Military Review

“Such is your image of glory, that the light has matured under Ishmael! ..” By the capture of Ismail’s fortress by Russian troops in 1790.

“Such is your image of glory, that the light has matured under Ishmael! ..” By the capture of Ismail’s fortress by Russian troops in 1790.

It so happens that the Russian-Turkish war of 1787 – 1791 is known for many battles - sea and land. During it, two well-known storming of fortified fortresses defended by large garrisons — Ochakov and Ishmael — took place. And if the capture of Ochakov was actually made at the beginning of the war, then the capture of Ishmael greatly accelerated its end.

Austria goes out of war. Danube knot

By the beginning of 1790, the initiative in hostilities was in the hands of the Russian army and fleetalthough the Ottoman Empire was by no means a weak adversary and did not exhaust its internal reserves. But foreign policy circumstances interfered with the success of the war, which was generally successful for Russia. The fight against Turkey was carried out within the framework of the Russian-Austrian union, signed by Catherine II and the Holy Roman Emperor by the Austrian Archduke Joseph II. Austria led mainly its own war - the army of Field Marshal Laudon acted against the Turks in Serbia and Croatia. To help the Russians, a compact corps of the Prince of Coburg was allocated, not exceeding 18 thousand people. Joseph II considered himself a zealous ally of Russia and a friend of Catherine II. Experiencing a sincere inclination towards military affairs, but without special strategic talents, in the fall of 1789 the emperor personally led the Austrian army on a campaign, but caught a cold and seriously fell ill on the way. Returning to Vienna and leaving detailed instructions to many officials, and especially to his brother Leopold II, Emperor Joseph died. Without exaggeration, we can say that in his person Russia has lost a devoted ally, and such are rare in the Russian stories.

Leopold took the country in a rather upset form - his brother was known as a tireless reformer and innovator in many areas, but not all of his actions, like any adherent of change, were successful. In the west, the tricolor of the “freedom, equality, fraternity” of the French Revolution was already in full swing, and the foreign policy pressure on Vienna in the person of England and its political guide, Prussia, was increasing. Leopold II was forced to sign a separate truce with the Turks.

For the Russian troops it was an unpleasant event. The Suvorov Corps was recalled by order of Potemkin in August 1790. According to the terms of the truce, the Austrians should not have let the Russian troops into Wallachia, the Seret River became the demarcation line between the former allies. Now the operational area in which the Russian army could operate was limited to the lower reaches of the Danube, where the large Turkish fortress, Ishmael, was located.

This stronghold was considered one of the most powerful and well-protected fortresses of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks widely attracted European engineers and fortifiers to modernize and strengthen their fortresses. Since during the 1768 – 1774 war, the troops under the command of N.V. Repnina 5 August 1770 took Ishmael, the Turks put enough effort so that this annoying event would not happen again. In 1783 – 1788 in Turkey, a French military mission was sent by Louis XVI to strengthen the Ottoman army and train its officer corps. Up until the French Revolution, more than 300 French instructor officers worked in the country — primarily fortification and naval affairs. Under the leadership of the engineer de Lafite-Clovier and the German Richter who replaced him, Ishmael was reconstructed from an ordinary fortress into a major defense center.

Turkish underground galleries in Izmail

The fortress was an irregular triangle adjacent to the Danube Cilicia canal by the south side. It was located on a slope of heights, sloping towards the Danube. The total length of the fortress fortifications of the bastion outline on the outer contour was 6,5 kilometers (western face 1,5 km, northeast - 2,5 and southern - 2 kilometers). Wide dell, stretching from north to south, Ishmael was divided into two parts: Western, or Old Fortress, and Eastern, or New Fortress. The main shaft reached 8,5 – 9 meters in height and was surrounded by a moat to a depth of 11 meters and a width of 13. The land shaft was reinforced with 7 by earth bastions, of which 2 were lined with stone. The height of the bastions varied from 22 to 25 meters. From the north, Ishmael was covered by a fortress citadel - here, at the top of a triangle formed by serf lines, there was a stone-covered Bendery bastion. The south-western corner, where the coast descended to the river was also quite well fortified. The earthen embankment in 100 meters from the water ended with a stone tower with a three-tiered arrangement of guns inside the Tabia, which fired through the embrasures. Ishmael had four gates: Bros, Khota, Bender and Cilic. Inside the fortress there were many sturdy stone buildings that could easily be turned into nodes of resistance. The approaches to the ramparts were covered with wolf pits. Only from the side of the Danube the fortress did not have bastions - the Turks placed protection on this side of the ships of their Danube flotilla. The number of artillery at the time of the late autumn 1790 of the year was estimated at 260 trunks, of which 85 cannons and 15 mortars were on the river side.

Flotilla de Ribas and the army approach

It was clear that Ishmael was a strong nut, but it was necessary and desirable to take it in the shortest possible time - without any semblance of an “Ochakov seat”. The presence of the waterway - the Danube - implied its use for military purposes. In the 1789 year on the Danube (the second time after 1772 of the year) the Danube Flotilla was created: a detachment of ships from the Dnieper command commanded by Captain I Akhmatov arrived. October 2 1790 of the year Potemkin orders the Liman rowing fleet commander, Major General de Ribas, to enter the Danube to strengthen the forces there. Flotilla de Ribas numbered the 34 ship. At the transition from the rear of the Dnieper after the capture of Ochakov, it was supposed to be covered by the Sevastopol squadron under the command of F.F. Ushakov. The passage of the ships de Ribas Turks missed. The fact is that the fleet escort was able to get out of Sevastopol only on October 15, and the commander of the Ottoman fleet, Hussein Pasha, missed the chance to prevent Russian penetration into the Danube.

The consequences did not fail to affect - already October 19 de Ribas attacked the enemy in the Sulina mouth of the Danube: a large galleys 1 was burned, 7 merchants captured. A tactical assault force landed in the 600 grenadier that destroyed the Turkish coastal batteries. The sweep of the Danube continued: on November 7 the fortress and port of Tulcea was taken, on November 13 the Isacchi fortress. On November 19, the detachments of de Ribas and Akhmatova approached Ishmael directly, where the main forces of the Turkish flotilla were. At the beginning, the enemy was attacked by 6 firefighters, but due to ignorance of the flow of the river, they were moved towards the Turks. Then the Russian ships came close, on a pistol shot, and opened fire. As a result, 11 Turkish rowing ships were blown up or burned. 17 merchant and transport vessels with various stocks were immediately destroyed. The Russians had no own losses in the ships. During the period from October 19 to November 19, 1790, the Danube Flotilla inflicted severe damage on the enemy: 210 ships and ships were destroyed, 77 was captured. More than 400 guns were taken as trophies. Turkish shipping in the area of ​​the Danube was over. The fortress of Ishmael was deprived of the opportunity to count on the support of her own flotilla because of its destruction. In addition, an important result of the activities of de Ribas and Akhmatov was the cessation of the supply of food and other water supplies.

21 – 22 November, the Russian 31-thousandth army under the command of Lieutenant-General N.V. approached Ishmael. Gudovich and PS him. Potemkin, also a lieutenant-general, a cousin of Catherine's favorite. At the beginning, His Serene Highness wanted to lead the troops, but then changed his mind and remained at his headquarters in Iasi. The forces of the Turkish garrison were rated from 20 to 30 by thousands of people under the command of Aydosli Mahmet Pasha.

Probably the first information about what is happening inside the fortress, the Russian command received from a fugitive Zaporozhets, a certain Ostap Snaygaylo, originally from Uman, in early November 1790 of the year. According to his testimony, in the fall there were about 15 thousands of Turks in the fortress, not counting small contingents of Tatars, Zaporozhians from the Transdanian Sich, a certain number of Nekrasov Cossacks, descendants of the participants of the Bulavinian uprising 1708 of the year, who accepted Turkish citizenship. Ostap Zhyagaylo complained about the poor quality foodstuffs and said that “the old Zaporozhtsy keep the young people from escaping to disclose that they are suffering a lot in the Russian army, and that there are no more than five hundred Black Sea people in Russia who have no stigma and no advantages.” Since Ishmael was always considered by the Turks not only as a fortress, but also as a point of concentration of troops in the area of ​​the Danube, his garrison was supposed to be large enough and have extensive storage rooms for provisions and ammunition. Although, it is likely that the food was of “bad quality,” as Stiagailo pointed out.

Meanwhile, Russian troops besieged Ishmael and launched his bombardment. To the commandant of the garrison, an envoying was sent just in case with a proposal to capitulate. Naturally, Mahmet Pasha refused. The view of the fortress inspired respect and appropriate concerns. Therefore, the lieutenant general gathered a military council, at which it was decided to remove the siege and move to winter apartments. Obviously, the Most Serene through his people knew about the pessimistic moods prevailing in the command of the siege army, so he did not know the decision of the military council and ordered the general General Suvorov to come under the walls of the fortress and deal with the situation on the spot - whether to take Ishmael by storm or retreat. Potemkin was well informed about the increasing number of detractors in St. Petersburg, about the rising star - the favorite of Empress Platona Zubove, and he didn’t need an obvious failure in the 1790 finals. 13 December 1790, endowed with broad powers, Suvorov arrives at Ishmael, where preparations are already well under way to lift the siege.

Hard to learn - easy in battle

The Fanagoria regiment and the 150 man of the Absheron regiment arrived together with the general-general from his division, which previously operated jointly with the Austrian corps of the Prince of Coburg. By this time, new information appeared on the state of affairs inside the fortress - the Turks, a certain Kulkhochadar Ahmet, ran to the Russians. The defector said that the morale of the garrison is strong enough - they consider Ishmael impregnable. The garrison commander himself travels around all positions of the fortress three times a day. Provision and fodder, though not in abundance, but enough for several months. The Turks evaluate the Russian army as very large and constantly expect an assault. There are many Tatar warriors in the fortress under the command of the brother of the Crimean Khan Kaplan-Girey. Resistance to the garrison was additionally given by the firmman of Sultan Selim III, in which he promised to execute any defender of Ishmael, wherever he was, if the fortress fell.

This information finally convinced Suvorov that the case must be solved by storm, and the siege is unacceptable. Dressed in simple clothes, accompanied by only one orderly, the general-in-chief traveled around Ishmael and was forced to admit that “a fortress without weak points”. The lieutenant general was pleased with the appearance of Suvorov, who actually took over command of the army. With all its vigorous energy, "General-Forward" began preparations for the assault. Suvorov rightly pointed to the impossibility of a winter siege for many reasons and not least because of the lack of food in the Russian army itself.

Major General de Ribas, whose flotilla still blocked Ishmael from the side of the river, was ordered, in addition to the seven batteries already on the island of Chatal (opposite the fortress), to lay one more out of heavy guns. From the island de Ribas led the bombing of Turkish positions in the preparation of the assault and during it. In order to put down the vigilance of the Turks and to show that the Russians are allegedly preparing for a long siege, several siege batteries were laid, including the false ones.

December 18 Suvorov sent a proposal for surrender to the commandant of the garrison, giving HNUMX an hour to think it over. The general made it clear that in the event of an assault on mercy, the Turks would not have to count. The next day came the famous answer about "that the Danube would rather flow backwards and the sky would fall to the ground than Ishmael would surrender." However, Pasha added that he wanted to send messengers to the vizier “for instructions”, and asked for a truce for 24 days, starting from December 10. Suvorov objected that such conditions did not suit him at all, and he gave Mahmet Pasha a deadline of December 20. At the appointed time, there was no response from the Turkish side. This decided the fate of Ishmael. A general assault was scheduled for December 21.


It would be unreasonable to think that Suvorov was going to attack such a strong fortress as Ishmael, at breakneck speed with a whoop and a valiant scream. To prepare the troops behind the Russian positions, a kind of training ground was created, where ditches were dug and ramparts were built, comparable in size to the Izmail ones. On the night of December 19 and 20, while Pasha thought, Suvorov conducted real exercises for the troops using assault ladders and fascines, which threw ditches. The conspiracy general showed many techniques of working with the bayonet and forcing the fortifications. The assault plan was worked out in detail, and the corresponding directive regulating certain actions was sent to the troops. The assault units consisted of five columns. For crises there was a reserve. Disarmed and Christians were instructed not to deprive life. The same goes for women and children.

In the morning of December 21, when it became clear that the Turks did not intend to surrender, the Russian artillery opened heavy fire on the enemy’s positions. In total, about 600 guns took part in the bombardment, including from the flotilla de Ribas. At first, Ishmael responded cheerfully, but by noon the enemy response fire began to weaken and by the evening had stopped altogether.

At 3 in the morning of December 22, the first flare fired up along which the troops left the camp, lined up in columns and began to advance to their designated positions. In 5 hours 30 minutes, again at the signal of the rocket, all the columns went to the assault.

The Turks let the attackers close range and opened a dense fire, widely using the canister. The column approached the fortress under the command of Major General P.P. Lassi Half an hour after the start of the assault, the soldiers managed to climb a rampart, where a stubborn fight began to boil. Together with the column of Major General S.L. Lviv, they attacked the Brossky gate and one of the most centers of defense - the tower Tabie. Massive bayonet attack managed to get through to the Khotyn gates and open them, giving way to cavalry and field artillery. This was the first serious success of the storming. Attacking the Great Northern Bastion, the third column of General F.I. Meknoba faced additional difficulties besides opposing the enemy. In his section, the assault stairs turned out to be short - they had to be tied up by two, and all this was carried out under the fire of the Turks. Finally, the troops managed to climb the rampart, where they were met with fierce resistance. Position straightened reserve, which helped throw the Turks from the shaft in the city. The convoy headed by Major-General M.I. was in a very serious position. Golenishchev-Kutuzov, storming New Fortress. Kutuzov's troops reached the ramparts, where they attacked the Turkish infantry. A historical legend tells: Mikhail Illarionovich sent a messenger to Suvorov with a request to allow him to retreat and regroup - the commander replied that Kutuzov had already been appointed commandant of Izmail and that a messenger had been sent to St. Petersburg with a corresponding report. The future field marshal and “exile Bonaparte”, showed, according to the opinions of others, great courage, his courage was an example of a subordinate, repulsed all Turkish attacks and on the shoulders of the retreating took Cilician gates.

Simultaneously with the assault carried out on land, the fortress was attacked from the side of the Danube under the cover of the batteries of the Danube Flotilla on the island of Chatal. The overall management of the river part of the operation was carried out by de Ribas. By morning 7, when fierce battles were raging all along the perimeter of the Turkish defense, the rowing boats and boats approached the shore and began to disembark. The coastal battery, which had rendered fire resistance to the landing, was captured by the huntsman of the Livonia regiment commanded by Count Roger Damas. Other units suppressed Turkish defenses from the river.

With the dawn the scales of battle were already confidently leaning towards the Russians. It was clear that the defense of the fortress had been hacked and now there was already a fight inside it. By 11 in the morning all the gates had already been captured, as well as the outer perimeter of the ramparts and bastions. The still numerous Turkish garrison, using buildings and barricades erected in the streets, fiercely defended. Without active support from artillery, it was difficult to smoke them out of each center of resistance. Suvorov throws additional reserves into battle and actively uses field artillery for street fighting. In reports of the assault and in the descriptions of eyewitnesses, the stubbornness of the Turks in defense was emphasized. It was also indicated quite active participation in the battle of civilians. For example, women throwing daggers at attacking soldiers. All this further raised the level of bitterness of the opponents. Hundreds of Turkish and Tatar horses escaped from the burning garrison stables and ran around the fortress in flames. Kaplan-Girey, personally led a detachment of several thousand Turks and Tatars, and tried to organize a counterattack, apparently intending to break through from Ishmael. But in the battle he was killed. The commandant of Aydosli Mahmet-Pasha fortress with a thousand janissary sat down in his palace and stubbornly defended himself for two hours. Only when the battery of Major Ostrovsky was delivered there and brought to direct fire, did the palace gates be smashed with intense fire. Grenadiers of the Fanagori regiment burst inside and, as a result of hand-to-hand combat, destroyed all its defenders.

By 4 hours of the day the assault was over. According to reports, the losses of the Turkish garrison amounted to 26 thousands of people, including the Tatars. 9 thousands were taken prisoner. It is quite obvious that the number of those killed among the civilian population was also large. 265 shells and 9 mortars were taken as trophies.

The assault cost the Russian army dearly: 1879 people were killed and 3214 was injured. According to others, these numbers are even greater: 4 and 6 thousand. Due to the poor quality of medical care (the best doctors of the army were in Iasi at the apartment of Svetleyshy), many of the wounded died in the following days after the assault. The wounds were in large numbers stabbed in the stomach and from hitting the canister intensively used by the Turks. A number of “historians-whistleblowers” ​​and snoopers like to complain about, they say, the excessive “bloodyness” of the assault and the great losses of the Russian army. It is necessary to take into account, firstly, the number of the garrison, and secondly, its fierceness in resistance, which had many incentives. No one blames the “bloodiness” of the Duke Wellington, who, after storming the French fortress of Badajoz, having lost more than 5 thousands of dead and wounded, wept bitterly at the sight of such a massacre? And the technical means of destruction over the years (before 1812) have remained generally at the same level. But Wellington is the hero of Waterloo, and the "abnormal" Suvorov was only able to throw the corpses of the "poor Turks." Still, the “children of the Arbat” are far from the military strategy. The victory won by Suvorov is not only an example of the selfless courage and courage of the Russian soldier, but also a vivid illustration of the history of military art, an example of a carefully prepared and confidently carried out plan for the operation.

When the thunder of guns fell silent

The news of the capture of Ismail alarmed the court of Sultan Selim III. Urgently began the search for those responsible for the crash that occurred. The closest and most convenient candidate for the role of the traditional switchman was the figure of the Grand Vizier Sharif Gassan-Pasha. The second most powerful man in the empire was retired in a sultan fashion — the head of the Vizier was set up in front of the gates of the palace of the sovereign of the faithful. The fall of Ishmael dramatically strengthened the party of peace at court - even the most notorious skeptics, it became clear that the war will not win.

Monument A.V. Suvorov in Izmail

Potemkin was preparing a solemn meeting for the winner of Ismail, however, both famous figures of Russian history did not like each other: partly because of the zealous attitude of the Most Serene to someone else's glory, and partly due to Alexander Vasilyevich, who was sharp and sarcastic in expressions. The meeting was cold and deliberately business-like - Suvorov, avoiding unnecessary ceremonies, arrived at headquarters incognito and handed a report on the victory. Then the commander-in-chief and his general bowed and parted. They never met again. In order not to aggravate the personal conflict, Suvorov was urgently called by Catherine to Petersburg, where he was received with reserve (the empress in his confrontation with Potemkin was on the side of the favorite) and was awarded the rank of lieutenant colonel of the Preobrazhensky regiment. The title, of course, an honor, because the colonel was the empress herself. The field marshal's baton Suvorov never received it and was soon sent to Finland to inspect the fortresses there in case of a new war with Sweden. Potemkin himself shortly after the Izmail victory, leaving the army, went to St. Petersburg to restore order near Catherine's throne - the new favorite Platon Zubov was already in full charge of the court. The prince could not return to his former position and, crushed by the sunset of his star, returned to Iasi. It went towards a victorious conclusion to the war, but Potemkin was not destined to sign the future Yassky peace. He fell seriously ill and died in the steppe 40 kilometers from Yass on the way to Nikolaev, where he wanted to be buried. The news of his death, despite personal insults, very upset Suvorov - he considered Potemkin a great man.

Alexander Vasilyevich was awaited by rebellious Poland, the rank of generalissimo and the Alpine campaign. A new era was advancing on Europe — the artillery lieutenant, to whom the Russian lieutenant-general, I.A. Zaborovsky recklessly refused to be accepted into the service, the little Corsican, who said good-bye, “You will hear about me, general,” he had already taken his first steps towards the imperial crown.
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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 23 December 2015 07: 55
    Ostap Styagailo complains about poor quality food... There would be a good supply, I would not have gone over .. probably smile Thank you, Denis .. a wonderful article .. I’ll add that the capture of Izmail shocked not only the Turks, but also Europe .. The European newspapers of that time wrote that Russia would break its neck near Izmail .. And after the capture, there were no storm ... hissed about the success of Russian weapons ...
  2. Belousov
    Belousov 23 December 2015 08: 28
    "Yes, there were people in our time ..."
  3. Aleksander
    Aleksander 23 December 2015 10: 07
    Near the city of Russian military glory Ishmael- located no less well-known to Russian people Tarutino, Borodino, Maloyaroslavets, Berezina-cities and villages of the Novorossiysk Territory ....
    Thanks to the author for the detailed article.
  4. abrakadabre
    abrakadabre 23 December 2015 11: 22
    And I like the brevity and capacity of the ultimatum of the Suvorov fortress:
    “I arrived here with the troops. Twenty-four hours to think - and the will. My first shot is already bondage. The assault is death. "
    And the way this ultimatum was carried out.
    So, without unnecessary polities, negotiations and other things ...
    It is a pity that now there is no possibility and will to do the same with Erdorgan.
  5. avt
    avt 23 December 2015 13: 20
    Hard to learn - easy in battle
    wassat Well, how much stupidity can be replicated !!! ??? Well, it’s not easier in battle than in learning not-so-and-so, and Suvorov didn’t-do-it-yourself !!! Suvorov said something else, namely: it’s hard to learn, it’s easy to go! On a campaign, not in battle !!!!
    1. Rivares
      Rivares 23 December 2015 21: 02
      Suvorov has a similar saying - "sweat protects the blood"
  6. _my opinion
    _my opinion 23 December 2015 19: 36
    A number of “whistleblower historians” and tearing-offs like to complain about, they say, excessive “bloody” assault and heavy losses of the Russian army

    even if we take the ratio of losses: 26 thousand Turks to 10 thousand. our soldiers, then this is very, very in favor of Suvorov, and even if we consider that the Turks defended themselves (!!!) in one of the best fortifications of that time, and Suvorov's troops were advancing (!!!). Then any "historians" need to shut up ...
  7. Kibl
    Kibl 23 December 2015 19: 53
    The Turks are so bravely swaggering that they think someone will harness for them in the event of a conflict with Russia. They are afraid, they didn’t come to their aid then, no one will help now. It’s time to understand the Turks that in all 12 or 13 Russian-Turkish they were used only as cannon fodder in wars! The only difference being that 300 years ago they were pushed to war by France and England, now the USA has been added to them as a leader!
  8. Koshchei
    Koshchei 23 December 2015 21: 53
    lieutenant general I.A. Zaborovsky rashly refused to be hired,

    And how can one not refuse if the insolent immediately demanded himself the rank of major.