THE FIRST CAMPAIGN TO CRETE OF VOLUNTEER MANIOTS HEADE BY DIMITRIOS PETROPOULAKIS (1866-67)

The preparations and the arrival to Crete

In consultation with the Greek government Dimitrios Petropoulakis, officer of the Greek army from Rahes Githion made an appeal for volunteers in order to go to Crete and to reinforce the struggle for freedom. The departure of 800 volunteers, the 600 of whom were Maniots, took place at Christmas in 1866 with the steamboat “Ydra”. At Syros, other volunteers who were on the steamboat “Panellinio” joined them.

The landing of the volunteers, the food and the ammunition they had with them, took place at the bay of Agia Pelagia where from for security reasons, due to the nearby fortress with Turkish forces, they moved fast to Kamariotes. On the way, there was a successful battle against the Turks, although a big quantity of food was taken by the enemy.

The military body, in communication with the local chieftains, moves to the east counties Lasithi and Milopotamos where the revolution was uninspired. When Dimitrios Petropoulakis arrived to the area of Lasithi, he was appointed by the temporary government of the Cretans the military chief of the east counties.

The Battles at Milopotamos

The biggest part of the maniot military body camped at Keramoi and headed to Melamvi, close to the monastery of Prevelis. There it was united to the 1000 Cretans and the military body of captain Koraka in a united camp.

Close to the camp to the area Tibaki, there was the body of the Turkish soldiers and one corvette. In order to secure food, the different teams moved to the mountainous areas to get food from the shepherds, such as the Petropoulakis party to the area of Idi.

The Turks under Resit Pasha attacked the military troops of Petropoulakis, Korakas and Koronaios at the straits of Tilisos. Initially, Koronaios’ team was attacked and was under a lot of pressure. For this reason, a team of the maniot military troops came to help headed by Leonida, the son of Dimitrios Petropoulakis, whereas the father with his own team was shooting the enemy from the sides.

Under this coordinated pressure the Turks were forced to withdraw. They came back, though, helped by the Egyptian cavalry, but they were again stopped.

Under these circumstances, the attacks ceased and the military bodies withdrew to safe locations. As to what the rebels ate, it is described in a representative verse of a poet from that period:

“Give me too brother this half locust to pass this day too.”

The maniot military troops took the locations at Krousona where from they attacked the Turkish troops, as well as at the nearby plains and supported the women and children from the attacks of the Turks.

The battles at Lasithi

The volunteer cheifs and chieftains who took part in the battles of Lasithi that followed the ones in the area of Milopotamos were Dimitrios Petropoulakis and Elias Dimitrakarakos from Mani,Jeorgios Kourmoulis captain of the Greek army and Christos Vyzantios colonel of the Greek army on retirement. The armed Cretan fighters were about 2-3000.

So, the number of the Turks was great and it is estimated to be 1 to 8 approximately. The chiefs Korakas and Sfakianakis along with the other chieftains ran to the plain to stop the Turkish cavalry. This is the first impact. The battle lasted from 5 in the morning until 10 at night, that is to say for seventeen hours and the rebels despite the shortage in guns and number of men were the winners. The dead and wounded Turks were around 700 and from the rebels only 40 were killed or wounded. Amongst the dead men, there was Mihalis Petropoulakis. This battle of the 21st May was one of the cruelest and unforgettable battles of the revolution of 1866 because for the first time the rebels fought in a plain one to one. Constantinos Sfakianakis remembers in his report that:

“Also Korakas and everybody else admitted, that this is a most important and glorious battle after Arcadi. Everybody at the battle fought with bravery and enthusiasm”.

Dimitrios Petropoulakis (Rahi Gythion, around 1800- Athens 1870)

Dimitrios Petropoulakis has been a fighter in the revolution in 1821 and distinguished mainly in the battles against Ibrahim. He supported Kapodistria and Otto against the revolts against them. In 1844, when he failed to be elected deputy he rebelled against Kolettis’ government whom he considered as responsible for his failure. In 1850, he was elected deputy on Mani. In 1862-63, he was evicted by the temporary government and was ordered to leave Laconia. Soon the evictions got less. Parallel to his political activity there was his military career, whereas in 1870 he became colonel. In 1854, he took part in the revolution in Thessalia, head of a body of volunteers and was wounded in Kalabaka on the 10/5/1854. In 1866-7, he realized his first campaign to Crete. In the end of 1868, he was sent for a second time to the island by the Boulgaris government, head of 1000 volunteers aiming to revive the struggle. He was defeated, though, at the battle in Vryses (8/12/1868) and got imprisoned. He was set free after the interference of the Great Forces and retreated. In the archives, there is material mainly about his eviction (1862-1863) and the campaign to Crete in 1868

The second campaign (1868-69)

After the revolutionary events in 1866, the Turks pushed the Cretans with all the means they had, but mainly with the construction of more than 80 small fortresses with guards (Kouledoi) along the shores and impededany external help.

There are only a few rebellious locals and volunteers who are still on inaccessible peaks also ready to leave with the first chance they have. The Greek government

turned again to Dimitrios Petropoulakis in order to organize a new campaign. However, after the promises to send more campaign bodies and the reassurance

that Cretans after the olive harvest would restart the fight against the conqueror he was finally convinced.

The goal of the mission was to revive the revolution although the government knew that its conviction was already signed by the Big Forces and that every effort was hopeless.

Petropoulakis organizes the first team of volunteers in Athens and leaves on the 7th November 1868 with 300 volunteers for Gythion in order to get more help.

He got organized finally with a team of 1000 men and at the end of November they embarked with the ship «Η Ένωσις», to Rethimnon Crete where he was appointed

the General Leader. The father was accompanied by the son Leonidas, his brother Anastasios and his grandson Petros Zervompeakos. Due to the seclusion

of the island by Turkish military ships the landing of the men and supplies was divided in two parts.

The first team was concluded by 300 men headed by Dimitrios Petropoulakis and then, the second and larger by his son Leonidas. The two bodies after some difficulties finally, met at Merona. While they were looking for the supplies they brought with them and left the locals for transfer, they withdrew to the fortified

locations, they were in constant pursuit by the Turkish detachments which they confronted with success.

As it is mentioned in the Report submitted to the Greek Government after his return Dimitrios Petropoulakis it was decided “… to follow to the Bistagi road and head west to the places of Agios Vasilios and from there to Sfakia.”

They set off on the 8th December but dreadful moments waited

for them. They walked all night from the 8th to the 9th constantly fighting

against the Turks who had taken the locations at Asomatoi-Leukogia-Moni

Preveli-Plakia. They fell from the one ambush to the other and in the morning after losses in dead and wounded they arrived at Selia. There being tired and sleepless

before even taking a breath they received a vicious attack by the forces of the enemy losing 60 men. This difficult course went on until the night of the 9th December

when they arrived at Kallikratis. The arrival of the Maniots at Sfakia was first announced to the president of the temporary Government in Crete Stamatis Hionoudakis who was at Asi Gonia with locals from Sfakia, Apokorona

and Rethimno and ran to introduce them to his men.

However, before the rebellions could even rally they were attacked by large forces. They fought all day and at night with the help of darkness they escaped

to the mountain hills between Kallikratis and Αskifos.

The Turks pillaged all the villages Kallikratis, Asfendos, Imbro and massacred those who didn’t manage to escape. However, they didn’t stop pursuing the rebellions

that had lost contact with each other. The moral of the fighters after this vicious pursuit was very low; especially of the volunteers who had left from the operational

bodies of 1866 and many asked for a decision to be taken to surrender.

In those days, the French ambassador in Chania sent a letter to Petropoulakis informing him that the continuance of the fight was hopeless since “….the

mood of the European Forces doesn’t share the demands of Greece on the island Crete and on the contrary they are in favor of the preservation of the Ottoman

state. So it is certain that there will be no help what so ever. Being in this position I believe that going on with the fight is hopeless. For this reason I’m willing in the name of charity to negotiate your return to Greece…”

After this letter and the burden of the cruel reality in a meeting of all the captains (volunteers and locals) with Petropoulakis they decided to stop the attacks and to

depart; basically the Maniots and all those who wanted to from Crete and so they signed the protocol below:

“Today on the thirteenth of month December 1868 in the location Mavrorahi Askifos all the under mentioned leaders and captains, locals and volunteers…

. Under high strength and difficulty for the maintenance of means and supplies have decided in common to accept the proposed interference of the French ambassador who proposed to intervene in order to facilitate our departure from the unlucky

Crete…”

The General Leader of the team of Rethimno D. Petropoulakis

The leaders of the counties of this team

The leader of the volunteers Leonidas D. Petropoulakis

The captains A. Mitsas, G. Zikos, K. Dimitriou, A. Tsakonas, P. Zervompeakos, etc.

This was the end of the second campaign of the Maniots to Crete where many of them left their bodies on the land of Crete while they crossed the area of Rethimni from north to south through the White mountains.Leonidas Dimitriou Petropoulakis (Rahi Gythion, 1829- Athens 1887)

Son of Dimitrios. His luck and activity followed to a great extent that one of his father. He took part in the revolution in Thessalia, he was evicted in 1862-63 and followed his father to Crete in 1868 along with his son Jeorgios. In 1859, he was elected the deputy of the county of Gythion. After 1869, he joined Deligiorgis party. In 1878, he came back as the major in the army and in 1881 with the rank of colonel. He was appointed the officer of the center of the army in Thessalia. In 1886 his part in the encounters with the Turks was determinative in Gritzovali and Melouna. He died in Athens in

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