Russian Navy

The first naval victory in the Russian history over the Swedish fleet at Gangut (Hanko peninsula, Finland), Baltic Sea, August 9, 1714

The Battle at Gangut between the Russian and the Swedish fleets had a critical outcome for the Russian victory in the Great Northern War (1700-1721). By spring 1714 the southern and almost all central parts of Finland were occupied by the Russian forces. In order to finalize the issue of gaining access to the Baltic Sea it was required to defeat the Swedes at sea. In the end of July 1714 the Russian galley fleet (99 galleys, auxiliary crafts and 15 000 troops) reached the eastern shore of Gangut (Tverminne bay) with the goal to break trough to the Abo-Aland skerries and land the troops in order to support Abo garrison (100 km to the north-west of cape Gangut). The way westward for the Russians was blocked by the Swedish fleet (15 ships of the line, 3 frigates and a number of rowing crafts) under command of Gustav Wattrang.

Peter the First decided to outplay the Swedes tactically, having part of his galleys dragged to the skerries north of Gangut over the isthmus 2.5 kilometers long. To realize this plan Peter ordered to build wooden flooring. As soon as this came to the knowledge of Wattrang he sent a detachment of ships (1 frigate, 6 galleys, 3 skerry boats) to the northern side of the peninsula. The detachment was commanded by Rear-admiral Ehrenskiold. Another part of the fleet (8 ships of the line and 2 bomb ships), under vice admiral Lillje, was sent by Wattrang to attack the main body of the Russian fleet.

The Tsar was expecting this and decided to use the split of the Swedish forces. The weather was as well on the Russian side. On the morning July 6 (June 26) came the calm therefore making the Swedish sailing ships immovable. The vanguard of the Russian fleet consisted of 20 vessels under commodore M.Kh. Zmaevich started the breakthrough outside Swedish ships and leaving them out of range of fire. The first group of galleys was followed by another (15 vessels). This breakthrough made the dragging unnecessary and later Zmaevichís ships blocked Swedish detachment under Ehrenskiold near the island of Lakkisser.

Wattrang now recalled Lillje apparently expecting the rest of the Russians to follow the same course and therefore left the inshore pass free. Apraksin was quick to take the advantage of it moving his main force through the inshore pass. At 2 p.m. of August 7 (July 27) the Russian vanguard consisted of 23 vessels attacked Ehrenskioldís detachment stationed in a defensive line between two islands with the wings close to the shore. The first two attacks the Swedes managed to repulse. The third attack was focused on two wings first, making impossible for the Swedes to use their advantage in broadside fire. One by one the ships were taken. Peter the First took personal part in the boarding giving his comrades the example of heroic conduct. After the hard fight the Swedish flagship struck her colors. All 10 ships of Ehrenskioldís detachment were captured. The part of the Swedish fleet managed to find shelter at Aland Islands.

Gangut Battle was the first major naval victory of the Russian fleet. It gave the Russians a free hand to operate in the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia and provided efficient support for the land forces active in Finland. In the Battle of Gangut the Russian command managed to use the advantage of the rowing fleet in the skerries against the Swedish sailing ships, skillfully organized the cooperation between the fleet and land forces, quickly responded on the change of weather and tactical environment, easily figured out Swedish maneuvers and therefore forcing the latter to act on dictated rules. High morale of the troops, sailors and officers allowed the Russians to defeat the outnumbered Swedish fleet.

Giving the appraisal of the fleetís value for a country after the Gangut victory Peter the First said "A country having the army only is one-armed but having the fleet as well gives a country both hands"

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