The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 16

Author: George Finlay  | Date: A.D. 1825

Siege of Missolonghi

A.D. 1825


In 18221823 Missolonghi was successfully defended by the Greeks, under Marco Bozzaris, in their war of independence against Turkey. In 1825 the town was besieged by Turks and Egyptians, and although in the following year it fell, its defence was the most glorious event of the Greek revolution.

In the second year of the war (1822) the Greeks had won advantages that led them to proclaim their national independence. Then followed alternate victories and defeats, in which the deeds of Marco Bozzaris made his name famous in history and literature. His death in battle (1823) was a severe blow to the Greek cause. It is commemorated in a well-known poem by Fitz-Greene Halleck. From the time that the Provisional Government of Greece was set up (October, 1824), fighting was continuous in the mountain districts. The second siege of Missolonghi, by the Turks under Reshid Pacha and the Egyptians led by Ibrahim Pacha, is fully described and critically treated by Finlay, one of the most trustworthy and discriminating among the recent historians of Greece.

THE second siege ofMissolonghi is the most glorious military operation of the Greek Revolution: it is also the most characteristic of the moral and political condition of the nation, for it exhibits the invincible energy of the Greek people in strongest contrast with the inefficiency of the military chiefs, and the inertness and ignorance of the members of the Government. Never were greater courage and constancy displayed by the population of a besieged town; rarely has less science been shown by combatants, at a time when military science formed the chief element of success in warfare.

Greek patriotism seemed to have concentrated itself within the strong walls of Missolonghi. Elsewhere hostilities languished. While the citizens of a small town, the fishermen of a shallow lagoon, and the peasants of a desolated district sustained the vigorous attack of a determined enemy, the fleets and armies of Greece wasted their time and their strength in trifling and desultory operations. An undisciplined population performed the duty of a trained garrison. Here, therefore, the valor of the in dividual demands a record in history. Yet, though private deeds of heroism were of daily occurrence, the historian shrinks from selecting the acts of heroism and the names of the warriors that deserve preeminence. All within the town seemed to be inspired by the warmest love for political liberty and national independence, and all proved that they were ready to guarantee the sincerity of their feeling with the sacrifice of their lives.

"Reshid, Pacha of Janina, or, as he was generally called, Kiutayhe, had distinguished himself at the Battle of Petta, and when he assumed the command of the Ottoman forces destined to invade Western Greece in the year 1825, much was expected by the Sultan (Mahmud II) from his well-known firmness and ability. On April 6th he seized the pass of Macronoros, which the Greek chieftains neglected to defend, and where the Greek Government had stationed only a few guards under the com mand of Noti Bozzaris, a veteran Suliote. No three hundred Greeks were now found to make an effort for the defence of this western Thermopylae. The Turks advanced through Acarnania without encountering any opposition. The inhabitants fled before them, and many, with their flocks and herds, found shelter under the English flag in Calamo, where the poor were maintained by rations from the British Government; others retired to Missolonghi, and formed part of the garrison which defended that place. On April 27th Reshid established his headquarters in the plain, and two days afterward opened his first parallel against Missolonghi, at a distance of about six hundred yards from the walls. His force then consisted of only six thousand men and three guns.

Missolonghi was in a good state of defence. An earthen rampart two thousand three hundred yards in length extended from the waters of the lagoon across the promontory on which the town was built. This rampart was partly faced with masonry flanked by two bastions near the centre, strengthened toward its eastern extremity by a lunette and a tenaille, and protected where it joined the lagoon to the west by a battery on an islet called Marmora, about two hundred yards from the termination of the wall. In front of the rampart a muddy ditch, not easy to pass, separated the fortress from the adjoining plain. Forty-eight guns and four mortars were mounted in battery. The garrison consisted of four thousand soldiers and armed peasants, and one thousand citizens and boatmen. The place was well supplied with provisions and ammunition, but there were upward of twelve thousand persons to feed within the walls.

The army of Reshid never exceeded ten thousand troops, and a considerable part of it never entered the plain of Missolonghi, for he was obliged to employ about two thousand men in guarding a line of stations from Macronoros and Cravasara, on the Ambracian Gulf, to Cacescala on the Gulf of Patras, in order to keep open his communications with Arta, Prevesa, Lepanto, and Patras. But in addition to his troops, Reshid was accompanied by three thousand pioneers, muleteers, and camp followers. It was not until the beginning of June that the besiegers obtained a supply of artillery from Patras, which increased their force to eight guns and four mortars. For several weeks, therefore, Reshid trusted more to the spade than to his artillery, and during this time he pushed forward his approaches with indefatigable industry. Early in June he had advanced to within thirty yards of the bastion Franklin, which covered the western side of the walls. But his ammunition was then so much reduced that he was compelled to fire stones from his mortars instead of shells. While the Turks were working at their approaches, the Greeks constructed traverses and erected new batteries.

Little progress had been made in the active operations of the siege, when a Greek squadron of seven sail arrived off Missolonghi on June 10th. It encouraged the besieged by landing considerable supplies of provisions and ammunition, and by announcing that Miaulis would soon make his appearance with a large fleet. The garrison, confident of success, began to make frequent and vigorous sorties. In one of these, Rutsos, a native of Missolonghi, was taken prisoner by the Turks, and was terrified into revealing to the enemy the position of the subterraneous aqueducts that supplied the town with water. The supply was immediately cut off, but fortunately the besieged found fresh water in abundance by digging new wells. The besiegers, who had pushed on their operations with great activity, at last made an attempt to carry the islet of Marmora by assault, which was repelled and entailed on them a severe loss.

The besieged now met with the first great trial of their firmness. They were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the fleet under Miaulis, which they fondly expected would compel Reshid to raise the siege. On July 10th several vessels were descried in the offing. Their joy reached the highest pitch, and they overwhelmed the advance-guard of the besiegers, which consisted of Albanians, with insulting boasts. Soon, however, fresh ships hove in sight, and it was evident that the fleet was too numerous and the ships too large to be Greek. The red flag became visible on the nearest brigs, and gradually the broad streaks of white on the hulls, and the numerous ports, showed plainly both to Greeks and Turks that this mighty force was the fleet of the Captain-Pacha. The besieged were greatly depressed, but their constancy was unshaken.

Reshid now assumed the offensive with great vigor. He introduced a number of flat-bottomed boats into the lagoon, gained possession of the islands of Aghiosostis and Procopanistos, which the Missolonghiots had neglected to fortify, and completely invested the place both by sea and land. On July 28th he made a determined attack on the bastion Bozzaris, and on August 2d he renewed the assault by a still more furious attempt to storm the bastion Franklin, in which a breach had been opened by his artillery; but both these attacks were gallantly repelled. Before the assault on the bastion Franklin, Reshid offered terms of capitulation to the garrison of Missolonghi. His offers were rejected, and, to revenge his defeat, he ordered Rutsos and some other prisoners to be beheaded before the walls. The cruisers of the Captain-Pacha informed him that the Greek fleet was approaching, before this was known to the besieged, and he made the assault on August 2d, with the hope of carrying the place before its arrival.

The Greek fleet, consisting of forty sail of the best ships that Greece still possessed, under the command of Miaulis, Sactures, Colandruzzos, and Apostoles, was descried from Missolonghi on August 3d. Next day the Ottoman fleet manoeuvred to obtain an advantageous position. The Hydriot squadron in the end succeeded in getting the weather-gage of the advanced ships of the Turks; yet the Greeks, in spite of this success, could not break the line of the main division, which consisted of twenty-two sail. Three fire-ships were launched in succession against the Captain-Pacha’s flagship; but this mode of attack no longer threw the Turks into a panic terror, and they manoeuvred so well that the blazing vessels drifted harmless to leeward without forcing them to break their line of battle. Chosref was, nevertheless, so intimidated by the determined manner in which the Greeks directed their attacks against his flag that he avoided a second engagement. He claimed the victory in this indecisive engagement merely because he had escaped defeat, and he made his orders to effect a prompt junction with the Egyptian fleet a pretext for sailing immediately for Alexandria. His cowardice left the flotilla of Reshid in the lagoon without support, and as the Greeks captured one of the transports laden with powder and shells for the army before Missolonghi, the besiegers were again inadequately supplied with ammunition for their mortars.

The command of the lagoons was of vital importance to the besieged. It was necessary to secure their communication with the fleet, and to prevent their being deprived of a supply of fish, which formed a considerable portion of their food. The Turks were not deprived of the advantages they had gained without a severe contest, but the skill of the Missolonghiot fishermen, who were acquainted with all the passages through the shallow water and deep mud, secured the victory, and, with the assistance of some Hydriot boats sent by Miaulis to their aid, the flotilla of Reshid was destroyed, and his Albanians were driven from the posts they had occupied in the islands. Five of the flat-bottomed boats were captured, and the Greeks recovered the command of the whole lagoon. The fleet then sailed in pursuit of the Captain-Pacha, leaving eight ships to keep open the communications be tween the besieged and the Ionian Islands, and prevent any supplies being sent by sea to the besieging army.

Reshid was now placed in a very difficult position. He received his supplies of provision with irregularity, both from Patras and Prevesa. His stores of ammunition were so scanty that he could not keep up a continuous fire from his guns, and was compelled to abandon the hope of carrying the place by an artillery attack. He had no money to pay his troops, and was unable to prevent great numbers of the Albanians from returning home, though he allowed all who remained double rations. On the other hand, the prospects of the besieged were very favorable. They felt confident that Reshid would be forced to raise the siege at the approach of winter, for they daily expected to hear that a Greek army had occupied the passes in his rear. It seemed therefore to be certain that ff he persisted in maintaining his position, his army must perish by want and disease. The armatoli of Roumelia, who had quitted the Peloponnesus after their defeats at Navarin, were said to be marching into the mountains behind Lepanto, whose rugged surface is familiar to classic readers from the description which Thucydides has left us of the destruction of the Athenian army under Demosthenes.

Reshid weighed his own resources and estimated the activity of the Greek irregulars with sagacity. His guns could not render him much service, but he still believed that the spade would enable him to gain possession of Missolonghi before winter. To effect his purpose he adopted a singular but, under the circumstances in which he was placed, by no means an ill-devised method of covering the approach of a large body of men to the counterscarp of the ditch. He set his army to raise a mound by heaping up earth, and this primitive work was carried forward to the walls of the place in defiance of every effort which the besieged made to interrupt the new mode of attack. So strange a revival of the siege operations of the ancients excited the ridicule of the Greeks. They called the mound "the dike of union," in allusion to the mound which Alexander the Great constructed at the siege of Tyre. It was begun at about a hundred sixty yards from the salient angle of the bastion Franklin, and made an obtuse angle as it approached the place. Its base was from five to eight yards broad, and it was so high as to overlook the ramparts of the besieged.

By indefatigable perseverance, and after much severe fighting in the trenches, the Turks carried the mound to the ditch, filled up the ditch, and stormed the bastion Franklin. Even then they could not effect an entry into the place, for the Greeks cut off this bastion from all communication with the rest of their de fences, and soon erected batteries that completely commanded it. They then became the assailants and after a desperate struggle drove the Turks from their recent conquest.

On August 31st all the ground they had lost was regained, and preparations were begun for a great effort against the mound. Several sorties were made in order to obtain exact knowledge of the enemy’s trenches. At last, on September 21st, a great sortie was made by the whole garrison. The Turkish camp was attacked in several places with such fury that Reshid was unable to conjecture against what point the principal force was directed. He was in danger of seeing his batteries stormed and his guns spiked. After a bloody struggle the Greeks carried the works that protected the head of the mound, and maintained possession of their conquest until they had levelled that part of it which overlooked their defences. While every spade in Missolonghi was employed in levelling the mound, bodies of troops cleared the trenches and prevented the enemy from interrupting the work. As the Greeks had foreseen, rain soon rendered it impossible for Reshid to repair the damage his works had sustained.

The garrison of Missolonghi received considerable reenforcements after the Captain-Pacha’s departure. At the end of September it still amounted to four thousand five hundred men and was much more efficient than at the beginning of the siege. Hitherto the fire of the Turkish artillery had been so desultory and ill-directed that not more than one hundred persons had been killed or wounded in the place. This trifling loss during a six-months’ siege induced the Greeks to form a very erroneous idea of the efficiency of siege-artillery; while the facility with which provisions and ammunition had been introduced inspired them with a blind confidence in their naval superiority. The only severe loss they had suffered had been in their sorties, and in these they had hitherto been almost invariably the victors.

The Ottoman fleet, which returned to Patras on November 18th, saved Reshid’s army from starvation, and furnished it with some reenforcements and ample supplies of ammunition. The Greek fleet ought to have engaged the Ottoman before it entered the waters of Patras, but it did not reach the gulf until the Captain-Pacha had terminated the delicate operation of landing stores at Crioneri. A series of naval engagements then took place, in which the Turks baffled all the attempts of the Greeks to cut off their straggling ships and capture their transports. Both parties claimed the victory—the Captain-Pacha because he kept open the communications between Patras and Crioneri, and Miaulis because he succeeded in throwing supplies into Missolonghi and in keeping open its communications with the Ionian Islands. But the real victory remained with the Turks, whose fleet kept its station at Patras, while the Greeks retired from the waters of Missolonghi on December 4, 1825, and returned to Hydra.

Shortly before the departure of the Greek fleet, a new and more formidable enemy appeared before Missolonghi. The campaign in the Peloponnesus had proved that neither the courage of the armatoli nor the stratagems of the clephts were a match for the discipline and tactics of the Egyptians; and Ibrahim advanced to attack the brave garrison of Missolonghi, confident of success. He encountered no opposition in his march from Navarin to Patras. The pass of Clidi was left unguarded, and he captured large magazines of grain at Agulinitza, Pyrgos, and Gastuni, which ought either to have been previously transported to Missolonghi or now destroyed. These supplies proved of great use to Ibrahim’s army during the siege.

The month of December was employed by Ibrahim in forming magazines at Crioneri, and bringing up ammunition to his camp before Missolonghi. Heavy rains rendered it impossible to work at the trenches. The whole plain, from the walls of the town to the bank of the Fidari, was either under water or formed a wide expanse of mud and marsh. The Egyptian soldiers labored indefatigably, and the order which prevailed in their camp astonished Reshid, who was said to have felt some irritation when he found that Ibrahim never asked him for any assistance or advice, but carried on his own operations with unceasing activity and perfect independence. A horrid act of cruelty perpetrated by Reshid was ascribed to an explosion of his suppressed rage. A priest, two women, and three boys, who were accused of having conveyed some intelligence to their relatives in the besieged town, were impaled by his order before the walls.

The Greeks now perceived that the progress of the besiegers although not very rapid, would soon render the place untenable. The supplies of provisions received in January, added to what was then in the public magazines, ought to have furnished abundant rations to the whole population until the end of April; but these stores were wasted by the soldiery. Ibrahim and Reshid contrived to be well informed of everything that was said or done within the walls of Missolonghi, and they learned with pleasure that watchfulness and patience would soon force the Greeks to surrender the place or die of hunger.

The moment appeared favorable for offering a capitulation, but the besieged rejected all negotiation with disdain. Sir Frederick Adam, the Lord High Commissioner in the Ionian Islands, convinced that the loss of Vasiladi and Anatolicon rendered the fall of Missolonghi inevitable, endeavored to prevent further bloodshed. He visited Crioneri in a British ship-of-war and offered his mediation. But the two pachas were now sure of their prey, and as the Greeks refused to treat directly with them they refused all mediation, and Sir Frederick was obliged to retire without effecting anything—an example of the folly of too much zeal in other people’s business.

As soon as he was gone, Ibrahim and Reshid, pretending that the Greeks had expressed a wish to learn what terms of capitulation could be obtained, sent a written summons to the garrison offering to allow all the Greek troops to quit Missolonghi on laying down their arms, and engaging to permit the inhabitants who desired to leave the town to depart with the garrison; at the same time they declared that all those who wished to remain should be allowed to retain possession of their property and should enjoy ample protection for themselves and their families. To this summons the Greeks replied that they had never expressed any wish to capitulate; that they were determined to defend Missolonghi to the last drop of their blood; that if the pachas wanted their arms they might come to take them; and that they remitted the issue of the combat to the will of God.

The only post in the lagoon of which the Greeks held possession was the small islet of Clissova, about a mile from Missolonghi, to the southeast. This post was defended by a hundred fifty men under Cizzos Djavellas. The Greeks were advantageously posted, and protected by a rampart of earth from the artillery of their assailants; while a low chapel, with an arched roof of stone, served them as a magazine and citadel. On April 6th the Albanians of Reshid attacked Clissova. The shallow water prevented even the flat-bottomed boats of the Turks from approaching close to its shore, so that the attacking party was compelled to jump into the sea and wade forward through the deep mud. While the gunboats fired showers of grape the Greeks crouched in a ditch close to their earthen rampart; but as soon as the Albanians jumped into the water, they rose on their knees, and, resting the long guns on the parapet, poured such a well-directed volley on their enemies that the foremost fell dead or wounded and the rest recoiled in fear. Several officers were standing up in the boats directing the landing: they offered a conspicuous mark to the best shots among the Greeks, and most of them fell mortally wounded. The Albanians retired in confusion.

Ibrahim then ordered his regular troops to renew the attack. The result was similar; but the Egyptians were led back a second time to the attack, and again retreated under the deadly fire of the Greeks. Seeing the advantage which the defenders of Clissova derived from their position, Ibrahim ought to have abandoned the assault and kept the islet closely blockaded until he could bring up a few mortars. But he was eager to prove that his regulars were superior to the Albanians of Reshid. He therefore ordered Hasan, the conqueror of Casos, Sphacteria, and Vasiladi, to make a third attack. Hasan led his men bravely on, but as he stood up in his boat giving orders concerning the formation of the storming parties he was struck by a musket-ball and fell down mortally wounded. The steady fire of the Greeks prevented the regulars from completing their formation. The men turned and scrambled back into the boats in complete disorder. After this repulse the pachas drew off their troops. Five hundred men were killed or wounded in this vain attempt to storm a sandbank defended by a hundred fifty good marksmen.

The victory of Clissova was the last success of the Greeks during the siege of Missolonghi. Provisions began to fail, and rations ceased to be distributed to any but the men who performed service. Yet as relief by sea was hourly expected, the garrison remained firm.

Finally the magazines of Missolonghi did not contain rations for more than two days. The garrison had now to choose whether it would perish by starvation, capitulate, or cut its way through the besiegers. It resolved to face every danger rather than surrender. The inhabitants who were unable to bear arms, the women, and the children showed as much patience and courage in this dreadful situation as the veteran soldiers hardened in Turkish warfare. A spirit of heroism, rare in the Greek revolution rare even in the history of mankind pervaded every breast. After deliberate consultation in a numerous assembly, it was resolved to force a passage for the whole population through the besieging armies. Many would perish, some might escape; but those who fell and those who escaped would be alike free. A well-devised plan was adopted for evacuating the town, but its success was marred by several accidents.

About sunset on April 22, 1826, a discharge of musketry was heard by the besieged on the ridge of Zygos. This was a concerted signal to inform the chiefs in Missolonghi that a body of fifteen hundred armatoli, detached from the camp of Caraiscaci at Platanos, was ready to attack the rear of the Turks and aid the sorties of the besieged. The garrison was mustered in three divisions. Bridges were thrown across the ditch, and breaches were opened in the walls. There were still nine thousand persons in the town, of whom only three thousand were capable of bearing arms. Nearly two thousand men, women, and children were so feeble from age, disease, or starvation that they were unable to join the sortie.

Many of the relations of these helpless individuals voluntarily remained to share their fate. The noncombatants, who were to join the sortie, were drawn up in several bodies, according to the quarters in which they resided or the chiefs under whose escort they were to march. The Missolonghiots formed themselves into a separate band. They were less attenuated by fatigue than the rest; but being collected from every quarter of the town, their band was less orderly than the emigrants from the country, who had been disciplined by privation and accustomed to live and act together. Most of the women who took part in the sortie dressed themselves in the fustanella and carried arms, like the Albanians and armatoli; most of the children had also loaded pistols in their belts, which many had already learned to use.

At nine o’clock the bridges were placed in the ditch without noise, and a thousand soldiers crossed and ranged themselves along the covered way. Unfortunately a deserter had informed Ibrahim of the projected sortie, and both he and Reshid, though they gave little credit to the information that the whole population would attempt to escape, adopted every precaution `to repulse a sortie of the garrison. When the noncombatants began to cross the bridges, the noise revealed to the Turks the positions in which the crowds were assembled, and on these points they opened a terrific fire. Crowds rushed forward to escape the shot. The shrieks of the bounded and the splash of those who were forced from the bridges were unnoticed; and in spite of the enemy’s fire the greater part of the inhabitants crossed the ditch in tolerable order. The Missolonghiots still lingered behind, retarded by their interests and their feelings. It was no easy sacrifice to quit their homes and their relations. For a considerable time the garrison waited patiently for them under a heavy fire. At last the first body of the Missolonghiots crossed the ditch, and then the troops sprang forward with a loud shout and rushed sword in hand on the Turks.

Never was a charge made more valiantly. The eastern division of the garrison, under Noti Bozzaris, struggled forward to gain the road to Bochori; the central division, under Cizzos Djavellas, pushed straight through the enemy’s lines toward the hills; and the western division, under Macry, strove to gain the road to the Clisura. All three intended when clear of the Turks to effect a junction on the slopes of Zygos, where the road ascends to the monastery of St. Simeon.

Almost at the moment when the garrison rushed on the Turks, that portion of the Missolonghiots which was then on the bridges raised a cry of "Back, back!" Great part of the Missolonghiots stopped, fell back, and returned into the town with the military escort which ought to have formed the rear guard of the sortie. The origin of this ill-timed cry, which weakened the force of the sortie and added to the victims in the place, has excited much unnecessary speculation. It evidently rose among those who were in danger of being forced into the ditch. Their cry was repeated so loudly that it created a panic.

The three leading divisions bore down all opposition. Neither the yataghan of Reshid’s Albanians nor the bayonet of Ibrahim’s Arabs could arrest their impetuous attack; and they forced their way through the labyrinth of trenches, dikes, and ditches with comparatively little loss. Only some women and children, who could not keep up with the column as it rushed forward over the broken ground, were left behind. Had it not been for the information given by the traitor, the greater part of the defenders of Missolonghi would have escaped. In consequence of that information Ibrahim and Reshid had taken the precaution to send bodies of cavalry to watch the roads leading to Bochori, St. Simeon, and Clisura. The horsemen fell in with the Greek columns when they were about a mile beyond the Turkish lines and were beginning to feel secure.

The division of Macry was completely broken by the first charge of the cavalry. The others were thrown into confusion. All suffered severely, yet small bands of the garrison still kept together, and, by keeping up a continuous fire, enabled numbers of women and children to rally under their protection. At last the scattered remnants of the three divisions began to recover some order on reaching the slopes of Zygos, where the irregularities of the ground forced the cavalry to slacken the pursuit.

The fugitives prepared to enjoy a short rest, and endeavored to assemble the stragglers who had eluded the swords of the horsemen. They were confident that the fire they had kept up against the cavalry would draw down the fifteen hundred men of Caraiscad’s corps to their assistance. While they were thus engaged in giving and expecting succor, a body of Albanians placed in ambuscade by Reshid to watch the road to the monastery of St. Simeon crept to their vicinity unperceived and poured a deadly volley into their ranks. Instead of friends to assist them, they had to encounter one thousand mountaineers, well posted, to bar their progress. The Greeks, surprised by these unseen enemies, could do nothing but get out of the range of the rifles of the Albanians. The Albanians followed and tracked them in order to secure their heads, for which the pachas had promised a high price. The loss of the Greeks was greater at the foot of the hills, where their own troops ought to have insured their safety, than it had been in forcing the enemy’s lines and in resisting the charges of the cavalry. Most of the women and children who had dragged themselves thus far were so exhausted that they were taken prisoners.

About midnight small parties of the garrison, and a few women and children, succeeded in reaching the post occupied by the Greek troops; but instead of fifteen hundred men they found only fifty, with a very small supply of provisions to relieve their wants. Here they learned also, with dismay, that the camp at Platanos was a prey to the ordinary dissensions and abuses which disgraced the military classes of Greece at this period. The weary fugitives in order to escape starvation were soon compelled to continue their march to Platanos. Even there they obtained very little assistance from the chiefs of the armatoli; and when they had rested about a week, they resumed their journey to Salona. Many perished from wounds, disease, and hunger on the road. About fifteen hundred reached Salona during the month of May, straggling thither generally in small bands, and often by very circuitous roads, which they followed in order to procure food. Of these about thirteen hundred were soldiers; there were several girls in the number of those who escaped, and a few boys under twelve years of age.

As soon as Ibrahim and Reshid found that the greater part of the garrison had evacuated Missolonghi, they ordered a general assault. Their troops occupied the whole line of the walls without encountering resistance. But it was not until morning dawned that the Turkish officers allowed their men to advance into the interior of the town, though several houses near the walls had been set on fire during the night. A whole day was spent by the conquerors in plundering Missolonghi. The Greek soldiers who were prevented from accompanying their comrades, either by wounds or sickness, intrenched themselves in the stone buildings best adapted for offering a desperate resistance. The party which occupied the principal powder-magazine, when closely attacked, set fire to the powder and perished in the explosion. A second powder-magazine was exploded by its de fenders, who also perished with their assailants. A windmill, which served as a central depot of ammunition, was defended until April 24th, when its little garrison, having exhausted their provisions, set fire to the powder. All the soldiers preferred death to captivity.

The loss of the Greeks amounted to four thousand. Ibrahim boasted that the Turks had collected three thousand heads; and it is probable that at least one thousand perished from wounds and starvation beyond the limits which the besiegers examined. The nearest points where the fugitives could find security and rest were Petala, Salamis, and Salona. The conquerors took about three thousand prisoners, chiefly women and children. About two thousand escaped; for besides those who reached Salona, a few found refuge in the villages of Aetolia, and some of the inhabitants of Missolonghi and of the surrounding country evaded the Turkish pursuit by wading into the lagoon, and ultimately reached Petala and Salamis, where they received protection and rations from the British Government.

Many deeds of heroism might be recorded. One example deserves to be selected. The Morean primates have been justly stigmatized as a kind of Christian Turks; and, as a class, their conduct during the Greek revolution was marked by selfishness. Yet a Morean primate displayed a noble example of the purest patriotism at the fall of Missolonghi. Papadiamantopulos of Patras, a leading Hetairist,1

was one of the members of the executive commission intrusted with the administration of Western Greece.

In the month of February he visited Zante to hasten the departure of supplies. His friends there urged him to remain. They said that as he was not a soldier he could assist in prolonging the defence of Missolonghi more effectually by remaining at Zante, to avail himself of every opportunity of sending over supplies, than by serving in the besieged town. But the noble old gentleman silenced every entreaty by the simple observation: "I invited my countrymen to take up arms against the Turks, and I swore to live and die with them. This is the hour to keep my promise." He returned to Missolonghi, and died the death of a hero in the final sortie.

John James Meyer, a young Swiss Philhellene, also deserves to have his name recorded. He came to Greece in 1821, married a maiden of Missolonghi, and at the commencement of the siege was elected a member of the military commission that conducted the defence. He was an enthusiastic democrat in his political opinions, and a man of indefatigable energy—acting as a soldier on the walls, as a surgeon in the hospital, as an honest man in the commissariat, and as a patriot in the military commission. A short time before it was resolved to force a passage through the Turkish lines, he wrote his last letter to a friend, which contains these words: "Our labors and a wound in the shoulder—a prelude to one which will be my passport to eternity—have prevented my writing lately. We suffer horribly from hunger and thirst; and disease adds to our calamities. In the name of our brave soldiers of Noti Bozzaris, Papadiamantopulos, and in my own, I declare that we have sworn to defend Missolonghi foot by foot, and to accept no capitulation. Our last hour approaches."

In the final sortie he reached the foot of the hills, carrying his child and accompanied by his wife. He was there slain, and his wife and child were made prisoners. Meyer entertained a firm conviction that constancy on the part of the Greeks would eventually force Christian nations to support their cause, and he deemed it to be his duty to exhibit an example of the constancy he inculcated. Greece owes a debt of gratitude to this disinterested stranger who served her before kings and ministers became her patrons.

The conduct of the defenders of Missolonghi will awaken the sympathies of freemen in every country as long as Grecian history endures. The siege rivals that of Plataea in the energy and constancy of the besieged; it wants only a historian like Thucydides to cure for it a like immortality of fame.

1The Hetairists were members of the Hetaeria Philike, a secret political society founded in 1814 for the liberation of Greece. This organization was chiefly instrumental in bringing about the revolution.—Ed.


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Chicago: George Finlay, "Siege of Missolonghi," The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 16 in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. Rossiter Johnson (Harrogate, TN: The National Alunmi, 1926), Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2021,

MLA: Finlay, George. "Siege of Missolonghi." The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 16, in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, edited by Rossiter Johnson, Harrogate, TN, The National Alunmi, 1926, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2021.

Harvard: Finlay, G, 'Siege of Missolonghi' in The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 16. cited in 1926, The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. , The National Alunmi, Harrogate, TN. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2021, from