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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

When Ibrahim returned to Navarino

Admirals Codrington and Regnier made a demonstration in Greek waters. The foreign admirals exacted a promise from Ibrahim that he would make no movement until further orders should arrive from Constantinople. An oral agreement to this effect was reached late in September. A few days later the Greeks in free continuance of hostilities won a brilliant naval victory in the Gulf of Corinth. The hero on this occasion was Captain Hastings, an English volunteer. Ibrahim was so incensed that he sailed out of Navarino and made for Patras. Codrington threw his British squadron across the track of the Egyptian ships and forced them to turn back by a threat to sink them. It was regretted at the time that Codrington did not compel Ibrahim to take his expedition out of Greek waters back to Alexandria. As it was, Ibrahim returned to Navarino, and there found orders from the Sultan to carry on the war without regard to Western intermeddling. Another Turkish column was forthwith despatched into the Morea and devastated that country with fire and sword. Clouds of smoke revealed to the European naval officers how the Turks had met their proposals for peace. Admiral Codrington sent messages to Ibrahim, calling for instant cessation of hostilities, for the evacuation of the Morea, and the return of his fleet to Constantinople and Alexandria. The answer to this message was that Ibrahim had marched into the Morea and could not be reached. The three squadrons of England, Russia and France cruising off Zante immediately came together. They consisted of twenty-nine vessels, ten ships of the line, ten frigates, four brigs and five schooners. United in one column, under command of Codrington as senior admiral, they sailed for Navarino.

Codrington was unhampered by instructions. He could feel sure of the support of his government, however, for in his pocket was a confidential note from the Duke of Clarence, the royal commander of the navy, encouraging him to "find" a quarrel with the Turkish admiral.

[Sidenote: Navarino]

On October 20, the three squadrons sailed into Navarino harbor in battle array, and came to anchor within pistol shot of the Turkish fleet, composed of seventy warships, forty transports and four fire-ships, anchored under cover of the land batteries. To windward of the British corvette "Dartmouth" lay a Turkish brulote or fire-ship. A gig was sent to demand the withdrawal of this dangerous vessel. The Turks fired on the boat with cannon-shot and musketry. When Codrington sent a boat to the Egyptian flagship, Moharem Bey, the admiral, opened with his guns. One shot struck the "Asia," Codrington's flagship, and his pilot was killed. Codrington opened with all his guns. The British broadsides soon reduced the Egyptian flagship on one side, and a Turkish man-o'-war on the other side to mere wrecks. The French and Russians joined in. The Moslem ships, which had a superiority of 800 guns, replied with spirit. At close range they fought the combined fleets of their hated Christian adversaries. From the surrounding shores 20,000 Moslem soldiers discharged their guns into the land-locked harbor. The fight lasted from three in the afternoon until seven in the evening. All bravery was in vain when pitted against Western seamanship and gunnery. In the course of a short afternoon one Turkish ship after another was sunk or blown to pieces. By sundown little was left of the Turkish fleet but a mass of wreckage. Only fifteen ships escaped, to be scuttled by their own sailors. Four thousand Moslem seamen lost their lives. All night long the Turkish gunners on shore kept up their fire. On the morrow, when Ibrahim returned to Navarino, he found the waters of the harbor strewn with wreckage and the floating bodies of his sailors. One of the best accounts of the battle of Navarino has been given by Eugene Sue, the novelist, who then served as surgeon on one of the French vessels.

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