded by Kahagiampei and Ismael pasha Pliasa, while at the same time entering the city were Greek reinforcements under Mitros Bagias, Alexios Blahopoulos, Mitros Koutsogiannis, Ioannis Ragkos, Lampros Beikos, George Kitsos and George Bagias. The first Turkish body was followed by the main body commanded by Kioutahis pasha, while the Turkish fleet, under Hosref and Giousouf pashas, blockaded the sea.

Mesolongi's siege Resit Pasha immediately had his slaves dig trenches and mounds near the city's wall, so that he could bring his troops closer to the city. At the beginning of the siege he had not enough artillery, whereas Greeks had forty-eight cannons. The Turkish communication was open to the sea and Kioutahes could easily be supplied from the city of Patras. For two months continued the siege without result or heavy losses for both sides. The breaches on the walls were easily repaired during the night by the civilians, women, old men and even young boys. On June, came a small Greek fleet of seven warships under the captain Giorgos Negkas, who drove out the Ottoman fleet and supplied the garisson with food and ammunition. On 20 June, Greek mining engineers detonated a mine under the Turkish earthworks and immediately attacked with their swords in their hands. They caused heavy casualties to the enemy who had more than 100 soldiers killed.

The enemy's main naval forces were harboured in the port of Suda of Crete. Suda was the source of supplies for the Ottoman and Egyptian forces. Greek fleet under Andreas Miaoulis, tried to burn the enemy fleet inside the port of Suda, using the fireships, without success. Only Politis with his burloto managed to burn a Turkish corvette of 24 cannons and 200 sailors. The enemy fleet of 80 turkish, egyptian and algerian ships sailed from Crete and reached Mesolongi in 29 June 1825. They brought many supplies and cannons to Kioutahes, who doubled his efforts. Now Mesolonghi was blockaded also from the sea and the free besieged or eleutheroi poliorkimenoi, as they were called by the national poet Dionysios Solomos were in difficult situation. Offers with favorable terms for the Greeks were given by the Turks, but the Mesolongites always answered: 'The keys to Mesolongi are hanging on the tips of our canons.' On 2 July, Turks detonated a mine under Mpotsaris' ntapia, and simoultaneously attacked to the city. But the defenders repelled the attackers who withdrew. Kioutahes had Tahir Ampaz many times sent to discuss the surrender of the garisson. Hellenes always rejected the offer and once the Souliot Lampros Veikos sent to Kioutahes alcohol to give to his men to drink, to take courage, because Mesolongi would fall only with war.

On 18 July 1825, the Turks managed to enter the Franklin's ntapia and raised their flags. This event brought panic to the population. Greek fighters were forced back, but they defended themselves in a ditch which they had previously dug. The attackers were inside the town but they could not move forward. After several hours of fight Ottomans were driven outside the walls and left 500 bodies on the ground. Kioutahes disappointed and furious had many of his captives beheaded. His army was weakened by casualties and desertion and retreated to the foot of Zygos mountain. On 23 July it was the turn of the Greek fleet to appear, under the command of Andreas Miaoulis, Kolandroutsos, Apostolis and Sahtouris and brought supplies to the starving population. But the government, according to the Hepirot Spiromilios, did not do its best to help Mesolonghi. So a delegation left the city for Navplion to ask for reinforcements, reinforcements which never would come. The government had appointed Georgios Karaiskakis, as commander of forces in Western Roumeli, but he was also left without real support. Karaiskakis with some hundreds men, did his best to cut Kioutahes' communications from his base at Arta and Amphilochia (Kravasaras). Karaiskakis like Androutsos had not the best relations with Koletis, Mavrokordatos and Kountouriotis and he also never received the proper support. Nevertheless, during the night of 25 July 1825, Karaiskakis raided Kioutahes' camp, causing the death of 300 Ottomans. On 7 August, he sent troops to reinforce the garisson of Mesolonghi. The troops were under the command of Kitsos Tzavelas, Georgakis Valtinos, Fotomaras, Sadimas, and Giannakis Stratos. During the night of 28 September, Karaiskakis attacked Kravasaras, taking with him all the supplies destinated for Kioutahes' camp. So the year 1825 was a triumphant year for the defenders of Mesolonghi. Kioutahes had withdrawn, but couldn't leave the city because he always had in mind the threats of the Sultan. If the government had made a determined attack on Resit's army, Mesolongi would have been saved.

The sultan, seeing the inability of Kioutahis to take it, asked the help of Ibrahem pasha of Egypt. Ibrahem marched through west Peloponnese, burning and pillaging the villages, came to Mesolongi on December 12, 1825 with 10,000 Egyptians and scorned Kioutahes, because for eight months he could not take that fence and pointed to the walls of Mesolongi. He took alone the responsibility of the siege and stated that, in 14 days he would have the city; he ordered a general barricade from the land and the sea. During his preparations, Ibrahem Pasha, made offers of negotiation which were rejected by the defenders. On 9 January 1826, Miaoulis broke the blockade of the lagoon and provided with supplies the starving population for the last time. The days for the besieged were now horrible. The food and medicines were running out. The bombardment started on 13 February 1826 and thousands of mortar shells, according to Meyer's newspaper Ellinika Hronika, were thrown in the city, causing the death of dozens Greeks. On 16 February, the Arabs tried an assault to the walls of the city. The fight continued through the night and in the morning the defenders poured out with their swords - jiatagania in their hands and drove off the enemy. Hundreds of the Arabs were killed and Ibrahim humiliated, asked the help of Kioutahis to take Mesolongi.

Vasiladhi was the next target of the two leaders. The island was defended by 100 fighters. They faced thousands of Turks, Albanians and Egyptians, and after the explosion of their powder magazine, they were almost all killed by the enemy. Only three managed to escape. Among the deads were Spyridon Petaloudis, Spiridon Razis, Anastasion Papaloukas, and the Italian Pashalis Giakoumozi. On February 28, Dolmas island, near Anatolikon or Aitolikon was taken, where general George Liakatas and all his 200 men were killed. Finally, Aitolikon surrendered, Ibrahim respected the agreement and no one was harmed (except one young girl that was transferred to Ibrahim's tent), so that Mesolonghi would follow the example. But Mesologhites answered: 'eight thousands bloodstained weapons don't surrender'. Mesolonghi's siege The enemy now was determined to take Kleisova, a small island south-east of the town. The garrison numbered 120 men, under the command of Panagiotis Sotiropoulos and was reinforced by eleven soldiers under the Souliot Kitsos Tzavelas. They were entrenched in the church of Aghia Trias and waited. On 25 March, Resit Pasha or Kioutahis led the attack of 2000 Turkoalbanian troops. They were received by a rain of bullets, Kiotahis was injured and they retreated. Ibrahim, happy after the failure of Kiotahis, ordered Husein Bey, the conqueror of Kasos, to attack Kleisova. He led 3000 Arabs who advanced slowly in the shallow waters. Those who retreated were whipped by their officers. When Panagiotis Sotiropoulos, who was an excellent shooter, killed Husein Bey, Egyptians retreated. After the battle, the lagoon was covered with 2500 bodies floating all around.

Miaoulis tried again with his fleet, on 1 April to reach the city but failed. There was no hope for Mesologhites. The government had failed to reinforce the heroic city, and as Spiromilios concluded, some thousands men fought alone against the united forces of Turkey and Egypt on land and the combined fleets of Ottoman empire, Algeria and Tunesia. The hunger and diseases had weakened the fighters. The bombing continued day and night. The Swiss Mayer described the situation: 'We have come into such a dire situation that we feed on the most dirty animals. We suffer from hunger and thirst. We are sick from a number of diseases. 1740 of our brothers have already died. More than 100,000 bombs thrown from the enemy, have destroyed the bulwarks and our houses. The cold tortures us since we have absolutely no wood. With all these things missing it is incredible for one to see the courage and the high moral of our defenses. In a few days all these brave shall only be shadows of angels, martyrs before the throne of God, the indifference of the Christian world for a matter that was its own. On behalf of all our brave I proclaim the decision we made with an oath before God to defend inch by inch to land of Mesolongi and to be buried together under the ruins of the city, rather that hear any offer about surrender. We live our last moments. History shall justify our position and the future men shall lament our disaster. As for me, it makes me proud to think that the blood of a Swiss, a descendent of William Tell, is to be mixed with the blood of the heroes of Greece.'

The military and civilian leaders had a meeting on April 6, 1826 under the leadership of the bishop of Preveza (Rogoi), Joseph at the Agia Paraskeyi square, to discuss about the date of the Exodus. It was decided to take place on 10 April 1826, the Saturday of Lazarus, eve of Palm Sunday. The messengers Panos Ladias and Kostas Kanatas were sent to inform Georgios Karaiskakis and it was agreed that he would attack to the Turkish camp on the appointed hour. The idea was proposed that the women and children be killed, but the bishop of Rogoi, Joseph, with an excellent speech, came against this idea, which came from the heroic shooter Gournaras. Hristos Kapsalis stated that he should die together with the old people by lighting the powder magazine in his house. The decision of the Exodus was written, dictated by bishop of Rogoi, Joseph, and was signed by everybody. This monumental document is as follows, as it was written: 'In the name of the Holy Trinity. Seeing ourselves, the army and the citizens, young and old; with no hope, with an absence of all the necessary items for life for 40 days now, and seeing that we have fulfilled our debts as faithful soldiers of the country in this tight siege and seeing that, in we remain one more day, we shall all die standing up in the streets. Considering on the other hand, that we have no hope for help and supply from the sea or land, so that we may remain, since we are victors of the enemy, we unanimously decided: Our exit to be at two in the morning of the 10th of April, Saturday, on the sunrise of Palm Sunday, whether help comes or not.' Exodus - 10 April 1826

Bishop Joseph helped by archimandrite Zaloggitis and priests Platikas, Balbis, and Aglukantos, gave communion to all residents of the city, 10500 in number, on the day before the Exodus. The old, sick and wounded went to Kapsalis'house. Many women were dressed with men's uniforms to join their husbands in the army formations. When the moment came, the heroic people broke out. There were three columns under the leadership of generals Dimitrios Makris, Kitsos Tzavelas and Notis Mpotsaris The expected help at St. Symeon's monastery never arrived. Karaiskakis who suffered through all his life from tuberculosis, was still in bed. Only 50 of his men left to help the people of Mesolongi. Ibrahim, who was informed about the plan by a Bulgarian traitor, did not prevent the Greeks from escaping, to be ensured that they would leave the city. But later, he ordered his cavalry to attack and exterminate every person. When the last of the garisson were crossing the bridges, suddenly it was heard the voice opiso, back. The Hellenes were confused and some fell into the ditch and were drowned, others returned back into the town and fell victims to the Turks and Arabs who had entered the town and had began slaughtering every human. Kapsalis'sacrifice

An incredible noise shook the ground from the explosion of the house of Kapsalis. Another noise was heard by the explosion of another house which was exploded by bishop Joseph. From Mesolonghi were heard shrieks of women and babies, sounds of gunfire and explosions. Most of the women, children and old people from a population of about 10000 souls were killed. The Mesolonghi from now on would be a holy place for every Greek. It would be the symbol of liberty and sacrifice. The fugitives who reached Karaiskakis' camp counted 1500 skeletal persons. The three military leaders Tzavelas, Botsaris and Makris had survived but many did not. Among the killed were: Kokkinis the engineer, the German Philhellenes Lutschof, Ditmar, Baizer, Klab, Schipam, Lytrob, Spitselberg, baron Bentezel, the Swiss philhellene Mayer with his wife and children, Papadiamantopoulos from Patras, Athanasios Razikotsikas, Nikolaos Stournaris, Kostas Siadimas, Anastasios Palamas, Petros Goulimis, Konstantinos Trikoupis, Karpounis, Farantos, Lampros Fotousis, Pilios Gousis Those who survived reached Derbekista and from there, still with no food, crossed Platanos of Naupaktia and then through Isthmus of Corinth, reached Nauplion.

La Grece sur les ruines de Mesolonghi A large number of prisoners, women and children were sent to slave bazaars in Egypt, while the European popular opinion expressed its admiration for the sacrifice of the citizens of Mesolongi. In Paris the university students organized a demonstration upon the news that Mesolongi fell and forced king Karl to come to the balcony of his palace and to praise in favor of the Greeks saying that with them we shall go into Constantinople. Palmerston in the English parliament and Chatobrian in the French parliament gave excellent speeches for Mesolongi, while the philhellenic teachings of Neighbor and Theirs inspired by the tragedy of Mesolongi rose the German people in favor of Greece and fundraisers throughout Germany were done to aid the Greek war effort. King of Babary Lubdobikos placed a large fraction of his personal account to buy imprisoned women and children from Mesolongi, and ordered that festivities in favor of Mesolongi to stop and instead the money to these be divided equally for the poor of the city and in honor of the dead of Mesolongi. The Swiss Einard supported Greece immediately and called on the world for the freeing of the prisoners of Mesolongi. Lafiz and Sain Ilair appeared in the French parliament as supporters of the rights of Greece as a result of Mesolongi, and wise German Bossio gave all his money for the victims of Mesolongi. Poets, sculptors and painters, among which Victor Hugo, Gaete, Ozanaux, David dí Anze, Eugene díLansac, honored with their works the glory of Mesolongi. In 1826, Delacroix exhibited his work:Greece crying over the ruins of Mesolonghi. The leading figures of the defense have their memorial in the statues which are in the Garden of Heroes; O kipos ton iroon.

Constantine Paparhigopoulos - History of Helenic Nation
Spuridon Trikoupis - History of Greek Revolution
Samuel Gridley Howe - Historical Sketch of Greek Revolution
David Brewer - The Greek war of Independence
Spuromilios - Mesolongi
Koutsonikas Lampros - History of Greek Revolution

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