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That Greece Might Still Be Free

William St Clair

27 Regulars Again

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1When Colonel Fabvier was appointed to the command of the new Greek regular forces in July 1825 the military situation seemed desperate, Ibrahim’s forces had shown their complete superiority and were in control of much of the Morea. Advanced parties of his army had appeared within sight of Nauplia, the capital of Greece.

2The task which Fabvier had undertaken was daunting in the extreme. The Regiment which had been raised by Baleste and by Tarella in 1821 and 1822 had achieved a tolerable level of discipline and skill but, even at its best, it could never be relied upon to hold ranks at the crucial moment of a battle. The Regiment had never had to face an enemy using regular tactics. How much more difficult would it be for an entirely new force to face the experienced Arabs and Albanians of Ibrahim’s army. It is difficult now to comprehend the qualities which were needed to win a battle fought according to European methods at this time. Some of the success which the French armies had won during the campaigns of Napoleon was due to their famous élan and to a sense of taking part in a great and glorious enterprise. But for most of the time and for most of the armies the military qualities which decided battles were very different. Large bodies of men had to be persuaded to stand in lines for long periods within sight and often within range of the enemy. They had to be persuaded to keep their line even when they saw gaps being torn in their own ranks by cannon fire, and their comrades lying wounded and groaning by their side, and when they could see heavy cavalry or columns of infantry about to rush upon them with lance or bayonet. They had to be able to perform in close order and on the march the various technically complicated operations required for loading and discharging muskets, whose rate of fire was seldom more than one volley a minute.

3To win battles more was needed than skill in handling the weapons and a courageous disposition. There was always the thought which would arise disconcertingly at the time when a man’s resources of courage seemed near exhaustion, that further along the line his comrades might already have reached that point. Men had to be habituated to a special kind of fearlessness, and to instant, unquestioning obedience. Too much imagination might be fatal. If they showed a disposition to query their orders or to take any kind of initiative, this must be stamped out of them by hours of unvarying and brutalizing drill. Old soldiers would come to appreciate that in battle their best hope of safety really did consist in holding their ranks, but most armies had a code of harsh punishments to discourage any recurring doubts. Stolidity was perhaps the most important of the military virtues.

4The poor wretches who had the misfortune to man the ranks of the armies of Europe had little or no experience of other methods of waging war. They took their chance of surviving or not in much the same way as their fathers and grandfathers had done. Weapon technology and military methods had not altered substantially for generations, and the military ethos which accompanied them was traditional and institutionalized. But how were the Greeks to become regular soldiers? How could they suddenly shake off their own traditional methods and their own military ethos? They were being asked to adopt European methods which they had come to despise, to assume a kind of behaviour which was alien to them, to be followers instead of leaders, with no opportunity to show their individuality.

5Fabvier seems to have understood all this more than most. He and his men had been soldiers too long to have illusions about war or to fall for the easy solutions of less experienced Philhellenes. They realized that, if they were to have any hope of success, they must give the Greeks training and discipline and more training and more discipline. Only a man who could win their respect could hope to impose such a programme and Fabvier worked ceaselessly. He learned the language, he lived simply, it was clear for all to see that he was a brave and conscientious soldier, and he had made Greece his home. The Greeks wanted to respect him. For the first time in the war they positively wanted to learn European tactics: it was no longer a case of the foreigners peddling a superior product to an uninterested customer.

6Fabvier exploited these advantages to the full. From the first day he subjected his force to a training programme of unrelieved ferocity. The men were fed and provided with arms and quarters but in return they were expected to surrender their freedom completely. Recruiting was of course difficult on these conditions and Fabvier’s officers had to scour the last corners of Free Greece acting as a virtual press gang.

7The decision of the Greek Government to entrust him with the responsibility for the new force was a wise one. It was, however, a serious setback to the plans of General Roche who had arrived in Greece in April 1825 as agent of the Paris Greek Committee. As we have seen, Roche’s prime purpose was to persuade the Greek leaders to select a French prince as their King in exchange for promises of money and military assistance. How could Roche, an agent (although unavowed) of the French Government, co-operate with a man who had taken up arms against France and who was reputed to be deeply involved in plots to overthrow the Bourbons, and bring back a new Napoleon? Fabvier’s little force at this time was almost entirely officered with disaffected Frenchmen and condemned Italians, Bonapartists, revolutionaries, carbonari. To such men, the idea that they should assist in thrusting a puppet Bourbon prince on a reluctant Greece was ludicrous. Almost every one had spent his life since Waterloo fighting members of the House of Bourbon in France, Naples and Spain. Co-operation between Fabvier and Roche was out of the question.

8Whatever his other qualities it is clear that General Roche was no diplomat. It had been intended that the proposal to establish an Orleanist kingdom, on which so many months of careful preparation had been expended, should be formally put and accepted in the summer of 1825. General Roche’s part in the operation was merely to spring the trap, but when he reached Greece the task did not look so straightforward. Not only was there the embarrassment of Fabvier’s presence but the whole secret of the plan seemed to be known to everyone. The leading Greeks whose encouraging statements had been carefully transmitted to the Duke of Orleans in Paris (via the British interception office) now seemed unaccountably indifferent to his protestations.

9They were frankly sceptical of his promised ability to send enough troops (to be raised in Ireland or Switzerland) to turn the war against Ibrahim. They were sceptical whether the French Government itself was strong enough and they were rightly suspicious of France’s involvement with Egypt. It had become increasingly clear to them that the only country with the strength and influence to make a decisive difference was Great Britain.

10The Petition of July 1825 in which the Greek Government and numerous leading Greeks begged the British Government to take Greece under British protection came as a shock to Roche. Whereas all the details of the French intrigues were known to the British, the French had only a general appreciation of the activities of the pro-English group in Greece. The Petition was an unequivocal document entrusting to His Britannic Majesty ’the sacred deposit of the liberty of Greece, her independence and her political existence’. Most Greeks and foreigners thought it had been secretly invited by Captain Hamilton of H.M.S. Cambrian and by the British High Commissioner in the Ionian Islands.

11Roche did not know what to do but, as he saw his plans dissolving into ruins, he felt he must do something. He decided to address a letter of protest to the Greek Government in the name of the Paris Greek Committee. But what to say? He could not complain too violently about the iniquities of submitting to the protection of a foreign power when his own mission had been to arrange precisely that. The letter took the form therefore of querying the legality of the decision. Even so, such a protest would give the appearance of being merely an outburst from a disappointed rival. Something was needed to give the protest an air of authority, to make it appear that its sentiments were widely shared.

  • 1 Larrabee gives most of the story of Washington from original sources such as Howe, Journal, and Sw (...)
  • 2 Translated from version in Swan, ii, p. 156.

12Just then there arrived at Nauplia a striking young man calling himself Lieutenant Washington,1 the nephew of George Washington, first President of the United States. Who better to sign an international protest against the British? Washington agreed to co-operate with Roche, and the two men duly presented their protest claiming in the preamble to be representatives (deputés) of the Philhellenes of France and of the United States. ’It had been very painful for the undersigned’, the document declared at one point, ’to see the lack of confidence which the Greek Senate has put, in these grave circumstances, in the French and American Nations’.2

13The letter of protest was a fiasco. By this time everybody knew the story of the Orleans intrigue or some more alarming variant of it. Roche’s credibility fell sharply. Similarly, when it began to be asked who was this man Washington who spoke so confidently on behalf of the American people, the answers were not reassuring.

14William Townsend Washington, like so many Philhellenes, seems consciously to have tried to act out in practice his own vision of himself. Washington saw himself as that familiar figure of later American military tradition, the hero as tough guy. His kinship to George Washington, if genuine at all, was distant, but he persuaded people to believe that deference was due to one who bore such an illustrious name. He had spent a short time at West Point in 1823 and then received a lieutenant’s commission in the United States Army, but he resigned in 1825 in order to go to Greece. His name and his easy assumption of superiority opened all doors and he was given a letter of introduction by the Boston Greek Committee. He also carried similar letters from the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of War.

15The Boston Committee had provided him with $300 for his passage to Greece and asked him to carry $200 to deliver to another American Philhellene in Greece, Jonathan Peckham Miller. He travelled to Greece in style and, when he met Miller, he calmly told him that he had already spent all but $84 of the money for his own use. Washington felt that it was part of the character of a strong man to be shocking, offensive, and violent. He took pleasure in taunting the other Americans in the hope that he would have a chance to show his skill as a duellist. He was dissipated and unashamedly dishonest.

16The other Americans in Greece hated and despised him and quickly made it clear that Washington had no authority to sign the protest on their behalf and that he was not the agent of the American Greek Committees, and letters of complaint were sent to Boston about the wasted money. There followed his decline and fall. He left Greece in a huff and tried ostentatiously to renounce his American citizenship on board an American warship in Smyrna. Later, he turned up in Paris wearing a magnificent Greek costume – in which Delacroix painted his portrait – and was lionized by society. But his character was unchanged. He succeeded in swindling a few tradesmen and seducing at least one lady before Lafayette was told to beware of this young man so unlike his uncle who never told a lie. In 1827 Washington returned to Greece and was killed by a Greek cannon at Nauplia during an outbreak of civil violence. The career of the Philhellene with the famous name had been followed with fascinated interest in the United States and it was reported with suitable repugnance that he died cursing his native land and muttering something about Amelia and a lock of hair.

17Meanwhile, throughout the summer of 1825 preparations had been going on in France to send the first French philhellenic expedition to Greece where it was expected to act under the direction of General Roche and to help promote the success of his policies. The expedition set sail from Marseilles in September under the command of a former French officer, Maxime Raybaud. Another phase of philhellenism was about to begin. A new group of Philhellenes were about to learn some old lessons.

18Raybaud had been in Greece before. He had been one of the handful of officers picked up by Mavrocordato at Marseilles in July 1821 and was typical of many of the Philhellenes of the first period. He had joined the French army in 1813 but had not seen any active service. In 1820 he was compulsorily retired and one of his reasons for going to Greece was to look for employment. He had seen the aftermath of the fall of Tripolitsa in October 1821 and had been on Mavrocordato’s staff at Peta. It was Raybaud who took command of the twenty-five survivors of the Battalion of Philhellenes when they stood to arms for the last time at Missolonghi in July 1822 in memory of their fallen comrades. On his return to France he wrote a book about his experiences in Greece, not a hasty indignant outburst of disappointment like those of so many returning Philhellenes but a sober, thoughtful, accurate account. It remains one of the best books about the Greek Revolution.

19However, although Raybaud probably understood as much about the situation in Greece as anyone in France, his ideas were a good deal out of date. His thinking was at the same stage as Gordon’s had been in early 1823 when the London Greek Committee was preparing to send their first expedition to Greece. Like Gordon – with whom he was in correspondence – Raybaud believed that Greece needed principally mountain artillery and repair facilities. And so the first expedition sent by the Paris Greek Committee in September 1825 turned out to be remarkably similar to the disastrous expedition sent with William Parry in the Ann by the London Greek Committee in November 1823. It consisted of a few officers, a squad of artificers led by an engineer called Arnaud, mountain guns, and a huge miscellaneous collection of military stores and equipment sufficient to establish a small arsenal and repair facility. Arnaud was given the job because he was related to Roche by marriage.

  • 3 Dakin, British Intelligence, p. 77.

20Before the expedition sailed a further example was provided of the contradictions in French Government policy. General de Livron, one of the officers who had been sent to Egypt in the French military mission, was back in France purchasing arms and equipment for Mehemet Ali. He suggested to the artificers that, instead of sailing to the aid of the Greeks, they should join their enemies, the Egyptians. Arnaud declared roundly that he would not serve the Pasha for 100,000 francs and would serve the Greeks for nothing, but the thought had been implanted nevertheless.3

  • 4 Letter from Arnaud, 19 October 1825, Colonial Office Records, CO. 136/33, volume 2, f. 544.

21After this inauspicious start the expedition soon degenerated into chaos. Before the ship had even reached Greece there was a mutiny among the workmen and one of the officers threatened to join the Egyptians after all. Disease broke out on board and by the time they reached Nauplia most of the workmen wanted to go straight home.4

22When they reached Greece there was another shock. It was intended that the expedition should put itself under the command of General Roche, who should by now have sprung the Orleanist trap. Roche, however, was thoroughly discredited and isolated and clearly no longer in an influential position at the centre. That position was occupied by Fabvier who had been gathering round him all summer an increasing number of experienced officers, French and Italian, from Spain and elsewhere. The obvious solution was, of course, for Raybaud to put his expedition under the command of Colonel Fabvier but Roche did his best to put him off. Raybaud hesitated but, in the end, he and several other officers refused to subordinate themselves to Fabvier. Apart from the fact that Fabvier was politically not respectable in France, Raybaud had been promised the command, and the rank of colonel. How could he, after his service in Greece in 1821 and 1822, go back to playing a minor role? Fabvier, conscious of the growing strength of his little force, affected not to care. He declared sarcastically that the Committee would have done better to send shoes rather than comedians, since they already had enough of these in Greece. An attempt was made to set up the arsenal but it had no more success than Lord Byron and William Parry had achieved in 1824. The Arab prisoners detailed for the work died. It was said that the arsenal throughout its existence produced three cannon balls at a cost of 80,000 francs. Soon Arnaud and Raybaud returned to France.

23Through the second half of 1825 Fabvier calmly continued the work of training the new regular corps. By the end of the year he had about 3,500 men under command: infantry, cavalry, and artillery. It was virtually an independent little army paid for by the gold of the English loan. Fabvier also acquired a small warship for his own use which was put under the command of a former French naval officer, Hippolyte de Croze.

  • 5 * They were said to have been made in London of defective materials.

24At the beginning of 1826 he decided that the new corps was ready to face the enemy. Greece’s new army on which so much depended was ready to take the field. Where should they go? It was suggested that they should attempt to relieve Missolonghi, which was still withstanding the siege, but that seemed altogether too ambitious an undertaking to be seriously contemplated. Similarly, an expedition into the Morea looked too dangerous for a totally inexperienced force. Instead it was decided that an expedition should march against the island of Euboea where there was no chance of encountering Ibrahim’s troops. Euboea had remained in the hands of the Turks since the beginning of the war owing to their possession of a few fortresses. If Euboea could be conquered, so it was argued, not only would this show that the Greeks were capable of counterattacking, but a useful source of new supplies would be opened up. And Fabvier knew Philip of Macedon’s dictum that the master of Euboea is the master of Greece. At the end of February he marched out of Athens at the head of about 2,500 men, two battalions of regular infantry, three troops of light cavalry, a contingent of gunners with four guns and 700 irregulars. The rest of the regulars, who had not yet reached a high enough standard of training, were left at Athens. He shipped his little force across the narrow strait from Attica and approached the Turkish fortress of Carysto. His men were burning with eagerness to put their newly acquired skills to the test and demanded to be given the order to assault the place. As a disciple of Napoleon, Fabvier felt that he must encourage this spirit and give his men the taste of victory. He decided to attack a walled suburb of the town. His artillery was brought up, and under cover of their fire the troops bayoneted their way into some of the outer houses. Everything seemed to be going well, when suddenly the Greek artillery fire ceased – the axles of the cannon had snapped.*5 It was one of those moments in which the fate of battles is decided. A more experienced army would probably have retired in good order. As it was, the Greeks in their panic momentarily reverted to their old habits. One or two Greek officers were seen to be running away and their men followed them back in confusion. It was a temporary relapse only and Fabvier had little difficulty in reforming his men. But before they had recovered their poise the Turks made a sortie from the fortress and killed or wounded about fifty of them.

Map 5: Free Greece in 1826-1828

25Fabvier decided to withdraw and obtain new guns, but the expedition’s luck had run out. He was obliged to draw up his little army to await the onslaught of a detachment of Turkish cavalry who were in the vicinity. Old fears came flooding back. The cavalry had been the only branch of the Turkish army which had been successful against the Greeks during the early years of the war before the Egyptians came. The Greek regulars were determined to try out their new methods on which they were at last convinced that safety and victory depended, and in fact the situation in which they found themselves favoured regular tactics. Success seemed near if again an accident due to inexperience had not intervened. The Greek cavalry was drawn up according to the best European practice in the rear. Their commander, Regnault, went to confer with Fabvier when the Greek irregulars began to taunt them with skulking in the background. The cavalry stupidly took offence at the insults from their countrymen, mistook rashness for élan, and without orders charged headlong at the enemy position. The more experienced Turkish horsemen quickly outmanoeuvred them, and soon the field was covered with their headless bodies. The infantry watching this horrible spectacle kept their lines and fired successive volleys and it was largely because they did so that a remnant of the Greek cavalry was saved, but the experience destroyed their morale. Further operations in Euboea were now out of the question. Fabvier retired to the coast and awaited the arrival of vessels to take the army back to Greece. It was a Dunkirk in miniature. The Greek forces were confined for a week on a tiny beachhead, cold and hungry under continuous fire from the Turks before being taken off in small vessels. The men, blind with terror, were finally persuaded to swim out to sea to the awaiting ships. Fabvier, cool and in control throughout, was the last to leave the beach.

  • 6 Davesiès de Pontes, pp. 23 ff.

26The expedition lost about 200 men, including some of its French and Italian officers, having achieved nothing. A staff college investigation would probably have concluded that the regulars had justified their training and only needed a little more experience, but the Greeks could not be expected to see this. The story went around that Fabvier had deliberately wasted lives in order to show the Greeks how textbook war should be fought. As soon as the expedition returned home desertions began. The battalions who had been on the expedition were depleted by about half their strength as disillusioned regulars disappeared back to their villages or rejoined their old comrades, the palikars. A severe crisis of confidence in the whole idea of regular troops was the result. And, as luck would have it, this coincided with the realization that the supply of English gold had finally run out. The Greek troops were broken in morale and could not even be paid. Mutinies followed, and a Greek officer was assassinated by his own men. Fabvier only succeeded in keeping the troops together by a mixture of fearlessness and ferocity. On one occasion when the men were clamouring for their arrears of pay he made a speech saying that he would pay them for eight days but nothing more. When the troops continued to shout that they wanted all or nothing, he drew his sword and demanded ’Who wants to be paid?’ When the first man stepped forward Fabvier instantly struck him with his sword, shouting ’That is what is owed to you’. The man fell and Fabvier marched up and down the silenced ranks demanding whether there was anyone else. He then quietly returned and gave orders for the wounded man to be removed to the hospital.6

  • 7 Marcet and Romilly. See Manet.
  • 8 Gordon, ii, p. 299. Characteristically, Gordon does not mention himself by name.

27It looked as if Fabvier’s experiment in raising a regular corps was doomed to failure like all the others, for the want of a little money. It was touch and go. The Swiss banker Eynard sent two agents racing across Europe with a contribution of 26,000 piastres.7 At the same time Colonel Gordon arrived from London with £14,000, the sweepings of the second loan as he called it.8 The Greeks had been begging Gordon to return to their country ever since he had been Hypsilantes’s Chief of Staff in 1821. He had been about to go in 1823 in command of the London Committee’s expedition, and then again in 1824 after the death of Byron, but after his first painful experience of Greece he was chary about involving himself in her complex problems. In the spring of 1826 he finally consented to go, on condition that he was given complete discretion about the spending of the pitiful sum remaining from the two loans. These contributions from Europe were used to pay the men. The regular corps was saved.

28News of the fiasco of the Orleanist plot gradually reached Paris. Then came the news of Roche’s ill-judged protest and of his association with the disreputable Washington. Those members of the Paris Greek Committee who had not been privy to Roche’s secret mission were mortified. Everybody in Greece and in France, it seemed, knew more about Roche and his mission than the men who had sent him, whose agent he was supposed to be. To add to their humiliation they realized that they had been used by their political opponents for purposes of which they disapproved. They had been outmanoeuvred, their names had been exploited, and their reputations had been damaged for a reckless foreign policy gamble. It was decided to recall General Roche, allegedly for disobeying his instructions, and to send out to Greece instead Count Emanuel d’Harcourt.

  • 9 * See page 57.

29At the same time the leaders of the Committee decided to give their support to Colonel Fabvier. This was not the result of spite. We may be sure that the Government consented. The decision arose from the consideration that Fabvier was the only influential Frenchman left in Greece and, if he was less malleable than they would have liked and not at all inclined to take orders from Paris, he was at least a Frenchman. The only hope of preserving some French influence to counteract the apparent British predominance was to back Fabvier even if he was more than half a traitor. A remarkable political change, which has been touched upon earlier, resulted from this decision. The leaders of Restoration France, reading of Fabvier’s exploits in Greece, could not help sharing in the general pride of the French people that a Frenchman should be at the head of such a remarkable enterprise. Fabvier’s Frenchness seemed more important than his Bonapartism, and indeed the whole phobia of Bonapartism seemed to be sinking into increasing irrelevance. In contrast to the Italians, the French outsiders, by their service in Greece, found it easier to re-enter the main stream of French life. In a remarkable way the desires of some of the pamphleteers of 1821 had become a reality.*9 The shared experience of philhellenism helped to bind up the deep wounds of Waterloo and the White Terror.

  • 10 Letter from Arnaud, 19 October 1825, Colonial Office Records CO. 136/33, volume 2, f. 544.

30In the course of 1826, the Paris Greek Committee sent three further expeditions to Greece containing in all over a hundred men. They also sent guns, powder, uniforms, food, money, everything an army could need. Recalling Fabvier’s comment on the first expedition that shoes were more useful than comedians,10 they included a thousand pairs of shoes. Innumerable other volunteers set out on their own initiative to join the cause. Marseilles in 1826 again became a city bustling with Philhellenes as it had been in 1822. Piscatory, who has already been mentioned as a secret agent of the French Government, was in command of one of the expeditions. Raybaud on his third visit to Greece commanded another.

31Unlike earlier philhellenic expeditions – with the solitary exception of the German Legion – these men were supposed to be under discipline from the start. They were not individuals being assisted with a passage to Greece, but formed troops under command. As they arrived in Greece they were formally presented to the Government and assigned to their respective duties. Raybaud, whose experience of philhellenic fiascos was unsurpassed, tried to use the time of the voyage of the fourth expedition to give lectures about conditions in Greece, but he remarked despairingly that most of his men had never seen service, were ignorant of the language, and had no concept of what they were going to.

  • 11 Correspondence among the Gordon Papers relates to Gordon’s successful attempt to have Justin’s nar (...)
  • 12 Schack, p. 9.
  • 13 Harring, quoted in Barth and Kehrig-Korn, p. 88. Byern describes his second visit in his own book.
  • 14 Jourdain, ii, p. 212; Villeneuve, pp. 115 ff.
  • 15 Young Garel was said (Millingen, p. 291) to have distinguished himself as flagbearer at Navarino i (...)
  • 16 Voutier, Mémoires.

32Efforts were made to find men who had some experience of Greece. Justin, one of the generation of 1821, was persuaded to return. He had come back to France in 1822 in disgust at the Greeks and, like Persat, had been dissuaded from publishing his diary by Gordon.11 He gave as his reason for returning to Greece a desire to avenge his old friend Baleste, first of the Philhellenes, whom he had seen killed in Crete.12 The Prussian cavalry officer Eugen von Byern, who had taken part in the abortive attack on Athens in 1822 ’dressed like a chamberlain with seven orders on his breast including the Iron Cross’,13 decided to give the Greeks a second chance in the new conditions. The French Count Jourdain who had first involved the Greeks with the Knights of Malta in 1822, reappeared in Greece, but was arrested and bundled out of the country after an intemperate protest against the Act of Submission to England.14 Garel, a survivor of Peta, returned to Greece accompanied by his nineteen-year-old son.15 The irrepressible Olivier Voutier returned to Greece in 1826. He had been a cadet in the French Navy and been present when the Aphrodite of Melos (Venus de Milo) was acquired in 1820. In 1821 he had gone to Greece with Gordon and remained for a few months. He acted as ADC to Mavrocordato, along with Raybaud on the Peta campaign. In December 1823, on his return to France, he published a book of memoirs on his experiences in Greece.16 It is a remarkable work. The best that can be said is that it is an account of what Voutier’s philhellenic career ought to have been, rather than what it was. It is written in a high-flown style with proper obeisance to all the philhellenic myths. Voutier himself darts about from crisis spot to crisis spot, advising, encouraging, restraining, the friend and confidant of the great, ever present where the need is most urgent. His adventures have a story-book perfection. Before Peta, for example, he describes how he killed in single combat on horseback a famous Turk ’Cassim Bey’, in front of the admiring ranks of both armies, and won as his reward a magnificent horse which belonged to a Pasha called ’Baboun’ – all, alas, imaginary.

  • 17 Raybaud, ii, p. 275 and elsewhere. Persat also remarked on Voutier’s romancing but his book was no (...)

33At the time when the German Greek Societies were trying to suppress the memoirs of their own Philhellenes they had eagerly seized upon Voutier’s book as the one true version, and it was translated twice into German. Voutier enjoyed being a pundit on Greece. Delacroix consulted him about the detail of his Grecian pictures, and he began to put together the unused oddments from his notes to publish another book. But Nemesis was at hand. Raybaud, who had been with him during most of his time in Greece, published his own book of memoirs in 1824. Voutier’s pretensions were exploded in a series of good-humoured but devastating footnotes.17

  • 18 Millingen, p. 63.
  • 19 Gordon to Robertson, 18 December 1826. Gordon Papers.

34On Voutier’s first return to Greece in 1824, Mavrocordato asked him for a copy of his book. Voutier reluctantly consented but the copy he handed over had a chapter torn out. His philhellenism had got the better of his veracity he explained. Mavrocordato commented sourly after looking through the remainder that the lost pages could not have contained more lies than the rest.18 The more prosaic Raybaud continued to be fascinated by the flamboyance of Voutier, despising him and yet fearing him as a rival. The two men always seemed to be together pouring out accusations about one another to anybody who would listen. At last in 1826 they fought a duel in Greece in which both were hurt and Raybaud was severely wounded in the arm.19

  • 20 Chardon de la Barre.
  • 21 General Dubourg. Schack, p. 79.
  • 22 Documents, June 1826, p. 61.
  • 23 Heideck, p. 35.

35Most of the men sent by the Paris Greek Committee in 1826 had, of course, never been in Greece before. Nearly all claimed to be officers and to have some military experience and they came from all over France. Every age and class were represented, boys in their teens and hardened soldiers. One man had already served in twenty-seven campaigns and carried nine wounds on his body.20 Old Bonapartists were joined by officers of the Bourbon Guards. A former General gave as his reason for going to Greece that he preferred fighting to vegetating in a garrison.21 A party of officers was said to have come from the King’s household.22 There were numerous Corsicans perhaps more interested in the opportunities for pay than in promoting the Bonapartist cause. When one of the Corsicans killed a comrade by hiding on the roof of a house and shooting as he came round the corner, a court-martial of Philhellenes ruled that this was not murder but a duel fought honourably according to Corsican rules.23

  • 24 Legracieux, who had worked on the Courrier Français. Killed near Athens 1827.
  • 25 Schack.
  • 26 C. D. Raffenel, killed Athens 1827. Some accounts give the Philhellene different Christian names b (...)
  • 27 Perhaps Rigal. Byern, pp. 236 ff. Etienne was killed near Athens in 1827.
  • 28 Palma, p. 291. According to Millingen, p. 54, British seamen deserted in 1823 and 1824 to join Lor (...)

36As ever there were men who had no military experience at all. A journalist who had spent his career writing about the cause of Greece decided to give more active help.24 A student who had won a prize for a discourse on Ancient Greece which he had performed at his rhetoric class, applied to the Duc de Choiseul for money to enable him to go.25 An author who had originally written pro-Turkish articles for the Oriental Spectator and then published one of the first full-length histories of the Greek Revolution enlisted as a volunteer.26 A boy known only as Etienne claimed to have spent five years as a slave in Constantinople after being captured in 1821 when he had been one of the first Philhellenes.27 Several seamen deserted from the French naval squadron in the Mediterranean preferring service on land under Fabvier to the barbaric conditions of the lower deck.28

  • 29 Lassberg known as Wolf and Schaffer known as Reinhold, both killed at Athens 1827. Barth and Kehri (...)
  • 30 Von Vangerow. See Gosse, Lettres, p. 25.
  • 31 Barth and Kehrig-Korn, pp. 233 ff.

37The majority of the volunteers were French but there was a sprinkling of other nationalities: Swiss, German, and Scandinavian. Two Germans who were always together were known both to be sons of Generals and to be living under assumed names.29 A dandy from Pomerania was said by his exasperated companion to have taken two hours to dress.30 In the Netherlands,31 at the instigation of the Swiss banker Eynard, plans were made to raise a Liberal Legion of fifty men but this idea was vetoed by the Dutch Government. The money was devoted to Greek education and charity but a few men had already set off.

  • 32 Wohlgemuth. See Byern, p. 250. Another Wohlgemuth came in 1822.

38As usual some of the volunteers regretted their decision as soon as they reached Greece, and began the long trek home. As usual the brutality of Greek conditions shocked even the most hardened. They were disgusted at the practice of killing prisoners, of mutilating bodies, of cutting off heads, and all the other characteristics of irregular warfare. In five years of fighting, Western morals had made little headway. A young French officer who had brought his wife with him to Greece was wounded in a skirmish. Caraiskakis, one of the most famous Greek captains, invited the couple to his house and suggested a shooting competition for their amusement. To their horror the target turned out to be an Albanian prisoner.32

  • 33 Letter of Fabvier, 10 May 1826. Roma, ii, pp. 189 ff.

39Fabvier himself, despite the growing attention and respect paid to him by the Paris Greek Committee and by the volunteers, remained as always unimpressed. General Roche, who in his early months in Greece had begged Philhellenes not to go near Fabvier, spent the last months before his departure in exhorting them to join him. Fabvier gave no sign of satisfaction. Contempt came easily to his lips and attempts at flattery merely exaggerated his apparent harshness. He never had a good word for the Committee. They had sent a thousand useless things, he declared;* the men they sent were, with one or two exceptions, useless or wretched or disloyal; the only men whom he could trust were those ’thrown here by political tempests’33 – in other words his old comrades the French Bonapartists and the Italian revolutionary refugees. Nevertheless, it was the support of the Paris Committee and its sister organizations elsewhere in Europe that kept Fabvier’s force in being in 1826. He was still nominally the employee of the Greek Government, but in fact he was the commander of a little army of Greeks and Philhellenes which, was operating largely independently, drawing all its supplies and its strength from abroad.

40Many of the Greek officers were dismissed not without much rancour. Their lack of experience had proved a severe liability in Euboea, and Fabvier could not risk failure a second time. The regulars were officered almost entirely by Frenchmen and Italians. Fabvier now had ninety-three Philhellenes under his command, far too many to give everyone a position of responsibility with the regulars. It was decided, therefore, to set up a special unit composed entirely of Philhellenes. The command of this unit, known simply as the Company of Philhellenes, was entrusted to the grizzled and vastly experienced Italian exile, Colonel Vincenzo Pisa. The situation had an uncanny resemblance to the situation in 1822 before the Battle of Peta. Then Greece’s regular forces had consisted of one regiment of Greeks and two companies of Philhellenes; now four years later she had two battalions of Greeks and one company of Philhellenes. There were few to point out the sad comparison. Only two or three of Fabvier’s hundred or so Europeans had been in Greece during that earlier phase.

41There were none of the scenes of earlier years when bands of Europeans

  • 34 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, p. 76.
  • 35 Slade, i, p. 135; MacFarlane, i, p. 517.

* Fabvier may have had in mind especially the musical instruments which every philhellenic society had an irresistible longing to send to Greece and which must by now have been piling up alarmingly in Nauplia. They were put to some use. The ships bringing the English gold were greeted at the quay by renderings of airs from the latest hit, Der Freischütz34 The Sultan’s new regular troops also had a military band which was said to give spirited performances of Rossini overtures,35 surely a less terrifying sound to potential enemies than the drums, kettles, and howls of the Janissaries which it replaced.

  • 36 September 1826 in Aegina. Howe performed the autopsy.
  • 37 Morandi, pp, 74, 77.
  • 38 Miller, p. 143.
  • 39 Names unknown. Hahn, quoted in Barth and Kehrig-Korn, p. 24.

42were to be found begging their way from village to village, but life was almost as dangerous. The dreadful diseases of the East still swept the country and few Philhellenes who remained any time in Greece escaped them. William Humphreys, the young unemployed British officer who had gone to Greece in 1821, and returned in 1823 to serve with Byron, finally succumbed in 1826.36 Count Gamba, the young brother of Byron’s last mistress who had accompanied his body back to England and then returned to Greece with a party of Italian revolutionaries, died in 1827.37 Bruno, one of Byron’s doctors, also returned to Greece with the Italian exiles: he is said to have been murdered by a Greek surgeon who coveted his instruments.38 Nine Germans are reported to have died in October 1826 through eating pork.39

43The failure of the expedition to Euboea had shown that the regulars were not yet ready to face Turks let alone Ibrahim’s army. Further training was necessary. Fabvier decided that his best plan was to take his men right away from the intrigue-filled atmosphere of Nauplia and Hydra so that they could concentrate on their training. His military eye chose the peninsula of Methana.

44A huge volcanic peak on the north coast of the Argolid, Methana is entirely surrounded by water except where a narrow isthmus, a few hundred yards wide, joins it to the mainland. When Fabvier arrived the peninsula was largely uninhabited but there was enough land and water to provide a livelihood. During the summer of 1826 he transformed it into a military base. The isthmus had been fortified in ancient times and Fabvier rebuilt and strengthened the walls. The cannons sent by the Paris Committee and by the deputies in London were taken straight to Methana. Two forts were built. A vast quantity of arms, ammunition, and military equipment was stored in specially constructed magazines. A hospital was established and an artillery park. The villagers were encouraged to cultivate as much of the area of the peninsula as possible to provide a reliable local supply of food. Methana was a European military stronghold in miniature. Fabvier gave it a new name, Tacticopolis, the city of the regulars.

  • 40 Roma, ii, pp. 189 ff.

45He justified his choice of Methana on the grounds that it was conveniently central, within easy reach of all the important places that remained in the hands of the Greeks. There may have been something in this consideration, but another was uppermost in his mind. Fabvier was thinking ahead to the ultimate catastrophe. Methana would be the Cadiz of Greece,40 he declared, Cadiz the town in Spain where the constitutionalists had held out longest against the French invaders in 1823. Fabvier seems to have believed that, even if Greece was entirely reconquered by Ibrahim and the Turks, his little army could still defend themselves on the peninsula. Methana might have to be the scene of the last stand of the liberals, the Bonapartists, the carbonari and all the other followers of lost causes to whom Greece was the last and only remaining refuge.

46In the summer of 1826 Greece was approaching the lowest point of her fortunes. The fall of Missolonghi in April had been the signal for another enemy advance. Ibrahim and his Egyptians retired to the Morea and spent the summer in consolidating their position there. Mehemet Ali had no wish to fight the war of the Turks on their behalf outside the province over which he had been given control. The Turks themselves, however, now resumed their advance. The whole of Western Greece was quickly reconquered and, as usual, a long list of Greek captains and their followers changed sides and actively served the Turks. Several bands of Greek armatoli reverted to their pre-Revolutionary role of guarding the important roads and passes on contract to the Turkish authorities.

47Free Greece was now confined to a small area round the isthmus, mainly Attica and the Argolid and some of the islands. Since Ibrahim for the time being seemed content to remain relatively inactive, the main threat came from the north. The Acropolis of Athens, the only fortress in Greek hands between the Turks and the isthmus, began to assume an increasing strategic importance. Since the spring of 1825 it had been in the hands of one of the most unscrupulous of the warlords, Ghouras, who had been a follower of Odysseus but had turned on his master at his moment of weakness, had arranged for Odysseus to be hanged from the Acropolis battlements, and had succeeded to the remnants of his little empire in Eastern Greece. His rule was so arbitrary, violent, and extortionate that the people grew to hate him and his band of armed bullies, and as soon as the Turks appeared again, the miserable peasants of Attica welcomed them as deliverers. The massacres of the Turkish minority and of the Turkish garrison in 1821 and 1822 were forgotten. Soon the Turks re-entered Athens itself leaving only the Acropolis in the hands of the Greeks.

48The Greek Government reverted to the position of impotence which had existed before the arrival of the English gold. The Greeks who had enjoyed a brief sensation of riches in 1825 saw their standard of living slipping away from them. The Hydriote ships which in the early years of the war had terrified the Aegean with their daring and ferocity, now refused to go to sea unless they were paid. The irregular troops who had flocked to Nauplia in 1825 to share in the bonanza suffered what is now politely called a crisis of rising expectations. They wanted money. They began to threaten and bully the people of the towns. Fighting broke out, too localized to be dignified with the name of civil war, more a series of armed brawls. Some of the Greek leaders tried to leave for the Ionian Islands but the authorities there refused to admit them.

49The treasury was empty. The only income which the Greek Government had at its disposal was a trickle of contributions from the philhellenic organizations of Europe. Nauplia was crowded with refugees and beggars including Missolonghiotes who had been bought from Turkish slave markets and released with the aid of money from Western Europe. Typhus, never far away, broke out again. It became increasingly clear that many Greeks were not merely suffering extreme hardship but were on the road to actual starvation.

50The days of the Greek Revolution seemed to be numbered. Greece seemed about to slide to an undignified end, torn apart by internal violence and sectional greed.

51There was one ray of hope on the horizon. An English admiral was said to be on the way with a fleet of new ships which were going to blast the Ottoman fleet out of the water and drive the Arabs back to Egypt. The Greeks had been hearing this story for so long that It had begun to take on the characteristics of a myth with which the doomed console themselves. Then in the middle of July an English merchant ship arrived at Nauplia with a strange cargo. Most Greeks had never seen coal, but they were assured that it was necessary for the new fleet. Perhaps the fabulous admiral was really coming after all.


1 Larrabee gives most of the story of Washington from original sources such as Howe, Journal, and Swan. A copy of a fragment of Washington’s own diary is in the Gennadios Library, Athens, the original MS. being now in private hands.

2 Translated from version in Swan, ii, p. 156.

3 Dakin, British Intelligence, p. 77.

4 Letter from Arnaud, 19 October 1825, Colonial Office Records, CO. 136/33, volume 2, f. 544.

5 * They were said to have been made in London of defective materials.

6 Davesiès de Pontes, pp. 23 ff.

7 Marcet and Romilly. See Manet.

8 Gordon, ii, p. 299. Characteristically, Gordon does not mention himself by name.

9 * See page 57.

10 Letter from Arnaud, 19 October 1825, Colonial Office Records CO. 136/33, volume 2, f. 544.

11 Correspondence among the Gordon Papers relates to Gordon’s successful attempt to have Justin’s narrative suppressed. It is likely that Gordon himself made use of it for his story. See Gordon, i, p. 504, where he refers to the ‘Ms memoirs of a Philhellene then serving in Crete’.

12 Schack, p. 9.

13 Harring, quoted in Barth and Kehrig-Korn, p. 88. Byern describes his second visit in his own book.

14 Jourdain, ii, p. 212; Villeneuve, pp. 115 ff.

15 Young Garel was said (Millingen, p. 291) to have distinguished himself as flagbearer at Navarino in 1825. His father was killed at Athens in 1827.

16 Voutier, Mémoires.

17 Raybaud, ii, p. 275 and elsewhere. Persat also remarked on Voutier’s romancing but his book was not published until much later.

18 Millingen, p. 63.

19 Gordon to Robertson, 18 December 1826. Gordon Papers.

20 Chardon de la Barre.

21 General Dubourg. Schack, p. 79.

22 Documents, June 1826, p. 61.

23 Heideck, p. 35.

24 Legracieux, who had worked on the Courrier Français. Killed near Athens 1827.

25 Schack.

26 C. D. Raffenel, killed Athens 1827. Some accounts give the Philhellene different Christian names but the identity seems to be established.

27 Perhaps Rigal. Byern, pp. 236 ff. Etienne was killed near Athens in 1827.

28 Palma, p. 291. According to Millingen, p. 54, British seamen deserted in 1823 and 1824 to join Lord Byron’s brigade.

29 Lassberg known as Wolf and Schaffer known as Reinhold, both killed at Athens 1827. Barth and Kehrig-Korn, pp. 216 ff.

30 Von Vangerow. See Gosse, Lettres, p. 25.

31 Barth and Kehrig-Korn, pp. 233 ff.

32 Wohlgemuth. See Byern, p. 250. Another Wohlgemuth came in 1822.

33 Letter of Fabvier, 10 May 1826. Roma, ii, pp. 189 ff.

34 Pecchio, Picture of Greece, ii, p. 76.

35 Slade, i, p. 135; MacFarlane, i, p. 517.

36 September 1826 in Aegina. Howe performed the autopsy.

37 Morandi, pp, 74, 77.

38 Miller, p. 143.

39 Names unknown. Hahn, quoted in Barth and Kehrig-Korn, p. 24.

40 Roma, ii, pp. 189 ff.

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Légende Map 5: Free Greece in 1826-1828
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