Greek War of Independence

War at Sea - Hydra, Spetses, Psara


Because of the Greece's geography, there has always been the need to travel in Aeagean Sea, in Euxenus Pontus or Mediterranean Sea. So Greeks had always been skillful seamen. The greek revolutionary fleet was drawn almost exclusively from three islands: Hydra and Spetses, on the east of the Peloponnese and Psara in the northern Aegean. Also Samos, Kassos and the port of Galaxidi contributed in ships and sailors to the national struggle. The three islands were nominally under the control of kapitan pasha to whom they paid their taxes and contributed a number of sailors to the Ottoman navy. After the Kioutsouk - Kainartzi treaty, 21 July 1774, the greek merchant ships could sail under the protection of russian flag. So the islands had a relatively autonomy and through commerce the islanders had prospered. The sailors were venturous and during the Napoleonic wars they ran through the british blockade of french coast, transported goods and made fortunes. The ship-owners had acquired the sultanic permission to equip their ships with cannons in order to fight the algerian and tinesian pirates. So, at the outbreak of the revolution, Greeks had a fleet of 150 merchant ships converted to war ships each equipped with about 8 to 20 guns. The Ottoman navy was enormously superior in size and in power. The turkish fregates had 80 guns and the corvettes had 30 guns and there were hundred other ships of less power. They used mainly Romios as sailors, but most of the sailors deserted on the outbreak of the revolution. But the secret weapon of Hellenic navy was the fireship or bourloto, which was first used by Greeks in support of Russia against Turkey, in Tsesme near Smyrna, 7 July 1770, when the whole turkish fleet was burnt. Bourloto was a vessel carrying flammable material like pitch, oil, sulphur, gunpowder and coal. The captain and crew remained on board until the fireship was attached to the enemy ship by hooks. When the crew scrambled to the escape boat, the captain lighted the powder and later both captain and crew rowed away. If all went according to plan, the fire ship exploded and the target ship caught fire too.

Antonios Oikonomou The island of Psara had a democratic system and elected its deputies while in Hydra and Spetses there was aristocracy and the richest people decided for the local matters. The first island which revolted according to Bubulina's memoirs, was Spetses, 3 April 1821. Bubulina was a very rich woman who contributed with all her money and ships to the war. She immediately sailed for Nafplion to join the revolutionaries and blockaded it from the sea side. Psara followed and raised the flag with the cross. The sailors from Psara with their ships sailed to Macedonia, Thessaly and to the coast of Mikra Asia to raise the local populations. Their captain Nikolis Apostolis, attacked to the small ottoman fleet to the harbour of Smyrna and arrested 4 ships with 450 soldiers. The last island to revolt was Hydra. The rich notables - prokritoi were reluctant, but Antonios Oikonomou who was member of Philiki Eteria, roused the people who gathered outside the houses of the notables: Lazaros Kountouriotis, Dimitrios Tsamados, Vasilis Mpoudouris, Iakovos Tompazis and asked for money to be contributed to the revolution. So Hydra joined the common effort but later Oikonomou was murdered. In the islands Naxos, Siros, Tinos and Thira, Greeks fragepsan (became latins) and didn't participate to the war. Samos, 17 April 1821, revolted under Lycourgos Logothetis but without any reason they massacred the unarmed turks who lived in Vathi.

At the end of May the Ottoman fleet sailed out of Ellispontos under Kara Ali admiral, with two objectives: the support of turkish garissons beleaguered in fortresses in Peloponnese and the destruction of greek fleet. Greek fleet sailed too. It had 18 ships from Hydra under Tompazis, 7 ships from Spetses under Gikas Tsoupis and 27 ships from Psara under Apostolis. The two fleets met south of Lesvos without any result. But a large turkish ship with 74 guns, a dikroto was isolated from the rest fleet. Patatoukos, a greek sailor, during the night, converted a small vessel to fireship and on 27th May 1821, psarian Dimitrios Papanikolis launched the burloto against the isolated turkish ship near Eressos. The ship was blown to pieces and 600 men of the crew were killed.

In June, turkish soldiers were gathered in the town of Kudonies (Aivali) of Minor Asia. On 6th June 1821 they plundered the houses and massacred merciless almost all the 25000 population of the town. The same crimes were commited in Kusadasi by turkish soldiers who were waiting to attack to Samos. 5 July 1821, the turkish fleet attacked Samos but the islanders under the orders of Logothetis and Georgiadis defended with success their island. In the meantime arrived the greek fleet and Kara Ali made no further attempt to land on Samos. The island was saved. Therefore Turks destroyed mercilessly towns of Minor Asia who didn't participate in the war instead of Samos. Many Greeks from Mikra Asia arrived to Samos to be saved from the ottomans and many of them fought on the side of the islanders. Turkish fleet returned back through Ellispontos (Dardanellia) to Constantinople.

Antreas Miaoulis In September 1821, Kara Ali with his allies from Egypt, under the command of Ismael Givraltar, brought provisions to the castles of Koroni and Methoni and later reached Zakinthos which was under the british occupation like all ionian islands. The british governor Metland was friendly to the turks and allowed the provision of turkish ships from ionian islands, while he forbade even a greek boat to approach, despite the british declared neutrality. He also confiscated property of all Greeks from ionian islands (Kefallinia, Zakinthos, Lefkada, Corfu) who joined their compatriots in mainland and fought against ottomans. When greek leaders complained to him about his attitude, Metland answered that he didn't recognise the Greek Nation. After 3000 years of existence the Greeks were wiped out, from the memory of the European governments. Turkish fleet left Zakinthos and attacked the flourishing merchant port of Galaxidi. The port was defended only by 200 Greeks who retreated after two days of turkish bombardment. The turks landed, seized the best ships in the harbour, burnt the deserted town with the rest of the ships and took 30 Hellenes sailors captive. Kara Ali returned to Constantinople with the 30 bodies hung on the mast, having complished this time his mission. As a reward for his services he was promoted to supreme commander of the Ottoman Navy and governor of all Aegean islands.

During the winter of 1822, ottoman fleet sailed from the harbour of Constantinople and reached Zakinthos on 2 February. Ten days later left for the port of Patras. Ouside of the port came the greek fleet which now was under the orders of Andreas Miaoulis. Other greek captains with their ships were Manolis Tompazis, Sahtouris, Antonis Kriezis and Gikas Tsoupis. On 22 February 1822, the greek fleet attacked the superior fleet outside of Patras. The naval battle continued for five hours through a tempest. Later enemy fleet retreated to the port of Alexandrea in Egypt.

Paint of Delaqroix - Destruction of Chios Chios is an island opposite the land of Ionia of Minor Asia. The Chians had become rich through commerce and especially through exports of the famous mastic. The island was under the protection of Sultan's sister and the chewing gum was enjoyed by the women of sultan's harems. The rich chian notables were reluctant to any revolt in the island. But the turks who lived in the castle had taken forty hostages and asked for soldiers from the Sultan. 1000 turkish soldiers arrived in Chios and started murdering the citizens and plundering the houses. More hostages were sent to Constantinople and there they were put to jail. On 10 March 1822, 2500 greek soldiers under Likourgos Logothetis arived in the island and started to fight against the turkish troops. The people of Chios mostly unarmed joined Logothetis and took possesion of the town. But neither Logothetis nor the incompetent greek government cared to defend properly the island which was unarmed and very close to the coast of Mikra Asia

Sultan's reaction was immediate and ruthless. He hanged all Chians who lived in Constantinople and ordered Kara Ali with a powerful fleet of 46 warships to sail to Chios. Many irregular troops gathered in Tsesme. There was little resistance from the Greeks and Logothetis with his men were taken off by psarian ships from the west coast. The scenes that followed were appaling. Mercy was out of the question, turks were butchering indiscriminately all who came in their way. Heads and ears were sent to Constantinople. On 2 April, 3000 civilians including women and children who had found refuge in the monastery of Aghios Minas were massacred. Kapitan pasha offered amnesty which was accepted. Many greeks who believed him gave their arms and returned home while 70 were kept as hostages. But Kara Ali didn't keep his promise hanged the hostages and continued the massacres. From a population of 120000, half were killed and the other half were sold in slave markets of Egypt. Only 1800 persons survived and stayed on the island. When the british ambassador protested to the turkish government in Constantinople about the taking of slaves he received the answer: 'Enslavement of the wives and children of enemies is not only permitted but it is encouraged by Muslim laws and religion'. Delacroix painted the Massacres de Chios and stirred public opinion in Europe. A year later the British government would recognise the Greeks as belligerents, instead of rebels.

When the greek fleet moved into action it was too late to help Chios. Miaoulis, Kolandroutsos and Apostolis were the captains of the three islands' fleets. For some weeks only skirmishes took place. On 6 June, the turkish fleet in the harbour of Chios was celebrating the end of Ramazan. Two burlota, in the middle of the night, under the command of Antreas Pipinos of Hydra and Konstantinos Kanaris of Psara entered the port. Pipinos with his fireship failed but Kanaris managed to hook his fireship to the turkish flagship. The fuse was lit, Kanaris and his men were taken off and within minutes, flames were sweeping over the flagship. Turkish sailors in a panic put Kara Ali in a lifeboat, but there he was struck on the head by a broken mast. He died next day. When the flames reached the powder store, the flagship exploded and about 2000 sailors were killed. All 43 greeks were saved and returned to Psara where they celebrated the victory, in the cathedral with all the people of Psara.

On 7 September 1822, the ottoman fleet reached Saronic Gulf near the islands Hydra and Spetses. Women and children from Spetses were tranferred to Hydra, which id a rocky island and was difficult for enemies to try an invasion there. The admiral of the greek fleet was Antreas Miaoulis. The fortress of Nafplion, Palamidi, was besieged by greek forces and desperately needed provisions. Pipinos tried with his purpoliko to burn an algerian warship but failed. This act made the ottoman fleet to retreat to the open sea, while the greek ships stayed near Hydra island. On 12 September, turkish admiral sent a ship under austrian flag, with provisions for the garisson of Palamidi but it was seized by the greeks ships of captains Tzeremes and Theodoris of Hydra. The superior turkish fleet didn't try any other attempt to break the naval blockade of Nafplion and sailed for the port of Suda in Crete. On 8 October anchored outside of Syros where the catholic greeks welcomed the admiral. But when next day, tried to land to Mukonos, the mukonians under Manto Mavrogenous, defended bravely their island killing more than 100 Algerians. Manto was daughter of the phanariot Nikolaos Mavrogenous. She was very rich woman and spent all her fortune for the Hellenic cause. She had studied in Europe and had many european friends, who under her encouragement, contributed with money and guns the revolution. But the torments of the turkish fleet were not over. On 27 October it had anchored outside the port of Tenedos near Ellispontos. Kanaris and Bratsanos sailed from Psara with their purpolika and during the night they hooked their two fireships to the enemy dikrota. The first fireship failed but Kanaris' fireship exloped next to the turkish rear admiralship which was burnt. 1600 turkish sailors and soldiers were killed, while all greek sailors were saved. The turkish ships retreated through Ellispontos to the port of Constantinople. Chios - 1820

Chios didn't contribute to the revolution a lot but the genocide of the population shocked Europe and stirred public opinion which steadily managed to change the attitude of the governments towards the greek revolutionaries. Actually in the first years of the Greek revolution the governments of the major European powers had little or none sympathy for it. Holy Alliance was created in 1815, with members the major powers: Great Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia. But all the european rulers supported this Alliance, which cared for the stability of Europe and was hostile to every attempt to question this stability. Espesially Metternich was so hostile to greek revolt that suggested that an army was sent to suppress the bandits as he called the greeks. Kapodistrias used all his influence not an army to be sent like it was sent to other revolts that took place in Neapolis of Italy and in Spain. Metternich had said:'After a week no one from us will talk about those Greeks'. Kapodistrias, who knew about the political situation in Europe, was reluctant to the greek revolution and rejected any proposal for the leadership of Philiki Eteria. American philellen - Samuel Howe

But then talked the sentiment of the people which proved stronger than the interest of the politicians. Throughout Europe and America intellectuals, churchmen and persons of the arts and letters proclaimed that the descendants of Archaea Hellas - Ancient Greece should be liberated by the barbarians and that all christians should help a christian nation to be regenerated. Young students were excited to fight to the places where Leonidas and Epaminondas fell. 'How could a man who wants to fight for freedom and justice find a better place than that of oppressed Greece? Greek committees were established in England, France, Russia, America. Their activities included raising funds or supplies and pressing the governments to act on the Greeks' behalf. In Russia even ministers of the government pressed the tsar Alexander, to help the country which fostered the christian faith in Russia and gave the first lights of civilisation to the russians. Actually Russia ransomed Greek captives who had been enslaved and helped with any means thousands greek refugees who crossed into Russia from Moldavia.

Constantine Paparhigopoulos - History of Helenic Nation
Spuridon Trikoupis - History of Greek Revolution
Samuel Gridley Howe - Historical Sketch of Greek Revolution

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