LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter IX

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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Lord Byron endeavours in vain to unite the Suliots—Organizes a corps of artillery—Major Parry—Errors of the Greek Committee in London—German officers.

When Lord Byron landed, he wore a military uniform. By appearing in that dress for the first time, and on so solemn an occasion, he no doubt wished it to be understood, that his intention, on coming out to Greece, was, to devote himself especially to military occupations. His house was filled with soldiers; his receiving room resembled an arsenal of war, rather than the habitation of a poet. Its walls were decorated with swords, pistols, Turkish sabres, dirks, rifles, guns, blunderbusses, bayonets, helmets, and trumpets, fantastically suspended, so as to form various figures; and attacks, surprises, charges, ambuscades, battles, sieges, were almost the only topics of his conversation with the different capitani. Having visited the country of most of them; and gifted, as he was, with the most surprising local memory, he often excited their wonder, by describing to them the most important passes with the minutest accuracy; stating the distance from place to place; and entering into details and particulars, which even the natives scarcely recollected.

Having invited the principal Suliots to assemble at his house, after dwelling lightly on the loss of their native country, and lamenting their dispersion; he expressed the design he entertained, of uniting them into one body, and maintaining them at his
own expense; till they had won from the enemy a country, where they might settle with their families, which were now in so miserable a condition as to be compelled to trust to the forced hospitality of strangers. He was aware, that there hardly remained eight hundred out of the brave defenders of Suli; but, with similar companions, no enterprise would appear arduous, and no danger terrible.

Before Lord Byron imparted to them his design, he judged it absolutely necessary, that they should elect among themselves a general, and bind themselves by a solemn oath punctually to obey his orders. There existed, unfortunately, not less than five different clans among this unfortunate people: and their calamities had increased instead of tempering the bitterness of their hatred. This feeling was so deeply rooted, that a man, belonging to the ϕρατρια of Zavella or Photamara, would almost as readily have become a Mussulman, as obey the orders of a Botzari; and the house of Lord Byron was daily the theatre of their animosities. Perceiving, at last, that his warmest remonstrances were of no avail, and that family quarrels had over their minds more force than personal or national interests, he gave up his project of uniting them into one legion.

Highly sensible to this unexpected disappointment, and believing it to arise, in great measure, from the chiefs, he ordered Draco and Lambro Zerva, both Suliots, to enrol into his service three hundred of their countrymen, or others of the best soldiers they could select. He directed, also, his attention to the formation of a corps of artillery, the want of which was imperiously felt. And he enlisted all the German Philhellenes, who had, a few days previous, arrived from the Morea in the most wretched condition imaginable. Several of these,
but especially
Kindermann, were officers of merit; and had not Colonel Stanhope and the Greek Committee extolled so much Parry’s praises, and appointed him before his arrival, major of the brigade of artillery, and chief engineer, there can be no doubt, that, intrusted to their care, the Greek soldiers would, in a short time, have learned to perform their evolutions with as much accuracy as European soldiers, and have thence become of essential use to their country. The Greeks who, beyond comparison, are more gifted with the talent of imitation than any other nation, learned with a rapidity that astonished every European officer. The title of colonel of the brigade of artillery was conferred upon Major Parry. His lordship gave to me the title of staff-surgeon; the irregulars, also, were placed under my medical care.

It soon became evident, that little co-operation could be expected between Lord Byron and the Honourable Colonel Stanhope, agent of the Greek Committee. Lord Byron was fully persuaded, that in the degraded state of the Greek nation, a republican form of government was totally unsuited, as well as incompatible with her situation, in respect to the neighbouring states of Europe. Colonel Stanhope, whose enthusiasm for the cause was extreme, supposed them, on the other hand, to be endowed with the same virtue which their ancestors displayed.

Unless government possessed the means of making the established laws respected, and of vindicating its authority, when insulted, no hopes could be formed for the obtaining a loan in England, for the establishment of order, or the attainment of civil liberty. It was indispensable, that it should have at its full disposal a superior force. This only could crush the
fiend of civil war, which had, of late, again begun to raise its head in Peloponnesus. The same means would enable it, also, to establish a more solid barrier against the enemy’s future aggressions. These desirable ends would be fulfilled only by a powerful body of regular troops; and I have heard Lord Byron bitterly lament, that the Greek Committee, instead of employing the sums, arising from the subscriptions, to the purchase of objects of very secondary importance, had not consecrated them to the formation of a regiment, under the command of
Colonel Napier, a man whose courage, talent, and probity were universally admitted and admired.

This idea was ever foremost in his mind; and had not the hand of death deprived Greece of his councils, he would have carried it into execution; and the more easily, since he had been appointed chief commissary to the loan. Colonel Stanhope, on the contrary, exclaimed to every one, who approached him: “Never let the Greeks tolerate a standing army, nor foreign troops. The principles of a mercenary army are opposed to those of freedom, and their interests are at variance with their duty.”

Parry arrived at Mesolonghi, in the beginning of February, on board the Anna, an English brig, chartered by the London Greek Committee. It was laden with ammunition, cannons, printing-presses, medicines, and all the apparatus, necessary to the establishment of a military laboratory in Greece. Several mechanics came at the same time. They had engaged themselves to remain in Greece the time, judged necessary for the instruction of several natives in the various branches they professed. Messrs. Humphries, Fowkes, Winter, Sass, and Luptow came out, also, by the same ship.


By sending out men and articles like these to a country like Greece, the Committee displayed as much sagacity as the speculator, who had shipped skates for the Brazils. The colonel was, after his arrival, so embarrassed how to dispose of the laboratory, that he did not know even where to establish it. Spezzia, Anapli, Athens were, in turn, fixed upon; but at last it was decided in favour of Mesolonghi. The Greeks, if possible, knew still less what should be done with the greater part of these articles; and in fact, they looked upon them with so much indifference, that, when landed, no one would transport them to the seraglio, the building appointed for their reception. “Hellens are soldiers; not porters;” was the reply, made to the repeated solicitations for assistance. They were, however, at last, transported by the soldiers belonging to the artillery brigade; and from that day, till the taking of Mesolonghi, all the apparatus of the laboratory remained unemployed in the yard and magazines of the seraglio; and as long as the English workmen remained, nothing could be undertaken for want of coals and timber; and these no one would be at the expense of purchasing.

Parry, on his arrival, gained Lord Byron’s confidence entirely; and, to give him a proof of his esteem, his lordship appointed him major in the artillery-brigade. From that day, all the hopes which the rapid progress of that corps had excited, were at an end. The best officers gave in resignations; stating that, ever proud of serving under Lord Byron, neither their honour, nor the interest of the service, allowed them to obey a man, who never had had any other profession or acquaintances than those of a shipwright. Kindermann, Dittmar, and other
German officers, who had occupied distinguished ranks in the Prussian armies, stated to him evident proofs of Parry’s ignorance of artillery; and the little likelihood there was of a person’s having ever served, as he pretended, in the American or any other army, who presented himself before the troops with an apron and hammer. Lord Byron, however, was so infatuated in favour of Parry, that, neglecting to look into the affair with his own eyes, he attributed those complaints to jealousy, and to German ideas of etiquette; quite misplaced in a country, where merit, and not former titles, established distinctions between individuals.

Messrs. Humphries, Finlay, Fowkes, Blackett, and Winter, refused taking service in the artillery brigade for the above reasons; and those officers, who remained, did it out of necessity; poverty, not their will, consenting.

To a certain extent, Lord Byron was excusable. Ignorant himself of military matters, how could he suppose Parry so destitute of merit as he was represented, when Colonel Stanhope, and, in fact, the whole Committee, several members of which were officers of distinction, gave him the most flattering recommendations? But Lord Byron overlooked, for the moment, the truth, which he acknowledged on other occasions, viz. that, notwithstanding his pretensions to good sense and judgment, John Bull is, at times, the most credulous creature in existence, and allows himself to be imposed upon and dazzled by the tinsel of quackery, with all the simplicity of an unreflecting child. This man, who so completely acquired the confidence of the Committee, as to be looked upon by them as the future palladium of Greece, was as ignorant as he was presumptuous. Parry had been introduced to the Committee by Mr.
Gordon, who recommended him as a man, who possessed all the requisite qualities for serving the Greeks. Without dwelling on his acquaintance with almost every branch of military mechanics, it was sufficient to inform them, that he knew the composition of Congreve rockets. With this mighty instrument of mischief, the Greeks would, at once, paralyze all the efforts of their enemy by land as well as by sea. The valour of their cavalry, the only arm against which the Greeks were not yet able to cope, would, through these rockets, become inefficient; and their vessels would, thanks to the same means, more easily be destroyed, than by expensive and unmanageable fire-ships.

Once introduced to the notice of the Committee, Parry soon paved his way to their confidence. He gradually assumed so much self-assurance, that none of the members, who were not military, could venture to make him any objections or remarks, without his replying to them (to use a vulgar but characteristic expression) in a bullying manner; ridiculing their attempts to talk on subjects, they could not comprehend. This assurance was successful, and Parry was recommended to Lord Byron as a man essentially important to Greece; but, unfortunately, of a temper irascible, obstinate, and difficult to manage.

In order to gain an ascendant over this hitherto unmanageable man, Lord Byron treated him with particular kindness and generosity, and encouraged him by praise and marks of confidence. Parry, on his side, was indefatigable. No hundred-handed Briareus could have undertaken more. He gave plans for the erection of a laboratory, and presided over the works. He paved the yard of the seraglio, repaired batteries, instructed the troops in the musket and
cannon exercise, gave lessons with the broad-sword, inspected the fortifications, gave orders to
Cocchini, the engineer; repaired gun-carriages, &c. Nothing could be done without him; even the regimental tailors awaiting his directions.

All this was Much ado about nothing; and although things went on as Parry wished, he hourly lamented the impossibility of making his rockets, incendiary kites, and improved Grecian fires, since the English mechanics could not work till coals arrived. A Turkish ship could not appear, without his exclaiming; “it is not my fault if I do not burn it.” Unfortunately, about this time a report was circulated at Mesolonghi, that the Turkish authorities, alarmed at these preparations, had set a price on the lives of the Europeans engaged in the Greek service, and great apprehensions were, in consequence, entertained.

While the minds of the mechanics, in particular, were preyed upon by these fears, the following tragical event occurred: a sentinel had been placed at the gate of the seraglio, to prevent every one, who did not belong to the laboratory from entering. A Suliot, named Toti, presented himself; and, without paying the slightest attention to the prohibition, boldly walked in. Lieutenant Sass, a Swede, informed of this, came up to the Suliot; and, pushing him roughly, ordered him to go out. On his refusal, the officer drew out his sabre, and struck him with its flat edge. Incensed at this, the Suliot, who was of Herculean strength, cut the Swede’s left arm almost entirely off with one stroke of his yataghan; and, immediately after, shot him through the head. The soldiers belonging to the artillery brigade shut the gate, and after inflicting several wounds on Toti, who continued to defend himself, succeeded in securing him. His countrymen, with whom he was a
favourite, being informed of the accident, hastened to the seraglio, and would have proceeded to acts of violence, had not their friend been delivered into their hands. The next morning, Sass was buried with military honours. The Suliots attended the funeral; and thus terminated the temporary misunderstanding between them and the Franks. Nothing, however, could calm the anxieties and fears of the mechanics. With death-like faces, they presented themselves at
Lord Byron’s house, and implored permission to return to their families. This being instantly granted, they embarked for the Ionian Islands.