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Admiral D.N. Senyavin

Written by Captain V.I. ANDREEV

The Battle of Dardanelles
The Battle of Athos
Dmitry Nikolayevich Senyavin, an outstanding Russian fleet commander of the late XVIII century, was born on 6 August 1763. His ancestor, Naum Senyavin, was famous for the brilliant victory won in the battle nearby Ezel Island in 1719 during the Northern war. Dmitry Nikolayevich’s farther had also served in the Navy.

In 1773, D.N. Senyavin was enrolled in the Naval College and, owing to his remarkable intellect and abilities, was one of the first to graduate from it.

In November 1777, Senyavin was given the rank of naval cadet, and he sailed several campaigns in this naval rank.

On 1 May 1780, Senyavin was promoted to the rank of midshipman and was assigned to the ship Grand Duke Vladimir which was a part of the squadron to be embarked to Portugal with the purpose of maintaining country’s armed neutrality. He spent one year in that cruise which gave him extensive sea training and acquired toughness. On returning to his native country, he was sent to the Azov Fleet.

In 1783, Senyavin was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was assigned as flag-officer to Rear Admiral Mekensy who was in charge of Sebastopol port construction. He served as lieutenant (with intervals) up to 1786 when he was transferred to ship personnel. He was appointed captain of the packet-boat Karabut which maintained relationships with the Russian ambassador in Turkey.

During the Russian-Turkish war of 1787-1791, Senyavin passed through a stern school of naval science and gained valuable experience being under the command of Admiral Ushakov. In the very first months of the war, he served as flag-captain of Voinovich’s squadron. On 3 July 1788, the first victory of the Black Sea Fleet was won nearby the Fidonisi Island where F.F. Ushakov, who was in command of the Russian advance-guard, distinguished himself in action.

The very moment the strong Turkish fleet was helping besieged Ochakov from sea, Senyavin with 5 cruisers under him was sent to the shores of Anatolia with the purpose of interdicting the Turkish lines of communication and distracting the Turkish fleet from Ochakov. It should be mentioned that being allowed to act independently for the first time Senyavin displayed his outstanding abilities and managed to achieve success, namely, he won several prize-ships, destroyed a dozen of Turkish merchant vessels, etc.

After such impressive results, Senyavin was appointed Captain of the ship Leontiy Muchenik and later the ship Vladimir. 1791, the fourth year of the war, saw Senyavin in command of the Navarkhia being a part of Ushakov’s squadron.

After the war was over, D.N. Senyavin continued to command the battleship in Ushakov’s squadron. On 13 August 1798, the squadron under the flag of Vice-Admiral Ushakov consisting of 6 battleships, 7 frigates and 3 brigs put out to sea from Sebastopol and headed for Constantinople in order to join the Turkish fleet. In Constantinople, Russian squadron was joined by 4 ships, 6 frigates, 4 corvettes, and 14 gunboats from the Turkish fleet, and this joint squadron entered the Mediterranean Sea for the purpose of conducting operations against the French.

Ushakov’s main task was to take the Ionian Islands, occupied by the French, in order to set up a squadron base there. The most seriously protected and fortified among them were Corfu and Santa Maura. Captain Senyavin, who was in command of the Saint Peter, was charged to take the Santa Maura Island. Frigate Navarkhia and two Turkish ships were sent to help him in his mission. Senyavin coped with his task brilliantly, and, on 2 November, the Santa Maura fortress was finally surrendered. Ushakov, while reporting of the fortress capturing, gave a very high appraisal of Senyavin’s actions. Russian sailors also took other Ionian Islands, and later Naples and Rome were cleared from the French.

On conclusion of this adventure and returning of Ushakov’s squadron to Sebastopol in 1800, Senyavin was appointed Chief Commander of the Kherson port. In 1803, he was transferred to Sebastopol for the same position. Next year, Senyavin was sent to Revel as fleet commander where he stayed up to 1805. In the same year, Senyavin was made the head of the Russian squadron which was bound for the Mediterranean Sea in order to conduct operations against the French.

The international situation in the early nineteenth century was a rather difficult one. Owing to a string of wonderful victories gained by the Russian Army under the command of our great military commander A.V. Suvorov and by the Russian Fleet under the leadership of an outstanding fleet commander F.F. Ushakov in the end of the eighteenth century, Russia’s importance on the world arena and its influence over the European matters significantly increased. During those times main attention of the international community was focused on the ongoing violent struggle between capitalistic England and its rival France, which had also chosen a capitalistic way of development. This was a struggle for dominance both in Europe and world-wide, i.e., it was an expansionist struggle of a very aggressive nature.

Napoleon, being the prot?g? of the French bourgeoisie, understood perfectly well that it was impossible for him to conquer England without entering into alliance with Russia. But Napoleon’s aggressive policy in Europe, especially on the Balkans and in the Middle East, threatened Russia’s interests. All these resulted in escalation of the Russian-French contradictions.

Beginning from 1804, Russia started to mass her forces in the Mediterranean Sea in order to fight against France. 2 battleships, 2 frigates, 6 corvettes, and 4 brigs from the Black Sea Fleet under the command of Commander-Captain Sorokin were sent there. Apart from that, an infantry division was transferred from Sebastopol to Corfu. Having departed from Kronstadt in 1804, a squadron consisting of 2 battleships and 2 frigates entered the Mediterranean Sea to reinforce the Black Sea Fleet forces which had already been deployed there.

In March 1805, Russia and England signed an agreement on joint actions against France. Later on, this alliance was acceded by Austria and Naples. Thus, the British government managed to create a coalition in order to fight against France.

On 10 September 1805, the Russian Fleet’s main bodies under the command of D.N. Senyavin, who shortly before this mission had been promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, left Kronstadt to head for the Archipelago. The squadron was formed of five battleships and one frigate. On its way, the squadron was joined by two more brigs. On 18 January 1806, Senyavin reached the Corfu Island and entered upon his duties as Commander of the Russian naval and land forces in the Mediterranean.

Under his command were 11 battleships, 7 frigates, 5 corvettes, 7 brigs and 12 gunboats (1 154 guns and 8 000 complement members). Land forces strength was approximately 15 000 men.

Senyavin was in charge of the Ionic Islands protection since they were the base of the Russian Fleet, and he was ordered to do his best to prevent Napoleon from taking Greece. Having assessed the current situation, Senyavin made a decision to assume the offensive. First of all, he took the district of Cattaro and Montenegro with their fortresses Boko-di-Cattaro and Castle-Nuovo. In order to win more local people to his side, Senyavin released the citizens of the territory occupied by Russians from all their debts and organized escorting of the ships sailing to Triesta and Constantinople, which was extremely conducive to development of local trade.

In return, the local people and the Montenegrins, out of desire to help the Russian squadron, formed a flotilla of some 30 vessels armed with 8 to 20 guns each. These vessels were actively engaged in interdicting the French trade lines.

Further actions of Senyavin’s squadron, up to the break-up with Turkey, went the same way: operations against enemy fortresses and enemy trade as well as encounters with the French light forces.

In December 1806, Turkey, having been instigated by Napoleon, declared war on Russia.

On 1 January 1807, in order to reinforce Senyavin’s squadron, a new squadron under the command of Commander-Captain Ignatiev came to Corfu. It consisted of five battleships, one frigate, one corvette and one boat. It was then when Senyavin found out about the break-up with Turkey.

In accordance with the plan of war, drawn up on 8 January 1807 in Petersburg, Senyavin received an instruction in which the following was written: “…our main task is delivering an attack right at the heart of the Osman Empire – we must take its capital…”

Further in this instruction it was ordered to send ten or more ships to the Dardanelles in order to stop any communication between European and Asian shores and, if possible, to interdict the lines of communication along the entire Dardanelles Strait and the Sea of Marmora; it was also recommended to use all means possible to take the key bases in the Archipelago including Rhodes, Mitilen and others where shipyards and shipbuilding scaffoldings were situated; to detach several ships for the blockade of Egypt; with the purpose of landing the landing parties to employ land troops which were to be taken in the squadron in such a way as not to weaken the defence of Corfu and other areas; to leave as many ships and vessels in the Adriatic Sea as it may be required; to set up cruising between the above-mentioned places; to cooperate with the Russian Army commanders in Moldavia and Valakhia; while “special attention must be paid to creating obstacles to the French communication with the Turks so as to make it impossible for their troops, couriers and any correspondence to pass through”.

When analyzing this instruction, one should take note of the abundant number of tasks for Senyavin to fulfill. And, indeed, Senyavin was not only to take Constantinople and blockade Egypt but also to defend Corfu and hinder communication between the French and the Turks. Had Senyavin followed this instruction blindfold, he would have unavoidably been beaten as in this case his forces would have been scattered. Now we can not but admit that Senyavin’s decision to leave one part of his forces to defend Corfu and take the main bodies to the Archipelago, which was the centre of battle actions, was quite sensible and adequate.

On 10 February 1807, a squadron formed of 8 battleships and a frigate with 1256-strong landing party headed for the Aegean Sea. Being very much aware of the fact that a surprise attack has a shocking effect, Senyavin intentionally stopped all the merchant vessels on their way so that no one of them could inform the enemy of the Russian squadron’s approaching.

The Russian government’s hopes that the British squadron under Admiral Duckworth would help Senyavin were not fulfilled. To their shame, Petersburg strategists had completely forgotten an old British tradition to get others to do the dirty work. The British did not want to reinforce Senyavin’s squadron with their ships; instead they were trying to get ahead of the course of events and take Constantinople first.

On 7 February 1807, British squadron under the flag of Admiral Duckworth consisting of 7 ships, 2 frigates and 2 assault ships rounded the Dardanelles and unexpectedly came close to Constantinople having previously destroyed several small Turkish vessels. The British entered into negotiations with the Turks but the latter, by deliberately protracting them and thus playing for time, managed to build such strong fortifications round the strait that Duckworth had to hastily retreat from this area suffering huge losses.

In that way, when Senyavin’s squadron reached the Archipelago, the Dardanelles had already been thoroughly fortified thus making a break-through even more difficult a task. As for Duckworth, he, as one would have guessed, refused point-blank to reinforce Senyavin’s squadron and sailed back to Malta on the 1st of March.

On 28 February, Senyavin called a military council where, taking into account the present situation, it was decided not to conduct the planned break-through to the Dardanelles but to limit actions to setting up a blockade of them.

Following the approved plan of the Dardanelles blockade, it was essential to occupy an appropriate maneuver base for the fleet. The choice fell upon the neighboring Tenedos Island situated strategically close to the strait. Landing parties were landed right on that island with the purpose of besieging the Tenedos fortress. Owing to an all-out attack carried out by the landing troops and help provided by the squadron ships, the Turks were forced to surrender their fortress. On 10 March 1807, Turkish garrison was let go on the Anatolian shore as Senyavin just could not afford to feed such a large number of “mouths” in his squadron.

Having found the suitable base, Senyavin immediately got down to the Dardanelles blockade. For this purpose 2 ships were sent there in turns; they were to anchor nearby the strait for 10-12 days. Apart from that, several ships were assigned to cruise the enemy trade lines and to carry out operations against the enemy shores. Yet the main task of Senyavin was to destroy the Turkish fleet because as long as it continued to exist, outnumbering the Russian squadron, Senyavin’s position on the Archipelago could not be stable and firm.

The Battle of Dardanelles (10-11 May 1807)

The Dardanelles blockade led to famine and widespread unrest of the people of Constantinople. Turkish government demanded Naval Headquarters to raise the blockade of the strait as soon as possible and to destroy the Russian squadron. Fulfilling this order, on 7 May, the Turkish fleet consisting of 8 battleships, 6 frigates, 4 boats, 1 brig and more then 50 oar-propelled vessels appeared in the strait.

Senyavin, trying to drag the enemy out of the strait and away from coastal batteries and to catch the wind, retreated to the Imbros Island. On the next day, it started to blow, and Senyavin returned to Tenedos. There he was told that while his squadron was away, the Turks under the command of the French officers carried out an unsuccessful attack on Tenedos. Moreover, they reported to Senyavin that the Turkish fleet was located several miles away from Tenedos, nearby the Maura Island.

On 10 May, taking advantage of the favorable south-west wind, the Russian squadron weighed anchor and took course on approaching the enemy. The Turkish fleet set sails and, not wishing to accept the battle, headed for the Dardanelles. Senyavin ordered his squadron to set all sails and attack depending on the circumstances and situation in the battle area. It was only by 6 p.m., nearby the Dardanelles, that the Russians managed to overhaul the Turks, and then a battle began. Russian squadron, being greatly outnumbered by the enemy, successfully maneuvered. The Russians leant how to use ship fire long before the Turks did. Not holding the line, the ships under Senyavin broke the enemy defence and, being under non-stop fire of the enemy ships and coastal batteries in conditions of total darkness, continued the fierce fighting in which the Russian sailors’ perfect naval training played a key role. At night, under the cover of darkness, the Turkish batteries were firing both at Russian and their own ships. By midnight, the wind dropped, and the battle was over. Being severely damaged, the Turkish ships had to go on sand bars nearby the Asian shore. The rest of them managed to make it to the Dardanelles.

Russian ships dropped anchor in the strait. Early in the morning of 11 May, the boats, lowered from the Turkish ships, started to tow those three damaged ships to the strait. Senyavin sent four ships and one frigate to block their way. Turkish ships were attacked, yet one of them managed to enter the Dardanelles while the rest two had to go aground.

This is how the battle of Dardanelles actually ended. As a result of this battle three enemy ships were put out of action. Losses in killed reached some 2000 people.

Meanwhile, resulting from the Dardanelles blockade which led to complete termination of food supply in Constantinople, people’s discontent was growing. All these later resulted in violent upheavals: Selim the III was overthrown and the Sultan Mustapha the IV came to power.

Though the first Dardanelles campaign of the Turkish fleet had failed, the people of Turkey demanded the government and the Navy should conduct active operations and raise the blockade.

Turkish government set their Fleet Commander the following task: avoiding a face-to-face battle with the Russian fleet, take the Tenedos Island with the help of landing troops. The Turkish authorities thought that Senyavin, if losing his base, would be forced to raise the Dardanelles blockade. This supposition turned out to be wrong since if they had managed to take Tenedos, the Russian squadron would have chosen as its base any other of the numerous islands neighboring the Dardanelles.

There was only one possibility for Turkish Headquarters to get the raising of the blockade and that was by winning the battle which they dreaded and were trying to avoid by all means.

On 10 June, the Russian observation post in Tenedos reported that the enemy consisting of 10 battleships, 5 frigates, 2 brigs and 3 boats were coming out of the strait. The Turkish fleet took up a position nearby the Imbros Island. The Turkish rowing flotilla was located near the Asian shore. There was a 6000-stong landing party on board the ships intended for landing on Tenedos.

Up to 14 June, weather conditions did not allow Senyavin to move closer to the enemy. On 15 June, Senyavin, trying to catch the wind, approached Imbros and took up a position between Imbros and the European shore thus finding himself between the Turks and the strait. He enemy had fleet moved down to Tenedos and was trying to land its lading troops on the northern part of the island, but their efforts were in vain. On 16 June, under the cover of ships gunfire, the Turks eventually managed to land some 6000 men, who immediately started besieging the fortress.

Having made sure that the Turkish fleet stayed nearby Tenedos, Senyavin sent his squadron right there. On spotting the Russians, Turkish fleet Commander Said-Ali weighed anchor and headed south-west to the sea. On reaching Tenedos by midday of 17 June, Senyavin found out that the garrison had been running out of shells and that the Turks had sped up the offensive in order to take the fortress before it could be reinforced by the squadron. Expecting to overtake the enemy, Senyavin provided the fortress with ammunition needed and destroyed the Turkish oar-propelled vessels which were transporting their landing troops. In the morning of 18 June, Senyavin’s squadron entered the sea, and by evening it managed to take up a position nearby Imbros which would block the Turks’ way to the Dardanelles.

The Battle of Athos

Before entering the sea, having analyzed and drawn conclusions from the experience of the Dardanelles, Senyavin gave the following order:

“Under the existing circumstances we must gave a decisive battle; however, unless all the enemy ships are totally destroyed we should be ready to deal with a stubborn fighting. Therefore, we must take the offensive in the following way: in accordance with the number of enemy admirals, they are to be attacked by two ours; for that, the following ships are assigned: the Raphael with the Silny (“Sttrong”), the Selaphael with the Urilus and the Moschny (“Powerful”) with the Yaroslav. On hearing the signal ¹ 3 under the French Jack, attack the enemy ships with all due persistence and courage coming as close to them as possible not fearing that the enemy would choose to set his ships on fire. The previous battle of 10 May has taught us that the closer you come to them the less harm you might expect form them; therefore, even in case of boarding, one can expect a successful result. Once you got yourself into canister firing, start firing, too. If the enemy is under sail, fire at his masts; if he is anchored – at his hull. Attack him with two ships but only from one side; if another ship happens to be engaged, do not retreat far from the scene and stay within canister firing range. Once you have started an attack on an enemy ship, it must result either in this enemy ship’s sinking or capturing.

Since it is practically impossible to give instructions on each and every emergency situation, I limit myself to the above-mentioned. I only hope that each of you, being a loyal son of our Motherland, will fulfill your duty in the most finest and praise-worthy manner.

As we can see, the key idea of Senyavin’s order was conducting a decisive attack. Adequately evaluating the enemy’s capabilities, Senyavin directs his blow at the Turkish flagships. His plan is to gain double supremacy on the direction of main blow (6 battleships to 3 Turkish flagships) and to employ a new technique: concentrated ship fire from one side delivered by two ships simultaneously. In order to secure success of the main blow, Senyavin decides to have 4 battleships at his command with the purpose of either supporting the main blow or engaging other Turkish ships forces in order to prevent them from helping the flagships.

At the daybreak of 19 June, Russian ships spotted the enemy. Turkish ships were anchored in immediate proximity to the Lemnos Island. At 5 o’clock in the morning, a signal “Set all sails and be ready to attack the enemy” was given on the Russian squadron flagship.

The Turkish fleet was rather quick to form the line in such a way as to place their 3 flagships in the middle, while frigates and brigs – in the advance-guard and behind the line.

The correlation of forces in that battle was as follows: the Russian squadron consisted of the Tverdy (“Firm”) – 74 guns under the command of Captain Maleev (the flag of Vice-Admiral Senyavin); the Raphael – 74 guns under the command of Captain Lukin; the Urilius – 84 guns, commander – Captain Second Rank I. Bychensky; the Saint Elena – 74 guns, commander – Captain Second Rank M. Bychensky; the Silny (Strong) – 74 guns, commander – Captain Saltikov; the Selaphael – 74 guns, commander – Captain Second Rank Rozhnov; the Yaroslav – 74 guns, commander – Captain Second Rank Mitkov; the Skory (Fast) – 74 guns, commander – Captain Schelting; the Moschny (Powerful) – 74 guns, commander – Captain Crovier; the Retvisan – 64 guns, commander – Captain Second Rank Rtyschev. The number of battleships under Senyavin was 10 with 740 guns.

The Turkish squadron included the following battleships: the Messudie – 120 guns (the flag of Kapudan-pasha Seid-Ali); the Sedal-Bakhri – 90 guns (the flag of Captain-bey Bekir-bey); the Ankai-Bakhri – 86 guns (the flag of Sheremyat-bey); the Tausu-Bakhri – 84 guns; the Besharet-Numa – 84 guns; the Tephik-Numa – 84 guns; the Sayadi-Bakhri – 74 guns; the Mem-Bank-Nusaret – 74 guns; the Khibet Endas – 74 guns; the Kylit-Bakhri – 84 guns (did not participate in this battle); Frigates: the Meskensi Gaza – 50 guns; the Bedriza Phet – 50 guns; the Phuki Zephyr – 50 guns; the Nessim Phetu – 50 guns; the Iskandrie – 44 guns; Boats: Metelin – 32 guns; RekhberyAlim – 28 guns; Denuvette – 24 guns; 2 brigs with 18 guns each. The Turkish squadron had 10 battleships, 5 frigates and 5 small vessels. Total number of guns reached 1214 units.

So, the Russian squadron was greatly outnumbered in terms of number of ships and guns. However, in respect of tactical training of the commanders, courage and fortitude of the sailors, Senyavin’s squadron undoubtedly surpassed the Turkish one.

With the east-west-east wind force 3-4, the Russian squadron divided into 2 columns to attack the enemy, at that, the left one was formed of 6 ships aimed at attacking the enemy flagships while the right one consisted of 4 ships under the command of Senyavin himself. At about 7 o’clock, having heard the flagship’s signal “Attack the enemy”, the left column headed for the enemy and moved perpendicularly to his course right in the centre of the enemy line. The right column also changed the course aiming at the head of the enemy line. At 7.45, the Tverdy heard the following Senyavin’s order: “The ships assigned are to come close to the enemy flagships and attack them”. Since the Turks moved leeward and their guns were of a bigger elevation angle, they started firing first. The Russian ships’ guns were charged with two cannons for the first salvo and, strictly following the order, they did not fire until they took up a suitable position within case-shot firing range.

Wishing to come close to the enemy as soon as possible, the ships of the left column did not hold the line and sailed in pairs. Each pair was to approach the enemy flagship assigned to it. The first pair included the Raphael and the Silny. So it was this pair that all enemy firing was focused on. On reaching the enemy line, the Raphael with her sails torn went out of control and, firing from both sides simultaneously, cut the Turks line between the ships Messudie and Sedel-Bakhri. The Silny and two other pairs of ships, coming close within a gunshot range, took the course parallel to that of the enemy. Their line was so close that the bowsprits of the rear ships were lying on the sterns of the fore ships. Only highly-trained and skilled commanders and sailors were capable of conducting such a difficult maneuver being in immediate proximity to the enemy and under his destructive fire. Meanwhile, the column under Senyavin was attacking the enemy advance-guard; the flagship Tverdy succeeded in putting the Turkish lead frigate out of action and after that fired at the next ship in the line forcing it to heave which hindered the entire enemy column advance. By that time the Raphael, whose crew had already traced and remedied the defect, was able to continue the battle and take the parallel course and kept on firing at the Turkish lead ship. Two other Turkish ships found themselves under intensive fire of all the four ships of Senyavin’s column and, failing to endure it, fell off to leeward, too. The fourth battleship in the Turkish line was the Sedel-Bakhri – the flagship under Bekir-bey which by that time had already been significantly damaged by the artillery bombardment of the left column. The Tverdy under Senyavin blocked her way and brought down the rest of the sails and yards by fore-and-aft salvo. Meanwhile, the Skory was fighting with the three fore ships and for the first time was experiencing difficult times but managed to break away from the enemy in the long run. As a result of the courageous and decisive actions of the Russian ships, by 10 o’clock the Turkish ships, severely damaged in the fight, had to leave the line and retreat to the Athos mountain. At 10 o’clock, Senyavin gave the following order: “Come close to the enemy and chase him relentlessly”.

Meanwhile, the left column was doing its part. The Moschny and the Silny were launching concentrated fire on the Messudie while the rest of the ships were attacking other Turkish ships. Owing to the fact that the Russians managed to block the Turkish line, Russian ships gradually started to move forward in such a way that at 10.30 p.m. the end ship Yaroslav came up with the Messudie. Unfortunately, as a result of going out of control, she slewed about on her own and after that she fell on her port tack and, setting counter-course, headed for the end ships of the Turkish line.

By 12 o’clock the battle situation was as follows: the Skory continued the fight with three Turkish advance-guard ships; the Raphael, having passed the line, had caught the wind and was repairing her damaged rigging and sails; the Retvisan and Saint Elena were before the wind against the enemy advance-guard; the Moschny found herself in the middle of the Turkish squadron; the rest ships, having formed an arch, were fighting with the enemy centre ships. The gap between the enemies was gradually becoming wider. At 13.00, the wind dropped and both squadrons stopped the battle. The Turkish squadron was divided into 3 groups:

  1. leeward – consisting of 3 advance-guard ships and 3 frigates;
  2. central – consisting of 4 ships and 2 frigates;
  3. the last – consisting of the 90-gun flagship Sedel-Bakhri being towed by the Besharet-Numa, one frigate Nessim-Phetu and one boat Metelin.

During the battle, Turkish ships had been severely damaged and some of them could barely stay afloat. Among the Russian ships, the Raphael, the Tverdy, the Moschny, and the Skory were damaged.

By 14.00, it was completely calm, and then the wind changed its direction and started blowing from the west. Thus, Turkish squadron caught the wind and, sailing by the wind, picked up speed and started quickly sailing northward away from the Russian ships. The damaged Sedel-Bakhri and her escorts gradually dropped behind the rest of the ships. By 18.00 when the wind grew stronger, Senyavin ordered the Uriil and Selaphael to cut them off. The ships assigned to this mission rushed to chasing, and in the night the escort ships (Basharel-Numa, Nessim and Metelin) abandoned Sedel-Bakhri trying to escape the Russian ships which were overtaking them. The Sedel-Bakhri was taken prisoner. In the morning of 20 June, Turkish squadron’ main bodies still sailed with the wind thus being inaccessible to Senyavin, but those ships which had at first convoyed the Sedel-Bakhri and later had left it behind, failed to join their squadron and stayed under the lee nearby Athos. Senyavin ordered his four ships to cut them off. Trying to break away from the chase, the Turks had to go aground and burn their vessels. At dawn of 22 June, two puffs of smoke were noticed. As it turned out later, the Turks set one more ship and a frigate on fire as they were too damaged to join the fleet. Some time later, two more Turkish frigates sank near the Samothraki Island.

To sum it up, as a result of the battle of Athos the Turkish squadron lost 3 battleships, 4 frigates and a boat. Their losses in manpower were very serious. For example, out of Sedel-Bakhri crew alone 230 men were killed, 160 wounded while 774 men were taken prisoners by the Russians. The Russian side had no losses in manpower at all.

After the battle was over, Senyavin came to help his base at Tenedos which, despite being greatly outnumbered by the enemy, had been heroically fighting and standing firm. When the Russian squadron reached Tenedos, the Turks, who had been besieging, it got stuck between two fires, i.e., between the fortress and the ships. While holding negotiations with the Turkish landing forces commander, Senyavin suggested that the Turks should surrender on condition that the disarmed Turkish troops would be transported to the Anatolian shore. The Turks agreed, on 28 June, some 5 000 Turks were transported on the shore while all the cannons and guns were handed over to the Russians. On 26 June, Turkish squadron entered the Dardanelles never to leave this strait again. So, the Russian Fleet gained supremacy at sea.

The direct political result of the Battle of Athos was Turkish government’s proposal to hold truce talks. In August, these talks ended in signing an armistice.

So, what exactly made the Russian seamen’ success at Athos possible? The victory over such a formidable enemy was won, first and foremost, owing to a superb professional training, courage and heroism of the Russian sailors and officers. The Russian squadron had undertaken numerous distant voyages and had acquired a good deal of experience needed. Great importance had always been attached to discipline, service organization, operational training, and art of maneuvering. Long before the captains received it, they had made a careful pre-study of the admiral’s battle-order and understood its basic concept and the result it was planned to achieve. The order itself was notable for its plain and exact wording. Given captains’ perfect preliminary training, it gave them carte blanche.

In the Battle of Athos Senyavin proved to be an outstanding, skillful fleet commander, a worthy successor to the traditions introduced by F.F. Ushakov. He was very keen on taking advantage of the Russian Fleet’ strong points which had always been extensive maneuver training of ships, excellent operational training of the crews thus reducing almost to zero the enemy’s technical and technological supremacy. Operating a smaller number of ships, Senyavin decided to concentrate twice as many ships (two ships against one enemy ship) at the most important sectors – battle against the enemy flagships. Senyavin was perfectly aware of the fact that Turkish ships stood firm until their flagships remained in action, but the very moment they were disabled fighting efficiency and capacity could be greatly decreased as their captains were not taught to act independently. Those sectors where the situation was more or less clear and stable during the battle (the left column), Senyavin gave the captains a free hand; while those sectors where the situation might change abruptly or go out of control were under Senyavin’s personal command. So the right column, which was to attack the enemy advance-guard, was under his direct leadership.

* * *


Although Senyavin had gained a brilliant victory over the Turks, the signing of the Peace of Tilsit did not allow the Russian squadron to reap the fruits of its labour. On 23 August, Senyavin received an order to stop military operations, immediately transfer the Ionian and Dalmatian Islands along with Cattaro province to the possession of France, and Tenedos – to the possession of Turkey and return to Russia.

In order to implement this order Senyavin sent his Black Sea Fleet vessels (5 ships, 4 frigates, 4 corvettes and 4 brigs) and 20 prize ships under the command of Captain-Commander Saltanov to Sebastopol. The squadron under Captain-Commander Baratynsky based in Venice was ordered to head for the Baltic. On 19 September, Senyavin’s squadron consisting of 10 ships and 3 frigates left Corfu to sail back to Russia. Senyavin had been forewarned of possible war with England and had been advised to avoid any encounters with the British Navy.

On 28 October 1807, Russian squadron reached Lisbon. It is doubtful whether any other Russian admiral had ever found himself in such a difficult and risky situation as Senyavin did during this Lisbon “staying”. British squadron blocked all the sea routes to Lisbon. In November 1807 Lisbon was occupied by the French troops under the command of General Junot. Senyavin was caught between two fires. It required an exceptional art of diplomacy to keep the Russian squadron from falling apart. Napoleon wanted to use Russian ships to fight against England. So the Russian emperor Alexander I gave Senyavin an order in accordance with which he was to follow all the instructions “that would come from His Majesty the Emperor Napoleon”. Senyavin, who strongly disapproved of the conditions of the Tilsit Peace Treaty and was wary of Napoleon’s “friendship” with Russia, managed to save the Russian squadron from Napoleon’s encroachment on it.

In August 1808, the British troops invaded Lisbon. The British knew that the Russian squadron would not surrender and that a bloody battle would be in store for them. That is why the British Admiral Cotton had to initiate negotiations and, on 23 August, sign a special convention with Senyavin. Under this convention Russian squadron was to head for England, stay there until the Peace Treaty between Russian and England was signed and then return to Russia. On 31 August 1808, Senyavin’s squadron under the Russian ensign left Lisbon and, on 27 September 1808, reached Portsmouth roads. On 5 August 1809, the Russian ships left Portsmouth and, on 9 September, they came to Riga. The people who happened to accompany D.N. Senyavin during this difficult 4-year-long voyage in foreign lands had a chance to know what kind of person he really was and appreciate his character and abilities at their true value. The next generations paid high tribute to the services Senyavin had rendered to our country and thought highly of his abilities as a commander and a diplomat. Unfortunately, Alexander I and Senyavin’s immediate superiors treated this wonderful Ushakov’s successor in a very unfriendly way just as they treated Ushakov himself. Alexander I was jealous of Senyavin’s fame and popularity within Russia and revenged him for his brilliant intellect, non-conformity and independent way of thinking. In 1810 Senyavin was appointed to some minor post of the Revel port commander. During Napoleon’s 1812 invasion in Russia, Senyavin presented the tsar with a petition where he asked to send him to the Army in the Field. Alexander I wrote back on Senyavin’s petition the following: “Where? In what forces? And how are you going to serve?” Admiral was wounded to the innermost of his heart by such questions. “I will serve, - he answered, - the same way I have always served. I will serve as it becomes a loyal, devoted and true Russian officer”. Alexander I did not quite approve of such answers, and Senyavin was not assigned to the Army in the Field. Moreover, on 21 April 1813, he was placed on the retired list with only half of the standard pension.

During the Decembrist movement, the name of the famous admiral was closely associated with the Decembrists though he himself did not actually participate in it. As it becomes obvious from the materials of investigation of the Decembrists’ case, they wanted to make Senyavin the head of the Russian Provisional Government. In the last years of his life, D.N. Senyavin was called up for the service again. Another war with Turkey was on its way. Senyavin was appointed commander of a squadron bound fro England and then for the archipelago. In the order issued on 5 August 1827 which was addressed to Geiden, Senyavin clearly expressed his attitude to the sailors:

“I believe it is important to draw the attention of Your Excellency to the way the Russian commanders and officers treat the lower ranks and sailors. My experience has proved that our officers, to my deepest regret, have the wrong understanding of what discipline really is. No doubt, strictne4ss is absolutely necessary in service, nevertheless, one must first teach people what to do and only then one can impose some kind of punishment on them. One should make distinctions between unintentional and intentional dereliction and dereliction through negligence: 1) Can sometimes be recommended for mercy. 2) Must be immediately punished without any mercy or indulgence. Officers must be capable of instilling a competitive drive in their subordinates by praising those excelled in battle or distinguished themselves in diligent and assiduous service. They also should be aware of the nature and soul of the Russian sailors who rather often hold simple “thank you” dearest of all. Impermissible swear-words of different kinds during service should not even be on the officers’ lips, while faults and misdemeanour of sailors should be dealt with in accordance with the established naval discipline regulations. Since it may happen so that your squadron will be sent to war, officers and commanders should do their best to win love and respect of their subordinates to be able to use them in a more efficient way when needed…I kindly suggest Your Excellency should visit the ships and frigates which under Your control, check how the sailors are kept and access the level of their knowledge. Apart from that, sailors’ poor knowledge of artillery handling should force Your Excellency to teach them this art in a more consistent and serious manner and make them achieve success in this field because it is artillery handling that determines and secures future victories”.

In 1830 Senyavin fell seriously ill and on 5 April 1831 he died.