Belgrade

Eugene of Savoy at the Battle of Belgrade by Johann Gottfried Auerbach.

Date: 15 June-22 August 1717 Location: modern Yugoslavia

There is no doubt that the blood which is going to flow on both sides will fall like a curse upon you, your children and your children’s children until the last judgment. GRAND VIZIER SILAHDAR ALI PASHA TO EUGENE OF SAVOY, APRIL 1716

Habsburg-Ottoman relations remained relatively calm following the peace treaty of Karlowitz (1699). Both empires waged wars on other fronts. The War of the Spanish Succession and the Hungarian insurrection of Ferenc Rakoczi II tied up Vienna’s resources. The Ottomans were fighting successful wars against the Russiansand the Venetians. Prince Eugene of Savoy, Imperial Field Marshal and President of the Viennese Aulic War Council, watched Sultan Ahmed Ill’s recent conquests in the Morea (Peloponnese) and Crete with great suspicion. On Eugene’s suggestion, the Habsburgs formed a defensive alliance with Venice in 1716, leading to Istanbul’s declaration of war against Vienna.

The war of 1716-17

The 1716 campaign resulted in major Habsburg victories. The Imperial army, 70,000 strong and commanded by Eugene, met the Ottoman army under Grand Vizier Damad Ali Pasha, the victor of the Morea campaign, at Petervarad (Peterwardein ), northwest of Belgrade on the right bank of the Danube. Without Tartar and Wallachian auxiliaries, even the paper strength of the regular Ottoman forces was hardly more than 70,000: 41,000 janissaries and 30,000 sipahis (Turkish cavalry). The battle of Petervarad (5 August 1716) ended with the defeat of the Ottoman troops with some 6,000 dead, including the Grand Vizier. Despite severe Imperial losses of 4,500 dead and wounded, Eugene decided to besiege Ternesvar, the centre of an Ottoman province since 1552 and a strong Ottoman fortress guarded by 12,000 men. Ternesvar’s defenders resisted the siege for 43 days, but eventually gave up the fortress on 16 October. During the winter, Eugene made preparations for next year’s campaign, the main objective being to recapture Belgrade, the strongest Ottoman military base that controlled the main invasion route against Habsburg Hungary.

The battle of Belgrade

On 15 June 1717, using pontoon bridges, the Imperial army under Prince Eugene crossed the Danube at Pancsova (Parceva), east of Belgrade. By 18 June Belgrade was surrounded and the Imperialists were busy building their protective entrenchments against the fortress (countervalation) and the approaching relief army (circumvallation). Eugene’s army had a paper strength of 100,000 men, over 100 field guns and a strong siege artillery train. Defended by the Danube from the north and the Sava from the west, Belgrade was guarded by 30,000 men and 600 cannons under San Mustafa Pasha. When the Ottoman relief army under Grand Vizier Haci Halil Pasha arrived on 27 July, Belgrade had been seriously destroyed by the Habsburg bombardment.

The paper strength of the Ottoman forces was well above 100,000 men. However, contemporaries noticed that regular troops composed only ‘a small proportion of their whole body. The rest… are a mob… ignorant of all discipline, and are neither armed nor trained sufficiently well to make a stand against a regular force.’ Knowing the weakness of his forces, the Grand Vizier chose not to engage Eugene’s army in an open battle. Instead, he kept up a deadly artillery fire on the Imperialists from his elevated position to the east of the city, against which the circumvallation gave little protection. The Imperialists were caught between the defenders’ and the Ottoman field army’s artillery fire. Eugene had to act quickly if he was to save his army, which was suffering not only from enemy fire but also from dysentery.

Hoping that the besieged would not be able to fight for some days after the large explosion on 14 August, Eugene decided to attack the Ottoman army on 16 August. While he left 10,000 men in the trenches facing the fortress, Eugene unleashed his remaining forces in the early morning when the thick fog cleared that had concealed the Imperialists’ movements. Thanks to the courageous Bavarians and at the expense of over 5,000 dead, the Imperialists destroyed the Ottoman army, capturing all 150 pieces of the Ottoman artillery and the Grand Vizier’s camp. The Ottomans, who lost perhaps as many as 10,000 men, retreated towards Niş. A day after the battle the defenders of Belgrade, who – blinded by Windy weather conditions – had remained passive during the battle, surrendered. On 22 August, Eugene and his men moved into the city.

The Austrians won through the boldness of his assault and the superb discipline of their infantry, which advanced with colors flying and drums beating despite Ottoman artillery fire. Holding their fire until they were but a short distance from the Ottoman lines, the Austrians launched a bayonet charge that broke up the Janissaries and produced victory. Ottoman casualties were estimated at 20,000 men, while the Austrians suffered only 2,000 casualties. Five days later, on August 21, Belgrade surrendered to the Austrians.

As their main army retreated south, their other force abandoned the siege of Corfu, releasing pressure on the Venetians. Realizing it was now too late to attack Belgrade, Eugene turned northeast to besiege Timisoara, capital of the Banat and last Turkish enclave north of the Danube. Though an attempt to storm the place on Charles’s birthday (1 October) failed, the garrison surrendered two weeks later after a relief force disintegrated en route through desertion. By the end of the year, the imperialists had overrun most of Wallachia west of the river Olt (Aluta)-the so-called Olteria or Little Wallachia.

Though a successful campaign, it was now obvious that the Austrians had seriously underestimated Ottoman strength, but it was decided to continue the war the following year to consolidate the gains. The arrival of Bavarian and other reinforcements brought Eugene’s army up to 100,000, strong enough to attempt the siege of Belgrade, and, assisted by the Danube Flotilla, the city was completely cut off and subjected to a regular siege. However, Eugene was running out of supplies as an Ottoman relief force approached in August. A lucky shot detonated the city’s largest magazine on the 14th, killing 3,000 of the defenders. Realizing that a sortie was now unlikely, Eugene sallied forth from his trenches with 60,000 men to surprise the Turks in the early morning mist. Fortified by drink and keeping close together, the imperialists poured devastating musketry into the disordered Turkish ranks, routing them and sealing the garrison’s fate. With the fall of Belgrade on 18 August, the Turkish position in Northern Serbia collapsed and the Habsburg frontier advanced south of the Danube to reach the fullest extent achieved during the Great Turkish War.

Charles had no intention of going any further. The Austrians were already beginning to doubt the wisdom of pushing deeper into the Balkan wastelands, and it was clear the Turks desired peace. This was very welcome given that Rakoczi had just arrived in Edirne, raising the spectre of renewed trouble in Hungary. Meanwhile the Turks were suspected of trying to reach a rapprochement with the tsar, and Spain had launched its attempt to recover its lost Italian possessions. Following long negotiations with Anglo-Dutch mediation, peace was concluded at Passarowitz (Pozarevac) on 27 July 1717, confirming Austria’s recent gains. It was not a moment too soon. Austrian units were already departing for Italy, while five days later, the emperor concluded the Quadruple Alliance with France, Britain and the Dutch, thus committing himself to the war with Spain.

The short successful war considerably extended Habsburg territory, indicating that Austria was now a major European power and raising the emperor’s prestige in the Reich. Prince Eugene was a genuine folk hero, and even other generals became household names.

The Battle of Belgrade was a watershed. After the Battle of Belgrade they were firmly on the defensive, no longer expanding in Europe but merely seeking to retain conquered territory.

The Habsburg -Ottoman war of 1716-17 was the briefest of the military conflicts between the two empires. With the conquest of Belgrade and the Ternesvar region, Prince Eugene of Savoy crowned his career as the most successful military leader of his time. The following peace treaty of Passarowitz (1718) restored the ‘natural’ Danube borderline between the two empires.

Ottoman Naval Gunnery in the Eighteenth Century

Ottoman ship-of-the-line which name is Peleng-i Bahri 1777s (Tiger-sea) with 58 guns

The first time cannons were used on Ottoman ships was during the siege of Constantinople to hit the city walls from the sea. Guilmartin, however, tells about a contemporary Turkish sketch preserved in Topkapi Palace showing two Ottoman siege bombards in action and he suggests that this may represent the earliest type of gun mount regularly used aboard galleys, considering the similarity to a German woodcut depicting the port of Venice and illustrating a book published in 1486. This woodcut shows a bombard, made of wrought iron or bronze cast in ‘hooped’ form, mounted on the bow of a galley tightly pinioned between heavy horizontal timbers lying alongside the barrel and supported by a much heavier vertical post to absorb the recoil.

If we take a look at Ottoman ships carrying cannons, irrespective of the century in which they were used, we see that among the ones powered with oars were galliot (kalite), brigantine (perkende), saika (şayka) with three guns, mahone (mavna) with 24 guns, galley (kadirga) with 13 guns and bafltarda with three heavy guns and several light guns. Among sailing ships carrying guns were sloops (şalope) of 12 guns, brigs (brik), ağribar with over 30 guns, corvettes (korvet) with 20–30 guns, barça with over 80 guns, galleons (kalyon) with 60–80 guns, three-decked galleons (üç ambarh kalyon) with 80–120 guns, frigates (firkateyn) with 30–70 guns, kaypak/kapak with 80–100 guns and uskuna with 16 guns.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, beside warships, merchant ships were observed to have guns as well. Guns required for the merchant ships owned by the state were generally provided from the Tophâne-i Âmire, while the ones for the private non-military ships were purchased or hired in return for a certain amount of money.

Considering the galleons constructed following the systematic adoption of sailing ships in 1682, we see that four out of ten galleons were 50 zira and had 80 bronze guns while the remaining six were 45 zira and had 60 guns. These sizes seem to be comparable to the ones of European ships.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, 112 guns were required for a three-decker built in 1700, and 130 guns for a big galleon kebîr kalyon constructed in 1701. The sizes of these guns were between three and 16 kiyyes. Broken guns or the ones needed to change were transferred to the Tophâne-i Âmire in order to be replaced with new ones. Broken ones were melted down to be cast into new guns.

Looking at the first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-rate Ottoman ships between 1736 and 1739, it is seen that the Çift Aslan, a first-rate ship, could carry 108 guns of 8-112, 22-48, 2-24, 30-18, 28-12, 18-8 pounders. The İki Bağçeli and the Büyük Gül Başh, two third-rate Ottoman ships, had 66 guns on board each. Sixty-six guns of the İki Bağçeli consisted of 4-112, 24-48, 2-18, 28-12, 8-8 pounders, while there were 28-24, 2-18, 28-12, 8-8 pounders on the Büyük Gül Başh. A fourth-rate ship, the Yaldizh Şiahin, carried 62 guns of 26-18, 28-12, 8-8 pounders; another fourth-rate ship, the Mavi Aslan, had 50 guns of 22-12 and 28-8 pounders. The Mavi Firkata, another fifth-rate ship, could carry 36 guns of 8 and 4 pounders.

Of course, these were not the only ships of the period in question. Panzac, in addition to mentioning the gun capacities of the ships between 1736 and 1739 as mentioned above, focuses on the ones operating in a more limited time period. To give the gun capacity of some other ships between 1737 and 1738, the following names can be mentioned: the Çift Kaplan with 102 guns, the Sipah-i Bahr with 98 guns, the Malika-i Bahr with 98 guns, the Yaldizh Hurma with 72 guns, the Deve Kuşu with 68 guns, the Şiadirvan Kiçh with 68 guns, the İspinoz with 68 guns, the Küçük Gül Başh with 66 guns, the Akrep Başh with 66 guns, the Beyaz At with 66 guns, the Al-qasr with 62 guns, the Zülfikar with 62 guns, the Selvi Bağçeli with 62 guns, the Yaldiz Bağçeli with 58 guns, the Ejder Başh with 56 guns, the Yildiz Kiçh with 54 guns, the Ay Bağçeli with 54 guns, the Sari Kuşlakh with 54 guns, the Kirmizi Kuşlakh with 52 guns, the Yaldizh Nar with 52 guns, the Baba Ibrahim with 52 guns, the La PremièËre with 46 guns, the La Seconde with 46 guns, the Küçük Şiahin with 46 guns, the Serçe Kuflu with 44 guns, the Beyaz Şiahin with 38 guns, the La Bleue with an unknown number of guns. The following table, drawn by Panzac, gives a general idea of the rates of the ships and the number of guns present on them for five different leading powers of the world between 1735 and 1740.

The Ottoman navy consisted of 33 ships: 27 ships of the line (of which four were three-deckers with 98–108 guns and 23 were two-deckers) and six ships of the fifth rank. In the second half of the eighteenth century, as the oared ship became obsolete, giving way to sailing ships such as the galleon, the three-decker, the frigate and the corvette, the number of cannons on the ships began to increase. Therefore, parallel to the growing need for ships, the manufacture and order of new cannons and ammunition increased. Ottoman documents often mention correspondence between authorities about the urgent need for the manufacture of cannons to be used on galleons and other types of ships in 1793–94. It became routine for new ships to be equipped with cannons and shells cast, manufactured and processed in the shell works and the Humbarahâne within the Tersâne-i Âmire.

The Ottoman authorities, including Sultan Selim III, were aware of the deficiencies of the naval ships in terms of gunnery. Selim III was so interested in contemporary war techniques and weapons that he wrote a treatise (risâle) on the subject. The second part of the treatise was on flares (fişlekler) and the third part on cannons (toplar). It seems that the Kaptan Pasha checked the treatise and stated that Ottoman naval ships were deprived of these flares and cannons, and ordered the procurement of these weapons.

Nationality Name Guns Category Type Acquired Fate Finished

Ottoman Empire Mahmudiye 128 First Rate Ship of the Line 1812/12/26 Broken Up 1822

Ottoman Empire Selimiye 122 First Rate Ship of the Line 1797/02/22 Broken Up 1841

Ottoman Empire Mesudiye 118 First Rate Ship of the Line 1798 Last Mentioned 1864

Ottoman Empire Fethiye 118 First Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Kebir Üç Ambarli 114 First Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Last known service 1720

Ottoman Empire Cift Aslan 108 First Rate Ship of the Line 1726 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire Cift Kaplan 102 First Rate Ship of the Line 1728/09/01 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Fatih-i Bahri (A) 100 First Rate Ship of the Line 1746/02 Last known service 1751/11/16

Ottoman Empire Perr i Bahri 100 First Rate Ship of the Line 1746/02 Last known service 1751/11/16

Ottoman Empire Nusret-numa 100 First Rate Ship of the Line 1748 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Nasir-i Bahri (A) 100 First Rate Ship of the Line 1748 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Tijfet ul Muluk 100 First Rate Ship of the Line 1760 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Sipahi-i Bahr 98 First Rate Ship of the Line 1726 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire Malika-i Bahr 98 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1726 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire Fethiye 96 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1827 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Tesrifiye 96 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1834 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Fevziye 96 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1836 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Nir-i Sevket 96 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1842 Last known service 1850

Ottoman Empire Burc-u Zafer 86 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1770 Sunk in Action 1770/06/24

Ottoman Empire Peyk-Zafer 86 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1841 Last known service 1878

Ottoman Empire Meheng i Bahri 84 Second Rate Ship of the Line Unknown Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Hisn i Bahri 84 Second Rate Ship of the Line Unknown Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ziver-i-i bahri 84 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1751/01 Last known service 1751/01

Ottoman Empire Anka yi Bahri (A) 84 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service 1807

Ottoman Empire Ankay i Bahri 84 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service 1807

Ottoman Empire Tevfik Nyuma 84 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1803 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Sadd a Bahri 84 Third Rate Unknown 1807 Captured 1807/07/01

Ottoman Empire Badi-i Nusret 82 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1797 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Tavus-i Bahri 82 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1798/12/22 Last Mentioned 1825

Ottoman Empire Necm i Sevket 80 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1815 Last known service 1850

Ottoman Empire Kuh i Revan 80 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1819 Sunk in Action 1827/10/20

Ottoman Empire Arslan i Bahri 76 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1794 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Heybetendaz 76 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1796 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Besaretnüma 76 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1797 Burnt to avoid capture 1807/07/03

Ottoman Empire Kaplan i Bahri 76 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1799 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Seddülbahir 76 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1799 Captured 1807/06/30

Ottoman Empire Peyk i Mesiret 76 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1820 Wrecked 1854

Ottoman Empire Hilal i Zafer 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1781 Captured 1790

Ottoman Empire Mukaddeme i Nusret 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1787/05/31 Condemned 1801/03/28

Ottoman Empire Sehbaz i Bahri 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1793 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ejder i Bahri 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1793 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Asar i Nusret 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1793 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Sayyad i Bahri 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1797 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Kilidülbahir 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1799 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Mansuriye 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1803 Sunk in Action 1822

Ottoman Empire Mukaddeme i Hayir 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1807 Deleted from list 1857

Ottoman Empire Burc i Zafer 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1815 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Fatih i Bahri 74 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1819 Sunk in Action 1827/10/20

Ottoman Empire Feyz i Huda 72 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1789 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Bahr i Zafer 72 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1789 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire The Black Horse (A) 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1708 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire Siyah At Basli 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1708 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire The Dragon (A) 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire Ejder Basli 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire Çifte Ceylan Kiçli 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire The Two Gazelles (A) 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Yaldizli Hurma 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire The Gilded Date (A) 70 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire The Grey Horse (A) 68 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1732

Ottoman Empire Kula At Basli 68 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1732

Ottoman Empire Pertev i Nusret 68 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1793 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ziver i Bahri 68 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1796 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire The White Horse (A) 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1708 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Beyaz At Basli 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1708 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire The Great Rose (A) 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1710 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire Büyük Gül Basli 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1710 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire The Scorpion (A) 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Akrep Basli 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Sadirvan Kiçli 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire The Sprinkling Fountain (A) 66 Third Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Sugur Chitzli 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1732/09 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Ankay i Bahri 66 Second Rate Ship of the Line 1772 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Melek i Bahri (A) 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1776 Sunk in Action 1790/09/08

Ottoman Empire Melik ul Bahr (A) 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1776 Sunk in Action 1790/09/08

Ottoman Empire Melike Bahri 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1776 Sunk in Action 1790/09/08

Ottoman Empire Ejder-i Bahri 66 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1782 Foundered 1788/12

Ottoman Empire Hilal i Zafer 66 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1790 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Gulbang i Nesuret (A) 64 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1780 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Malbaik Nesuret 64 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1780 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Causse 64 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ifrit Basli 62 Third Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire The Demon (A) 62 Third Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Yaldizli Sahin 62 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1724 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Fethü’l-fettah 62 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1774 Last Mentioned 1790

Ottoman Empire Fethu l Fettah (A) 62 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1774 Last Mentioned 1790

Ottoman Empire Küçük Gül Basli 60 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1711 Last known service 1732

Ottoman Empire The Little Rose (A) 60 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1711 Last known service 1732

Ottoman Empire Rodos 60 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1770 Captured 1770/06/26

Ottoman Empire Meaid Fettuh 60 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1776 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Semend i Bahri 60 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Fatih i Bahri 60 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1791 Stranded 1799

Ottoman Empire Çifte Teber Kiçli 58 Fourth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Two Halberds (A) 58 Fourth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Mesudiye 58 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1772 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Feyz i Huda 58 Fourth Rate Unknown 1777 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Peleng i Bahri 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1777 Captured 1790/09/09

Ottoman Empire Hifz i Huda 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1777 Broken Up 1793

Ottoman Empire Tevifk i Ilah 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1777 Broken Up 1793

Ottoman Empire Medilli u Cedid 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1781 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Hüdaverdi 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1787/09/25 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Cedid-i Midilli 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Mansuriye 58 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1790 Sunk in Action 1790/09/09

Ottoman Empire The Two Pointed Sword (A) 56 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1710 Last known service 1732

Ottoman Empire Zülfikar Kiçli 56 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1710 Last known service 1732

Ottoman Empire Akçasehir 56 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire The Cypress Garden (A) 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1714 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Servi Bagçeli 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1714 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Ay Bagçeli 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1714 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire The Moon Garden (A)54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1714 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Sari Kusakli 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Yaldizli Nar Kiçli 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire The Star Garden (A) 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Yildiz Bagçeli 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Yellow Belted (A) 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire The Gilded Grenade (A) 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1737

Ottoman Empire Inayet i Hak 54 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1773 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Nüvid-i Fütuh 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1776 Broken Up 1793

Ottoman Empire Hediyyetul Muluk 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1777 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Nusret Ozdan 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1782 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ikab i Bahri 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Maadem e Bahr 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Meal ul Nusret Bahr 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Fuean i Bahri 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Besir i Zafer 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Nasir i Cenk 54 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1784 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Kirmizi Kusakli 52 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire Red Belted (A) 52 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire Nasir i Bahri 52 Fourth Rate Unknown 1776 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ceylan i Bahr 52 Fourth Rate Unknown 1777 Last known service 1801

Ottoman Empire Tilsim i Bahri 52 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Cerid i Zafer 52 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Bed i Nusret 52 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1785/06/02 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Badere-i-Zefee (A) 52 Fourth Rate Frigate 1799 Captured 1807/07/05

Ottoman Empire Bedr i Zafer 52 Fourth Rate Frigate 1799 Captured 1807/07/05

Ottoman Empire Al At Basli 50 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire The Red Horse (A) 50 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1715 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire Fakih i Zafar 50 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Sehber i Zafer 50 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1795 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Mesken i Gazi 50 Fourth Rate Ship 1796 Sunk in Action 1807/05/10

Ottoman Empire Burc i Zafer 48 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1790 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Mazhar Tevfik 46 Fifth Rate Unknown 1774 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Muradiye 46 Fifth Rate Frigate 1776 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Ejder Basli 46 Fifth Rate Ship of the Line 1776 Captured 1788/06/18

Ottoman Empire Korc i Zafer 46 Fourth Rate Ship 1778 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Seyyar-i Bahri 46 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1779 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Fatih-i Bahri 46 Fifth Rate Frigate 1779 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Sehbay i Bahri 46 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1783 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Sespay-i Bahri 46 Fifth Rate Frigate 1787 Foundered 1788/12

Ottoman Empire Sehper-i Zafer 46 Fourth Rate Unknown 1788 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Bodrum 46 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1788 Sunk in Action 1788/06

Ottoman Empire Günes Kiçli 44 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1711 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire The Sun (A) 44 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1711 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire The Bird Garden Caravella (A) 44 Fifth Rate Frigate 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Kus Bagçeli Karavele 44 Fifth Rate Frigate 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Mavi Arslan Basli 44 Fifth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire The Blue Lion (A) 44 Fifth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Last known service 1730

Ottoman Empire Pulad i Bahri 44 Fifth Rate Ship 1782 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Mur i Bahri 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1775 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Mazhar 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1778 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Iks Pay 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1780 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Sekir i Zafer 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1782 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ead e Hak 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ir e Zafer 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Murg i Bahri 42 Fifth Rate Frigate 1784 Foundered 1784

Ottoman Empire The Crown (A) 40 Fifth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Taç Basli 40 Fifth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Yildiz Kiçli 40 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire The Star (A) 40 Fourth Rate Ship of the Line 1717 Disarmed 1737

Ottoman Empire Bülheves 40 Fifth Rate Frigate 1796 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Bul Heves (A) 40 Fifth Rate Frigate 1796 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Uri Bahar 40 Fifth Rate Frigate 1807 Captured 1807/03/21

Ottoman Empire Ayet i Hayir 40 Fourth Rate Frigate 1807 Sunk in Action 1807/05/10

Ottoman Empire The Blue Caravella (A) 38 Fifth Rate Frigate 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Mavi Kiçli Karavele 38 Fifth Rate Frigate 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Yilan Basli 34 Fifth Rate Ship of the Line 1714 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire The Snake (A) 34 Fifth Rate Ship of the Line 1714 Last known service 1724

Ottoman Empire Mazhar i Saadet 34 Fifth Rate Frigate 1785 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Dad i Hakk 34 Fifth Rate Frigate 1785 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Uri Nasard 34 Fifth Rate Frigate 1807 Captured 1807/03/21

Ottoman Empire Erid Fettul 32 Fifth Rate Frigate 1772 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Perr i Bahri 32 Fifth Rate Frigate 1772 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Nejim e Zafer 32 Fifth Rate Frigate 1772 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Tim Zafer 32 Fifth Rate Frigate 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Rehber i Nusret 32 Fifth Rate Frigate 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Gvinet Hazat 32 Fifth Rate Frigate 1784 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Mashar Hidaet 28 Fifth Rate Frigate 1778 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Nusret Nüma 28 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Zaver Küsa 26 Sixth Rate Corvette 1796 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Saika i Bahri 26 Sixth Rate Corvette 1798 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Aziz Fezzan 26 Sixth Rate Corvette 1807 Sunk in Action 1807/07/05

Ottoman Empire Lvitsa 26 Sixth Rate Corvette 1829 Captured 1829/01/28

Ottoman Empire Kaplan Basli 24 Sixth Rate Frigate 1774 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Ferah Nüma 24 Sixth Rate Corvette 1791 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Hediye i Hakini 22 Sixth Rate Corvette 1789 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Raad-i Nahri 22 Sixth Rate Bomb Vessel 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Cedid Bomba 22 Sixth Rate Bomb Vessel 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Sihab-i Sakib 22 Sixth Rate Bomb Vessel 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Berk-i Hafiz 22 Sixth Rate Bomb Vessel 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Berk-i Bahri 22 Sixth Rate Bomb Vessel 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Fara Numa 16 Unrated Corvette 1807 Captured 1807/03/21

Ottoman Empire Candia 14 Unrated Brig 1829 Captured 1829/01/28

Ottoman Empire Siyah Arslan Basli 0 Fourth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Green Belted (A) 0 Fourth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Yesil Kusakli 0 Fourth Rate Unknown 1717 Last known service 1717

Ottoman Empire Kerem-i Bahri (A) 0 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1786/10/26 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Peyk i Zafer 0 Sixth Rate Corvette 1786 Last known service 1786

Ottoman Empire Kerem-i Bari 0 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1786/10/26 Last known service Unknown

Ottoman Empire Serheng i Nusret 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Salabet Nüma 0 Sixth Rate Corvette 1790 Last known service 1790

Ottoman Empire Bidayetül Fütuh 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1790 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Hisn i Gurab 0 Sixth Rate Corvette 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Kaid i Zafer 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Murg i Bahri 0 Sixth Rate Corvette 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Has Gazat 0 Sixth Rate Corvette 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Cabbar i Bahri 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Berk i Hatif 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Berk i Bahri 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Bais i Nusret 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Cedid i Gümrü 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1791 Last known service 1791

Ottoman Empire Burc i Bahri 0 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service 1801

Ottoman Empire Berk (A) 0 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service 1801

Ottoman Empire Berk i Hatif (A) 0 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service 1801

Ottoman Empire Berk i Bahri (A) 0 Third Rate Ship of the Line 1801 Last known service 1801

Ottoman Empire Nesim i Futuh 0 Fifth Rate Frigate 1807 Sunk in Action 1807

The Introduction of Copper Sheathing into the Ottoman Navy

Copper sheathing of Cutty Sark

Ottomans seem to have been aware that the copper-sheathing technique, when it first appeared in Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century, had offered significant advantages. Among them were protection from wood-eating worm; the creation of a surface on which external weed and shellfish could not grow; an increase in sailing speed that not only reduced voyage times but made navigation easier, since if a vessel could move in light winds it was less liable to drift on ocean current; the applicability of copper sheathing to any shape or size of hull; providing an outer skin of copper protecting the hull to some extent; holding caulking materials in position; and reducing maintenance costs between voyages.

The disadvantages, such as high material and application costs, the risk of galvanic action and the deterioration of iron fastenings, and the fact that a coppered vessel could not be grounded in harbour without considerable risk to the sheathing and thus was restricted to harbours with water at all tides, could not prevent the Ottomans from adopting this technology. However, some of these disadvantages were unknown to them initially. The Ottomans learned about these as a result of prolonged naval experiences. Thanks to academic work from the 1950s onwards, the nature, type and properties of the molluscs and crustaceans hazardous to the timbers in the seas surrounding Turkey have been identified.

There is considerable evidence indicating the existence and application of this technology in ships built specifically in the reign of Sultan Selim III. There were at least 40 ships that were sheathed with copper between the years 1789 and 1802, mostly galleons, frigates and corvettes. This figure must have been higher considering the imperial edict issued in 1795–96. Indeed, it shows that the application of copper sheathing to ships proved to bear good results and it led the Sultan to order the authorities to try hard to outfit the remaining ships using this technology. Firmans ordering the copper sheathing of ships were issued repeatedly. For instance, in a firman dated 1795–96, copper sheathing and painting were ordered for river ships (ince donanma gemileri) when they were at anchor. Following the copper sheathing of Arslan- i Bahrî and fiehbâz-i Bahrî, the same application was ordered in 1795 for Pertev-i Nusret, Ejder-i Bahrî, Âsâr-i Nusret, Bahr-i Zafer and another three-decked galleon under construction. The estimate amount of raw copper required for all five ships was around 60,000 kiyyes. Since this process required casting very thin copper sheets processed twice, the copper coming from Gümüşhane would not be suitable; instead, that from Kastamonu or Ergani would be needed. It seems that copper-sheathing technology was limited to warships at the time.

Mahmut Raif Efendi described copper sheathing in his account as well. He wrote that all the shipmen shared the idea that copper sheathing was the best way to protect ships. He noted that three ships, a three-decker of 67 zirâ and six kâne, a frigate of 55 zirâ, a corvette of 37 zirâ, and a boat (filika) for the Sultan were launched in a single day, which was something previously unseen. The year before (1797), all of them had been sheathed with copper, and more ships were to be sheathed in 1798. Therefore, it would not be misleading to regard most of the ships, especially warships constructed after 1795–96, copper-sheathed. Also, the prize ships and the ones received as presents would increase the number of shipped that were copper-clad at the time.

The earliest document found during this study indicating the Ottomans’ application of the copper-sheathing technique dates back to 1792–93141 In that year, the Ottoman government ordered the copper sheathing of a new galleon, and copper merchants were ordered to prepare copper planks on certain models. Once the copper sellers saw the model, they declared that the production of the model was different and would be more difficult than the one they had used previously, and therefore it would require more labour and money. Then the merchants were presented with lumps of unrefined copper for the production of the copper plates for the sheathing of the galleon in question. They were given 55 akçes per vukiyye, whereas it had been 35 akçes in the past. However, since the new technique required the use of copper nails, which were expensive, they found a solution by producing a new type of nail made of raw copper and zinc (rûy-i mâye) mixed in equal proportions. In order to test the efficiency of the new nail, they first produced five or ten test nails. After applying them to the copper plates, the authorities were convinced that the new method would work, so copper merchants were commissioned to cast this mixture in return for 50 akçes per vukiyye. It is noteworthy that such a decision was taken with the collaboration of the port commander (liman reisi), the chief architect (baflmimar), the chief augerer of the naval arsenal (tersane burgucubaşisi) and copper merchants (bakirci esnafi). The raw materials were provided by the state from the mahzen-i sürb.

On 30 August 1795, 5,000 vuk›yyes of raw copper were demanded urgently from the Darphâne-i Âmire. For the copper sheathing of a three-decked galleon under construction at the naval arsenal, 10,000 vukiyyes of raw copper were required on 20 October 1801. Since there was not enough copper at the mahzen-i sürb, it was provided by the Darphâne-i Âmire, two-thirds of it low quality and one-third high quality. The cost, 6,666.5 kuruş, was met by the seferiyye akçesi.

It seems that copper sheathing caused further changes in the structure of materials used in the construction of ships. It was noted on 14 September 1796 that it was a tradition that bearing pintles (inecikler) mounted on the rudders of the imperial galleons were made of iron. However, this traditional application was changed with an imperial edict ordering the introduction of copper sheathing of the ships constructed at the Tersâne-i Âmire and other sites outside of Istanbul. From then on, the former iron bearing pintles of the sheathed ships were replaced by ones made of bronze (tunç). Four vukiyyes of tin (kali), 32 vukiyyes of raw copper (nühâs-› hâm) and 64 vukiyyes of zinc ferment or alloy (rûy-i maye) were needed for every 100 vukiyyes of bronze bearing pintles. Also, one k›yye of hark-i nâr was required for every ten vukiyyes of the product. It seems that new regulations were applied to a new frigate under construction on Limni on the same date. It was declared that eight bearing pintles for rudders (465 vukiyyes) would be produced by Dimitri, the chief founder at the Tersâne-i Âmire on 3 September 1796. The Ottoman authorities continued the copper-sheathing applications in the following years. On 3 January 1806, 30,000 kiyyes of copper were demanded from the Darphâne-i Âmire for the re-sheathing of five naval ships with copper plates (nühas tahta) and the repair of the copper elements of some other ships at the naval arsenal.

Mehmet Ali Introduces Modernization and Reforms

In the years following the departure of French forces from Egypt in 1801, an extremely capable and ruthless leader rose to power in Cairo in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Kavali Mehmet Ali Pasha (the Ottoman version of the name; also known as Muhammad Ali in Arabic form) is widely considered to be the father of modern Egypt, as he was instrumental in reforming the Ottoman-Mamluk system and laying the foundations for a modernization process in the industry and the military. Mehmet Ali (modern Turkish) sought to reform both the economy and the Egyptian military, including the navy, by crafting it along the lines of the European model. Economically, he seized control of all aspects of the nation’s economic life by monopolizing key sectors and demanding structural reforms. He also created new educational institutions in an attempt at transitioning Egyptian society from the medieval world of the Mamluks to the modern age. Militarily, he brought in French advisors and sent students to Europe to learn French in order to translate European military manuals into Arabic.

Mehmet was an ethnic Turk born into an Albanian merchant family on March 4, 1869, in the town of Kavala in Thrace (present-day Greece) and was eventually provided a position by his district military commander uncle with the rank of Bolukbasi (tax collector) in the Ottoman Eyalet of Rumelia. There he learned the nuances and craft of taxation, public administration, and leadership. Later, during Mehmet’s rise to power in Egypt, he positioned himself as a champion of the people striving to overcome the cronyism and corruption of the Ottoman-Mamluk centuries-old system. This tactic effectively forestalled any sizable, popular opposition until he was able to consolidate his power within Egypt. In addition to a deft and capable hand at public administration, he gained valuable experience in military affairs, serving as an officer in the Ottoman military and eventually commanding an army in an unsuccessful bid at driving Napoleon from Egypt in 1799.

After being recognized as Wali (governor) of Egypt by Constantinople in 1805 and backed by the French, Mehmet systematically dismantled what remained of Mamluk power within Egypt, including the confiscation of feudal farms of the Mamluk emirs, while simultaneously stripping Cairo’s religious institutions of some 600,000 acres of prime real estate holdings. Appearing to offer a gracious compromise to the then-reeling Mamluks, Mehmet invited their leaders to a feast in 1811 celebrating his son Tosu Pasha’s appointment to lead the army being sent against the Saud-Wahhabi rebellion in Arabia. However, once his guests had arrived within the compound (Cairo Citadel), Mehmet ordered the gates locked and all Mamluks in attendance killed.

The Egyptian-Ottoman military in the opening years of the nineteenth century consisted of a wide range of ethnicities, including Circassian Mamluks, Albanians, Kurds, Greeks, and Egyptians. Only the Mamluks, Albanians, Kurds, and Greeks received training as military commanders, as Egyptian cadets were trained as noncombatants. By the 1830s, Egyptians were selectively trained for combat assignments but were not allowed to rise above the rank of major. In similar fashion, when the Turks descended into Persia in the eleventh century, while they kept the educated and trained Persian bureaucrats in their administrations, they continued to rely on Turkish cavalry for military duty. Mehmet used educated Egyptians and imported European experts to establish schools and hospitals within Egypt, but he kept a wary eye on the Egyptian elite.

In the 1820s, Mehmet sent educational missions comprised of Egyptian students to Europe, resulting in the birth of the modern Arabic literary renaissance known as the al-Nahda. By 1835, Mehmet’s government had established the first indigenous printing press in the Arab world (the Bulaq Press), which disseminated the official newspaper of the Mehmet Ali government. Within the military, he instituted reforms that came to be known as Nizam-i Cedid (new system) and Nizam al-jadid (new organization), essentially being instituted and organized with assistance from French and Italian officers recruited from Europe. The new system included men, equipment, and doctrine trained in the early modern European profession of arms. These reforms included remaking the Mamluk arms industry. Mehmet also built factories in Cairo that manufactured cannon and small arms. By 1830, the Egyptian arms industry was producing 1,600 muskets per month.

For the growing Egyptian navy, Mehmet purchased finished warships from Italy and France, and they began arriving in Egypt in 1826. A shipyard was also established at Alexandria and, by 1830, had produced nine ships-of-the-line (100 guns each). During the same time period, Mehmet created a 100,000-man army, which, coupled with his growing naval capability, placed a relatively modern military and navy under his command—a military and naval capability that soon eclipsed that of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople. These developments were closely monitored in capitals throughout the Middle East and North Africa, eventually becoming a concern in both Europe and Russia. Britain’s reliance on sea power, in particular, for defense as well as empire made the advancing capabilities of Mehmet’s fleet, combined with significant French support, a growing concern in London.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century in Arabia, an Islamic fundamentalist group derisively called “Wahhabis” by their detractors, in conjunction with the House of Saud, began moving against Ottoman interests on the Arabian Peninsula and captured Mecca in 1802. The Wahhabis then captured the Hejaz region in 1803, which eventually led to the Ottoman-Saudi War (1811–1818). The timing for the Wahhabi move against the Hejaz was propitious as the Ottoman Empire’s main army was engaged in the Balkans in Europe putting down a series of rebellions. As Mehmet had finished dispensing with the Mamluk leadership at the Cairo Citadel, Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II (ruled 1808–1839) directed the Egyptian leader to deploy forces to Arabia to deal with the upstart Wahhabis.

Subsequently, in 1811, Mehmet dispatched a 20,000-man army, including a cavalry force of 2,000, under his 16-year-old son Tosu into the Arabian Peninsula where the Egyptian expeditionary force met heavy resistance at the Pass of Jedeia near al-Safra and was forced to withdraw to Yanbu. Shortly thereafter, Mehmet reinforced the expeditionary army under Tosu, and at the end of 1811, the force conducted siege operations against Saud and his allies in Medina. After a successful, if not prolonged, conclusion at Medina, the Egyptian-Ottoman army proceeded to capture Jedda and Mecca and retook the Hejaz region from the House of Saud.

These campaigns, however, did not neutralize Saudi military capabilities, as they continued raiding and harassing Ottoman and Egyptian forces from the Central Nejd region. An irritated Mehmet dispatched another son, Ibrahim, who led an army into Arabia in the fall of 1816 and conducted a two-year campaign against the Saudis. These activities captured the Saudi capital of Diriyah in 1818, including most of the Saudi elite and their leader Abdullah ibn Saud, who was subsequently transferred to Constantinople and summarily executed.

After securing the Hejaz, Mehmet turned his attention to Africa and in 1820 dispatched an army of 5,000 troops under the command of his third son, Ismail (this time sending along a trusted military advisor, Abidin Bey), into the Sudan. These forces met fierce resistance from the warriors of the Shaigiya tribe. However, armed with modern weapons and tactics, Mehmet’s army outgunned and outmaneuvered the Shaigiya and secured the Sudan, which served in expanding his ability to project power and influence into Ethiopia and Uganda. From this outpost, Mehmet’s forces captured and made slaves of the inhabitants of the Nuba Mountains and western and southern Sudan. The defeated Shaigiya, in order to hold on to their lands, acquiesced as vassals and served in Mehmet’s infantry regiment, the Gihadiya (in Arabic, Jihadiya). Mehmet and subsequent Ottoman-Egyptian rulers have been recorded in Sudanese history as being particularly brutal and repressive regimes, which eventually gave rise to the independence struggle in 1881 that featured the self-proclaimed Mahdi (Muhammad Ahmad).

While Mehmet was expanding his power and influence in Arabia and Africa, the Sultan in Constantinople, Mahmud II, was experiencing upheaval across the empire, particularly in his European provinces in the Balkans, Greece, and Macedonia. Ottoman losses during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 meant that the empire had ceded to Russia’s vast lands in the Black Sea region and extending as far south as the Caucasus. In its European provinces, the empire was facing ethnic rebellion.

In Greece, the problem was particularly acute. Greek nationalists in the Roman principalities, in the Peloponnese, and in the Aegean Islands commenced insurgency operations during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830), with the aim of liberating Greece from four centuries of Ottoman domination. From the perspective of the Ottoman Sultanate, Greece was a key province not only for its strategic position in the Balkans and the Mediterranean but also because much of the empire’s shipping was Greek-owned and operated. Moreover, many of the key areas of the Ottoman Empire—Cyprus, Crete, western Anatolia, Macedonia, Thrace, and the city of Constantinople—had Greek majorities.

Sultan Mahmud II believed that Greece, being a conquered land, had been generously treated under the empire. He found it unconscionable that its inhabitants would now rise up in insurrection. In order to communicate his displeasure, in April 1821, he ordered Ottoman Janissaries (elite units within the Ottoman army) to seize the spiritual leader of the Greek Christian Orthodox Church whom he suspected of colluding with the rebels. As the patriarch of Constantinople (Gregory V) was leaving Easter Mass in full regalia, he was arrested and hanged on the spot from the cathedral gates and left there for three days. Following the third day, his body was dragged through the streets of Constantinople and flung into the Bosporus Straits.

While Mahmud was experiencing the slow unraveling of empire, by 1823 Mehmet’s Nizam-i Cedid developed into a force of 24,000 officers and men, comprising six infantry regiments with five battalions of 800 men each—all armed with French muskets and trained in French infantry tactics. Mehmet deployed the first regiment on the Arabian Peninsula, the second in the Sudan, and the remaining four under the command of his son, Ibrahim in Morea in 1825 (southern Greece), following the urgent directive from Sultan Mahmud II to help quell the uprising in the empire’s Greek territories now raging into their second year.

The Sultan’s Ottoman army had been unable to suppress the Greek rebellion and Mehmet, whose Egypt was technically an Eyalet (province) of the empire but had achieved practical autonomy, realized there would be gains to be made by coming to Constantinople’s aid. Sultan Mahmud II offered Mehmet the island of Crete in compensation for halting the rebellion and, in further negotiations, the Sultan also promised to grant the heartland of the insurgents, the Peloponnese, as a hereditary fief to Mehmet’s son, Ibrahim. Mehmet would later argue that he was led to believe that, given Egyptian intervention against the Greeks, the position of Wali (governor) of Syria would also be made available to Mehmet or an appointee of Mehmet’s choosing.

Consequently, in 1825, after receiving assurances of substantial reward, Mehmet sent four regiments (16,000 troops) aboard 100 transports escorted by 63 warships to quell the Greek rebellion. To the great consternation of the European powers, his Western trained and equipped army and navy had now been sent against the Orthodox Christian Greeks. In February 1825, the Egyptian ground forces, under the campaign commander, Ibrahim (Mehmet’s son), overran the western region of the Peloponnese but were unable to secure the East where the Greek rebels were based at Nafplio. By this time the rebels were being led by a contingent of British and French officers, including Major Sir Richard Church, Colonel C. Fabvier, Admiral Lord Cochrane, and Captain F. A. Hastings.

Moving across the Isthmus of Corinth, Ibrahim’s forces transited to the Greek mainland and captured the strategic stronghold of Missolonghi in April 1826. Greek forces then conducted guerrilla operations against the combined Ottoman-Egyptian armies, and Ibrahim turned to drastic measures such as burning crops and food supplies of the population in order to destroy the support and sustenance being provided to the insurgency. Ibrahim also brought Arab settlers into Greece in the attempt to dilute ethnic Greek influence while deporting hundreds of Greeks into slavery and sending them to work camps in Egypt.

Aligned against about 5,000 Greek fighters (whose partisan motto became “freedom or death”) were the 16,000 Egyptian-Ottoman troops and 25,000 regular Ottoman army troops. In June 1827, the Acropolis of Athens, the last Greek fortress on the mainland, was overrun by Ottoman forces. Britain, France, and Russia, concerned about the military might being brought to bear on the Greeks and the scorched earth policy being conducted by Ibrahim, gathered in Britain and, in discussions which led to the Treaty of London in July 1827, sought to impose an armistice on the Ottoman Empire.

Battle of Navarino

The Naval Battle of Navarino (1827). Oil painting by Garneray.

The Great Age of Fighting had then passed its peak, and there would be only one more large sailing fleet battle, the one-sided slaughter of an Egyptian-Turkish squadron by a combined fleet composed of British, French, and Russian warships at Navarino Bay in 1827. The forces were not large: 11 allied battleships and 16 other ships faced seven Turkish battleships and 58 smaller ships.

The last great naval battle of the sailing ship era arose out of the Greek War of Independence, 1822-32. In an attempt to control the conflict Britain joined France and Russia, which had wider ambitions. When Sir Edward Codrington led the combined fleets into Navarino Bay on 20 October 1827 determined to forestall a Turkish attack on the Greek island of Hydra, battle was inevitable. The numerous but smaller ships of the Turco-Egyptian fleet were almost annihilated in a savage close-range battle by the superior firepower of the allied ships, especially Codrington’s flagship the new 84-gun Asia. While a new ministry in London considered Navarino ‘untoward’ and sacked Codrington, the French and Russians celebrated a rare victory.

The context of the three Great Powers’ intervention in the Greek conflict was the Russian Empire’s long-running expansion at the expense of the decaying Ottoman Empire. Russia’s ambitions in the region were seen as a major geostrategic threat by the other European powers, which feared the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Russian hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean. The precipitating factor was Orthodox Russia’s strong emotional support for their Greek co-religionists, who had rebelled against their Ottoman overlords in 1821. Despite official British interest in maintaining the Ottoman Empire, the British public strongly supported the Greeks. Fearing unilateral Russian action, Britain and France bound Russia by treaty to a joint intervention which aimed to secure Greek autonomy whilst still preserving Ottoman territorial integrity as a check on Russia.

The Powers agreed, by the Treaty of London (1827), to force the Ottoman government to grant the Greeks autonomy within the empire and despatched naval squadrons to the eastern Mediterranean to enforce their policy. The naval battle happened more by accident than by design as a result of a manoeuvre by the Allied commander-in-chief, Admiral Edward Codrington, aimed at coercing the Ottoman commander to obey Allied instructions.

After initial negotiations failed with the Ottoman Sultanate, Britain, France, and Russia prepared to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of London through military action. In the summer of 1827, a large Ottoman-Egyptian fleet was being assembled in Alexandria for operations in the Greek theater, and Allied commanders sent a warning to Mehmet and Mahmud not to send the flotilla. The Ottoman-Egyptian leaders ignored what they believed to be meddling by the Allies into Sultanate affairs. As the fleet left Alexandria for Greece on August 5, 1827, the Ottoman leadership was finally in a position to finish off the remaining partisan rebel fighters and in putting an end to what had become known as the Greek War of Independence.

On August 20, 1827, Vice Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, commander of the Allied combined naval task force, received instructions from the Admiralty informing him that he was to impose and enforce the provisions of the London Treaty on both sides and to interdict the flow of reinforcements and supplies from Anatolia and Egypt to Ottoman forces in Greece. The application of military force against the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet, the communication stressed, should be used only as a last resort. On August 29, the Sultanate formally rejected the Treaty of London’s provisions, aimed at granting Greece autonomy while keeping the province within the empire. From September 8 to 12, 1827, the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet from Alexandria joined other Ottoman warships in Navarino Bay (present-day Pylos), located on the west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula in the Ionian Sea.

The Ottoman warships within the bay, in addition to imperial ships, were a combined force with warships from Algeria and Tunis as well as the Egyptian naval vessels. Ibrahim, Mehmet’s son and in operational command of Egyptian-Ottoman forces, was contacted by Codrington and agreed to halt fighting until he received further instructions from his father who was involved in communications with the Western allies at his headquarters in Egypt. However, on October 1, the Greek rebels continued operations against Ottoman forces that had been ordered to temporarily stand down, leading Ibrahim to disregard his agreement with Codrington and in resuming attacks against the Greeks.

On October 13, Codrington was joined off Navarino Bay by French and Russian warships. While Codrington believed his combined fleet had the necessary firepower to destroy the Ottoman ships arrayed in Navarino Bay, his instructions were to impose the provisions of the treaty peaceably if possible. Therefore, he sailed his fleet into Navarino Bay in single column with the British in the lead, followed by the French, and then the Russians. Eleven Allied ships-of-the-line (average 70 guns each) and 9 frigates and 4 smaller warships, bringing to bear nearly 1,300 guns, all sailed boldly into the bay where 70 warships of the Ottoman Empire lay at anchor with more than 2,000 cannon at the ready. Adding to the Turkish firepower were the shore batteries, which were under Ottoman control.

The Ottoman fleet had taken a horseshoe or arc formation with three lines, and the ships-of-the-line anchored in the first wave. The Allied forces had superior firepower in that their cannon aboard the ships-of-the-line were 32-pound guns, as most of the cannon available to the Turks were 24-pounders. Additionally, while the Allies possessed 11 ships-of-the-line, the Ottomans had only 3 and, while the Turks had more than 70 ships, 58 were smaller vessels such as corvettes and brigs. Further still, the Allied crews, particularly the British and the French, had extensive combat experience during the Napoleonic Wars, while most of the Ottoman crews’ only experience was in fighting smaller vessels. As if the superior firepower and superior gunnery expertise were not enough to tilt the odds in the Allies’ favor, the Ottomans’ ability to fight the Battle of Navarino was severely constrained by an additional and unforeseen development.

The Egyptian fleet present at Navarino Bay had largely been constructed or purchased with supervision by European naval officers, mostly French. The fleet had also been trained by a team of French officers under the overall direction of Captain J. M. Letellier,and these men served aboard the Egyptian-Ottoman warships as “shadow officers.” On October 19, the day before the Battle of Navarino, French Rear Admiral De Rigny, serving with the combined Allied fleet, convinced the French officers to withdraw from the Egyptian fleet. They removed themselves to a smaller vessel in the bay and attempted to provide logistical advice to the Egyptians, but the damage to morale and effectiveness was significant. Most of the Ottoman sailors had been pressed into service (essentially forced conscription), and, as the French shadow officers withdrew from their crews, one can imagine the sadness some of the officers must have felt for these unfortunate and unwitting souls as powerful naval artillery prepared to open fire at them from point-blank range as well as the anxiety and fear that must have permeated the young Egyptian and Ottoman sailors.

At 2 p.m. on October 20, 1827, British Admiral Codrington aboard his flagship, HMS Asia, led his combined fleet into Navarino Bay. The Ottoman shore batteries guarding the entrance to the bay were ordered to hold their fire while Ibrahim Pasha sent a launch to Codrington’s approaching vessel. The message from Ibrahim to Codrington was simple: “You do not have my permission to enter the bay.” Codrington returned the Ottoman launch with his reply to Ibrahim: “I have come to give orders, not take them.” Codrington continued on and, as his ships began to drop anchor at essentially point-blank range from the Ottoman fleet, a boat that had been lowered from the Allied ship Dartmouth proceeded in the direction of an Ottoman fire ship (a fire ship was a relatively small vessel loaded with flammable and combustible material in barrels mounted in the bow for use against an enemy target). The Ottomans opened fire on the approaching boat with musketry, and the exchanges escalated throughout the bay. In his communication with the Admiralty the following day, Codrington stated:

I gave orders that no guns should be fired unless guns were first fired by the Turks; and those orders were strictly observed. The three English ships were accordingly permitted to pass the batteries and to moor, as they did with great rapidity, without any act of open hostility, although there was evident preparation for it in all the Turkish ships; but upon the Dartmouth sending a boat to one of the fire vessels, Lieutenant G.W.H. Fitzroy and several of her crew were shot with musketry. This produced a defensive fire of musketry from the Dartmouth and La Syrene, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral de Rigny; that succeeded by cannon- shot at the Rear-Admiral from one of the Egyptian ships, which, of course, brought on a return, and thus very shortly thereafter the battle became general.

Following two hours of battle, all Ottoman ships-of-the-line and most of the large Ottoman and Ottoman-allied frigates had been destroyed; after two more hours of fighting, the remaining Ottoman naval vessels had been sunk, scuttled, or set on fire. While no British, French, or Russian ships had been sunk, several ships had suffered significant damage; one Allied ship-of-the-line had 180 hull breaches (pierced by enemy cannon balls), while three Russian ships-of-the-line were essentially disabled, and three British ships, including Codrington’s flagship, HMS Asia, were required to sail for England to immediately undergo repairs. The Allied fleet suffered 181 killed and 487 wounded, while the Ottoman fleet incurred losses exceeding 4,000 killed or wounded.

Word of the outcome of the battle reverberated throughout the maritime-oriented community that was Greece. People, in village after village upon hearing the news, rushed to the village squares, as church bells rang out and huge bonfires were lit on the mountain tops of the Peloponnese and Mount Parnassus in Central Greece. Demoralized Ottoman garrisons in the occupied zones made little effort to curtail the celebrations. The Battle of Navarino marked that final naval engagement between sailing ships with unarmored hulls and brandishing muzzle-loading, smooth-bore cannon. It also marked the first use in naval history of a steam-powered warship, as the relatively small Greek ship, the Karteria of the fledgling revolutionary navy, propelled by steam-powered paddles (as well as sails) made its appearance during the battle.

After suffering the devastating loss of essentially his entire navy and forced to withdraw his now unsupportable infantry from Greece, Mehmet demanded extra compensation for his losses from the Sultan. Mehmet demanded of the Sultan the Ottoman Eyalet of Syria in exchange for the loss of his navy. In Arabic, the region surrounding Syria is referred to as Bilad al-Sham (the Levant), and for centuries those in Mesopotamia, Persia, Anatolia, and Egypt sought to control it, as it possessed abundant resources as well as featuring the world’s most ancient yet developed international trading communities centered on Damascus, Aleppo, and the Mediterranean coastal cities. Moreover, from Mehmet’s perspective, possession of Syria would also provide a buffer zone against Ottoman power as well as a buffer zone against any foreign power that eventually seized control of Constantinople and Anatolia. With Egyptian military capacity based in Syria, it would also provide Mehmet with a possible staging area for direct operations against the Ottomans, should at some future time Mehmet decide to march on Constantinople.

For those same reasons, the Sultan refused Mehmet’s demands. In response, Mehmet built a new navy, and on October 31, 1831, under Mehmet’s son, Ibrahim, Egypt invaded Syria in the opening phases of the First Turko-Egyptian War. Ibrahim’s forces quickly overran Syria except for the well-fortified port city of Acre, which required a six-month siege, before capitulating on May 27, 1832. However, the costs of the expedition required Mehmet to demand increases in fees and taxes from the Egyptian population, which created significant levels of domestic discontent with Mehmet’s leadership. In addition to the domestic front, Mehmet soon realized the discomfort of the major European powers with his actions against Constantinople. The slow dissolution of the empire was unfolding as the Europeans and Russians moved to control or liberate key pieces of empire property. However, both the Europeans and the Russians did not wish to see Mehmet enthroned as the new Ottoman Sultan with control in Egypt, the Levant, Anatolia, and the key port cities that dotted the Eastern Mediterranean coastline between Asia Minor (Turkey) and North Africa.

After the fall of the stubborn port city Acre, Ibrahim took the Egyptian army into Anatolia and defeated an Ottoman army led by Reshid Pasha at the Battle of Konya on December 21, 1832. Sultan Mahmud II realized that, should Mehmet wish it, the Egyptian army could now march largely uncontested on Constantinople. Moscow, sensing opportunity, offered Mahmud military assistance and concluded the Treaty of Hunkar Iskelesi (Unkiar Skelessi) with him on July 8, 1833, to formalize the Sultan’s acceptance. With the Russians seeking to continue their push south and in creating a greater Mediterranean presence by taking advantage of Ottoman weakness, the Treaty of Hunkar Iskelesi brought a sharp reaction from Britain and France. The treaty included a secret clause that opened the Dardanelles to Russia in time of war, while precluding its use by anyone else. Both nations negotiated the Convention of Kutahya between Mehmet and Mahmud II in May 1833, which stipulated that Mehmet would withdraw his forces from Anatolia and in return would receive Crete and the Hejaz (in Arabia) in compensation. Moreover, Ibrahim would be appointed Wali or governor of Syria in return for a yearly tribute payment to the Sultan.

Inhabitants of the Syrian Eyalet chaffed at their new Wali, uncomfortable with Egyptian policies at what they perceived to be excessive taxation, forced labor, a general disarmament of the population, and military conscription. A variety of incidents and uprisings began in 1834. On May 25, 1838, Mehmet informed the British and the French that he intended to declare independence from the Ottoman Empire and Mahmud II ordered his forces to advance into Syria. Ibrahim defeated them at the Battle of Nezib on June 24, 1839, and afterward, the Ottoman fleet defected to Mehmet. Mahmud II died almost immediately following the loss at Nezib and the defection of the Ottoman navy.

On July 15, 1840, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia signed the Convention of London, which offered Mehmet hereditary rule in Egypt provided the North African country stayed in the Ottoman Empire and provided he withdrew from Syria and the coastal regions of Mt. Lebanon. Mehmet mistakenly believed that the French were prepared to side with Egypt and was consequently dismissive of British demands. Following this, British and Austrian naval forces blockaded the Nile Delta and shelled Beirut on September 11, 1840. On November 27, 1840, Mehmet agreed to the terms of the Convention of London and renounced claims over Crete, Syria, and the Hejaz. Also instituted in the 1841 agreement, to which France also reluctantly acquiesced, was the Anglo-Ottoman Commercial Convention of 1838, which abolished Mehmet’s monopolistic control over Egyptian domestic and foreign commerce. Further diminishing Mehmet’s power was a requirement in the agreement that compelled the reduction of the Egyptian army from more than 100,000 troops to no more than 18,000.

From 1820–1840, Ali enjoyed the continuous support of France. Following his defeats of 1840–41, Ali and his successors never recovered from the effects of the European intervention, although his grandson, Ismail (1863–79) came closest to emulating the dynasty founder. Ismail’s heavy borrowing at ruinous discounts and interest rates for his ambitious schemes of military, economic, and social modernization hastened his downfall. By the time of his dismissal in 1879, Britain and France were exercising a dual control over Egypt’s finances under the authority of a public debt commission. After mounting crises beginning with the Urabi coup d’etat in September 1881, Britain backed into the occupation of Egypt the following July, without precipitating war in Europe. For more than sixty years thereafter, Whitehall decided the fate of the Egyptian army.

From 1606 to 1826 the Ottoman Empire instituted efforts aimed at reforming its gunpowder weapons-brandishing medieval armed forces. In Persia, the problem was even more acute than that faced by Constantinople. The Shah during the time of the Qajar dynasty and continuing into the nineteenth century was forced to rely on militias that constantly required extensive negotiations as well as expensive promises all contributing to an extended mobilization process. For the Ottomans, Sultan Selim III attempted to reorganize the army (Nizam-i Cedid) in the late eighteenth century but met considerable resistance from a number of entrenched interests, most notably from the infantry units known collectively as the Janissaries. As a result of his attempts at modernization and reform, the Sultan was driven from power in 1807. His successor, Mahmud II, in November 1808, only months after becoming Sultan was faced with a revolt by the Janissaries rebelling yet again at plans toward modernizing the army. The Janissaries killed Mahmud’s “grand vizier” Mustafa Bayraktar Pasha who had been ordered to spearhead the reform efforts and to modernize the Ottoman army.

These events, coupled with the difficulties experienced by a long line of predecessors, led Mahmud II to proceed with caution in his reform efforts. Eventually, however, on June 15, 1826, during the Vaka-i Haryire or “good incident,” troops loyal to Mahmud II shelled the Janissary barracks in Constantinople, killing several thousand inside. The Janissary corps was subsequently dissolved and its provincial garrisons disbanded. The event is recorded and celebrated in Turkish history as the “auspicious event,” which overcame a key obstacle and provided the opportunity to create that which eventually became modern Turkey.

The Rise and Fall of Ottoman Power

In the Middle Ages, the Ottomans created an empire through aggressive territorial expansion, a fairly sophisticated and organized system of taxation, a formidable military capability, and the utilization of a religion-based ideology for control and obedience. Once the forays into Europe had been blocked at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and outside Vienna in 1683, and, as a result, further imperial expansion and conquest thwarted, the Ottomans relied financially on agricultural production and the control of trade routes between the East and the West. However, the arrival of long-distance sailing ships and the rise of European shipping altered the traditional leverage enjoyed by the Ottomans in cooperation with their Mediterranean sailing contractors, the Venetians.

Since the Ottoman Empire traditionally controlled the overland Silk Road and commercial trade routes between Europe and Asia, they were able to dictate the terms of trade to both. Accordingly, the rest of Europe (minus the Venetians) sought options in order to mitigate the effects of this monopoly, leading eventually to the age of exploration and ocean-going technology. With the European voyages around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, the Ottomans increasingly found themselves cut out of the lucrative spice trade from Asia to Europe and the Mediterranean world.

In addition to being limited in its trading influence in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean during the eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire also steadily lost territory in Eastern Europe to Austria and Russia. The empire found itself engaged on a number of fronts between 1568 and 1876 during the Russo-Turkish wars. During those wars, 11 conflicts, draining resources without replenishing the Ottoman treasury, were fought against an expanding and powerful Russian Empire. The Russian victory during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 secured vast stretches of land on the Black Sea north coast and brought territory as far south as the Caucasus under Russian control. The Russian army invaded the Balkans in 1806–1812, and by 1878, Russian troops came within 10 miles of Constantinople. For Western Europe, the prospect of a Russian-controlled former Ottoman Empire brought a concerted effort to limit Russia’s Mediterranean influence and its relentless drive south toward warm water ports and control in Europe and in the Middle East.

In his book, Guns, Sails, and Empires, Carlo Cipolla argues that the development of gunpowder weapons and long-distance sailing ships enabled the Europeans to expand at the expense of the Muslim world in the sixteenth century. This is an accurate, if not partial, portrayal of events. However, all too often the narrative developed characterizes Europe as pillaging and plundering its way through a peaceful, tolerant Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. The military history of the Middle East shows predatory behavior being engaged throughout the region, first by the nature of ancient kingdoms within the Middle East itself, taking control of the production of food and trade while financing sufficient military capability to enforce an elite preferred status quo. This was the case in ancient Mesopotamia and in Egypt. Asiatic nomadic cavalry descending into the region introduced a new mobility and maneuverability combined with the all too familiar savagery in keeping mass populations compliant in the fields, and focused on paying their taxes.

These new developments in mobility and maneuverability were not defeated by the West but rather by the introduction of gunpowder and gunpowder weapons that were first invented in China and spread across the Old Silk Road to the Middle East and Europe by the Mongols, eventually providing the Turkish tribes of the Ottomans the opportunity for bombarding the walls (and the inhabitants) of a trading city that stood unconquered for 1,000 years. It was not a Western plan or plot but the simple reality that the primary Ottoman motivation was to enrich themselves and their warriors as they proceeded in their campaign aimed initially at seizing all that was “Rum” (Roman world). Following the conquest of the last remnants of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, the Ottomans immediately attacked into the Mediterranean where they defeated the seafaring and trading city-state of Venice in 1479, following a 15-year war.

The Ottoman Empire then turned east and attacked with gunpowder weapons in Persia followed by a pivot south, conducting operations against the Mamluks in Egypt. A series of wars then erupted against Vienna between 1540 and 1791 wherein the Ottoman Empire attempted to overrun European civilization. A Western fleet stopped further Ottoman advances into the Mediterranean at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, and European ground forces, for all intents and purposes, halted their invasion of Europe at the Siege of Vienna in 1683. From 1500 to 1700, the Ottomans were using similar artillery and small arms as the Europeans; however, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a significant gap widened between the Ottoman Empire and Europe. The problem stemmed partly from the same type of issues the Russians faced by blocking the advancement in science and learning that the Europeans and North Americans embraced from the Renaissance (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries) to the Enlightenment (eighteenth century).

The West had finally seen the major religious wars come to an end with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which not only strengthened scientific inquiry but also codified the central position and power of the nation-state. Free to conduct experimentation and in possession of resources in which to support research and development, the West moved into the Industrial Revolution, which witnessed England, in particular, making historic gains in both civilian and military technology.

Conversely, in the Middle East in general and in the Ottoman Empire in particular, the inability to expand territory and seize resources with which to provide succor to one’s warriors and with which other key elite in the establishment might avoid paying taxes was stalled by the obstinacy of the Europeans. The Ottoman Empire came into being by taking land and wealth via an overwhelmingly powerful military. “Conquer and tax” was a simple formula useful for centuries for most warlords in conjunction with their multiple purveyors of religious edicts, condemnations, and general authoritarian methods of behavioral control. Without the ability to expand territory and thus the tax base, which allowed the Sultan to provide warriors with lucrative timars from which they could enjoy revenue from a subservient people, the Sultan was faced with having to generate revenue from taxes on an expanding base of sales and marketing of goods and services, that is, international trade. The problem with this model of empire was, once again, the Europeans.

During the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire was arguably the premier military force in the world. It had managed, by virtue of its occupation of the key and strategic position of the former Byzantine Empire, to create a monopoly on the movement of trade between India and China, on the one hand, and Europe and the Mediterranean, on the other hand. The problem for the Ottomans’ monopoly on trade arose when men began seeing the world as a globe rather than as a flat, immovable object. Thus, shedding the church’s condemnation of Galileo and others who were intent on freely investigating the natural world, the West was able to escape the shackles of tradition and began embracing the dynamics that came from creativity and innovation. The result was a scientific revolution, which led to advanced technology and military supremacy.

The Ottoman Empire rested on a triad of capabilities. First, it evolved from the benefits of territorial expansion and in taxing those newly minted citizens. Second, its fortunes rested on massive tracts of land generally dedicated to agricultural production. And third, it benefited enormously from the control of trade routes between the East and the West. In terms of the first leg of the triad, its ability to expand had been frustrated by the Europeans. In the second, its control over the trade routes had been neutralized by ocean-going vessels and technology, which traversed the southern tip of Africa and into Asian markets. As such, by the eighteenth century, its fortunes had come to rely on its agricultural products and raw materials as its main economic asset. Its ability to control the terms of trade had vanished. A fourth leg had disappeared in the eighteenth century—military supremacy.

By this time, the European trading countries—Britain, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Germany, and, to a certain extent, Russia—through aggressive mercantilist policies had developed capital reserves that developing countries would require in order to modernize their infrastructure and reform their financial institutions. The Europeans, in stark contrast to the period between the fifteenth and early seventeenth centuries when the Ottomans reigned supreme militarily and financially, controlled the terms of trade.

Unfortunately, the Europeans conducted campaigns of predatory financial and military behavior in the same harsh and blatantly exploitative manner as its predecessors in the Middle East and in Asia. The blame for dismal economic conditions in the modern Middle East rests not with the West, East, North, or South. The blame rests on predatory schemes by corrupt and often incompetent leaders within the Middle East, acting in conjunction with dominant internal factions. Additionally, international actors, including states and private sector entities have, in many instances, undermined rational policies of growth and development by aligning with the corrupt and incompetent within the region.

In order to modernize in the early modern era, Mehmet Ali in Egypt and the Sultan in Constantinople needed foreign exchange (hard currency), and since the Europeans were now in a superior trading position, hard currency (and thus capital) was now in their hands. The Middle East had no other option other than a campaign aimed at economic, political, and educational reforms and a general modernization effort that would touch upon all aspects of society. However, since they lacked the capital, it had to come from loans from the rich European trading states. Those loans were granted, but they were granted by what could only be described as predatory mercantilists posing as international bankers. Accordingly, the Western bankers and their state supporters were prepared to make the loans for the modernized networks and systems that relatively advanced European technology could provide; but the Middle Eastern borrowers would have to provide exclusive concessions to the European lenders for what essentially amounted to effective control of those strategic assets, such as railways, communication links, and factories.

As a result, Ottoman banks, mining companies, railroads, docks and warehouses, forestry enterprises, gas and water works, and so forth were all not only built by the Europeans but also subsequently owned by them. The British obtained significant shares in the Ottoman Central Bank, which they helped finance and create. France took control of the concession to run key railroads in the Ottoman Empire. The French also obtained tobacco rights and control of the docks in Beirut. The British took control of mineral rights in the city of Mosul, one of the premier trading posts of the old overland trading system in what is now present-day Iraq. The Russians pressed for and secured the rights to custom duties in Constantinople and in the Black Sea ports. Germany took control of the docks at Haidar Pasha (1899) and Alexandrette (1905) along with railway shares (Berlin-to-Baghdad aspirations) and various municipal transport monopolies.

Even if the urge to develop the Ottoman economy had sharpened after 1840, that urge would have come too late. By then the Europe powers had, by concerted intervention, harnessed the Ottoman and Egyptian agricultural economies to the industrializing European economies, with the familiar pattern of the exchange of raw materials from the Middle East for industrial goods from Europe. As a result, in the Ottoman Empire even more than in Egypt the emergence of a domestic industry and of a Muslim middle class was checked. Instead, non-Muslim minorities and the enlarging European resident communities performed middle-class functions. The absence of economic reform in the Ottoman Empire thus closed the circuit of innovation. The rising secular educational system promoted primarily the interests of the new class of military officers, civil (imperial) servants, diplomats, and teachers who by 1870 formed a new urban educated elite. Their influence in domestic politics outlived the empire and indeed, Turkey’s First Republic.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the management of the state finances was largely being controlled by Europeans. The responsibility for these developments does not rest solely with the Europeans. In order to facilitate such a massive penetration of a state’s economic assets, the cooperation of key Ottoman elite was necessary and was made possible partly by a desire to enrich themselves as they signed away control. This is not to say all Ottoman elite operated in this manner, nor is it to say all Western political and financial elite sought to plunder the empire.

But the people living in the Ottoman Empire, unbeknownst to them, had their economic wealth carted off by what might be characterized as modern pillagers and plunderers arising both in the Middle East and in Europe. Prior to placing a blanket of blame on everyone in the West involved in nineteenth-century Ottoman and Egyptian economic affairs, it should be remembered that an enormous threat was posed to Western civilization by the rise of the Ottoman Empire and its vassals in Egypt. This was an enormously powerful and violent empire whose aim was to conquer and subjugate Europe and place the yoke of taxation upon its shoulders. This campaign was to be achieved not by negotiation, consent, or the virtuous example of exemplary leadership, but attained at the point of the sword, and later, by the general bombardment of a city’s walls. To contribute in dismantling that threat from a purely defensive motivation certainly animated the decision making and behavior of many statesmen and bankers in Europe at the time. European military commanders were required to defend their people. If the bankers could take down most of the Ottoman’s capability before a war had to be fought, so much the better.

The dynamics and the nexus between economic affairs and military operations have been ongoing for thousands of years, in Asia, in the Middle East, in Europe, and in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, the process is not improved by burning down the town square, shooting the sheriff, or burning the bank. When the Egyptian people realized that the elite had essentially sold their country to the Europeans, they began, in a passionate and emotional fit, burning, looting, and killing. The process is improved by ordinary people becoming increasingly aware of the nefarious nature of many of these schemes and in shining the light of public awareness on the nature of those tactics, and then, holding those responsible to account. This requires reason over passion, wisdom over emotion, and education over ignorance. It required a new relationship between the rulers and the ruled. Napoleon and the French army, for all the havoc it wreaked during the Egyptian campaign, successfully served notice that the idea of a new relationship between ruler and ruled had arrived in the Middle East.

The Ottoman Capture of Otranto

Although Pierre d’Aubusson, Grand Master of Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John, had been seriously wounded during the siege of Rhodes, immediately after it was over he set out to rebuild the ruined city of Rhodes and its defence walls and towers. Three days after the Ottoman withdrawal the Grand Master and the council met and decided to send an envoy to Italy to inform Pope Sixtus and King Ferrante of their victory over the Turks, and also to request further aid, ‘for it is of course assumed that the enemy proposes to come back’. By the beginning of October 1480 d’Aubusson decided that the Ottoman fleet had finally left the region and was not likely to return in the immediate future. The council therefore decided to allow the departure of the galleys and mercenaries that had been sent by King Ferrante. But they decided to retain the 100 men of arms who had come to Rhodes with the prior of Rome, because the knights had suffered such heavy casualties during the siege that their garrison needed reinforcements.

Mehmet’s expedition against the Ionian Islands in 1479 had given him possession of Santa Maura, Ithaka, Cephalonia and Zante, the former possessions of Leonardo III Tocco, who had taken refuge with King Ferrante of Naples. Corfu, the northernmost of the Ionian Islands, remained in the possession of Venice, which because of its peace treaty with the Ottomans remained neutral when Gedik Ahmet Pasha conquered the other islands in the archipelago.

On 2 July 1480 the Senate wrote to Vettore Soranzo, the Captain-General of the Sea, who at the time was on Corfu, informing him that the Ottoman fleet had left the Dardanelles and had divided into two parts, the larger one headed for Rhodes (where the siege had already begun on 23 May) and the other bound for the Adriatic.

As soon as Soranzo received the letter he left Corfu with twenty-eight galleys for Methoni, in the south-west Peloponessos, which together with nearby Methoni were called the ‘Eyes of the Republic’, for they surveyed all maritime traffic between the eastern Mediterranean and the Adriatic. Soranzo’s instructions were to avoid any conflict with the Ottoman forces, but if they attacked any Venetian possessions he was to oppose them. At Methoni, Soranzo met with an Ottoman envoy, who requested safe passage for a Turkish flotilla headed into the Adriatic, along with provisions. Soranzo agreed to the envoy’s requests, and he followed with his squadron as the Turkish ships headed towards the Adriatic to join Gedik Pasha’s fleet at Valona in Albania.

On 24 July 1480 Naples, Milan, Florence and Ferrara renewed their alliance for twenty-five years, an alignment designed to counter the pact between Venice and the papacy. Pope Sixtus IV immediately summoned envoys of the Italian states to Rome in order to gain their cooperation in sending help to Rhodes. The envoys expressed their concern that internecine war in Italy would make it difficult or impossible to help the Rhodians, and they asked the Pope to give them reassurance in this matter. Sixtus responded on 27 July with a circular letter to the states of Italy, making an impassioned appeal to keep the peace and take united action against the Turks before it was too late.

We think of nothing else than how the Italian states may with a unity of purpose resist the terrible power of the Turks… [Now] we have the enemy before our very eyes. He has already been sighted, poised to strike at the province of Apulia with a large fleet. If he should seize Ragusa or Rhodes (which God forbid!), nothing would be left of our safety… Hear our paternal voice, consider the common peril, and judge for yourself how great is the need to quicken our pace…

Meanwhile, Gedik Pasha’s fleet had left Valona on 26 July, headed across the Adriatic to southern Italy. The Venetian squadron under Soranzo remained at Corfu and made no move to interfere with the Ottoman fleet, which comprised forty large galleys, sixty smaller galleys and forty freighters, carrying some 18,000 troops and 700 horses for the cavalry.

The original plan was for the expedition to land near Brindisi, but, having learned from the sailors on a captured Italian freighter that the coast further to the south was undefended, Gedik Ahmet decided to head for Otranto. On the morning of 28 July he landed a squadron of cavalry without opposition near the castle of Roca, and the horsemen rode through the countryside as far as Otranto, on the heel of the Italian peninsula, capturing many of the locals and their cattle. The garrison at Otranto made a sortie and drove off the Turks, killing many of them and freeing some of the prisoners.

By that time Gedik Ahmet had landed the rest of his army, estimated to number 18,000. He then sent an Italian-speaking envoy into Otranto offering terms of surrender, and when these were rejected the pasha threatened the city with ‘fire, flame, ruin, annihilation and death’. Gedik Ahmet then positioned his siege guns and began bombarding the city, which was only lightly defended, its small garrison having no artillery to fire back at the Ottomans, while at the same time his cavalryman laid waste the surrounding countryside, putting all they encountered to the sword.

Word of the Ottoman attack quickly reached the court of King Ferrante at Naples, where it was feared that this was the beginning of a full-scale Turkish invasion of Italy. Niccolo Sadoleto, the Ferrarese ambassador to Naples, wrote on 1 August to inform Duke Ercole I d’Este of Ferrara.

This morning four horsemen have come [to Naples], riding at breakneck speed from Apulia and the region of Otranto. They have gone to find the lord king at Aversa, where he went yesterday evening, and they have brought him the news of how the Turks have landed at Otranto with 150 sail, and have made three assaults upon the castle. The news is all over Naples. I have no certain information, however, except that the lord king has in fact returned posthaste from Aversa within the hour.

Soon afterwards Sadoleto added in a postscript that the report of the Ottoman landing was true, and that ‘the number of ships is uncertain, but the armada is so great that it is believed to contain all the vessels that were at Rhodes!’. That same day Sadoleto wrote to Duke Ercole saying that he thought that King Ferrante would soon ask all his allies to help him to repel the invaders, who besides attacking Otranto had taken three villages in the vicinity. He reported that a horseman had arrived from Taranto ‘who says that there are more than 350 vessels, and that the Turks have attacked the castle of Otranto and ranged as far as Lecce, burning villages, taking prisoners and killing little children as though they were dogs…’.

Luca Landucci, a Florentine apothecary, viewed the Turkish attack on Neapolitan territory as a blessing to his native city. He noted in his diary that Duke Alfonso of Calabria, son of King Ferrante of Naples, had intended to do much evil against Florence but ‘by a great miracle it happened that on the sixth of August [sic], the Turkish army came to Otranto and began to besiege it; so it was necessary to leave our neighborhood, at the king’s command, and return to defend the kingdom…’.

On 2 August King Ferrante wrote to summon home Duke Alfonso, who was with his troops in Siena, which the Neapolitans had been trying to take. Ferrante then wrote to inform Pope Sixtus that the enmity between the various Italian states must be put aside because of the common danger posed by the Turkish invasion. Otherwise, he warned, he would throw in his lot with the sultan and work for the destruction of all the other states in Italy.

The Signoria of Venice had been making efforts to maintain peace with the Ottomans. On 3 June 1480 the Senate had instructed Zaccaria Barbaro, their new ambassador to Rome, to avoid Venetian involvement in the anti-Turkish alliance then under discussion among the Italian states. At the same time the Signoria was trying to avoid attempts by the Ottomans to involve Venice in an invasion of Italy. On 23 August 1479, during the Tuscan War, the conflict between the Kingdom of Naples and its allies against those of the papacy, Gedik Ahmet Pasha had sent an envoy to the Senate suggesting that the Venetians join him in an attack against King Ferrante and the Pope, both of whom he declared to be the worst enemies of Venice. The Senate politely declined the suggestion, remarking that ‘Venetian merchants had suffered no losses either in the papal states or in the Neapolitan kingdom’.

The defenders at Otranto were able to hold out only until 11 August, when the Ottoman infantry poured through a breach in the walls and took the city by storm. All the older men of the city were put to the sword, while the younger men and women were enslaved, 8,000 of them being shipped off to Albania. It is estimated that 12,000 of the 22,000 inhabitants of Otranto were killed by the Turks. The aged archbishop of Otranto, Stefano Pendinelli, remained to the last in the cathedral of Otranto, praying for divine deliverance as the Ottoman soldiers slaughtered his congregation. One Italian chronicler says that the Turks sawed the archbishop in two on the high altar of his cathedral, although a more reliable source suggests that he died of fright. The Italian chronicler goes on to say that Gedik Ahmet Pasha had 800 of the townspeople beheaded when they refused to convert to Islam, leaving their remains unburied on the eminence now known as the Hill of the Martyrs. All the martyrs were canonised in 1771 under Pope Clement XIV, and their skulls are still displayed in the cathedral.

After the fall of Otranto the Ottoman cavalry plundered the surrounding region, which was abandoned by all the Italian men capable of bearing arms, leaving only women, children and old men, many of whom were slaughtered. The cavalry extended its raids as far as Taranto on the west and northward to Lecce and Brindisi, so it appeared that Gedik Ahmet was going to use Otranto as his base for a wider invasion of Italy.

King Ferrante, after sending a courier to inform the Pope of the Turkish invasion, quickly mustered an army, which left Naples for Apulia on 8 September. His son, Alfonso, withdrew his troops from Tuscany, and by the end of the month he too headed for Apulia. By the time the Neapolitan forces reached Apulia the Ottoman troops had withdrawn from the surrounding countryside and retired within the walls of Otranto. By then Gedik Ahmet Pasha had returned to Valona with a large part of his army, leaving a garrison of only 6,500 infantry and 500 cavalry in Otranto under Hayrettin Bey, the sancakbey of Negroponte, a Greek convert to Islam who was fluent in Italian. When Ferrante tried to negotiate with Hayrettin Bey he was told that the sultan was not only going to keep Otranto, but that he also demanded Taranto, Brindisi and Lecce. Hayrettin went on to say that if these demands were not met the sultan himself would appear the following spring, leading an army of 100,000 troops and 18,000 cavalry, along with a powerful artillery corps, with which he would conquer all of Italy.

News of the fall of Otranto and rumours of a coming Turkish invasion caused panic throughout Italy. According to Sigismondo de’Conti, the papal secretary, the Pope was so terrified that he contemplated fleeing to Avignon.

In Rome the alarm was as great, as if the enemy had already encamped before her very walls… Terror had taken such hold of all minds that even the Pope meditated flight. I was at the time in the Low Countries, in the suite of the Cardinal Legate Giuliano, and I remembered that he was commissioned to prepare what was necessary at Avignon, for Sixtus IV had decided upon taking refuge with the French, if the state of affairs in Italy should become worse.

But Sixtus regained his nerve and realised that aid had to be given to the Kingdom of Naples, even though Ferrante had recently betrayed him during the Tuscan war. As Sigismondo writes of the Pope’s decision to come to Ferrante’s aid:

Sixtus IV would have witnessed with great indifference the misfortunes and losses of his faithless ally, had Ferrante’s enemy been anyone but the Sultan, but it was a very different matter when the common foe of Christendom had actually got a footing on Italian soil, and speedily the Papacy and Rome itself were threatened with utter ruin, unless he were promptly expelled… [The Pope] at once sent all the money he could get together, permitted tithes to be levied from all the clergy in the kingdom, and promised a Plenary Indulgence to all Christians enlisting under the banner of the Cross.

Later in the summer of 1480 Sixtus issued a bull calling for united Christian action against the invaders before they took all of Italy: ‘How perilous it has become for all Christians,’ he wrote, ‘and especially the Italian powers, to hesitate in the assumption of arms against the Turk and how destructive to delay any longer, everyone can see…’ He went on to warn that ‘if the faithful, and especially the Italians, want to keep their lands, homes, wives, children, liberty, and the very faith in which we were baptised and reborn, let them believe us that they must now take up arms and go to war!’.

King Louis XI of France indicated that he would give his support to an anti-Turkish alliance. The Sforza dukes in Milan also offered the Pope their support, but they said that peace had to be established among the Italian states before they sought help from the French kingdom, ‘for we confess that we cannot see how we may expect foreign aid if we make light of our troubles at home’.

The anti-Turkish coalition, known as the League of Naples, came into being on 16 September 1480, its members consisting of the papacy, the King of Naples, the King of Hungary, the Dukes of Milan and Ferrara, and the Republics of Genoa and Florence. Representatives of the league gathered in Venice at the beginning of October, and the Neapolitan envoys led the pleas for Venetian help against the Turks. The Republic of Venice was exhorted to join the league, but the Signoria immediately declined, saying that for ‘seventeen successive years’ they had fought the Turks almost alone, with an unbearable cost in men and money, and now they could do no more.

Sixtus then began preparations to build a papal fleet in Genoa and Ancona, while at the same time he appealed to England, France and Germany to join the coalition. Emperor Frederick III declined because of internal political problems, as did Edward IV of England, who wrote to the Pope that rather than making war against other Christians, as he was forced to do in order to keep his throne, he would have ‘preferred being associated with the other sovereigns of Christendom in an expedition against the Turk’. Edward had been fearful of a Turkish invasion, and a year earlier he had said that the Pope should have unified Italy, ‘owing to the great perils…for the Christian religion, when the Turk is at the gates of Italy, and so powerful as everyone knows’.

Louis XI assured the Pope that France would participate in the crusade, but only if all the other Christian states shared the burden. The Sforza Dukes of Milan said that aid from northern Europe would be long in coming and that the united Italian states would have to make the effort themselves, even without Venice, ‘because we are prepared to strive beyond our strength for the common safety and to defeat in war the barbarous, butcherly and savage Turks’. The private instructions given to their envoys by the Sforzas began with a statement impressing upon them the grave emergency of the situation. ‘We do not believe that for many centuries a more grave and perilous thing has befallen not only Italy but all Christendom than this…invasion of Calabria by the Turk, both because of the inestimable power and great cruelty of the enemy and because of the utter shame it brings to our religion and the Christian way of life.’

The Pope and the College of Cardinals agreed to contribute 150,000 ducats towards the crusade, 100,000 of which would be spent equipping twenty-five galleys for the papal fleet, the remainder to be sent to King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, who was expected to divert Mehmet’s attention from Italy to central Europe. In addition, Sixtus was recruiting a force of 3,000 infantry. The ambassadors who convened in Rome agreed that a fleet of 100 galleys should be launched for the crusade, and that 200,000 ducats should be sent annually to Corvinus to support his offensive against the Turks. Since the papacy was assuming such a large financial obligation, it expected the other Christian powers to shoulder their share of the burden and sent briefs informing each of them of their assessment. King Ferrante was to provide forty galleys for the Christian fleet and was to send Corvinus 100,000 ducats; Milan was to contribute 30,000 ducats; Florence, 20,000 ducats; Genoa, five galleys; Ferrara and Siena, four galleys each; Bologna, two galleys; Lucca, Mantua and Montferrat, one galley each.

Louis XI sent envoys to Rome to discuss the situation with Pope Sixtus. The king offered to contribute 200,000 ducats a year for the crusade, and if the Pope permitted him to tax the benifices of the clergy in France ‘he would add another 100,000 ducats’. Louis estimated that Italy could easily contribute 40,000 ducats annually for the crusade; Germany, 200,000; ‘all the Spains’, an additional 200,000; ‘and the king of England, who is so powerful and has such rich benifices, 100,000 ducats’. He had been informed ‘that the Venetians are willing to declare themselves against the Turks, provided that they are assured that all Italy is going to join in and will not leave them in the lurch’. His envoys were authorised to commit their king to his pledge of 300,000 ducats annually, provided that he was allowed to tax the clergy, and that the other states of Europe support the crusade to the amounts ‘of which mention is made above’. Louis also noted his desire for assurances of peace from his neighbours to the east, ‘and in making the aforesaid offer he does not discount the fact that he must be safe from the king of England through the duration of the war [against the Turks] and for one year thereafter’. He said that the King of England was ‘as good a friend as he had in the world’, but the Pope had to realise the responsibilities that Louis had to maintain the security of his own kingdom.

Meanwhile, Emperor Frederick III and King Matthias Corvinus were waging war on one another in Austria. At the same time Turkish akincis were raiding in Croatia, Carniola, Carinthia and Styria, some of them even penetrating into Friuli, despite the peace treaty between the Ottomans and Venice.

The Neapolitan army finally went on the offensive during the winter of 1480-1, putting Otranto under siege and containing the Ottoman forces within their beachhead in Apulia. Then in March 1481 the Neapolitan fleet defeated an Ottoman naval force in the Adriatic, cutting off the Turkish garrison in Otranto from the sea and thus intensifying the siege.

On 8 April 1481 Pope Sixtus issued a bull proclaiming a new crusade, summoning all the princes of Europe to arms against the Turks. He imposed a three-year peace on Christendom, beginning on 1 June 1481, lest ‘western Europe go the way of Constantinople and the Morea, Serbia and Bosnia, and the empire of Trebizond, whose rulers (and peoples) had all come to grief’.

But a general fear prevailed that, once again, nothing would come of this effort. The classical scholar Peter Schott, canon of Strasbourg, wrote later that month from Bologna that he had gone to take a last look at Rome ‘before the Eternal City was taken by the Turks’.

End of the Crimean War 1855

Floating Batteries at the Capture of Kinburn.

Having driven Gorchakov’s army out of the south side of Sevastopol the allied commanders were at a loss about what should be done next. The battle had been expensive in soldiers’ lives, ammunition and resources; so much so that it was difficult to avoid a general feeling that they had justified their presence in the Crimea by taking the city whose capture had eluded them for a year. This was particularly true in the French camp where there were smiles and congratulations all round. Pélissier was given a marshal’s baton and, much to the irritation of the British, was appointed a mushir, or commander-in-chief, by the Sultan; Bruat was promoted to full admiral (but did not live long to enjoy the pleasure as he died at sea two months later) and Simpson was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. Even the much-reviled telegraph came into its own on 12 September when Pélissier received the thanks of a grateful emperor: ‘Honneur à vous! Honneur à votre brave armée! Faites à tous mes sincères félicitations.’ (‘All honour to you. Honour to your brave army. I send to you all my sincere congratulations.’)

At home in Paris there were sonorous celebrations allied to a sense of relief; a Te Deum was celebrated in Notre Dame, which had been decorated with the flags of the allied powers. Sevastopol had fallen and in many people’s minds the victory and the part played by Pélissier’s men symbolised a rebirth of French military might. For a few happy hours 1812 became just another dusty date in a long-forgotten history and it seemed possible that Sevastopol was but a springboard for even greater successes against the Russians. Two weeks after Sevastopol fell Rose sent a thoughtful despatch to Clarendon which captured the mood in the French camp:

After 1815 the spirit of the French Army was lowered by a succession of reverses. The successes in Algiers against Barbarians, without artillery, were not sufficient to restore them the prestige they once enjoyed.

But the share of successes which the French Army have had in conquering a Military European Power of the first order, in battles on the field, and in the Siege of a peculiarly strong and invested Fortress, a Siege without many parallels in History, have not only improved, very much, the experiences and military qualifications of the Officers and men of the French Army, but have raised their military feeling and confidence.

To capitalise on that effect Napoleon insisted that the war must continue and that Russia must be humbled before there could be any peace settlement. Not only would that process isolate Russia from Europe but it would also restore France as a major power and destroy for ever the settlement of 1815. It might even be possible to realise Napoleon’s dream of rebuilding the kingdom of Poland and placing his cousin on its throne.

There was much to recommend this way of thinking. France had been left exhausted by the Napoleonic wars and the nation itself had been humbled, its frontiers reduced to those of 1789. Napoleon III certainly believed that he had a mission to restore his country’s fortunes by continuing the war, but he was already swimming against a tide of growing disapproval with the war. While his fellow countrymen had been happy and relieved to celebrate the fall of Sevastopol it could not be denied that the victory had been won at a cost. The casualties seemed to be disproportionate to any diplomatic or strategic gain and the need to keep the forces supplied for another winter was a strain on an already overloaded exchequer. France simply did not have the resources to continue the war and was unable to match the expenditure lavished on it by her British allies. London’s well-filled purse was one very good reason why Napoleon was so desperate to keep the cross-Channel alliance in being.

He had little difficulty in persuading his allies to be assertive. Palmerston remained as bellicose as ever and, together with Clarendon, warned colleagues that the war was far from being over and might last another two or three years. Their message was clear and unwavering: Britain’s war aims would not be altered and there could be no negotiated peace until Russia had been defeated. To achieve that goal Palmerston still thought that it would be possible to construct a grand European alliance similar to the coalition which had defeated Napoleon forty years earlier. As he told Clarendon on 9 October, ‘Russia has not yet been beat enough to make peace possible at the present moment.’ Military pride was also at stake. Palmerston had refused permission for the church bells to be rung in celebration of the recent victory as it was all too evident that British troops had not distinguished themselves in the fighting.

The Turks were keen to see the allies continue the war in the Crimea as this would allow them to open operations in Asia Minor and to that end they insisted that Omar Pasha be allowed to withdraw his army from the Crimea. Russia, too, was adamant that the war was far from over. ‘Sevastopol is not Moscow, the Crimea is not Russia,’ said Alexander II in a proclamation to Gorchakov shortly after the fall of Sevastopol. ‘Two years after we set fire to Moscow, our troops marched in the streets of Paris. We are still the same Russians and God is still with us.’ In military terms the Russian commander had merely made a tactical retreat into a new position which would continue to pose problems to the allies. The tsar also guessed correctly that his enemies had no intention of marching into Russia and that unless Gorchakov were defeated stalemate had returned to the Crimean peninsula. Given that unassailable position, the allies’ only hope of inflicting a decisive defeat seemed to lie in the Baltic; Dundas’s destruction of Sveaborg having given rise to hopes that a similar campaign in the spring of 1856 could crush Kronstadt and leave St Petersburg open to attack by sea and land forces. It was an idea which would exercise the minds of allied planners throughout the winter.

None the less, the continuing public bellicosity could not disguise the fact that there was also a growing desire for peace, especially in France, where Count Walewski, Drouyn de Lhuys’s replacement as foreign secretary, was playing a somewhat different game. An illegitimate son of Napoleon Bonaparte, he was considered by Cowley to be an intellectual lightweight who was too close to the emperor’s pro-Russian half-brother, the Duc de Morny, and therefore not to be trusted. To Clarendon he was a parvenu, ‘a low-minded strolling player’ whose ‘view of moral obligation’ was always ‘subservient to his interests or his vanity’. Palmerston shared that opinion and added the thought that if anything were to happen to the emperor there would be no shortage of French politicians of Walewski’s ilk who would be prepared to sue for peace with the Russians.

There were grounds for these fears. Although Cowley and Clarendon, the British statesmen most directly involved, never lost their suspicions about those who served the emperor – based largely on social snobbery, it must be admitted – they were right to pay close attention to the new French foreign secretary, Walewski. At a time when the allies were attempting to maintain a common front and continue the war he was in secret negotiation with the Russians through the Duc de Morny and a shadowy figure called Baron Hukeren, the adopted son of the Dutch ambassador in Paris, whom Cowley described as ‘among the numerous speculating and political intriguers that abound in the capital’. Initially, Napoleon seems not to have known that covert peace feelers were being made but by October he had given them tacit approval. These were conducted on two fronts: through his friendship with Prince Gorchakov, the duke made it known that France was ready for peace while a similar message was passed by Walewski to Nesselrode’s daughter who was married to the Saxon ambassador in Paris, Baron von Seebach. At the same time the Russian ambassador in Berlin, Baron Budberg, alerted the Prussian government that the tsar was ready to reopen negotiations. While, in themselves, these clandestine talks did not lead to the reopening of peace talks, they at least helped to pave the way.

Meanwhile, as had happened earlier in the year when the Vienna conference seemed to hold out the hope of a cessation of hostilities, the British and French governments urged their commanders in the Crimea to continue the campaign. Having told Simpson that from the Queen’s palace to humblest cottage British hearts were beating with pride at ‘this long looked-for success’, Panmure turned to sterner matters:

The consequences of this event upon the morale of the Russian Army must be very great, and I trust that in concert with Marshal Pélissier you have devised means to take advantage of them and to give the enemy no rest till his overthrow is completed.

In order to keep this object properly in view you must not suffer your mind to rest upon any expectation of peace; your duty as a General is to keep your Army in the best condition for offence and to turn your attention to all the means in your power for so doing.

There was considerable mortification that the victory had not been followed up with a further attack on the Russian position and Panmure told Simpson that there were to be no celebrations in the army until Russia had been finally defeated. A succession of despatches from London attempted to goad the British commander into action but without success. Simpson simply reiterated his and the French belief that it would be folly to attack the Russian positions and he remained unmoved by an unhelpful suggestion that he should think of ‘applying a hot poker’ to make Pélissier do something positive. The impasse was broken on 26 September when Panmure sent a peremptory telegram to the British commander demanding action:

The public are getting impatient to know what the Russians are about. The Government desire immediately to be informed whether either you or Pélissier have taken any steps whatever to ascertain this, and further they observe that nearly 3 weeks have elapsed in absolute idleness. This cannot go on and in justice to yourself and your army you must prevent it. Answer this on receipt.

From the evidence of the correspondence between the two men it is difficult to know what Panmure wanted to achieve from this telegraphic despatch. That he was anxious to hear Simpson play a more martial tune was beyond doubt, yet the commander’s own letters betray a worrying timorousness that was not to be cured by Panmure’s mixture of threats and cajoling. In one letter he would chide Simpson for playing second fiddle to the French and insist on action, ending the despatch with an order that the British soldiers were not to be given spirits before going on sentry duty; in another he would reflect on the pleasure of discussing the campaign at some future date over a bottle of claret. However, his latest despatch had one obvious effect: the man who had gone out to the Crimea with no other thought than to report on Raglan, finally admitted that high command was too great a burden to bear. Two days later Simpson telegraphed his resignation, explaining that he could not remain in command while facing sustained criticism, and his offer to stand down was quickly accepted.

As Codrington was the designated successor, it should have been an easy matter to confirm his promotion, but during the final assault on Sevastopol Codrington seemed to have lost his nerve – Newcastle was particularly withering in his criticism – and renewed thought was given to the command of the army in the Crimea. Once again the candidates’ claims were examined and during the hiatus, which lasted three weeks, Panmure was forced to address his orders simply to the British Headquarters in the Crimea. Despite doubts about his abilities Codrington was confirmed in command on 15 October but did not take over the office until a few weeks later: more than any other attribute, his ability to speak fluent French and his easy social skills seem to have counted in his favour. To soften the blow to the other commanders, on 10 December the army was divided into two corps, command of each going to Campbell and Eyre.

By then the British Army was in a much better position than in the previous year and relatively well equipped to face another winter. Each soldier had been given a new hard weather uniform consisting of two woollen jerseys, two pairs of woollen drawers, two pairs of woollen socks, two pairs of long stockings, one cholera belt, one comforter, a pair of gloves, a fur cap, greatcoat and waterproof cape. At Panmure’s insistence – he was a great stickler for detail – each man was also given, and ordered to use, a tin of Onion’s Drubbing, a new patented waterproof treatment for boots; and on 7 December four hundred field stoves specially designed by Alexis Soyer arrived at Balaklava. As an aid for observing the enemy in forward positions the army was supplied with a thousand trench telescopes of the kind which would be used in the First World War ‘for looking at objects without exposing the viewer’.

With better conditions, the supply problems having been largely solved, the army’s morale improved. Before winter settled in there were race meetings and hurriedly improvised shoots for the officers and theatricals for the men. Despite Panmure’s exhortations about keeping drunkenness at bay the independently owned canteens at Kadikoi did brisk business and, with the Russians content to keep their distance, the miseries of the last winter’s discomforts in the trenches were soon forgotten. By contrast it was now the turn of the French to suffer. Cholera followed by typhus ran through their camp and, added to a general air of disaffection, there were calls from the veterans of the fighting to be sent home. As the casualties from illness began to mount these demands were met: on 13 November Rose reported that the French Imperial Guards regiments were to be withdrawn and that eight line infantry regiments were to return to Algeria. Despite promises to the contrary, these were not to be replaced.

Before the armies went into winter quarters at the beginning of November, the British in good spirits, the French in as sorry as state as their allies had been in the previous season, there were two noteworthy attacks on the Russians. Having despatched part of their cavalry to Eupatoria, French units led by General D’Alonville attacked a larger Russian force on 20 October and succeeded in compelling it to withdraw with the loss of many casualties. However, D’Alonville chose not to follow up the success, other than to continue the harassment of Russian stragglers, because, according to Rose, the French chief of staff, General de Martimprey, had ordered his subordinate commanders to rein in any propensity for offensive activities:

I again perceived that he was opposed to any hostile operation against the enemy on a large scale. But whether he entertains this opinion because he thinks that the Enemy will leave the Crimea, without being forced to do [sic], or because he is of the conviction, which he lately expressed, that negotiations in the winter will bring about a peace, I know not.

The other operation was far more aggressive and it was destined to be the last blow struck by the allies during the war. It was also the most successful, a combined forces’ attack on the Fort Kinburn, a heavily defended Russian position which covered the confluence of the Rivers Bug and Dnieper. The brainchild of Lyons, it made full use of three newly developed French armoured steam batteries which, together with the allied gunboats and battleships, battered the fortress into submission. The French played a full role by committing 6000 men to the infantry force of 10,000, command of which was awarded to General Bazaine, as well as three battleships and a number of gunboats, although it remained unclear if Pélissier’s enthusiasm for the assault was governed more by a succession of orders from Paris or by his newly developed infatuation with Bazaine’s wife, Soledad. During Bazaine’s absence, Pélissier’s coach, captured from the Russians, was to be seen each day outside Soledad’s quarters. It was not the only romance thrown up by the war: Canrobert had fallen for the daughter of Colonel Strangways, the British gunner commander killed at Inkerman, but as with Pélissier’s fondness for Bazaine’s wife nothing came of the wartime dalliance.

The attack on Kinburn, though, was a complete success. On 16 October the infantry and marine forces made an unopposed landing on the Kinburn peninsula to cut off the fortress from reinforcements and to attack the garrison should it decide to retire. The following day, having advanced under cover of darkness, the allied fleet commenced a heavy bombardment, using tactics similar to those employed at Sveaborg a month earlier. Having been infiltrated into the bay in front of the fortress the gunboats and steam batteries were able to produce a sustained bombardment which quickly silenced the Russian guns. Then the allied battleships steamed into line to fire an equally heavy succession of broadsides which left the garrison with no option but to surrender. The way was open to strike inland but Bazaine called a halt to the operation once the forts and Kinburn and Ochakov (on the other side of the estuary) had surrendered. Following the destruction of Sveaborg, the successful outcome of the Kinburn operation demonstrated that the allies now had the naval capacity to attack and defeat Russia’s hitherto impregnable sea-fortresses.

As winter set in other activities included a reconnaissance of the Baider valley to ascertain whether or not an attack on the Russian positions at Simpheropol would yield results. Napoleon thought so but the French-led scouting party reported back that the Russians were entrenched on the high ground and that any attack would only result in unacceptable casualties. That fear lay at the heart of the allied command’s thinking. With the fall of Sevastopol, France had recovered her honour and, just as importantly, her right to sit at the high table when European matters were being discussed. Pélissier did not want to pursue the war against the Russians and by the middle of October he had come to the opinion that the allied army in the Crimea should be reduced by almost half to 70,000 and that it should take up defensive positions on the Chersonese peninsula.

His thinking chimed in with the mood at home where the war was now decidedly unpopular. On 22 October Cowley reported a conversation with the emperor in which Napoleon argued that the war had become an expensive anachronism and that the presence of the allied armies would not encourage Russia to negotiate. That could only be achieved by diplomatic means. As evidence, he produced a report from Pélissier in which the marshal claimed that there was nothing for the allies to conquer in southern Russia – ‘sterile plains which the Russians will abandon after some battles in which they will lose a few thousand men, a loss which causes them no decisive damage, whilst at every step the Allies with a great sacrifice of men and money and with nothing to gain will risk each day the destinies of Europe’.