Francisco Balbi di Correggio

Francisco Balbi di Corregiio - The Sultan addresses the generals

In the second blog by Francisco Balbi di Correggio , Balbi describes how the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent prepared his army for the Siege on Malta.

The Sultan addresses the Generals

After having taken advice of his council, the Sultan sent for Piali Pasha, his grand admiral, and ordered him without delay to prepare all ships, both new and old, to build such ships as he considered necessary, to collect all the experienced oarsmen, to see to the victualling of the ships and to all that was required for the fleet…

Mustapha Pasha, an old general of great experience, who had commanded during the war against Hungary, was specially selected as the Captain-General of the land force.

The Sultan addressed them as follows:” Do not think O my valorous Captains, that I am now about to say to your is due to lack of confidence in two such brave men as you are; it is because my honour and renown are at stake…It is my great desire to capture Malta, not for its own sake, but because of other and greater enterprises which will follow this expedition, it is successful. As a proof of how strong is my desire I have recalled Mustapha from Venice, where he was of great utility, that he might go on this enterprise…

“I will also tell you why I have chosen two of you for the command of a single expedition, one in command of the fleet and the other of the land forces, a thing I have never done before…

“I am sending on this expedition half of my children, the Janizaries, and  I am sure that they will contribute greatly towards the success which I so ardently desire…”

While the fleet was being made ready, the Sultan sent orders to Dragut in Tripoli to get ready to join in this expedition. He sent the same order to Hassan, King of Algiers, with instruction to warn all the corsairs of the West.

When all was ready they launched all the galleys old and new; one of thirty two benches were was destined for the grand admiral Piali, and another twenty-eight was to convey Mustapha. The preparations were carried out so expeditiously that the fleet was ready by the end of February 1565…

The number of ships which sailed from Constantinople for the attack on Malta was as follows:

One hundred and thirty royal galleys, thirty galeots, nine barges, ten large ships and some two hundred smaller ships of which the greater number were transport vessels.

The names of the Principal Commanders of the expedition are as follows:
Mustapha Pasha, Commander in Chief of the army; Piali Pasha admiral of the fleet; Dragut, king of Tripoli; Hassan, king of Algiers; the Aga of the Janizaries, and Curtogli…

At Navarino the Pashas mustered their forces. Here all the men who were to embark on the expedition (against Malta) had been assembled having gone there by the land from Greece, Anatolia, Caramania, the Morea and the other parts. There were many more than was required and only the best were selected… A rumour had been spread in the army and fleet that this was to prove a difficult enterprise, full of hardship and that the mortality would be great. For these reasons, those who were going against their will were only too ready to pay whatever they were asked in order to gain their freedom. Here the Pasha feasted the Janizaries and Spahis and gave them much money and jewels. This pleased them so greatly that they already looked not only Malta but the whole of Italy as their own.

The number of troops who sailed for Malta is:

6000 Spahis, all archers, commanded by a Sanjaz-Bey and his two lieutenants who are called Alaybeys. Many more had reported for service but only the best were retained.
500 Spahis from Caramania under a Sanjaz-Bey.
6000 Janizaries of the Sultan’s bodyguard under Janizer Aga, a lieutenant of the General of the Janizarie who never leaves the Sultan. They all carried firearms (arquebuses).
400 adventurers from Mytheline under a Sanjaz-Bey.
2500 Saphis from Roumania.
3500 adventurers from Romania under a Sanjaz-Bey and Alaybey.
4000 adventurers, all religious fanatics, most of whom had private means and could lead an idle in and about their Mosques. The greatest number were dressed in white, and some wore the green turbans. These men had implored the Sultan to allow them to go and fight for their faith, believing that they would gain salvation if they die fighting.
6000 volunteers, seamen and corsairs, all differently armed, Many Jewish merchants joined the expedition with their goods and with money with which to buy Christian slaves. The Military forces which sailed form the East to attack Malta consisted of 28,500 fighting men.

The Admiral too mustered his ships and men. It is considered a safe estimate that, including the oarsmen, the volunteers and also the Moors of Dragut, Pasha of Tripoli, and Hassan of Algiers, the total number of fighting men who went against Malta was 48,000 not counting the sailors and camp followers.

The fleet sailed from Navarino on the 12 May at the second night watch, and the weather was so favourable, that it arrived before Malta on the 18th. It was discovered at the dawn, thirty miles to the south-east with all the main sails lowered…

In the third and last article in this blog series, Balbi describes how the Grand Master De Vallette prepared for the siege.