Model of the steam-powered “Karteria”. The position of the ship’s cannons can be seen. The model was presented to the Baltic Exchange in London in 1923 by the Greek shipping community.

 

By Professor N. H. Apostolidis

 

The two Philhellene volunteers referred to in the title, are the German doctor Heinrich Treiber and the Italian lawyer and journalist Giuseppe N. Chiappe.

The first one, after taking part for almost seven years in land battles, such as the battle of Peta, the siege of Nafplio with Nikitaras, the battle of Karystos with Fabvier, the battle of Dombraina with Karaiskakis, the landing in Kastella and many other operations, finally served on the only steamship of the Greek fleet, the “Karteria”, with captain Frank Abney Hastings, for about 8 months.

The second one, served as secretary, interpreter and legal advisor of captain Anastasios Tsamados on the brig “Agamemnon” from the island of Hydra. He participated in the naval battle of Eresos, the revolution of Pelion and the siege of the castle of Volos, and in various other operations and patrols in the Aegean sea.

Later, in 1824, he published in Hydra the newspaper “The Friend of the Law”, one of the three Greek-language newspapers published during the war of Independence. He also published the foreign-language newspaper “Abeille Grecque”.

Both Philhellenes recorded their experiences, with the difference that Treiber recorded them in his personal diary, while Chiappe recorded them in the logbook of the “Agamemnon”.

These recordings are important because they give us a lot of details about various events of the naval warfare and the daily routine of the crews and ships, but also because they illuminate episodes unknown to the general public.

It should be noted in particular, that any information recorded in these logs was authentic, that is, it was first-hand, and they were also up-to-date, because they described the various events only a few hours after they occurred.

As for the quality, or rather the style, of these texts we must point out that there are differences.

Treiber’s entries in his personal diary are, as one would expect, rich in information about what happened every day during those seven years, but also very short.

On the contrary, Chiappe’s entries in the logbook of the ship “Agamemnon” go far beyond the dry information usually recorded in the logbooks of ships. These recordings are rather reminiscent of a war correspondent’s reports. We must not forget that Chiappe was not only a lawyer but also a journalist.

I quote below excerpts from the two diaries.

The first one is from Treiber’s diary.

17/1/1827 We arrive at Metochi on the mainland of Roumeli, opposite Koulouri.

Here is Gordon as well as the rest of the regular corps, 300 men.

23/1 Arrival of Makrygiannis’s corps.

24/1 The corps of Captain Notaras, the ‘archontopoulo’, arrives, and the embarkation on the ships begins. The expeditionary corps has a force of about 2,000 men”.

“I am boarding the steamer (Note: the ‘Karteria’). An hour after sunset we lift anchors. The operation’s goal is to occupy the high rocky area between Faliro and Piraeus (Note: Kastella), to fortify it and to create a bridgehead before Athens. This will facilitate the corps of Vassos (Mavrovouniotis) who will attack from Menidi and Elefsina with 3000 – 4000 men”.

“We disembark troops, who quickly go up the hillside immediately starting to fire, which creates a disturbance between the troops that have not yet disembarked, but also forces them to disembark faster. We disembark too. Cold night. Across the line they are all engaged in the construction of fortifications”.

“25/1 After dawn, the steamer sails to Piraeus and starts shelling the monastery and the houses”.

The second one is from the logbook of the “Agamemnon”, written by G. Chiappe. It concerns the destruction of the city of Kydoniae in Asia Minor. After the burning of a Turkish frigate by Papanikolis, which is described in another part of the diary by Chiappe, the Turks moved to retaliate against Kydoniae (Ayvali), a city of 30,000 inhabitants, all of them Greeks, on the shores of Asia Minor, opposite the island of Lesvos.

The Kydonians asked for help from the Greek fleet. Because the ships could not approach the shallow waters, it was decided to send boats with armed sailors and small cannons to repeal the Turks and evacuate the civilian population. The “Agamemnon” collected 830 refugees.

I am quoting some phrases from the shocking, but also moving, description that Chiappe entered into the logbook.

“June 15, 1821. At 9 o’clock in the morning the movement of feluccas and boats from all the ships began … from our ship 2 feluccas with 36 men altogether … 10 o’clock in the morning the war of the feluccas with the Turks began in Kydoniae and we noticed that the Turks set fire to the upper part of Chora (the city) …. the flames spread to other parts of the city … 2 o’clock in the morning, the boats were unable to find other people, and all the ships sailed … sailing all day against the wind and towing 4 boats loaded with people … The two holds and the bottom of the ballast chamber, the deck and the accommodation were full of liberated families … our deck is all covered with pregnant women, children and babies … At noon, a woman happily gave birth to a daughter, another woman gave birth to a boy in the chamber, another one to a girl in the hold, and another one aborted. The mothers and the newborn babies are well … 10 o’clock in the evening, sailing against a wind which continued to be harsher and we were turning in rounds with great effort and difficulty.

… Sunday, 1 o’clock in the morning. Two of the boats we were towing cut the ropes but we managed to rescue and get on board the ship the people and their belongings

… at 3 o’clock in the evening we dropped anchor at Antipsara.

Our Commandante (note: Tsamados) left Captain Kyriakos at Psara, as his representative, in order to baptize in his name the babies who were born in the chamber. … he baptized the two babies. He named the first one Eleftherios and the other one Eleni”.

I want to mention that almost a quarter of the inhabitants of Kydoniae were slaughtered by the Turks, or taken prisoners, ending up in slave markets.

The information provided by the diary of Treiber, regarding the operating conditions of “Karteria”, are very interesting.

It is known that “Karteria” was the first steamship worldwide to be used in military operations.

With this in mind, of course “Karteria” presented certain advantages but also several disadvantages, as is the case with all original constructions. Its obvious advantage over the enemy ships, which were of course all sailing ships, was that in the event of calm weather, the “Karteria” could move and maneuver as fast as its engine allowed, while the enemy ships were stuck at one point and the only way to move or turn their cannons against it, was by being towed by one or more rowing boats.

Against this obvious advantage, however, the “Karteria” had some significant disadvantages. The first of these was that the engine of “Karteria” often suffered damages, sometimes minor ones and on other occasions more severe ones. Treiber recorded in his diary at least 5 cases of breakdowns, the repair of which took from a few hours to a few days.

One additional problem, however, was that the ship’s sails were insufficient and the speed it could develop with them alone, without the engine, was relatively low.

From Treiber’s diary we learn that, when the “Karteria” participated in a naval squadron, along with other (sailing) ships, it had in many cases to be towed by one of the other ships. We are also informed that the “Karteria” used mainly coal as fuel for its engine, but when coal was not available it also used wood. The patrols of the fleet extended not only throughout the Aegean, the Ionian and the other Greek seas, but also throughout the southeastern Mediterranean.

Treiber reports that the flotilla under the command of Sachtouris, in which “Carteria” participated, sailed to as close as 80 miles from Alexandria and that it reached the shores of Libya (Barbaria) where they went ashore to look for water.

From the two diaries we learn several details about how each ship communicated with the other accompanying ships, with its base port and with the rest of the world in general. Communication with the other ships of the naval squadron was not a problem, as long as there was at least eye contact.

In the latter case, the communication with the other ships was done with the help of “signals”. Personal contact between the captains or the admiral with the captains of the other ships was very frequent. This was often done by one or more captains visiting the flagship, or by one captain visiting another ship, to consult with that ship’s captain.

From the moment that one or more ships sailed from their base port (from Hydra, Spetses, Psara, etc.) there was no more contact with the base except rarely, when some other ship left the island later and brought new instructions.

It was very common practice that when a fleet ship met another ship (either Greek or foreign – except of course enemy) the captain or the chief officer to visit the other ship or vice versa, to exchange information.

In my opinion, the prevailing impression among those who were taught the history of the Greek revolution at school , but also among the Greek reading public in general, is that the action of the fleet was limited to naval battles with the Turkish fleet and of course the burning of enemy ships by the use of fire ships. One may get this same impression also by reading books on the naval struggle of the Greek war of independence, where the emphasis is mainly on the naval battles.

The naval battles were undoubtedly a very substantial contribution to the Revolution and they constituted certainly the most impressive part of the navy’s action. This does not mean, however, that the Greek navy did not carry out other missions, which varied, but were also those with which the fleet was occupied most of the time.

During the roughly eight years of the Revolution, the ships of the Greek fleet were involved in about 15 to 20 naval battles with or without the participation of fireships. This means that, cumulatively, the fleet engaged in naval battles for a total of only 20 to 30 days, or in other words for less than 2% of the total time that the Revolution lasted.

One would reasonably ask: what did the ships of the fleet do during the remaining 98% of the time?

As it may be derived from the two diaries, the mission of the fleet and consequently its contribution to the Revolution was, apart from the naval battles against the Turkish and Egyptian fleets, multifaceted and specifically included the following:

– The naval blockade of the revolted areas to prevent the transportation of enemy troops and supplies to these areas. This, in my opinion, was the main mission of the fleet. This action included the conduct of raids and the seizure of ships and cargoes of both Turkish and (supposedly) neutral flags, etc.

– The surveillance of the enemy fleet, or parts of it, so that the revolutionaries could be aware of the movements of the enemy, but also in order to exert psychological pressure on the enemy crews.

– The transportation of troops and supplies from one place to another.

– Carrying out troop landings, such as the one that took place at Faliro (Kastella) in 1827.

– The support of the Greek land forces, when they were operating in areas near the sea, by bombarding enemy positions, but also with the involvement of marine raiding parties (e.g. Kydonia, Pelion, Sfaktiria, etc.). Coincidentally, both captains, A. Tsamados and Abney Hastings, were killed in action, not on the decks of their ships, but during amphibious operations, outside their ships.

– The protection of civilian Greek populations from Turkish attacks on islands, or in coastal cities, e.g. Chios Psara, Kydoniae, etc.

– The bombing, and in many cases destruction, of the enemy’s coastal fortifications (Vasiladi, Volos castle).

– The rescue and transport of civilians (Kydoniae and elsewhere).

– The collection of money (taxes) for the needs of the Revolution from islands and coastal cities.

– Finally, we must add the endless hours and days of patrolling and waiting in various safe coves.

Concluding, I will mention that both Philhellenes remained in Greece after the liberation. Treiber organized the Army Health Corps, of which he was the first commander, and Chiappe served in the Judiciary. Finally, several years after the liberation, they became in-laws, since Treiber’s daughter, Rosa, was married to Chiappe’s son, Pietro.

 

Bibliography

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  • Ιστορικά Ημερολόγια Των Ελληνικών Ναυμαχιών του 1821. Εκ των Ημερολογίων του Ναυμάχου Αν. Τσαμαδού . Εκδότης Νικ. Πάτρας. Αθήναι 1886
  • Περικλή Δεληγιάννη: Ο Ναυτικος αγώνας της Επανάστασης. Μονογραφίες του περιοδικού “Στρατιωτική Ιστορία”. Αθήνα 2009
  • I.K.Mαζαράκη Αινιάν: Ο Ναυτικός Αγώνας 1821 – 1830. Αθήνα 2019