I.K. Aivazovsky. Naval battle at Vyborg. 1846
230 years ago, in June 1790, the Russian fleet under the command of Chichagov inflicted a heavy defeat on the Swedish the fleet in the Vyborg Bay.
The blockade of the Swedish fleet
After an unsuccessful battle in the Krasnaya Gorka area on May 23-24, 1790, the Swedish fleet, under the command of the Duke of Södermanland, disappeared into the Vyborg Bay. The Swedish naval fleet together with the rowing one was blocked from the sea by the combined forces of the Baltic Fleet (Kronstadt and Revel squadrons) under the general command of Admiral V. Ya. Chichagov. From the land - by rowing flotilla and land army. Thus, the plan of the Swedish king Gustav III to attack St. Petersburg from land and sea in order to force Catherine II to surrender was completely destroyed. The Swedish command no longer thought about the offensive. Now the Swedes were preoccupied with saving their blocked fleet.
The Russian empress ordered Chichagov to "attack and destroy the Swedish fleet."
The entire Swedish naval and galley fleet was with a landing in the Vyborg Bay beyond the Birch Islands. The Swedish forces totaled up to 400 ships and vessels with 3 thousand guns and 30 thousand sailors and soldiers on board (according to other sources, up to 40 thousand people). The Swedish sailing fleet under the command of flag captain Admiral Nordenskjöld and Grand Admiral Prince Karl, Duke of Södermanland, consisted of 22 battleships, 13 frigates and several small vessels (total crew of 16 thousand people). The skerry flotilla (over 360 vessels and 14 thousand crew members) was commanded by flag captain Georg de Frese. The Swedish monarch Gustav was also at the fleet.
Initially, the Swedes, demoralized by the battle of Krasnogorsk, blocked in a small space, were waiting for their death. However, Chichagov’s passivity allowed the enemy to recover. To distract the Russians, from June 1 to 6, King Gustav organized an attack on the fortified approaches to the Vyborg fortress and the Kozlyaninov squadron. The attack failed.
Meanwhile, the situation for the Swedes was getting worse. Water was running out. All suitable sources of water on land were occupied by Russian shooters and Cossacks. The provisions also ended, the crews were transferred to a third of the portion. The wind blew all the time from the southeast, large reinforcements approached the Russians. The spirit of the Swedes fell, even the idea of surrender was discussed. King Gustav was opposed, offered to go on a breakthrough and fall in battle. He even put forward the idea of a breakthrough of both fleets through Björkesund, to the west. But he was dissuaded. Too dangerous it was a plan. The place was narrow, the ships could not turn around. Russians could attack from the coast. The passage can be blocked by sunken ships. The Russian skerry fleet was in a better position. As a result, it was decided, with a favorable wind, to launch the ship and rowing fleet at the same part of the Russian linear fleet that would be in the way.
Map to the article “Vyborg Sea Battle” in the “Sytin Military Encyclopedia” (St. Petersburg, 1912)
The forces of the Russian fleet
On June 8, 1790, the Russian naval fleet was concentrated near Vyborg: 27 battleships, 5 frigates, 8 rowing frigates, 2 bombardier ships and 10 small vessels. The Russian rowing fleet at this time is scattered in several places. His main forces under the command of Kozlyaninov (52 vessels) were in Vyborg, cut off from the ship fleet. Prince Nassau-Siegen, the rowing fleet commander, with great difficulty recruited teams for the ships and only on June 13 left Kronstadt with 89 ships. Three battleships came with him, which healed on the basis of the damage after the Krasnogorsk battle: the 74-gun flagship “John the Evangelist”, the 74-gun “Sysoy the Great”, the 66-gun “America” under the command of Rear Admiral Eustache Odintsov. They are located at the entrance to the Björkösund Strait. The Nassau-Siegen flotilla is also located here, thereby providing communications to the main forces of the fleet with Kronstadt.
Thus, Russian ships blocked the exits from the Vyborg Bay of Björkezund. Between the island of Rond and the Birch Islands there was a detachment of ships under the command of Captain Prokhor Lezhnev: the 74-gun flagship Boleslav, the 66-guns Pobedoslav, Iannuarius and the 64-gun Prince Charles, 1 frigate and 1 bombardment ship. The main forces of the Russian fleet: 18 battleships in the first line (100-gun “Rostislav”, “Saratov”, “Chesma”, “Twelve Apostles”, “Three Hierarchs”, “Vladimir”, “Saint Nicholas”, 74-gun “ Ezekiel ”,“ Tsar Konstantin ”,“ Maxim the Confessor ”,“ Cyr John ”,“ Mstislav ”,“ Saint Helen ”,“ Boleslav ”, 66-gun“ Victorious ”,“ Prokhor ”,“ Izyaslav ”,“ Svyatoslav ”) ; 7 frigates and 3 small vessels in the second line under the command of Chichagov stood from Repie Bank to Rond Island.
On the left flank, a detachment of five battleships led by Rear Admiral Illarion Povalishin (74-guns "Saint Peter", "Vseslav", "Prince Gustav", 66-guns "Do not touch me" and "Panteleimon") and 18 -cannon bombing ship "Winner". Povalishin ships took a position at Repie Bank. On the left flank were two more units. A detachment of three frigates (46-gun flagship “Bryachislav”, 38-guns “Archangel Gabriel” and “Elena”) under the command of Rear Admiral Pyotr Khanykov stood between the Künemi bank and Passaloda bank. A detachment of three frigates (the 44-gun flagship Venus, the 42-gun Gremislav, the 38-gun Alexandra) and two ships under the command of Captain 2nd Rank Robert Crowne maneuvered off the island of Pitkepass.
Almost a month passed in the inaction of the Russian fleet. Under pressure from general discontent, Chichagov proposed launching a general attack by the forces of the ship fleet, the Nassau and Kozlyaninov flotilla. Only on June 21 arrived the Prince Nassau-Siegen squadron, delayed by headwinds. The brave naval commander immediately attacked the enemy gunboats in Björkösund, off the island of Ravitsa. A fierce battle continued until the early hours of the morning. The Swedes could not withstand the onslaught and retreated north, clearing the Björkesund. The position of the Swedish fleet has deteriorated significantly.
However, in the evening of June 21, the wind changed to east. This Swedish sailors waited four weeks. Early in the morning of June 22, the Swedish ships began moving north to enter the fairway at Cape Kruesserort. In parallel to the ships, but closer to the shore, rowing ships sailed. The beginning of the movement was unsuccessful: on the northern flank of the ship "Finland" tightly aground.
With the return of the sails by the enemy fleet, Chichagov gave the order to prepare for battle. The admiral, obviously, expected the enemy to attack his main forces and prepared to accept the battle at anchor. However, the Swedes went to the Russian left wing. At 7 a.m. an advanced Swedish detachment went out to the Povalishin ships. The lead Swedish 30-gun ship Drizigheten (“Courage” under the command of Colonel von Puke), despite heavy fire, entered the interval between the ships of Povalishin and almost point-blank shot. Other Swedish ships followed. Rowing vessels passed offshore. All of them actively fired at the units of Povalishin and Khanykov.
The Russian main forces at this time were inactive, remaining anchored. The commander hesitated. He believed that the main forces of the enemy would go on a breakthrough to the south. Only at the 9th hour Chichagov ordered his northern flank to anchor and provide assistance to damaged ships. At about 9 o’clock Lezhnev’s detachment was ordered to go on the left flank. And only at 9 a.m. Chichagov with anchor forces withdrew from the anchor. At this time, the Swedish avant-garde has already entered the clear water. And the ships of Povalishin and Khanykov were shot and could not pursue the enemy.
However, the Swedes did not leave without losses. In the clouds of smoke that enveloped the northern part of the gulf, three Swedish ships, Edwig-Elizabeth-Charlotte, Emhaiten and Louise-Ulrike, two frigates and six small vessels, lagged behind the core of the fleet, lost their course and at 10- m hour ran into the banks of Repie and Passaloda. The ships died. The rearguard ship Enigheten inadvertently grappled with its firewall, which was intended for the Russians. Fire quickly swept the ship. Panic began, and the ship landed on the Zemfira frigate. The fire quickly turned to the frigate, and both ships flew into the air.
By 11 o’clock the entire Swedish fleet was at sea. Chichagov is far behind. In parallel with the Russian naval fleet, along the coast, there was a strongly stretched Swedish rowing flotilla. The Swedish ships were only two cannon shots away from Russian ships. However, the Russian captains, carried away by the pursuit of enemy ships, did not pay attention to the Swedish rowing vessels. Far behind, in an enhanced march mode, were the squadrons of Nassau and Kozlyaninov. They were too far away and did not have time to take part in the battle. In the evening, already behind Gotland, their advanced ships attacked and forced the flag of the final Swedish ship Sophia-Magdalene to be lowered, which was badly damaged in previous battles and lagged behind its own. On June 23, already near Sveaborg, where the Swedes fled, the frigate “Venus” and the ship “Izyaslav” cut off and captured the ship “Retvisan”.
If Chichagov separated from the main forces at least a few ships, he could capture most of the Swedish rowing fleet and even the Swedish king himself, who was on the galley. She was captured, and Gustav escaped on a rowing boat. Blinded by fire and smoke, stunned by fire and explosions, sailing slowly, fearing cliffs and shallows, the Swedish small ships surrendered with little or no resistance. The few Russian frigates who fell into the Swedish system were weighed down by prisoners and did not know what to do with them. About 20 ships were captured.
K.V. Charenberg. Capture by the frigate "Venus" of the Swedish battleship "Retvisan" on June 23, 1790
As a result, the Russian fleet won a landslide victory. 7 battleships and 3 frigates, over 50 small ships were destroyed and captured. The 64-gun ship Omgeten, 60-gun Finland, Sofia-Magdalena and Retvisan, frigates Upland and Yaroslavets (a former Russian ship), 5 large galleys were captured; the 74-gun ship Loviza-Ulrika, the 64-gun ship Edviga-Elizabeth-Charlotte, Emhaiten, and the frigate Zemfira were lost. The Swedish fleet lost about 7 thousand people killed and captured (including over 4,5 thousand prisoners).
Russian losses - over 300 people killed and wounded. According to other sources, the losses were significantly higher. The six ships of Povalishin were literally shot, and blood poured from their decks over scuppers. Out of about 700 people of the crew of each ship, no more than 40-60 people remained intact.
The Vyborg victory became a strategic failure of the Russian fleet. Due to the passivity of Chichagov, who had been inactive for almost a month, the Swedish fleet escaped the destruction and capture of the main forces. Then Chichagov made a mistake with the place of the main blow of the enemy, allowing the Swedes to withdraw most of the fleet. With a more favorable arrangement of ships, quicker and decisive actions already during the battle, the Russians could destroy and capture more ships, capture the enemy’s rowing fleet. If Chichagov had moved his main forces to intercept the enemy 2-4 hours earlier, the enemy’s losses would have been much greater. Perhaps they managed to destroy and capture almost the entire Swedish fleet. In addition, the Russian command made another big mistake: having great strength, it did not form a reserve of the fastest ships in the rear to move it to any and most dangerous place. As a result, Chichagov could quickly strengthen the left flank at Kruesserort and greatly complicate or completely eliminate the possibility of a breakthrough.
Such a defeat would force Sweden to capitulate, and Petersburg could dictate favorable conditions for peace.
Soon, the Swedish fleet will inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian rowing fleet of Nassau (Second Battle of Rochensalm). This will allow Sweden to conclude an honorable Werel peace. Russia will win almost all the main battles in the war, but will receive nothing.