Σάββατο, 19 Μαρτίου 2016

The Souliotes warriors in Ionian islands and the Greek regiments of European's armies

The Souliotes were an Greek Orthodox Christian community of the area of Souli, in Epirus, known for their military prowess, their resistance to the local Ottoman ruler Ali Pasha, and their contribution to the Greek cause in the Greek War of Independence, under leaders such as Markos Botsaris and Kitsos Tzavelas. The Souliotes established an autonomous confederacy dominating a large number of neighbouring villages in the remote mountainous areas of Epirus, where they could successfully resist Ottoman rule. At the height of its power, in the second half of the 18th century, the community ("confederacy") is estimated to have comprised up to 12,000 inhabitants in about 60 villages and form an army of 1,200 men. The community was classified as Greek in the Ottoman system of social classification because they were Orthodox Christians, yet spoke Arvanitika besides Greek because of their medieval south Albanian dialect. The Souliotes obtained all of their supplies from Parga, and also acquired support from Europe. Venice, Russia and France provided weapons and ammunition to them. For the European powers, the Souliotes were seen as an instrument to weaken the Ottoman Empire. When the British politicians turned to the Ottoman Empire in order to strengthen their forces against Napoleon, the weapons and ammunition supplies were interrupted. Without support from outside and wearied by years of siege, the unity of the Souliote clans started to split. The Botsaris family for political reasons left Souli and parleyed with Ali Pasha. However, the rest in Souli gathered together in Saint George's Orthodox Church and decided either to fight or die. The remaining Souliotes numbered at no more than 2000 armed men. The main leaders were Fotos Tzavellas, Dimos Drakos, Tousas Zervas, Koutsonikas, Gogkas Daglis, Giannakis Sehos, Fotomaras, Tzavaras, Veikos, Panou, Zigouris Diamadis, and Georgios Bousbos. They won all of the decisive battles, which forced Ali Pasha to build castles in neighboring villages so as to prepare himself for a long siege. Although without food and ammunition, they could have held longer if not for a traitor named Pelios Gousis who helped the Ottomans to enter into the village of Souli, forcing a mass withdraw to the fortresses of Kiafa and Kougi, where they fought their last battle on December 7, 1803. They eventually capitulated and Ali Pasha promised to release them with all of their property and even weapons to the Ionian Islands. On December 12, 1803, the Souliotes left Souli towards the coast of Epirus. A Christian monk named Samuel remained in Kughi and set fire to the powder magazines with a massive explosion that cost him his life. In the meantime, the Ottoman army attacked the other Souliotes, neglecting the promises Ali Pasha had made to them. In a famous incident on December 16, 1803, the Dance of Zalongo, 22 Souliot women were trapped by enemy troops and committed suicide to avoid capture. They did this by jumping off a steep cliff one after the other while dancing and singing. Other Souliotes also reached the harbor of Parga, which was under Russian control at the time. They either settled down in Parga or set off for the Ionian Islands. Many Souliotes entered service with the Russians on Corfu, where they became an important component of the Legion of Light Riflemen. This was a regiment of irregulars organized by the Russians among mainland refugees; it not only included Souliotes, but also many Greeks Himariotes, Maniots, klephts (Greek bandits) and armatoloi (Greek anti-klepht militias created by the Ottomans formed by klephts). The formation of this unit was undertaken by the Russian colonel Papadopoulos(Greek). The regiment, initially named "Papadopoulos' Legion", later developed to a formidable army. Its organization was laid down by Papadopoulos in a leaflet in Greek titled "Explanations on the establishment of a legion of Epiro-Souliotes and Himaro-Peloponnesians in the service of His Imperial Majesty Alexander I ...". He recognized that Souliotes and the others were already naturally trained in irregular tactics and did not have to conform to the Western regular tactics. This unit was eventually named "Legion of the Light Riflemen". The Souliotes participated in campaigns in Naples in 1805, Tenedos in 1806, Dalmatia in 1806, and during the defense of Lefkada in 1807. With the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 and the détente between Russia and France, the Russian forces withdrew from the Ionian Islands and the French occupied them. The Souliotes and other components of Russian units entered service with the French in various units, such as the Battaglione dei Cacciatori Macedoni and the Régiment Albanais (Albanian Regiment), terms which did not have their later ethnic connotation, but were instead stylized terms that described the soldiers' general origins or mode of fighting. Colonel Minot, the commander of the regiment appointed as battalion captains mostly the leaders of Souliote clans who enjoyed the respect among the soldiers. Among them were: Tussa Zervas, George Dracos, Giotis Danglis, Panos Succos, Nastullis Panomaras, Kitsos Palaskas, Kitsos Paschos. Fotos Tzavellas (had served under the Russians), Veicos Zervas. During the Anglo-French struggle over the Ionian Islands between 1810 and 1814, the Souliotes in French service faced off against other refugees organized by the British into the Greek Light Infantry Regiment. Since the Souliotes were mostly garrisoned on Corfu, which remained under French control until 1814, very few entered British service. The British disbanded the remnants of the Souliot Regiment in 1815 and subsequently decommissioned their own two Greek Light Regiments. This left many of the Souliotes and other military refugees without livelihoods. In 1817, a group of veterans of Russian service on the Ionian Islands traveled to Russia to see if they could get patents of commission and employment in the Russian army. While unsuccessful in this endeavor, they joined the Philike Etaireia ("Company of Friends"), the secret society founded in Odessa in 1814 for the purpose of liberating Greek lands from Ottoman rule. They returned to the Ionian Islands and elsewhere and began to recruit fellow veterans into the Philike Etaireia, including a number of Souliot leaders. In general the training experience of this period, as part of a regular army, would also serve its cause in the Greek revolution, where Souliotes along with the other warlike groups would form the movement's military core. The Albanian Regiment (Régiment albanais) was a military unit of the First French Empire formed in 1807 in Corfu. It was commanded by French Colonel Jean-Louis Toussaint Minot and served mainly as defence unit in the Septinsular Republic, then a de facto protectorate of the French Empire. It was disbanded in 1814. In 1807 per the treaties of Tilsit the Russian Empire abandoned the Ionian islands, which had been captured by admiral Fyodor Ushakov at the Siege of Corfu (1798–99). During their rule the Russians maintained two units, one composed of about 3,000 (Muslim Albanian) refugees that had resettled in the islands after losing conflicts against Ali Pasha in the Pashalik of Yanina and another one that comprised 500 Orthodox Greeks. After the French army took over the administration of the area the Albanians were enrolled as the Albanian Regiment (Régiment albanais) and the Greek refugees as the Battalion Greek Infantry Skirmishers (Bataillon de Chasseurs à Pied Grecs) sometimes known as the Indigenous Battalion of Ionian Islands (Bataillon indigène des îles Ioniennes) and after the enrolment of Albanian refugees also as the Pandours of Albania(Pandours d'Albanie). In the Albanian Regiment later local Greeks, Italian and Dalmatians would be recruited but the desired total number of 3,254 soldiers was never reached. The Albanian Regiment served as a garrison unit, while the Greek Infantry Skirmishers as an auxiliary unit. In July 1809 the latter unit was regrouped to the former one as a means to increase its stability as the troops of the Albanian Regiment responded only to the orders of their clans's leaders and often came into conflict with the inhabitants of the islands. The reformed unit of about 3,000 men was divided into six battalions led by 160 officers. Auguste Boppe mentions that the regiment had a chaplain (Arsenio Yanucco from the Morea - Αρσένιος Γιαννούκος από τον Μοριά) and a surgeon (Ducca Zappa - Δούκας Ζάππας). In 1813 the Regiment was re-organized and its force was reduced from six to two battalions. Its staff was as follows: 1 colonel, 2 battalion chiefs, 2 adjutant warrant officers, 2 French administrative officers , 1 quarter-master, 1 officer surgeon, 1 assistant surgeon, 1 priest, 4 adjutant sub-officers. The same year some men from the Albanian Regiment were transferred to the newly reorganised Mameluke Regiment. After the islands came under the control of the British Empire in 1814 the regiment was initially reformed but in 1815 it was disbanded and many of the men were transferred to units organized by the British. According to Boppe the Albanian Regiment deserves some attention only because it had in its ranks many heroes of the subsequent Greek Revolution of 1821. Among the persons noted by this author and others are: Christoforos Perraivos(Χριστόφορος Περραιβός), officer (major) and author, fighter of the Greek Revolution (1821-1829). Konstantinos Androutses (Κωνσταντίνος Ανδρούτσης) from Cheimarra. Commander of the 1st Battalion. He had served the French since 1799 when they occupied Naples as a commander and instructor. He recruited other Cheimariotes for the French army. He was given the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was arrested by the forces of Ali Pasha while aboard a French ship. The French authorities requested from the Ottoman Porte his release but he was murdered in an Ioannina prison. Ali Pasha tried to present his death as suicide. Kitsos Botsaris(Κίτσος Μπότσαρης), the leader of the Botsaris souliotic clan, commander of the 5th Battalion. Fotos Tzavellas(Φώτος Τζαβέλλας), colonel, commander of the 3rd Battalion. A leader of the Tzavellas Souliote clan. Before the Regiment had participated in many battles of the Souliotes – Ali Pasha wars. He had also served in Corfou under the Russians. He was assassinated by agents of Ali Pasha in Corfou in 1809 (Boppe, p. 15). Lambros Gousis(Λάμπρος Γούσης) from Souli, second lieutenant of the 5th Company ("lochos") of the 1st Battalion, awarded the Saint Helena Medal (. Before the Regiment he had participated in many battles against Ali Pasha. After the Regiment he served in the foreign troops of the King of Naples, reason for which his compatriots gave him the nickname “Reginas”. He returned to Greece and formed his unit of Souliotes participating in the Greek Revolution of 1821-1829. After the Revolution he was promoted to Brigadier General and awarded the bronze “Aristeion of the War”, the first war medal (Cross) instituted by King Otto.

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