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The Battle of Driskos (Greek: Μάχη του Δρίσκου, Turkish language: Driskos Muharebesi), took place on 26–28 November (O.S.), 1912. It was a battle fought between Greek forces under Alexandros Romas and Ottoman forces under General Esad Pasha during the First Balkan War. The battle began when the Hellenic Army attacked the Ottoman defensive line at the Hani of Kamber Aga.
The Greeks seized the Ottoman camp at mount Driskos and cleared its surroundings. On 27 November, the Ottomans regrouped after receiving considerable reinforcements in both manpower and artillery, launching an assault on Greek positions. The Greeks began withdrawing at noon the following day, after realizing that they were at risk of being overwhelmed. The battle of Driskos marked the last intervention of the Garibaldini into Greek expansionist conflicts.
During 1912, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro joined in a Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire. Fearing a new war in the Balkans, the Ottomans mobilized their armed forces on 14 September and began transferring units to Thrace; the Balkan League responded in kind. On 30 September, the League presented the Ottomans with a list of demands regarding the rights of its Christian population. The Ottoman Empire rebuffed the demands, recalled its ambassadors in Sofia, Belgrade and Athens and expelled the League's negotiators on 4 October. The League declared war against the Ottomans, while Montenegro had already began military operations on 25 September.
Greece dispatched the Army of Epirus and the Army of Thessaly to its frontiers in Epirus and Thessaly respectively. The Army of Epirus numbered 20,000 men and 30 artillery pieces and was commanded by Lieutenant General Konstantinos Sapountzakis. Facing the Greeks in Epirus was the Yanya Corps under General Esad Pasha, which numbered 35,000 men and 102 artillery pieces; most of which were concentrated at the Yanya Fortified Area protecting the regional capital of Yanya (Ioannina). The Army of Epirus was ordered to only conduct a limited number of offensive operations, mainly focusing on protecting the Army of Thessaly's western flank, because it was too small to breach the Ottoman defenses around Yanya.
The Yanya Fortified Area included two major fortresses, those of Bizani and Kastritsa, guarding the main southern approaches, along with five smaller forts in a ring around the city, covering the western and northwestern approaches. The terrain south of Yanya provided excellent defensive ground, as all the roads leading to the city could be observed from Bizani. The Ottomans had augmented their defenses with permanent fortifications, constructed under the guidance of German General Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz. These were equipped with concrete artillery emplacements, bunkers, trenches, barbed wire, searchlights and machine gun positions.
The Army of Epirus crossed the Bridge of Arta into Ottoman territory at midday 6 October, capturing the Gribovo heights by the end of the day. On 9 October, the Ottomans counterattacked initiating the Battle of Gribovo, on the night of 10–11 October the Greeks were pushed back towards Arta. After regrouping the following day, the Hellenic Army went on the offensive once again finding the Ottoman positions abandoned and capturing Filippiada. On 19 October, the Army of Epirus launched an attack on Preveza in conjunction with the Ionian squadron of the Greek Navy, taking the city on 21 October. On 23 October, Esat Pasha prodded the Greek defenses at Pente Pigadia (Beshpinar). Snowfall prevented the Ottomans from carrying out a large-scale attack, while the Greeks held their ground in a series of clashes. On 27 October, the Hellenic Army captured Metsovo, thwarting an attempt by Ottoman irregulars to retake it on 9 November.
Motivated by militant Philhellenism and Liberationist ideology, the leader of the Italian Redshirts, Ricciotti Garibaldi, called upon his followers to support the Greek war effort. Garibaldi only managed to recruit 140–200 Italian volunteers due to administrative barriers placed by the country's government and internal opposition within Italy's leftist circles. Nevertheless, many Greek citizens and members of the Greek diaspora, as well as smaller numbers of Bulgarians, Britons and Frenchmen answered the call, bringing the unit to 2,224 men. The unit was split into four battalions, two of which were dubbed Corps of Greek Red Shirts and were commanded by former Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament and veteran Redshirt, Count Alexandros Romas. The Garibaldini were equipped by the Greek government, which provided them with obsolete Gras rifles and old surplus swords, but failed to issue them with winter greatcoats. The Garibaldini and a regular army rear guard battalion arrived at Metsovo between 17 and 20 November, forming the 3,800-man strong Metsovo Detachment. On 24 November, Sapountzakis ordered Romas to capture Mount Driskos and the north-eastern shore of Lake Pamvotida. The Garibaldini were then to unite with the rest of the Army of Epirus and launch a coordinated attack on Bizani.
At 1:00 a.m. on 26 November, the Corps of Greek Red Shirts assaulted the caravanserai of Kamber Agha, located between the Vigla and Toufekistra hills, which was defended by 600 Ottomans and 2 artillery pieces. The battle lasted until midday, whereupon the Garibaldini were able to secure the Lingiades and Giobourtza villages and the Ottoman camp on Driskos. A total of 200 Ottomans were killed and a limited amount of material was seized. In the afternoon Romas's troops were reinforced with the rest of the Redshirts under Garibaldi and a unit of Cretan volunteers under Kriaris and Makris, which enabled them to repulse the Ottomans from the plain in front of Driskos. In the meantime, Garibaldi's wife and daughter organized a field hospital at Sotiros Monastery, in the Greek rear.
On 27 November the Ottomans regrouped, reaching some 7,000–10,000 men with the arrival of the 19th Ottoman Division, including a powerful searchlight, 2 mitrailleuses, and a battery of field artillery pieces captured from the Hellenic Army in the aftermath of the Battle of Sorovich. They counterattacked from the direction of Tzoura with additional artillery support from the Kastitsa and Yanya Island batteries. The Garibaldini held their ground, but Makris was killed and three officers, including Romas's deputy Bardopoulos, were wounded. On 28 November, the Ottomans launched another attack on Driskos after forwarding their battery to the caravanserai of Lefkas. The Greeks were reinforced by 44 men and a single 75 mm Schneider-Danglis 06/09 mountain gun. The Greeks began experiencing a serious shortage in ammunition as the supply convoy from Grevena failed to arrive on time. Romas, Bardopoulos and many other Greek officers including Lorentzos Mavilis were injured, leaving Peppino Garibaldi to assume command. Just before he received a second, and ultimately mortal injury to his head, according to eyewitness Nikos Karvounis, Mavilis is said to have exclaimed:
|“||I was expecting honors from this war, but not the honor to sacrifice myself for Greece!||”|
Believing that the Metsovo Detachment was at serious risk, General Dimitrios Matthaiopoulos ordered it to withdraw to Metsovo through the caravanserai of Kamber Agha, at midday. Garibaldi's battalions, which had played a limited role in the fighting, covered the Greek retreat and evacuated the wounded.
Greek casualties in the battle of Driskos numbered between 200–400 killed and approximately 400 wounded, while the Ottomans lost between 1,000 and 2,000 killed and wounded. Ricciotti Garibaldi attributed the Greek defeat to poor communication between the Garibaldini and the Army of Epirus. A number of Redshirts later claimed that the Greek state had intentionally left their unit exposed to a numerically superior force and poorly supplied so as to deny it the glory it had once attained at the Battle of Domokos. In any case, the Neapoli-Siatista Evzone Detachment arrived in Metsovo several days later, replacing the casualties the Metsovo Detachment had suffered. On 30 November, Garibaldi disbanded the Garibaldini and the volunteers began demobilizing. Greek Redshirts were said to have been received with hostility by the Greek society, while Italian volunteers were transported to their hometowns on mail trains and under police surveillance, a treatment usually reserved for criminals. The battle of Driskos marked the last intervention of the Garibaldini into Greek expansionist conflicts. Many, including Ricciotti, later turned to Fascism, while a group of dissenters under Cipriano Facchinetti had deserted the movement over its stance on the Albanian Question, generating an uproar of negative press.
Following the conclusion of the Greek campaign in Macedonia, the Army of Epirus received considerable reinforcements. This enabled it to capture the Yanya Fortified Area in the aftermath of the Battle of Bizani (19–21 February 1913). By May 1913, the numerically inferior Ottomans had suffered a series of serious defeats to the League's armies on all fronts. The League had captured most of the Ottoman Empire's European territories and was rapidly approaching Constantinople. On 30 May, the two sides signed the Treaty of London which granted the League's members all Ottoman lands west of a line stretching from Enos on the Aegean Sea to north of Midia on the Black Sea, as well as Crete. The fate of Albania and the Aegean islands occupied by Greece was to be determined by the Great Powers.
- All dates used in this article are Old Style which is 13 days before New Style.
- Kargakos 2012, pp. 26–29.
- Kargakos 2012, pp. 35–38.
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- Erickson, Edward (2003). Defeat in Detail: The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912-1913. Westport: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-275-97888-4.
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- Template:Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους
- Template:Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους
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