* The text spoken by N.E.Marabea, Peripheral Director of 1st and 2nd Grade Education of Peloponnese and director of our newspaper on Sunday 17/05/2009 at Valtetsi during this year’s celebration of the anniversary. It is published in this column, because it includes important information for the contribution of the Maniot troops (and especially that of Elias Tsalafatinos) in this decisive battle for the outcome of the Revolution in 1821.
I want to thank the organizers of this event for the opportunity they gave me to refer in front of so many Arcadians, and not only, distinguished civilians to the beginnings of the Revolution in 1821. To refer to that historical moment during which the vision of freedom was connected to the dire need for war and victory. Only through this course, it could turn into action and bring back our vanished Nation in the historic scene. The battle, the victory at Valtetsi in May 1821 was the first proof that this vision could become true. And to form in this way, with the creation of the New Hellenic state the conditions for the Renaissance of the Nation.
For every war and victory, there must be the necessary conditions: strategic consideration, experience in arms and common conception of the warriors for the aimed at purpose and outcome. Then, in May 1821, not even two months from the break out of the revolution there were positive features for these conditions, which in their turn led to victory at the battle that took place in this land. And this why.
Kolokotronis who found refuge from Zante at Kardamyli on the 6th January with only 4 comrades, had the necessary strategic view for the outcome of the liberating Struggle. Due to his natural intelligence and due to his services at the foreign armies of Eptanisa and his practice in the secrets of the martial art.
The Maniots headed by their captains being always a polemic nation unsubmissive to the Ottoman ruler for 400 years had full experience in the use of arms, whereas they had the necessary vigorousness to fight at close quarters. The Arcadian Klephts from Leontari and Gortinia were also trained and kept always on the flame of revolution in Southern Taygetus and the mountains of Gortinia.
Close to them, there were the volunteers from the agricultural villages who practiced slowly in arms and learnt not to be afraid of their tyrant. Along with the practice in guns, they formed the conception about the feasibility of the revolution which was reinforced by the sacredness of the goal.
In 15 days, in the middle of the failing first battle of Valtetsi close to the end of April and the second victorious battle of May all these three conditions were rather mature. This is why the outcome can be considered as the fruit of this maturity. The historians describe its features. The loss of April led the chieftains to the need to appoint a commander in chief. A worthy fighter who would coordinate the polemic troops, the planning and the outcome of the battles but also the administrative concern for the soldiers. Kolokotronis was recognized as the most superior of all, but he didn’t have soldiers. This lack was covered by Delligiannaioi, who at that period put him in charge of all their troops at Karytaina. It didn’t take time for him to be accepted as the chief in command by the other chieftains, considering his leading skills and military knowledge. After the destruction of their barricades by the Ottomans at the first battle of Valtetsi, the fighters started learning how the battles at close quartets take place. For this reason, the new barricades were firmly built and equipped with the adequate materials for defense and attack. Also the encouragement from the leader, the voluntary offer of food from the Arcadians of the neighbouring areas, as well as the gun powder from the mill of Dimitsana gradually built up the belief and realization for the feasibility of the liberating struggle.
The empowerment of the fighters was so important that as it was proven by the result of the battle, they managed to eliminate also the new advantage of the besieged at Tripolitsa. The 2000 experienced warriors headed by the aid-de-camp Kehagiabey, who were sent by Moravalesi Hoursit from Jiannena, who was fighting Ali Pasha, to assist the besieged ones. The new experienced and fighting troops planned the overall destruction of the camp of the attackers, the end of the siege at Tripoli and the change of the course of the revolution. They also counted on the big reinforcement by the cruel fighters who from Bardounohoria at East Taygetus headed by their captain Roubi had in the meantime gone to Tripolitsa. So, it was in Valtetsi that the luck of the Revolution would be defined. With the victory of the troops and maintenance of the positions, the pincer around the capital of Moreas would get tight and the expansion of the Revolution in the occupied places would take new force. In the opposite case, if the pursuits of the Turks succeeded then the disappointment could become the wreckage of the revolution.
The occupation of the place Valtetsi was really necessary for the progress of the revolution which was connected to the occupation of the capital of Peloponnese. This was because Valtetsi is at the center of this small mountain, on the earthy flat area of 20.000 m2 which is surrounded by cliffs, so the one who has it, can control all three roads of access: The first that leads south-west to Arahamites and Ntavia, the second the leads to the north and east to Tripoli and the third that leads south to Kalogeriko. With the occupation of these entrances by our warriors Tripoli would suffocate. The suffocation would be complete in combination to the siege by the Greek military camps in Doliana which closed the access to Laconia and Argolida and Levidi which closed the access to Achaia. For the achievement of this military goal, it was decided, with a proposition by Kolokotronis to attempt a second battle at Valtetsi which started on 12th and went on till 13th May.
For this battle, we shall let two of the most disinterested fighters of 1821. The one is Kolokotronis, who is well known and doesn’t need an introduction. The other, who is more modest ( let’s note that he didn’t even accept the rank of the Lieutenant-General, nor 2000 grosia for his services saying “ even though I’m poor, I won’t accept these, because the nation is more poor”) but he was also a fighter, Elias Tsalafatinos from Vytilo.
Kolokotronis in his memoirs narrates his own intervention at the battle from Xrysovitsi, where he organized the movements of the troops and followed the development of the operations, in order to intervene where it would be necessary, whereas at the location of Pianas, Kanellos Deligiannis and Dimitris Plaputas had already camped. The new placement of the Greeks at Veltetsi was recommended by himself with a letter he had written to the other chieftains. This was because, these three locations could help each other in case of Turkish invasion, considering that the camp of Vervena was a bit detached. Let’s observe the small extract that follows: “…we, the 800 enforced the place so that the Truks don’t take the back part…in the evening I’m taking some fighters with me and I’m going to Katarahi, where the Turkish flags were. I went close to them, I fired at them and they fired 4 times – the Greeks at the back didn’t realize- I’ll get you alive, My name is Kolokotronis! -Who? -Kolokotronis! They emptied the place and then we went to Valtetsi, gave them bullets and bread which were the most important for them…” after the successful outcome, he mentions he made a speech to the fighters and said: “We all must lent to glory that day, which must be celebrated in the centuries because that day was the freedom of the country”.
Elias Tsalafatinos in a narration in 1824, narrates the following: “ At that time, the deceased captain Kyriakoulis (Mavromihalis) at Dervena and we decided to go and meet the deceased Beyzantes (Elias Mavromihalis) who was at Papari and where we thought it was reasonable to go closer, since we met. The deceased Kyriakoulis wanted us to go to a mountain to be right opposite to Dervena, the heroe Beyzantes and I wanted Valtetsi and this is where we went. So we went there Beyzantes and Elias Flessas who was also a heroe.
We took stones and till the evening we had finished with Kyriakoulis’ barricade. At the same time, we divided the barricades. The deceased Beyzantes with his two Flessaious got their own. Whereas Jiannis Beyzantes with Oiko<no>mopoulos and Kefalas took the other and Katzanos with <M>pouraisous took the church. The poor Tzalafatinos, I got the barricade outside and they gave me the Kalamatianoi, but for my luck one evening before the beginning of the war, seventy-five Leontarites came and immediately, I replaced the Kalamatianoi with them. On the next day, around three o’clock the enemies came. Leontarites are brave, but ignorant and flinched seeing a crowd that came from the back where Kehagias was. So, I swore to them that if anyone wants to go, I would kill him first and I take and put each one in his position and told them to empty half of the guns and fill the other half and if I don’t shoot first and you shouldn’t move. I swear to you the fury of Arvanites up to two hundred and the others took them until they came and put them in our barricades and from inside we took them killing them otherwise I couldn’t find way to cut the fury and showed them the art of the soldiers with the stones and then their fury was cut. The good Greeks, when they learnt the art threw stones around three okas. The rest of the barricades said up to Tzalafatinos’ barricade but they cannot help me because they were all fighting and if God took my barricade may he be sorry of the others. With the sunshine, help came, the deceased Elias with his brother Nikitas.”
In the morning, 12th May, the first Turkish part headed by Tourkovardounioti Roubi moved towards Valtetsi. At the Turks there was the certainty that they would easily destroy the Greek military camp and follow their course to Sinanou (Megalopoli). For this reason, a second Turkish troop went to Arahamites to stop the retreat of the defendants of Valtetsi. Another party moved to the location Kalogerovouni to stop further help from the military camp of Vervena and if necessary to give help to Roubis. The main body of the Turkish army headed by Kehagia Moustafa arrived to location Fragovryso and went to Kandreva (Asea). Btu since the operation at Tabouria wasn’t favorable for the Turks, instead of going to Megalopoli they turned to Valtetsi.
From Chrysovitsi Kolokotronis troop came down and took the location north of Valtetsi opposite Mytropetrova’s barricade. Then, from Piana the troop of Dimitrios Plapoutas-Koliopoulos came to the northeast of the barricades at Valtetsi and all together attacked the back of the Turks. When Kehagiabeys arrived from west to Valtetsi he attacked Kolokotronis, who had to fold back. With the support of side gunshots, finally the barricades stood the all day long attack.
On the second day of the battle, they put canons to attack Elias Mavromihalis barricade but they were not very successful and their gunshots fell on Roubis’ troop. Seeing the Turks that the Greeks became more and more behind them started retreating and their pursuit and humiliation came soon afterwards. The Greek revolution had been definitely established.
With reverence and awe let’s offer our own contribution as memorial of gratitude. A contribution which will be based on the construction, on the peaceful times of today, of the same conditions that led to that victory:
Strategic consideration of the facts in the era of globalization, achievement of experience and common effort for the development of the peaceful works of our times and common perception of the civilians for the goals and the results which are aimed at by our national assertions.