ePub 版


No. V.


AT the time of our defeat at the battle of Peta, Bassano, as I have already said, was lying with two gun-boats in the Ambracian gulf, and had captured some vessels laden with provisions for Prevesa. The Turks were well acquainted with the name of this corsair, who had taken a great many English ships in the time of Napoleon. He had also rendered essential services to Ali Pachà. He was a man of the most dauntless courage, and universally feared, but more particularly by the Turks. At the commencement of the Revolution he went to Greece with a large sum of money, and engaged seamen, both Europeans and Greeks. He collected a body of two hundred men, with whom he hoped to do good service, both on shore and at sea. So long as he had money to maintain his men, all the Greeks were extremely cordial with him, and full of gratitude for the enthusiasm he displayed in their cause. But as soon as he was obliged to apply to the government for pay and rations, they began, with one accord, to treat him as an enemy, and actually to reproach him, for forming a company without resources for their support. My readers will, I am sure, hardly believe this to be possible. It is, however, perfectly true. Though Bassano saw that nothing was to be expected from these wretched people, he was so strongly attached to the cause of freedom, that he bought two gun-boats, armed them at his own expense, picked out all the best and bravest seamen from his company, and resolved to act as a corsair against the Turks. He stationed himself in the Ambracian gulf, where he captured all the ships bound for Prevesa. After many captures of some importance, he one day, in very bad weather, took a small vessel under British colours, laden with wine. Bassano and all his crew having drunk pretty freely, and being in high spirits, he proposed to them to go and take the Turkish brig which was stationed near the coast. He thought she had but few men on board, and hoped that a Turkish goletta which lay at anchor within the port of Prevesa would not be able to get out to her assistance in time. He accordingly advanced with his two gun-boats, and made a very gallant attack on the brig; and although her numbers were much larger than he imagined, he thought himself sure of success. While they were hotly engaged, the goletta, who had seen the attack upon the brig, had weighed anchor, and come to her assistance. Notwithstanding this, Bassano would not fly, but continued fighting bravely. The Turks on board the brig, however, seeing succour at hand, took

courage, and defended themselves until the goletta came up, and put Bassano's gun-boat between them. The other, seeing there was no chance, fled, and Bassano was taken prisoner, after losing ten men and having five wounded. The commander of the goletta put him into irons, and brought him into Prevesa, where he hanged all his crew. Bassano was taken before Giocatore Pachà, who received him very courteously, ordered his chains to be taken off, and complimented him on his courage. The pachà had known him in the time of Ali Pachà, and knew that he was a man of talent, and a good soldier. He told him that his life was in no danger, and that he would assign him a good house as a prison, until he could receive orders from Arta. Bassano was conducted to a house where he was guarded by only two soldiers.

At the expiration of a fortnight, orders came from Reschid Pachà to conduct him to Arta. Reschid received him with great respect; he knew that Bassano could furnish him with plans for the attack upon Missolonghi. Bassano's inclinations were constant on the side of freedom, but he thought that, probably, if he took service under the Turks, he might still be able to be of some use to the Greeks, by giving false intelligence. The pachàs immediately consulted him, and in a short time he became their principal confidant, and inspected their artillery, which was to be employed in the siege of Missolonghi.

Reschid Pacha had now minutely interrogated Bassano, and thought he had attached him to himself by saving his life; besides which, he imagined that Bassano must hate the Greeks for their treatment of him. He was aware that Bassano could be extremely useful to them at the siege of Missolonghi, as he was acquainted with the management of artillery. The pachàs unanimously declared him commander-in-chief of the artillery, and placed all the men attached to the guns implicitly under his orders. His prospects were thus rapidly changed from, apparently, certain death, to a high command. His hope was, that whenever the Greeks took any Turkish prisoner of distinction, he might be exchanged. We shall see hereafter, how well he behaved at the siege of Missolonghi, when he had it in his power to batter down that city, and thus revenge the injuries and insults he had received from the Greeks.

I must now return to the subject of the dissensions between Reschid Pacha and Omer-Vrioni, the latter of whom opposed the former in his endeavours to engage the Albanians in his service. It must be acknowledged that he had considerable reason for this. It was evidently the interest of the Albanians to protract the war, as they might be sure that, if the Turks subjugated Romelia, it would not be long before Albania again fell into their power, in which event the Grand Signor would most assuredly have cut off the heads of all the Albanian chiefs, and filled their places with men upon whom he could rely. The Albanians are vindictive, fickle, and faithless in their treaties-enemies of all order and subordination. They, nevertheless, enter the service of any Pachà who will engage them, but always under the conduct of their own chiefs. They are always ready to change their master for any one who offers higher pay;-they are of no party-have no attachment to any

religion, and are Turks or Christians, indifferently, as it happens. Under Ali Pachà several entire districts abjured Christianity, and embraced the Musselman faith. After having sustained Ali Pachà -in his revolt with great firmuess, the Albanians attached themselves to the Turks, because they knew that the treasures of their late chief had fallen into their hands. They were somewhat undecided, whether to enter their service, but were at length prevailed on by their promises, to let themselves to hire to them, without any regard to their future and permanent interests.

While this dispute was going on between the two Turkish chiefs, Mavrocordato having received farther reinforcements, had collected fifteen hundred Greeks. Having sent the regiment and the European officers on to Missolonghi, he had taken up the position of Catouni, to guard the passage leading to the plain of the Acheloüs. As he saw that his presence was very necessary at Vracouri, where he could more readily obtain information of the enemy's movements, both by land and sea, he entrusted the command to General Vernakiotis. Not a day passed without frequent skirmishes, in which the Greeks generally obtained some slight advantage. General Vernakiotis showed great coldness about attacking the enemy, and constantly procrastinated, alleging reasons which were manifestly mere pretexts. Nevertheless, he enjoyed so high a reputation, that Mavrocordato could not venture to remove him from the command. The affairs of Greece have uniformly been in the hands of traitors, because they were the men who had money, and the government was always too feeble to enforce obedience. Even the soldiers began to complain that the General kept them there doing nothing, when the path to victory was open before them.

At length, on the 17th of August, the Greeks intercepted some Turks, who were carrying letters to General Vernakiotis, from Reschid Pachà, requesting that he would give up certain Turkish prisoners, and offering pardon to the Greeks if they would submit. Mavrocordato, indignant at this conduct, wrote a letter to Vernakiotis, in which he reproached him with his baseness, and told him he should rather have died than have admitted any propositions of surrender. He concluded by urging him to act with more loyalty and patriotism for the future, unless he wished to be regarded as a traitor. Vernakiotis, who was insensible to shame or remorse, seeing that there was no hope of making advantageous terms with the enemy, and that all his plans were likely to end in nothing, determined to go all lengths in treachery, and promised Reschid Pachà to induce all his men to lay down their arms, on condition of receiving a large sum of money. In pursuance of this promise, he sent proclamations into all the provinces, exhorting the people to return to reason, and to their allegiance to the Turks, who would forget the past, and pronounce a general pardon. These proclamations alarmed the people in the neighbourhood of Valtos and of Xero-Meros. Those who did not choose to follow Vernakiotis, abandoned the position of Catouni.

After some insignificant skirmishes at Malacha, the Greeks were forced to abandon the right bank of the Acheloüs; their only remaining hope then was, that they might be able to defend the passage of that river. Mavrocordato had left this position to Captain Macri, with

six hundred men, exhorting them to exert themselves to the utmost, like good patriots. He himself went, with three hundred men, to Occupy the passage of Lepenou, a village situated near the mines of Stratos, in order to keep the Turkish cavalry in check, until the inhabitants of the plain of Vracori could escape with their flocks and herds into the mountains. The water of the river being low, the Greeks could not suppose that the enemy would remain long without trying to force a passage. Two hundred more Greeks, Crevariots, who had come to our assistance, were posted at the pass, between the lake and the mountains of Apokouro. By these means the time necessary to secure the escape of so many poor families, (who had nothing to do with these traitors,) to a place of safety, was gained.

Omer-Vrioni was now reconciled to Reschid Pachà, after passing two months in continual altercations, arising from mere jealousy; nevertheless, Mavrocordato, knowing the inertness of the Turks, hoped that they would delay until the rains would set in, and render the river impassable, and that he should thus been abled to keep them in check. He little imagined that he should discover still farther treachery.

Captain Macri deserted his post, and led off his men to the mountains of Zigos. He afterwards alleged in his defence, that he had received intelligence that the enemy had effected a passage, with all his cavalry, above Stamma. But not one word of this was true. Macri had a personal enmity to Mavrocordato and to the Missolonghites. He had betaken himself to a place of safety, not caring the least whether Romelia fell into the hands of the Turks or not; or, indeed, I might say with greater justice, he had deserted his post purposely, to gain favour in their eyes, and get well paid for his treachery. If the enemy had instantly taken advantage of the flight of Macri, they might have seized Mavrocordato and all his men in the twinkling of an eye, and marched on to Missolonghi. But from what I have already said of their indolence and tardiness, my readers will not be surprised to hear that they gave him time to retire to the passage of Gerasono. He endeavoured to defend Mount Aracynthus, but by that time the enemy's cavalry had passed the river, halted one day at Stamma, and was now on its march towards the plain of Nataliko. Notwithstanding all these adverse circumstances, Mavrocordato never lost his courage. Not even the treachery of three of his captains in succession could shake his firmness. The situation in which he was placed was terrible; he was worn out with every kind of suffering and privation, from which he had reaped not the least advantage for himself or his country. Yet what afflicted him most was the perfidy, and baseness, and sordid selfishness, by which he was surrounded.

It was now absolutely necessary for him to decide, without loss of time, to what place he should retire. He might return into the Peloponesus by way of Salona, as the isthmus was not yet occupied by the enemy. He could no longer prevent the Turks from marching wherever they pleased. He knew that his presence would be very useful in the Peloponesus; nevertheless, after mature consideration of the situation in which he would leave Romelia, he said, "The inhabitants of this province do not deserve that we should sacrifice ourselves for them, but if I leave them they will instantly submit, and

the enemy's power will reach to Patras. The Peloponesus, which, now, can scarcely resist the army of Curchid Pachà, will be invaded by the army of Romelia, which will assist in subjugating it, and then what will become of the independence of Greece? No, we must die here." These are the very words he uttered, swearing that he would one day be revenged on the betrayers of their country. This resolution was unfortunately formed too late. He ought to have prevented their treachery at a time when it was in his power to rid Greece of such monsters.

The few officers who remained in the two sacred companies went off in different parties, determined no longer to endure the miseries to which they had been exposed. As I had gone to Greece full of enthusiasm for her cause, I would not leave the country without giving one more proof of my zeal and attachment. I determined, therefore, to remain with Mavrocordato, for whom I had always entertained the highest esteem. In this resolution I was joined by three other European officers. Mavrocordato was greatly mortified at the departure of the others, from whom he promised himself the most effective assistance at the siege. But how could he maintain them, when the Missolonghites had all abandoned their houses, carried off their property, and fled into the Peloponesus, where they thought they should be more secure, perfectly indifferent about the defence of their country.

The regiment still consisted of two hundred men, and had received its orders from Captain Gubenatis, who was appointed colonel. had escaped from the battle of Peta, by remaining two days concealed in a bush of thorns, where he continually heard the enemy talking close to him. The Turks having at length quitted the spot, Gube natis crept out, covered with blood; he had been unable to move in his concealment without being wounded in some part or other by the thorns. After enduring great fatigue, he rejoined his companions, who concluded he had been taken prisoner. When he heard of the acts of treachery that had been committed, and of Mavrocordato's determination to stay and perish in Missolonghi, he offered to stay with him if the Missolonghites would engage to pay the regiment, and allow them rations. As soon as the Missolonghites heard they should be required to furnish money, they advised the colonel to go to Salona, where he would find rich people who could maintain him; but that, as for themselves, they had not a penny. Mavrocordato told them how important it was for their interests to retain the regiment, as he had not forces to make head against so numerous an enemy. They were deaf to all his arguments, and turned their backs on him, saying, "You may do as you like; we shall abandon our country." Mavrocordato did not lose his patience, but arming himself with philosophy, told the regiment that he had no means of maintaining them, and that they must go to Salona, where he had no doubt they would find means to make themselves useful.

On the 5th of November, we once more entered Missolonghi, with two hundred men. The brave Marco Bozzaris had joined us with twenty-two Suliots. The Missolonghites had deserted their houses, utterly regardless of the future. Mavrocordato had taken the precaution to drive a large quantity of cattle into the town, with the

« 上一頁繼續 »