Military Review

Storming corfu

In March 1799, a Russian squadron under the command of Fedor Ushakov took Corfu fortress in the Mediterranean Sea. The decisive actions of the great naval commander made it possible to take the fortress, which was considered impregnable, with minimal losses. During the assault on Corfu, the firm opinion of contemporaries - military experts, was denied that sea fortresses can be taken only from land, and the fleet only carries out a blockade. Ushakov proposed a new solution: strong shelling of coastal fortifications with naval artillery, suppression of coastal batteries with fleet and the landing.

Storm Vido

At the beginning of 1799, the position of the Black Sea squadron at Corfu somewhat improved. New ships from Rear Admiral P. Pustoshkin (74-gun battleship St. Michael and Simeon and Anna) arrived from Sevastopol. Ships arrived, which were previously sent at the direction of St. Petersburg to perform other tasks. Ushakov now had 12 battleships and 11 frigates. The Turkish authorities finally sent food. Russian sailors erected two batteries in Corfu: at the fort "San Salvador" (Southern Battery), and on the Mont-Oliveto Hill (Northern Battery). It is from these positions that an enemy fortress in Corfu will be stormed. Turkish auxiliary troops arrived - more than 4 thousand soldiers. About 2 thousand people put up the Greek rebels. Ushakov decided to move from the blockade to a decisive assault.

At the February 17 Military Council 1799 of the Year on the Russian flagship “St. Pavel ”it was decided to strike the main blow on the island of Vido, which was a key position in Corfu. To attack the enemy positions on Vido stood all the ships of the squadron, the commanders of each ship received positions. Shipboard artillery was supposed to crush the French batteries on the island, then paratroopers were landed for the final defeat of the enemy. At the same time landing troops on the island of Corfu we were to attack the enemy fortress advanced forts - Fort Abraham, the Holy Rock and El Salvador. The battle plan was approved by the majority of the ship commanders, only the Turks expressed doubt that "you cannot break a stone with a tree." The Turkish commanders were reassured by the fact that the Russian ships would go in the first line, the Turkish behind.

Storm on. Vido, which was defended by about 800 the French under General Pivrona, began in the morning 18 February (March 1) 1799 years. At the same time, the Russian batteries in Corfu opened fire on enemy forts. The ships of the squadron, in accordance with the plan of operation, were removed from the anchors and advanced to the position near the island of Vido. The first three frigates advanced, they began to approach the northern tip of the island, where the first French battery was located. The French saw the movement of Russian ships, and as soon as they approached an artillery shot, they opened fire. The French artillerymen were well protected by stone parapets and earthen ramparts. The French were confident that their batteries could easily withstand an attack from the sea. Despite the enemy fire, the frigates quickly went forward, and soon also opened fire on French positions.

Meanwhile, the main forces of the fleet approached Vido. Ahead went the flagship "Pavel". In 8 hours 45 minutes, he went to the first battery of the enemy and immediately opened fire on the enemy. The French concentrated fire on the Russian flagship. Enemy shells often flew over it, the ship received several damage. However, despite the French fire, "Pavel" steadily walked at the head of the squadron, setting an example to everyone else. "Pavel" reached the second battery and focused the fire on it. Ushakov tried to get as close as possible to the shore in order to use tools of all calibers. French positions swept up grapeshot. The battleship Simeon and Anna under the command of captain 1 of the rank of K.S. Leontovich and Mary Magdalene of the captain of 1 of the rank of G. A. Timchenko took up positions next to the flagship. Further, close to the northeastern cape of the island took the position of the ship "Michael" under the IY Saltanov, who fired a third enemy battery. To his left are located the battleship "Captain Zachary and Elizabeth I. Selivachev and frigate" Gregory "IA Shostoka. They fired on the enemy's fourth battery. Battleship "Epiphany" under the AP Aleksiano not anchor, all the time was under sail and immediately fired at enemy fortifications.

Source: The Russian War in the Second Coalition against France in 1798-1800 The assault on the Corfu fortress on February 18, 1799. Marine atlas of the USSR Ministry of Defense. Volume III Militaryhistorical. Part one

The French ships, the battleship Leander and the frigate Labrune, attempted to support the French garrison. They defended the island from the east. However, the Russian admiral envisaged such an enemy step and in advance selected the battleship "Peter" under the command of D. N. Senyavin and the frigate Navarchia N. D. Voinovich from the squadron. While under sail, the Russian ships fought stubbornly with enemy ships and the fifth battery of the French. In addition, they were supported by the battleship Epiphany, which also began shelling French ships and the fifth battery. As a result, the French ships were severely damaged, especially the "Leander". Barely keeping afloat, the enemy battleship left the combat position and went under the protection of the guns of Corfu.

After the 2 hour battle, the French quivered. Vido Island, surrounded on three sides by Russian ships, was subjected to incessant shelling. With each ship volley there were more and more dead and wounded, guns failed. By 10 hours, the fire of French batteries is noticeably weakened. French gunners began to throw their positions and fled into the interior of the island.

Ushakov carefully watched the battle. As soon as he saw that the French had weakened the fire, the order was given to start the landing of the amphibious units. The ship artillery did its job, cleared the way for the landing party. Now it was necessary to complete the rout of the enemy. Amphibious groups on the boats and boats moved toward the shore. The first landing group was landed between the second and third French batteries. At this point, the Russian fleet inflicted maximum damage on the enemy. The second landing force was landed between the third and fourth batteries, then the landing forces landed at the first battery. In total, about 1500 Russian soldiers and sailors were landed on the coast and more than 600 people of the Turkish-Albanian auxiliary detachment.

All new ships approached the shore, landed paratroopers, guns. Step by step, the Russian-Turkish landing force began to crowd the enemy. The French were well prepared for the defense of Vido Island. The antiamphibious defense was equipped: earthen ramparts, heaps of stones and logs, wolf holes were built on the coast, and on the approaches to the shore, barriers were built that hampered the approach of small rowing vessels. The French gunners fired on suitable boats, landing Russian sailors. However, no matter how the French desperately resisted, the Russian paratroopers overcame all obstacles and quickly crowded the enemy. Capturing the bridgeheads, the airborne detachments continued to move. They attacked the enemy batteries, which were the main nodes of the French defense. The French, already demoralized by the strikes of naval artillery and the successful landing, did not survive. The third battery fell first, then the Russian flag was raised above the strongest second battery. Several French ships stationed at about. Vido has been captured.

The remnants of the French garrison fled to the south side of the island and tried to escape on the rowing ships. A part was able to escape, others were prevented by the Russian ships “Peter”, “Theophany” and “Navarhia”. Around noon, the Russian flag was hoisted above the first battery. The resistance of the French was finally broken. As a result of this fierce fight 200, the French were killed, 420 people led by the commandant Peevron surrendered, still some 150 people managed to escape to Corfu. The losses of the Russian troops made 31 people killed and 100 wounded. Turks and Albanians have lost 180 people killed and wounded.

Vido Island

Capitulation of corfu

The fall of Vido Island predetermined the surrender of Corfu. Russian captured a key position. For some time, the French still defended themselves, hoping that the enemy would not be able to capture the advanced forts - Abraham, St. Roca and Salvador. When the main Russian forces stormed the fortifications of Vido, a fierce battle also began on Corfu. From the very morning the Russian batteries conducted continuous bombardment of enemy positions. And the Russian ships shelled the Old and New Fortresses.

Soon the landing troops on Corfu came out of their fortifications and began to attack the advanced forts of the French fortress. The French mined their approaches to them, but with the help of local residents they bypassed the mines. The battle for Fort Salvador began, but the French attacked the first attack. Then reinforcements were sent from the ships of the squadron. With the arrival of new forces, the assault on enemy positions resumed. Russian sailors attacked the fort of St. Doom, and despite the strong gunfire, descended into the ditch and began to set the stairs. The French were broken, they riveted the guns, destroyed the powder supplies ran to Salvador. Russian volunteers on the shoulders of the enemy broke into this French fortification. The enemy fled, did not even have time to rivet the guns. Soon, the fortification of St. Abraham. As a result, despite the fierce resistance of the French, all three advanced forts were captured. Enemy soldiers ran for the fortress wall. By the evening the battle subsided. Allied casualties were about 298 people killed and wounded, of which 130 are Russian and 168 are Turks and Albanians ..

The French command, after losing the battery of Vido’s island and the advanced forts of Corfu in one day, decided that further resistance was useless. Early in the morning of March 2 (February 19) 1799 of the year, the adjutant of the French commander arrived on Ushakov’s ship, who conveyed Shabo’s request for a truce. The Russian admiral offered to surrender the fortress at 24 hours. Soon the French announced that they agreed to surrender. 3 March (20 February) 1799, the act of surrender was signed. The capitulation was honorable. The French got the right to leave Corfu with the promise not to fight for the 18 months.

Storming corfu

V. Kochenkov. Storming corfu


Two days later, the French garrison (over 2900 man) came out of the fortress and folded weapon. The keys to Corfu and the French flags were handed over to Ushakov. Russian trophies were around 20 combat and auxiliary vessels, including the battleship Leander, the frigate Labrune, brig, bombardier, three brigantines, etc. On the walls and in the arsenals of the fortress 629 guns were captured, 4 thousand guns, more than 100 thousand nuclei and bombs, more than half a million rounds of ammunition, as well as a large number of various property and provisions.

The brilliant victory of Russian weapons in Corfu caused a great response in Europe, where they closely followed developments in the area of ​​the Ionian Islands. In European capitals did not expect such a quick and decisive victory for Russian weapons. The main blow to the French fortress was from the sea, which was an innovation in the theory and practice of naval art of the time. Victorious assault Corfu denied the theoretical constructs of Western naval commanders that you can not win up over strong coastal fortress only naval forces. Previously it was believed that it was impossible to attack the fortress from the sea. The French admitted that they had never thought about the fact that some ships can proceed to the impregnable bastions and a powerful battery of Corfu and Vido. Ushakov used naval artillery to break into enemy defenses. Also, great attention was paid to the actions of the Marine Corps, the organization of the landing.

For this brilliant assault, Russian sovereign Pavel I made Ushakov admirals and awarded the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky with diamond marks, the Neapolitan king celebrated the 1 degree with the Order of St. Januarius, and the Ottoman sultan with his diamonds (the ornament for a turban in the form of a sultan strewn with precious stones. the distinction of Turkey.

In 1800, Russia and Turkey created in the liberated territory the Republic of the Seven Islands, under the protectorate of two empires. The island republic became the base of the Russian fleet. After the Peace of Tilzit 1807, the French returned control of the Ionian Islands. In the future, England gained control of the islands.

On the Mediterranean Sea Ushakov continued the victorious campaign. Russian sailors won a number of victories in Italy. However, the success of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean, as well as the victories of the army of A. Suvorov in Italy, did not bring serious benefits to Russia. Because of the treacherous policies of the "partners" in the war with France - Austria and England, Emperor Paul made a sharp turn in foreign policy. He broke with the former "allies" (London and Vienna), and decided to improve relations with France, with which Russia, in fact, had no fundamental contradictions, any military, territorial and economic disputes. In response, the British organized the killing of Paul.

When leaving the Russian squadron from the Ionian Islands to the Black Sea, the Kefalonians, in a sign of gratitude, presented FF Ushakov with a large gold medal depicting the admiral (inscription around: "Valiant pious Fyodor Ushakov, commander-in-chief of the Russian fleet"), Corfu fortress and the island, between which there are two French ships, and in front of Vido - six Russian ships (the inscription: “All the Ionian Islands are the savior of Kefalonia”.
Articles from this series:
How the Russians took the impregnable fortress of Corfu

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  1. Uncle lee
    Uncle lee 22 March 2019 05: 17
    "Ships storm the bastions" - a film from childhood ....
  2. YOUR
    YOUR 22 March 2019 07: 04
    Story. There is something to be proud of.
  3. IGU
    IGU 22 March 2019 10: 21
    Thank you for the article!
    How many legacies of such brilliant victories have been incompetently lost ...
    IGOR GORDEEV 22 March 2019 13: 52
    When the Russian squadron left the Ionian Islands in the Black Sea, the Kefalonians, in appreciation, offered F.F.Ushakov a large gold medal with images of the admiral

    I heard that there was no confirmed image of Ushakov F.F.
  5. vladcub
    vladcub 22 March 2019 15: 20
    On TV about four years ago there was a report from the island of Corfu. The correspondent on the spot showed: where the shelling came from, showed ancient guns, since then 2 guns supposedly survived, and all the rest were brought from various places
  6. Kenxnumx
    Kenxnumx 22 March 2019 23: 47
    And now the question. What Ushakov expected for more than 3 months, losing people from nourishment and cold. The issue was decided almost exclusively by ship artillery, which could be concentrated against specific batteries literally in overwhelming superiority. Under Izmail, Suvorov required tactical sophistication and the creative organization of the assault. Here is simply superiority in artillery.
    1. volodimer
      volodimer 23 March 2019 16: 12
      You didn’t read carefully: "the storming of Corfu refuted the theoretical constructions of the western naval commanders that it is impossible to win over a strong seaside fortress with the forces of only the fleet."
      The French garrison allowed itself: "On the night of January 26, 1799, the battleship Generos (painting the sails black), together with the brig, following Napoleon's instructions, broke through the naval blockade and went to Ancona ..." They were sure that the siege they are not threatened with anything.
      "What was waiting for Ushakov for more than 3 months losing people from lack of food and cold."
      Understanding that he can do something that no one has done before!
      "The issue was decided almost exclusively by naval artillery, which could be concentrated against specific batteries, literally in overwhelming superiority."
      Wooden ships against stone forts ... Well now it's obvious ...
      A delight A.V. Suvorov, made in the epigraph, well, it's just the flattery of one royal servant to another ...
      1. Kenxnumx
        Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 16: 22
        And unless before that, the same Ushakov had not shot coastal batteries on other skeletons. And before Ushakov, forts were fired at by ships.
        1. volodimer
          volodimer 23 March 2019 16: 37
          They were fired upon, but the seaside fortress had never before been taken by assault by the forces of the besieging fleet.
          "Port Arthur, after the shelling of the Japanese squadron, was forced to surrender to the Japanese landing ..." Nonsense, after all ...
          So it turns out ... And the shelling of the Turkish fortifications on the Dardanelles should have led to the success of the landing on Galipoli ... There, the superiority in artillery among the Entente simply went through the roof.
          1. Kenxnumx
            Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 16: 45
            And Ushakov himself didn’t take fortresses on the islands with shelling with a landing. He was aware of the effect of naval artillery on stone fortresses.
            1. volodimer
              volodimer 23 March 2019 17: 03
              What he took upon arrival in the Ionian Islands was not considered a sea fortress, islands with coastal fortifications, crushed a battery, landed troops and all ... Naval Fortress: Sevastopol 1854-1855. This is how a sea fortress is defended after 60 years ...
              1. Kenxnumx
                Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 17: 10
                Yes, even the history of the Caribbean. Ships completely bombed the forts and landed troops. Well, it was not news. Ushakov was not an icon at all, and you should not make an icon out of it now. Normal naval commander of his time with his interests. Just wondering why he did it one way or another.
                1. volodimer
                  volodimer 23 March 2019 17: 35
                  The opinion is clear, but the history of the Caribbean Sea .. there were no "sea fortresses", at the time of the storming of Corfu, There were also not many of them Gibraltar, Brest, Kronstadt, Toulon, Malta.
                  Caribbean: Morgan took Panama ... from land ...
                  1. Kenxnumx
                    Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 18: 14
                    And the assault on Maracaibo Fort. True, I found it only in English, but it seems there was the same thing - bombardment and assault by a landing force of a sea fortress
          2. volodimer
            volodimer 23 March 2019 16: 50
            Konstantin, the greatness of Ushakov lies in the fact that being only a "naval commander" he was able to prove himself as a competent commander for land landing troops and a diplomat who created a constitution for those islands ...
            And the fact that "Ushakov was waiting for more than 3 months losing people from lack of food and cold" ... What, shall we throw a stone?
            1. Kenxnumx
              Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 17: 06
              I asked a question with a question mark. Once again, it is not clear to me why he did not immediately take Vido, which was no stronger than the other islands and did not immediately destroy the weakest French detachment. What was waiting for. I think he did not want to obey the British and drive the fleet according to their requests and got a great excuse in the form of standing near Corfu. By the way, his attitude towards the British is known and he did not hide him
              1. volodimer
                volodimer 23 March 2019 17: 15
                Now it is easy for us to reason, knowing "everything". He had to "spin" between many people who wanted to use ... The same Nelson really wanted to get all the laurels at the expense of our fleet. The Austrians, too, drove Suvorov into a desperate situation for the sake of their interests.
                We didn’t have anything to catch in this war, Paul’s Maltese ambitions ...
                1. Kenxnumx
                  Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 18: 08
                  I am afraid that you have now agreed with my thesis that it was not the fear of assault that drove Ushakov to take away. Just politics and unwillingness to obey Nelson.
                  1. volodimer
                    volodimer 23 March 2019 18: 27
                    I think that you are right, the whole war was surrounded there by a politician ... But, I didn’t say directly that Ushakov was afraid of the assault, according to history, he had to chase the squadron ships all over the Mediterranean for the British before they gathered at Corfu . And the result.
                    1. Kenxnumx
                      Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 18: 34
                      According to history, he allegedly waited for Turkish contingents and food. And when it gets both, and it became impossible to pull, the assault began, I practically do not use what I received. As for the ships, almost all the ships were in place. Later came only two battleships and two frigates, and without which it was crowded. 10 battleships and so provided overwhelming superiority in the areas selected for the assault and two more roles did not play.
                      1. volodimer
                        volodimer 23 March 2019 18: 45
                        do not wait, @ b.t. it is necessary ... You are the great admiral, and Ushakov ...
                      2. Kenxnumx
                        Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 18: 54
                        A bad historian writes how he would do it himself, a good historian is trying to understand why it was done so by historical figures. I’m trying to understand why Ushakov pulled by storm, possessing all the means in two weeks, having carried out reconnaissance and taking the necessary positions. I think I correctly understood his motives. I also hope that I showed you that there was nothing innovative and special in this event. There was an excellently calculated and conducted assault, but it was carried out in the only possible way and the French knew very well how the assault would take place and also acted on the basis of this scenario. First, as the weakest link, Vido, then shelling from the island and ships and the assault of fortifications from the sea. Well, something like this.
                    2. volodimer
                      volodimer 23 March 2019 18: 34
                      And yet, Ushakov did what no one did before him, He did it brilliantly and with a minimum of losses, politics is the tenth thing ... And then the Turks indicated their place,
                      And now "KORFU" is clear to everyone!
                      1. Kenxnumx
                        Kenxnumx 23 March 2019 18: 56
                        Not for everyone, but only for Russians and maybe a bit of Turks, but I suspect that they believe that they played the main role.