LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron
Chapter XXVI.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Chapter XX.
Chapter XXI.
Chapter XXII.
Chapter XXIII.
Chapter XXIV.
Chapter XXV.
‣ Chapter XXVI.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

Victory! Victory. Austria, Russia, England,
And that tame serpent, that poor shadow, France,
Cry peace, and that means death, when monarchs speak.

When the Muses deserted Parnassus, the Klephtes, i. e. outlaws, took possession of their haunts, and kept alive the love of freedom and the use of arms. They were the only Greeks I found with any sense of honour; they kept their words and fulfilled their engagements; I protected and fed their families, and they escorted me in all my expeditions; I was continually in their power, yet they never attempted to betray me. The Klephtes were the only efficient soldiers at the commencement of the insurrection; and their leaders maintained the war for three years, so successfully that the Greek government were enabled to borrow money. The government then resolved to divide the forces of the Klephtes, to appoint their own partisans as leaders,
and to conduct the war themselves; they raised forces and imprisoned the former military leaders, wasted time in disputing about their plans of campaigns, and the nomination of the commissioners to see that they were carried out. In two scientific campaigns carried on by civilians, the Greeks lost all the territory the former arbitrary chiefs had won; and of the foreign loan, 2,800,000l., there remained only five shillings in bad money at the close of those campaigns. If there had been any place of refuge, the insurrection would have ended by the flight of the leaders and submission of the people. The members of the government sent away the money they had embezzled, and the primates and other rich rascals attempted to escape with their families, but they were stopped by the populace.

Greece was reconquered; the vanquished Christians sat in sullen groups round the walls of their only remaining fortress in the Morea; death, or to resume the Moslem’s chains, their only alternative. At this critical period a messenger arrived from Navarino, proclaiming, in the words of our great poet,
“News, friends; our wars are done, the Turks are drowned.”
The people now sprang up frantic with joy.


For six years all the Christian states had been standing looking on at the bloodiest insurrection on record, sympathising with the unbelieving Ottomans. At the twelfth hour, the three great maritime Leviathans turned round, and, falling unexpectedly upon their ancient allies, annihilated them.

The policy of the crafty Muscovite is intelligible. He wanted to possess Greece and cripple his natural enemy, the Turk. He did both at little cost; the Ottoman fleet was destroyed, and Greece converted from a Turkish into a Russian Hospodariat. The policy of France and England is inexplicable; it is one of those inscrutable diplomatic mysteries devised by heaven-born ministers, which men of women born cannot comprehend.

From the beginning to the end of the insurrection in Greece, Commodore Rowan Hamilton and Colonel C. J. Napier were the only English officers in command who acted justly and generously to the Greeks. Sir Thomas Maitland, and his successor, Sir Frederick Adams, High Commissioners of the Ionian Islands, from their natural sympathy with tyranny, favoured the Turks on all occasions. Napier was high-minded and independent in his
opinions, which is always a disqualification in the eyes of officials. His general popularity and superior influence with the Ionians mortified Sir Frederick Adams excessively; he did all he could in his official capacity to thwart Napier; he gave vent to his rancour in the most trivial matters; he even sent an official letter to Napier on the impropriety of his wearing moustachios. The Colonel was very much amused at this despatch; he instantly obeyed the mandate by cutting them off, and enclosing them in his reply to the Lord High Commissioner, who, no doubt, forwarded this important correspondence, with the enclosure, to the Commander-in-Chief. If these emblems of war are preserved amongst the trophies at the Horse Guards, the hair may be used as the lion’s beard is by the Indians—they burn it, and swallow the ashes, believing it will give them the strength and courage of the lion.

It was particularly revolting to the mind as well as feelings of Napier, to witness the war as waged in Greece,—without a plan, combination, system or leader; every man frantic with excitement to kill and plunder on his own account. Napier, as I have
before said, would have undertaken the war when he was solicited by the Greeks to do so, if they had complied with the terms he considered indispensable to their success, which were that he should have uncontrolled power over the army. Whilst the Greek government were treating with Napier, a distinguished French officer,
Colonel Fabvier, volunteered his services without any stipulations, and was accepted. Napier having no other object than the success of a just cause, pointed out to me on the map, the strategy and tactics he should have used at that juncture, had he commanded, the Greek forces in the Morea. I asked him to write his plan, as the art of war is so little studied by our military men. I transcribe a campaign on scientific principles, as improvised on the exigency of the moment, by the great master of the art; the general principles laid down by so skilful a commander, are applicable to any other locality in all times, especially in defensive warfare, and it requires no prophet to foretel there will be many such wars ere the lamb lies down with the lion.

Napier’s letters not only exemplify the skill of the soldier, but show the frank, generous, manly character of the man. Byron, in a letter
to the Greek committee from Cephalonia, in 1823, speaking of Colonel Napier, says, “Of his military character, it is superfluous to speak, of his personal, I can say, from my own knowledge as well as from all rumour or private report, that it is as excellent as his military; in short, a better or a braver man, is not easily to be found; he is our man, to lead a regular force, or to organise a national one for the Greeks,—ask the army—ask any one.”

The following letters are addressed to me by this great General:—.

26th May, 1826.

Circumstances must decide in war, speaking generally, but frequently they may be commanded by able arrangements; instead of waiting to see what an enemy will do, he may be often forced to do that which we want him to do. I think this may be now accomplished by the Greek troops, should Ibrahim Pacha besiege Napoli di Romania. In this event, I conclude he will have about 15,000 men, and that he will draw his supplies from Navarin or Modon, a distance of about eighty miles;
and have an intermediate depôt at Tripolitza, which is about twenty-five from Napoli. These roads pass through the mountains, and great difficulties will arise in marching his convoys, both from the nature of the country itself, and the exposure to constant attacks.

I also conclude that the Greek forces will amount to about 6,000 regulars and 10,000 irregulars, exclusive of the garrison of Napoli, in which I would leave only irregulars, the best to be had; taking the worst, with the whole regular force, to Monemvasia, into which place I would throw in as much provision as possible; and leaving this fortress with the smallest possible garrison picked from the irregulars, but (as well as Napoli di Romania) with the most resolute governor and engineers, I would issue forth and throw the whole regular and remaining irregular force on the communications of the besieging army.

The point at which I would cut them must be determined by local circumstances, viz., the force of the enemy; the distribution of that force; the nature of the country; and the exact knowledge of distances, or rather times of march. By this,
the Greek army would oblige the Egyptian army to raise the siege, or to send a force able to clear the road of the Greek army, or he must go without provisions; if he raises the siege, such a failure, besides its actual cost, would have an immense moral effect to his prejudice, and enable the Greeks to take more bold measures; in short, it would be, what they have yet not seen, a victory produced by sound principles of war.

If he prefers the second way, viz., to send a force which he thinks capable of clearing the road, and re-opening his communications, what is the consequence? His army must be so weakened that the siege cannot be continued with vigour; and the detached force will either be fought and defeated by the Greeks, or they would retire before this force into Maina, and even to Monemvasia. The moment this was done, this detached force would again march to join Ibrahim before Napoli; and would be followed up by the Greek army, which would again occupy its old position on the communication. This might be repeated twice or three times; but it is impossible that Ibrahim could continue this game long, and the moment he ceased to play it,
he would be obliged to raise the siege. It seems difficult to say how this plan could fail, unless the Greek commander allowed the force detached against him to cut him off from Monemvasia, or from wherever he drew his subsistence.

As to the third choice, it is evident that he could not adopt it, as, although his Egyptians may live upon little, yet that little they must have; he would therefore try to receive his supplies from Patras; and although there would, perhaps, be more difficulty still, the Greek general might play the same game on that line of operation, as he would on the line with Navarin. He might occupy the last with his regulars, and detach his irregulars on the first. A Turkish force could hardly venture against the Greek irregulars, having their left flank exposed to the regular army of Greeks. I do not know whether I have clearly explained my meaning; but I am sure that if the Greek government will do what they ought, viz., give Colonel Fabvier the full and uncontrolled direction of the war, or do this with Colonel Gordon, both those gentlemen will see what I mean, and that this plan is formed on sound strategetical principles.


It is impossible to believe that any force which Ibrahim could detach would be able to force six thousand regular Greek soldiers through the passes of the Mainiote country back upon Monemvasia. I have only supposed the worst in supposing that they would do this, but in point of fact I imagine the Greek regular force could occupy some strong position in which it would force the troops detached against it to give battle under every disadvantage; and should the Greeks be defeated, that they might rally at and defend a multitude of defiles in the strong country between Tripolitza and Monemvasia—all these things are details of the execution, which depend on the talents of the commanders. If this commander is Colonel Fabvier with Colonel Gordon supporting him, there is no doubt in my mind of its success; if the Greek force, on the contrary, is commanded by the Greek General-in-Chief, Colocotroni, it must inevitably fail, as he is incapable of even comprehending, much less of executing such a campaign.

In regard to the number of forces that I have supposed on each side, it is not very material that I should be exact, because the principle will hold
good as long as the disproportion between the opposed armies is not so great as to put an end to all opposition, and this is a disproportion so vast that in such a country as Greece I can hardly conceive possible. Supposing that the Turkish forces receive their provision by sea, then they would not perhaps detach a force against the Greek army coming from Monemvasia, which might attack Tripolitza at its leisure: this, I suspect, would quickly produce the desired results! And last, though not least important, one has everything to expect from
Lord Cochrane, who will not allow this provision to arrive by sea so easily. Are we to suppose that one of the greatest men of the age, for such he decidedly is, will be unable to effect anything against the enemy? Lord Cochrane’s whole life has been a series of proofs, that he possesses all the qualities of a great commander.

Dear Trelawny,

When I returned from my ride, I wrote down what I said;—if you think it would be of any use, send it to Gordon. Not but that both he and Fabvier could form this plan as well or better than
I, but my own opinion may have some weight with the Greeks, in support of those held by these two officers. For my own part, I would try this plan had I but one thousand men and one cannon! so convinced am I that it is a sound one; and that if executed with skill, activity, and courage it would make
Ibrahim lose his game.

C. Napier.

I dare say this is full of errors, for I wrote as fast as I could scribble; keep it, for I have no copy. I wish you to give me one.

Cephalonia, 20th June, 1826.
Dear Trelawny,

Many thanks for your note dated 12th, which I have only this morning received. I hear Hastings has reached Napoli, which I hope will help Gordon to make arrangements. I hear that Ibrahim Pacha has taken and fortified Sparta.—If he can occupy Leondari and Sparta with strong detachments, he may render the execution of my plan difficult; but if he divides his forces with such numerous garrisons, the question arises, whether or not he can
keep the field? However, he would greatly embarrass all operations by fortifying Leondari and Mistra (Sparta). These posts are, at this moment, the real points of “strategy” for the defence of Napoli; and his seizure of them denotes a good military head. Were I in Gordon’s place, supposing him master of his movements, I would make them keep their vigils in Sparta. That garrison should have no sinecure; but my fear is, that at Napoli they are all in such a state of confusion and ignorance, that he will not be able to make any movements at all. However, all I can say is, that the loss of any strong post demands that the Greeks should act upon the same principle against those posts, that would have been acted upon against the original positions of the Turks. The general principle remains the same, but is applied to a different locality. For example (take your map).—When Mistra is held by the Turks, the Greeks can no longer throw themselves on the line of communication between Tripolitza and Navarin. They must then change their object, and throw themselves on the line between Mistra; and from wherever the garrison draws its provisions, Mistra becomes the
object instead of Tripolitza. How this is to be accomplished, God knows. The war is, in this instance, on too small a scale to judge by a map, as I could in a large movement acting against Tripolitza; but military talent, in a country like the Morea, finds ways to do what it wants. The grand secret in mountain countries is to isolate the enemy, which obliges him to abandon his strong position, and attack you in yours. It is not to one so well acquainted with the country as you are, that I need say what it would be to attack a good position in Greece, even without fortifications, much more with them.

It is in the art of forcing an enemy to fight you on your own chosen ground, that military genius consists, and few things are more difficult in practice. It unites so much theory and so much practice with great fearlessness of character, no timid man will throw himself into those decisive positions which produce great results.

Yours truly,
C. Napier.
Cephalonia, 1st August, 1826.
My dear Trelawny,

Pray do not let Mr. Ruppenthal say that I made proposals to him, without contradicting him, because I did no such thing. I think I know what he is; but be he what he may, he can make nothing of my letters that can do me any harm, supposing he should be a bad one. When one has no secrets it is hard to discover them!

I hope Gordon has made port. I do not understand Fabvier’s movements. I dare say they are not voluntary. I give no man credit for doing what he likes—what is wise—in Greece; until I hear that he has 2000 good European drilled soldiers at his back, and 100,000 in his pockets, and a gallows with his advanced guard. I think were I there with the only power that would tempt me to go, I should raise the price of hemp 50 per cent, in ten days. What has become of Lord Cochrane? all hands say he comes—but he comes not! With kind regards to Gordon if he is with you, believe me.

Yours hastily,
C. J. Napier.

I wish to God something may be done for the Greeks, for our orders are positive not to admit fugitives, and really though I think the rules laid down by the government are just, it is very distressing to execute them,—at least to me it is so.