230 years ago, on July 3, 1788, the Sevastopol squadron defeated the Turkish fleet at the battle of Fidonisi. This was the first victory of the young Black Sea fleet over significantly superior enemy forces.
After defeat in the 1768-1774 war. and the subsequent loss of the Crimea of the Port strenuously prepared for war with Russia. Turks dreamed of revenge, they wanted to return the Crimea and oust Russia from the Black Sea and the Caucasus. For the war, the Ottomans insisted on France and England The British and French put strong pressure on Istanbul, called for "not to allow the Russian military fleet to the Black Sea." In August, 1787, the Russian ambassador in Constantinople, was presented with an ultimatum in which the Turks demanded the return of the Crimea and the revision of previously concluded agreements between Russia and Turkey. Petersburg has rejected these impudent demands. In early September, the Turkish authorities arrested the Russian ambassador Y. I. Bulgakov without an official declaration of war, and the Turkish fleet under the command of the Crocodile of Sea Battles, Gassan Pasha, left the Bosphorus in the direction of the Dnieper-Bug estuary. A new Russian-Turkish war has begun.
On land, the Ottoman Empire had no advantage over the Russian army, but at sea, the Turks had overwhelming superiority. The Turkish fleet to 1787 had 29 battleships, 32 frigate, 32 corvette, 6 bombing ships and a significant number of auxiliary ships. However, part of the forces was in the Mediterranean Sea, and part of the ships was inefficient (poor condition, lack of weapons and trained personnel). For operations in the Black Sea, 19 battleships, 16 frigates, 5 bombing ships and a large number of galleys and other rowing ships were allocated. The Turks before the war tried to improve the material state of the fleet. Thus, in the period of Gassan Pasha, shipbuilding in Turkey followed European models more strictly - ships and frigates were built according to the best French and Swedish designs at that time. The Ottoman battleships were double-deck and, as a rule, relatively larger than the Russians of the respective ranks. They also had a larger crew, often better weapons.
The Turkish command pinned great hopes on its fleet, planning to use supremacy at sea. The Turkish fleet, having a base in Ochakovo, was to block the Dnieper-Bug estuary, then with the help of assault forces seize the Russian fortress of Kinburn, strike the shipyards in Kherson and carry out an operation to seize the Crimea (the Turks hoped for the support of the local Crimean Tatars).
Russia, having joined the Northern Pontic and the Crimea, is beginning to actively develop the region, build a fleet, shipyards, ports. In 1783, the construction of the city and the port, which became the main base of the Russian fleet on the Black Sea, began on the shores of Akhtiar Bay. The new port was called Sevastopol. The basis for the creation of the new fleet were the ships of the Azov flotilla, built on the Don. Soon the fleet was replenished with ships built at the shipyards of Kherson, a new city founded near the mouth of the Dnieper. Kherson became the main shipbuilding center in the south of the empire. In 1784, the first battleship of the Black Sea Fleet was launched in Kherson. Also here the Black Sea Admiralty was established. Petersburg tried to accelerate the formation of the Black Sea Fleet at the expense of part of the Baltic Fleet. However, the Turks refused to let the Russian ships pass from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
As a result, by the beginning of the war, naval bases and the shipbuilding industry on the Black Sea were in the process of being created. Lacked the necessary supplies and materials for the construction, armament, equipment and repair of ships. There was a lack of shipmasters, naval officers and trained sailors. The Black Sea was still poorly understood. The Russian fleet was much inferior to Turkish in the number of ships: by the beginning of the hostilities, the Black Sea Fleet had a total of 4 battleships. In terms of the number of corvettes, brigs, transports, and auxiliary vessels, the Turks had a superiority of about 3-4 times. Only on frigates Russian and Turkish fleets were approximately equal. The Russian battleships on the Black Sea gave way and in qualitative terms: in speed, artillery weapons. In addition, the Russian fleet was divided into two parts. The core of the Black Sea Fleet, mainly large sailing ships, was based in Sevastopol, while rowing ships and a small part of the sailing fleet were located in the Dnieper-Bug estuary (Liman flotilla). The main task of the fleet was to protect the Black Sea coast in order to prevent the invasion of enemy troops.
It is also worth noting that the Russian fleet had weak command. Admirals such as N. S. Mordvinov and M. I. Voinovich, although they had the full support of the court and many necessary connections for career development, were not warriors. These admirals were indecisive, incompetent and inactive, afraid of open battle. They adhered to linear tactics, they believed that it was impossible to engage in a decisive battle with an enemy of apparent superiority. That is, it was believed that if the enemy has more ships, people and guns, then it is impossible to enter the battle, since defeat is inevitable. It was fortunate for the Russian fleet that at this time Fedor Fedorovich Ushakov was decisive and possessing outstanding military and organizational skills among the senior officers of the fleet. Ushakov had no connections with the court, was not a well-born aristocrat and achieved everything with his talent and hard work, devoting his whole life to the fleet. The commander-in-chief of the land and naval forces in the southern empire, Field Marshal Prince G. A. Potemkin, saw Ushakov’s talent and supported him. In the Liman flotilla, the senior commanders on time appointed brave and determined foreigners: the French prince K. Nassau-Siegen and the American captain P. Jones.
The Russian fleet, despite its youth and weakness, was able to successfully resist a strong opponent. In 1787-1788 The Liman flotilla successfully repulsed all enemy attacks, the Turkish command lost many ships. The Turks could not use their superiority in large sailing ships with powerful artillery armament, as the Liman had a situation that resembled the situation on the Baltic skerries during the Northern War, when the mobile rowing vessels of Tsar Peter successfully fought with the Swedish fleet. In Ochakov sea battle (7, 17-18 June 1788), the Turks suffered a cruel defeat. For two days of battle ("The defeat of the Turkish fleet in the battle of Ochakovo") The Turkish fleet lost 10 (from 16) of the battleships and frigates brought to the Liman Kapan Pasha. The total losses of the enemy Nassau-Siegen estimated in 478 guns and 2000 dead sailors. In addition, 1673 Turkish officers and sailors were captured.
Thus, the Sultan's fleet lost ten large ships and hundreds of sailors. However, the Ottomans still retained enough strength to fight at sea and an advantage over the Russian sailing fleet.
Battle at Fidonisi Island
While in the Dnieper-Bug estuary went fierce battles, Sevastopol squadron was inactive, being at its base. Rear Admiral Voinovich was afraid of a battle with superior enemy forces. The indecisive admiral constantly found a reason not to take ships out to sea. Late with the withdrawal of the fleet at sea, in the fall he put the ships under a heavy storm. More than six months, the squadron was repaired. Only in the spring of 1788, the combat capability was restored. Voinovich was again in no hurry to sail. Knowing the size of the Ottoman fleet Gassan Pasha, he was afraid of meeting with the enemy and came up with various excuses to postpone the exit of the squadron into the sea. Only after the decisive demands of Potemkin, the Voinovich squadron set sail.
18 June 1788, the Sevastopol naval squadron consisting of two battleships, two 50-gun and eight 40-gun frigates (552 guns), one 18-gun frigate, twenty small cruiser ships and three firefighters took to sea. The fleet commander Rear Admiral Voinovich (the flag on the 66-gun ship “Transfiguration”), in accordance with the orders of Potemkin, sent the fleet to Ochakov to divert the Turkish fleet from him.
On the same day, the Turkish fleet commander Kapudan Pasha Gassan (Hasan Pasha) after the Ochakov defeat with ships breaking through from the Dnieper estuary anchored off the island of Berezan, where he carried out ship repairs and soon connected to the squadron that included the largest Turkish ships. The Ottoman fleet now consisted of 17 battleships, including five 80-guns (no less than 1120 guns in all), 8 frigates, 3 bombing ships, 21 small cruising ship (Schebeks, Kirlangichs, etc.). Thus, only the main forces of the Turkish fleet had a twofold superiority in the number of guns and an even greater superiority in the weight of the side salvo. Seventeen Turkish ships Voinovich could oppose a line of twelve ships and frigates, of which only four were armed with large caliber guns, equivalent to the guns of Turkish ships. These were the 66-cannon "Transfiguration" and "St. Paul", as well as the 50-cannon "Andrew the First-Called" and "George the Victorious."
The Voinovich squadron, detained by the winds, was only 29 on June, when the army of Potemkin was already approaching Ochakov, reached the island of Tendra, where it found the enemy fleet that was north-west of Tendra. On the morning of June 30, 1788, Voinovich went to a rapprochement with the enemy, which was upwind. Given the balance of power, the Russian admiral, in agreement with his junior flagship, avant-garde commander and captain of the brigadier rank Ushakov (flag on the 66-gun ship “St. Paul”), decided to expect an attack of the Turks in leeward position. This made it possible to better maintain the tight construction of the battle line and guaranteed the use of artillery of the lower decks and, therefore, partly compensated for the superiority of the enemy in artillery. However, Gassan Pasha refrained from attacking. For three days the fleets maneuvered in front of each other, gradually shifting to the south-west, toward the mouth of the Danube, and moving away from Ochakov.
By July 3 (14) both fleets were opposite the mouth of the Danube, near the island of Fidonisi. Gassan Pasha, having decided to attack, on his flagship went around the entire fleet and gave instructions to the younger flagships and ship commanders. After 13 hours, the Ottoman fleet in two thick columns began to descend to attack the Russian fleet. The first column consisted of the avant-garde under the personal command of the Kapudan-pasha (6 ships), the second - the cordebatal (6 ships) and the rearguard (5 ships), respectively, under the command of the vice admiral and rear admiral. The commander of the Russian avant-garde, Ushakov, believing that the enemy is trying to attack and cut off the rearguard of the Sevastopol squadron, ordered the advanced frigates Berislav and Strela to add sails and keep on the steep sidelines, so that “having won the wind, make advanced through the contramarsh-turn and onom beat the enemy with the wind. "
Having assessed this threat, the Turkish admiral with the vanguard turned to the left, and soon the entire Turkish fleet began to line up opposite the Russian one. At the same time, the avant-garde of Ushakov was closer to the enemy. At about 14 hours, the Turks opened fire and attacked two relatively weak Russian advanced frigates. Turkish bombardier ships, one by one behind the lines of their avant-garde, cordebatal (middle column) and rearguard. Supporting the fire of the battleships, they continuously fired from heavy mortars, but without much success.
Noticing the enemy’s maneuver, Ushakov on Pavle, attacked by one 80-gun and two 60-gun ships of the Turkish avant-garde, ordered to set all the sails and, together with the advanced frigates, led to the wind even closer to the Turkish avant-garde. At the same time, the Russian frigates, going to the wind and joining a heavy battle at close range, began to cut off two advanced Turkish ships. One of them immediately turned over the tack and left the battlefield, while the other soon also repeated his maneuver, receiving several brand-guns and nuclei from Russian frigates. In an effort to put his ships back into service, Gassan Pasha ordered them to fire, but he remained alone, being attacked by two Russian frigates and the St. Paul Ushakov cannon assisted by them to repel the attacks of their opponents. Despite the superiority in weight of the side salvo, the flagship of Gassan Pasha was unable to destroy relatively weak Russian frigates. The Turks traditionally beat on the spar and rigging to incapacitate as many people as possible (the Russian gunners preferred to hit the corps), and the fire of the Ottoman gunners was not enough marks. Only "Berislav" got a large hole from the stem from the 66-kg stone core.
The flagship of the Turkish fleet itself was heavily damaged by the fire of the Russian ships, firing from the distance of the shotgun. Meanwhile, Voinovich remained a passive observer of a hot avant-garde battlefield, not supporting his junior flagship, although he changed course, following the movements of the latter. Eight ships of the Russian center and the rearguard fought with the enemy at distances 3-4 Kabeltova. The passivity of the main forces of the Russian squadron allowed the ships of the Turkish vice-admiral and rear admiral to break down and rush to the support of their Capud-Pasha. At the same time, the Turkish vice-admiral ship twice caught fire from brandskugeli from the frigate "Kinburn", and then came under attack "St. Paul's. The enemy admiral's ship was also unable to effectively support Gassana Pasha. Finally, around the 16 hours of the 55 minutes, the Turkish admiral, unable to withstand the concentrated fire of the Russian avant-garde, turned the tack and hurried out of the fight. The rest of the Turkish ships hurriedly followed, and the battle stopped.
Thus, the decisive actions of Ushakov played a decisive role in successfully repelling the attack of the superior forces of the Ottoman fleet, who managed not only to upset Gassan Pasha’s plan with maneuvers, but also to concentrate the fire of the three avant-garde ships against the enemy flagship. While fighting at carter shot distances, Ushakov did not let the enemy take advantage of the number of guns, and decisively smashed the enemy vanguard. The retreat of the Turkish flagship led to the withdrawal of the entire enemy fleet. The losses of the Turkish fleet in people are not exactly known, but all the flagship ships and several enemy avant-garde ships received serious damage to the hull, spars, rigging and sails. The Russian fleet lost only seven sailors and soldiers killed and wounded, six of them fell to three ships of the Ushakovsky avant-garde - "St. Paul", "Berislav" and "Kinburn". There were no casualties on the Strela. "Pavel", "Berislav" and "Strela" received some damage to the spars, rigging and sails. Of the other ships of the fleet, only the 40-gun frigate “Phanagoria”, like the “Berislav”, was pierced in the underwater part by the core, which caused a strong leak.
After the battle, Voinovich, fearing to pursue the enemy, continued to go to the shores of the Crimea. He wrote to Ushakov: “I congratulate you, bachushka Fedor Fedorovich. Of that date you did a very brave thing: you gave the captain-pasha a decent dinner. I could see everything. What does God give us in the evening? .. I will tell you later, but our fleet has earned the honor and withstood that sort of force. ” For the next three days, the Ottoman fleet followed the Russian, but did not dare to enter the battle. Voinovich was still waiting for the attack in a closed line and in the leeward position, hoping for his younger flagship. On July 5, he wrote to Ushakov: “If Captain Pasha comes to you, burn, bachushka, damned ... If it’s quiet, often send me your opinions about what you foresee ... My hope for you, there is no lack of courage ". By the evening of July 6 1788, the Turkish fleet turned into the sea, and in the morning of July 7 disappeared from view in the direction of the coast of Rumelia (European part of Turkey).
Voinovich did not develop success and, arriving in Sevastopol, was in no hurry to once again go to sea to engage in battle with the enemy, dissuading from the necessity of eliminating small, in essence, damage. At the same time, Gassan Pasha, having corrected the damage, 29 July again approached Ochakov, from where only 4 November 1788 of the year retired to the Bosphorus, having learned about the late departure to the sea (November 2) of the Sevastopol fleet. This slowed down the siege of Ochakov, which was taken only on December 6.
As a result, despite the fact that the battle at Fidonisi did not have a significant impact on the course of the campaign, this was the first victory of the Black Sea Fleet over the vastly superior enemy forces. The complete supremacy of the Turkish fleet on the Black Sea is in the past. The Empress of July 28 enthusiastically wrote to Potemkin: “The action of the fleet of Sevastopol pleased me a lot: almost unbelievable, with what little force God helps to beat strong Turkish weapons! Tell me, how can I please Voinovich? Third class crosses have already been sent to you, will you give him one or a sword? ”Count Voinovich received the Order of Saint George of the 3rd degree.
Potemkin in the ensuing conflict Voinovich and Ushakov quickly figured out the essence of the matter and found a way to side with the younger flagship. After removing Rear-Admiral Mordvinov from his position as a senior member of the Black Sea Admiralty Board (soon dismissed from service) in December 1788, Potemkin in January 1789 of the year appointed Voinovich, who soon left for Kherson. Ushakov began to perform the duties of the commander of the Sevastopol ship fleet. 27 April 1789, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, and a year later, 14 March 1790, was appointed commander of the fleet. Under Ushakov, the Russian fleet decisively beat the enemy and seized a strategic initiative at sea.
Russian naval commander Fedor Fedorovich Ushakov