Colonel Constantin Denis Bourbaki (Greek: Διονύσιος Βούρβαχης, Dionysios Vourvachis), (1787 – February 8, 1827) was a Greek officer educated in France, and serving in the French military. He fought in the last phases of the Napoleonic Wars, and after 1825, joined the Greek War of Independence. He was killed in 1827 following his defeat at the Battle of Kamatero. He is the father of French General Charles Denis Bourbaki.
Bourbaki was born on the island of Cefalonia in 1787. He was the son of Konstantinos-Sotirios Vourvachis, a Greek of Cretan extraction who was forced to relocate to Cephallonia. Thanks to his father's influence with Napoleon, he was able to join the military academy at Fontainebleau (which was later relocated to St Cyr). He graduated from the academy in 1804.
Career prior to the Greek War of Independence
Following his graduation, he took part in several conflicts of the Napoleonic Wars, and was appointed aide-de-camp to Joseph Bonaparte, who had been appointed King of Spain by Napoleon. However, following the Emperor's exile to Elba, he resigned his commission in the military. After Napoleon's return to France, he resumed active duty with the rank of colonel, but he resigned again after the defeat at Waterloo and the Bourbon restoration in 1815. In the following years, he left France for Spain due to a duel, but was expelled soon afterwards for his anti-monarchist views. He retired to the town of Pau, in the French Pyrenees.
Service during the Greek War of Independence
Following the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821, Bourbaki initiated contact with the philhellenic groups of Paris. In 1825, he was involved in an attempt to secure the Greek throne for the Duke of Orleans. In 1826, he was sent to Greece as the head of a number of French volunteers, and placed himself under the command of Georgios Karaiskakis.
He received a negative reaction from the anglophile government in Nafplion. Nevertheless, he recruited a body of 80 men at his own expense, and joined Greek chieftains Vasos Mavrovouniotis and Panayotis Notaras. The three bodies advanced in unison into Attica in January, 1827, with the intent of relieving the Greek garrison besieged at the Acropolis in Athens.
The force, numbering about 500 hundred men in total, and under the command of Bourbaki, advanced to Eleusis in February, and faced the Turks at the Battle of Kamatero on 8 February (27 January in the Julian calendar). Bourbaki insisted on facing the Turks in an organised formation, despite opposite opinions by the Greek chieftains, and his force was decimated by the Turkish cavalry. He was captured, and beheaded later the same day.
Vourvachis street in Kamatero is named after Bourbaki in honour of his heroic death on the town's premises. Moreover, the municipality has occasionally held games in his honour, called the Vourvachia (Βουρβάχεια), with varying success.
Whitcombe, T. D. Campaign of the Falieri and Piraeus in 1827 (edited by C. W. J. Eliot) Town House Press Inc., Pittsboro, North Carolina, 1992.
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