LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XXXII

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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Proceedings at Neocastro—Author arrives at Nisi—Family of Mavromichali—Proceedings at Nisi—Conduct of Caratasso, &c.—Battle—Greeks defeated—Arrival at Neocastro—Proceedings of Mavrocordato.

Letters were now received, in which Stactouri, the governor of Neocastro, informed the president of the daily increasing danger, that threatened that fortress. The enemy was keeping up an incessant fire against it, and had already succeeded in opening a trench in the walls of the town. He enumerated the numerous wants of the garrison, and requested, above all things, that a medical man should be sent without delay; for the number of wounded had, of late, increased very rapidly. He trusted, that the Greek army at Fourgi would at last operate some movement in their favour; or, by falling on the rear of the besiegers, force them to abandon the undertaking altogether.

Aware of the delays, which would prevent the dilatory president from repairing to the army, his unfitness to animate the courage of the soldiers, or prove useful by his military counsels, Mavrocordato, ever animated by the noble ambition of distinguishing himself in his country’s service, offered, under the plea of celerity, to proceed himself instantly to the field of action; communicate to the different capitani the orders and dispositions of the executive; examine the real situation of things; and, on his report, Conduriotti might, if he deemed it expedient, repair where his presence was most likely to prove useful.


His propositions were gladly accepted by the president; who thus exonerated himself of a task, the weight of which he felt himself by no means inclined or calculated to bear. I received orders to accompany the prince, and to remain at Neocastro; an honour which had been declined by all the Greek surgeons.

In consequence of the numerous despatches, he had to write, Mavrocordato could not leave Leondari before noon. Escorted by about fifty men, he proceeded, by the Derveni of Macryplai, to the Khan of Sakona; and thence to Scala, a distance of six short leagues. This village, situate at the entrance of the beautiful plain of Calamata, had like all those, two and even three hours from the road, been abandoned by its terrified inhabitants; who found themselves treated more tyrannically by their coreligionaries, than they had ever been by their Turkish oppressors. In the house, in which we took up our abode with the prince, traces still remained of the wanton and lawless conduct of the soldiers of the government, who had rioted here during several days, and committed all manner of excesses. The reader may have some idea of the baseness of their conduct, when I state, that, before they left the place, they amused themselves by firing at the wine casks of the peasants, and spilling the contents, because they could not have the satisfaction of drinking it themselves. In the evening we supped with Capitan Cephala, who had come down, from Meligala, where he left his troop, in order to see Mavrocordato. He was one of the few surviving companions of the famous Cleftis Zacharia, and might be considered as one of the most courageous of the Greeks. Nine honourable scars in the front part of his body attested sufficiently his valour. Two of these he had received in the affair at this very village; where the Cleftes were unex-
pectedly surrounded by the Turkish Armatolis.
Colocotrone’s five brothers, and the greater number of their followers, were killed or taken in this bloody action. Theodore escaped miraculously by disguising himself in woman’s clothes.

Cephala spoke at great length on the utter impossibility of inducing the Moriots to march against the enemy, as long as the Roumeliots remained in their country; or their capitani were detained at Hydra. For they preferred submitting to the Turks sooner than live again under the government of Conduriotti.

The next morning we proceeded to Nisi, a small town of about six hundred houses, situated in the centre of the luxuriant plain of Calamata. The vegetation was at least six weeks more advanced than at Tripolitza; and the numerous hedges of prickly Indian fig-tree gave to the country a peculiarly new character. The neighbourhood of Nisi is highly cultivated; and its detached houses surrounded by rich gardens, lemon, orange, pomegranate-groves, &c. present a very pleasing appearance. The numerous cypress trees and weeping willows, seen in every direction, should caution the traveller not to allow himself to be detained too long by the fascinating beauties of this spot; for the causes of its fertility render it the constant abode of disease and death.

The town, abandoned by its principal inhabitants, was now occupied by the Mainot soldiers of Petrobey Mavromichali, with whom we dined at the house of Calamargioti, chief primate of the place. Petrobey Mavromichali’s physiognomy is exceedingly fine; possessing all that nobleness of expression, stamped on the countenances of gods and heroes on Grecian medals. The grief which the late death of his son, Jani, had occasioned him, was yet visible on his face, and rendered
his features still more interesting. There exist not in all Greece, a family, which not only could be less interested, but more, even, averse to a revolution, than that of the Mavromichalis. The dignity of Bey of Maina belonged to it. They could not, therefore, hope for any increase of power; neither could they conceal from themselves, that, by joining the rebels, they in some manner pronounced sentence on the two sons of the actual bey, who were hostages in the hands of the Turks. Yet with them patriotism triumphed over every other consideration. They were the first to join the standard of liberty; and, in every undertaking against the enemy, they have been foremost.
Cyriacouli Mavromichali fell on the coast of Epirus; Elias in Negropont; Constantino at the foot of Modon’s walls; the youngest of the children at Neocastro. The other members of the family were greatly instrumental in the reduction of the fortresses of Peloponnesus; in relieving Mesolonghi, and ever ready to fly to the point where danger threatened most. Yet, after merits and sacrifices so signalized, no one became more the object of the nation’s ingratitude than Petrobey. He was not only declared a rebel, but accused by the government paper, of treason; of having entered into negotiations with the Pasha of Egypt, and of offering to deliver the Peloponnesus into his hands. They compared his conduct to that of Pausanias, and would willingly have made his end the same. But the inaccessible mountains of Taygetus put a stop to the infuriated vindictive spirit of his enemies; and prevented him from sharing the fate, which threatened the imprisoned Moriot chiefs at Hydra, and would no doubt have fallen on their heads, had not the desperate state of things, and the clamours of the whole population of Peloponnesus, forced government to release them.


The manner, in which Petrobey refuted, uncontrovertibly, the accusations of his ungrateful fellow-citizens from the moment Ibrahim threatened Neocastro, was magnanimous. His love to Greece, and the desire of fulfilling his duties, made him forget the injuries he had received. I do not, however, pretend to assert, that Petrobey’s conduct towards government was blameless; or that avarice and a spirit of extortion did not characterize him as well as other Greeks. A friend to military power, and persuaded that a republican form of government could never suit the Greeks, he openly favoured the capitani of Morea; and wished to perpetuate their aristocracy, by dividing the country into so many federate principalities. But in no instance did he take part in civil broils; or spill the blood of a citizen. He always aimed at maintaining himself at home in the same full independence, as before the revolution, and disdained listening to orders from Anapli; or making Maina a province, dependent on the Greek government.

After dinner we left Nisi; and, marching in the direction of the ridge of hills named Conto youni, we met a party of soldiers, returning from the Greek camp with an Arab prisoner, whom they exultingly led in triumph. We proposed passing the night at a village; but found, in front of the houses, so many putrified carcasses, that we climbed on a knoll and there took up our quarters.

The next morning we arrived at the camp. The position, which the Greeks had chosen, was susceptible of being rendered very strong with little pains; the rear being defended by a high and steep hill. The right wing was covered by thickets, coppice woods, and very unequal ground. So great, however, was their security, that although Ibrahim’s camp lay only
at three leagues’ distance, the greater part of the capitani thought it superfluous to intrench themselves even behind their usual tambouri; which are simply walls of loose stones, three feet high, behind which the soldiers squat themselves, and fire at the enemy.

Caraiscachi, Zavella, and Chagi Cristo, alone had slightly intrenched themselves. The two first in the houses of the village of Cremidi; the latter in those of Fourgi, a small hamlet in the centre of the camp. The right and most considerable wing lay at the very foot of the hill, where the band of soldiers had fixed their quarters. Scourti, lately captain of a brig, but now elevated by Conduriotti to the rank of general, was lodged in a hut, formed with branches of trees. There we repaired with Mavrocordato. The generals Xidi of Tripolitza, P. Zaphiropoulo from Zakounia, Costa Bozzari, Chormova, and Capitan Eleutheri from Hydra, were the principal chiefs, who occupied this position. The whole army of the Greeks could not amount to five thousand men. Two thousand formed the centre and left wing; the rest composed the right. As soon as Mavrocordato arrived, he invited the different chiefs to an assembly.

It was a fine, almost a theatrical, sight to see the pompous manner, in which these capitani, who vied with each other in splendour of dress and arms, and in the number of their train, presented themselves before Mavrocordato; and to observe the insolent, contemptuous, nod, with which Caraiscachi and Zavella, who since the affair at Mesolonghi had become inseparable friends, saluted him. But the chief who displayed most ostentation was Chagi Cristo, whom government had raised to the rank of general in chief; partly owing to his distinguished services against the rebels; and, also, because, being a foreigner, they
could, the more easily, rely on his entire devotion to their interests. He was surrounded with all the retinue of a Turkish pasha; and whenever he moved, was preceded by kettle-drums, horse-tails, the iron club, &c.

The chiefs being seated in a circle on the ground, Mavrocordato informed them of the object of his mission; read to them a letter from the president; and requested them to submit to general consideration the plans, they thought most advantageous, and most likely to force the enemy to raise the siege of Neocastro.

After much discussion, the resolution was adopted of dividing the army into two portions; one half to march to Jalova, a position close to the extremity of the bay of Navarino; where they were to intrench themselves; and the other to occupy the pass of St. Nicholas: and thus to intercept the communications of the enemy with Modon; where his provisions and ammunitions were deposited. On a given day, they were to fall on the camp of the besiegers.

Anxious to convey this information to the garrison of Neocastro, Mavrocordato resolved on starting; although it was four o’clock, he trusted we should arrive before dark at the village of Chorais, which lies at two leagues distance from Fourgi. The road had, however, become so very bad, owing to the late rains, that it was eight in the evening before we were enabled to take up our quarters for the night. Several capitani occupied the village; the most conspicuous of whom were Caratasso and Vattino. The former, born in Olympus, was the Nestor of Cleftes; his head had grown hoary in the profession of arms; yet, although upwards of seventy-five years old, this fine old man retained all the activity and courage of youth, united to the experience of age. He had given in a late
action proof of his capacity; and I have heard afterwards the very enemy, that attacked him, confess, that on no occasion did they see the Greeks display more valour.

Impatient of remaining inactive in the camp at Fourgi, Caratasso departed with his troop, consisting of two hundred men; and hovering around the camp of the Egyptians, day and night, he kept them in continual alarm, succeeded in taking some booty, and had often slight skirmishes with them. Anxious to get rid of so troublesome a neighbour, Ibrahim ordered, on the 27th of March, four companies of the regiment Courshid Bey, to march against Caratasso. He had fortified himself in a large farm-house near Jalova, where, during several hours, he resisted the repeated attacks of the Arabs, so gallantly, that, after losing about two hundred men, they judged it expedient to retire. According to the reports of the surgeons, upwards of two hundred were wounded; the most conspicuous among whom was Youssouf Aga, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment.

When Mavrocordato called upon Caratasso, he began loudly to inveigh against the capitani at Fourgi, for allowing insubordination and anarchy to exist in the camp; where each sought to command, and none to obey; and for giving themselves the most disgusting examples of Turkish avarice and luxury. Judging from the late affair he had had with the disciplined Egyptians, he foretold, that the Greeks, unless they entirely changed their military conduct, would never be able to sustain their encounter. He himself expressed his admiration for the cool manner, in which their companies remained exposed to his destructive fire. Instead, therefore, of underrating their valour, the Greeks should not hesitate to look upon them as infinitely more formidable than Albanians.


In the evening we supped with Vattino. According to custom, a whole-roasted lamb was brought on the table, and after it had been carved with the yataghan (cutlass) of one of the guests, we helped ourselves with our hands in the best manner we could. The right shoulder blade of the animal was diligently stripped of the surrounding meat; and then handed to Vattino, as the person then present best qualified to foretell, from its appearances, the foreboding events. Placing it before the candle, he attentively considered the outlines, presented by the vascular system of the diaphanous portion of the bone; the whole company waiting in deep silence to his oracular observations. Every one of the palichari was horror-struck on seeing the sudden alteration, that took place on his physiognomy, and on hearing the following words uttered with a solemn, impressive voice: “Brethren, the enemy is preparing against us;—yes—much Greek blood will be spilled—but two considerable tombs will be erected by the Turks.”—All the old Cleftes examined it, and assured, that Vattino’s words were true, the appearances of their habitual augury being too plain to be mistaken.

The next morning (April 20th), two hours before day, we were awakened by an incessant and loud report of musketry, in the direction of Fourgi, and no doubt was entertained but that the Egyptians had attacked the Greek camp. Several detachments were instantly despatched from Chorais, in order to observe the result of the action; and Count Santa Rosa accompanied one of them. The battle continued till three in the afternoon. The following is the report which I gathered from several wounded and runaways, who came to Chorais, from the bishop of Modon, who, stationed on a neighbouring height, observed the
whole affair; and from numerous other eye-witnesses both of the Greek and Turkish armies.

Informed of the daily increase of the Greek camp at Fourgi, Ibrahim, persuaded that the readiest way to annihilate the plans brewing against him was to fall upon his enemies unawares, ordered the two regiments, Courshid and Selim, which may be esteemed at six thousand five hundred men, two thousand cavalry, and about one thousand five hundred irregulars, to accompany him. Arrived before the Greek line, and placing himself at the head of the cavalry, he charged the right wing with great impetuosity, and, in a few moments, put it into complete rout; destroying every one who by timely flight could not escape. Capitan Nicola of Neocastro, and Zaphiropoulo alone, were taken alive. The number of the dead could not be less than six hundred: the most conspicuous among whom was the haughty General Xidi, Eleutheri, Cormova, and Bottaiti. The wounded amounted to three hundred. Scourti and Costa Bozzari, after miraculously escaping the fate of the above chiefs, flew to Androussa. While the cavalry pursued the Greeks, the Arabs attacked the two villages, where Zavella, Caraiscachi and Chagi Cristo had intrenched themselves; but they were received with so much vigour, that their several attempts to dislodge the Greeks proved ineffectual, notwithstanding the continued fire of their field-artillery. Had Ibrahim known how to avail himself of his success, he would have blockaded the Greeks; and after three days at the utmost, total want of water and provisions must have forced them to surrender, or to make their way across the Egyptian lines; a measure which could not be effected without considerable loss. But the resolute resistance of these Greeks, and the
fears, he entertained, that the garrison of Neocastro should profit by his absence to make a sortie during the night, and also the total want of provisions, in which his own troops were, having, on leaving the camp, received rations only for one day, induced Ibrahim to remain satisfied with this partial victory. He, therefore, quitted the field of battle, two hours before sun-set.

The booty, which fell on this occasion to the lot of the Turks, was considerable: but, according to Vattino’s prophecy, two persons of note were numbered among the dead. The caimakan or lieutenant-colonel of the Selim regiment, a young man of the brightest hopes, remained on the spot; and the chiaja of Ibrahim, the first person in the army after the pasha, received a mortal wound, of which he died a few days after.

Caraiscachi, Zavella, Mitzo Contojani, and Rango, whose utter contempt for the Arabs, and disciplined troops, had not been a little moderated by this affair, departed the next day for Argos; whence, after receiving their arrears, they marched for Continental Greece, leaving, henceforth, to the Moriots the care of defending their own country.

Highly grieved at the disaster, that had befallen the Greek army, the general discouragement it had produced, and by the reflection on the inevitable consequences this would give rise to, and the first of which was to see Neocastro abandoned to its fate, Mavrocordato hastened to that fortress, before the enemy, profiting by his victory, should blockade it more completely than he had hitherto done. Escorted by Vattino and the bishop of Modon, at the head of his three hundred Arcadians, we proceeded next morning to Gargagliano, a large village, commanding a fine view of the fertile plain below, the island of Prote, &c.


After dinner we marched for Old Navarino, the ancient Pylos, situated on a rocky promontory at the north-west extremity of the bay, which constitutes the port of Navarino. The distance before us was four leagues and a half. To prevent being surprised by the enemy, ten or twelve standard-bearers had been sent on before as eclaireurs, with orders, that in case they perceived the Turks, to fire three guns. As we drew near Petrochori, one of the soldiers in the van-guard in walking across a field, started a hare, and naturally enough thought he could do no better than shoot it. The report of the musket was enough to throw the whole troop, which consisted of more than five hundred men, into alarm. Halt was made; the cry, “Cavalry, cavalry,” was repeated from mouth to mouth; and the soldiers, panic-struck, unanimously began flying with incredible speed in every direction. The chiefs, instead of encouraging the men by their presence of mind, did not even inquire into the fact; but flew full gallop up a neighbouring elevation. Upwards of an hour took place, before the troop could again be rallied, and following as closely as possible the sea-shore, we arrived an hour before night, on the beach of “sandy Pylos.”

The ruins of its ancient castle, which even in modern times may be called impregnable, considering the steepness of the insulated rock which it crowns, are still visible; and a deep cavern exists a little below it, which bears the name of Nestor. It might, in the present circumstances, have been of much service to the Greeks, and been employed as an inexhaustible store-house, to supply the wants of the troops on the island, and in the fortress. This position, important in ancient times, was abandoned by the Venetians, whose interests being chiefly maritime, judged it more advantageous to defend the entrance of the most convenient and beautiful port of Peloponnesus, and to this effect, built on the
continent, and opposite the mouth of the bay, a new fortress, called by them Navarino; but by the Greeks Neocastro. They erected also on the island of Sphacteria, which forms the western outline of the bay, a small fort of which some remains still exist.

Old Navarino was now occupied by about four hundred men, who had intrenched themselves among the rocks, where they had also constructed the usual tambouri. Its preservation was justly looked upon as essential to that of Neocastro; being the only remaining point of communication it possessed with the main land, and by which it could receive provisions, reinforcements, &c. Once master of it, the enemy could, with the greatest facility, send troops to take possession of the island, from which it is separated by a fordable strait only three hundred yards broad. Aware of the importance of this point, Ibrahim had attacked it, soon after his arrival before Neocastro; but soon convinced of the impossibility of carrying on the undertaking by open force, he prudently renounced it for the moment.

The bishop of Modon commanded the troops, charged with the defence of this place; yet although he could not but expect being before long blockaded by the enemy, and though all the country, as far as Arcadia, abounded with every description of produce, he did not possess, it will scarcely be believed that he did not lay in provisions even for a week; but relied on the arrival of some from Anapli or Zante!

As soon as Captain Tsamado was apprised of Mavrocordato’s arrival, he sent to invite him on board. Count Santa Rosa, Cavaliere Collegrio, and myself, accompanied him, and were hospitably entertained by that truly estimable Hydriot; who, to superior
merit, added what enhances them most, modesty and simplicity of manners. His countrymen ranked him among their most gallant sailors; and the garrison found him to be, on all occasions, an active, disinterested, courageous patriot. He had, a few days before, owing to counter orders, landed on the point of the island three brass eighteen-pounders, which he embarked at Anapli, with orders to convey them to Patras, the siege of which during the last six months had so much been spoken of, and which the active
Conduriotti was, at his departure from Anapli, firmly determined on undertaking.

On Tsamado’s requesting the soldiers of the garrison to assist him in the erection of a battery, on which to place these cannons, they replied, “this is no business of ours; for we are soldiers; not porters nor diggers.” The love of his country operating on his mind above all other considerations, he began the work with his own hands, and thus animating the crew by his example, they set to the work, and terminated it in a few days. He informed us, that the only troops on the island were a hundred men, under the orders of Anagnostaia, who, instead of fulfilling the task, which had been given him by government, had in consequence of a quarrel between him and the capitani of the garrison, departed from Neocastro, and retired to one of the numerous caverns, that exist among the rocks of Sphacteria. There he lived in the midst of a plenty, which the fortress was very far from sharing; but to satisfy his revenge, he neglected bringing in the objects, necessary to its defence and maintenance; little considering the fatal consequences, such proceedings might entail upon his country*.

* I can truly assert, from almost daily inspection, that when I entered Neocastro, the whole of the provisions consisted in bis-


Next morning (April the 22d), we proceeded with Mavrocordato to Neocastro. He presented me to the chiefs, by whom I was heartily welcomed. As there were numerous, wounded and sick, I entered instantly into the performance of my professional duties. The greater part had received their wounds on the 20th, when, profiting by Ibrahim’s absence, who on that day attacked the Greek camp at Fourgi, the garrison made a sortie, with the intention of taking the enemy’s battery on Mount Saint Nichola, and nail its cannons. Suspecting the design of the Greeks, the Arabs had taken every necessary precaution to thwart it; and, in fact, on their appearance, received them with so much firmness and vigour, that, after mounting up only one half of the ascent, they precipitately retired.

A French Philhellene, a youth of nineteen, named Garelle, displayed, on this occasion, a courage which I feel a pleasure in recording. Ensign in the artillery brigade of Callergi, he placed himself (as is customary in Greek and Turkish armies) at the head of the soldiers who volunteered to make the sortie; and with the colours in one hand, and the sword in the other, undauntedly led the way. Disdaining to imitate the cowardly example of the rest, he rushed alone up the hill, and planted the Greek flag on the Turkish battery. Having thus given noble proofs of his valour, he received a wound in the head, and another in the face; when he began to consult his own safety, and was fortunate enough to re-enter the fortress with no further injury.

The Greeks had, on this occasion, fifteen killed on

scuit and flour for six weeks;—eighteen barrels of a pickled fish, called lacerda; fifteen of spoiled anchovies; olives and oil in abundance; and forty chests of vermicelli, accidentally left behind by a Genoese merchant.

the spot, and upwards of thirty wounded. Since the beginning of the siege, not more than sixty men had been wounded. The inclined position of the fortress, but above all, want of skill in the Turkish artillerists, were the chief causes of the trifling injury, hitherto suffered by the besieged. The bombs had indeed so much destroyed the houses of the town, that, with the exception of five or six, they were all levelled with the ground. The church being bomb-proof was therefore destined for the reception of the wounded.

The result of Mavrocordato’s inquiries served to afford a complete and undeniable proof of the negligence of government, and to show how destitute of the means of resistance the fortress was, with the fate of which the most vital interests of Greece were intimately linked; since it defended not only the finest harbour of the Morea; but that, which, in every respect, suited the purposes of the enemy. Nine months before Ibrahim’s arrival, informed positively of his intentions, could not the members of the executive dedicate a small portion of the loan to the wants of Neocastro? Or did the spirit of private revenge and cupidity so powerfully possess their minds, as not to allow them even to reflect on the necessities of their country, and the consequences of their improvidence? Could they not perceive, that as long as the Turks remained without a port in the Morea, their fleet never could undertake any thing of permanent consequence? Winter would always force them to retreat; and in the fine season, obliged to remain constantly at sea, they and their transports would always be exposed to be molested by the Greeks, and would have a thousand difficulties to surmount in order to land or embark troops, provisions, and materials of war, &c. But once in possession of Neocastro, the efforts
of the Greek navy would be almost entirely paralyzed; the sultan’s vessels, and those of
Mehmet Ali, might anchor in safety in its spacious bay, braving the winds and fireships; while Ibrahim might leisurely have prepared every enterprise, he determined upon.

A long list of the principal articles, indispensable to the besieged, was drawn out by Mavrocordato, and forwarded by him to the agent of the Greek government at Zante; but none of them were received by the garrison. Feeling, that a single moment was not to be lost to remedy the existing evils, lest Ibrahim should profit by the inadvertence of the Greeks, Mavrocordato left Neocastro on the very same day he had arrived; and hastened to rejoin Conduriotti, who had, at last, come down to Scala. He urgently represented to him the necessity of using every possible diligence and exertion, to thwart the designs of the enemy, before the return of his fleet from Candia; and to this the following objects were to be effected: viz. ordering a thousand men to occupy the island of Sphacteria; supplying them and the garrison of Old Navarino with ammunition and provisions for three months; constructing proper batteries on its point and opposite the few parts, where landing might be attempted; and supplying the imperious wants of the fortress.