Battle of Dervenakia

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The clash between Greek and Ottoman forces at Dervenakia defile (26 - 28 July 1822) was an important step in the Greek War of Independence. It can be argued that the destruction of Dramali's forces, in the summer of 1822, secured Morea for a long time till Ibrahim Pasha was sent by the Sultan in 1824.


The failure of the Greeks of eastern Greece to take the initiative enabled the eastern Ottoman army to advance at its leisure. That army of some 20,000 men including 8,000 cavalry was entrusted to Mahmud Dramali (pasha of Drama) who had replaced the veteran Khursid pasha. Setting out from Zitouni (Lamia) early in July, by the 17th he had taken Corinth, where he was joined by Yussuf Pasha's forces from Patra. He had made no attempt to take the Acropolis of Athens which, although well supplied with provisions and ammunition, had capitulated to the Greeks on 21 June owing to lack of water. Nothing of consequence had been done by the Greeks to impede his progress or to defend Akrokorinthos. But Dramali's good fortune proved to be his undoing. Throwing all caution aside and ignoring the sound advice of Yussuf Pasha, who outlined to him a military plan of using Corinth as a base for building up strong naval forces in the gulf, taking the chance moreover that the Ottoman fleet would be on time at Nafplion, he decided to push on through Argolis. All seemed well.

Relief of Nafplion

Dramali passed through the narrow defile known as the Dervenakia (Tretos) and on 24 July reached Argos whence the Greek government had fled. He left no guards behind him at Dervenakia and he posted no forces where other defiles exposed his flanks. He sent forward cavalry to join the Ottoman garrison at Nafplion, which stronghold was on the point of capitulation and which the Greeks could easily have acquired at the end of June or early in July if only they had carried out promptly the terms of the capitulation they had already negotiated. As it was, Dramali was able to seize the Greek hostages which the garrison was holding there as a pledge for the safety of Moslem hostages held by the Greeks.

Ambush at Dervenakia

Already Dramali was running short of supplies. The Ottoman fleet had gone around to Patra and was unlikely to return for several weeks. What he should have done was to have fallen back immediately to Corinth, from which place he could have drawn supplies from Patra. Instead he dallied; and while he dallied the Greeks (who had already looted the villages from which the inhabitants had fled) now took command of the defiles, burned all the grain and forage they could not take away, and damaged the wells and springs. Already the Peloponnesian senate had stepped into the place vacated by the central government. Patriots like Dimitrios Ypsilantis, Theodoros Kolokotronis and Petrobey Mavromichalis called for volunteers who came flocking in along with the kapetanei and the primates. Five thousand troops assembled at the fortified mills of Lema; others assembled at points on the marshy banks of the river Erasinos; and daily the Greeks skirmished with the Turks as they attempted to find water and fodder for their horses and baggage animals. Other Greek bands infiltrated into the mountains which overlook the plains of Argos. In the hills extending from Lerna to Dervenakia, Kolokotronis, who had been appointed archistratigos (commander-in- chief), concentrated no less than 8,000 men. Around Agionori there were 2,000 troops under Ypsilantis, Nikitas and Grigoris Papaflessas. Towards Nafplion large forces were assembled under Nikolaos Stamatelopoulos, the brother of Nikitas, and these were joined by Christian Albanians from Kranidi, Poros and Kastri. It was not long indeed before the Greek forces exceeded in number those of the Turks. If only Kolokotronis had in fact as well in name commanded the Greek armies, had it been possible to draw up a general military plan, Dramali's forces might have been completely annihilated and Nafplion might have been captured with very little difficulty.

Retreat and Afermath

As it was Dramali was given the opportunity to carry out his belated decision to retreat. On July 26 he dispatched an advance guard consisting of 1,000 Moslem Albanians to occupy the passes. These troops, who were probably mistaken by the Greeks for cobelligerents, got through entirely unmolested. But a body of Dramali's cavalry which was following up to occupy Dervenakia was intercepted by Nikitas at the village of Agios Vasilis and was routed, a victory which gained for Nikitas the name of 'Turk-eater' (Turkofagos). Very few of the Ottoman delhis (cavalry) managed to escape; most of them had lost their horses and, as they tried to make their way on foot up the ravines of the mountains, they were almost all intercepted by small Greek bands or shot down by individual marksmen from concealed positions. During the encounter the Greeks took an enormous amount of booty - hundreds of horses and baggage animals and a considerable quantity of treasure, arms and stores.

Two days later (July 28) Dramali attempted to evacuate his main forces by way of the route through Agionori. Here he came up against the Greeks under Papaflessas who was holding the main defile (Klisoura). Unable to proceed, he soon found himself assailed by Nikitas and Ypsilantis who made a forced march from their positions at the village of Agios Vasilis and at Agios Sostis. Although Dramali himself with the main troop of delhis managed to force his way through and finally reach Corinth, the Greeks captured all the baggage and the military chest; and they annihilated almost completely the unmounted personnel of Dramali's army. Dramali himself died, a broken man, on October 26 that same year at Corinth. His campaign had been a disaster of great magnitude: out of an army of 30,000 with which he entered the Morea, barely 6,000 had survived.


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