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W.L. Clowes on the 1854-56 Russian ("Crimean") War (4/4)
Before proceeding to survey the work of the Navy in 1855 in the Baltic, it may be well to glance briefly at what was done by the fleets in that year on two less important stations.
In the White Sea, a squadron, consisting of the Maeander, 44, Captain Thomas Baillie, Phoenix, 8, screw, Commander John Montagu Hayes (posted, July 9th, 1855), and Ariel, 9, screw, Commander John Proctor Luce, with the French vessels Cleopatra, 32, Cocyte, 6, and Pétrel, 4, blockaded the coasts. The British part of it quitted the Downs on May 10th, rounded the North Cape on May 31st, formally re-established the blockade on June 11th, and was joined a few days later by the French contingent. Early in July, the Ariel, despatched to the Gulf of Meyen, burnt a brigantine and two smaller craft, but met with no opposition. She rejoined the Maeander off Cross Island on July 9th. At the same time, the Phoenix and Pétrel cruised in the Gulf of Onega. Two of the Phoenix's boats were fired at near the village of Liamtsi, and the place was, in consequence, bombarded; but, probably, little damage was done to it. On July 12th, the Ariel relieved the Phoenix in the Gulf of Onega, and the Phoenix returned to the Maeander, off Archangel. The Ariel visited Kio, Solovetskoi, Sosnovia, Umba, and the Gulf of Kandalak. Near Kandalak her boats were attacked; but a landing-party drove off the enemy, and, under the fire of the sloop, the town was burnt. In this affair three seamen were wounded. On July 16th, the Maeander was at Kouzemen, at the mouth of the Gulf of Kandalak. A party of sixty men, under Lieutenant Hugh Maximilian Elliot, having been landed to reconnoitre, met a body of 350 armed people; but, as Captain Baillie deemed that nothing was to be gained by attacking, he re-embarked his little force. The Phoenix, in a brush with the enemy near Cape Kerets, had a man shot through the head. The greater part of the squadron reassembled off Archangel on July 21st. The British and French commanders at first intended to spare small local craft; but when they ascertained that these were used for the conveyance of muskets up and down the coast, they changed their minds; and thenceforward they prevented even the smallest boats from moving out of port. The squadron did not quit the White Sea until October 9th.
In the Pacific, Rear-Admiral Henry William Bruce had been appointed to command in November, 1854. During the early spring of 1855, Petropaulovski was watched by the Encounter, 14, Captain George William Douglas O'Callagan, and Barracouta, 6, Commander Frederick Henry Stirling (both vessels had been detached for the purpose from the East India station by Rear-Adm. Sir Jas. Stirling, Kt.); but those vessels had to keep at some distance from the town; and, on April 17th, taking advantage of snow and fog, the whole garrison of the place embarked in the men-of-war Aurora and Dwina, and four merchantmen, and escaped into the river Amur, while the civil inhabitants removed inland to the village of Avatcha. The guns were carried away or buried. Consequently, when in May the allied squadrons (consisting, in addition to the Encounter and Barracouta, of the President, 50 (flag), Capt. Richard Burridge; Pique, 40, Capt. Sir Frederick William Erskine Nicolson, Bart.; Trincomalee, 24, Capt. Wallace Houstoun; Dido, 18, Capt. William Henry Anderson Morshead, C.B.; Amphitrite, 24, Capt. Charles Frederick ; and Brisk, 14, scr., Com. Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour; with the French vessels Forte, 60, Alceste, 54, Eurydice, 32, and Obligado, 18), under Rear-Admirals Bruce and Fourichon, appeared before the fortress with the object of renewing the attack which had failed in the previous September, nothing but empty works and deserted buildings was found. Two Americans, and their French servant, alone remained to receive the visitors; and they had hoisted the American flag. The arsenals, batteries, and magazines were destroyed by the Allies; but the town was spared. A whaler, which was discovered hidden in Rakovia Harbour, was burnt, as, having neither sails nor anchors, she could not easily be taken away. While at Petropaulovski, Rear-Admiral Bruce was able to open up negotiations with the interior, and to effect the exchange of two prisoners. He and Rear-Admiral Fourichon then visited Sitka. It was not fortified, neither did it contain any Russian men-of-war. It was, therefore, not attacked. While the Pique, Barracouta, and Amphitrite were left with Sir James Stirling to patrol the Sea of Okhotsk, the rest of the allied squadrons separated, most of the British vessels going to Vancouver Island, and most of the French to San Francisco. On August 1st, the Barracouta overhauled the Bremen brig Greta, under American colours; and, as she had on board 277 seamen, part of the crew of the Russian frigate Diana, which had been wrecked on the coast of Japan a few months earlier, she was sent as a prize to Hong Kong, under Lieutenant Robert Gibson. No attempt was made to follow the Aurora and Dwina into the Amur, where they were reported to be very strongly posted behind a bar on which was only 13 feet of water.
Much dissatisfaction was expressed in England at this second failure in the extreme east; and the commanders of the Encounter and Barracouta were freely blamed for what was popularly regarded as negligence in allowing the two Russian men-of-war to escape them. There was, however, no public inquiry into the circumstances; and the Admiralty seems to have considered that both officers did their duty.
Events in the Baltic may now be followed to their conclusion without further interruption.
REAR-ADM. THE HON. RICHARD SAUNDERS DUNDAS, C.B.
(Dickinson, delt. & lith.)
Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier had himself made it impossible that he could be again ordered to hoist his flag. It is not necessary to suppose that he was culpably to blame for his comparative inactivity in 1854, and for his resultant fall from popularity. He was an old officer, and he had undoubtedly lost much of the dash and nerve of his brilliant youth. The Admiralty, however, may be held to have made a mistake in the original appointment. On the other hand, Napier, in his correspondence and interviews with his official superiors, had betrayed so much temper that it was out of the question for the Admiralty to repeat the same mistake. The Baltic command in 1855 was, therefore, given to Rear-Admiral the Hon. Richard Saunders Dundas, C.B., who just previously had held the office of second Naval Lord; and the fleet which was entrusted to him, instead of being composed partly of sailing and partly of steam ships, was made up wholly of steam-vessels, and was, in every other respect, much more powerful and generally serviceable than the Baltic fleet of 1854 had been. Moreover, there were attached to it, as will be seen, numerous small craft, mortar-vessels, and gunboats, suitable for operations in narrow and shallow waters; and it was arranged that it was ultimately to be strengthened by the addition to it of five armoured floating batteries, somewhat similar to those which, as has been already seen, the French sent to the Black Sea, and used at the reduction of Kinburn. These vessels, unfortunately, could not be got ready in time for actual employment. A list, as complete as possible, of Dundas's fleet of 1855 will be found on the following page.
|1)||Duke of Wellington||131||700||R.-Ad. Hon. R. S. Dundas, C.B.|
Commod. Hon. Fred. Thos. Pelham
Capt. Hy. Caldwell
|1)||Exmouth||90||400||R.-Ad. Michael Seymour|
Capt. Wm. King Hall
|Retribution, padd.||28||400||R.-Ad. Robt. Lambert Baynes, C.B.|
Capt. Thos. Fisher
|Royal George||102||400||" Hy. J. Codrington, C.B.|
|James Watt||91||600||" George Aug. Elliot|
|Orion||91||600||" Jno. Elphinstone Erskine|
|Caesar||90||400||" Jno. Robb|
|Nile||90||500||" Geo. Rodney Mundy|
|Cressy||80||400||" Rich. Laird Warren|
|Colossus||80||400||" Robt. Spencer Robinson|
|Blenheim||60||450||" William Hutcheon Hall|
|Hogue||60||450||" William Ramsay|
|1)||Edinburgh||60||450||" Rich. Strode Hewlett|
|Ajax||60||450||" Fred. Warden|
|Hawke||60||200||" Erasmus Ommanney|
|1)||Cornwallis||60||200||" Geo. Greville Wellesley|
|1)||Pembroke||60||200||" Geo. Henry Seymour|
|1)||Hastings||60||200||" Jas. Crawford Caffin|
|Impérieuse||51||360||" Rundle Burges Watson, C.B.|
|1)||Euryalus||51||400||" Geo. Ramsay|
|1)||Arrogant||47||360||" Hastings Reg. Yelverton|
|1)||Amphion||36||300||" Astley Cooper Key|
|1)||Cossack||20||250||" Edw. Gennys Fanshawe|
|Pylades||21||350||" Edward Clayton T. D'Eyncourt|
|Esk||21||250||" Thos. Fras. Birch|
|Tartar||20||250||" Hugh Dunlop|
|Archer||13||202||" Edm. Heathcote|
|1)||Magicienne, padd.||16||400||" Nicholas Vansittart|
|1)||Dragon, padd.||6||560||" Wm. Houston Stewart|
|Bulldog, padd.||6||500||Com. Alex. Crombie Gordon|
|1)||Vulture, padd.||6||470||Capt. Fred. Hy. Hastings Glasse|
|Centaur, padd.||6||540||" Wm. Jno. Cavendish Clifford|
|Gorgon, padd||6||320||Com. Rich. Borough Crawford|
|1)||Merlin, padd.||6||312||Capt. Bar. Jas. Sulivan|
|1)||Geyser, padd.||6||280||Com. Roderick Dew|
|1)||Lightning, padd.||3||100||Lieut. James Carter Campbell|
|Firefly, padd.||4||220||Capt. Hy. Chas. Otter|
|1)||Cruiser||17||60||Com. Hon. Geo. H. Douglas|
|Harrier||17||100||" Hy. Alex. Story|
|Desperate||8||400||" Rich. Dunning White|
|Conflict||8||400||" S. S. L. Crofton|
|Driver, padd.||6||280||" Alan Hy. Gardner|
|Cuckoo, padd.||3||100||Lieut. Aug. Geo. Ern. Murray|
|1)||Princess Alice, padd.||1||120|
|1)||Blazer, m. v.||-||60||Act.-Gunner Josiah Hunt 2)|
|1)||Havock, m. v.||-||60||Boats. Thos. Foreman 2)|
|1)||Manly, m. v.||-||60||Act.-Boats. Jno. Bosanquet 2)|
|1)||Surly, m. v.||-||60|
|1)||Gleaner, g. b.||4||60||Mate Arch. Geo. Bogle 2)|
|1)||Pelter, g. b.||4||60||Lieut. Wm. Fredk. Lee 2)|
|1)||Pincher, g. b.||4||60||" Keith Stewart 2)|
|1)||Ruby, g. b.||4||60|
|1)||Badger, g. b.||-||60||Mate Wm. Hy. Cumming 2)|
|1)||Snapper, g. b.||4||60||Lieut. Arth. Julian Villiers 2)|
|1)||Biter, g. b.||-||60||" Warren Hastings Anderson 2)|
|1)||Dapper, g. b.||4||60||" Hy. Jas. Grant 2)|
|1)||Magpie, g. b.||2||60||" Bedford C. T. Pim 2)|
|1)||Redwing, g. b.||-||60||Mate Wm. Greenhill Silverlock 2)|
|1)||Skylark, g. b.||4||60||Lieut. Fred. Whiteford Pym 2)|
|1)||Snap, g. b.||4||60||" Chas. Arth. Wise 2)|
|1)||Starling, g. b.||4||60||" Shute Barrington Piers 2)|
|1)||Stork, g. b.||4||60||" Geo. Jno. Malcolm 2)|
|Swinger, g. b.||-||60|
|1)||Thistle, g. b.||4||60||" David Spain 2)|
|1)||Weazel, g. b.||-||60||" Robt. Geo. Craigie 2)|
|1)||Lark, g. b.||4||60||" Mark Robt.Pechell 2)|
|1)||Rocket, m. v.||-||60||Boats. Jno. Thorns 2)|
|1)||Pickle, m. v.||-||60||Act.-Boats. Rich. Jones 2)|
|1)||Mastiff, m. v.||-||60||Act.-Guuner Rich. Fowell 2)|
|1)||Drake, m. v.||-||40||" Jno. Dew 2)|
|1)||Prompt, m. v.||-||60||Act.-Boats. Chas. Ford 2)|
|1)||Beacon, m. v.||-||60||" Rich. Broad 2)|
|1)||Porpoise, m. v.||-||60||" Charles Haydon 2)|
|1)||Redbreast, m. v||-||60||Act.-Gunner G. Taylor 2)|
|1)||Grappler, m. v.||-||60||Act.-Boats. Thos. Hawkins 2)|
|1)||Growler, m. v.||-||60|
|1)||Carron, m. v.||-||-||Act.-Boats. J. Terdre 2)|
|1)||Sinbad, m. v.||-||-||Act.-Gunner Hy. Wallace 2)|
|Lively m. v.||-||60||Boats. Chas. Blofleld 2)|
|1)||Belleisle, trp. s.||-||-||Com. Jas. Hosken|
|1)||AEolus, st. s.||-||-|
|Perseverance, trp. s.||-||360|
|1)||Volcano, padd.||-||140||Mast. Rich. Cossantine Dyer|
|1) Present at Sweaborg.|
2) These officers commanded at the bombardment of Sweaborg. In some
cases there were changes before or after that time.
The first detachment of the command weighed anchor in the Downs on March 28th, and proceeded. Great part of the rest of it sailed from Spithead on Wednesday, April 4th. The first division of the French Baltic Fleet (Tourville, Austerlitz, Duquesne, d'Assas, and Aigle), under Rear-Admiral Pénaud, quitted Brest on April 26th, but did not effect its junction with the British until the early part of June.1 Ere that time, the coast of Courland had been formally blockaded, and several small operations had been carried out in the Gulf of Finland, where numerous vessels belonging to the enemy were destroyed. On May 10th, the fleet made rendezvous off Nargen Island; on the following day the Admirals, in the Merlin, reconnoitred Reval; and on May 12th, in the same vessel, escorted by the Euryalus and Cossack, they reconnoitred Sweaborg. Both Reval and Sweaborg were observed to have been greatly strengthened since the autumn of 1854. At the latter place, about sixty fresh guns had been mounted in seven new earthworks; and in port were seen four ships of the line, three of which were dismantled, together with a frigate and two small steamers. Reval offered few inducements for attack. Any large operations against Cronstadt were ultimately felt to be out of the question in the absence of the armoured batteries. There remained only Sweaborg among important places which it might be both possible and worth while to reduce. Even Sweaborg, after Dundas had looked at it, narrowly escaped being set aside as a fortress too strong to be attempted by the fleets. Sulivan, however, steadfastly declared that it might be reduced with the aid of the gun and mortar boats.
"Dundas though very anxious to do all that was possible, felt much doubt about succeeding in this latter plan; and much influence was used in an important quarter in the fleet to convince him that it could not succeed, and that the small mortar-vessels could not safely lie at anchor under the fire of such a strong place. ... Whilst waiting at Nargen for the arrival of the mortar-vessels, it seemed probable that the attempt would be given up, and some minor points on the coast attacked instead. On one visit to the flagship, Sulivan was told by the Admiral that he had decided not to attempt it; and it was only after using every argument to combat the adverse view, and pressing his opinion also on the French Admiral, who generally supported him, that Sulivan got Admiral Dundas to alter his decision and make up his mind to carry out the plan; but he made this condition that Sulivan should agree to place mortar-vessels 3300 yards from the fortress, instead of 3000, as proposed by him. It was only after the mortar-vessels had arrived, and he had consulted Captain Wemyss (Capt. John Maurice Wemyss, R.M.A., Maj. in Army, Nov. 2nd, 1855, C.B. Jan. 2nd, 1857), of the Marine Artillery, who thought that, even at that distance, the mortars would be able to cover all the fortress, that Sulivan yielded the point."
Thus, the only considerable purely naval operation of the second campaign in the Baltic would, in all probability, have been never undertaken but for the advocacy of Captain Bartholomew James Sulivan. But it was not undertaken until comparatively late in the season ; and ere that many things happened.
Long before the fleets in the Baltic had reached anything like their intended strength, small-pox broke out in some of the ships; and on May 16th, the Duke of Wellington had to leave Nargen for Faro Sound, on the Swedish coast, in order to land her sick. To guard against any sudden dash on the part of the Russians at Cronstadt, during the absence of the flagship, the Euryalus, Merlin, and Magicienne, under the Captains named in the table on p. 478, were detached to cruise well to the eastward until the 19th. They were not interfered with. Indeed, the Russians never attempted to utilise their ships as fighting machines during the whole of the war. On May 26th, boats from the Cossack, 20, Captain Edward Gennys Fanshawe, and Esk, 21, Captain Thomas Francis Birch, took and destroyed some vessels off Hango Head, and met with little opposition, even from the shore. On the same day, the fleet moved up the Gulf of Finland; and on the 27th, the Merlin and Magicienne were detached to look into Viborg Bay and Björko Sound. Off Biskops Island, several small craft were taken, and the. Magicienne captured two fine transport galliots from their convoy, a steamer, which cast them off and abandoned them on the approach of Captain Vansittart. The Orion, 91, Captain John Elphinstone Erskine, simultaneously reconnoitred Cronstadt; and though she lay throughout the night of the 27th within sight of about eight Russian steamships - four being very heavily armed ones - she was not attacked. A more extensive reconnaissance was made on May 31st by the fleet, headed by the Euryalus, Merlin, and Amphion, Admirals Dundas and Seymour, upon closing, went on board the Merlin, and, proceeding, anchored off the lighthouse, where they landed, and whence they obtained a fine view. In spite of the fear of infernal machines, or stationary torpedoes, the reconnaissance was renewed on June 1st, and pushed well round to the north-east side of Cronstadt (See plan on p. 483). The Merlin narrowly escaped grounding, and was for some time in difficulties within range of about twenty guns, but was not fired at. Upon rejoining the fleet, the Admirals found that the French division, under Rear-Admiral Pénaud, had just arrived. Another reconnaissance was made on June 2nd, and numerous soundings were taken; but the more Cronstadt was looked at, the less it was liked.
In the meantime the Cossack, which had visited the fleet off Nargen, had returned to Hango Head, with the object of landing three prisoners who had been taken in the neighbourhood in the affair of May 26th, and four other prisoners who had been captured elsewhere. She arrived off Hango in the morning of June 5th, and, at 11 A.M., sent in a boat with a flag of truce, under Lieutenant Louis Geneste, with orders to land the prisoners, to allow none of the ship's people to straggle from the boat, and to return without delay. Strangely enough, however, three officers' stewards were allowed to go ashore. To give them this permission implied, of course, that they might venture at least so far from the boat as to obtain supplies from any natives who might be willing to sell them. Surgeon Robert Tulloh Easton also accompanied the party. Upon reaching the beach, the boat was screened from the ship by some intervening islands. At 4.30 P.M., the boat not having returned, Captain Fanshawe sent in the first Lieutenant, John Bousquet Field, in the gig, with another flag of truce; and, as neither craft had come back at the close of the day, the Cossack and Esk were anchored in the inner road. At about 8.30 P.M. the gig reappeared, reporting that after a long search she had found the cutter, hauled within a small jetty, and that in her were the bodies of four of her people, Edward Thompson, leading seaman, William Linn, Captain's steward, Benjamin Smith, able seaman, and James Cornwell, ordinary seaman. Captain Fanshawe ordered that the ships should weigh at 2.30 A.M. on the 6th, take up positions for covering the village and telegraph-station, and send in a demand for the return of the cutter and the missing officers and men. Before, however, the ships could weigh, the cutter was seen to be coming out, in charge of one dangerously wounded man, who, upon being brought on board, reported that, having reached the jetty, Geneste, Easton, Master's-Assistant Charles Sullivan, and the prisoners, had stepped ashore and advanced, Geneste waving the flag of truce (Geneste reported that it was carried by one of the stewards). Immediately afterwards a body of Russian soldiers, headed by an officer who spoke English, had appeared, and, after a brief and angry parley, had opened fire. No resistance had been made, and, according to the survivor, all his companions had been killed. It subsequently turned out, however, that only seven people had been killed, and that the rest, including Geneste, Sullivan, and Easton, had been taken prisoners, some in a wounded condition. Captain Fanshawe thereupon opened fire at 600 yards upon the place, and continued until a thick fog obliged him to cease and haul off.
This affair made a great noise: but it is only right to recall that, on the Russian side, it was declared, firstly, that no flag of truce was seen, and secondly, that, even supposing that the boat landed and the party advanced under such a flag, the whole proceeding was irregularly conducted, and likely, therefore, to lead to such a catastrophe as actually occurred. The Cossack herself should have displayed a white flag during the absence of her cutter; and she ran some risk in sending in a boat at all, so long as she did not know that the Russians at Hango were willing to receive a flag of truce there. It is conceivable that it might be inconvenient and even dangerous to a defending force to allow a boat, under any pretext whatsoever, to approach a given position. Apart from all such questions, it may be asked: what were the stewards doing in the boat, and why were arms and the arms' chest taken with the party? Neither foragers nor muskets should have been sent in in such circumstances. It was at last arranged between the belligerents that in future the Russians should receive flags of truce only at Cronstadt, Sweaborg, Reval, Libau, Windau, Tornea, and Wasa; and it was understood on both sides that vessels desiring to communicate must hoist a white flag of large dimensions, cast anchor beyond long range, and wait until a boat from the other side should visit them to receive the message. It was further accepted, as a matter of course, that no attempts to obtain information or supplies under a flag of truce ought to be made in any circumstances. More than one British Captain of the time appears, unfortunately, though, no doubt, unintentionally, to have been far too careless of the impressions which his methods of procedure were likely to make upon a wary and suspicious enemy. The business, though in many respects most regrettable, had the good effect of rendering Captain Fanshawe and other commanders more punctilious.
On June 6th and 7th, the Magicienne, 16, paddle, Captain Nicholas Vansittart, destroyed a couple of galliots, and dispersed some small bodies of troops in Kansiala Bay and Ravensair Inlet, and at Kiskulla.
(From 'Life and Letters of Sir B.J. Sulivan,' by kind permission of Mr. John Murray.)
On June 9th, a little accident which might easily have had far-reaching results happened. Rear-Admiral Pénaud, and a number of other officers, desiring to make as near a survey as possible of the defences on the north and north-east sides of Cronstadt, went on board the Merlin, 6, paddle, which, attended by the Firefly, 4, paddle, Dragon, 6, paddle, and French corvette d'Assas, proceeded rather further than she had gone on any previous reconnaissance. She was fired at by a distant Russian gunboat, which probably desired to tempt her to approach still closer in that direction. She turned off, however, and was leisurely steaming at about two and a half miles from the island, the Firefly following her, and the Dragon and d'Assas keeping further out, when she exploded a small infernal machine, or torpedo. She was not damaged; but she was stopped, and then went astern a little; whereupon she struck a second torpedo, which exploded just before her starboard paddle-box, and shook her very severely. The Firefly, which, already warned off, had hauled a cable's length inside the Merlin, exploded a third machine under her bow. In the Merlin, mess-traps, lockers, plates, cups, glasses and bottles were smashed by the second blow, two girders were bent or broken, and some copper was torn away; but the vessel's complete efficiency was in no wise impaired. The torpedoes which were thus encountered were, no doubt, of a type the invention of one Jacobi. Each consisted of a cone-shaped zinc vessel, generally about 2 feet deep, and 15 inches broad, moored base upwards. At the bottom was a charge of gunpowder. In the broader end were an air-chamber and the firing apparatus. This last was a simple device whereby, upon anything impinging strongly against the periphery of the upturned base of the cone, a glass tube, containing acid, was broken in such manner as to ignite a primer placed below it and communicating with the main charge (one of these machines is in the museum of H.M.S. Excellent, at Portsmouth). The machine worked fairly well; but it was usually far too small to be really dangerous to large ships. Several specimens which were crept for and brought to the surface were found to contain as little as eight pounds of powder. None seem to have held more than thirty-five pounds of it. Why very much larger machines of the same class were not employed in considerable numbers is a question which has never been satisfactorily answered. The Vulture, 6, paddle, was struck by another torpedo on June 20th; and on the following day, in consequence, the ships then before Cronstadt began sweeping and creeping for the machines with such good results that, within seventy-two hours, as many as thirty-three of the torpedoes were fished up. It is astonishing that the work was done without great loss of life; for extreme carelessness was often displayed in the handling of these dangerous obstructions. Bear-Admiral Seymour, and Captain William King Hall, having found one, hauled it into their gig, and began to play with it. They took it to the Commander-in-Chief, and again played with it; and finally, carrying it on board the Exmouth, they played with it on the quarter-deck once more, until it exploded, knocking down' everyone near, and wounding about half-a-dozen people, including Seymour, Captain Charles Louis, R.M., and Flag-Lieutenant Richard Bulkeley Pearse. The Russians, who knew better what they were about, and were more careful, were less fortunate; for a torpedo, exploding in one of their boats, killed seventeen men. Rear-Admiral Dundas himself nearly lost his sight through unwise trifling with the firing apparatus of an empty infernal machine.
The repeated reconnaissances of Cronstadt had by that time showed that the place, in which lay about twenty-three sail of the line, besides numerous frigates, corvettes, and steamers, and very many gunboats, was too strong to be successfully attacked by the then available forces of the naval cominanders-in-chief, who had not enough light-draught gun and mortar-vessels, who had no armoured batteries at all, and who could not bring their big ships within effective gunshot of the enemy. Pending, therefore, the arrival of more force, and of a decision as to the point against which the whole should be directed, numerous small expeditions were despatched against comparatively unimportant places. On June 14th, the Basilisk, 6, paddle, Commander Stephen Smith Lowther Crofton (Robert Jenner?) appeared in Siela Sound, between Dago and Ösel, and destroyed ten boats laden with grain. On June 16th, the Exmouth, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Seymour, with the Blenheim, Pincher, and Snap, parted company in order to reconnoitre the mouth of the river Narva. On the 17th, they had a slight brush with the Russian batteries; and on the 18th, desiring to cut out some coasters which were seen in shore, Seymour temporarily transferred his flag to the Snap, and, followed by the Blenheim and Pincher, stood close in. He unexpectedly came within sight of a 14-gun sand battery, upon which he opened at about 1200 yards. A brisk engagement followed; but although the enemy suffered some loss and had a gun disabled, no material result was attained. The division rejoined the fleet, which was then off Nargen, on the 19th, and with it proceeded to Seskar, and so to nearly its old position off Cronstadt, the larger part anchoring about five miles north of the fortress, and a few vessels, in mid-channel, between the lighthouse and the mainland. There was no longer a question of attacking Cronstadt. It was only desired to observe, and to "contain" it; but more than once, in the next few weeks, while schemes for reducing Sweaborg were being matured, shots were exchanged with the forts and batteries.
On June 20th, the Arrogant, Magicienne, and Ruby destroyed a fort at Rotchensalm in the Gulf of Finland (a blockade of the coast of Finland had been declared on June 15th) and, on the same day, the boats of the Conflict and Desperate destroyed five coasting sloops off Pernau, at the north point of the Gulf of Riga. Two days later, the Amphion had a slight engagement with batteries at Sandhamn, Storholm, and Ertholm. A more important service was performed by Commander Henry Alexander Story, of the Harrier, 17, which formed one of Captain Frederick Warden's division, employed in the Gulf of Bothnia. The navigation up to the town of Nystad having been previously made familiar to him by Captain Henry Charles Otter, of the Firefly, Story, on June 23rd and 24th, destroyed no fewer than 47 sail, or about 20,000 tons, of the enemy's shipping in that neighbourhood, after having worked continuously in his boats for twenty-two hours. He specially mentioned in his dispatch1 the assistance which he had received from Lieutenant William Henry Annesley. On June 27th, the Firefly, 4, paddle, Captain Henry Charles Otter, and Driver, 6, paddle, Commander Alan Henry Gardner, of the same division, destroyed two masked but unarmed batteries at Christenestad; and on June 30th, in Werolax Bay, in the Gulf of Finland, the Ruby, gunboat, Lieutenant Henry George Hale, and boats of the Magicienne, 16, paddle, Captain Nicholas Vansittart, burnt or scuttled twenty-pine vessels.
On July 2nd, the Driver, Commander Alan Henry Gardner, with the Harrier, Commander Henry Alexander Story, appeared off Raumo, in the Gulf of Bothnia, and summoned the town. The burgomaster pulled out under a flag of truce, and, having agreed to give up such vessels as lay in port, recommended Gardner to pull up to the head of the bay, where he would find the sails belonging to the craft in question. The man then went back. As the vessels could not be well taken out while a flag of truce was flying, Gardner hauled his down, and sent in his boats, understanding that he was to receive the vessels and spare the town; but, owing either to misapprehension or to treachery, the boats were greeted with a cross fire, and had to retreat with a loss of two men killed or mortally wounded, and three others severely hurt. The Driver covered the retirement, and then threw shot, shell, and 24-pr. rockets into the town for about an hour and a half, but, strange to say, failed to set it on fire, though it was built of wood.
At about that time it was rumoured that the enemy was strengthening the entrance to the Gulf of Lovisa, some miles to the eastward of Helsingfors and Sweaborg. Thither accordingly went Captain Hastings Reginald Yelverton in the Arrogant, 47, screw, with the Magicienne and Ruby. On July 4th, he anchored his vessels close under Fort Swartholm, which he found to be a modernised work capable of mounting 122 guns, and having case-mated barracks for 1000 men. Guns, stores, and ammunition had, however, been removed by the Russians, who had received intelligence of the British approach. The fort and barracks were destroyed. On July 5th, Yelverton, in the Ruby, reconnoitred the town of Lovisa, and, with musketry and rocket fire, dispersed a body of Cossacks. Landing, he burnt the government stores and barracks in the place, but spared the town, which, nevertheless, caught fire accidentally during the following night, and was, unfortunately, reduced to ashes. Yelverton went thence to Kounda Bay, where he dislodged some more Cossacks; to the mouth of the river Portsoiki, where he destroyed buildings and drove off a few troops; and to Transsund, off the town of Viborg, where he arrived on July 13th. In the sound he encountered, chased, and exchanged shots with a Russian man-of-war steamer. Pushing on in the Ruby, with the boats of the Arrogant and Magicienne, he sighted another steamer and three gunboats, but was suddenly brought up by a sunken obstruction, and, while examining it, was opened fire upon from a masked battery only about three hundred and fifty yards from him. After a short period of natural confusion, the boats pulled steadily up to the earthwork, and maintained a spirited engagement with it for upwards of an hour, but could effect nothing, as the enemy, reinforced by his steamers and gunboats, was in greatly superior force; and at length the British had to retire to the ships. While the boats were still under fire an explosion took place in the Arrogant's second cutter, killing Mr. Story, the Midshipman in charge of her, and half swamping the boat, which drifted under the battery. All remaining in her would probably have been killed or taken, had not George Ingoueville, one of her crew, though wounded, jumped overboard, with the painter in his hand, and towed her. off. Her condition was then seen from the Ruby, whereupon Lieutenant George Dare Dowell, R.M.A., of the Magicienne, who happened to be on board, calling for volunteers, jumped into the Ruby's gig, was joined by Lieutenant Henry Vachell Haggard (promoted Commander July 24th, 1855, for this service.), first of the Arrogant, and two men, and pulled off under an increasingly hot fire to the rescue. The gallant little party saved the boat and her crew; but the whole affair cost the loss of two killed and ten wounded.3 Ingoueville, and Lieutenant Dowell received the Victoria Cross for their bravery and initiative. While Captain Yelverton was engaged in these affairs, the Lightning, 3, paddle, off Bogskarin Beacon, and the Basilisk, 6, paddle, in Siele Sound, injured the enemy by destroying a number of salt boats. On July 17th, the Basilisk, in company with the Desperate, 8, Commander Richard Dunning White, had a smart brush with batteries and gunboats in the Gulf of Riga.
On July 19th, there began an important series of reconnaissances. Admirals Dundas and Pénaud went on board the Merlin, 6, paddle, Captain Bartholomew James Sulivan, and, attended by the Amphion, Dragon, a gunboat, and a small French screw steamer, looked into Helsingfors and Sweaborg.
"The enemy," says Sulivan, "were in the act of sinking a two-decker to block the western passage, one having been sunk within a few days in the same passage. In turning to come out in one place, the French screw astern of us exploded two 'infernals,' but nearly twenty yards from her. Probably they were exploded by wires from the shore. ... The next day we went into Reval, and had a close look at all the batteries. ... The same evening I was off with two gunboats to examine all the shores inside the large islands of Dago and Ösel. ... The next day, Saturday, we reached the sound inside Wormsö Island, and I tried to go to Hapsal ... It was too shallow about five miles off for Merlin to pass. ... But ... I got both gunboats (drawing seven feet) through. ... There were no vessels and no defences. ..."
On July 23rd, 24th, and 25th, the expedition examined the coasts of Dago and Ösel, and then returned to the rendezvous off Nargen, calling on the way at Odensholm. Pénaud came to the conclusion that Helsingfors, and not Sweaborg, its guardian fortress, ought to be attacked. Sulivan induced Dundas to advocate the attack on Sweaborg; and, in consequence, on July 31st, the Merlin was detached from the fleet to examine the place more minutely, and to buoy the approaches to it.
In the meantime, Yelverton, with his division, then consisting of the Cossack, 20, Captain Edward Gennys Fanshawe, as well as of the Arrogant, Magicienne, and Ruby, as before, appeared on July 21st before the recently constructed batteries of Fredericton, on the Finland coast, nearly midway between Viborg and Helsingfors. The British opened fire a little before 10 A.M., and for an hour and a half there was a brisk engagement. The enemy, however, having suffered heavily, eventually abandoned his guns, some of which had been dismounted. The loss on the attacking side was only three men wounded, though the ships were several times struck. Part of the town was unintentionally burnt, and the fort was much knocked about; but, having no troops with him, and there being a strong body of Russian troops in the immediate neighbourhood, Yelverton did not attempt a landing, and presently withdrew. He then reported that it was desirable that the island of Kotka, where, a month earlier, he had destroyed a work, should be again examined, as the enemy was active there. Dundas, therefore, reinforced him with the mortar-vessels Prompt, Pickle, Rocket, and Blazer, and with four gunboats, the latter from the division of Rear-Admiral Baynes, who lay off Cronstadt, and the former from the fleet off Nargen. These joined the Arrogant on July 26th, off Hogland, and at 2 P.M. the squadron anchored off Fort Botchenholm.
"As," says Yelverton, "the safety of our expedition rested chiefly on our investing, and holding the entire possession of, the fortified island of Kotka, I determined upon taking it at once. Accordingly, I anchored the mortar-vessels out of range, and, leaving two gunboats to look after them, I proceeded with the rest of the vessels to the westward of Kotka, for the purpose of destroying the bridge, so as to cut off the retreat of the garrison, and prevent their receiving reinforcements from the mainland. Captain Vansittart, of the Magicienne, with his accustomed zeal and activity, threaded his way at once through the shoals, and destroyed the bridge. As soon as all the vessels had anchored, so as to command the great military road leading from the fort of Hogforsholm, and also the channel dividing the island from the main, I landed all the Marines, under the command of Captain Samuel Netterville Lowder, R.M., with Lieutenant George Dare Dowell, R.M.A., and Lieutenants Henry Colton Mudge and Ponsonby Ross Holmes, R.M., who took possession without being opposed, as the garrison (no doubt apprised of our coming by the telegraphs along the coast) had very recently evacuated, leaving behind them a large amount of military stores, which have since been burnt. ..."
Three barracks, four stores, four magazines, four guard-houses and detached buildings, six other buildings, and some workshops and supplies were destroyed, and on the 27th the squadron departed, Captain Fanshawe, with the Cossack, being left in charge of the island. Yelverton, in his dispatch, specially mentioned the services rendered by Masters George Giles (Arrogant), and George Alexander Macfarlane (Magicienne), in sounding and buoying the intricate channels on the coast. Indeed, the whole campaign in the Baltic was essentially a campaign of navigators and marine surveyors, at the head of whom were Captains Bartholomew James Sulivan, and Henry Charles Otter.
In the Gulf of Riga, on July 23rd, Arensburg, in the island of Ösel, was taken possession of by a landing-party from the Archer, 13, screw, Captain Edmund Heathcote, and Desperate, 8, Commander Richard Dunning White. On the 30th, the Archer, with the Conflict, 8, screw, dispersed some troops, and destroyed some public buildings at Windau, on the Courland coast, just outside the limits of the gulf. And on August 6th, the Archer and Desperate, landing a detachment near Dome Ness, destroyed a sloop and government buildings, and repulsed a body of cavalry.
In the Gulf of Bothnia, the smaller vessels of Captain Warden's division continued their activity. On July 24th, the Harrier, 17, screw, Commander Henry Alexander Story, and Cuckoo, 3, paddle, destroyed part of the town of Raumo, and a quantity of shipping. The Firefly, 4, paddle, pushed further north, and on August 1st was off Korsoren beacon. Getting out his two paddle-box boats and his gig, Otter pulled in towards Brandon, the seaport of Wasa, cut down a telegraph on a small island in Korshamn Fiord, and captured a large barque laden with tar, returning early on the following morning to his ship. That night he carried her up, and anchored her within four hundred yards of Brandon, which was then a considerable shipbuilding centre. Under cover of the Firefly's guns, Lieutenant John Ward, with the boats, went to examine the magazines and storehouses. Otter determined to burn them, but agreed to await a favourable opportunity, the wind then blowing directly on to the town, which he had no desire to damage. In the course of the day Lieutenant Edward Burstal1 (promoted Commander for this service, Sept. 29th, 1855) took another prize, a schooner, and discovered two barques and two brigs in a neighbouring creek. In the evening, while a working party was transferring some tar and deals to the schooner prize, a brisk musketry fire was opened upon the party, and also upon the Firefly, and was returned with shot and shell. The schooner could not be brought out, and was abandoned. A barque, however, was carried off, thanks largely to the exertions of Second Master John Augustus Bull; and the other barque and the two brigs were destroyed. In this affair, while the enemy had 25 killed and many hurt, the total British loss was only 2 slightly wounded. During the continuance of unfavourable weather, Cossacks, with several guns, reinforced the town. Not until the 8th was Otter able to attempt the destruction of the magazines and storehouses. He then opened fire at 1500 yards, first on a 4-gun battery, which did not reply, and then on the buildings, which, by 2.30 P.M., were observed to be burning. At about that time Lieutenant John Ward volunteered to go in with a paddle-box boat, and attempt to cut out the abandoned schooner; but, although he made a very gallant effort, he had at length to retire before overwhelming strength, happily, however, without loss. At 8 P.M., the conflagration ashore being obviously no longer in danger of extinction, Otter closed to fire a few more rounds at the still silent battery, and then, since his ammunition was nearly expended, began to back out. A general and heavy fire was thereupon suddenly directed against him. His situation, in a narrow and shallow channel where he dared not turn, was, for more than half an hour, extremely trying; but at length he drew slowly out of range.
It has been already said that, after much discussion. Admirals Dundas and Pénaud had decided to attack the fortress of Sweaborg, and to spare the city of Helsingfors. The wisdom of this decision has been often called in question. Helsingfors, besides being a very wealthy and important place, challenged attack, in that it was strongly fortified. If captured, it could not have been occupied, seeing that the Allies had no troops available for the purpose; but, if it had been bombarded and destroyed, its fate would have been a most serious blow to the enemy; and the discomfort caused to its large population would, no doubt, have had a salutary effect upon such public opinion as then existed in Russia. On the other hand, the bombardment of Sweaborg affected neither the military prestige of the Russian government nor the pockets of influential Russians; and, upon the whole, it was a very aimless, if not dangerous, proceeding, in view of the fact that, even had the forts been entirely levelled with the ground, their disappearance would not have furthered the end to the attainment of which Great Britain and France had committed themselves. Had it been purposed, after bombarding Sweaborg, to storm, capture and hold the works in force; to use them for operations against Helsingfors; and to use Helsingfors itself as a base for a military movement against Cronstadt and St. Petersburg, the attack would have justified itself. There was, however, no scheme of this kind. Feeling in London and Paris demanded that something striking should be done in the Baltic; and Sweaborg appeared to offer to the Allies a magnificent target in front of which they might make a noisy display for the delectation of the crowd at home. It is to be feared that no considerations very much sounder dictated the course which was pursued. The attack is, however, of some interest, because, unlike the attacks on Sebastopol, it was entirely of a naval character, and because, in spite of the huge strength of the defences, the ships did undoubtedly inflict a considerable amount of damage, while themselves escaping almost scot free.
SWEABORG, 1855. PLAN OF ATTACK.
NOTE. The shaded portions indicate the area of the conflagrations caused by the bombardment.
(From 'Life and Letters of Sir B.J. Sulivan,' by kind permission of Mr. John Murray.)
In 1855, the congeries of fortresses called Sweaborg occupied part of the group of small islands lying E.S.E. of Helsingfors, the centre of the works being about 3500 yards from the nearest part of the city. The islands are little more than large granite rocks, and the works upon them were to a large extent excavated in the solid stone. Chief among the fortified islets were Vargon, in the middle, Gustafvaard, East Svarto, West Svarto, and Lilla Svarto. These, which showed a general front towards the S.W., and most of which were interconnected by bridges, or fortified stone piers, protected the entrance to Helsingfors Bay. In two of the intervals which separated them, and which formed the passages into the bay, lay ships of the line, moored with their broadsides athwart the channel; and in the various works were upwards of 800 guns, with full garrisons to man them.
During the first few days of August, Captain Bartholomew James Sulivan, in the Merlin, was continuously engaged in superintending the sounding and buoying of the waters immediately about the fortress, and in making plans and marking positions for the attacking ships. On the 6th, Dundas, with the British fleet, arrived from off Nargen; and, in the evening of the same day and morning of the next, he was joined by Pénaud, with the French contingent, which included, besides ships of the line, gunboats, steamers and storeships, the sailing mortar-vessels Tocsin, Fournaise, Trombe, Torche, and Bombe (each mounting two 13-in. mortars). A sufficient observing force remained, of course, near Cronstadt. The British contingent was made up of the vessels whose names are prefaced by a 1 in the table on page 478. The main attack was to be made by means of the mortar-vessels (sixteen British and five French; the British each mounted one 12-in. mortar), ranged along a curve on either side of the islet of Oterhall, the French occupying the centre of the line. Admiral Pénaud, soon after his arrival, began to supplement this scheme by establishing a battery of four brass 10-inch mortars on Abraham Holm, a rock about 600 yards nearer than Oterhall to the fortress; but he was unable to complete the business until the morning of the 9th. Ere that time all the mortar-vessels had been stationed in positions, 3900 yards from the batteries, whence they could easily warp into action at 3600 yards' range. This work had been done under direction of Captain Sulivan, the general management of the flotilla being then entrusted to Lieutenant the Hon. Augustus Charles Hobart, and the management of the mortar-fire being committed to Captains (R.M.A.) John Maurice Wemyss, Joseph Edward Wilson Lawrence, and George Augustus Schomberg. Behind the line of mortar-vessels were anchored the Euryalus, Vulture, Magicienne, and Dragon, as supports and supply ships; and in rear of these lay the mass of the combined fleets. The gunboats, having been previously armed with additional guns of heavy calibre, were removed from among the ships of the line, and employed as will be shown later. The Stork and Snapper, which were fitted with Lancaster guns, were specially entrusted to Captain Richard Strode Hewlett, of the Edinburgh, who had experience in the use of those weapons.
Early on the 9th, the mortar-vessels warped in to their assigned stations, and, soon after seven o'clock, began firing. The Stork and Snapper, circling inside and to the right of the line of mortar-vessels, devoted their attention to a three-decker that lay across the channel between Gustafvaard and Bakholmen. Inside, and to the left of the line, Commander George William Preedy, with the Starling, Thistle, Pelter, Biter, and Badger, circled and bombarded the western batteries; and, near Abraham Holm, the Pincher, Skylark, and Lark, under Captain George Ramsay, the Vulture, Snap, and Gleaner, under Captain Frederick Henry Hastings Glasse, and the Dapper and Redwing, under Captain Nicholas Vansittart, manoeuvred in a similar manner. Further to the N.W., ordered to keep Vargon church open of Stora Rantan, were the Magpie and Weazel, under Captain William Houston Stewart. The Hastings, Amphion (Amphion had 3 wounded), and Cornwallis (Cornwallis had 10 wounded), under Captain George Greville Wellesley, of the ship last-named, were detached off the south-east end of Sandhamn to seize every opportunity of engaging the enemy there; and the Arrogant, Cossack, and Cruiser were sent to the westward to occupy the attention of the troops which were posted on Drumsio Island. Within a short time, the action became general in every direction.
"A rapid fire," says Dundas, "of shot and shells was kept up from the fortress for the first few hours upon the gunboats, and the ranges of the heavy batteries extended completely beyond the mortar-vessels; but the continued motion of the gunboats, and the able manner in which they were conducted by the officers who commanded them, enabled them to return the fire with great spirit, and almost with impunity, throughout the day. About ten o'clock in the forenoon fires began first to be observed in the different buildings, and a heavy explosion took place on the island of Vargon, which was followed by a second about an hour afterwards on the island of Gustafvaard, inflicting much damage upon the defences of the enemy, and tending greatly to slacken the fire from the guns in that direction. The advantage of the rapidity with which the fire from the mortars had been directed was apparent in the continued fresh conflagrations which spread extensively on the island of Vargon."
ADMIRAL THE RT. HON. SIR ASTLEY COOPER KEY, G.C.B., F.R.S.
(From a photo by the London Stereoscopic Co.)
The explosions alluded to, and especially the second, which was, in effect, a series of explosions lasting more than two minutes, were very severe, and are believed to have cost the enemy a large number of lives. As sunset drew near, Dundas recalled the gunboats, in consequence of the intricate nature of the navigation, and of the fact that more than one of them had grounded even in daylight. But the French battery on Abraham Holrn went on with the bombardment; and, at half-past ten, the boats of the fleet, assembled under Captain Henry Caldwell, began a three-hours' fire with rockets upon the fortress, causing new conflagrations and increasing the old ones. These rocket-boats, about thirty in number, were commanded by Lieutenants Leveson Eliot Henry Somerset, and Thomas Barnardiston (Duke of Wellington), Charles Maxwell Luckraft (Euryalus), Henry Bedford Woolcombe, and Cornwallis Wykeham Martin (Arrogant), John Binney Scott, and Francis Moubray Prattent (Pembroke), Robert Boyle Miller (Vulture), John Appleby Pritchard (Edinburgh), John Bousquet Field (Cossack), Thomas Stackhouse (Dragon), Henry Bartlett King (Magicienne), William Naper Cornwall, and Francis Bland Herbert (Geyser), Robert Cooper Atonal, and Maxwell Fox (Cornwallis), John Dobree M'Crea, and James Graham Goodenough (Hastings), and Armine Wodehouse, and Charles Henry Clutterbuck (Amphion), together with junior officers. The premature explosion of a rocket in the pinnace of the Hastings wounded two men; nine persons were also wounded by a somewhat similar accident in the pinnace of the Vulture, and there were other slight casualties, very few, however, of which were due to the enemy's fire. The boats of the Cornwallis, Hastings, and Amphion were employed, not against the forts, but against a frigate which lay moored in Kungs Sund. The vessel could not be burnt; but Lieutenant Tattnall, senior officer of these boats, was praised by Captain Wellesley for the manner in which he had carried out-orders.
"At daylight on the morning of the 10th," continues Dundas, "the positions of the several mortar-vessels had been advanced within easier range, and the gunboats were again directed to engage. The three-decked ship, which had been moored by the enemy to block and defend the channel between Gustafvaard and Bakholmen, had been withdrawn during the night to a more secure position; but the fire from the batteries was increased, and the engagement was renewed with activity on both sides. Fires continued to burn without intermission within the fortress, and about noon a column of smoke, heavier and darker than any which had yet been observed, and succeeded by blight flames, gave signs that the shells had reached combustible materials in the direction of the arsenal."
The conflagration had, in fact, spread beyond the island of Vargon, and had extended to East Svarto, in its rear. During the whole night of the 10th, a heavy fire was kept up; and, upon the recall of the gunboats as before, divisions of mortar-boats again proceeded to annoy the enemy. One division, directed by Captain George Henry Seymour, of the Pembroke, was under the orders of Lieutenants Robert James Wynniatt, and James Carter Campbell (Exmouth), Charles Maxwell Luckraft (Euryalus), Henry Bedford Woolcombe, and Cornwallis Wykeham Martin (Arrogant), John Binney Scott, and Francis Moubray Prattent (Pembroke), and Henry Bartlett King (Magicienne}. The other division, directed by Captain Caldwell, was under the orders of Lieutenants Leveson Eliot Henry Somerset, and Thomas Barnardiston (Duke of Wellington), John Appleby Pritchard, and William Hans Blake (Edinburgh), Robert Boyle Miller (Vulture), and John Bousquet Field (Cossack), assisted by junior officers. In the course of the night, seeing that nearly every building on Vargon had been destroyed, and that such buildings as remained standing on East Svarto were almost, if not quite, out of range, while the enemy scarcely returned the fire, the allied Admirals agreed to discontinue the action before daylight on the 11th. By that time, most of the mortars had been disabled, and two, if not three, completely split ("It is a disgrace to our iron-founders that one old mortar of the last war stood 350 rounds, while all the others, quite new, were unfit for use, or burst, after 200 to 250", Sulivan); and the vents of some of the French guns employed in the attack had fused. There were, unfortunately, no spare mortars, owing to lack of prevision at home. There had, however, been singularly few casualties on the side of the attack, only one man, it is said, having actually lost his life. The British alone had expanded in the bombardment about 100 tons of powder, and 1000 tons of projectiles (the French mortars threw 2828 shells, and the French vessels, apart from the mortar-vessels, 1322 shells and round shot).
How much injury was inflicted on the Russians has never been exactly ascertained. Rear-Admiral Pénaud received, through a spy, a report to the effect that the dockyard, and all the government stores were completely destroyed, all the powder-magazines blown up, twenty-three vessels burnt, and 2000 men killed. Eighteen or nineteen other vessels were alleged to be severely damaged. Russian accounts make the injuries to have been of a less serious nature. However this may be, it is certain that the sea-defences of the place were little the worse for the awful fire to which they had been subjected, and that, supposing them to have still had ammunition available, they were practically as strong as ever. Captain Wellesley, who, as has been seen, had been detached on the 9th, off the south-east of Sandhamn, and who had gallantly engaged the batteries there, likewise produced no appreciable result. Where there were storehouses, magazines, and government buildings, there were fires and explosions; but where there were carefully constructed forts and batteries, the Allies made little or no impression. "Still," says Chevalier, "these operations had the effect of disquieting the population, and of forcing the enemy to busy himself with continual movements of troops." It can scarcely be considered that the game, which exposed numerous costly vessels to the risks not only of red-hot shot and of shell fire, but also of intricate and imperfectly-surveyed navigation, was worth the candle. The Merlin herself, carrying the allied Admirals in on the evening of the 10th to view the damage which had been done, piled up on a rock in a position where, in full daylight, she might easily have been hulled from the shore. Happily she was got off, though not till after all firing had ceased. Captain Sulivan was in no wise to blame. On the contrary, he and Lieutenant Richard Boynton Creyke (Promoted Commander, Sept. 29th, 1855) were singled out for special praise in the dispatches.
The allied fleets remained in view of the scene of action until the morning of August 13th, when they sailed for Nargen, the Merlin and Locust staying behind to take up buoys and marks. A few days later, there being practically no mortars left in a serviceable condition, the mortar-vessels were sent home. At the same moment the Sans Pareil was taking on board fresh mortars at Woolwich; but Dundas was not kept informed of what was being done. When it became known at Whitehall that the mortar-vessels were returning, a steamer was hastily despatched to meet them, and turn them back; but ere they could be re-armed, the season was too far advanced for further operations of importance in the Baltic. As the Times said, a fleet costing about £30,000 a day for maintenance was reduced to impotence, and made a laughing-stock, in consequence of the Government's omission to spend at the right moment "about as much as a man of taste gives for three early Sevres vases." The administration seems to have forgotten that ships cannot participate in big engagements without expending weapons as well as ammunition. In future naval wars, especially if they be prolonged, it will be more than ever necessary to have made arrangements beforehand for the rapid substitution of new guns for old. Moreover, nothing is more dangerous to the moral of a gun's crew than a well-founded suspicion that the piece has already done more work than it was intended for, and may burst, or blow its breech-block out, at the next round. Yet it is difficult to avoid using a weakened gun, when there is nothing to take its place.
From the time of the bombardment of Sweaborg until the closing of the navigation in November, the campaign in the Baltic languished; but small operations continued in various quarters. On August 10th for instance, the Hawke, 60, screw, and Desperate, 8, screw, had a brush with some batteries and gunboats near the mouth of the Dwina; and, on the 14th, the Hawke, and Conflict, 8, screw, landed parties, destroyed several vessels, and repulsed a body of troops near Dome Ness, at the mouth of the Gulf of Riga. On August 15th, the gunboats Jackdaw, and Ruby, with the boats of the Pylades, 21, screw, captured four craft under fire from Russian troops in the Bight of Kossoria; and on August 16th, the Imperieuse, 51, screw, Centaur, 6, paddle, and Bulldog, 6, paddle, had a long-range engagement with batteries and gunboats in the vicinity of Tolboukin lighthouse, off Cronstadt. In the Gulf of Bothnia, where Rear-Admiral Baynes commanded, the Harrier, 17, screw, Tartar, 20, screw, Cuckoo, 3, paddle, and French d'Assas, sent their boats on August 17th up towards Biorneborg, burnt seventeen vessels, and obtained the surrender of a small steamer, in spite of the presence in the neighbourhood of about 2000 troops. On September 2nd, the Porcupine, 3, paddle, with boats of the Tartar, made a reconnaissance of, and exchanged fire with, the batteries at Gamla Carleby; and on the 6th, the boats of the Bulldog made prize of a couple of government schooners off Biörko. But in none of these, or similar affairs, of which there were many, were there any incidents calling for special description. On September 12th, a number of ships, including the Nile, 90, screw, and Arrogant, 47, screw, participated in the destruction of some transports under fire in the Bay of Virta Nemi. On September 18th, the boats of the Nile boarded and burnt some vessels near Hammeliski.
On September 12th, the Hawke, Archer, Conflict, and Cruiser received the peaceful surrender of Pernau, in the Gulf of Riga; and on the 20th, the Gorgon, 6, paddle, and her boats, exchanged shots with the batteries at the mouth of the Dwina, where, with the Archer, Conflict, and Desperate, the Gorgon was again slightly engaged on September 27th. Almost the last service of the Gulf of Riga division seems to have been rendered, in the mouth of the river Rua, on October 3rd, by the Archer and Desperate, with their boats. A few small vessels and some stores were destroyed. On September 30th, the Conflict, belonging to the same division, having quitted the gulf, destroyed two boats and dispersed a body of Cossacks, near Libau, on the west coast of Courland. In the meantime, at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, on September 26th, and again on October 5th, the Blenheim, 60, screw, with the gunboats Snap, Stork, and Lark, was employed in the vicinity of Hango, and, besides rendering useless several telegraph stations, exchanged shots with the Eckness forts. Throughout the fleet, however, at that period, there was, as Sulivan says, too much of a kind of unfeeling, senseless anxiety to fire at anything, for the mere sake of firing, for notoriety, or for bringing about a pretence of a fight, and a consequent opportunity for -writing a dispatch; and, although most of the above-mentioned affairs were of a very different character, it would be possible to cite others which, besides being of a paltry nature, were perfectly useless to the cause of the Allies, and were effective only in bringing the flag into disrepute.
The fleet had begun to return to England in the latter part of September. The gunboats, in four divisions, departed on October 8th; and only a few ships of the line and large steamers remained. Not until the middle of November did the Commander-in-Chief himself make for Kiel. After he had gone home, the last half-dozen ships were withdrawn, almost one by one, as the advance of winter rendered the blockade unnecessary. The Hon. Richard Saunders Dundas was rewarded on February 4th, 1856, with a K.C.B. At the same time the C.B. was conferred upon several of the Baltic Captains, including George Ramsay, George Henry Seymour, George Greville Wellesley, James Willcox, and Henry Caldwell. Batches of Baltic promotions were dated September 22nd and 29th, 1855; but many most deserving officers were then passed over, and the omissions were to some extent remedied on October 31st, 1855, and January 5th, February 21st and 22nd, and May 10th, 1856, when numerous further advancements were made.
Early in 1856 (Feb. 18th), Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Saunders Dundas was re-appointed to the Baltic command; but the resumption of active operations had by that time been rendered unnecessary by the progress which had been made during the winter in the direction of peace. The Treaty of Paris was not actually signed until March 30th, nor ratified until April 27th; but, long ere even the earlier of those dates, it had become evident that the war was over. By the final arrangement it was stipulated that all conquests made and territories occupied during the hostilities should be evacuated as promptly as possible; that the Sublime Porte should be "admitted to participate in the advantages of the public law and concert of Europe"; that the independence and territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire should be respected and guaranteed by all the parties to the treaty; that the Sultan should not be interfered with in the government of any of his subjects, nor in the internal administration of his dominions; that the Black Sea should be neutralised, and its ports thrown open to commerce; that Russia and Turkey should neither establish nor maintain naval arsenals in the Black Sea; that the navigation of the Danube should be regulated by an international commission; that the Russian frontier in Bessarabia should be rectified; that the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia should continue as before under the suzerainty of the Porte, but with additional liberties; that Servia should enjoy similar advantages; and that the Russo-Turkish frontier in Asia should be settled by a commission. By special conventions annexed to the treaty, it was declared that the Sultan would continue to exercise his ancient right to prohibit foreign ships of war from entering the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, and that he would not permit them so to enter, except for the service of the embassies and the Danube Commission, in time of peace; that Russia and the other contracting Powers would agree and adhere to that principle; that neither Russia (Russia tore up this Convention in 1870) nor Turkey would maintain in the Black Sea more than six steam-vessels (not to exceed 55 metres in length, with a tonnage of 800), and four lighter steam or sailing vessels (of not more than 200 tons apiece); and that the Aland Islands should not be fortified.
A "declaration", made, perhaps somewhat needlessly, by the plenipotentiaries at Paris, and signed on behalf of Great Britain, France, Russia, Sardinia, Turkey, Austria, and Prussia (this declaration was subsequently adhered to by several other Powers), set forth formally that, so far as those Powers are concerned:-
1. Privateering is, and remains, abolished.
2. The neutral flag covers enemy's goods, with the exception of contraband of war.
3. Neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag.
4. Blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective - that is to say, maintained by a force sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy.
No indemnity was demanded from Russia; no special privileges whatsoever were secured to Great Britain and France, which, for nearly two years, had poured forth blood and treasure like water; and, upon the whole, it may be said that never did the unsuccessful party to a great war escape more easily. But it must be recollected that the Allies, in spite of their immense efforts, had touched only a very little of the extreme outer fringe of the huge empire of the Tsar. Sebastopol had been reduced. Not even the Crimea, however, had been conquered; and the heart of Russia, in spite of the levelling of Bomarsund, the wreckage of buildings at Sweaborg, and the burning of stores and capture of small craft in the Sea of Azof and elsewhere, was as whole and sound as it had been before the war. The result might have been very different, and better terms might have been exacted by the Allies, had the British fleet at the commencement of hostilities been in a more efficient condition than it was, and had younger men and reformed ideas guided its action. There was a time, early in the campaign, when Sebastopol might have been seized by a coup de main from seaward, probably without either much expenditure or much loss of life; nor can it be doubted that if Great Britain, previous to 1854, had properly developed her screw navy, had availed herself of existing improvements in gunnery (rifled heavy guns had been constructed and proved useful many years earlier) and rifle-manufacture (the needle-gun had been the weapon of the Prussian Army since 1848), and had devoted proper attention to the advocacy, as early as 1842, by the French Captain Labrousse, of the value of armoured vessels, she would have been a much more formidable enemy to Russia than she actually proved herself. It must not be forgotten that, but for the false conservatism of her administrators, she might, even in 1854, have possessed a great fleet of fast screw ships with well-protected machinery, and of fast and heavily armed gunboats, rifled guns of large calibre, breech-loading small-arms, and floating batteries practically impervious to Russian projectiles, even at short range. With such material at her disposal, and with men younger and more enlightened than Napier and the Dundases to lead her fleets, it is possible, nay probable, that she might have taken Cronstadt, and even St. Petersburg, early in the war, and so, by her sudden and indubitable successes, have frightened Russia into speedy submission. Perhaps the most valuable lesson of the war of 1854-55 was the importance to a naval power of being able promptly to utilise the newest and most formidable inventions that have been produced by the ingenuity of man. The lesson, unfortunately, has not been thoroughly learnt by Great Britain, even to this day. The war, however, led directly or indirectly to many naval reforms, including the introduction of continuous service for seamen, the building of ironclads, and the development of the power of the gun.
On St. George's Day, April 23rd, 1856, in honour of the conclusion of peace, and in recognition of the work of the Navy, Queen Victoria, in the Victoria and Albert, reviewed at Spithead a large fleet, most of which had recently served either in the Baltic or in the Black Sea, and all of which was ready for a fresh campaign, if one had been deemed necessary. Her Majesty, in addition to her personal suite, had with her in the yacht Admiral Sir William Parker, Bart., G.C.B., principal A.D.C., Rear-Admiral John, Marquess Townshend, A.D.C., Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, G.C.B., Rear-Admiral Jurien de La Gravière, representing the French Navy, and Mr. Ralph Bernal Osborne, M.P., Secretary of the Admiralty. The vessels reviewed were :-
|24||Ships of the line||2,029||9,650|
|19||Screw frigates and corvettes||407||5,030|
|4||Armoured floating batteries||56||600|
|120||Gun-vessels and gunboats||274||8,700|
|50||Mortar vessels and mortar floats||50|
The command afloat was held by Vice-Admiral Sir George Francis Seymour, K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, who, in the Royal George, 102, led the fleet past the Queen's yacht, which was anchored near the Nab. A number of French officers were entertained on board the paddle-yacht Black Eagle. The Peers were in the Transit, screw, Commander Charles Richardson Johnson; the Commons in the Perseverance, 2, screw, Commander John Wallace Douglas McDonald. After the review there was a sham fight, and at night the fleet was illuminated.
SIR JOHN EDMUND COMMERELL, V.C., G.C.B., ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET.
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