Osman Nuri Pasha
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Photograph of Osman Nuri Pasha by the brothers Abdullah Frères, circa 1895
|Nickname(s)||Marshal of the Palace|
Tokat in Central Anatolia, Ottoman Empire
5 April 1900 (aged 67–68)|
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Osman Nuri Pasha (Ottoman Turkish: عثمان نوری پاشا; 1832, Tokat, Ottoman Empire – 5 April 1900, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire), also known as Gazi Osman Pasha, was an Ottoman field marshal and the hero of the Siege of Plevna in 1877. Although unsuccessful in defending the city, he was awarded the title Gazi ("warrior" or "veteran") for gallantry in holding the city for five months against superior Russo-Romanian forces. In addition to his Adjutancy title, Osman received the Order of the Medjidie and the Imtiyaz Medal for his services to the Empire. He was made Marshal of the Palace by the Sultan and the Ottoman military anthem called Plevna March was composed for his achievements. The Istanbul suburb of Taşlıtarla was renamed Gaziosmanpaşa in his honour.
Early life and education
Osman Nuri was born into the prominent Yağcıoğulları family of the city of Tokat in Central Anatolia. His father was a civil worker who, soon after Osman's birth, was appointed to a position in the Ottoman capital, so the family moved to İstanbul. Osman attended the Beşiktaş Military High School and then graduated from the Ottoman Military College in 1852 as a lieutenant, entering the cavalry arm at the beginning of the Crimean War.
He fought in Crimea, where his bravery secured him a promotion as first lieutenant. After the end of the war, Osman was appointed to the general staff and, a year later, had risen to the rank of captain. In 1859 he was appointed as a military representative in the forming of the cadastral and census map of the Ottoman Empire, a job he fulfilled for the next two years. In 1861, Osman was sent to Lebanon where a rebellion had been started by Yusuf Ekrem in Syria. In 1866 he was dispatched to another troubled area of the Empire, Crete, which was engulfed in a massive revolt. His efforts there were noticed by Serdar-ı Ekrem Omar Pasha, so he was promoted to colonel and was awarded with the Order of the Medjidie, third grade. His next appointment was Yemen, in 1868, where he was promoted to the rank of major general, but also caught a disease which forced him to return to Istanbul in 1871.
After a few months of rest, he was placed in charge of the Third Army in Rumelia. In 1873 he became a lieutenant general and returned for a short while to Istanbul, before being sent to Iskodra and later to Bosnia. His appointment there didn't last long because he couldn't get along with the local governor, Derviş Pasha, so he was moved to the Fourth Army. In 1876, the Principality of Serbia proclaimed its independence and declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Osman Pasha, who had at that time his headquarters at Vidin, defeated the Serbian army, but in April 1877 Russia declared war on the Ottomans. The Russian troops crossed the Danube into Bulgaria and Osman, with his army of 15,000 men and 174 cannons, was tasked with protecting the important fortress of Nikopol. Before he could get there, the city fell on 16 July after the battle of Nikopol.
Osman knew that the Russian's next objective would be to cross the Balkans, the last important natural obstacle before Istanbul itself, but they could not risk that if they had a strong enemy force behind them. So he moved his army 20 miles south of Nikopol, at Plevna, a small town surrounded by hills and ravines. The first Russian attack was easily repulsed on 20 July.
After that, Osman set about preparing for the next attack. He took advantage of the natural landscape and built a strong network of forts, multiple trench lines and redoubts that enabled him to fully use his superior armament (his troops had Krupp breech-loading artillery, long range Peabody-Martini rifles and Winchester repeaters, which severely outgunned and outranged the Russians). He also received 5,000 soldiers as reinforcements. On 30 July the Russians attacked again only to lose over 7,000 soldiers (almost a third of the attacking force). By now, with the Russian forces severely depleted and demoralized, Osman Pasha could have launched a counterattack that would have endangered the whole Russian army south of the Danube, but he chose to obey his orders and instead defended Plevna.
The Russians were quick to recover. Grand Duke Nicholas, commander of the Russian troops, sent an urgent telegram to Prince Carol of the United Principalities asking for Romanian support. The Romanian army sent 40,000 soldiers with 112 guns, modern Krupp pieces equal to those of the Ottomans, and Carol was named commander of the joint Russian-Romanian troops around Plevna. By now, the Allied army numbered 80,000 soldiers against an Ottoman force of around 40,000. Against Carol's wishes, the Allies launched another large scale attack on Plevna on 11 September. After two days of fighting, even if the Allies had managed to dislodge the Ottomans from a few of the redoubts, almost all of them were recaptured, with the exception of Grivitza 1, taken by the Romanian soldiers.
The Allies could not withstand such severe casualties so they settled for a siege and fully surrounded Plevna. Osman Pasha asked for permission to withdraw before the encirclement was complete, but he was denied. By December, with food and ammunition running low and his troops suffering from starvation, cold and disease, Osman knew he could not hold on throughout the winter and that no help from outside was available. Instead of surrendering, he chose to try and break through the siege lines. On 9 December, the Ottoman army smashed into a Russian sector and, for a while, it seemed that they had managed to open a way out. But the Russians recovered and, after bitter hand-to-hand fighting, closed the breach driving the Ottomans back. But the besieged army could not return to Plevna because, while they were busy with the Russians, the Romanian army had stormed the defenses protecting their rear, making a return to the fortifications impossible. Furthermore, Osman was wounded in the leg by a bullet and his troops panicked, thinking that he had died. With his army caught between the Allies, Osman Pasha had no choice but to capitulate, so he surrendered his sword to the Romanian colonel Mihail Cerchez.
In 1878, after the peace treaty, he returned from Russian captivity and received a hero's welcome in Istanbul, being named "Gazi" (Victorious) and elevated to the rank of marshal. He would go on serving as war minister on four occasions.
Siege of Pleven
When the Russians were on an attack to Nikopol, Osman Pasha was in Vidin with his army. The Ottoman high command ordered Osman Pasha to reinforce Nikopol with 20,000 soldiers. While Osman Pasha was on his way to Nikopol the city fell to the Russians in Battle of Nikopol on 16 July 1877. The Russians, knowing that Osman Pasha was heading to Nikopol too, planned to intercept and attack Osman Pasha's forces. Osman Pasha’s troops were 20 miles away from Nikopol. Osman Pasha quickly created a strong fortress, raising earthworks with redoubts digging trenches, and quarrying out gun emplacements. On 19th of July Russian troops reached Pleven and started bombarding Plevna. The next day Russian troops continued bombarding, eventually forcing some Ottoman forces of the outer defences. However, Osman Pasha was already planning some countertactics against these Russian attacks.
During the war, reinforcements to both sides were coming, making this was the first battle. After that, Russians lost 4,000 men while the Ottomans counted mereley 1,000 fallen soldiers. In the second battle, Osman Pasha strengthened his defences. The Russians were reinforced from the army of Prince Carol of Romania. On 31st of July the Russians attacked on Plevna again but Ottoman troops managed to repulse the Russian army. After this second war, Russia’s loss was 7.300 while Ottoman’s was 2,000, making this once again a small victory for the defending Ottomans. After repulsing, Russians made research about the area, resulting in the decision by Russia to exterminate Plevna's sources. Russia had an attack on Osman Pasha's troops in Battle of Lovcha. This attacked proved to be successful, as the Russian troops were able to eradicate any sort of communication and supply lines of Plevna. Meanwhile, the number of Osman Pasha’s soldiers was raised to 30,000, whereas the Russian’s counted 100,000 men on their side. On 11th of September the Russians started yet again bombing Plevna, with Prince Carol being at the battlefield too. The Russian was succeeded in taking a few redoubts but Osman Pasha got back them. After third battle Russians lost roughly 20,000, while Ottoman lost only 5,000.
Growing Russian and Romanian armies stopped attacks. General Eduard Ivanovich Todleben came to see the situation of the siege. He was experienced in siege warfare. He decided to encircle the city.
Then Russian-Romanian army got closer by 24 October. Supplies began to run low in the city. On 9 December, Osman Pasha decided to make rapid attack on Russian at night. They fought there sword to sword but it was 5 Russian soldiers to an Ottoman soldier. Osman Pasha’s troops were driven back and he was shot in the leg by a stray bullet. Rumors of Osman Pasha’s death made panic and Ottoman troops were driven back to Plevna. At the end of the battle, Ottomans lost 5,000, while Russia lost 2,000. The next day, Osman Pasha surrendered the city to the Romanian Colonel.
After the battle started, several Ottoman soldiers were from Bosnia and they claimed that Osman had a relationship with a girl from Bosnia only known as "Đula". The Bosnian prisoners of war came back to Bosnia and composed a poem about the suffering of Osman after they lost the battle and how he was sure that he'll never see his girl again. The poem is called "Zaplakala Šećer Đula" translated roughly to ("The beautiful Đula started crying") or more accurately ("The Sweet Rose Wept"). The actual author of the poem is unknown and is claimed to be written by several people. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the poem is represented as a Sevdalinka. The Bosnian group "Divanhana" made a music video out of the Sevdalinka.
The best known version of the poem:
Original lyrics, Bosnian language
Zaplakala šećer Đula
Osman paše vjerna ljuba
Moj Osmane gdje si bio
gdje si vojsku izgubio
Evo mene Đulo mlada ispod Plevna starog grada
sto mi care vojske dade
sve mi Đulo,za din pade
Ja sam Đulo ropstva pao
britku sablju otpasao
pa sad nemam nikog svoga
osim Allaha jedinoga
Đulo mlada preudaj se
meni nikad ne nadaj se
dušman me je zarobio
sa tobom me rastavio
Sweet Djula started to weep,
Osman's Pasha faithful love.
"My Osman, where have you been,
where did you lost your Army?"
Here I am, young Djula,
below the old town of Plevna,
All the Army that was given to me my by the Car,
they all fell down in the name of faith.
I am, Djula, a prisoner now,
I've surrendered my sharp sword,
Now I don't have no one to call my own,
Except for God, One and Only.
Young Djula, go ahead and re-marry,
Don't ever hope to see me again.
My adversary imprisoned me,
Disunited me from you.
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- Parry Melanie (ed.) (1997) "Osman Nuri Pasha" Chambers Biographical Dictionary (6th ed.) Larousse Kingfisher Chambers, New York, ISBN 0-550-16060-4 ;
- Dupuy, Trevor N.; Johnson, Curt; and Bongard, David L. (1992) "Osman Nuri Pasha" Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography HarperCollins Publishers, New York, ISBN 0-06-270015-4 ;
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- Hülagü, M. Metin (1993) Gazi Osman Paşa, 1833–1900: askeri ve siyasi hayatı Boğaziçi Yayınları, Istanbul, ISBN 975-451-094-6 ;
- Yenice, İhsan and Fidan, Raşit (2001) Plevne kahramanı Gazi Osman Paşa, 1833–1900 Gaziosmanpaşa Belediyesi Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, ISBN none;
- Uçar, Nail (1978) Gazi Osman Paşa ve Plevne Orkun Yayınevi, Istanbul, ISBN none;
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