American Philhellenes

Their critical contribution to the liberation of Greece and the Revolution of 1821

The philhellenic movement in America was very important. It grew through the love of the Americans for Ancient Greece and the ancient Greek civilization.

What was the contribution of the American philhellenism to the Greek Revolution?
First of all, the fundraisings and the fundraising events that took part all around the United States. Regularly, substantial amounts were gathered which the Philhellenes were distributing from the United States through the London Philhellenic Committee to Greece. With that money; ammunitions, guns, medicines, clothes and whatever the Greek fighters of the Greek Revolution needed was bought.

Then there was also the Americans who sailed to Greece in 1821 and fought side by side with the Greeks you rebelled against the Ottoman occupiers, helped strategically in some of the most important battles and even got in the higher ranks of the Greek Army and Navy.

George Jarvis
(1797-1828)

Notably, one of the most important American Philhellenes was George Jarvis who arrived in Greece in 1822, put the uniform of the Greek fighter, taught himself to read and write Greek and changed his name to Captain “George Zervis, the American.” Jarvis departed for Greece with Hastings, a Royal Navy officer, arriving on the island of Hydra in the Saronic Gulf on April 3, 1822. He lived on the island from 1822 to 1824, serving as an officer in the Greek Navy with Manolis Tobazis, a most distinguished officer. When Jarvis heard about Lord Byron’s arrival in Greece, he left Hydra for the town of Messolonghi, in western Greece, and served as Lord Byron’s adjutant until Lord Byron’s death in April 19, 1824. He also helped fortify the Italian Cochini in both Messolonghi and Anatolico. In August 1824 under Prince Mavrocordato’s leadership, he took part in the expedition to the northern Turkish strongholds of Karvasaras and Makrinoros, in the province of Epirus. In November of that same year, he returned to Messolonghi, only to meet up with another great American Philhellene, Jonathan Peckham Miller.

Jonathan Peckam Miller
(1796-1847)

Miller is particularly important because he took part in many battles, he was actually in Messolonghi until the Heroic Exit. Leaving from Greece, he adopted an orphan child, Miltiades, who, Miltiades Miller, subsequently was the first Greek-American senator.
J. P. Miller embraced the contemplation of offering his support to the Greek cause. In 1824, he procured a letter from Governor Van Ness introducing him to the Greek Association in Boston, in turn, undertaking the cost of sending him to the town of Messolonghi in western Greece. Miller was also assigned the duty of delivering letters to the local Government from the committees in the United States. On November 26, 1824, he arrived in Messolonghi, reporting to Dr. Mayer and Gen. George Jarvis. During the next two years, he rose to the rank of Colonel in the Greek military and in Jarvis’s regiment. Miller quickly mastered the Greek language and adopted the Greek dress. In April 1825, he joined in the campaign against Pasha Ibrahim in the Peloponnese and served under Prince Alexander Mavrokordatos. After a brief illness in August 1825, he departed for Gramvousa, Crete, with the other great American Philhellene, Samuel Gridley Howe, to help take care of the wounded.
Leaving Greece to return to America to relay information to the various American committees, Miller came across on one of the many orphans left by the battles of the war in Livadia, Greece, a young three year old boy who he brought with him to the United States. He later adopted the boy, Lucas Miltiades Miller. In 1853, at the age of 29, the young Greek adopted boy was elected to the Wisconsin State Congress. In 1891 he was elected as a Democrat to the 52nd United States Congress, the first Greek-American to serve in the U.S. Congress. Miller was responsible for establishing the towns of Athena, Arcadia, and Marathon in the state of Wisconsin.

Samuel Gridley Howe
(1801–1876)

Samuel Gridley Howe, the M.D. Harvard graduate who sailed to Greece upon the completion of his studies, befriended with Lord Byron and became a valuable volunteer soldier and surgeon on the battlefield, mainly in Messolonghi. In the six years that he stayed in Greece, he not only helped in the battles but also helped considerably in reconstructing the devastated country. Howe departed for America after six years in the hope of collecting provisions and clothing for the wretched Greeks and to plea for assistance. It was during his expedition that he published his widely acclaimed and sentimental “An Historical Sketch of the Greek Revolution.” Howe proved very determined and adept in informing Americans about the atrocities happening in Greece and managed to raise a generous sum for the purchase of food and footwear for the Greek soldiers. Howe personally distributed all the supplies wisely, giving them immediately to the weak but requiring able-bodied people to work on public works in exchange for supplies. This practical approach was further developed when he established a medical center on the island of Aegina. He also established an agricultural township for refugees in 1829 near the Corinth Canal.

Edward Everett
(1794-1865)

Another great American Philhellene who was also a distinguished member of Harvard. At the age of 21, he was named Harvard’s Professor of Greek Literature, in 1815, years later he became also President of Harvard. His travels in the Ottoman Empire, where he met such figures as the poet Lord Byron, had made him a committed supporter of the Greek cause. Once war broke out, Everett acted as a spokesperson for the revolution in the U.S., championing Greek independence in an 1823 speech to the Boston Committee for the Relief of the Greeks, which he had founded and which was credited with rallying substantial domestic support. The orator and statesman would later serve US Representative and Governor of Massachusetts before becoming President of Harvard from 1846‒1848 and a lifelong Philhellene. After his Harvard presidency, he also served, briefly, as Secretary of State and US Senator. Everett is a bright example that sometimes you can be an important contributor and help to win battles without being on the battlefield.

Many American Philhellenes helped the Greek Revolution of 1821 in many ways and helped the mighty and determined yet outnumbered and poorly armed Greek gain back the most valuable thing in the whole world, Freedom!