Spring 2006 Vol. IV, No. 3
Celebrating our 140th Anniversary
The Italian Attack on Beirut (Part 2/4)
Report Sent to the Board of Trustees, New York
February 27, 1912
Before long the firing from the vessels ceased, but one of them proceeded
slowly to the opening of the port, coming within a few rods of the breakwater.
The breakwater runs east and west and then at right angles with it another
portion runs north and south leaving an opening between the two portions
for the entrance of vessels. The Italian vessel took up its position just
at this opening and soon began firing upon the Turkish gun-boat which
was lying in the harbor. The harbor was singularly free of steamers, but
a number of sailing craft were anchored there.
From the College grounds we could easily see the firing, and from the
College tower the view was still more clear. Huge columns of water rose
up from where the shells of torpedoes struck, and a great volume of smoke
arose from the attacked gun-boat.
The report is that the Admiral sent word to the Governor General demanding
that the Turkish vessels should be delivered to the Italians, the notification
being given in accordance with one of the regulations of the Hague Convention.
The statement was that unless they were delivered by nine oclock
the Italians would proceed to use force. It is said that the Governor
General asked for time, which was not granted. After firing quite a number
of shots the Italian warship withdrew, and with its companion went off
in a northerly and then a northwesterly direction, to a point eight or
ten miles away.
While all this was happening in full sight of the College the scene on
the College campus was unique in the history of the Institution. The College
tower was crowded with professors and Staff and members of the professors
families. Not only were all the students and the rest of the teachers
in evidence, but hundreds of people from the vicinity crowded through
the gates. This was done by permission, the only condition being that
no one should be allowed with arms of any kind, and that all must enter
at the central gate. The American flag was placed upon the lightning rod
of the College tower, and I sent to the Consulate for six flags to place
upon the Hospitals and at the extreme western limits of the grounds on
Professor Halls house.
The students were particularly orderly, but naturally some of them were
excited. Of course all recitations were suspended, although it seemed
by eleven oclock as though the operations were at an end. Meanwhile
there were many rumors as to the number who had been killed in the city,
and the amount of damage that had been done to the buildings. Many men
passed the College armed with rifles, and the report was that rifles were
being distributed to all the population, especially the Moslems, from
What seems to be the facts in this matter of arms distribution are these:
The authorities were giving out arms to a number of reserve policemen
when the excited crowd of men rushed up and either looted the arsenal
or compelled those who were distributing arms to give them arms also.
It is said that about 2000 guns came into the possession of the populace
in this way. Of course in the state of excitement that existed this indiscriminate
distribution of guns was a menacing factor in the situation. To be continued...