Greek War of Independence



Inrahim's invasion - 1825

Strathigos Makrygiannis

The Greek government did nothing to organize the defence against the imminent danger which was approaching. They did not provide with provisions the fortresses of Peloponnese and especially that of Pylos. On the contrary Ibrahim Pasha moved fast, and on 11 February 1825 disembarked 4000 infantry and 400 cavalry to Methoni, southeast of Peloponnese. Methoni had a strong fortress which had stayed in the turkish hands. It was built on a promontory jutting out southwards from the coast, and it was protected by the sea on three sides. On 5 March, another 7000 infantry and 400 cavalry reached Methoni from Suda, a port near Chania at Crete. The Greek fleet had not received any orders from the government to meet the enemy fleet in the open sea, though the Hydrian Lazaros Kountouriotis, brother of Executive's president, was fully informed by his agents about the movements of the enemy. Only after a month of Ibrahim's landing, Yiorgos Koundouriotis, the president of the Executive, set out from Navplion, with great pomp, to take command of the troops sent to Navarino or Pylos area. He was a sailor and was not capable even to ride his horse, and took him three days to reach Tripolis, when Greeks desperately needed time. He was escorted by Alexandros Mavrokordatos, another ingorant of land war tactics. Reaching Tripolis, Kountouriotis fell sick, appointed his friend Kiriakos Skourtis as field commander, and left for Navplion. Skourtis too, was a sailor and was ignorant on land war, and he had in his hands the fate of the decisive battle which would follow.

On 7 April 1825, 4000 men under the inexperienced Skourtis had taken up defensive positions in the hills above the village of Kremhidion, a few kilometers inland from Pylos. The experienced Roumeliot captains, who after the second civil war had stayed in Moreas, to face the Egyptians, were discontented with the appointment of a sailor as field commander and the soldiers were nervous with the whole situation. These captains were Roumeliot Georgios Karaiskakis, Bulgarian Chatzihristos, Macedon Karatasos, Suliots Drakos, Kostas Botsaris and Kitsos Tzavelas. The peloponnesian captains who knew the area, had been eliminated by the civil war, and the most competent of all, Theodoros Kolokotronis was in jail. Ibrahim attacked with 4000 Egyptians. These soldiers were very obedient, disciplined, extremely hardy and had a formidable commander, who personally cut down any of his men who broke ranks. The Greeks held out for some time, but their centre, which was defended by Skourtis' men, broke and Ibrahim's cavalry began spreading the death and the panic. 600 Hellenes were killed and among them were Mitros Mpotaitis, Thimios Ksidis, Vasilis Hormovas and Kostas Petropoulos. Kostas Botsaris, brother of Markos, almost was caught alive but his Suliots saved him from the hands of the enemy. After the battle, the Roumeliots accused the government for the war plans and for keeping Kolokotronis in jail, and they left for Roumeli.

Ibrahim's next objective was the island of Sphaktiria, which is separated from Pylos or Navarino by a narrow channel. It was held by 800 Hellenes with 8 cannons. On 26 April 1825, Mavrokordatos was invited by captain Tsamados on the island. The Egyptians suddenly landed on Sphaktiria and a fleet of dozens ships blocked the entrance of the port. The Greek defenders were defeated and within hours the island was in Egyptian hands. When Mavrokordatos asked the Italian Santaroza, to follow him and to abandon the fight, Santaroza told him: 'I came to fight and die for the Liberation of Hellas'. Santaroza, the famous fighter Anagnostaras and Sahinis were among the deads. The Ares was left alone amongst the enemy ships, and all the sailors prayed to the icon of Panaghia which was held by a priest. After three hours of battle, the ship of Tsamados, without its captain, managed to get out of the bay and escape into the open sea.

The fall of Sphaktiria was followed by the fall of Palaeo Navarino. On 29 April, Ibrahim's troops attacked on the fortress of Palaeo Navarino, bombarding it from ships in the bay and from the landward side. The defenders without water and provisions, could no longer resist and they surrendered. Only Sotiris Hotzamanis and his men managed to escape through the enemy but all the rest were captured. Among the captives were the bishop of Methoni, Hatzihristos, Anagnostis Kanellopoulos and Varvoglis. The 786 prisoners were left alive and were sent away. The same day that fell the fortress of Palaeo Navarino, the Hydrian Miaoulis with his fleet, entered during the night in the harbour of Methoni and destroyed about ten enemy ships.

Only the castle of Neokastro or Neo Navarino held out, with Makrygiannis leading the defence. The fortress was not organized for a proper defence, there were no provisions or ammunition and Makrygiannis was enraged with the governement which did nothing to help the defenders of Neo Navarino. The garisson had 1180 men and was in desperate condition. On 6 May, Makrygiannis was sent to talk with Ibrahim and arranged to surrender the fortress. Because the Greeks were afraid of their lives, they sent a Cypriot, who swam during te night, to an english fregate and half drowned asked the english captain to mediate for the negotiations. The Greeks were carried to European ships and only sixty-three, according to Makrygiannis' memoirs, were kept and slaughtered by the Egyptians. Also the Maniats Giatrakos and Georgakis Mavromichalis were kept prisoners by Ibrahim. So Egyptians were in possesion of all the castles in southern Peloponnese, and Ibrahim was preparing to conquer the whole peninsula. Sahtouris

But at least, the Greek navy continued to have success. When the Ottoman armada of 51 ships appeared in the Aegean sea, the Greek fleet, under the command of Sahtouris, Kolandroutsos and Apostolis, sailed to face the superior enemy forces. The two fleets met on 16 May southern of Tenedos and fought for several hours without any result. They were met again on 20 May 1825, on the narrow passage between Andros and cape Kafireas, of Evoia and the Turkish fleet suffered a desaster. Two burlota or fireships under Matrozos and Mousios, burnt a fregate of 66 cannons. All 800 men were killed. Later Mpotis with his burloto burnt a corvette of 34 cannons. The enemy fleet retreated and left for Suda of Crete.

The people of Peloponnese were paniced by the advance of Egyptian forces and asked the government to release all the prisoners. Finally Koundouriotis reluctantly, on 18 May 1825 amnestied all the political prisoners who were released from prisons on Hydra. Theodoros Kolokotronis was appointed commander-in-chief of the Greek forces.

Papaflessas - Maniaki The clerical Papaflessas or Gregorios Dikaeos worried with the successive victories of Ibrahim, decided to face the enemy in the south-west Peloponnese. He had planned to gather 2500 men, but the reinforcements didn't appear. So most of his men left, and Papaflessas remained only with 300 men, near the village Maniaki. On 19 May, several thousands Egyptians attacked to the positions held by the Greeks. The battle continued for nine hours, and all the Greeks were killed. The legend says that after the battle Ibrahim searched for the body of Papaflessas, and kissed him. This was the end of the Mpourliotieris ton psihon, as he was called for his ardor and fervency when he was struggling to convince all Greeks to start the Revolution. Spuridon Trikoupis wrote for him that he acted like Alcibiadis, but one is certain that he loved his homeland and was sacrified for her freedom.

Kolokotronis' aim was to block the way to Tripolis, a city which he regarded as the key to control Moreas. He had suggested to the government to wreck the walls of the city, but the government didn't support this plan. Kolokotronis with the kapetanioi Koliopoulos, Kanellos Deligiannis, Papatsonis, Giatrakos, Antonis and Genneos Kolokotronis fought klephtopolemo - guerrilla war but didn't make it to stop the advance of Ibrahim's forces and the Turkoegyptian managed on 10 June to occupy the town.

Makrygiannis at Miloi Ibrahim's next objective was Navplion, the seat of Greek governement. Near Navplion lays the village of Miloi or Mills which supplied the capital with water and also there, Greeks held the main stores of ammunition. Makrygiannis, Ypsilantis and Konstantinos Mavromichalis organised the defence of the area. Makrygiannis in his memoirs gives full description of the battle. Before the battle, the french admiral De Rigny visited Makrygiannis and asked him to avoid the battle because the Greek force was too small to encounter Egyptians. Makrygiannis answered that always Greeks were outnumbered but with the help of God they always had victories against the barbarians. Makrygiannis was determined to hold Miloi, so he sent all horses to Navplion and the small boats were also sent away. Greeks now had no way to escape and they had to fight or to die. The Egyptians attacked on 13 June and managed to enter into the enclosure. But Greeks with their swords counterattacked and followed a hand-to-hand combat. Egyptians withdrew with heavy losses while only two Hellenes were killed. Among the wounded was Makrygiannis who was transferred to the french fregate of De Rigny for treatment. After his defeat Ibrahim didn't attack to Nafplion, not knowing how weak was the defence of the Greek capital. He moved to the interior of Peloponnese burning, pilaging and killing but without succeding to destroy any military force of Kolokotronis who conducted his klephtopolemo, a war tactic which he conducted since he was sixteen years old. Ibrahim's troops did great damage to Moreas and also had all trees and crops burnt. This tactic and his barbaric ways gave an alibi to the Great Powers later to intervene.

Konstantinos Kanaris A brilliant achievement which shows the courage of Greek sailors was the attempt to burn the whole Egyptian fleet inside the port of Alexandreia, the capital of Mehmet Ali. If they succeeded they would cut Ibrahim's provisions and reinforcements and he would be in a very difficult position. On 29 July 1825, two warships under Manolis Tompazis and Antonis Kriezis with three fireships or mpourlota of Kanaris, Antonis Vokos and Manolis Mpoutis reached outside the Egyptian port. The fireships having hoisted European flags got into the harbour. They raised the Greek flags and attempted to burn the admiralship. The good luck deserted them, the wind changed, one fireship was set alight but drifted away uselessly and the Greek boats escaped through cannon fires. Mehmet Ali was furious and had many fregates chase the Greek fleet without success. The Greeks ships, next day attacked a turkish warship of 16 cannons which had sailed from Attalia, a port south of Minor Asia, and captured all its crew. On 13 August they reached safe Hydra.



Bibliography
David Brewer - The Greek war of Independence
Constantine Paparhigopoulos - History of Helenic Nation
Spuridon Trikoupis - History of Greek Revolution
Samuel Gridley Howe - Historical Sketsch of Greek Revolution
Kolokotronis' memoirs
Makrygiannis' memoirs
Koutsonikas Lampros - History of Greek Revolution





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