On This Day August 18, 1826: Attack to Break the Siege of the Acropolis
Led by Georgios Karaiskakis and Colonel Charles Nicolas Fabvier, Greek official and guerilla forces make their first attempt to break the Siege of the Acropolis
On August 18, in 1826, Greek revolutionaries, both government troops and guerilla soldiers, made a first attempt to break the Ottoman siege on the Acropolis. Earlier that month, after the fall of Missolonghi, the Acropolis and Athens remained the only strongholds on the mainland (except Peloponnesos), still held by Greek revolutionaries. Seeking to capitalize on the momentum of his previous victories, Ottoman commander Reshid Pasha led his forces towards Athens and, in August, began laying siege, in what would come to be known as the Siege of the Acropolis.
With its forces weakened and most fortresses lost, the Greek Government used its last remaining troops to attempt a break on the siege before Pasha gained too overpowering an advantage. The government military (called "regular soldiers"), was led by Colonel Fabvier, a French Philhellene who came to Greece to fight in the Revolution and was at this time appointed head of the Greek army. Under Colonel Fabvier were fifteen hundred regular soldiers, accompanied by a group of Philhellenes and sixty volunteer European officers, who had landed earlier in Salamis. The regular soldiers were immediately joined by three thousand guerilla troops ("palikars"), commanded by various Chiefs but united and led by Georgios Karaiskakis, a guerilla leader and hero of the Greek Revolution (Olympiacos fans likely know him well).
With regular and irregular soldiers joined together, the Greek force advanced to the small village of Haidari, on the west edge of Athens, and met Pasha's forces in an attack. Though Pasha met the Greeks with strong forces, the attack lasted until the night of August 19, with, in the words of Howe, the "little corps" of Greek forces showing "great execution" and the "corps of Philhellenes covering itself with honour, by daring bravery."
Despite a day and a half of fighting, Pasha's troops, which were reinforced during the battle, largely outnumbered the Greek forces. Colonel Fabvier, a leader focused heavily on military strategy and training, recognized an imminent defeat and calmly directed a retreat, a decision later called "necessary" and "brave." In fact, historian William St. Clair, opined that only Colonel Fabvier's skills and sound training prevented a repetition of Peta, an earlier battle with massive Greek casualties.
The August 18 attack highlights the Philhellenism involved in the Revolution through Fabvier, the unity of several regions in a militia through Karaiskakis, and the military mindset ("martial ethos") that was required to recognize that a lost battle is a lesson to be learned to win a war. Though the attack itself was unsuccessful in breaking the siege, a retreat limited Greek casualties and the common ideals shown would play a factor in the eventual breaking of the Siege of the Acropolis ten months later and the eventual victory in the Revolution.
Sources and Further Reading:
1. St. Clair, William. "Athens and Navarino." That Greeks Might Still Be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence. 2008.
2. Howe, Samuel Gridley. "1826, Aug." An Historical Sketch of the Greek Revolution. White, Gallaher, & White, 1828.
3. Munn, Mark H. "Appendix II: Fighting in the Aigaleos-Parnes Gap in 1826-27." The Defense of Attica: The Dema Wall and the Boiotian War of 378-375 B.C. Berekeley: University of California Press, 1993.
Photos above are of guerilla leader, Georgios Karaiskakis (left) and Colonel Charles Nicolas Fabvier (right).
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