LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XXXIV

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
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
‣ Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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Condition of the Greeks at Old Navarino—Battle—Ibrahim’s offers—Conduct of Beysade—Gallant conduct of Miaouli—Ibrahim’s offers to the Greeks—At length accepted.

While the Turkish fleet and the castle of Modon were celebrating, with incessant discharges of artillery, their late victory over the giaours, the greatest consternation spread itself among the soldiers of the garrison. They now began to reflect on what had been so often repeated to them, that their own safety was linked to the preservation of the island; and the sight of their imminent danger inspired them with as much pusillanimity, as they had formerly displayed contemptuous security.

The Greeks at Old Navarino were in a predicament still more alarming; the departure of Tsamado’s ship having left them entirely bereft of provisions and ammunitions. No alternative remained now for them, between surrendering and forcing their way across the enemy’s ranks. They adopted the last resolution, and on the night of the 8th, they sought to execute their design; but found all the passes so well occupied by the Egyptians, and so heavy a fire opened upon them from all sides, that, with the exception of a few, they all returned to their former position. Chagi Cristo, the bishop of Modon, and several others, were then taken prisoners. The next day, Ibrahim sent a flag of truce to the Greeks, who had now intrenched themselves within the walls of the castle, that stands on the summit of the rock, in order to inform them, that he knew exactly from
the relation of his prisoners, the destitute nature of their position, and which must render all further resistance useless. It was in his power, he said, to allow them to die of hunger. To prove to them, however, that he had been sent by his father, not to destroy the rayas, but to induce them quietly to submit to his power, by convincing them of the temerity of attempting to withstand a force so much superior to theirs, he was willing to permit them to return to their homes after giving up their arms and baggage. Under the influence of the satisfaction with which his success inspired him, and the utter contempt he had imbibed of Greek courage, he disdainfully added, that, if they chose, they might again prepare to fight, since it would afford him sport for another day. He compared himself to those animals of prey, which, glutted with carnage, play with their victim before they kill it. The Greeks were happy to accept the pasha’s proposals; and he, true to his word, allowed them to depart, unmolested, after receiving their arms and money.

On the 10th, about fifty of the largest Turkish men-of-war entered the port; and, placing themselves before the fortress, opened against it a heavy fire. No nation can fire with more rapidity than the Turks; and had their artillery been but tolerably directed, the fortifications of the town might, in a few hours, have been entirely destroyed. Yet though their cannon balls, united to those of the land batteries, all of which were directed against us, might actually be said to obscure the air, and several, out of so many thousands, fell into the citadel; the besieged received, comparatively speaking, but little injury. The greater part of them were so much overshot, that, falling into the Turkish intrenchments around the citadel, they killed several soldiers, and might
have destroyed still more, had not
Ibrahim, informed of this, despatched orders to the ships immediately to desist firing.

The deafening roar, produced by the discharge of so many cannon, actually stupified the Greeks. The efforts and counsels of Collegno were in vain. Every one vociferated and commanded; but nobody obeyed. Collegno, however, continued fulfilling his duty as private cannoneer; till he was disabled by a strong contusion, he received on the shoulder, from a stone, against which a cannon-ball had struck. The miserable fire of the Greeks was soon over. The powder magazine of the lower battery having, through the imprudence of a soldier, who entered it with a lighted match, blown up, fifteen of the men who served the pieces were killed; and this circumstance so completely discouraged the rest, that every one had abandoned his post to seek shelter, wherever he thought most advisable. Recourse was then had to public prayers; and the three Papas, we had in the garrison, mustered all the images of male and female saints in the place; and began carrying them in procession around the ramparts. So deaf were all the saints of Paradise to the nasal litany of these orthodox ministers, that Papa Sarella himself, although he bore in his hands the finest image of the Virgin, was seriously wounded in the head, by the explosion of a shell; which fell among and dispersed the devotees. The smart made him so much forget the respect, due to the Panagia, that he threw her down, saying in his rage; “Perdition upon thee; since thou couldst not save even thy worshipper from this evil hour!” with other impious expressions.

The Turks soon after imitated our example, in compliance with Ibrahim’s order, who now employed, the more to dishearten the garrison, a stratagem per-
haps more effectual than the last.
Chagi Cristo and the bishop of Modon (the principal author of the cruelties practised by the Greeks on the Turkish garrison of Neocastro) were sent by him before the wall of the citadel, to speak with the different capitani of the garrison. On these answering their call, they related to them the manner, in which they had been taken; and how “misery had joined them in equal ruin.” They besought them to profit by their example, and to reflect, that certain ruin awaited them, should they persist in opposing, or rather uselessly provoking, a force so gigantically superior to their dwarfy endeavours.

Beysade Torjachi, indignant to hear such propositions, ordered his men to fire on those impostors; who, by assuming false names, he said, hoped to weaken the courage of the soldiers. But the blow, Ibrahim had meditated, was already given. How changed and downcast soever their looks, they had been known by too many to allow the garrison to doubt the fact. The venom, thus introduced, had already began to circulate, and to sap the yet remaining stamina of their courage. During the whole night, the enemy continued to throw bombs incessantly; and next morning (11th) we perceived a new battery above the Varoushi, or Greek suburbs of Neocastro; and the men busy in drawing towards it twelve large guns, which had been disembarked from the ships. Three large men-of-war had, also, placed themselves in the same direction. These preparations augmented our fears the more, as we knew that the northern wall of the town, against which this new attack was directed, could be overthrown in a few hours.

Towards noon, a Greek prisoner, sent by Ibrahim, was drawn by means of a rope into the fortress; and on being presented before the assembled capitani, he
told them, that Ibrahim had desired him to inform them, that, as they might easily convince themselves by looking around them, he had taken every measure to prevent the garrison from receiving the slightest assistance by sea or by land; or making its escape. He had defeated their army at Fourgi, and forced it to retreat. He had disarmed or destroyed the other corps; and the Greek fleet, seeing him master of the port and island, had returned to Hydra. Could they therefore hope to escape, when upwards of twenty thousand men occupied all the surrounding positions? Would it not be madness in them to attempt resisting, when upwards of a thousand cannon, and, if necessary, as many more, stood ready, at the first signal, to carry death and destruction? Influenced by different motives, than those which governed other Mussulmen, he disdained to destroy so weak an opponent; and wishing, if possible, not to injure further a fortress which, of right, belonged to the sultan; his generosity and compassion had led him to propose to them to surrender in time; and they might rely on his word, that he would allow them to depart as safely as the Greeks, who had lately capitulated at Old Navarino.

These propositions produced a deep sensation on the hearers. For they could not conceal from themselves, how applicable the words of Ibrahim were to their condition. They knew, that their supply of water and biscuit could, at most, last them but a month; and that forty barrels of gunpowder only remained in the fortress. Repeated experience had convinced them of their incapacity, and they felt besides, even under the most favourable circumstances, they never could withstand so formidable an enemy. As to assistance from without, they could expect none. These and other reasons prompted them to
listen with a favourable ear to what was addressed to them. But what most decided the capitani to enter into negotiations with the enemy, were the loud murmurs of the soldiers; who said, that a sufficient number of their companions had already been wounded and killed in the defence of Neocastro; and that they had sufficiently exposed their lives for so improvident a government. Strangers in Peloponnesus, was it not absurd in them to persist in sacrificing themselves for the preservation of a fortress, which the Moriots themselves abandoned to its fate; and to leave their own country open to the inroads of the Albanians? They urgently insisted that no time should be lost in immediately treating with Ibrahim, and profiting by the good disposition, in which he now was, to grant them lenient conditions. All further resistance, they said, would not only be useless, but that ill-timed obstinacy might exasperate him so much, as to render him unwilling to grant a capitulation when they should ask for it. Now that they had still some slight means of resistance, they might pretend to the mildest terms. But their supplies, once exhausted, they would be entirely at Ibrahim’s discretion and mercy.

Beysade was the only one, who opposed these dastardly proposals. He bitterly reproached the soldiers with their indifference to the ignominy of giving up their arms, and returning to their families, like droves of women. He for himself, a Spartan by birth, would recollect the words of the Lacedemonian mother to her son when putting on his arms to depart for the war: “Return with them, or upon them.” But, if every noble feeling had lost its power on their hearts, how could fear so far have blinded them, as to allow them to place any reliance on the words of a Turk, whose tenets they knew to be never to hold faith with infidels? Did they not perceive, that Ibrahim’s
conduct towards the Greeks, who surrendered at Old Navarino, was only the better to conceal the snare, he had laid against them? Could they reasonably conceive, that, forgetting the cruelties, practised by the Greeks on the Turkish families, which surrendered the fortress, on the same conditions now offered to them, the Mussulmen would suffer the opportunity to escape of avenging the blood of their coreligionaries, shed, as it was, in violation of the most solemn oaths? Cowards only could assert, that succours would never arrive. Could they suppose, that his own father, the whole of Maïna, the brothers of Iatraco, and the friends and relations of the other capitani, would not use every exertion to come to their rescue; long before their provisions were exhausted? For, if used sparingly, they would last above two months. But, granting even that assistance were hopeless, was it not more glorious, after resisting to the last, to make their way, sword in hand, through the enemy’s camp? Then, at least, some might escape; whereas, were they to surrender now, a shameful and cruel death would, there could be little doubt, become the general doom. He then added in a decided tone: “Let those, who please, now leave the fortress. As for me, and all those who are worthy the name of Hellen, we will shut ourselves up in the citadel; and, when reduced to extremities, we will bury ourselves under its ruins, sooner than fall into the hands of such a cruel and perfidious enemy.”

On some Roumeliots endeavouring, soon after, to prove to him the improbability of his assertions, and the rashness of his advice; he burst into a violent rage against them; and after exclaiming, “Shameless women! war, and nothing but war, must decide our fate,” he rushed up the rampart wall, and waving his sword towards the Turks, cried out with all his
might, “We will not hear of ——.” Several soldiers, dreading the consequences of his words, hastened to seize him by the fustanella; and before he could finish the sentence, brought him down by main force, and conducted him to a vault under the gateway, which they did not allow him to leave for some days.

It was at last decided by the majority of the capitani, that the most advisable steps to be followed, on the present emergency, were, first, writing a letter to the government, informing them of the distressed situation of the garrison; and requesting them to use every exertion, to send assistance by sea or by land before the 21st, otherwise they should be under the necessity of surrendering*.

In the evening, Ibrahim, enraged at not having yet received an answer, again opened his fire. Towards nine o’clock in the evening, we heard in the direction of Modon a lively cannonade; and some time after a tremendous explosion. The strong convulsions of light, which illumined the horizon, convinced us soon, that either the castle, or some man-of-war in the roads was on fire. Shortly after another, then a third, then several explosions took place. It was now clear, that this could only be the effect of some bold design, executed by the Greek fire-ships; and hope again began to re-animate the soldiers of the garrison.

We learned, the same night, from a Bosnian in Ibrahim’s army, who was, every evening, in the habit of conversing with a townsman of his in the Greek service, the details of this event, which had given rise to so many conjectures amongst us. But the

* The sheet, on which the letter was written, was burned at the four corners; a mark used in the Levant to signify “imminent distress.”

following narrative is drawn up from the testimony of many trust-worthy eye-witnesses, whom I afterwards knew at Modon. Anxious to wipe off the reproach, which his countrymen might make for having allowed the enemy to land unmolested on Sphacteria, the gallant
Miaouli, having observed that a portion of the Turkish ships were at anchor off Modon Castle, formed the plan of burning them. Assisted by a favourable easterly wind, he unexpectedly presented himself in the evening with his division; and while his vessels bore directly upon the large Tunisian and Egyptian ships, which were anchored close under the island of Sapienza, and put them to flight, his brulots succeeded in setting fire to the Asia, of seventy-four guns, and to two corvettes. The other ships, the captains of which were all making their kiéf on shore, were immediately abandoned by the greater part of their crews; and eleven of them fell a sacrifice to the flames. Most of these lay so close to the town, that, on their blowing up, a shower of burning pieces of timber fell upon the houses, and even on the roofs of the powder magazines. The inhabitants and soldiers looking on the destruction of the town as unavoidable, precipitately fled out of the gate; and indeed had not chance singularly disappointed Miaouli’s design, the fortress, with all the provisions, ammunition, and stores of the Egyptian army deposited in it, would have been blown up; the hopes of Ibrahim annihilated in an instant; and Greece liberated from her most terrible enemy.

This event could not but strongly alarm the Turkish sailors, then in the harbour of Neocastro. Being, therefore, in hourly dread of Miaouli’s entering the harbour, they drew their ships further in; and, judging from the terror and confusion, that
had possessed their minds, there can be no doubt, that, had the Greek fire-ships acted more in conformity with our wishes, they might, with as much facility, have committed much greater havoc.

On the 13th, in conformity with the resolution of the garrison, Macrojani, after receiving the necessary instructions, went to the pasha’s tent, when he signified, that before entering into negotiation, the Greeks insisted on an immediate suspension of hostilities. This being granted, he stated, that the garrison could not but feel much surprised, how Ibrahim, informed, as he must be, of the means yet remaining in their hands of prolonged resistance, could have proposed, that they should surrender on conditions, exactly similar to those, which the necessity of their position only could have forced the troops at Old Navarino to accept. Determined to sacrifice their existence sooner than their honour, the Greeks would capitulate only on the following conditions: first, to embark with their arms and baggage on board English men-of-war. Secondly, to receive from the pasha the payment of the arrears, due to them by the government, as well as the value of the ammunition and provisions, they would leave in the fortress. Thirdly, to receive three hostages of their choice, as guarantees of the punctual execution of the capitulation.

Ibrahim replied to these demands, by observing that, in the most favourable circumstances, neither his dignity, as Pasha or as a Mussulman, could permit, that rayas, who had fought against him, should, after capitulating, depart with their arms. Although their danger was not quite so imminent as that of their countrymen at Old Navarino, it was however as certain, and perhaps even more unavoidable. But
he would spare them partly out of humanity, and partly because he wished to terminate, as soon as possible, the subjection of the Morea. Without disturbing their worthy friends, the English, or asking hostages, they should trust to his word of honour, as their countrymen had done a few days before; and return by land, as they had done, to Anapli. He could not but express his indignation at the foolish proposal, of his paying arrears to men, who had fought against him. If they were not ashamed of making such a demand, he at least thought it below his character to grant it; lest it should be said, that he had obtained Neocastro by money, and not by arms.

This energetic answer of the pasha produced a most lively sensation on the minds of the soldiers. They immediately construed his refusal to allow them to embark on board English men-of-war, or to give hostages, into a determination to act treacherously towards them. The motives, which chiefly confirmed them in this idea, were the incessant threats of the Moriot Turks, and the exulting expressions of joy with which they hourly hailed the thought, that the day would come when they could appease the yet unrevenged shades of their friends and relatives. The greatest confusion and agitation had reigned in the garrison; and now it became still more boisterous, from the violent disputes, that hourly arose between the capitani.

A few of those, least distinguished by their courage, suddenly adopted Beysade’s opinion, and maintained to-day the necessity of resisting to the last as warmly, as they had hitherto endeavoured to prove the impracticability of a prolonged defence. Ibrahim had now become as contemptible, in their sight,
as he had yesterday seemed terrible. It was soon perceived, however, that the charm, which so completely dissipated their fears, and filled their minds with this unwonted security, was rum; that the bombastic expressions, suggested by liquor, were not to be mistaken for the dictates of sterling courage; and that little confidence could be placed on men, whose hearts ebbed and flowed with the fullness or emptiness of the bottle.

Without entering into further details, or relating the difficulties, that were surmounted, before the garrison could be induced to place any reliance on the good faith of the pasha, or the latter be brought down from his high pretensions, it will suffice to say, that it was definitively agreed upon on the 18th, that,

“1st. On the 21st of May, Ibrahim shall send before Neocastro three European merchant-vessels, freighted at his own expense, to transport the garrison of that fortress to Calamata.

“2dly. Before the Greeks evacuate Neocastro, three officers of Ibrahim shall be admitted into the fortress, to form an inventory of the ammunition, stores, and provisions which it contains.

“3dly. Previous to embarking, the Greeks shall all (with the exception of the superior officers) surrender their arms into the hands of the above-mentioned Turkish officers.

“4thly. A French and an Austrian man-of-war will escort the Greeks to Calamata.”

Such was the aversion of Ibrahim to the English, that he would never consent to the proposal, repeatedly made him by the Greeks, of requesting a man-of-War of that nation to escort them. In compliance with the demand of the garrison, the pasha
allowed three individuals*, chosen by them, to proceed to Modon, in order to inspect the merchant-vessels, destined for their embarkation, and to communicate with the officers, commanding the men-of-war, that had offered to escort them. The Austrian captain was Mr. Bandiera, and the Frenchman M. Le Blanc, commander of the Amaranthe. They returned the next day, and assured us, that these two naval officers had pledged their honour in guarantee of the punctual observance of the capitulation; although it would appear, from their subsequent behaviour, that they only expressed their readiness to escort the Greeks to Calamata.

* These individuals were, the eparch of Neocastro, Cavaliere Callegno, and Anastasius, a Greek, who although, according to his statement, an English agent, thought it no breach of neutrality to act, during the siege, as keeper of the powder and distributor of cartridges.