Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/212

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Codrington
Codrington
206

news of the attack on the Turkish ships and batteries in Salona Bay, made by Frank Hastings on 29 Sept., Ibrahim Pasha considered himself absolved from his engagement by the action of the Greeks, and sent a strong squadron from Navarino with orders to attack Hastings in the Gulf of Corinth. On 3 Oct. this squadron was met off" the mouth of the gulf by Codrington, and, yielding to his remonstrance, returned to Navarino. Codrington was indeed loud in his complaint of the Turk for violating his plighted word; but assuredly no armistice, even though much more formally agreed to, would permit the free exercise of hostilities by the other belligerent, and the aggressors were unquestionably the Greeks (Finlay, History of the Greek Revolution, ii. 178). Ibrahim, however, understanding that he would not be permitted to carry on any operations against the Greeks by sea, although the Greeks were acting without any reference to the armistice, landed in force in the Morea and proceeded to devastate the country in the customary way, and with all the usual atrocities. On 14 Oct., Codrington having been joined by his whole available force, and by the French and Russian squadrons, numbering in all eleven ships of the line, eight large frigates, and eight smaller vessels, arrived off Navarino, where the Turkish fleet was still anchored. It consisted of three ships of the line, fifteen large frigates, and smaller vessels, bringing up the total to eighty-nine ; a force strong in mere number, but in its composition far inferior to that of the combined fleet, of which Codrington was the commander-in-chief. After the desire which the Turks had shown to leave Navarino, and the actual resumption of hostilities, the allied admirals were of opinion that the blockade of the bay was a necessary precaution. A very few days were sufficient to convince Codrington of the difficulty and danger of blockading Navarino in the then advanced season; he therefore determined to go inside and anchor. But the Turks had so moored their ships round the bay, under the direction, it was said, of a sympathetic Frenchman, that any ships anchoring near the middle of the bay would be exposed to the concentrated fire of every one of the eighty-nine Turkish vessels; and to avoid this, as well as on account of the great depth, Codrington ordered the ships under his command to anchor close in and alongside of the Turks.

Accordingly, on 20 Oct., with a fair wind, they stood into the bay, the guns loaded, the men at quarters. The Turks were equally prepared. It is impossible to suppose that Codrington had any real expectation of peace being preserved between two fleets so situated. The Dartmouth frigate found herself anchored dead to leeward of a Turkish fireship, and sent a boat to move her, or order her to move ; and the Turk, taking for granted that the boat was coming on a hostile mission, fired a volley of musketry into it. The Dartmouth replied, other ships took it up, and within a few minutes the action became general. The real disparity of force was very great, and the issue could scarcely be a moment doubtful. That the battle did last for nearly four hours shows how obstinately the Turks defended themselves. Their loss in killed and wounded, never accurately known, was said to amount to the enormous total of four thousand ; that of the allies was 650. Whether this last was entirely due to the Turkish fire is a little doubtful. Twenty-eight years after the battle the present writer was told by officers of the French navy that it was a tradition in their service that their men at Navarino did, as often as opportunity permitted, fire into the Russian ships, with some idea that they were avenging the retreat from Moscow. If so, the Russian ships probably also fired into the French. It is quite impossible to say whether there is even a grain of truth in this statement, but no suspicion of it appears in Codrington's correspondence, either at the time or afterwards.

In England the news of the sanguinary contest and the destruction of the Turkish fleet was received with very doubtful satisfaction. By the express urgency of the Duke of Clarence, then lord high admiral, rewards were bestowed with unprecedented liberality ; so much so, that it was said at the time that 'more orders were given for the battle of Navarino than for any other naval victory on record' (Chamier, Continuation of James's Naval History (ed. 1860), vi. 372). The admiral himself received the G.C.B., as well as the grand cross of St. Louis from France, the second class of the order of St. George from Russia, and, at a later period, from Greece the gold cross of the Redeemer of Greece. As a matter of policy, however, the battle was very differently considered. Canning had died in the previous August, and his successors were more alive to the practical danger of Russian aggression than to the sentimental advantage of Greek liberation. Codrington was accordingly called on for detailed answers to a schedule of questions, out of which it was hoped the blame might be shown to rest with the admiral ; but while answering these questions with perfect candour, he based his defence mainly on the treaty itself and the official inter-