1867-01-31 RUSSIA

London Times, 31 January 1867, p. 10: RUSSIA. (From our Berlin correspondent.) Berlin, Jan. 28. (Excerpt)

            Constadt Vyestnick, the official organ of the Russian Admiralty, has been authorized to publish the following report from Captain Butakov, of His Russian Majesty's ship Grand Admiral, relative to the conveyance of Christian fugitives from Crete to Greece: --

            "Under the instructions received from our Ambassador at Constantinople I was at first forbidden to take on board any unfortunate victims of the insurrection, who were being cut down indiscriminately by the Turks. A private letter from our Ambassador at the same time ordered me to be guided in my conduct towards these unfortunate people by the behavior of the other foreign men-of-war. Were they to save any Cretan families, so was I. I soon ascertained that Captain Pym, of the British gunboat Assurance, leaving that portion of the Cretan shore which continued in possession of the Turks, and was not in a state of blockade, had sailed to the southern coast of the isle, thence transporting to Athens about 240 people. Accordingly, I wished to put to sea immediately, and, indeed, would have done so at a moment's notice had I not been prevented by the wind constantly blowing from the south. There is no harbour on the southern coast of the isle, and, with the wind blowing right on shore, no boat could have landed where the Christian families had retired. My stay was further prolonged by northern winds setting in with uncommon violence, and forcing me to lie at anchor for five days more. On the 25th of December I was getting up steam, when I heard of the arrival at Canea of the steamer Taman. I sent immediately there for despatches from our Ambassador, and, in a parcel addressed to me by him, was informed of the Porte having declared its consent to Greek families taking refuge on foreign men-of-war. This consent had been signified to Ali Pasha in a conversation with General Ignatiev. On the 26th of December I sailed to Canea, to provide the Taman with an anchor, she having broken hers on entering port. I also left her some divers, with complete apparatus, to enable her to recover a chain and second anchor which had met with a like fate. On the evening of the same day I put to sea again, and made for the southern shore of the isle. On the 27th, at dawn, I arrived opposite the village of Sui, near which several thousand Christians had been congregated for some days past. There were three Turkish steamers in the roadstead, unshipping provisions for the troops on shore, under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, Mustapha Pasha. Sailing on ten miles further east, I stopped at the promontory of St. Rumeli, but the boats sent on shore came back bringing word that there were no families to rescue in that locality. They transported, however, 12 wounded to the frigate. I hauled in the boats, and, approaching within six miles of Sui, saw a large crowd on the hills of Tripiti. The water being deep here, I stood in for the shore. On my boats making for the coast, they were fired at by the Cretans, who had been repeatedly deceived by Turkish cruisers sailing under false colours, and saluting the poor people with grape when they had lured them within range. My boats drew in their oars, the men hallooing in every language they knew that they were Russians, and had come to save them. Then the firing ceased, and a large multitude suddenly emerging from the hills and ravines, all thronged down to the sea. The business of conveying them on board lasted till 11 o'clock at night, when about 1,200 had been safely shipped. The exact number can be better ascertained on landing in the Piraeus, when this report will be completed in time for the Trieste post. The day had been calm, but at 10 p.m. a breeze sprang up which, together with the darkness, greatly increased the difficulties of embarcation from so rugged a shore. I therefore took in my boats and ceased operations. At 3 p.m., while the embarcation was going on, a Turkish war steamer came up, and fired a blank cartridge. Eventually her commander paid me a visit on board the frigate. On sitting down in the cabin, he accosted me in excellent English, and, using the most courteous language, begged to inquire whether I was aware of the contents of the paper he held in his hand. The paper in question was a copy of a communication of the local authorities to the consuls residing in Crete, dated December 21, stating the blockade announced in September to be still in full force. I answered in the affirmative, adding that, seeing the families of my co-religionists in a most miserable situation, I had resolved to save as many of them as I could, and was prepared to bear the responsibility. I had, I said, to answer to my own Government alone, but would tell him that my actions were in harmony with the views of Ali Pasha, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, who, in reply to a question from the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, had expressed himself as above mentioned. The Turkish captain requested an exact copy of the words used by Ali Pasha on this occasion, which I did not scruple to give him as follows: -- `Le fait d'un premier transport des refugiés Crétois, effectué par la canonnière Anglaise, change entièremont la position des choses. Ali Pacha lui-même, interpellé par moi, m'a déclaré aujourd'hui que la Porte ne saurait désormais mettre obstacle à ce que les bâtiments des marines étrangères suivissent cet example.' The Turk then took leave in the same polite manner observed during the whole interview, went on board his steamer and returned to Sui, where the three steamers formerly mentioned, were still in sight. I deem it necessary to add that my guns had been in readiness since the morning, and that the Turkish captain could not help noticing our preparations for combat. I confess to your Excellency that had he or any ship fired in my presence at the defenceless people on shore I should not have hesitated to vindicate the honour of our flag with balls. Fortunately all went off peacefully. My only regret is that circumstances did not permit my carrying away twice the number of persons I did."

            After some nautical details touching on the voyage, the captain relates that he arrived on the 29th of December at dawn in the Piraeus. In a supplement to the despatch, dated the 7th of January, he further states that the people transported by him to the continent were subsequently sent by the authorities to the island of AEgina, on board the Greek frigate Hellas. The total saved by him was found, on closer inspection, to be 1,141, among whom were 8 priests, 51 old men, 19 wounded, 77 volunteers and insurgents, 424 women, and 562 children. A female infant was born during the passage and baptized by the name of Mary, the wife of the Russian Minister at Athens and Captain Butakov acting as sponsors. The crew of the Grand Admiral treated the destitute passengers with the greatest humanity, the officers subscribing 1,700f., to be distributed among them. The unbounded gratitude of those saved equalled that of the Greek ladies and gentlemen who came on board at Athens when the vessel anchored in the Piraeus. 

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin

 

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