Andrea Dania (1775 – 1822), was an Italian soldier, Philhellene and one of the pioneers of the Regular Army in Greece, a heroic figure in the battle of Peta.

He was born in Ovada, Genoa. His parents were Francesco di Domenico Dania and Francesca Maria Beraldi, while his uncle was Angelo Vincenzo Dania, a cardinal and member of the Dominican Monastic Order[1].

The families of Dania’s parents belonged to the high society of Genoa and included clergy, intellectuals and military[2]. Inspired by the latter’s steps, he enlisted in the Militia of the Republic of Genoa in 1793[3].

The Republic of Genoa was overthrown on June 14, 1797 and then the French established the Republic of Liguria. Dania enlisted on November 26 of the same year, with the rank of second lieutenant, in the Battalion of Shooters and Engineers in the Ligurian Volunteer Legion, which formed the basis of the National Guard of the Republic of Liguria[4].

In the period 1798 – 1799 Dania fought under the orders of the French generals Joubert and Morau, against the Russian-Austrian troops, commanded by the important Russian General Alexander Suvorov[5]. For his bravery and his skills as a commander, he was promoted to lieutenant and placed in General Calori’s staff. Calori recruited the citizens of Genoa in April 1800 and organized them to resist a possible attack by the Austrian General, Baron Franz Anton von Elsnitz[6].

After contributing significantly to the success of General Calori’s work, Dania was seconded to the rank of lieutenant in the 12th Dragon Regiment of the French Army and took part in the victorious battle of Marengo for the French on June 14, 1800[7]. His action was appreciated and he was appointed aid de camp of the Military Command of Genoa, on July 13, 1801[8].

Because of his adventurous nature, Dania was appointed on February 1, 1805, in the Gendarmerie, with the rank of colonel, tasked with pursuing the robbery[9]. In June 1805, the Republic of Liguria, shortly before its annexation to France, honored him for his bravery and ability with the Order of Military Value[10].

With the annexation of the Republic of Liguria to France, the Gendarmerie of the Republic of Liguria was integrated as a cavalry unit in the French Army, renamed to 56th Dragon Regiment, placed under the command of the French Lieutenant Galliot and incorporated into the 12th French Regiment of Dragons[11]. Dania took command of its Artillery[12].

During his service in the 12th Dragon Regiment of the French Army, Dania took part in the battle of Talavera on July 27, 1809[13], which ended in a strategic victory for the French. He then served in occupied Madrid from 1810 to 1811[14], distinguished himself at the Battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812[15], and fought at the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June 1813, which led to the withdrawal of the French from Spain[16]. For this action, he was honored in August 1813 with the Order of the Legion of Honor by the French Government[17].

With the departure of the French from Spain, Dania returned to Genoa, which now belonged to the Kingdom of Piedmont. Upon his recovery, he was appointed commander of the 12th Dragon Brigade of the Piedmontese Army, with the rank of cavalry major[18] and was subsequently demobilized[19].

Andrea Dania. 19nth century oxygraphy. Academy Urbense, Ovada.

Dania came from an environment of cultured people, with a classical education, love for Greek culture and philhellenic feelings. The liberation struggle of the Greeks moved him and with the beginning of the Greek Revolution of 1821, Dania is one of the first Philhellenes to go to Greece on June 7, 1821[20]. In fact, he traveled from Trieste to Hydra, on the same ship with Dimitrios Ypsilantis, Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos, the brave French Philhellene Joseph Baleste and the great Italian Philhellene, Lieutenant Colonel Pietro Tarella[21].

On July 2, 1821, he took part in the battle for the liberation of Tripolitsa. When the battle was over, Dania, Tarella, the British chief of staff of Ypsilantis and important Philhellene Thomas Gordon, most of the Philhellenes, and Ypsilantis himself, undertook other missions and did not attend the entrance of the Greeks in Tripolitsa on September 23, 1821[22].

After the capture of Tripolitsa, Dania participated in the first operation for the liberation of Nafplio, which took place in December 1821[23]. During this period the Greek administration was trying to establish a Regular Army[24]. For this purpose, the Parliament passed in Nafplio, on April 1, 1822, a Law “On the Organization of the Army”, which formed the basis of the subsequent military legislation[25].

Andrea Dania in Greece. Lithography of the 19nth century.

The Battalion of the Philhellenes was established in this context, and Dania took over its command. The duties of Commander-in-Chief of the Regular Army were assigned to the important German Philhellene, General, Count Karl Friedrich Leberecht von Normann-Ehrenfels. His direct collaborator was Pietro Tarella, who assumed the duties of commander of the 1st Infantry Regiment. The first mission of the Regular Army was the termination of the siege of Souli in north-western Greece, by the Ottoman forces. This operation would result in the resurgence of the Liberation Struggle in Epirus, the strengthening of the Greek Forces with experienced and combative officers, and the removal of the danger of the Ottomans descending to suppress the Revolution towards the south[26].

Normann, Tarella and Dania faced several strategic issues. For example, decisions and moves were slow. Instead of the Greeks and Philhellenes moving quickly towards Arta, without allowing the Turks to gather an army that would give them a strategic advantage, they wasted valuable time. On the one hand, the Turks were gathering undisturbed forces, when on the other hand, the Greek army was beginning to face diseases and food shortages. Another big problem was the behavior of the irregular forces. And especially the one of Chieftain Bacolas. There were also concerns about how units of irregulars would be integrated into the battle plan. In fact, many days before the start of the march to Arta, it was rumored that Bacolas had a strange attitude and that he had a relationship with the Turks. Of course, it was impossible to believe that a Greek would betray the struggle of his compatriots[27].

The Greek forces came in contact with the Turks at Kompoti, on June 22, 1822. The war plan provided that, “the Philhellenes, as regular soldiers, should not seek the mountain tops to defend themselves comfortably, but to stay in the great and dangerous points and not to miss the opportunity to confront the enemy[28]. Following this, the 1st Infantry Regiment under Tarella and the Battalion of the Philhellenes under Dania, were placed at critical points at the foot of the hills. The enemy attack was successfully repulsed and the Turks retreated to Arta with heavy losses[29].

Representation of the battle of Kompoti. Work of Panagiotis Zografos, commissioned by General Makrygiannis (SHP Collection).

Already exhausted by fatigue, illness, hunger and thirst, the Philhellenes left from Kompoti in a hurry at night to Peta, where the Turks were moving. The other Greek forces gathered there, and the preparation for the battle began.

Disagreements arose in the war council of the leaders on two issues: 1) The position of the regular army in relation to the irregulars. That is, who would constitute the vanguard and who the rearguards, and 2) whether or not fortifications (tambouria) should be used. For the first one, the view which prevailed was to place the forces in a circle around Peta. Normann was dissatisfied with this decision and realizing the disadvantaged position of the Greek side, he felt obliged to express his concerns in a letter to Mavrokordatos[30]. Although he was the leader of the Greek forces, Mavrokordatos was absent from the battlefield. He had placed his headquarters in Lagada, six hours away from Peta[31]. In his letter, Normann stressed that the regular soldiers now numbered only 515[32]. He also noted that he was afraid that Bacolas would leave his post and that the other irregular fighters would not be able to help. Mavrokordatos was not convinced and the battle plan did not change. The Philhellenes accepted this decision out of courtesy[33].

After the leaders’ disagreement about the fortifications, the opinion which prevailed was that they should be built. In fact, as many sources confirm, the “tambouria” were also used by Philhellenes. This is a rare case in which European soldiers fought in the “Greek way”. That is, with the methods of the irregulars. It is worth noting that the Philhellenes had a different code of bravery and honor, which results from a position attributed to Dania: “our tambouria are our breasts”[34].

However, other mistakes were also made, which were due to the lack of complete control of the situation from the Philhellene officers. After the battle of Kompoti, Gennaios Kolokotronis and his Corps returned to the Peloponnese, following an order from his father, for which he was criticized[35]. At the same time, 1,200 Greek fighters left the camp and moved to the north to help the Souliotes. The corps comprised Markos Botsaris, Karatasos, Aggelis Gatsos, Georgios Varnakiotis, Alexakis Vlachopoulos and Andreas Iskos. These 1,200 fighters did not even manage to approach Souli. The Turks stopped them in the village of Plaka on June 29, 1822 and crushed them. Those who survived returned to Peta. Gogos Bacolas enticed Marco Botsaris to move towards Souli, and as soon as he left the camp, he warned the Turks to trap him in Plaka[36].

On the day of the battle of Peta, a Corps of Maniates also arrived in Splantza with Kyriakoulis Mavromichalis to help the Greeks. However, they did not form part of a single strategic plan. A corps of Souliotes arrived there and joined them to confront the Turkish forces that were sent to repel them. Kyriakoulis Mavromichalis himself was killed in this battle[37].

All these moves were out of the general coordination plan, and hindered the work of the Greek forces that would face the main attack of the Turks. But again, despite their small numbers, these forces could still be defeated.

At dawn on July 16, 1822, the attack of the Turkish forces that had arrived from Arta (7,000 to 8,000) began. Normann woke up the men, cheered them with warm words and inspected all positions on horseback.

Representation of the Battle of Peta. Work of Panagiotis Zografos, commissioned by General Makrygiannis (SHP Collection).

At first the forces of the Philhellenes and the Tactical Corps repulsed the numerous enemy troops with great success. The constant and coordinated shots reaped the attackers. The key to success in this way of warfare is for the soldiers to stay calm, to constantly and quickly load their weapons, to fire in a coordinated manner, and above all, to hold their ground, without allowing a rift in their ranks. The 1st Infantry Regiment and the battalion of the Philhellenes were an impenetrable wall, as Baleste’s training paid off[38].

Unfortunately, suddenly a fatal thing happened. Chieftain Bacolas and his men treacherously left their positions, opening the path for the Turkish forces to attack the rear of the 1st Infantry Regiment and the battalion of the Philhellenes[39]. Tarella was trying to encourage the men of his Regiment. He was surrounded by the attacking Turks and had a tragic death (he was beheaded)[40].

General Normann, the emblematic Philhellene, took himself the command of the 1st Infantry Regiment and led it back to battle, shooting: “For the salvation of the Philhellenes! Victory or death!”. In the ensuing raid, he received a bullet in the chest and was transported to the rear to treat his serious injury[41]. Gradually the Regiment began to recede and was now an easy target for the Turkish cavalry. The Philhellenes had been abandoned by all the forces of the irregulars. The forces of the Philhellenes and the Greeks from the Ionian islands experienced a sad and unjust disaster. They were surrounded by the enemy at an exposed point and were exterminated.

Amazing scenes of incredible heroism followed. Dania, who was cheering the soldiers of the battalion of the Philhellenes until the end, was surrounded by Turks, who beheaded him as they did with Tarella[42]. Fifteen brave Poles, led by the Polish officer Mierzewski, gathered at the St George’s Church in central Peta and fought with incredible heroism, even fighting on the roof of the church. They were all killed heroically[43]. In fact, the Turks set fire to the roof of the church to burn them alive beig unable to defeat them. A French officer, Mignac (who had clashed with German Philhellenes during the campaign), also fought with a heroism of Homeric proportions. The Turks tried to capture him alive because he was wearing an impressive uniform and they thought that he was General Normann, the leader of the Regular Army. Mignac refused to surrender and fought valiantly. In the end, being severely injured in the leg, because he could not stand, he leaned on the trunk of an olive tree to stay upright and by fighting in all directions, he neutralized fourteen more Turks. His body was full of wounds, and when he broke his sword, he committed suicide by cutting his throat[44].

Among the volunteers of the Regular Army, 160 Greeks from the Ionian islands and Philhellenes (one third of the forces) were killed. Many were taken prisoners to Arta and were killed there, after being tortured and humiliated in a horrible way. Many Philhellenes were forced to walk naked for hours, holding in their hands the heads of their comrades[45].

The few survivors gathered in Lagada; among them the tragic figure of the day, the noble and brave General Normann. As after the battle of Kompoti, so this time he arrived at the camp last on his dying horse and presented himself to Mavrokordatos, to whom he stated the following: “We lost everything your highness, except our honor“![46]. The 1st Infantry Regiment, the Battalion of the Philhellenes, and hundreds of enthusiastic European Philhellenes, and Greeks from the Ionian islands, no longer existed.

Monument in Peta, in memory of the fallen Philhellenes in the battle of Peta.

Greece and SHP pay tribute to the heroic Philhellene Andrea Dania and his brave comrades-in-arms, who fought to the end for the Independence of Greece and are eternally grateful for their sacrifice.

 

References

[1] Fassino, Pier Giorgio, ”Andrea Dania, ovadese: eroe dell’Indipendenza greca”, εκδ. περ.”URBS”, Ovada, Σεπτέμβριος 2006, σελ. 180.
[2] Βλ. στο ίδιο, σελ. 181.
[3] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[4] Barbagallo, C., ”Storia Universale -Dall’età Napoleonica alla fine della prima Guerra Mondiale (1799 – 1919)”, εκδ. UTET, Τορίνο, 1964.
[5] Gachot, Édouard, ”Les campagnes de 1799. Souvarow en Italie”, εκδ. Perrin et cie., Παρίσι, 1903.
[6] Furse, George Armand, ”Marengo and Hohenlinden”, εκδ. Worley Publications, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1993.
[7] Benoît, Jérémie, ”Marengo: Une victoire politique”, εκδ. Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Παρίσι, 2000.
[8] Calandra, E., “ La bufera”, εκδ. Mondadori, Μιλάνο, 1964, σελ. 205.
[9] Ruggiero, M., “ La Storia dei Briganti Piemontesi”, εκδ. Alzani Editore, Pinerolo, 1998.
[10] Fassino, Pier Giorgio, “Andrea Dania, ovadese: eroe dell’Indipendenza greca”, εκδ. περ.”URBS”, Ovada, Σεπτέμβριος 2006, σελ. 183.
[11] Βλ. στο ίδιο, σελ. 186.
[12] Barbagallo, C., “Storia Universale – Dall’età Napoleonica alla fine della prima Guerra Mondiale (1799 – 1919)”, εκδ. UTET, Τορίνο, 1964.
[13] Field, Andrew, “Talavera: Wellington’s First Victory in Spain”, εκδ. Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, 2006.
[14] Fassino, Pier Giorgio, “Andrea Dania, ovadese: eroe dell’Indipendenza greca”, εκδ. περ.”URBS”, Ovada, Σεπτέμβριος 2006, σελ. 186.
[15] Fletcher, Ian, “Salamanca 1812: Wellington Crushes Marmont”, εκδ. Osprey, Λονδίνο, 1997.
[16] Fletcher, Ian, “Vittoria 1813: Wellington Sweeps the French from Spain”, εκδ. Praeger Publishers, Νέα Υόρκη, 2005.
[17] Fassino, Pier Giorgio, “Andrea Dania, ovadese: eroe dell’Indipendenza greca”, εκδ. περ.”URBS”, Ovada, Σεπτέμβριος 2006, σελ. 186
[18] Φορνέζης, Ερρίκος, “Οι Φιλέλληνες”, εκδ. περ. ”Εβδομάς”, Αθήνα, 1884, σελ.27.
[19] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[20] Πρασσά, Αννίτα, “Ο Φιλελληνισμός και η Επανάσταση του 1821”, εκδ. Δημιουργία, Αθήνα, 1999.
[21] Ξάνθος, Εμμανουήλ, “Απομνημονεύματα περί της Φιλικής Εταιρείας”, εκδ. Βεργίνα, Αθήνα, 1996, σελ. 168.
[22] Persat, Maurice, “Memoires du Commandant Persat. 1806 à 1844”, εκδ. Librairie Plon, Παρίσι, 1910, σελ. 87-88.
[23] Συλλογικό, “Italy on the Rimland. Storia Militare di una Penisola Eurasiatica”, εκδ. Società Italiana di Storia Militare, Ρώμη, 2019, 1ος τόμος, σελ. 143.
[24] “Τα Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας”, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1857, α’ τόμος, σελ. 272.
[25] Διεύθυνση Ιστορίας Στρατού, “Η ιστορία του Ελληνικού Στρατού”, εκδ. Γενικό Επιτελείο Στρατού, Αθήνα, 1997.
[26] “Ιστορικόν Αρχείον Αλεξάνδρου Μαυροκορδάτου”, επιμ. Εμμ. Πρωτοψάλτης, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα, τόμος 1, φακ. 197, σελ. 254.
[27] Κουτσονίκας, Λάμπρος, “Γενική Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Δ. Καρακατζάνη, Αθήνα, 1863, δ’ τόμος, σελ. 177.
[28] Βυζάντιος Χρήστος, “Ιστορία των κατά την Ελληνικήν Επανάστασιν εκστρατειών και μαχών και των μετά ταύτα συμβάντων, ων συμμετέσχεν ο Τακτικός Στρατός, από του 1821 μέχρι του 1833”, εκδ. Κ. Αντωνιάδου, Αθήνα, 1874, σελ. 203.
[29] Συλλογικό, “Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους”, εκδ. Εκδοτική Αθηνών, Αθήνα, 2000, 12ος τόμος, σ. 232.
[30] “Ιστορικόν Αρχείον Αλεξάνδρου Μαυροκορδάτου”, επιμ. Εμμ. Πρωτοψάλτης, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα, τόμος 2, φακ. 548, σελ. 135.
[31] Φωτιάδης, Δημήτρης, “Η Επανάσταση του ’21”, εκδ. Μέλισσα, Αθήνα, 1971, β’ τόμος, σελ. 211.
[32] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[33] Woodhouse, Christopher Montague, “The Philhellenes”, εκδ. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Madison 1971.
[34] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[35] Κολοκοτρώνης, Γενναίος, “Απομνημονεύματα”, εκδ. Βεργίνα, Αθήνα, 2006.
[36] Voutier, Olivier, “Απομνημονεύματα του συνταγματάρχη Olivier Voutier από τον πόλεμο των Ελλήνων”, μετ. Ειρήνη Τζουρά, επιμ. Παναγιώτα Παναρίτη, εκδ. Εθνικό Ιστορικό Μουσείο, Αθήνα, 2019.
[37] Περραιβός, Χριστόφορος, “Πολεμικά Απομνημονεύματα. Μάχες του Σουλίου και της Ανατολικής Ελλάδας 1820 -1829”, εκδ. Βεργίνα, Αθήνα, 2003, σελ. 160.
[38] St Clair, William, “That Greece Might Still be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence”, εκδ. Open Books, Λονδίνο, 2008, σελ. 277.
[39] Κουτσονίκας, Λάμπρος, “Γενική Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως”, εκδ. Δ. Καρακατζάνη, Αθήνα, 1863, δ’ τόμος,σελ. 178.
[40] St Clair, William, “That Greece Might Still be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence”, εκδ. Open Books, Λονδίνο, 2008.
[41] Gridley Howe, Samuel, “An Historical Sketch of the Greek Revolution”, εκδ. White, Gallaher & White, Νέα Υόρκη, 1828, σελ.
[42] Fassino, Pier Giorgio, “Andrea Dania”, εκδ. περ.”Accademia Urbense”, Ovada, Σεπτέμβριος 2006, σελ. 188.
[43] Τράιμπερ, Ερρίκος, “Αναμνήσεις από την Ελλάδα 1822- 1828”, επιμ. δρ. Χρήστος Ν. Αποστολίδης, ιδ. εκδ., Αθήνα, 1960, σελ. 136.
[44] Raybaud Maxime, “Mémoires sur la Grèce pour servir à l’histoire de la guerre de l’Indépendance, accompagnés de plans topographiques, avec une introduction historique par Alph. Rabbe”, εκδ. Tournachon-Molin Libraire, Παρίσι, 1824, τόμος 1.
[45] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[46] Βλ. στο ίδιο.

 

Bibliography – Sources

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  • Barbagallo, C., “Storia Universale -Dall’età Napoleonica alla fine della prima Guerra Mondiale (1799 – 1919)”, εκδ. UTET, Τορίνο, 1964.
  • Gachot, Édouard, “Les campagnes de 1799. Souvarow en Italie“, εκδ. Perrin et cie., Παρίσι, 1903.
  • Furse, George Armand, “Marengo and Hohenlinden“, εκδ. Worley Publications, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1993.
  • Benoît, Jérémie, “Marengo: Une victoire politique”, εκδ. Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Παρίσι, 2000.
  • Calandra, E., “La bufera“, εκδ. Mondadori, Μιλάνο, 1964.
  • Ruggiero, M., ”La Storia dei Briganti Piemontesi“, εκδ. Alzani Editore, Pinerolo, 1998.
  • Field, Andrew, “Talavera: Wellington’s First Victory in Spain”, εκδ. Pen & Sword Military, Barnsley, 2006.
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