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Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III)

Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III) image Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III) image Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III) image Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III) image Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III) image Demetrius Ypsilanti (Part III) image
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Ypsilanti Historical Society
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Continued from the last issue

It spread to the islands of the sea. It reached the Sultan in his Palace in the city of the Golden Horn. Mahaoud, The Butcher, answered in true Turkish fashion; he took the most illustrious Greek in Constantinople, Demetre Morousi the Grand interpreter, a young and learned Panariote, and strangled him to death, he picked out ten more Greeks of the first families of the city and killed them by horrible tortures; he seized the head of the Greek Church, old Gregory. A gentle, blameless patriach of ninty years, and upon Easter Sunday, after church services hung him over the palace gate to be scoffed at and spit upon by every dirty turk in town and then thrown into the harbor; he turned his soldiers loose upon the Christians; men and women and little children were hacked to pieces in the streets, in their homes, in the churches where they fled for refuge. The streets of every town in Turkey ran with Christian blood; the smoke of villages rose to heaven; the roadways of the empire swarmed with fugitives fleeing to the mountains. In every land of Christendom the news of this outrageous massacre filled the souls of man with horror, even to the little village of Woodruffs Grove on the banks of the Huron, this dreadful news came and I doubt not the good settlers added to their nightly prayers a petition for the freedom of the suffering Greeks and the success of Ypsilanti's expedition.

But poor Ypsilanti! fortune was not to be his guardian, he was the wrong man in the wrong place. Alexander Ypsilanti was brave and gallant but he had no judgement; he was confident and experienced but without caution and foresight; besides that he had a vanity that made him believe that all an insurrection needed for success was to have Alexander Ypsilanti at the head of it. It seemed to some of his commanders that he was more anxious to distinguish himself than to deliver his country; it seemed to them certain that he wanted none to share distinction with him. And so, while he lay with his army in the Capital of Moldavia (Jassy), doing nothing until his ambitious generals should yield complete submission to his will, he might have made a bold attack upon the garrison of the Turks and by the brilliancy of the movement won the whole district to his side and gained the admiration and approval of the ally whom his country so much needed, the great and powerful Czar. But Ypsilanti sulked; he issued pompous proclamations to his dissatisfied generals. At length the Czar sent word that he would have nothing whatever to do with Ypsilanti, and that his expedition was a crazy scheme. This was enough to complete the discouragement of his men, already tired of doing nothing. Little by little, they disappeared and hastened to join their more active countrymen in southern Greece. Even the Sacred Band of the skull and bones, with their beards uncut for liberty's sake, deserted him and at last he fell into the power of Austria. Here being considered a person dangerous to public peace he was cast into a gloomy prison.

He seemed to drop completely out of the memory of man. In vain a few faithful friends importuned the Czar to use his influence with Austria to have Ypsilanti released.

The Czar would think about it. In vain the Prisoner asked his captors to grant him a trial; he had done nothing to deserve the loss of liberty; his country needed him sorely; his dull and dreary confinement was worse that death; his dungeon was dark, damp, and unhealthy; chills and fever were breaking down his constitution, but all his pleading was of no avail. Everybody seemed too much occupied to give him attention. At length after six long years of languishment in Prison, six years that in the outside world were packed with the most stirring events, Ypsilanti found the door to his dungeon opened and himself permitted to totter out into fresh air and sunshine. There was no more reason for letting him out than there had been for putting him in; there was no redress for his loss of liberty and loads of health. His heart turned him once again toward the battle fields of Greece whence the sounds of glorious conflict reached his ears; but his weak and emaciated legs were unable to carry him. Broken in health and in spirit, a disappointed old man, he took himself to a lonely bed and died. This was the end of the gallant, cultured, rich and distinguished Ypsilanti. If he had been the only one of that name I doubt whether our town would have been named anything more unusual than, Smithfield, Jonesburgh, or Woodruffton. But there was another Ypsilanti to whom nature in dispensing personal qualities was more kind and fortune, in awarding victory, more generous. If your patience will endure we shall learn about this Ypsilanti, seven days from now.


Our young friends who have read the previous articles of this series will remember that Prince Alexander Ypsilanti marched into Moldavia to attack the Turkish forces there, and that the other Greeks in their homes at the south on the mainland and in the islands followed the example given and rushed to arms. You will remember that the Sultan, Mahaoud, the butcher, at once proceeded to kill every Greek he could lay hands on. This of course served to make the patriots all the more determined to be rid of him for good and all, or die in the attempt. Poor Alexander Ypsilanti, from lack of enterprise and through his excessive vanity and personal ambition, came to nothing in his Moldavian Expedition and died a prosaic death of chills and fever contracted in a dismal prison. But his brother Demetrius Ypsilanti was more fortunate.

Of all the Ypsilanti Brothers,-Alexander, George, Nicholas and Demetrius-the last was the one you might have least supposed to be the greatest. You may see his portrait in our city council chamber if it has not been removed to the Ladies' Library Rooms. (I knew there was some talk of moving it. Mr. Osband will please set me right on this by a footnote, perhaps.) *You will observe that he is not a handsome man like Professor Pease, Captain Allen, or me. He was in stature about like Clark Wortley. He was always baldheaded, and at twenty-five years of age he looked as though he was forty. He had a most disagreeable voice; it came through his nose and is said to have sounded like a saw going through a thin hard board. He was, all his life long, awkward with his hands and feet, and never at ease in company. His bashfulness was painful; his manners distressing. He found it hard to look people in the eye. His health was easily upset and had to be guarded by him very carefully. He needed three or four more hours of sleep a day than most men require. If he did not get them he suffered much. This was the physical equipment nature gave this man; but she endowed him with certain mental and spiritual powers that far outweighed the qualities of his more brilliant brother. She gave him an ingrained spirit of sincerity and a love of honor. As Alexander was the extreme of vanity, Demetrius was the pattern of unselfishness. As Alexander was not above the liberal use of other People's money, Demetrius was the soul of honesty. At a time when the Greeks were incited to the highest pitch of frenzy by the atrocities of Turkish massacres, he protected the prisoners that fell into his hands with calm and generous humanity. He was an upright man, a gallant soldier, an ardant Patriot. His name is held in honor in his own country. His name is worthy to be given to a city in this land of the free.

When the Greeks sounded the call to arms, Demetrius Ypsilanti was learning the trade of a soldier where his brothers (?) had learned it before him, in the armies of Russia. When the news of the uprising reached him he put on the disguise of a servant and set out on horseback to ride through Austria and Turkey and to join the Patriots in lower Greece. At last, after some narrow escapes he reached the Island of Hydra, where the people and chief man hailed him with great joy. The revolting Greeks now made a provisional government and chose Ypsilanti General-in-chief of the troops in the southern Peninsula. Such troops as they were! It is impossilbe for us to realize the difficulties of doing anything at all with an army such as the Greeks made in 1821. They were absolutely without discipline. Before giving an order the commander had to get the consent of his captains, and they had to get the consent of their men. Now a days every soldier undertand that success depends upon the mechanical perfection of the regiment and the companies; obedience must be unquestioning and immediate; every man is inspired with Pride for the army and forgets about himself. With these Greeks there was no such feeling; nothing at all of the esprit de corps on which successful battles mostly depend. The men were brave enough; probably no men in any army were braver; but they were absolutely ignorant of the value of concerted action. If they were surprised at close quarters they would fight like demons and cut their way through overpowering numbers, but they could never be brought to move forward in mass against the enemy and crush him by the weight of their united numbers; they never could be sent in a body through a breach nor in a charge over a wall; they would not stand under fire but would break and run for cover. In a European army they would probably be set down as cowards. But they were not such. A Greek soldier was brave and daring, by himself. He was intelligent, active, hardy and frugal. He would march, or rather skip, all day, among the rocks, expecting no other food than hard crackers and a few olives or a raw onion. He would sleep all night, content with a flat stone for a pillow. Tents and baggage wagons he never heard of. He wore a skirt of white cloth called a fastlerellar, of the shape of a Scotch Kilt. He used it for handkerchief, table cloth, napkin and towel. A Greek soldier would not work, for he thought it disgraceful, and so he would not drill. He would not submit to discipline, for he felt that this took away his liberty and made a slave of him. He had no respect for officers for he felt himself as good as they. He came and went as he pleased; sometimes a captain had two thousand men, and the next day fifty. Worse than all this, the Greeks, from the earliest times have been so fond of personal independence that they have been jealous of each other. This made them an easy prey to foreign foes, from the time of Philip of Macedon to the last oppression of the Turks. This made their revolution glow and uncertain; this made the work of Ypsilanti precarious and discouraging.

With such an army, or rather a mob of Greeks, Ypsilanti began the work of liberating the lower half of Greece from Turkish possession. Greece, as you know is a remarkably mountainous country. Every bold and commanding height was held by a Turkish fortress; every city was garrisoned with Turkish troops; every harbor was at the mercy of Turkish ships of war.

In the center of the great Peloponesus, or great peninsula of Greece, lies a large plain hemmed in by mountains through which there are no outlets, except through two or three narrow Passes. On this plain is Tripolitza, a large square city surrounded by a wall which is crowned with battlements and flanked with towers. It was the Turkish capital of southern Greece, and a place about as large as Kalamazoo or Saginaw. An army of six thousand Turks with artillery and cavalry held the place. Around this town Demetrius Ypsilanti encamped with his undisciplined army to wait until the Provision of Tripolitza should give out and the Turks should surrender. The Sultan heard of it. He got a great fleet together and commanded it to sail for southern Greece, to land a horde of troops and to march to the relief of the besiged capital. You may be sure an anxious man was Ypsilanti, and that the friends of liberty in this land of ours were in anxious suspense for him.


We left Demetrius Ypsilanti and his soldiers on the plain at Tripolitza casting anxious eyes at the city each morning, to see whether the hungry Turks had yet rached a point where they must hoist the flag of surrender or starve to death. Every day of continued resistance made the chance of surrender less certain, for the Sultan's fleet with reinforcements on board, was sailing to relive the town. The cavalry of the Turks caused such disturbance to the Greeks who had none; but at length the besiegers made a rush by night and took possesion of a grove of trees which commanded the pastures where the Turkish cavalrymen fed their horses. Thus, having lost their fodder, the Turks were compelled to give up their cavalry raids, and they killed their horses for food. After the siege had been continued many weeks, the Grecian commander, Ypsilanti heard the unwelcome news that the Turkish fleet was off the coast with reinforcements and about to make a landing. The Turks inside the guarded Tripolitza heard it, too, and were much encouraged to hold out, though they were now reduced to the direct extremity. It seeed best to Ypsilanti to take with his part of his troops and to attempt to keep the Turks from landing, while he left the rest around the city in command of Colocotroni, his lieutenant. No soomer had the general departed than, relieved from his influence, the soldiers began the most shameful proceedings. It was known that great wealth was stored in Tripolitza; the Greeks, with the characteristic avarice of their race, began to trade for it. The soldiers set up booths upon the Plain before the city, and there sold to the starving Turks, who came outside the walls to buy fruit, bread, meat, and other food, often for its weight in silver. All the lowest, basest, most worthless men and women of the country swarmed about the walls. there was a carnival of wickedness, and in the midst of it the Turkish Troops within the city fell to quarreling and and demanded of their commander that the place be surrendered. A Parlay was arranged with Colcootroni and othe Greek chiefs. The Turks wished Ypsilanti present. Though he could have returned from the coast and have been back again without endangering the country, he was not summoned. Colocotronic and his friends knew too well that Ypsilanti would not allow them a penny of the spoil of Tripolitza but would turn it all into the public treasury to defray the expenses of the war, so they declined to notify him, but bargained with the richest Turks, insuring them safety in return for gold and silver plate, jewels and rich tapestries. Every night mules were laden with the spoil and sent off to the homes of these greedy sons of liberty. These shameful operations could not be concealed from the soldiers, who, mad with rage at the thought of losing a share of the spoil, found a part of the wall ungarded. Raising a mighty shout they rushed in on the unsuspecting city. Without restraint of commander, exasperated by the long resistance of the town, the cries of the massacred countrymen ringing in their ears, the Greeks lost all self control, and cut, hacked and shot every Turk that showed himself in the streets. The fugitives shut themselves up in their houses and defended themselves with fury. The maddened soldiiers burned them like so many flies. All night long the terrible work went on until the crazed avengers ceased only because of weariness. The next morning found a terrible scene. The streets were choked with the bodies of the slain; the air was full of smoke and the sickening smell of smoldering human flesh.

And this was only seventy-three years ago, in the land whence sprung the most ennobling arts that civilization can boast. The Land where Socrates taught the blessings of tranquility and Paul preached the gospel of Peace. This was in the nineteenth century, the era of progress and culture and charity, yet the era of as bloody wasts as ever rened pages of history; an era that saw Napoleon stain the soil of Europe with the life blood of thousands who had no natural hatred for one another; an era that saw our own enlightened nations, without the shadow of a cause, a weak and suffering neighbor, a crime to be expiated in the horrors of a suffering neighbor, a crime to be expiated in the horrors of a civil conflict; an era that even now sees the smoke of burning cities on an island close to our coast (Cuba), and finds all of Europe armed with instruments fashioned to kill, seeming each year to be nearer the entrance to a bloody wat, we cannot realize the nearness of such barbarous times, we in our little town of quiet days and silent nights; we who hear on Sundays the words of Peace that have been preached to the fighting world for nineteen hundred years. Are we forever to go on from century to century with one great war to each generation? God Forbid;

This article is continued from our last issue.
Perhaps I will be able to complete in the next issue.