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The Levant and Balkan War (A Federation of Equals)

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The Levant and Balkan War
CollageBAL
Date July 1854 - August 1856
Location Balkans, Egypt, Syria, Anatolia, Crete
Result Danubian Victory; Treaty of Ankara
Belligerents
DanubianFederationEqualsFlag The Danubian Federation

Flag of Muhammad Ali Egypt
State Flag of Greece (1833-1858) The Kingdom of Greece
Flag of Sweden Kingdom of Sweden

Flag of the Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire

Flag of Wallachia Principality of Wallachia
Flag of Moldavia Principality of Moldavia

Commanders and leaders
DanubianFederationEqualsFlag Ion Horsa Codrinau

DanubianFederationEqualsFlag Edvard Francois Masaryk
DanubianFederationEqualsFlag Elias DeSanctis
DanubianFederationEqualsFlag Alexander Kremvera
DanubianFederationEqualsFlag Victor Kraus
Flag of Muhammad Ali Muhammad Sa'id Pasha of Egypt
State Flag of Greece (1833-1858) Otto, King of Greece

Flag of the Ottoman Empire Abdülmecid I

Flag of the Ottoman Empire General Halil Pasha
Flag of Wallachia Prince Barbu Ştirbei of Wallachia
Flag of Moldavia Prince Grigore Ghica of Moldavia

Strength
Total: 440,000

DanubianFederationEqualsFlag 260,000 Danubians
Flag of Muhammad Ali 100,000 Egyptians
State Flag of Greece (1833-1858) 60,000 Greeks
Flag of Sweden 20,000 Swedes

Total: 360,000

Flag of the Ottoman Empire 300,000 Ottomans
Flag of Wallachia 30,000 Wallachians
Flag of Moldavia 30,000 Moldavians

Casualties and losses
138,000 144,000

 The Levant and Balkan War (also known as the First Balkan War, the Forgotten War, or in Egypt, The War of the Levant) was a military conflict in which the Ottoman Empire and her European allies, faced the Danubian Federation and its overseas protectorates. 

The immediate causes for the war involved the Egypto-Danubian Alliance, which served as both a political and economic agreement between the Cairo and Vienna. The Ottomans attempted to draw the Egyptians back into their sphere, escalating tensions when the small Turkish raiding ships fired on the DFS Sofa. The longer-term causes involved the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire, and Danubian economic interests in the Sinai and Levant. 

The Danubian Federation and the Ottoman Empire went to war in July 1854 over the protection of Egypt after a series of ultimatums were delivered. The Ottomans gained the upper hand in the Levant, defeating a string of Egyptian armies, while the European front remained stagnant. The Federation was plagued with internal strife, and incapable of providing the full host to the front. Nevertheless, thanks to the strategic approach of the Danubian General, Alexander Kremvera, and his fellow officers, the Danubian Army launched a massive offensive that would put the Federal Army inside Istanbul, and later, knocking at the doors of Ankara. 

There were smaller campaigns in eastern Libya and Macedonia, where Swedish and Greek forces (respectively) managed to weaken the Ottoman presence in those specific regions. 

Background

In 1809, nearly a decade after Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, Mehmet Ali Pasha (Muhammad Ali), an Albanian-born Ottoman General, deposed the former Wāli of Egypt and ascended to the position. After eliminating the most prominent threat to his domestic rule, the Mamluks, Muhammad sought to reform Egyptian society, forcing through vast military changes that initiated the process of westernization. He also encouraged the creation of an industrial economy, and with the aid of European intellectuals, modernized the economic perspective of Egypt. 

Though Muhammad Ali’s chief aim was to establish a European-style military, and carve out a personal empire, he waged war initially on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud II, in Arabia and Greece, although he later came into open conflict with the Ottoman Empire. Frequently promised rewards for his repeated service in the Ottoman Military, Ali was outraged after he was not given the promised reward for the aid he had given to Turkey during the Greek War of Independence and the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829. 

The Egyptian Eyalet invaded the Ottoman Empire in 1831, winning a series of pitched battles against the Turkish forces. By 1833, Ali had subdued the entire Levant, managing to secure a peace that incorporated Syria Vilayet and Aleppo Vilayet into the Egyptian Eyalet. Seven years later, Ali attempted to secure the independence of Egpyt, petitioning the European powers to allow his motion. The British, Austrians, and Russians refused to accept Mehmet's proposal, and aided the Ottoman forces in the subsequent conflict. Ali, managed to defeat a small coalition force, securing the autonomy of his state - before crushing the remaining Ottoman invaders. 

The Path to War

In 1850, the Danubian Federation sent a host of diplomats and local economists to assist in the development of Egypt, securing a loose economic deal with Wali 'Muhammad Sa'id Pasha', the son of Ali. For the following four years, Federal and Egyptian delegates furthered the strength of their joint frendship, despite strong opposition from the Ottoman Empire. Abdülmecid I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, amassed support from his military subordinates to launch a military expedition to regain the lost Levant, but was thwarted by the increasing Danubian support in the region. 

Worried about the territorial integrity of his nation, Pasha drafted a full military, political, and economic alliance and invited President Codrinaru to sign the pact. Unshaken by domestic issues, Codrinaru left his troubled country and traveled to Cairo, where he affixed his signature to the Treaty of Alexandria.  The terms of the treaty secured a significant amount of Federal investment in Egyptian infrastructure and industry - a signal to the Turks that the Danubians were entrenching themselves in the former Eyalet. In return, the island of Crete was transferred to Federal control and Codrinaru got a pretext for war. Conflict became a certainty after, on 15th March 1854, the DFS Sofa (one of the larger vessels in the Red Star Fleet) was fired upon by a small gun boat flying a Turkish flag while patrolling off the coast of North Africa.

The “Gulf of Tobruk Resolution” was rushed through congress and promised that the Federation would oppose all Ottoman aggression in the Mediterranean.  That war came in July 1854. The Turks issued an ultimatum on the 4th, with nominal British backing, that Egypt transfer all its possessions north and east of Sinai. Before the reply (which was unsurprisingly outright rejection) could reach Istanbul, the Federation issued its own demands of the Sultan. British action seemed assured, but a timely intervention by Foreign Minister Victor Kraus in resuscitating an old alliance with the Greeks and promising Federal support for their claims on the wealthy province of Macedonia pacified a government in Westminster that was keen not to get entangled in a major European land war, for which the British Army was ill prepared (especially given since Britain had not had a continental alliance with a Great Power since the War of Austrian Succession). Federal troops crossed into Northern Bosnia on the 16th in the start of what looked to be an easy war against a power ill-equipped to fight on three fronts.

First Hostilities 

The Federal Armies stationed along the southern border were ordered to move against the Turks on three fronts, the first in Bosnia, the second in Moldovia, and the last in Wallachia. Bosnia, as the sole Ottoman territory directly bordering the Federation - was the priority objective for the initial Danubian offensive. The Federal Southern Armies, stationed around Croatia, aimed for the quick capture of Bihać, a northern Bosnian city. Iskender Pasha, a famed cavalry officer, tightly held the city, awaiting re-inforcements to relieve the city and subsequently counter-attack the invading army. Pasha commanded seven hundred soldiers in the garrison, drawing the defensive line at the old Bihać fort.

The Danubians encircled Bihać in early August, besieging the city with a considerably large force. Initially, the Federal generals attempted to assault the city, led by a profound barrage of artillery fire. Pasha returned the attack with equal firepower, forcing the Danubian forces to retreat a substantial distance. While the Federation prepared camp, Pasha conducted a series of diversion raids - allowing ample supplies to be rushed inside the city confines. By the time the Danubian troops had regained order, Pasha had withdrawn back into Bihać - guarded by a warning barrage. The Danubian inability to quickly seize the advantage in Bosnia ended the chances of a swift occupation. Instead, a series of fronts across the border would be open - in Bosnia, Danubia, Libya, Macedonia, Egypt, and Syria. 

The Six Front Phase (August 1854 - June 1855)

The Syrian Front (August 1854 - June 1855)

The Greco-Macedonian Front (August 1854 - June 1855)

The Danubian Front (August 1854 - June 1855)

The Bosnian Front (August 1854 - March 1855)

The Egyptian Front (November 1854 - June 1855)

The Libyan Front (December 1854 - June 1855) 

Danubian Offensive (1855-1856)

By mid 1855, the military junta in Vienna were receiving encouraging reports of widespread military advances. Three consecutive victories by General Alexander Kremvera at the Battle of Crlijeni (February 3rd), the 1st Battle of Bucharest (March 12th) and the Battle of Kotor (March 24th), secured the first Danubian opportunity to strike the heart of the Ottoman Empire through Bosnia and Romania. Federal troops advanced at such unexpected pace that the Red Star Fleet submitted a proposal to launch a naval expedition in the Bosphorus and attempt a landing at Istanbul. Although the landing operation failed when Turkish re-inforcements arrived, the city had been besieged by the small landing party for nearly two months.

Despite the success of the war, Masaryk's public approval dropped sharply. The leading chairman was forced out and Marshal de Sanctis took his place as executive Chairman, promising a return to democracy, with elections set for early 1856. All the focus on domestic policy in preference to the war led the Balkan-Levant War to be labelled across the Federation as the ‘Forgotten’ War. That said, it didn’t prevent the army making gains throughout the rest of the year. By the time the Presidential elections actually took place, all of Bosnia was under Federal control as was the majority of Albania and much of Northern Greece. In fact, gains were even made in Romania, where troops who had been occupied with Hungary were diverted south. Victories at the 3rd Battle of Nagyseben and the 2nd Battle of Bucharest among others forced Turkish troops to retreat back South. This string of victories culminated in the capture of Istanbul on 23rd December 1855, with those troops so recently forced back onto the ships in the straits re-inforced from the mainland. Victory at Gallipoli two days prior to the fall of the city meant that the Turks now had no standing armies of any form in all of Europe. 

The fall of the capital was expected to lead to an almost immediate capitulation, yet when, after some five days of heavy fighting, the troops of the Skala Italian Army who had led the charge into the city breached the inner walls of the Topkapi Palace, it became clear that the entire government had fled the city long ago. The Sultan had left the capital for Anatolia on the declaration of war. Turkish policy was not one aiming for total victory – the times when Ottoman troops could realistically march on Vienna were long gone and the Imperial Navy knew they stood no chance of holding the straits. Instead, the Ottomans aimed to force the Federations hand in the Middle East by bringing Egypt to its knees, hoping to regain its stake in Europe on the strength of their ever advancing armies in the deserts of the Sahara and the Levant. In a very real way, the policy seemed to be working and the debates that earned the war its honorary title had every chance of being entirely futile.

In 1856, Victor Kraus was elected President of the Danubian Federation. His Minister of War, the infamous Jovan Lilic, later President of the Federation (1880-1885), elevated the charismatic General, Alexander Kremvera, to the Chief of General Staff. Their relationship would later lead to the rise and fall of the Empire of the Danube.

Kremvera convened a war council in Istanbul, intending to deliver the knock-out blow to the Ottoman Sultan. Kraus personally attended the War Council in Istanbul within the first month of his term. The plan was simple; gain total control of the Balkans and then push into Anatolia across the straits. The implementation, though, turned out to be far from simple. The first troops to land in Uskadar landed with little opposition at the end of July. The supposedly parallel invasion of Canakkale from Gallipoli came almost a month later, by which point the Ottomans had given up their demands on Egypt, focusing all their efforts on protecting the Sultan in Ankara.

The delay was caused by arguments within the War Council about whether the second crossing was a good idea given there was little Ottoman resistance in the area; some generals argued that it was unwise to split their forces given the Ottomans would clearly divert their forces back North, but ultimately those who argued it was safer to secure the Straits entirely won through. In hindsight, this could be seen as a mistake, for the resulting weakness in the Republican National Guard on its push towards Ankara allowed it to be intercepted by the feared Ottoman General Halil Pasha at Bolu on the Black Sea. In the resulting battle, the great Pasha managed to encircle the Federal troops despite starting out in a much worse position. Total defeat was only prevented by mass re-inforcements being shipped over from the Balkans. Pasha’s army was repulsed from the city with hefty losses and leaderless. Nonetheless, the battle had shaken both sides enough that peace soon followed.

Peace and Aftermath

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