The defeat of Turkish fleet under Chesmoy. Painting by Jacob Phillip Hackert
250 years ago, a Russian squadron in the Chesme Bay of the Aegean Sea completely destroyed the Turkish fleet. Russian sailors sunk and burned the entire enemy fleet: 16 battleships (1 ship captured) and 6 frigates!
In 1768, the next Russo-Turkish war began. Russia then did not have a fleet in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. In the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea region and Crimea, Turkey reigned. In the Black Sea, the Turkish fleet reigned supreme. Then in St. Petersburg they decided to send a squadron of the Baltic Fleet to the Mediterranean Sea and thereby support the army in the Black Sea region.
In the winter of 1769, a squadron of 15 pennants was formed from the Baltic Fleet: 7 ships and 8 other combat ships. The squadron was led by one of the most experienced Russian naval commanders - Admiral Grigory Andreevich Spiridov. He began naval service under Peter the Great. The general command over the expedition was taken by Count Alexei Orlov. The first Archipelago expedition was to go around Europe, reach the shores of Greece and the Archipelago (islands of the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor). In Greece, a national liberation struggle broke out against the Ottoman yoke. Russian sailors had to support fellow believers.
The trip was a difficult event. Before that, Russian ships sailed only in the Baltic, mainly in the Gulf of Finland. There was no experience of long hikes. Only a few merchant ships left the Baltic Sea. Russian ships needed to fight the elements and the enemy away from their bases, having the need for literally everything that was needed on a long voyage.
Admiral Grigory Andreevich Spiridov
Going to the Mediterranean Sea
In July 1769, the ships of Spiridov left Kronstadt. On September 24, a Russian squadron arrived at the English port of Hull. The ships were being repaired here - the transition from the Baltic to the North Sea was difficult. After two weeks of rest and repair, the Spiridov squadron continued the campaign. In the Bay of Biscay, Russian ships were badly battered. Some ships were badly damaged. The long hike showed that the hulls of the ships are not of a sufficiently strong structure. In addition, poor ventilation, lack of infirmaries and poor provision of all necessary crews by the Admiralty led to mass diseases. The crews of the ships were constantly short of fresh food, water, equipment and clothing.
For about a month, Spiridov’s ships went from England to Gibraltar - over 1500 miles without stops and rest in ports. In November 1769, the Russian flagship, the ship Eustache, passed Gibraltar, entered the Mediterranean Sea and arrived in Port Magon (Minorca Island). In February 1770, the squadron arrived in Port Vitula on the south coast of Morea (Peloponnese). Russian sailors had to support the national liberation movement of the Greeks against the Ottoman yoke. Catherine II planned to use the Greek rebels against Turkey, which facilitated the operation of the Russian army on the Danube front. To establish relations with the rebels and their support, Count A. Orlov was sent, who was entrusted with the overall leadership of the expedition.
I.K. Aivazovsky. Chesme battle
Fighting in the sea
The Peloponnese population met with great joy the Russian sailors. Thousands of volunteers joined the fighting detachments, which launched military operations in the interior of the peninsula. The Russian squadron with the bulk of the landing forces was engaged in the siege of fortresses on the coast of Greece. So, at the end of March 1770, Russian troops under the command of the naval artillery brigade besieged Navarin. April 10, the fortress surrendered. Navarin became the base of the Spiridov squadron. However, on land, hostilities ended in defeat. The Turks deployed reinforcements, launched punitive operations, and defeated the rebels. On the coast, the Russians could not take the fortresses of Coron and Modon. These enemy fortresses were well protected.
The Ottoman command, learning about the capture of Navarin by the Russians, decided to block the enemy there. On land, the Turkish army marched towards Navarin, and a fleet marched from the Turkish ports to the fortress. Meanwhile, a second Russian squadron led from Rear Admiral Elphinston (3 battleships, 2 frigates) from Petrograd to the coast of Greece. She left Kronstadt in October 1769 and in early May 1770 approached the Peloponnese. On May 16, Elphinstone ships near La Spezia saw the enemy fleet (10 battleships, 6 frigates, and other vessels, including several rowing ones). The Ottomans had more than double superiority in the number of ships, but hastened to retreat to the port of Napoli di Romagna, under the cover of coastal batteries. They believed that they saw in front of them only the Russian avant-garde, followed by the main forces. Russian ships attacked the enemy fleet. The shootout continued for several hours. Frightening the enemy, the Russian squadron departed from the port. On May 17, Elphinston repeated the attack. After the shootout, the Turks hastened to hide under the protection of coastal batteries. Due to the complete superiority of the enemy’s forces, Elphinstone could not block Napoli.
Meanwhile, Navarin’s defense became meaningless. The Turks overlaid the fortress, destroyed the water supply. On the night of May 23, the Russian garrison blew up fortifications and switched to ships. Even before the abandonment of Navarin, the bulk of the Spiridov squadron went to sea to join Elfinston. Two Russian squadrons met at the island of Tserigo. On May 24, near the island of La Spezia, the Turkish fleet again met with Russian ships. For three days, enemy ships were within sight, but the calm prevented the start of the battle. Taking advantage of the favorable wind, the Turkish ships left.
Thus, it was not possible to raise a large-scale revolt in Greece and create a Christian state there. The forces to solve such a large-scale task were few, the Russian fleet operated many thousands of kilometers from its base. For the same reason, the Russians could not organize, train, and equip the Greek army, which could withstand the Turks. However, the Russian squadron was able to solve the problem of diverting enemy forces from the Danube. Constantinople, alarmed by the uprising in Morea and the threat of the spread of the national liberation movement to other areas of the empire, and the actions of the Russian squadron, was forced to send significant ground and naval forces here. This worsened Turkey’s military-economic capabilities in the war with Russia.
The start of the battle in the Strait of Chios on June 24, 1770. Jacob Philip Hackert
"Play to the last!"
For almost a month, Spiridov’s ships were looking for an enemy in the Aegean. In mid-June, ships that were the last to leave Navarin joined them. All the forces of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean united: 9 battleships, 3 frigates, 1 bombardier ship, 17-19 small ships, about 730 guns, about 6500 people. Spiridov and Elphinston had an equal position and quarreled over the fact that the enemy was missed by Napoli. General command took Orlov. On June 15 (26), Russian ships stocked up water on about. Paros, where they learned that the enemy was here three days ago. At a military council, it was decided to go to the island of Chios, and if there were no Ottomans there, to the island of Tenedos at the exit of the Dardanelles to block them.
On June 23 (July 4), 1770, when approaching the strait separating Chios from the mainland, near the Chesma fortress, an enemy fleet was discovered. It turned out that the Turks had dozens of ships and ships, including 16 battleships, 6 frigates, 6 worms and a mass of small ships. The Turkish fleet was armed with 1430 guns. The total crew was about 16 thousand people. This was a complete surprise to the Russian command. The main naval forces of the Ottoman Empire were located in the Chios Strait. The enemy had a double superiority. In addition, the enemy took a convenient position - off the coast in two lines, the flanks abutted against the coast. In the first line there were 10 ships, in the second - 4 ships and 6 frigates. The remaining vessels were located between the two battle lines and the shore. A large camp was erected on the shore. The commander of the Turkish fleet, Admiral Khosameddin (Husameddin) Ibrahim Pasha was on the coast command post, Admiral Gassan Bey (Gassi Hassan Pasha) on the flagship of Real Mustafa.
Count Orlov was at a loss. However, most commanders and sailors were eager to face off against the enemy. The enthusiasm of the crews, the requests of Spiridov and the captains of the ships convinced the commander in chief that the Russian fleet was ready for a decisive battle. At the military council, it was decided to attack the enemy from the north. The vanguard was led by Spiridov, the main forces - Orlov, the rearguard - Elphinstone. The lead was the 66-gun ship “Europe” of the captain of the 1st rank Klokachev, followed by the 68-gun flagship of Spiridov “Eustache”, then the 66-gun ship “Three Saints” of the captain of the 1st rank Khmetevsky. This was followed by 66-gun ships "Saint Ianuary" and "Three Hierarchs", 68-gun "Rostislav" captain 1st rank Lupandin. The rearguard included 66-gun “Do not touch me”, 84-gun “Svyatoslav” and 66-gun “Saratov”.
On June 24 (July 5), 1770, the Russian squadron began to approach the enemy. First, the ships went to the southern flank of the enemy, then, turning around, took up positions opposite the Turkish line. The Ottomans opened fire at 11 a.m. - 30 hours 11 minutes, at a distance of about 45 cable. Under enemy fire, Russian ships came close to the enemy and opened fire at 3 o'clock at close range - 12 fathoms (about 80 meters). At the same time, the advanced ship "Europe" tried to approach the enemy even closer, but because of the threat of pitfalls, it turned and temporarily left the line. The flagship became the lead ship. The Turks concentrated on the Russian flagship the fire of several ships at once. However, the flagship confidently attacked the enemy. The ships played marches. The musicians were given the order: "Play to the last!" In turn, Eustathius focused its fire on the Turkish flagship Real Mustafa. By the end of the first hour, all ships took up positions and opened fire.
The second Russian ship, “Three Saints,” came under heavy fire. The shells were broken shells (part of the rigging), and the ship blew right into the middle of the Turkish fleet. The Russian ship was among the ships of the enemy, which fired from all sides. The situation was extremely dangerous, but the Russian sailors were not at a loss. Khmetevsky was wounded, but continued to lead the battle. Masts were damaged on the ship, underwater holes appeared. But the "Three Saints" continued to fight, shelling two enemy lines at once. About 700 shells Russian gunners rained down on the enemy, shooting the Ottoman ships almost point blank. Many Turks, unable to withstand the battle, threw themselves into the water.
The ship "Ianuary" of the captain of the 1st rank Borisov, passing along the battle line of the enemy, fired at once on several ships. Having made a turn, he again went to the enemy and took up positions against one of the Ottoman ships. He was followed by the ship "Three Hierarchs" by Brigadier Greig. He also fired heavily at the enemy. Russian sailors acted at such close range that they hit the enemy not only with guns, but also with rifles. The Turks could not stand such a battle, removed from anchors and fled. At the same time, the ships were badly damaged.
At the center of the battle was still the Russian flagship. "Saint Eustathius" was so close to the Turkish flagship that its cores pierced through both sides of the enemy ship. The Russian ship also suffered severe damage. Several enemy ships fired at our flagship. The ship of Spiridov began to be demolished to the Turkish line. "Eustache" came close to the Turkish flagship. A shootout of rifles and pistols began. Then the Russians went boarding. The Turks fiercely resisted, but the Russian sailors pushed them step by step. One of the brave men, despite being wounded, captured the enemy banner. The Turkish admiral escaped from the ship. Soon, the huge Turkish flagship was almost completely captured. The Ottomans kept only aft and lower decks. Real Mustafa was on fire. The Russian sailors tried to put out the fire, but could not. Fire quickly spread through the battleship, encompassing sails and masts. A flaming mast fell on our ship and the fire spread to Eustathius. The fire hit the ammunition cellar. The Russian flagship exploded. A few minutes later the Turkish ship also took off.
There was silence in the strait for a minute. People were shocked by the tragedy. On two ships, few survived. Spiridov with his headquarters managed to leave Eustache and moved to the nearest frigate. The boats were picked up in the water by the commander of the ship, Captain Cruise 1st rank, and about 70 people. Over 630 people died. The battle continued for some time, but the resistance of the Ottoman fleet weakened every minute. By 14 p.m. Turkish ships retreated to Chesme Bay under the protection of coastal guns.
The outline of the battle in the Chios Strait on June 24 and the Chesme battle on June 26, 1770. Source: Battle Chronicle of the Russian Navy
Chesme Bay, located on the coast of Asia Minor, was a convenient harbor. High shores covered it from the winds, and the batteries at the entrance to the bay protected from the sea. The Ottomans believed that many Russian ships needed to be repaired, so the enemy would not dare to attack again after the fierce battle of Chios. Admiral Khosameddin relied entirely on coastal batteries and refused to go to sea to break away from Russian ships. At the same time, the Turks strengthened their coastal positions, and additional guns were brought to them from ships.
A meeting was held on the Russian squadron in the evening of June 24 (July 5). Russian commanders saw that the enemy was demoralized, the ships were badly damaged and crowded. It was decided not to give the enemy time to recover and finish him right in the bay. On June 25 (July 6), Russian ships blocked the enemy fleet in Chesmenskaya Bay. The Bombardier 12-gun ship "Thunder" advanced forward and began firing from a long distance. The foreman Hannibal received an order to prepare firewalls - watercraft stuffed with explosives and flammable substances. They were prepared from small schooners, filled with gunpowder and resin. Crew volunteers were selected.
Due to the narrow entrance to the bay, 4 ships, a bombardier ship and 2 frigates were allocated for the enemy’s attack: “Europe”, “Do not touch me”, “Rostislav”, “Saratov”, “Thunder”. Frigates "Africa" and "Hope" with 4 firewalls. By the evening of June 25, Russian ships were ready for an attack. Around midnight, Rostislav signaled the start of the operation. At midnight on June 27 (July 7), Russian ships approached the entrance to the bay. Soon the Turks discovered the enemy and opened fire. Russian ships under heavy fire continued to move. The first ship to break into the bay and engage in battle was the ship "Europe" under the command of Klokachev. The rest of the ships followed him. The frigates and the bombardier ship remained at the entrance to the bay and fired on the coastal fortifications.
Scheme of the sea battle in the Chesme Bay. July 6/7, 1770
Russians from a distance of 200 meters fired at the largest enemy ships. It was a night battle. Soon, one of the Turkish ships under the fire of Thunder and Do Not Touch Me caught fire and flew into the air. Ottoman ships were very crowded, so flaming debris rained down on other ships. Two more ships caught fire. Others flared up behind them. At about 2 a.m., when two more ships exploded, a fire attack started. Russian ships temporarily stopped firing. When the Turks realized that they were firewalls, they opened strong fire on them, and galleys went to intercept them. The first three ships did not reach the goal: the Turks captured one fireman, the other boarded the rocks, the third missed. Only the fourth fireman under the command of Lieutenant Ilyin managed to get close to the 84-gun ship. Ilyin lit a wick, went with the sailors to the boat and sent a burning ship at the enemy. A severe fire started on the ship, and it soon exploded.
The successful attack of Ilyin intensified the defeat of the enemy fleet. From the burning debris new ships and vessels were engaged. The panic began. Enemy crews massively fled ashore. One by one, enemy ships died. When it dawned, boats were sent from Russian ships to capture the prey. So the battleship Rhodes and several galleys were captured. In the morning in the Chesme Bay, the last enemy battleship flew into the air. The remaining Turkish sailors and the Chesma garrison, frightened by the catastrophe, abandoned the fortress and fled to Smyrna.
It was a great victory! The entire Turkish fleet was destroyed: 15 battleships and 6 frigates, a large number of small ships, killing thousands of sailors. Our sailors captured one battleship. Our losses are about 20 people. Spiridov wrote: “Honor to the All-Russian Fleet! From the 25th to the 26th, the enemy Turkish military fleet was attacked, defeated, broken, burned, put into heaven, turned to ashes ... and they themselves became dominant throughout the Archipelago. ”
The Chesme victory defeated Western Europe. Neglect of the Russian sailors gave way to more reasonable assessments of the Russian fleet. It became obvious that a new great sea power had appeared in Europe. The Russians destroyed the core of the Ottoman fleet with one blow. Russian officers and sailors showed high combat qualities, courage, determination and skill. The Port was so shocked by the death of their fleet that they feared for the fate of Constantinople. Under the guidance of French experts, the Dardanelles were urgently strengthened. As a result, the actions of the Spiridov squadron facilitated the advance of the Russian army on the Danube Theater. In 1771, Russian troops occupied the Crimean peninsula. The favorable situation in the Black Sea allowed the revival of the Russian fleet in the Sea of Azov to begin. The new Azov flotilla soon joined the battle.
In honor of the victory, all the sailors of the Russian squadron were awarded a medal with a meaningful brief inscription: "Was"