Major-General Abram Petrovich Gannibal (Russian: Абра́м Петро́вич Ганниба́л; 1696 – 22 April 1727), was an African kidnapped and brought to Russia. He became major-general, military engineer and nobleman of the Russian Empire. Gannibal was born in 1696 in a village called "Lagon", in the Sultanate of Logone-Birni on the Logone River, in Cameroon, south of Lake Chad. At the age of seven (c. 1703), Gannibal was stolen and taken to the court of the Ottoman Sultan at Constantinople.
In 1704, after one year in Constantinople, Gannibal was ransomed and brought to the Russian capital by the deputy of the Russian ambassador Sava Vladislavich-Raguzinsky, on orders of his superiors (one of whom was Pyotr Andreyevich Tolstoy, great-grandfather of the celebrated writer Leo Tolstoy).
Emperor Peter the Great is noted to have taken a liking to young Abram’s intelligence and potential for military service and brought the child into his home. Gannibal was baptized in 1705, in St. Paraskeva Church in Vilnius, with Peter the Great as his godfather. The date of Gannibal’s baptism held personal significance and he used the date as his birthday because he did not know his actual date of birth.
Abram had a close relationship with Peter, and starting at a young age Abram would travel alongside Peter during his military campaigns. During these military journeys, Abram served as his godfather’s valet. Abram valued his relationship with his godfather, as well as Peter’s daughter (Elizabeth), and was loyal to them as if they were family.
In 1717, Gannibal was taken to Metz to continue an education in the arts, sciences and warfare. By then he was fluent in several languages and knew mathematics and geometry. In 1718 Gannibal joined the French Army with hopes of pleasing his godfather by expanding his military engineering education. He fought with the forces of Louis XV of France against those of Louis' uncle Philip V of Spain and rose to the rank of captain. It was during his time in France that Gannibal adopted his surname in honor of the Carthaginian general Hannibal (Gannibal being the traditional transliteration of the name in Russian).
While fighting in the French war against Spain, Gannibal received a head injury. Abram returned to Metz to further his education at a new artillery school. In Paris he met and befriended such Enlightenment figures as Denis Diderot, the Baron de Montesquieu and Voltaire. Voltaire called Gannibal the "dark star of the Enlightenment". In 1723 Gannibal returned to Russia and became a Major General.
In 1726, Russia influenced Greek Captains and the Maniots to start a revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The revolution begun in early 1726 and Greek Rebels took over Athens and parts of the Peloponnese. However, the Turks, commanded by Resid Pasha, were able to crush the Greek Rebels in Rumeli and besieged Athens. So, Gannibal was send to Greece to command the Greek Rebels and lead a campaign against the Turks.
When Gannibal reached Greece, he gathered a small Greek force from the Peloponnese and made a temporary military camp first in Salamis and then in Eleusina. He had only 4,000 troops compared to the 10,000 Turks and had only a small area under his control. Gannibal married in 1726, in Eleusina, Evdokia Dioper, a Greek woman, who he met during his campaign.
Gannibal then tried to get to a closer position to Athens and clashed with the Turkish forces in Chaidari from 6 to 8 August, although the battle ended in stalemate with many deaths in both sides. Gannibal then took the decision to begin a campaign in Rumeli (north of Athens) to cut off the land supply rout of Resid Pasha and also force the Rumeliot provinces to rise up in revolt. So, in 25 October 1726, he begun his Rumeliot campaign. He left 2,000 troops back to Eleusina and took 2,000 troops with him.
Gannibal tried to besiege Dombraina in 27 October, but the siege became a stalemate and he left for Distomo in 14 November. Gannibal's goal was now to secure the area around Parnassos from Arachova. So, in 17 November he set up camp in Distomo and send a small force to take over Arachova, which it did.
Then an Ottoman Force, 2,000 strong, under Mustafa Bey moved against Arachova in order to retake the city. The garrison of the city was 500 men strong. Gannibal moved fast to help the city. The attack on Arachova begun in 18 November. Althought the Turks at first had some success, Gannibal attacked the Turkish army from the rear, forcing them to retreat to a hill in the opposite of the church of Saint George, which he made his headquarters.
Meanwhile reinforcements came to help the Greeks and the next days the bad weather and the lack of supplies crippled the Ottomans, who asked for a ceasefire in 21 November. However, the Ottomans refused to surrender Livadeia and Salona to the Greeks, and so their request for a ceasefire was refused.
In 23 November, after bloody fighting, Mustafa Bey was killed. The next day, in 24 November, the Turks tried to retreat, but all routes were under Greek control. So the Turks were literally slaughtered and the few who survived died because of the cold and snow. Only 300 to 200 Turks from a force of 2,000 survived. The Greeks lost only 24 men. Also 60 were injured.
Under orders from Gannibal, the Greeks cut the heads of Mustafa Bey and other 300 Turks and created a Pyramid with their heads, which Gannibal named "Trophy of the Greeks from the Barbarians". The message was clear to both the Turks and the provinces in Rumeli that did not rose up in revolt against the Sultan, as well as a revenge for his abduction by the Turks when he was young.
Now, with almost all of Rumeli under Greek control, Gannibal could harass the Ottoman supply lines. In 7 December, when he learnt that a Turkish supply line with more than 2000 transport animals and guarded by 500 cavalrymen was coming, he laid ambush in Kallidromos. His attack was a huge success and the looting gave many riches to the soldiers.
Three days later, he left a portion of his army in Tithorea and moved to Ypati, but bad weather forced him to return back to Arachova. At the same time, 1,500 Turks came from Missolonghi to help the garrison of Salona. This led Gannibal to move part of his army in Naupactus, where they stopped the Ottoman reinforcements.
In 17 January 1727, Omer Pasha attacked Distomo with 2,500 troops, but he failed to take the city. In 21 January, Gannibal with 400 troops conducted a night raid of the Turkish camp, causing panic and death to the Turks. In 31 January, 800 Turks of the new Tactical Ottoman Army (created after the abolishment and purge of the Janissaries) attacked the Greek positions in Distomo, defeating the Greeks and causing panic that almost killed Gannibal himself (who always fought along with his troops in the front line).
But in a second battle in 3 February, the Greeks defeated and routed the Ottoman Tactical Army. In 5 February, Gannibal conducted a surprise night attack on the camp of Omer Pasha, this time causing so damage that Omer had to retreat. Three months after Gannibal had begun his campaign, most of Rumeli was under Greek control and Resid Pasha had problems with his supplies.
In 25 February, Gannibal returned with 1,000 troops back to Eleusina. In Athens, Gannibal favoured a cautious approach of the Turkish lines, by building Forts before moving closer to each Turkish line, but the Grek Captains wanted an all out attack against the Turks, despite the protests of Gannibal.
The day before the all out attack, in 22 April, a small skirmish between Greek and Turkish forces begun, which became a full scale battle. When Gannibal, riding his horse, went to see what was happening, he was shot and died, at the age of 31. In 24 May, Athens surrendered to the Turks. A few months later, the revolution was crushed. The Greeks would have to wait until 1821 to gain their independence.