General Thomas Gordon. Lithograph by the German officer and Philhellene Krazeisen (SHP collection).

 

Thomas Gordon (1788 – 1841), was a British officer, a significant Philhellene and one of the first commanders of the Greek Army.

He was born in Cairness House, in Lonmay of county Aberdeenshire, in Scotland. He was the son of landowner Charles Gordon, lord of Buthlaw and Cairness, and Christian Forbes, lady of Ballogie[1]. He attended Eton College and the University of Oxford[2].

After graduating from Oxford University in 1808, he enlisted in the Royal Scots Greys Cavalry Regiment, from which he resigned in May 1810 with the rank of cavalry captain[3].

On August 26, 1810, he was hosted by Ali Pasha in Ioannina, while between 1810 and 1812, he travelled to Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Asia Minor, Persia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya[4].

In 1813 he first served as a captain in the Russian General Staff and then he was transferred to the Russian Army, which was stationed in Mecklenburg. This Army was commanded (further to an agreement of the Russian and Austrian governments), by the Austrian general, Count Ludwig Georg Thedel von Wallmoden-Gimborn (1769-1862)[5].

In early 1814, Gordon returned to his homeland, and in 1815 he travelled again to Constantinople. There he met Barbara Cana, a Greek young lady, whom he later married. Thus his wife acquired the title of baroness [6].

This wedding, in combination with his previous trips, brought him closer to Greece. In fact, Gordon had met Alexandros and his brother Dimitrios Ypsilantis in Bucharest. Thus Gordon gradually developed a strong interest for Greece and Philhellenic sentiments[7].

In early 1821, in honour of his diverse work, Thomas Gordon was awarded the title of Partner of the Royal Society of Great Britain. During this period, he lived with his family in Paris, where he was informed of the start of the Greek Revolution. Then, proving his genuine Philhellenism, Gordon took on his own important initiatives, before a coordinated action of the Philhellenes was organized in Great Britain. He connected with Philhellenes French officers with whom he decided to go to Greece. For this purpose he bought weapons and ammunition, and chartered at his own expense a ship in Marseilles, with which the equipment and the Philhellenes arrived in Greece in August 1821[8].

Newspaper SCHWAEBISCHER MERKUR, Nr. 290, December 5, 1821. The newspaper reports that Gordon arrived in Morea, with British and French officers and a shipment of weapons and ammunition. Followed by 1500 Greeks trained according to European standards (SHP collection).

Upon his arrival in Greece, Gordon was appointed Chief of the staff of Dimitrios Ypsilantis. From this position he took part in many military operations, which aimed at the liberation of Tripolitsa. When the occupation of Tripolitsa was imminent, Gordon, most of the Philhellenes, and Ypsilantis himself, undertook other missions and did not attend the entrance of the Greeks in the city, on September 23, 1821[9].

Gordon was dissatisfied with the violence that followed the occupation of Tripolitsa. For this reason mainly, he returned with the permission of Ypsilantis, in November 1821, through Zakynthos, to his country[10].

In November 1822 the Provisional Greek Government of Hermione sent a letter asking him to return to Greece[11]. Gordon refused because he was not ready yet. However, when the Philhellenic Committee of London was established on 28 February 1823, Gordon was one of its founding members. From this position he contributed to sending military equipment and aid to Greece[12]. Actually, during that time, after a mature assessment of the situation and the prospects of the Greek liberation struggle, Gordon developed the view that Philhellenism should take the form of a single, decisive and continuous strategy at all levels and that it should not be in an opportunistically and occasionally, the case of only a few people[13].

Gordon also played an important role in relation to the mission of Lord Byron and lieutenant Colonel FitzGerald Charles Stanhope, 5th Earl of Harrington, to Greece[14]. It is reminded that these two Philhellenes had been appointed (along with Lazaros Koundouriotis), members of the Management Committee of the first loan that the revolted Greeks expected to receive during this period[15].

Further to the conclusion of the first loan, the Greek delegation asked again Gordon to return[16] to Greece. Gordon refused again, mainly because he was saddened by the civil war that had broken out in Greece. In 1826 the Greek representatives in London persuaded him to go to Greece, with the aim of promoting the unity of the Greeks and of imposing discipline on the military forces. He arrived in Nafplio on May 11, 1826, where he was welcomed warmly by the Greeks. While in Greece, Gordon intended to assist the important French Philhellene Charles Fabvier in reorganizing the Regular Army. At the same time, he wanted to prepare the ground for the arrival in Greece of the emblematic Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, who was appointed commander of the Greek Navy[17].

Another aspect of Gordon’s mission was to accompany the one of the last instalments of the second loan from England to Greece, which amounted to 14,000 GBP. In fact, he maintained complete control over the management of this amount, and contributed to its rational distribution. In fact, he made sure that this money reached people who were refugees from various parts of Greece, such as the Souliotes[18].

In January 1827, following a proposal by Makrygiannis and a decision of the chairman of the Administrative Committee Andreas Zaimis, he took command of the expeditionary corps, which aimed to cooperate with the forces commanded by General Karaiskakis and General Church in Attica, in order to terminate the siege of the Acropolis[19].

ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG newspaper, together with Beilage Nr. 50, February 19, 1827. It published a whole letter sent by Gordon from Zakynthos, in which he mentions what he has done since his arrival in May 1826, the existing needs, the difficulties, the mission of Kolokotronis to Gastouni, the case of Fabvier supported by French philhellenes, the Greek navy. It refers to the arrival of Cochrane in Greece and to the philhellenic committees. It presents an account of the central committee of the Philanthropic Society of Paris to all the Greek clubs for the global aid it provided for the Greek cause in 1825 and 1826 (SHP collection).

On March 3 and 4, 1827, Gordon distinguished himself at the Battle of Kastela in Piraeus and contributed to the creation of the military camp of Kastela[20]. Also, on April 13, 1827, he had a significant contribution in the liberation of the Holy Monastery of Agios Spyridon in Piraeus, which resulted in facilitating communication between the Greek camps in Kastella and Keratsini[21].

This evolution led Church to appoint Gordon chief of his staff[22]. After the Battle of Analatos on 24 April 1827, Gordon was confined to logistics activities until July 1827, when he finally returned to Great Britain.

Meanwhile, Gordon had developed a keen interest in classical history and archaeology. So in January 1828 he was named member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland[23].

Gordon returned to Greece in the summer of 1828, and until February 1831 he led the excavations at the temple of Hera in Argos[24]. During this period he built his house at 14 Gordonos Street. This building was restored in 1982 and it is now owned by the French Archaeological School of Athens[25].

Gordon returned to his homeland in February 1831, devoting himself to writing his History of the Greek Revolution, which was completed in January 1833[26].

History of the Greek Revolution, and of the Wars and Campaigns Arising from the Struggles of the Greek Patriots in Emancipating Their Country From the Turkish Yoke. Vol I & II. Second Edition Gordon, Thomas, F.R.S. Published by William Blackwood and T. Cadell, Edinburgh and London, 1834 (SHP collection).

General Gordon’s “History” is characterized as one of the most authoritative and serious works on the Greek revolution. It offers important material and it provides a complete, moderate and objective picture, also because of his participation in the events. His book was received warmly by the public from the beginning and it influenced as a catalyst historians such as Spyridon Trikoupis and George Finley.

Gordon returned to Greece in January 1833, following the arrival of King Othon. During this period he was honoured with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer for his services during the Struggle[27] of the Greeks.

Lieutenant General Thomas Gordon

In 1834 he was appointed president of the Military Court of the Greek Army. At the same time, the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland named him honorary member[28].In 1837 Gordon was promoted to major general in the Greek Army, and he was declared member of the Hellenic Society of Natural History[29].

Because of his poor health, Thomas Gordon, was retired from the Greek Army in January 1839. After his retirement, he went to St. Petersburg, where he was honoured by the Russian Czar with the title of Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem[30]. From St. Petersburg he returned to Great Britain. In January 1840 he travelled for a while to Greece, where he was anointed member of the Athenian Archaeological Society, as well as of the Society for the Promotion of Education and Learning[31].

General Thomas Gordon died of kidney failure at Cairness House in Lonmay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on 20 April 1841. In his will, he left his record and house to his son Charles Wilkinson Gordon, an officer of the British Army. The latter’s granddaughter, Marjorie Gordon, sold the Cairness House in 1938 and donated the Gordon family archive to the University of Aberdeen[32].

SHP and Greece honour the memory of General Thomas Gordon, a major and noble British Philhellene, who fought for the Greek cause. This important man was honoured with high positions of responsibility in the new Greek state, while enjoying the recognition, appreciation and respect of the Greek society, as well as of the academic community, both in Greece and in Great Britain.

 

References

[1] Δωροβίνης, Βασίλης, ‘’Το σπίτι του στρατηγού Thomas Gordon στο Άργος, Ι’’, εκδ. περ. ‘’Αρχαιολογία’’, Αθήνα, 1993,  τεύχος 47, σελ. 80.
[2] Δρούλια, Έλλη, ‘’Παγκόσμιο Βιογραφικό Λεξικό, Εκπαιδευτική Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια’’, εκδ. Εκδοτική Αθηνών, Αθήνα, 1990, γ’ τόμος, σελ. 134-135.
[3] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[4] ‘’Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw‘’, φάκελος υπ’αριθμ. 1160, Πανεπιστήμιο Aberdeen.
[5] Pallua-Gall, Julian, ‘’Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie‘’, εκδ. Duncker & Humblot, Λειψία, 1896, 40ος τόμος, σελ. 761-762.
[6] Goodwin, Gordon, ‘’Gordon, Thomas (1788-1841)’’, εκδ. Dictionary of National Biography, Λονδίνο, 1900, 22ος τόμος.
[7] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[8] St Clair, William, ‘’That Greece Might Still be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence’’, εκδ. Open Book Publishers, Λονδίνο, 2008, σελ. 138.
[9] Persat, Maurice, ‘’Memoires du Commandant Persat. 1806 à 1844‘’, εκδ. Librairie Plon, Παρίσι, 1910, σελ. 87-88.
[10] Gordon, Thomas, ‘’Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως’’, εκδ. ΜΙΕΤ , Αθήνα, 2015, α’ τόμος.
[11] ‘’Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας’’, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1857, α’ τόμος, σελ. 132.
[12]  Dakin, Douglas, ‘’O αγώνας των Ελλήνων για την ανεξαρτησία 1821-1833’’, μτφρ. Ρένας Σταυρίδου-Πατρικίου, εκδ. ΜΙΕΤ, Αθήνα, 1989, σελ. 141.
[13] St Clair, William, ‘’That Greece Might Still be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence’’, εκδ. Open Book Publishers, Λονδίνο, 2008, σελ. 138.
[14] Lovell, Ernest J., ‘’His Very Self and Voice, Collected Conversations of Lord Byron’’, εκδ. MacMillan, Νέα Υόρκη, 1954, σελ. 369.
[15] ‘’Ιστορικόν Αρχείον Αλεξάνδρου Μαυροκορδάτου’’, επιμ. Εμμ. Πρωτοψάλτης, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα, τόμος 3.
[16] ‘’Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας’’, εκδ. Βιβλιοθήκη της Βουλής των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1971, γ’ τόμος, σελ. 161.
[17] Βλ. στο ίδιο, σελ. 421.
[18] Gordon, Thomas, ‘’Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως’’, εκδ. MΙΕΤ, Αθήνα, 2015.
[19] Τρικούπης, Σπυρίδων, ‘’Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως’’, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 2007, δ’ τόμος, σελ. 118.
[20] Κασομούλης, Νικόλαος, ‘’ Ενθυμήματα στρατιωτικά της Επαναστάσεως των Ελλήνων 1821 -1833’’, εκδ. Α. Ι. Βάρσου, Αθήνα, 1941, β’ τόμος, σελ. 484.
[21] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[22] Church, E.M., “Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece”, εκδ. William Blackwood & Sons, Λονδίνο, 1895.
[23] Kasdagli, Α. Ε., “The papers of Thomas Gordon of Cairness (1788-1841)”, εκδ. περ. ‘’Northern Scotland’’, Εδιμβούργο, 1994, τεύχος 14, σελ. 109 -114.
[24] Κουμαδωράκης , Οδυσσέας, ‘’Άργος το πολυδίψιον‘’,  εκδ. Εκ Προοιμίου, Άργος, 2007.
[25] ‘’Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως’’, Αθήνα, ΦΕΚ Δεκεμβρίου 1982.
[26] Δρούλια, Έλλη, ‘’Παγκόσμιο Βιογραφικό Λεξικό, Εκπαιδευτική Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια’’, εκδ. Εκδοτική Αθηνών, Αθήνα, 1990, γ’ τόμος, σελ. 134-135.
[27] “Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw”, φάκελος υπ’ αριθμ.2757, Πανεπιστήμιο Aberdeen.
[28] “Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw”, φάκελος υπ’ αριθμ. 3193, Πανεπιστήμιο Aberdeen.
[29] “Υπηρεσιακή αλληλογραφία υποστρατήγου Thomas Gordon”, φάκελος 107, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα.
[30] Kasdagli, Α. Ε., “Exploring the papers of the Scottish philhellene Thomas Gordon (1788-1841)”, εκδ. Kambos: Cambridge Papers in Modern Greek, Λονδίνο, 1995, σελ. 65.
[31] Βλ. στο ίδιο.
[32] “Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw”, φάκελος υπ’ αριθμ. 3193, Πανεπιστήμιο Aberdeen.

 

Bibliography – Sources

  • Δωροβίνης, Βασίλης, ‘’Το σπίτι του στρατηγού Thomas Gordon στο Άργος, Ι’’, εκδ. περ. ‘’Αρχαιολογία’’, Αθήνα, 1993, τεύχος 47.
  • Δρούλια, Έλλη, ‘’Παγκόσμιο Βιογραφικό Λεξικό, Εκπαιδευτική Ελληνική Εγκυκλοπαίδεια’’, εκδ. Εκδοτική Αθηνών, Αθήνα, 1990, γ’ τόμος.
  • ‘’Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw‘’, φάκελος υπ’ αριθμ. 1160, Πανεπιστήμιο Aberdeen.
  • Pallua-Gall, Julian, ‘’Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie ‘’, εκδ. Duncker & Humblot, Λειψία, 1896, 40ος τόμος.
  • Goodwin, Gordon, ‘’Gordon, Thomas (1788-1841)’’, εκδ. Dictionary of National Biography, Λονδίνο, 1900, 22ος τόμος.
  • St Clair, William, ‘’That Greece Might Still be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence’’, εκδ. Open Book Publishers, Λονδίνο, 2008.
  • Persat, Maurice, ‘’Memoires du Commandant Persat. 1806 à 1844 ‘’, εκδ. Librairie Plon, Παρίσι, 1910.
  • Gordon, Thomas, ‘’Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως’’, εκδ. ΜΙΕΤ, Αθήνα, 2015, α’ τόμος.
  • ‘’Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας’’, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1857, α’ τόμος.
  • Dakin, Douglas, ‘’O αγώνας των Ελλήνων για την ανεξαρτησία 1821-1833’’, μτφρ. Ρένας Σταυρίδου-Πατρικίου, εκδ. ΜΙΕΤ, Αθήνα, 1989.
  • Lovell, Ernest J., ‘’His Very Self and Voice, Collected Conversations of Lord Byron’’, εκδ. MacMillan, Νέα Υόρκη, 1954.
  • ‘’Ιστορικόν Αρχείον Αλεξάνδρου Μαυροκορδάτου’’, επιμ. Εμμ. Πρωτοψάλτης, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα, τόμος 3.
  • ‘’Αρχεία της Ελληνικής Παλιγγενεσίας’’, εκδ. Βιβλιοθήκη της Βουλής των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 1971, γ’ τόμος.
  • Τρικούπης, Σπυρίδων, ‘’Ιστορία της Ελληνικής Επαναστάσεως’’, εκδ. Βουλή των Ελλήνων, Αθήνα, 2007, δ’ τόμος.
  • Κασομούλης, Νικόλαος, ‘’Ενθυμήματα στρατιωτικά της Επαναστάσεως των Ελλήνων 1821 -1833’’, εκδ. Α. Ι. Βάρσου, Αθήνα, 1941, β’ τόμος.
  • Church, E.M., “Chapters in an Adventurous Life: Sir Richard Church in Italy and Greece”, εκδ. William Blackwood & Sons, Λονδίνο, 1895.
  • Kasdagli, Α. Ε., ‘’The papers of Thomas Gordon of Cairness (1788-1841)’’, εκδ. περ. ‘’Northern Scotland’’, Εδιμβούργο, 1994,  τεύχος 14.
  • Κουμαδωράκης , Οδυσσέας, ‘’Άργος το πολυδίψιον ‘’, εκδ. Εκ Προοιμίου, Άργος, 2007.
  • ‘’Εφημερίς της Κυβερνήσεως’’, Αθήνα, ΦΕΚ Δεκεμβρίου 1982.
  • ‘’Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw‘’, φάκελος υπ’ αριθμ. 2757, Πανεπιστήμιο Aberdeen.
  • ‘’Archive of the Gordon Family of Cairness and Buthlaw‘’, φάκελος υπ’ αριθμ. 3193, Πανεπιστήμιο
  • ‘’Υπηρεσιακή αλληλογραφία υποστρατήγου Thomas Gordon’’, φάκελος 107, Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους, Αθήνα.
  • Kasdagli, Α. Ε., ‘’Exploring the papers of the Scottish philhellene Thomas Gordon (1788-1841)’’, εκδ. Kambos: Cambridge Papers in Modern Greek, Λονδίνο, 1995.