Thursday, March 24, 2011

Greek Revolution part 4: The battle of Dervenakia

The battle of Dervenakia is perhaps the most crucial battle of the Greek revolution. It took place in 1822 just one year after the revolution broke out and its success allowed the Greeks to continue their struggle for independence.

The Greeks ambush the main body of the Ottoman army.

It was July of 1822 and the Sultan upset of the revolution's success decided to send a regular army to quell any ressistance once and for all.After he defeated the rebel Ali pasha he had available forces to send to Peloponnese

He chose as a commander the talented Mahmut Pasha or Dramalis.
Dramalis proceeded with an army of 25.000 soldiers facing no ressistance until he reached the Isthmus of Corinth. Sources mentioned that the Greeks were fleeing in the sight of such a large army and the high morale of the initial stages of the war had been lost as many considered that there was no force in Greece that could beat this army.

Dramalis' aim was to reclaim Tripolitsa the capital of Peloponnese or Morea as it was called in this time. The landscape of Peloponnese is mountainous and moving a large force was slow through narrow roads.Therefore even though the geographical proximity was small it was dangerous to make a direct attack.The advisors of Dramalis old him to use Corinth as a base of operations but he mistakenly did the opposite. Likely because of arrogance he decided to recalim the forts of Morea one by one before entering Tripolitsa.

Theodoros Kolokotronis in black
Mahmut Pasha "Dramalis"
       As it is aforementioned the Greeks were demoralized and were fleeing from the areas the Ottoman army was approaching. So it was done when Dramalis decided to move towards the plains of Argos to take Nauplion an important port. Noone stood against him while he was passing with his army from mountainous regions which were fit for guerilla war and ambushes.

Dramalis took Nauplion and the greek government that was stationed near it fled panicked towards the ships .
In these dire moments a great leader arose Theodoros Kolokotronis .While anarchy and despair prevailed among the the Greeks he was the one who organised a ressistance to slow down Dramalis' advance.

    He succeeded to keep Dramalis' army in the Nauplion region by putting defences in strategic spots that were leading to Tripolitsa, by reinforcing the defences of local forts, and by using a scorched earth policy to cause starvation in Dramalis' large army.He also mobilised the demoralized Greeks through his majestic appearance(he wore a western military outfit) his reputation(he was already a succesful and experienced officer) and his fiery speeches.

Kolokotronis rallies the troops
Dramalis was not able to secure all the forts in Nauplion region and therefore he couldn't march for Tripolitsa without securing his rear. The crucial point for the turning of the events was Dramalis' decision to return back to Corinth and expect reinforcements and to take supplies for his starving soldiers.It's worth to mention the efforts of the Greek navy which effectively blockaded the region from ships that could bring supplies thus forcing Dramalis to return back to Corinth

Dramali chose to return through the narrow passes being unaware of the surprise awaiting him. This decision was taken  due to the calm passage of his forces when he was marching towards Nauplion. Kolokotronis' foresaw the return of  Dramalis through the narrow pass and orchestrated a series of guerilla attacks to slow down Dramalis' army at the Dervenakia narrow pass. The casualties of Dramalis' army by these series of attacks were heavy but in Dervenakia his army was almost annihilated and Dramalis himself barely escaped towards Corinth. In the Dervenakia battle it is estimated that 3.000 Ottoman soldiers were slain while it is not sure how many were killed from the other attacks.

The Greek force was estimated at 2.500 soldiers which was a 1:10 ratio comparing to Dramalis' army. It was sure that an open battle was a suicide for the Greeks and Kolokotronis knew that .He wasn't characterized unfairly as a strategic genius because to defeat a 10 times larger force with an irregular force was a great achievement.But even greater was his tactics to trap and defeat his enemy not by using full force but by causing attrition through shoot and go tactics.

1 comment:

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

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