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Maritime Expeditions

The Coalition Wars
Voyages around the World
Conflicts to the South
From Anapa to Adrianopol

The Coalition Wars

In 1793 Russia joined a European coalition against revolutionary France, and Admiral Chichagov's Baltic Fleet was ordered to the Danish coast. Chichagov detached nine ships of the line and three frigates under Admiral Alexander Kruse for a two-week expedition to the North Sea.

From 1795-1797 Vice-Admiral Pyotr Khanykov's squadron operated in conjunction with the British in the North Sea.

Vice-Admiral Mikhail Makarov commanded fourteen ships of the line and four frigates, with a crew of 9,000 men and his vessels were stationed in British ports, awaiting orders to blockade the Dutch coast. During the Dutch Campaign of 1799 Russian seamen, together with the British, staged a large-scale landing. The Dutch fleet was defeated off Teksel Island in an attack led by the British fleet of Admiral Mitchel and the Russian ships of the line Europe, Mstislav and Retvisan. The Dutch surrendered without a fight, and the Russians seized the 72-gun ship Washington and the 44-gun Beskermer. The Dutch campaign lasted until the autumn of 1800, at which time part of the fleet was sent from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, where most of the events of the war were taking place.

Shortly before the death of Paul I, however, relations with Great Britain worsened. In response to the British annexation of Malta and the hostile attitude of the British fleet toward foreign merchant ships, Paul I issued a new "Armed Neutrality," the signatories of which included Russia, Prussia, Denmark and Sweden. Great Britain responded with an incursion into the Baltic, led by Admiral Parker's powerful fleet. Having crushed the Danish fleet in 1801 at the Battle of Copenhagen and, after issuing stern warnings to Sweden, the British now planned to annihilate the Russian fleet at Revel. Vice-Admiral Nelson, Parker's successor, hastened the English fleet into the Finnish Gulf. Since the Russian fleet had already returned to Kronstadt, and Russia's new Emperor, Alexander I, was not about to wage war with Great Britain, the British action proved pointless. Alexander, in fact, considered it to be in Russia's best interests to conclude an agreement with England, one that radically differed from the Declaration of Armed Neutrality of his grandmother Catherine II. The consequent accord permitted the inspection of cargo on board the ships of neutral nations; in addition, England and Russia declared their right to demand a ship's papers and even seize and detain a ship with or without provocation. Under duress, Sweden and Denmark also signed the agreement. From 1804 to 1807 friendlier relations with Great Britain allowed Russia to concentrate its forces in the Mediterranean against the French and Turks. However, the Tilsit Treaty of 1807 again brought Russia to war with Britain, and Sweden, now allied with Great Britain, joined the war against Russia.

On 27 October 1807, the Russian frigate Speshny [Quick] and transport Wilgelmina were seized by the British in Portsmouth. On route from the Mediterranean, Admiral Senyavin himself, was caught by a storm and on 30 October sought shelter at Lisbon, where he was blocked by the British squadron of Admiral Cotton. When Lisbon was thereupon taken by British forces, Senyavin found himself trapped. The beleaguered officer agreed to anchor his ships in Portsmouth until the end of the war.

In 1808 Russia's army entered Finland. Russian imperial forces made a landing on the Swedish island of Gotland, and war in the Baltic began. On 26 April, Sveaborg surrendered, and the Russians seized 2,023 guns and 110 vessels from the Swedish fleet. The war quickly escalated. In early summer, the gunboat units of Lieutenant Dmitry Myakinin and Captain Mikhail Selivanov fended off Swedish attacks in the Abo Skerries. In July the detachments of Captain Login Geiden and Lieutenant-Commander Pyotr Dodt defeated the Swedes in the Battle of Komito Island and in the Rilaks Fjord.

At sea, however, the allied Swedish-British Fleet held the upper hand. On 11 July 1808, the British 44-gun Salset overtook Lieutenant Gavril Nevelskoy's small ship Opyt [Experiment] off Nargen Island. Nevelskoy surrendered only after losing thirteen crew members and all the ship's guns.

In August of 1808, Admiral Pyotr Khanykov's fleet, sent from Kronstadt, met the Swedish-British fleet of Admiral Cederstrom at the mouth of the Finnish Gulf. Fearing excessive casualties, Khanykov attempted to avoid engaging the enemy, but to no avail. The 74-gun Vsevolod was run aground and attacked at Little Rogge Island by two 74-gun English warships, the Implacable and the Centaur, both commanded by Rear Admiral Samuel Hood. After losing 62 sailors, the British captured the Vsevolod, looted it and set it afire. For the forfeit of his ship Admiral Khanykov was court-martialed, but demoted to seaman's status for only one month out of respect for his former achievements.

Fortunately for Russia, the outcome of the war was decided on land. The successes of the tsar's army resulted in the Friedrichsham Treaty (1809), which ceded both Finland and the Aland Islands to Russia. From 1812 to 1814 the Marine Guards distinguished themselves abroad in addition to serving the Tsar's family. In 1814, having played an important role in the defeat of Napoleon, they were among the first troops to enter Paris and were given a victor's welcome upon their return to Russia.

Voyages Around the World

By the second half of the eighteenth century, European and Russian seafarers had sailed in and, to a certain degree, explored all of the world's oceans. From 1766 to 1770 the expedition of Captain Pyotr Krenitsyn and Lieutenant-Commander Mikhail Levashov discovered the last unexplored islands of the Aleutian Archipelago. Nineteen years later the inhabitants of the islands were granted the right to call themselves subjects of Imperial Russia by a Russian naval captain with the unlikely name of Ivan Billings. Lieutenant Gavril Sarychev participated in the expedition with Billings and wrote the first detailed description of the northernmost islands of the Pacific Ocean.

Grigory Shelekhov and Alexander Baranov claimed Alaska and the Aleutian Islands in the name of Empress Catherine II and oversaw their formal annexation to Imperial Russia. In 1798 the Russian-American Company was founded as a result of the activities of Shelekhov's merchant enterprise.

The first Russian circumnavigation expedition was a consequence of the interests of the Russian-American Company. Planned by Catherine the Great, the voyage was interrupted by the Russian-Swedish War, in which the leader of the planned expedition, Commodore Grigory Mulovsky, was killed. Ivan Kruzenstern, a young officer who had served with Mulovsky, proposed to dispatch ships from Kronstadt to the coast of Russian America. Kruzenstern's idea was supported by the directors of the Russian American Company, and it was agreed that the merchants would pay half the expenses of the expedition. Alexander I also agreed to the expedition and placed Lieutenant-Commander Kruzenstern in command of the sloop Nadezhda. Lieutenant-Commander Yury Lisyansky became commander of the expedition's second vessel, the sloop Neva. Shelekhov's son-in-law, Nikolay Rezanov, chamberlain of the Imperial Court at St. Petersburg, was aboard the Nadezhda and, as one of the owners of the Russian American Company, was interested in establishing trade relations with Japan.

In late summer of 1803 both sloops left Kronstadt and followed the same route to the Pacific, sailing around Cape Horn. After passing the Marquesas and Hawaiian Islands, the courses of the Neva and Nadezhda diverged. The Neva headed for Russian America and the Nadezhda for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Lisyansky made a detailed geographical description of the Aleutian Islands, and Kruzenstern explored and mapped the eastern and northern coasts of Sakhalin. Kruzenstern and Rezanov visited Nagasaki; however, they found the Japanese unwilling to negotiate trade agreements with Russia. Lisyansky sailed on to Macao with a load of furs, and there the two sloops rejoined.

From Macao the Nadezhda and Neva sailed to Canton and then headed for the Cape of Good Hope. After three years the seamen returned home to Russia where their recorded commentaries served to inspire future seafarers.

Lieutenant-Commander Vasily Golovnin's sloop Diana became the first Russian-built warship to sail the Pacific. The voyage was long and agonizing. For two years his ship was under the surveillance of a British squadron off the Cape of Good Hope, and for an additional two years the commander and six of his crew were held captive by the Japanese. In 1814 Golovnin returned to St. Petersburg via Siberia. Undiscouraged by the rigors of his first long voyage, Commander Golovnin circumnavigated the globe aboard the sloop Kamchatka between 1817 and 1819.

Circumnavigation voyages became more frequent in the first half of the nineteenth century. From 1813 to 1816 Lieutenant Mikhail Lazarev successfully circumnavigated the world, and, aboard the Suvorov in 1815-1818, Lieutenant Otto Kotsebu completed a circumnavigation voyage in the Ruyrik. The expeditions of 1819 to the North and South Poles were also historical voyages. The first, under Lieutenant-Commander Mikhail Vasilyev, searched for a route from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean via the Bering Strait. He failed to find the passage he had hoped for, but, after reaching latitude 76 degrees 6 minutes North in the sloop Otkrytie [Discovery], Vasilyev and Lieutenant-Commander Gleb Shishmarev, compiled the first descriptions and charts of the northern coastline of the North American continent. More successful was the expedition to the South Pole led by Commander Faddey Bellinsgauzen. On 16 January 1820, Bellinsgauzen's ship Vostok [East] and Captain Lazarev's Mirny [Peaceful] reached the coast of Antarctica, and within a year the region that they named the Emperor Alexander I Coast became the first large area of the continent to be charted.

From 1822 to 1825 Lazarev, who had been promoted to Commander, made his third voyage around the world. For the first time in circumnavigation history a large warship, the 36-gun frigate Kreyser [Cruiser] sailed much of the distance around the globe, then remaining behind to guard the coast of Russian America. The sailing of warships in the Far East ceased following the Conventions of 1824 and 1825, when Russia, the United States and Britain began to address the question of territorial boundaries in the Pacific. Between 1803 and 1855, Russian seamen sailed in all 41 times from Kronstadt to the coasts of Kamchatka and Alaska. The records of their voyages provided future generations with invaluable information and inspiration, while their daring journeys have been preserved in many place names on the maps of the world.

Conflicts to the South

During the Russo-Persian War of 1803-1813, the Caspian Sea flotilla provided crucial support and assistance to Russian ground forces. In 1805 troops in the Caucasus, under General Prince Pavel Tsitsianov, were ordered to land at Enzeli and capture the town of Resht in order to distract the enemy from Russia's primary objectives. At the port of Astrakhan a flotilla and landing force, under Lieutenant-Commander Yegor Veselago, armed seven vessels and sailed for Enzeli along the southern coast of the Crimea. Veselago's squadron appeared near Enzeli on 22 June. He bombarded the town, sent galleys into the strait and, shortly afterwards, not only seized Enzeli but also nearby Pirebazar. Veselago's detachment was, however, not sufficient to take Resht.

The landing force was then transported to the siege of Baku, which began on 15 August. However, like Resht, the town proved too well fortified to be taken. In a year the attempt was repeated, this time successfully, and Baku surrendered.

In December 1812 Veselago, now the Commander of the flotilla, brought the 16-gun corvette Ariadne, the bombardment ship Grom and two smaller craft to support the forces of General Pyotr Kotlyarevsky in storming the fortress of Lenkoran. On New Year's Day of 1813, after bombarding the fortress from both sea and land, Kotlyarevsky sent his soldiers into battle. Among the 1,760 Russians storming Lenkoran was a special marine battalion of Veselago's seamen. The battle was bloody, and, although the fortress was captured, the price of victory was high: 950 were killed and wounded. The Persians defended the garrison to the last man and all 3,737 defenders of the fortress perished. General Kotlyarevsky was himself badly wounded and, following the assault, Veselago took command of the troops and Lenkoran Fortress. The Persians hastened to negotiate a peace. According to the Gulistan Treaty of 12 October 1813, Russia was granted the western Caspian coast as far as Astara and became the only nation with the right to maintain a fleet in the Caspian Sea.

In the next war with Persia (1826-1828) the Caspian Sea Flotilla numbered 55 pennants. Its operations helped the Russian army defend Lenkoran and Baku. In 1827 the flotilla supplied the advancing forces of Ivan Paskevich. The second victorious war against Persia ended on 10 February 1828, with a treaty signed in Turkman-tchay that reaffirmed the conditions of the Gulistan Treaty and ceded the Erivan and Nakhichevan Khanates to Russia.

In 1806, at the beginning of the Russian-Turkish War, the Black Sea Fleet's military power consisted of six ships of the line and six frigates. The Turks had sixteen ships of the line and thirteen frigates in the Black Sea, but the majority of the Turkish vessels were in the Dardanelles fighting the fleet of Admiral Senyavin. Thus, when Admiral Ivan de Traverse ordered Rear Admiral Semyon Pustoshkin to take command of the Black Sea Fleet, optimism prevailed.

On 27 April 1807, Pustoshkin approached the walls of the Turkish fortress of Anapa with six ships of the line and five frigates and laid siege to the city. On 29 April Russia landed troops and captured the fortress. Admiral de Traverse, arriving in the brig Diana, personally witnessed the victory. Three vessels and 95 enemy guns were seized.

A month later Pustoshkin launched a new campaign, this time against Trebizond. However, the Russian forces were defeated and, after the conclusion of the Slobodzey Truce, peace lasted for nearly two years. In 1809 Admiral de Traverse became Minister of the Navy and Vice-Admiral Nikolay Yazykov assumed command of the Fleet.

In the meantime, the Turks began to pursue their military interests more vigorously. They retook the fortress of Anapa, and Russian seamen had to attack the stronghold a second time.

The campaign progressed slowly until the following year, 1810, when Yazykov twice sent out the fleet under Rear Admiral Sarychev to search for and capture enemy ships. On 17 August Gavril Sarychev encountered eight Turkish ships of the line, two frigates and a brig near Varna. The Turks immediately withdrew. Sarychev's squadron, having failed to overtake the enemy vessels, reversed its course and headed for Sevastopol. Lieutenant-Commander Dodt was, however, more successful and on 11 July took the fortress of Sukhum Kale by storm with a detachment of six vessels and a landing force of 863. During the campaign of 1811 a detachment led by Captain Alexey Bychensky seized the Turkish frigate Magubay Subkhan and corvette Shagen Girey near the fortress of Penderaklia.

The Black Sea galley fleet, reorganized as the Danube Flotilla, was constantly active from 1809 to 1811. Its seamen rendered invaluable assistance to the Russian ground forces fighting at Ismail, Tulcha, Isakchey, Silistria, Batin, Ruschuk and Zhurzha. However, the decisive victory of the war was won by the army itself led by General Mikhail Golenishchev-Kutuzov.

The ensuing Bucharest Peace Treaty was signed on 16 May 1812. According to its terms, Russia acquired the Bessarabian fortresses of Akkerman, Kilia and Ismail and was granted the right to sail freely along the Danube; Anapa, Sudzuk Kale and Poti were returned to Turkey.

From Anapa to Adrianopol

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna gave Europe a welcome respite from incessant warring. No European government believed, however, that peace would last and, indeed, the struggle for control over the territory of the Ottoman Empire already augured war. In 1816 an experienced and educated seaman, Vice-Admiral Alexey Greig, was appointed commander-in-chief of the Black Sea Fleet. He had carefully overseen the preparation of his ships and was confident they would prove superior in any conflict. He ordered ships be considerably re-inforced with iron and their hulls protected with copper sheathing. Some of the largest warships, which were armed with 84 cannon, were re-armed with 108. Greig decided that the southern shipbuilding center must be Nikolayev because the shipwrights there were the most skilled and had even extended the seaworthiness of many ships from six to eleven years. Some ships built at Nikolayev remained in service for as long as seventeen years. Admiral Greig personally assisted in the design of the 120-gun ship of the line Varshava [Warsaw], whole displacement was an incredible five thousand tons. The crews were trained by the admiral himself, who each year spent several weeks with his officers, carefully instructing them in every aspect of seamanship and giving them the benefit of his many years of experience at sea. He outlawed flogging and severely limited other forms of corporal punishment. Greig even founded a finishing school for young ladies, intended to educate the daughters of his officers and, in addition, authorized the establishment of an observatory at Nikolayev for the study of astronomy.

By the outbreak of the Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829, the Black Sea Fleet consisted of nine ships of the line, five frigates, twenty small cruisers, three steamers and seventeen transports. Emperor Nicholas I ordered Admiral Greig to maintain Russia's naval supremacy in order to assist the army in its main line of advance along the coast of Rumelia to Constantinople. The fleet's first objective was Anapa, which surrendered on 12 June 1828 after prolonged bombardment from sea and land.

On 8 July the 20-gun brig Orphee supported the Russian ground forces during their successful assault on the Kustendzhi fortress on the western coast of the Black Sea. On 17 August Captain Nikolay Kritsky landed near the fortress of Inada and captured it with a unit of frigates and two small cruisers.

At approximately the same time, the main body of the fleet, commanded by Greig, joined with the army to lay siege to Varna. On 29 September, unable to withstand the prolonged bombardment, the Varna garrison capitulated, and the surviving 9,000 defenders of the fortress surrendered.

In the beginning of the next year Rear Admiral Mikhail Kumany attacked the seaside fortress of Sizopol. After heavy bombardment Russian seamen entered the fortress when the Turks ceased to resist further. In May, Captain Ivan Skalovsky carried out a daring operation against Turkish vessels being built on the coast of Anatolia. At Penderaklia fifteen minor craft, a transport and a newly-launched 60-gun ship were burnt, and a 26-gun corvette was destroyed on its slipway at Akchesor.

Admiral Greig remained at anchor near Sizopol, abandoning the Russian plan to blockade the Bosporus. The Turks took advantage of Greig's hesitance and three times entered the Black Sea without encountering Russian resistance.

The Russian 36-gun frigate Rafail became a victim of one such Turkish incursion. On 12 May, off the coast of Anatolia, the Rafail was surrounded by six ships of the line, two frigates, five corvettes and two brigs. Taken by surprise, Captain Semyon Stroynikov surrendered to the Turks. Lieutenant-Commander Alexander Kazarsky, commander of the 20-gun brig Mercury, reacted otherwise. His slow-moving brig was pursued by the 130-gun Selimier, flagship of the Kapudan Pasha, and the junior flagman's ship of the line. The Turks had ten times the cannon power of Kazarsky's ship, and yet the battle lasted four hours while the Mercury skillfully fended off Turkish attacks. In the end the enemy relented, leaving Kazarsky's ship still afloat; the Mercury, although heavily damaged, had survived.

The Mercury was awarded the ensign of St. George; Kazarsky was promoted to Captain; and he and his navigator, Ivan Prokofiev, were decorated with the Order of St. George. In addition, all members of the ship's crew were awarded medals for distinguished service in battle. In response to Turkish attacks on Russian ships, the Black Sea Fleet, joined by ground forces, retaliated, capturing the seaside fortresses of Messemvria and Midia. Captain Ivan Zavadovsky's Danube flotilla played a critical role in ending the war. In 1828, the vessels of his flotilla helped transport troops across the Danube, routed the Turkish galley flotilla in the Machinsk Branch and, on 29 June 1829, blockaded the fortress of Silistria.

On 2 September 1829, the Adrianopol Peace Treaty halted hostilities. Russia received the eastern coast of the Black Sea from the Kuban estuary to the port of St. Nicholas, the Danube estuary, and the right to sail merchant ships through the Bosporus. In addition, Turkey pledged to pay restitution and grant autonomy to Greece, Serbia, Moldavia and Wallachia.

The above materials are by kind permission of publishing house "Alexander PRINT"