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Ypsilanti: The US City Named after Hero of Greek War of Independence

Ypsilanti Greek War Independence
A statue of Demetrios Ypsilantis, a hero in the Greek War of Independence, at the Missouri city. Credit: Public Domain and Dwight Burdette , CC BY 3.0/Wikipedia

Ypsilanti is a city in Michigan named after Demetrios Ypsilantis, a hero in the Greek War of Independence, showing the universal meaning of the Greek uprising against the Ottoman Empire and its values.

The city, established in 1825, shows that the revolutionary spirit of Demetrios Ypsilantis was an inspiration far beyond the Balkans.

Ypsilanti, commonly shortened to Ypsi, is a city in Washtenaw County, Michigan. As of the 2020 census, the city’s population was 20,648. The city is bounded to the north by Superior Township and on the west, south, and east by Ypsilanti Township.

Originally a trading post established in 1809 by a French-Canadian fur trader from Montreal, a permanent settlement was established on the east side of the Huron River in 1823 by Major Thomas Woodruff.

It was incorporated into the Territory of Michigan as the village Woodruff’s Grove. A separate community a short distance away on the west side of the river was established in 1825 under the name “Ypsilanti”, after Demetrios Ypsilantis.

Woodruff’s Grove changed its name to Ypsilanti in 1829, the year its namesake effectively won the war for Greek Independence at the Battle of Petra, with the two communities eventually merging.

A bust of Demetrios Ypsilantis by Greek sculptor Christopher Nastos stands between a Greek and a US flag at the base of the landmark Ypsilanti Water Tower.

Ypsilanti Greek War Independence
The bust of Demetrios Ypsilantis at the historic water tower in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Credit: Carptrash, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

The Water Tower was completed on February 3, 1890, and it was the only water tower in the Ypsilanti water system until 1956. The Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority began operating and maintaining the structure in 1974. That same year the tower was designated by the American Water Works Association as an American Water Landmark.

Ypsilantis, a hero of the Greek War of Independence

Demetrios Ypsilantis was a Greek army officer who served in both the Hellenic Army and the Imperial Russian Army. Ypsilantis played an important role in the Greek War of Independence, leading several key battles.

He was also a member of the Filiki Eteria and the younger brother of Alexander Ypsilantis.

In 1821 he took part in the Wallachian uprising under the leadership of his brother Alexandros, which indirectly benefited the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

After the failure of the uprising in Wallachia, he went to the Morea (Peloponese), where the Greek War of Independence had just broken out, as a representative of Filiki Etaireia and his brother.

He was one of the most conspicuous of the Phanariote leaders during the early stages of the revolt, though he was much hampered by the local chiefs and by the civilian element headed by Alexandros Mavrokordatos; as a result, the organization of a regular army was slowed and operations were limited. He took part in the sieges of Tripolitsa, Nafplion and the Battle of Dervenakia, securing the Greek dominion in Morea.

On 15 January 1822, he was elected president of the legislative assembly. However, due to the failure of his campaign in central Greece, and his failure to obtain a commanding position in the national convention of Astros, he was compelled to retire in 1823.

In 1828, he was appointed to the newly established regular army by Ioannis Kapodistrias as commander of the troops in eastern Greece. On 25 September 1829, he successfully compelled Aslan Bey to capitulate at the Pass of Petra (Battle of Petra), thus ending the active operations of the war.

He was known for an affair with Manto Mavrogenous, who was a Greek heroine of the Greek War of Independence.

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