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The Greco-Macedonian Front: 1854 - 1855 (A Federation of Equals)

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The Greco-Macedonian Front
Part of The Levant and Balkan War
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Date August 1854-June 1855
Location Northern Greece, Thrace, Macedonia
Result Greeco-Danubian Victory
Belligerents
State Flag of Greece (1833-1858) The Kingdom of Greece

DanubianFederationEqualsFlag The Danubian Federation

Flag of the Ottoman EmpireThe Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
State Flag of Greece (1833-1858)Otto, King of Greece
Flag of the Ottoman EmpireAbdülmecid I
Strength
40,000 Greeks

11,000 Danubians

46,000
Casualties and losses
19,000 27,000

 The Greco-Macedonian Front (also known in Greece as the Second War of Independence) was one of the composite battlegrounds during the early stages of the The Levant and Balkan War. Lasting from late August (1854) to early June, the Greco-Macedonian conflict was a concentrated front between Greek, Danubian, and Ottoman forces. Seemingly isolated, the Greeks were defeated by a sizable Ottoman force for most of 1854, before the Hellenic Armies managed to turn the tide at the end of the year. Joined by a expeditionary Danubian force that assisted in a general counter-attack, Greco-Danubian Forces made considerable gains in Macedonia. 

Background 

In 1818, Alexander Ypsilantis, a Greek national, was elected by his peers to lead a coordinated insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. A member of Filiki Eteriaa secret 19th-century organization whose purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule of Greece and establish an independent Greek state, he was chosen the group's leader after the death of its predecesor. Alexander incited rebellion across Greece in 1821, gaining traction across the region. Despite early victories, the Greeks were weakened by internal strife, including two civil wars.  The Ottoman Empire, along with their Egyptian allies, battered the Greeks, by 1825 most of the Peloponnese was under Egyptian control, and the city of Missolonghi—put under siege by the Turks since April 1825—fell in April 1826. Although the Sultan was defeated in Mani, he had succeeded in suppressing most of the revolt in the Peloponnese and Athens had been retaken.

Europe, which had been mostly hostile to the uprising, underwent a change in opinion in 1826. Encouraged by British and Russian delegations, the Greeks formally applied for the mediation provided in the Petersburg Protocol, while the Turks and the Egyptians showed no willingness to stop fighting. Canning therefore prepared for action by negotiating the Treaty of London (6 July 1827) with France and Russia. This provided that the Allies should again offer negotiations, and if the Sultan rejected it they would exert all the means which circumstances would allow to force the cessation of hostilities. Meanwhile, news reached Greece in late July 1827 that Mehmet Ali's new fleet was completed in Alexandria and sailing towards Navarino to join the rest of the Egyptian-Turkish fleet. The aim of this fleet was to attack Hydra and knock the island's fleet out of the war. On 29 August, the Porte formally rejected the Treaty of London's stipulations, and, subsequently, the commanders-in-chief of the British and French Mediterranean fleets, Admiral Edward Codrington and Admiral Henri de Rigny sailed into the Gulf of Argos and requested to meet with Greek representatives on board the HMS Asia

On 20th of October, a combined fleet of British, French, and Russian ships obliterated the Egyptian-Ottoman Fleet at the Battle of Navarino. The battle secured the independence of Greece, which was confirmed in 1832. 

After several years of full independence, Danubian diplomat, Victor Kraus, offered Otto, King of Greece, the province of Macedonia in exchange for assistance in the upcoming war. Revived Hellenic nationalism had surged in recent years, and thus Otto was compelled by the nationalists to agree to the proposition. 

Greek Invasion of Macedonia 

The total Greek forces in 1854 was numbered at a single corps - divided into the Hellenic Army and a local defense front tasked with the protection of the Greek borders. When the war broke out, the Greek Corps, composed of 40,000 men - 14 brigades - was mobilized along the border. Their concentrated numerical superiority in the region, galvanized the General Chief of Staff to adapt a offensive strategy. General Christodoulos Hatzipetros, a renown revolutionary and adjutant to King Otto, was granted command of the offensive force. The Greek General Staff sought to seize the regional capital, Kozanie, less then 60 miles north of Larissa. The city boasted a substantial Greek population, and would provide a path to Thessaloniki in the west. While a handful of divisions would secure Kozanie, the bulk of the Army would move towards Ioannina, the regional capital of Epirus. Both cities were lightly garrisoned, but their locations were accessible for Ottoman counter-attacks, in Albania and Macedonia. 

On August 3rd, 11,000 Greek soldiers marched towards Servia, just seven miles south of Kozanie. The Greeks had intended to quickly eliminate the communication facilities in the region - they wanted to ensure their invasion would not be known to the Ottoman High Command until their opening operations had succeeded. The Ottoman brigade that occupied Servia, managed to hold off the incoming Greek Army for nearly eleven hours - enough time for the defense force in Kozanie to send word to Istanbul. Hatzipetros was more successful, capturing Ioannina ahead of schedule without adequate resistance. From Ioannina, the Greeks swept to the coast, setting their sights at Sarande, Albania. When they arrived, in early September, the Greek Army found itself lacking adequate supply routes, and was forced to retreat South. 

In the East, the Ottoman High Command had sent an army of 13,000 to secure Thessaloniki. Their arrival sparked concerns in Kozanie. The Greeks, whom had just occupied the regional capital, elected to continue the march against Thessaloniki, despite the recent reinforcement. Muhammed Said Pasha, the regional General, opted to meet the equal Greek Army (numerically) in the field. Near Virgina, the two armies clashed for several hours. The terrain favored the Ottoman Army - their defensive position in the mountains constricted the attacking power of the Greeks. Eventually, the Greeks withdrew, but their disorderly retreat allowed the Ottomans to swiftly strike. Utilizing their cavalry, the Ottomans massacred the retreating army to the point of decimation. 

Ottoman Invasion of Greece

Pasha's victory in Virgina opened the entire eastern coast of Greece to his advance. However, Pasha was mindful of Hatzipetros Army, which retained the bulk of the Hellenic Army. Invading the Greek Homeland would  provoke Hatzipetros to withdraw his army and strike Pasha - yet such an action could prove disastrous for Pasha. His army was a third of Hatzipertros's, and weary from the previous battle. Instead of provoking such a motion alone, Pasha called on the Sultan to mobilize an additional army. Sultan Abdülmecid erased any sign of hesitation from his strategy, authorizing his final reserves, numbered at 32,000, to assist Pasha. The war-plan, now modified, aimed for the swift defeat of the Greeks. Their fall would allow the Turks time to redeploy to the more important fronts, mainly in Bosnia and Syria. 

While the reinforced army hurried west, Pasha made his offensive maneuver into the mainland of Greece. As expected, Hatzipetros was forced to withdraw from Albania, ordered by Otto to defend against the incoming swarm. After the Ottomans recaptured Larissa, the remaining Greek reserves were called up to defend Domokos. Meanwhile, Hatzipertros had reached Trikala, 25 miles east of Pasha, and 40 miles south of the Ottoman reinforcement army. Caught between the two forces, Christodoulus was unable to relieve the army in Domokos, which fell in a pitched battle to Pasha's Army. With the remaining Greek force in Thessaly crushed, the main Greek Army turned and withdrew to Western Greece. 

Pasha continued on to the South, defeating the remnants of resistance - before reaching Attica in late-November. Concurrently, the reinforced Army had turned west to pursue Hatzipetros, intending to knock out the bulk of the Greek Army while Pasha occupied Athens. On the 26th of November, the two armies met outside Agrino, in the western mountains. The Battle of Agrino would halt the Ottoman advance, but the victory was far from decisive. The Greeks had been diminished in numbers - and incapable of assisting the government in Athens (which had fled the city a week prior.) And yet, the Turks were incapable of launching another assault on the entrenched Greek force - compelled to starve their opponent out, rather than risk the entire campaign on another futile attack. 

The deadlock infuriated the Sultan, who had committed the extra troops as a means to quickly end the war in Greece. He threatened to dismiss Pasha if results were not produced. Mortified by the threat, Pasha launched an attack on Athens, capturing the city with heavy casualties on the 2nd of December. 

Danubian Intervention

In early 1855, the Danubian General Staff authorized a expeditionary force to intervene in Greece. Transported by the Red Star Fleet, 11,000 Danubian veteran soldiers were sent to garrison in the Peloponnese. Pasha sought to defeat the intervening army at pace, fearing the pinned Greek army would join with the Danubians. To his advantage, the Danubian Army and the Greek Army were separated by a sea on one side, and the thin Isthmus of Corinth, which was heavily defended by the Ottoman Army. Lt. General Helmuth von Folttevas, commander of the expeditionary force, opted to utilize the Danubian naval supremacy and cross the Gulf of Patras. When Pasha crossed into the Peloponeese, the Danubian force had already moved into western Greece and joined with the stranded army of Hatzipetros.

Once news reached the Ottoman Army in western Greece, the larger Turkish force withdrew to Athens. During the retreat, the two Turkish Armies merged in the city of Molos, turning around to meet the approaching Greek Army. On the 21st of March, the two armies met at Lamia, and battled overnight. Danubian technological supremacy gave the Greco-Danubian forces the substantial advantage, routing the Turks within three days. 

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