Reşid Mehmed Pasha
Reşid Mehmed Pasha, also known as Kütahı (Greek: Μεχμέτ Ρεσίτ πασάς Κιουταχής, 1780–1839), was a prominent Ottoman statesman and general who reached the post of Grand Vizier in the first half of the 19th century, playing an important role in the Greek War of Independence.
Reşid Mehmed was born in Georgia, the son of a Greek Orthodox priest of Pontic Greek origin. As a child, he was captured as a slave by the Turks, and brought to the service of the then Kapudan Pasha Husrev Pasha. His intelligence and ability impressed his master, and secured his rapid rise. At only 29 years, he was appointed governor of Kütahya, from where he acquired his sobriquet.
In 1820, he was sent by Sultan Mahmud II, along with many other pashas, to quell the rebellion of Ali Pasha of Yannina against the Porte. At the same time, the Greeks were preparing their own uprising, which broke out in March 1821. Thus, after the defeat and death of Ali Pasha in 1822, he was at hand to campaign against the Greek rebels.
Operations in Epirus – First Siege of Missolonghi
Having been appointed commander-in-chief of the Ottoman forces in Epirus, he marched south, to meet the Greek forces under Alexandros Mavrokordatos, which were campaigning towards Arta. He inflicted a crushing defeat upon them in the Battle of Peta, on 4 July 1822, and proceeded southwards, to the strategically important town of Missolonghi. There he was met by Omer Vrioni, and their joint force of 8,000 besieged the city for two months, from 25 October to 31 December 1822. Omer Vrioni, contrary to Reşid Mehmed's view, initially tried to take the town by negotiations, which the besieged Greeks took advantage of, dragging them out until November 8, when they were reinforced by sea, at which point they refused to negotiate further. The siege began in earnest, and the two pashas scheduled their main assault for Christmas night, December 24, calculating that the Greeks would be caught by surprise. The plan was leaked to the defenders, and the attack failed. Six days later, the siege was lifted.
Campaign in Thessaly
After the failure at Missolonghi, Reşid Mehmed moved against the mountainous region of Magnesia, which he managed to subdue. For his success, he was appointed governor of the sanjak of Trikala, and was finally appointed commander-in-chief of all Ottoman forces in Rumelia.
Third Siege of Missolonghi
From this position he was tasked by the Porte with taking Missolonghi and thus securing western Greece. Reşid Mehmed assembled an army of more than 35,000 and in February 1825 he set out for Missolonghi. On arriving there on April 20, he immediately invested the town with earthworks and subjected it to heavy bombardment. However, despite his efforts, the Greek garrison, aided by raids from the Greek bands behind his lines and resupplied by the Greek fleet despite the Ottoman naval blockade, resisted effectively. In the end, he was forced to call upon the assistance of Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, whose army had been victorious against Greek forces in the Morea. The Egyptian forces arrived in early November, but a split occurred between the presumptuous Ibrahim and Reşid Mehmed, who withdrew his forces. After the Egyptians failed too in their assaults, Ibrahim acknowledged his error. The two pashas now cooperated, and the siege was intensified. The seaward supply route was cut, forcing threatening the defenders with starvation. Finally, they attempted a desperate escape, breaking out through the besieging forces, on the night of 10 April 1826. The sortie resulted in a massacre of the defenders, and Missolonghi fell to the Ottoman forces.
Campaign in Attica
After this success, Reşid Mehmed turned towards Attica and Athens, where he arrived in July. He besieged the Greek garrison on the Acropolis unsuccessfully for ten months, until his unexpected victory over a Greek relief force at the Battle of Phaleron on 24 April 1827 forced the Greeks to surrender the fort.
After the Greek Revolution
A very distinguished general, Reşid Mehmed fought in the Russo-Turkish War, where he was defeated by General Diebitsch at the Battle of Kulevicha. Subsequently, he was appointed Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, a post he held from January 1829 to 17 February 1833. From that position, he suppressed the Albanian beys and led the Ottoman armies in Anatolia in the Egyptian-Ottoman War. He was captured by the forces of his old antagonist, Ibrahim Pasha, at the war's decisive Battle of Konya in 1832. Appointed commander-in-chief of the Anatolian armies, he campaigned against the Kurds, and died at Sivas in 1839.
Campaign against Bosnia Eyalet
Bosniak kapitan's led by Husein Gradaščević were completely outraged when Sultan Mahmud II granted the newly autonomous Serbia with six Bosniak districts during the Treaty of Adrianople. Husein Gradaščević had already begun to support the cause of the fallen Janissary after the Auspicious Incident and would not allow Sultan Mahmud II to further disintegrate Bosniak territories.
Instead of negotiating with Husein Gradaščević, the Grand Vizier Reşid Mehmed Pasha (already engaged in an aggressive campaign against Albanian Pashas and Beys) mobilized the Ottoman Turks towards Travnik. Disappointed by the Grand Viziers move Husein Gradaščević marched forward with an army of 52,000 strong Bosniaks into Priština. Husein Gradaščević later fought and defeated Reşid Mehmed Pasha at Štimlje.
A Bosnian delegation reached the Grand Vizier's camp in Skopje in November of that year. The Grand Vizier promised this delegation that he would insist to the Sultan that he accept the Bosniak demands. His true intentions, however, were manifested by early December when his cannons attacked Bosnian units stationed on the outskirts of Novi Pazar. Reşid Mehmed Pasha later began an aggressive campaign into Bosnia with the assistance of the renegade kapetan Ali-paša Rizvanbegović and defeated the entire army of Bosnia Eyalet led by Husein Gradaščević outside the town of Stup.
Notes and sources
- İsmail Hâmi Danişmend, Osmanlı Devlet Erkânı, Türkiye Yayınevi, İstanbul, 1971 (Turkish)