File No. 763.72/1679

The Consul General at Smyrna ( Horton ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith copy of despatch which has this day been sent to the Ambassador.

I have [etc.]

George Horton

The Consul General at Smyrna ( Horton ) to the Ambassador in Turkey ( Morgenthau )

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on Friday, the 5th instant, a small fleet of Allied ships began a bombardment of the Smyrna fortress which continued throughout the day and was resumed the next morning, the fortress replying feebly the second day. From all appearances, the fortress is now completely silenced and destroyed. The fleet is still actively engaged in operations about the mouth of the harbor and is keeping up a more or less continual cannonade both night and day, generally as late as 3.30 a. m. It is not possible to ascertain here exactly what the nature of these operations is or their [Page 968] object. The ships were evidently conducting a lively duel with the shore batteries all day yesterday. These events can be plainly seen from the terrace of the Consulate and up till night following yesterday the shore batteries were replying. During the night a searchlight is frequently thrown upon the water from the shore and the roar of cannon can be heard and the flash of the guns seen. The authorities furnish no reliable information, naturally, saying only that the ships were firing at the searchlights, which seems ridiculous. It is believed here that the fleet was engaged in fishing up the mines which are laid at the entrance to the harbor and that the shore batteries were firing at the men employed in this work. Last night an attempt was made to sink two ships in the channel, but apparently not with great success, as one of them can be seen canted over on her side, evidently in shallow water, and the other is standing on her stern in deeper water with her prow projecting. Possibly the firing heard during the night was on the part of the Allied fleet and was directed at the people attempting to sink these ships. The two craft thus used are both British and are named the Assiout and the Billiter of Malta.

As I am writing this, the sound of the cannon can be plainly heard in my office.

There are many rumors here as to the meaning of these operations. Some people think that the way is being prepared for an actual occupation of the city and others that they are merely a bluff for the purpose of preventing the sending of Turkish troops to the Dardanelles. Up to the present moment, the chief effect which has been produced locally has been to cause the Turkish military officials to take severe measures against the belligerent subjects residing in the vilayet. These are being rounded up and interned in various places. Some 2,000 have already been caught and imprisoned and a keen hunt for the remainder is still going on. Of course a reign of terror prevails and the Consulate is besieged by the relatives of these unfortunate people: We cannot do much for them, but, by persistent efforts, have succeeded in obtaining the liberation of the sick and of men over 60 years of age. We have also succeeded in obtaining the release of the two British chaplains, Messrs. Ashe and Brett, who had been arrested. We also obtained the release of Doctor Newton, the physician of the Scotch Hospital, on the ground that he had Mussulman patients under his charge who were dangerously ill. The vali has also promised me that he will not allow the arrest of Doctor MacLachlan, president of the International College, and I have taken such other measures as are possible to secure his safety. Up to the present nothing has happened to him and I believe that unless the local military authorities are greatly incensed by a long continued and ineffectual attack, that he will be left at liberty. I would advise him to come and take refuge in the Consulate but the vali who is friendly has counseled me to tell him to stay strictly on the college grounds and I fear that the trip from Paradise to Smyrna might be dangerous.

The vali also informs me that there are no exceptions to the rule for the arrest and concentration of male belligerents, not even the Consular attach├ęs who were left here by the consent of the Ottoman Government. Mr. De Vries, dragoman of our Belgian staff, has been arrested and I have not yet been able to procure his release. I should be very glad if the Embassy could do something in this matter as the action of the Ottoman Government in pursuing these consular attach├ęs seems to me incorrect and unjustifiable. I am keeping all the others in the Consulate and have informed the vali that I will not give them up except obliged to do so by actual breaking open the doors of the building and taking them out by force. His excellency has approved my action and has assured me that no such measures will be resorted to.

The more wealthy of the prisoners have arranged to secure comfortable quarters for themselves and generally are enabled to obtain food by paying for it. As near as I can learn, the poor prisoners are being very badly and insufficiently fed and are without beds or clothing.

A further communication as to these prisoners will follow in due course.

I have [etc.]

George Horton