AMERICA'S RELIEF EXPEDITION TO ASIA MINOR UNDER THE RED CROSS
Note from the administration of ArmenianHouse.org: the page numbering is preserved, so the book can be used for quoting. Also we did our best to keep the layout as close to the original as possible.
REPORT OF CHARLES KING WOOD,
OF PHILADELPHIA, SPECIAL FIELD AGENT, IN CHARGE OF THIRD EXPEDITION.
To Miss CLARA BARTON, President:
On the 19th of last March your second expedition, under Edward M. Wistar and myself, with dragomen, left Constantinople for Alexandretta with supplies and funds, following closely upon the first expedition under Dr. Hubbell. At that time, although provided with teskeres (Turkish passports) the way was not entirely clear for our further progress toward the interior. But on arriving at the port of entry, through the efforts of Daniel Walker, Esq., our American Consular Agent, ably seconded by your own influence at the Capital, we were enabled to have our papers viséd for Aintab. Thus, step by step, at first scarcely knowing one day if we should be in a position to advance the next, we made our way toward the stricken districts. The journey was rough and not unaccompanied by hardships and dangers. Now that it is all over we can only remember the joy of having been permitted to be of some little service to our fellow men and to her also whose whole life has been spent in extending the helping hand, and never an empty one, to the afflicted and destitute of no matter what name or creed. In this joy we forget the trials that appear less and less as we regard them in retrospect.
Dr. Hubbell had just dispatched several large caravans with clothing, tools and other supplies to Marash, Aintab, and other points in the field, and without loss of time on the day following our arrival in Alexandretta we set out for Aintab with an escort of Turkish soldiers. I may take this occasion to say that under all circumstances the Ottoman authorities have insured us the most efficient protection. During all the four months spent in the interior we were never without a guard for a moment—they were sometimes embarassingly in evidence. One had little privacy and could not even go for a bath without being accompanied by a zaptieh, but I have no doubt that the safety of our lives and property was due to these precautions. The country is infested with brigands, overrun with nomadic
[page 84] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
tribes of Kourds, Arabs, and by errant bands of Circassians, so without an armed escort of soldiers it would be impossible for travelers to penetrate into the interior. Their presence was a badge of official recognition and even the most intrepid marauders have a wholesome fear of government authority.
As we moved on to Aintab we saw many terrified refugees, fleeing to the coast in the hope of embarking on some vessel. There was a spirit of fear and unrest in the air almost palpable in its intensity. Our guards kept us close together, scrutinized carefully every approaching caravan and bunch of travellers, and appeared anxious. At Kurrig-Khan, a little village where we halted one day at noon to rest our animals, we found that only the night before a band of Circassians had planned to attack the place and plunder the inhabitants, but the authorities had gotten hold of the intent and forestalled it, by dispatching pos't-haste a squad of Turkish infantry to protect the village.
Approaching Killis, rumors came to us of troubles in that city, and when we reached there, openly menaced and hooted at by the rabble, we found the ill news was only too true. An uprising had taken place in the city, many people were slain, and shops and houses had been plundered. There was no room for us in the khan, even among the cattle and camels, so we were obliged to seek shelter elsewhere, and as we went through the narrow winding streets every shop was empty and every door barred. The business life was gone from the city and excitement was written on every face. Finally, however, we found another khan, difficult of access and dirty, and entered only by an intricate passage-way, almost a cul-de-sac, but it was our only haven and we had to make the best of it. We remained two days in Killis purchasing supplies, &c, and notwithstanding the riot about us, were entirely protected and unharmed.
The governor of the city sent his "salaams" and inquired as to our personality and intentions. To this we responded by a call of courtesy, giving him the desired information and extending our thanks for the protection which had been afforded us during such troubled times. We found that his Excellency had known of our approach several days, that he had received instructions to take care of us and had acted upon them.
Leaving Killis in the early morning, our long caravan strung out single-file over the foot-hills and into the mountains, a brave sight and one that I am sure that could they have seen it would have delighted the hearts of the charitable Americans, whose contributions were thus finding a way to the desolated homes of Anatolia. The "trail" (there was no road) was tortuous and muddy, and for much of the way among huge boulders. Up and down over mountains and valleys uninhabited, and almost uninhabitable, treeless, stony wastes. For miles the only signs of human life were bands
[page 85] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
of Kourds or wandering Gypsies, and flocks of cattle, sheep and goats, with the wild looking skin-clad shepherds who led them in search of the scanty herbage that grows in the springtime among this chaos of rocks. A wierd, monotonous country, a wilderness and the picture of desolation ! One can readily imagine true the tales of robbery or worse, upon these lonely mountain sides. It is marvellous to see how the long legged, awkward camels with their heavy loads manage to tread their way over such rough trails. Silently and slowly they move along like the ghosts of dead creatures, and yet, they are the best means of conveying merchandise in this land of primitive conveniences.
At Aintab we remained a week gathering information relative to the needs of the people, which as you know we have reported to you from time to time; and arranging for the distribution of our caravan loads. And then leaving Dr. Hubbell's expedition we pressed on several days further east to Beredjik upon the Euphrates, another city which has suffered much but where it did not appear practicable to establish a station.
At Oorfa, our next place of importance, we found Miss Shattuck, assisted by Mr. Saunders, in charge of the relief work. Miss Shattuck was entirely alone in Oorfa during the never-to-be-forgotten days of December 28th and 29th. The brave part she played in saving so many lives is too well known to need reiteration, but I cannot refrain from expressing the sentiments
[page 86] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
that we cherish toward her, as those of sincere admiration for her Christian character and noble heroism, with an affectionate remembrance of her many sisterly kindnesses, and the hearty hospitality which was so freely extended to us in her home. With the relief work very well systematized, she was looking particularly toward the future, realizing that American and English funds would not always continue to flow in as they were doing. She had a large force of men and women employed daily in an industrial department, making clothing and bedding, which was then distributed among the necessitous; she was also giving weekly rations to extreme cases.
Our work in Oorfa was intended to be supplementary to that already so well established there. We left a fund for the manufacture and distribution of cooking utensils, and for the re-instatement of the various handicrafts of the city such as those in need of tools or small capital. Then we pressed on two days further to Severek, a city smaller than Oorfa but badly in want of aid. Inquiries were made, and as we know, subsequently acted upon. Two long days in the saddle and a part of a third brought us to the ancient walled city of Diarbekir, the Amida which harrassed not a little the ancient Romans. Everywhere from the neighborhood refugees had fled into the city, and the consequence was congestion and direst distress. As we approached we passed several burned and deserted villages where every house had been looted. Although about two thousand people were killed in the city itself and a whole quarter of the bazaars laid waste and everyone plundered, yet the loss was proportionately much less than in the surrounding villages, which had been sacked of absolutely every portable thing they possessed, even to the doors, windows, and timbers of the roofs.
We met the kindest reception from Mr. Cecil M. Hallward, British Consul for the Vilayet of Diarbekir, making his comfortable Consulate our home during the two days we remained in the city. Consul Hallward has been doing what he can to relieve the wants of the people, but with a field of 60,000 needy souls and funds largely inadequate he is handicapped at every turn. Up to that time only 1,575 liras ($8,000) had been received for the entire field from every source. This amount, however, had been augmented at my last visit there (of which more later) to about 5,000 liras ($22,000), still vastly insufficient and proportionately much less than that of any other district. Here, therefore, to the best of my judgment was the greatest need in proportion to the help afforded, that had come under our observation. In the district of Silouan, for instance, where there are twelve thousand indigent, an indigence more desperate than one can possibly imagine, only two hundred liras had been distributed. Over two hundred and twenty persons had died from actual starvation and there was the greatest distress. Forty-eight villages were utterly destroyed, their cattle driven off and all
[page 87] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
tools and implements stolen. Even should the people return to their ruined houses, they would be impotent to aid themselves without at least the means to purchase materials and implements to recommence their work, and then they must live in the meantime until they can realize on their labors. Thirty-seven hundred shops, one thousand in the city of Diarbekir alone, had been burned or otherwise destroyed. Without ocular evidence, and scarcely then, can one conceive of the fearful destitution in this region. And then there is Nisibin Hiné and Hazere, and in all the devastated district of Mardin and other fields yet untouched, and there was no one to go to them. All this data was secured, and anticipating returning later, we went on to meet Dr. Hubbell according to instructions from yourself. We set out across the rugged, snow-capped Taurus Mountains to the city of Harpoot, where we arrived three days later. Here we again divided our forces and it was my lot to go to Palou, lying two days' over the mountains in a gorge of the Euphrates. Here was a field embracing besides the city of Palou, fifty-eight villages with a population of perhaps fifty thousand souls, of which at least fifteen thousand were destitute. There are more than two hundred villages in the Palou field, a large part of which are Kourd or Turk. The people are barbarous and still in part ruled over by feudal chiefs who hold almost despotic sway over the lives, honor, and property of their vassals. Palou suffered greatly during the massacres, and through fear the local committee appointed by the missionaries was unable to distribute aid to the people. Here was another place where the greatest need prevailed and which only the Red Cross was able to reach. Accordingly, with Professor Tenekegian from the Mission college at Harpoot, a most capable assistant and interpreter, we lost no time in repairing to the scene of action. The pale, emaciated faces and tattered garments of the people bore only abundant testimony that we arrived none too soon. We plunged at once into personal work, preparing first as a foundation for all just and proper distribution, careful lists of families, eliminating all such as were in any way able to care for themselves or had friends in America, Constantinople, or elsewhere to aid them, and cutting down the number in a family considered as needy to the very lowest point, with a view to making the funds we had achieve the greatest possible help to the greatest number. A committee of the best men of the place was appointed to meet with us and go over these lists and revise and correct them before we should give out any supplies, so that when the distributions commenced we were certain that they were fair and equal and that none who were worthy were omitted. Three thousand articles of clothing and bedding were distributed from headquarters in the city. One thousand large pieces of cloth suitable either for clothing or bedding were also distributed. Employment was given to all the blacksmiths, iron being furnished them for
[page 88] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
which they paid us market price out of the value of the tools which they made. Over three thousand plows, scythes, shovels, saws, pickaxes, and other implements were manufactured and distributed among the fifty-eight villages and the city in accordance with our lists. Assistance was also afforded for the purchase of some six hundred work-cattle, and for the rebuilding of several thousand destroyed houses. One hundred and fifty new widows were supplied with wool or cotton and spinning-wheels also, with which they are enabled to earn their own living and that of the orphans dependent upon them. Scores of other women were employed daily at headquarters cutting out garments and bedding, or spinning thread which we gave with the articles for the people to sew for themselves. Three hundred artisans were re-established in their usual avocations. The water-way to the destroyed quarter of the city had become sadly in need of repair, affording but a feeble, largely insufficient flow, thus threatening severe distress and probably disease during the coming heated term. This we undertook to repair, giving work to needy men and at the same time bestowing a most important boon upon the city. It was commenced at our very entrance into the field, and it was a most happy forerunner, for Moslem and Christian alike in the Orient regard one who gives a supply of water to the people as little lower than the angels. So our initial stroke was a propitious one and we soon found that the prayers of all were rising in our behalf because of it. When the repairs were finished the people said that never since the building of the aqueduct had they obtained so copious a water supply.
The relief work included in its scope absolutely every needy family in the whole field; there was not an individual to whom something was not given, and that something, be it clothing or bedding, plow, saw or shovel, assistance in business or what it might, was to the best of our knowledge the thing the most essential for each one. The authorities were kind and visited us often, but never once did they interfere with our work or seek to control our methods, and the "lists" from which we distributed were not prepared by the Turkish Government but by ourselves. We asked directly upon entering the work that the Governor would appoint a commission of Turkish officials to be present at all distributions as a protection to ourselves; but the commission did not long attend our lengthy sittings, and it ended in our simply sending in to the Governor occasional reports as to what distributions we had made.
In addition to other work we distributed a food supply of 97,056 piastres from missionary relief funds, among the villages and the city of Palou. Five hard toilsome weeks were spent in Palou, but finally when we mounted our horses to ride away, it was a grateful sight to remark the increased activity in the market places and to see that the pinched and suffering look
[ To face page 88 ]
[ To face page 89 ]
[page 89] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
had almost faded away from the faces of the people and a renewed hope and resolution had taken its place. With the courage born of the fact that some one from the outside world had come to them and knew and appreciated their condition, they had aroused themselves from the fearful apathy into which they had fallen, and with the opportunities that the Red Cross had afforded them they were now getting on their feet again. We were assured over and over that if the Red Cross had only come to them and done nothing, the moral effect of its presence alone was invaluable. As we rode out over the plains of Palou on our return journey with our labors ended, we saw farmers working in the fields with oxen and plows that we had given them, some with our picks and shovels clearing away the debris from their demolished houses and others rebuilding with Red Cross timbers. One man I remember we met on the road with a great blacksmith's bellows that our money had bought for him, and so it was all along the road. We were gratified by seeing the ripened fruits of our
labors, meeting on every hand the prayers and benedictions from grateful hearts; some even endeavoring to kiss our hands and our feet in the exuberance of their feeling. The harvest was ripe for the sickle and we were glad that our aid and tools had been timely given.
Reaching Harpoot again only one day was spent in preparation, and then with Baron Vartan, a young native teacher as interpreter and assistant (Kourdish was the only language of the new field to which we were going, so a new interpreter had to be secured), we set out for Diarbekir, and the devastated district of Silouan; for the Vilayet of Diarbekir had all the while lived in memory and lain both heavily and hopefully on my heart. Perhaps even yourself will never realize the joy with which I received your brief order—"Take 1,000 liras and go to Diarbekir." We knew that close behind that was the general order to report to Constantinople at a given time. Not a moment of either day or night was lost, as you may well imagine. Starting in the afternoon we traveled all night, the next day
[page 90] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
and the next night, reaching Diarbekir in little over 48 hours, a journey ordinarily requiring from three to four days. Stopping in the city only one night, we ordered to be made by the smiths 1,400 artisan, farm and other tools, and than hastened on to Farkin, the principal town of Silouan to establish a relief station. Fording the Tigris, for two days we journeyed eastward over a monotonous, rolling country, almost deserted—only here and there the little mud hamlets of Kourds. A village was but a crumbling pile of ruined walls, deserted and a nesting place only for the storks. In perhaps a dozen of these villages we saw not so much as one house with even a roof. But the saddest sight of all to me was the miles and miles of fallow ground. Scarcely a plowed field, except those about the Kourd settlements, in all that vast territory over which we traveled. What famine! What misery! Even worse if possible does this foretell for another year! Once a rich, thriving and populous land, and to what has it come ? The cradle of our race, and look at it now. We arrived only in the nick of time with our harvest tools; we found people in the fields actually endeavoring to garner the grain with their naked hands. Fancy, if possible, such an utterly destitute condition; it is well nigh incredible and pitiable beyond expression. Fancy if you can the joy of the people at the advent of the Red Cross in their midst.
Upon reaching Farkin, the Centurion or head of our body-guard, took us directly to the Government House to pay our respects to the Governor, and also that we might give some account of ourselves. His Excellency, evidently forewarned of our arrival, received us with great cordiality, and offered us the hospitality of one of the Beys of the Vilayet—a Kourd chief —which suggestion was promptly ratified by Hadji Raschid Agha himself. Shortly we found ourselves quartered in his great stone house, built on the massive inner walls of the ancient Meafarkin. He had many servants, fine picturesque looking fellows with long straight knives in their girdles, and these, his whole household and stables he placed at our disposal, giving us the keys. We all slept on the roof together under the bright rainless Oriental night sky, and we were made as comfortable as courtesy could suggest. A dinner even was given in our honor, and many of the Turkish grandees were in attendance.
As we had only a short time to remain in Farkin, we went to work at once to appoint and instruct a committee, consisting of one Gregorian, one Roman Catholic, one Syrian and one Protestant, to receive and distribute tools when we should be gone. We told them if there was any interference with their work, or if the Kourds plundered any of the implements, that fact was to be immediately reported to consul Hallward at Diarbekir, who kindly assured me that he was prepared to take measures in such an event to compel restitution and to prevent further difficulties in that direction.
[page 91] REPORT OF MR. WOOD.
We saw half of the implements actually in the bands of the committee and the others on the way, and then returned to Diarbekir and left the balance of the funds, which time did not permit to distribute in person, under the direction of the English Consul for further relief in Farkin and in Redwan, another sadly needy neighboring district.
We then set out again on the long tiresome week's journey over the heated plains and rough mountain trails of Mesopotamia back again to Harpoot, where we found our good friend and co-worker, Edward M. Wistar, having finished a glorious campaign in that field, and in readiness for departure for Constantinople, in response to your call for consultation and rest.
We were glad when our responsibility was over, and it was with light hearts that we started on the long ride of two weeks to the coast at Samsoun, and then two days longer by steamer on the Black Sea, down the Bosphorus to you, and Mr. Pullman, the tireless faithful secretary, the brotherly co-worker, to whose energy and competency we all owe so much. What a pleasure it was to be once more by your side and to clasp your hand in warm greeting mingled with the affection you know and appreciate as well as we can teli you.
And now my little story, as the fairy books would say, is ended, and I beg leave to close my very informal report with sincerest thanks for the privilege which has been accorded me of allying my humble services to the noble ranks of the American National Red Cross.
CHARLES KING WOOD.
Constantinople, August 1st, I866.
| Pages 1, 2 | Executive
Report by Miss Clara Barton
Financial Report by George H. Pullman | Financial Balance Sheet | Map Of Asia Minor
Pages 57, 58 | 1st Expedition Report | 2nd Expedition Report | 3rd Expediton Report
4th Expedition Report | Telegrams | Red Cross Principles | In Memoriam
Contents (as in the book) | Illustrations
Source: Clara Barton. America's relief expedition to Asia Minor under the Red Cross. Journal Publishing Company, Meriden, Conn. 1896.
Provided by: Sona Tumanyan