Colonel Charles – Nicolas Fabvier remains undoubtedly the most important of the French Philhellenes who took part in the Greek Revolution.
He was born in 1782 in the city of Pont-à-Mousson, France. He came from a family of lawyers of noble descent and had obtained the title of Baron. His father was Jean-Charles Fabvier and his mother Anne-Christine Richard. He graduated from the Paris Polytechnic School in 1804 as an Artillery officer and participated in the Napoleonic wars. In 1806-1807 he fought in Dalmatia with General Marmont. He was then sent to Constantinople and in 1808 to Persia to organize the Persian army. In 1811 he joined the army of Napoleon and fought along with Polish units and the officer Poniatovski. During this period, he was wounded.
He returned to France the same year, re-joined the French army with the rank of lieutenant, and served as an aide to General Marmont, with whom he participated in the Spanish campaign. In 1812 he fought with the Grand Army of Napoleon in Russia, where he was again injured. Then, he then took part in the 1813 campaign, again on Marmont’s side, where he was distinguished for his bravery and promoted to the rank of Colonel at the age of just 31. In 1814, Napoleon honored him with the medal of the commander of the Legion of Honor. It is worth noting that he was the youngest person to receive this medal. At the same time, Napoleon commissioned him to sign the surrender of the city of Paris to his opponents of the Holy Alliance.
Since then, he remained in France. From 1817 to 1823, he gradually and actively participated in conspiracies against the Bourbon regime for which he was punished. In 1818 he was discharged, like most Napoleonic army officers. In 1820 he participated in another unsuccessful insurgency against the Bourbons, which led to his conviction. The same was repeated in 1822. This year he entered in contact with the secret organization of the Carbonari, which also comprised members who were prominent Greeks residing in Italy. He subsequently traveled to Spain and took part in the revolution against the monarchical regime. Chased by French police, he found refuge in England, and from there he traveled to Greece.
Fabvier first came to Greece in late 1823 under the pseudonym “Borel”. His biographer, Debidour, states that from that time on, Fabvier began to learn the modern Greek language. He had already been taught ancient Greek, while at school during his childhood. Fabvier landed in Navarino with the aim to examine the conditions and to attempt to establish “an agricultural and industrial colony” for his exiled comrades. That is, the Bonapartists French and Italians who had initially fled to Spain and England.
In Greece he cooperated with the Greek irregular forces, and even participated in the battle to the capture the fortress of Koroni, which failed. He then traveled across the country, secretly, to finally reach Nafplion in 1825.
The Greek Government approved his plan to organize a colony, and granted him an area of 3,000 to 4,000 hectares (30,000 – 40,000 acres) to build it. In fact, a price was agreed and it was stipulated that the first installment should be paid on 1 January 1826. At the same time, Fabvier undertook to prepare a program to introduce Greeks to the modern techniques of agriculture and industry. The aim was to enable Greece to produce products that it had to import from abroad until then. In addition, Fabvier undertook to provide integrated military assistance, to contribute to the construction of arsenals and fortifications, to provide military tactics training and establish a military academy.
The criticality of the situation, the constant conflicts in Greece, and the subsequent arrival of Turkish-Egyptian troops, did not allow the first plan to be implemented. However, Fabvier proceeded with the organization of the army. In this context, Fabvier traveled again to Europe to meet with the Philhellenic Committees, raise money from the French supporters of the Greek Revolution, recruit volunteers, and arrange the details of their transfer to Greece. During this time, the French secret police was keeping a close eye on him. Thanks to Fabvier’s exhortations, an important number of militaries of the French Revolution, mainly Bonapartists, arrived in Greece in the years 1824 and 1825. These Philhellenes were distinguished from those who came to Greece before, by the fact that almost all of them were army officers of a certain age, with a great deal of military experience in the theaters of battle and not romantic students.
In 1825 Fabvier returned to England for some time to complete his round of contacts, and then settled permanently in Greece at the time when Ibrahim had already landed to the Peloponnese. The Greek government saw in Fabvier the person who was fit and experienced to organise a Tactical Army equivalent to that of Ibrahim. Under these circumstances, on 30 July 1825, Fabvier took in Nafplion command of the regular army (from Colonel Panagiotis Rhodios) and the responsibility to train it. It is recalled here that before Rhodios, another great French Philhellene, Joseph Baleste, was in command.
Then, and thanks to the recruitment of a large number of volunteers from Greece, but also the arrival of several young Greeks and Philhellenes from Europe, two battalions were formed. Each one of them consisted of four companies. This Regular Corps also included a small cavalry unit and an artillery unit. A small music band was also founded. At the same time, in September 1825, an arsenal began to operate in Nafplion. It was tasked with repairing old rifles and cannons, but also with the manufacture of weapons and mortars for the use of the artillery unit. In addition, uniforms and weapons were ordered from abroad.
On 5 October 1825, Fabvier and his Regular Corps, with the exception of a battalion which remained to guard Nafplion, settled in Athens. Upon his arrival, Fabvier issued a proclamation to the inhabitants of the city in which he emphasized the value of the regular army and urged them to join it. Soon, the force of the army reached 4,000, and Fabvier increased the strength of the existing battalions and formed new ones. Thanks to the management of Fabvier, the Regular Corps was trained systematically by philhellenes officers, following the French standard of military training and succeeded to become battleworthy in a very short time. The officers were promoted following a recommendation by Fabvier, either following an order of seniority or by choice for those who were distinguished in their service. The hierarchy of ranks was the French one. Fabvier was in charge of the whole Corps and according to Christos Vyzantios, he was taking care of everything.
In September 1825, Fabvier, with the Regular Army, took part in the siege of Tripolitsa (which was occupied by Ibrahim). In late October, the Regular Army took part in a campaign in Spetses. The following year, financial resources ran out, and the Regular Corps faced subsistence problems. During this period the Corps participated in a campaign in Karystos, which ultimately failed. The lack of resources, losses during military operations, illnesses and desertions, led to a reduction of the forces, which led Fabvier to reorganise the army on 20 July 1826. Accordingly, the Corps took part in military operations in the Attica region under the command of Karaiskakis. Α letter sent by Fabvier, actually in Greek, to the latter on 12 October 1826 is indicative of this cooperation.
In the battle at Chaidari, the Regular Corps fought bravely. After this, the Corps moved to Methana, where Fabvier organised permanent installations for the accommodation and training of his soldiers, which were bearded the name “Tactical City” (Taktikoupolis).
The main, and most heroic, act of the Regular Corps took place in December 1826, when a unit reinforced the Acropolis guard which was threatened and besieged by Reshid Pasha. Colonel Fabvier, in charge of 650 men, managed in the night of 13 December, to break the lines of the Turkish blockade and reinforce the Acropolis guard with men and munitions. During this operation, his life was in danger as he was infected with typhus. This bold act extended for four months the defense of the Acropolis, and this was of great value for the successful outcome of the Greek Revolution, as the resistance of the Acropolis facilitated the developments in the diplomatic field which led to the naval battle of Navarino, a battle of great importance in the history of the Greek nation.
Despite the efforts of the Government, the situation of the Regular Corps in 1827 did not improve at all. Its force was steadily diminishing, due to a lack of resources and means, mainly due to the unstable political climate in Greece. In order to avoid a complete dissolution of the army, Fabvier accepted a proposal by the representatives of Chios (Proestoi) to organize a campaign for the liberation of the island. When Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias arrived, the Regular Corps was fighting in Chios. Unfortunately, this campaign failed and the Regular Corps returned to Methana. The reasons for this failure are many, as in the case of Karystos. Most notably, these were the poor cooperation between the Regular Corps and the irregular fighters, and the lack of coordination. Also, in the case of Chios, the supply was cut off (Miaoulis was busy fighting piracy and was unable to assist them by sea). At the same time, due to its geographical location, it was difficult to integrate Chios into the claims of the Greeks for the borders of the future Greek state. Fabvier was accused of undertaking an unnecessary, and even illegal, military operation, and was led to trial.
This failure was the first reason which put to test the relationship between Fabvier and the new Governor, although at first it seemed quite friendly. Governor Kapodistrias had different views on the character of the army, and it also appeared that he considered Fabvier’s liberal beliefs to be disturbing. This situation annoyed Fabvier, who resigned on 22 May 1828. This disagreement intensified when Fabvier later returned to Greece with Morea’s French expeditionary Corps, and asked for the Greek Regular Army to be reassigned to him. Kapodistrias rejected his proposals and Fabvier, disappointed, finally left Greecefor France in early 1829, taking with him his Greek servant, a corporal named Thiramenis.In France, in 1830, Fabvier participated in the Julian Revolution and then became commander of the Guard of the city of Paris. In 1831, he married the Spanish Maria de las Nieves-Catherine Martinez de Harvas, with whom he had a son, Louis-Eugène, that same year. In 1839 he became Inspector General of the French Army, in 1845 a member of the French National Assembly, and in 1849 a Parliamentary Representative of Meurthe. He retired from the military service in 1848, and was appointed ambassador to Constantinople and then to Denmark. In 1851 he retired from public life. He died in 1855 in Paris, having received eleven wounds to his body from his involvement in battles during his lifetime.
In Greece, the National Assembly of Troezina declared him a Greek citizen and King Otto honored him with the Great Cross of the Order of the Savior. On the day of his death, 15 September 1855, the Greek Army declared three days of mourning and the Acropolis was illuminated accordingly. The Greek state put into circulation commemorative medals and stamps commemorating the centenary of the heroic battle on the Acropolis.
For the majority of Greek historians, Colonel Fabvier remains a complex personality. Despite their contradictory views, it is undeniable that he was a man of great military experience, a courageous and brave officer, gifted with an organizational talent. Unfortunately, he ignored partially the methods and techniques of warfare followed by the Greek irregular military, who refused to join the Regular Army and avoided co-operation and coordination with him. This caused a serious malfunction.
Fabvier, however, recognized the bravery of the Greek combatants, while on the other hand many chiefs acknowledged this problem. A passage from General Makrigiannis’ memoirs is indicative of this situation: “We stayed for sometime in Hydra. They gave to me a great certificate and an invoice for my money, my soldiers received their own from me, and I got up and went to the Administration and I told them that I will dismantle my unit and join the Regular Army as an ordinary soldier (they had made of me a General). I told them: ”Our country cannot advance without a Regular Army”. They struggled, they could not stop me. I abandoned my rank and dismantled my unit; I took some of my officers and went to Athens, where Fabvier was based, to train as a simple soldier.”
The great French philhellene was a sincere and selfless friend of Greece, inspired by the values of Greek culture, an exemplary leader, who exercised his duties with justice, conscientiousness and generosity. He had a strong character, stubbornness and perseverance. He always cared for his soldiers, and loved them very much, as both Christos Byzantios and Henri Fornèsy testify. Victor Hugo expresses the same appreciation when describing Fabvier in the French National Assembly in his work on Choses Vues. As Hugo says, his soldiers saw in him not a leader, but a god. He even dedicated to him a poem from the Orientales collection. It is worth noting that Fabvier wore from the beginning a foustanela and a scarf wrapped around his head, similar to those worn by the Greek Generals Nikitaras and Makrigiannis. Fabvier had generally adapted so much to the lives of Greek fighters, that when third persons were meeting him they could not believe that he was not Greek.
Fabvier’s deep love for his soldiers is also illustrated by the fact that he used to call them “his children” and, by extension, his soldiers called him “father”. This is recorded in many letters saved and addressed to Fabvier in 1840. Other letters stored in different places of the General Archives of the Greek State, testify his concern for the poor Greek population and for the safety of the inhabitants of various Greek cities. Even after his departure and until his death, he did not stop to love Greece and the Greeks and to defend the Greek cause at every opportunity.
In commemoration of the battle in Attica during the siege of the Acropolis, a marble column reminding the brave action of Fabvier and his deputy Major Robert, who was killed while entering the Acropolis, was placed in the courtyard of the Herodous Atticus Conservatory. The column has the following references engraved on both sides:
“TO, FABIERO, PROMACHO, OF ACROPOLIS, GREECE 1826 – 1926”
“TO THE HEROIC MAJOR FRAGK. ROBERTON AND THOSE PHILHELLENES WHO DIED WITH HIM, GREECE 1826 – 1926 “.
SOURCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
- Debidour Antonin, Le général Fabvier, sa vie militaire et politique, εκδ. Plon-Nourrit et Cie, Παρίσι
- Le Spectateur Militaire, Recueil de science, d’art et d’histoire militaires, 27e volume, XXVII, quatorzième année, Παρίσι, Noirot, 15 avril 1839, σελ. 552-556.
- Œuvres Complètes de Victor Hugo, Choses Vues I, A la Chambre des Pairs, 1846-1848, Παρίσι, Imprimerie Nationale, 1913.
- Pellion Jean Pierre, La Grèce et les Capodistrias pendant l’occupation française de 1828 à 1834, Librairie Militaire, Παρίσι
- St-Clair William, That Greece might still be free – The Philhellenes in the War of Independence, τ. 1, εκδ. Oxford University Press, Λονδίνο-Νέα Υόρκη
- Victor Hugo, Orientales, “Enthousiasme” 1827.
- Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας, «Φαβιέρος Κάρολος (1782-1855)» διαθέσιμο στην ιστοσελίδα http://argolikivivliothiki.gr,
- Βυζάντιος Σ. Χρήστος, Ιστορία του Τακτικού Στρατού της Ελλάδος από της πρώτης συστάσεώς του κατά το 1821 μέχρι των 1832, εκδ. Κ. Ράλλης, Αθήνα 1837.
- Βυζάντιος Σ. Χρήστος, Ιστορία των κατά την Ελλην. Επανάστασιν εκστρατειών και μαχών και των μετά ταύτα συμβάντων, ων συμμετέσχεν ο Τακτικός Στρατός, από του 1821 μέχρι του 1833, εκδ. Κ. Αντωνιάδης, Αθήνα 1874.
- Βυζάντιος Σ. Χρήστος, Ιστορία των κατά την Ελλην. Επανάστασιν εκστρατειών και μαχών και των μετά ταύτα συμβάντων, ων συμμετέσχεν ο Τακτικός Στρατός, από του 1821 μέχρι του 1833, χ.ε., Αθήνα 1901.
- ΓΑΚ, Συλλογή Βλαχογιάννη, κατηγορία Ε, κυτίο 5, αρ. 885, Αρχείο Καραϊσκάκη (Γράμμα εκ της Ακροπόλεως).
- Εκατονταετηρίς Φαβιέρου 1826-1926, Εν Αθήναις, Τυπογραφείον «Εστία», 1927.
- Θεμελή-Κατηφόρη Δέσποινα, Το γαλλικό ενδιαφέρον για την Ελλάδα στην περίοδο του Καποδίστρια, 1828-1831, εκδ. Επικαιρότητα, Αθήνα 1985.
- Ιστορία της οργανώσεως του Ελληνικού Στρατού, 1821-1954, εκδ. ΓΕΣ, Αθήνα 1955.
- Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Στρατού, 1821-1997, εκδ. ΓΕΣ/ΔΙΣ, Αθήνα 1997.
- Καρατζάς Γεώργιος, «Ο Φιλέλλην Φαβιέρος και ο Τακτικός Στρατός επί Επαναστάσεως», περιοδικό Εστία, τ. 7, τεύχ. 159 (14 Ιανουαρίου 1879), σσ. 17-22.
- Κρεμμυδάς Βασίλης, «Ο Γαλλικός Στρατός στην Πελοπόννησο. Συμβολή στην ιστορία της Καποδιστριακής περιόδου», Πελοποννησιακά, τ. ΙΒ΄ (1976-1977), σσ. 75-102.
- Λουκάτος Σπυρίδων, «Ιω. Καποδίστριας και Καρ. Φαβιέρος», Μνημοσύνη, Τόμος Β’, Αθήνα, 1968-1969, σσ. 217-277.
- Μονόφυλλα του Αγώνος, 1821-1827 – Προκηρύξεις, θεσπίσματα, διατάγματα, τ. 1, πρόλογος: Ιωάννης Α. Μελετόπουλος, εισαγωγικό κείμενο: Ιωάννης Κ. Μαζαράκης Αινιάν, εκδ. ΙΕΕΕ, Αθήνα 1973.
- Σπηλιάδης Νικόλαος, Απομνημονεύματα δια να χρησιμεύσωσιν εις την νέαν ελληνικήν ιστορίαν (1821-1843), τ. 1-2, εκδ. Παναγιώτου Φ. Χριστοπούλου, Αθήνα 1972.
- Φορνέζι Ερρίκος, Το μνημείον των Φιλελλήνων, εκδ. Χ. Κοσμαδάκης & σία, Αθήνα 1968 [Απομνημονεύματα αγωνιστών του ΄21, τ. 20].