The brutality with which the April Uprising in Bulgaria was suppressed caused sympathy for the position of the Ottoman Christians in Europe and especially in Russia. Attempts to improve the situation of Christians by peaceful means were thwarted by the stubborn unwillingness of the Turks to make concessions to Europe, and in April 1877, Russia declared war on Turkey. After the declaration of war of the Ottoman Empire, Russian troops turned around on the left Romanian bank of the Danube. The first step towards a decisive offensive in Bulgaria was to be the crossing of the Danube.
It is worth noting that the operation to force the Danube was prepared by the headquarters of the Russian army long before the start of the Russo-Turkish war. As the main means of fighting the Turkish river flotilla they provided, in addition to setting minefields, to use steam boats equipped with mines. To this end, by January 1877, two squadrons of sailors were formed in Chisinau. The Baltic, or a detachment of the Guards crew, consisting of four companies (two Guards crews, a combined life guard of the sapper battalion and the training and galvanic, total 458 people), and the Black Sea, which included two companies of naval crews (197 people).
The Baltic detachment was intended for operations on the Middle, and the Black Sea - on the Lower Danube. The 14 steam and 10 rowing boats, 5 bots and 14 boats delivered by rail were allocated to them. The Baltic detachment included 10 steam boats, including the most high-speed and large metal boats “Joke” and “Mina”, whose machines in 8-10 horsepower developed speed up to 16 nodes (the power of the other boats equaled 2,5-5 horsepower, and they had a significantly lower speed), 5 bots, 8 rowing boats and 8 boats. Each boat had 8 mines (pole and tow), the charge of each of them was 40 kg of gunpowder. The Black Sea detachment received 4 steamboats and 6 boats. The uneven distribution of forces, facilities and ships was explained by the importance of the Middle Danube region, where the crossing of the main forces of the active army was planned, as well as the lack of own watercrafts available on the Lower Danube.
In the struggle for crossings over the Danube, it was necessary to destroy or at least paralyze the Turkish river flotilla, which at that time consisted of 46 combat and transport ships, including 7 large and small monitors armed with 77 guns. This required: to establish minefields to limit enemy warships in space and prevent them from crossing points; put batteries in the most important places on the left bank of the Lower and Middle Danube; to attack the flotilla ships. Successful implementation of these measures was possible only with the close cooperation of seamen, artillerymen and infantrymen.
The mining of the Danube began from its lower reaches, where a bit before the hostilities of the main forces the transfer of Russian troops was assumed with a demonstrative purpose. In addition, the command of the Russian army was afraid of the appearance of Turkish military courts here, since the enemy, who dominated the Black Sea, could concentrate a strong squadron of Sulin and enter it into the Danube at any time.
On April 28, echelons arrived at Barbosh station, delivering river vessels and personnel of the Black Sea detachment under the command of Lieutenant Commander SK Bekleshov. Most of the squad, which included two mine teams, immediately set about setting up barriers on the flanks of the Lower Danube sector, in the area of the cities of Reni and Brailov (Braila), where a demonstrative crossing was planned. Initially, a minefield was placed, consisting of an 21 impact and galvanic mine at Reni. Mines are located in two lines. The second barrier (two lines for 5 electroplating mines) was placed at the mouth of the Seret River at the Barbos Bridge. At the same time, mine stations were set up on the enemy's shore, from where lines of electroplating mines were put into operation. All the work was covered with 9 field artillery batteries, pre-installed in three places: on the banks of the River Seret near the Barbos Bridge, at the mouth of the Prut River and near the city of Reni. The setting of the minefield at the mouth of the Seret River was actively promoted by the Tsarevich and Xenia steam boats, commanded by lieutenants F.V. Dubasov and A.P. Shestakov.
The enemy did not interfere with the setting of the barriers at Reni and the Barbos Bridge, and only on the tenth day of the war his ships began to be active. On the night of May 3, and then May 4 and 6, several Turkish monitors approached Brailov and Reni, but, met by the fire of Russian batteries, soon left.
By May 8, field batteries of Brailov and Reni were temporarily replaced by siege weapons. Under their cover in the period from 9 to 19 in May, minefields were placed below and above Brailov, as well as three more barriers consisting of 49 electroplating and 10 impact mines at the exit of Machinsky branch into the main channel of the Danube. For their protection, they organized a military service, which was carried by steam boats, and thus established full control over a section of the river in the area of Reni - Galati - Brailov. Between these points was carried out a safe communication, which facilitated the transfer of troops and work on the preparation of the crossing of the Lower Danube. Unfortunately, the attempt to completely lock up the enemy's military vessels in Machin's arm by mining the latter’s entrance from Gur-Yalomitsa, undertaken by 22-24 in May, failed: the Russian sailors had to limit themselves to setting two fake minefields.
Artillerymen contributed to the successful struggle against the Turkish river flotilla. Happy 11 May battery, commanded by Lieutenant S.I. Samoilo, with two shots, exactly covered a large two-tower, armored corvette of the enemy “Lutfi-Dzhelil”, trying to prevent the setting of the barrage at Brailov. From the explosion of the powder cellar corvette flew into the air. The Russian steam boats sent from Brailov managed to save only one wounded sailor and to remove the Turkish Vice Admiral's flag from the mast.
Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant F.V. Dubasov, the commander of the Tsarevich steam boat, proposed a plan for a night attack on Turkish ships stationed in the Machin arm and obstructing the crossing of Russian troops in the Galati-Brailov area. In accordance with the plan, on the night of May 26, the boats Tsarevich, Xenia, Djigit and Tsarevna left Brailova. Moving at low speed near the coast in the wake formation, they entered the Machinsky sleeve and in the middle of the 2 and 30 mines in the middle of it found two monitors (large and small) and a two-pipe steamer. "Tsarevich" attacked a large monitor of the enemy, standing under pairs. Lieutenant F.V. Dubasov, trying to neutralize the enemy’s forage tools and prevent the monitor from moving, decided to strike at its stern. When the boat approached the monitor on the 50, the sentry raised the alarm. But “Tsarevich”, going up to the left side of the monitor, struck him with his right pole shot in the underwater part of the stern. From a strong explosion on the boat collapsed water. He backed up and the crew set about pumping it out. The enemy monitor stern, continuing to stay afloat. His crew conducted enhanced fire from the tower guns on the boats. At full speed under the fire of three enemy ships, the boat “Ksenia” (commander Lieutenant A. P. Shestakov) hit the middle of the left side of the monitor, and he immediately sank. Russian boats returned to Brailov without a loss.
The sunk monitor "Safe" was one of two large single-headed ships of the Turkish flotilla. Of his crew on the 37 sailors and officers, only 9 was saved.
The success of the group night battle of the mineboats was largely ensured by careful preparation, accurate calculation in combination with precise execution of the adopted plan, exceptional restraint and the courage of the crews. The fight convincingly demonstrated the effectiveness of the mine weapons and high fighting qualities of mine boats. The death of the “Seyfi”, following the sinking of one of the most powerful ships on the Danube “Lutfi-Jelil” by the gunners, weakened the Turkish flotilla even more and negatively affected the morale of its personnel. The commander of the Machinsky squadron Delaware Pasha, abandoning the court, fled to Rushuk. Instead of him, Arif Pasha arrived in the town of Machin, who, through fake barriers, immediately brought the entire squadron from the Machinsky branch to Rushuk. Thus, Machinsky Turkish garrison lost support for the flotilla and, after the crossing of Russian forces at Galati, left its position without a fight.
In order to prevent the return of Turkish warships to Machinsky sleeve, 7 June to mine the entrance to it at Gur-Yalomitsy and near (in the main channel of the Danube) was sent a small flotilla under the command of the captain N. S. Roguli. It included the steamer "Barrage", which served as a mine depot, the gunboat "Grand Duke Nicholas", the boat "Tsarevich", "Xenia", "Djigit" and four longboats towed by a steamer and gunboat.
At dawn 8 June, the gunboat with the Tsarevich and Xenia boats, after going out on reconnaissance, found two monitors and two enemy steamboats at Girsovo (Khirshov). One of the monitors moved towards the Russian courts. The latter also continued to move closer. The Grand Prince Nikolai the gunboat fired from the nose gun. The Turkish monitor quickly turned and went to Girsovo. The enemy batteries, located on the heights at Girsovo, subjected the gunboat and the boats to intensive shelling. Having determined the scope of enemy fire, the Russian ships returned without a loss to Gur-Ialomitsa. In the second half of the day, the Russian flotilla went out to set up a barrier in the main channel of the Danube and unrestrictedly carried out the assignment. In the evening, opposite the island of Giska Mare, the sailors put a barrage of 8 impact mines, and later reinforced it with another barrage of 4 impact mines submerged in the Danube-Vorcha arm (left duct at Girsovo), at its exit to the main channel. The next day, early in the morning, they laid 7 shock mines in Machinsky sleeve, and by evening the flotilla returned to Brailov.
Thus, on the eve of the crossing of the Russian troops on the Lower Danube, a significant section of the river (from Reni to Girsovo) was successively cleared from the ships of the enemy, which ensured the unimpeded tip-off of the bridge over the Danube from Brailov. This made it easier for the Lower Danube detachment to force the river.
Having completed the task, the sailors took direct part in ensuring the very transfer of the Russian troops across the Danube in the Galati-Brail area, undertaken on the night of June 22 on the 1877. On the eve, the forces of the Black Sea detachment, five transport and warships, two steam boats, built and hoisted at Brailov a raft bridge of length 525 m. In addition, with the help of floating craft concentrated at Brailov and Galati (3 steamboat, 8 barges, 45 wooden pontoons , 15 rafts and 250 boats), the landing of the advanced units of the 18 Infantry Division (69 of Ryazan, 70 of Ryazhsky regiments and guns of the 18 artillery brigade) was landed.
At dawn 22 June under the leadership of Lieutenant F.V. Dubasov, the Black Sea detachment was successfully held a demonstration in order to divert the attention of the enemy and prevent them from transferring guns from Machin to Budzhaksky peninsula, where Russian troops landed. The steamer “Grand Duke Konstantin”, steam boats “Tsarevna” and “Birdie” approached Machin, fired at the Turkish battery, diverted the fire of enemy artillery to themselves. The decisive role in changing the course of the battle on the Budzhak Peninsula, where the advance units of the landing force repelled the attacks of the enemy forces that were twice superior to them, were played by guns delivered by sailors on rafts. Artillery fire ensured the transition to the offensive of the Russian infantry, which subsequently occupied the entire Budzhak peninsula and firmly established on the right bank of the Danube. On the night of June 23, a detachment of sailors, under the command of Lieutenant M.F. Nikonov, occupied the town of Machin, abandoned by Turkish troops. The main forces of the Lower Danube detachment crossed the bridge, which was built near Brailov Bridge, to 6 July. Having occupied Northern Dobrudja on 16 in July, the detachment completely fulfilled the task assigned to it, in the successful implementation of which Russian sailors played an important role.
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