Chapter XIX

Turks Panic And Flee


Being completely isolated, we kept on resisting Turkish assaults. The bonfire at night, signaling the successful entry into Aikesdan of our messengers, had not appeared at Shooshantz. Our miserable refugees had brought bits of news. While at Avantz harbor, they had overheard reports that Russians were advancing along the Sarai, Abagha Bash Kale front; the government had sent reinforcements in that direction. But such rumors had been rampant even before the hostilities started, so we dismissed them as belated versions of the same. However, on May 10th, a written report from the leader at Abro’s defenses apprised the Defense Command that, “We have noticed hospital equipment being transported to Avantz by way of Haigavank. Armenians from Avantz frequently pass by here, with their donkeys loaded with these items. Shall we attack?”

They were advised to hold their fire, but follow developments closely. I went to investigate. Besides the loaded donkeys, we saw two carriages with numerous bodyguards, going in the same direction. Nothing was conclusive. The defense posts were instructed to stay on the alert at all times.

Turkish attacks were being kept up at the usual pitch of intensity.

The following day, the movements became more noticeable. Caravans of families were on the move; still, nothing was positive. On the 12th day of May, however, there could be no doubt that the Turks were in panic. In the early morning we could see sail boats headed for Gaijigan; the road to Ardamed was covered with carriages, carts, pack animals and people. The same evening we observed hundreds of Turkish families leaving Shamiram and headed for Ardamed village. Still the Turks kept up the pressure on our defenses, though it had become common knowledge that the Turks were fleeing to escape impending danger.

Reliable information was received on the 13th when Havhanhes from Garin, a member of the Turkish police force, managed to come to us. He said,

“During the past three days Turks have been retreating to Baghesh. Prominent families and hospital equipment went ahead, by ships, to Tadvan. Yesterday Jevdet issued strict orders for the Moslem population to leave for Gavash; force was to be used if necessary. It is true, Russians have captured Abagha and are attacking Pergery. Turkish officialdom from these areas arrived in the city yesterday. Russians have also captured Bash Kale. Jevdet has ordered the fighting forces here to stay on the job. There were seven of us, all Armenian policemen. We were disarmed and ordered to join in the retreat. I realized this would mean the end for us. I proposed that we run away and hide ourselves in the city. Unfortunately the others did not concur. Alone I managed to save myself through darkness.”

When queried about the Armenian prisoners, he said, “I am not fully acquainted with the details but have learned from reliable sources that all Armenians in the prison have been murdered. With my own eyes I saw 35 Armenian members of the battalion tied together and led to the prison on the third or fourth day of the conflict. We later learned they were all murdered. The prison is empty. The Turkish and Kurdish inmates were given their freedom long ago.”

One-hundred and fifty young men, the flower of our intellectuals, had been incarcerated in that den. All had preached freedom and toiled for liberty; all had prized honor above existence. Among them were Ardashes Solakian, Aso, Abraham Proodian, Garabed Danteyan, and others.

At the base of the southern ramparts, close to the prison, their common grave was discovered. It was a narrow trench about thirty yards long, where their mutilated bodies were dumped.

There was no doubt now that Jevdet was running away and all the cannonade and fusillade was a sham to cover the escape. However, the fortunes of war could change again, and suddenly. It might be that Jevdet would make a last effort for the final blow. We had to maintain our vigilance.

Turkish flight assumed massive proportions during May 13th and 14th, and we wondered why Aikesdan was not initiating a counter attack.