The Baltic Sea - Sir C. Napier - The Allied Fleets in the Baltic - Operations in the Baltic - Cronstadt - Bombardment and Capture of Bomarsund - The Pacific and White Sea.
The name of the Baltic is familiar to all. English poets have sung the battle of the Baltic, and many an Englishman has loved to sail on the waters along which sailed the Norseman of an earlier day. In modern times the ships of our merchantmen have become as familiar with its ports as with those of our native land, and now, when it was to be visited by one of the most magnificent fleets the world ever witnessed, the Baltic Sea became doubly interesting.
Most of our readers, we take it, understand the position of the Baltic, which is usually understood to commence south of the Danish Islands, and is thus unquestionably the most nearly isolated of any similar body of water in the world. It is about 840 miles long; its width varies from 75 to 150 miles, and its area is estimated at about 155,000 square miles, without including the Kattegat and Skager Rock. No part of the world is better watered than the region of the Baltic. Upwards of two hundred and forty rivers find their way into it. The lakes in its neighbourhood are all but innumerable, and altogether, this sea drains more than a fifth part of the whole surface of Europe. In the latitude of Stockholm the Baltic separates into two great gulfs, of which one, the Gulf of Finland, runs nearly due east, between the Russian territories of Finland and Revel; the other, the Gulf of Bothnia, a little east of north, between Finland and Sweden. The Baltic is extremely shallow and tideless; but though tides are wanting, at irregular intervals a variation in height, frequently equal to three and a-half Swedish feet, is observed. This phenomenon, says M'Culloch, occurs at all seasons, but chiefly in the autumn or winter, or at the time of heavy rain, or when the atmosphere is charged with clouds, though unattended with falling weather. The water maintains its height frequently for several days, sometimes even for weeks; produces considerable agitation in the gulfs and straits, and, except in winter, when its power is restrained by the accumulated snow and ice, inundates the low lands to a considerable extent. Prevalent winds, flooding rains, melting snows, and many other causes have been assigned for this very remarkable phenomenon, which continued, however, to occur under circumstances totally incompatible with all or any of these; but in 1804, a Swedish physician, after collecting all the observations that had been made, found that the greatest height corresponded to the greatest depression of the barometrical column, and conversely. The Baltic is remarkably transparent. A gentleman, when living on its borders, often heard of cases where parties, principally Englishmen, had been drowned, owing to their having, while bathing, jumped into the water, thinking it shallower than it really was. It contains also a very small proportion of salt. This freshness of the water, combined with its shallowness and confined situation, renders the Baltic peculiarly liable to congelation. In fact, it is every year encumbered with ice, and its straits are usually impassable from December till April. Severe frosts made the sea passable in its widest parts between Denmark and Prussia in 1333,1339,1423, and 1429. The climate, like that of all Europe, and more especially of Germany, has become more mild under the effect of better drainage and cultivation; but even within recent times Charles III. marched across the Sound and the two Belts to the attack of Denmark; and so late as 1809 a Russian army crossed the Gulf of Bothnia on the ice. The Romans knew but little of the Baltic. In the imperfect knowledge of those days, it was the theatre of the wonders which always cease to exist as knowledge increases and men become better informed. The origin of the name Baltic is, of course, a moot point with etymologists. Some derive it from the Spanish beltu or girdle ; others from the word balta, which in the Lithuanian tongue means white. The inhabitants of its shores call it the Oost Sea (Eastern Sea) to distinguish it from the Atlantic or Western Ocean.
The entrance to the Baltic from the Atlantic is by a large gulf called the Kattegat, which separates Denmark from Norway and Sweden, and by three straits —the Sound, the Great Belt, and the Little Belt— which may be considered the three gates by which the Baltic is entered. Having passed the pine-crowned cliffs of Norway, and threaded the numerous small isles of the Kattegat, we approach these formidable gates. The southernmost, or Little Belt, which separates the peninsula of Jutland from the island of Funen, is too long, the navigation too intricate, and the depth of water too variable, to be attempted by large vessels. The middle entrance, the Great Belt, separates the islands of Funen and Zealand. Its navigation, owing to innumerable little islands and shoals, is also dangerous. The third entrance, the Sound, through which our fleet passed, separates Sweden from the island of Zealand. It is about twenty miles long, and at the entrance, where it is narrowest, is only a mile and a half across. The fortress of Kronburg is about twenty-five miles from Copenhagen. It is placed at the extremity of the tongue of land on which stand the town and castle of Elsinore, and commands the entrance of the Sound. The whole of these three entrances are completely fortified, and are as much the keys of the Baltic as the castles and fortresses of the Dardanelles are the keys of the Black Sea and Constantinople; and it really seems, as a recent writer has well remarked, as if nature had thus interposed obstacles to the ambitious designs of Russia, by placing her, as it were, under arrest in her own vast dominions, with sentries at her only points of egress, both on the north and south. The northern shore of the Baltic is generally high and precipitous, and covered with magnificent pine forests, producing timber of the finest quality. The southern coasts, on the contrary, are low and marshy, and lined by numerous sand-banks, thus rendering the navigation perilous.
When the despatch of a formidable fleet to the Baltic was ordered, the command was given to Sir Charles Napier, whose long and brilliant service in various parts of the world had won for him a high reputation. Indeed, the delight with which the appointment was hailed was rather perilous to the veteran himself; since the disappointment would be the greater if circumstances should prevent him from achieving any great results. During the period of no less than fifty-four years, Napier had been battling either against human antagonists, or against winds, and waves, and storms. As a volunteer in the Martin and the Renown ; as a midshipman in the Greyhound ; as lieutenant during a short period; as a commander in the Pultusk and the Recruit; as a captain in the Furieuse and the Euryalus—the gallant officer had seen service in almost every part of the world, even before the peace of 1815. Fourteen years of peace left him without employment; but in 1829 he commenced a new career; he was for three years captain of the Galatea; he then commanded Don Pedro's fleet in the contest against Don Miguel concerning the crown of Portugal ; and next, as commodore, he rendered brilliant service under Admiral Stopford off the coast of Syria. This last achievement won for him the honour of K.C.B. and an aide-de-camp to the Queen, and insignia from Russia and Prussia. In 1846, Commodore Napier became rear-admiral; and in 1853, vice-admiral.
The vessels destined for this Baltic war assembled at Spithead; and the review of the fleet by Her Majesty was a spectacle worthy of the queen of a maritime nation. A review on the same spot in the previous August had produced a great impression, as a manifestation of the naval power of Britain; but the display in March was yet more grand. Sir Charles Napier's fleet was to consist of about 44 ships-of-war, manned by upwards of 22,000 seamen, mounting about 2200 guns, and propelled by 16,000 horse-power of steam. Only six out of the whole number were to be sailing-vessels— the Neptune, 120; St. George, 120; Prince Regent, 90; Boscawen,70; Monarch, 84; Cumberland, 70—all the rest being either screw or paddle steamers. It was arrranged that some of these should form a first division, to start under Sir Charles Napier ; that others, as a second division, should follow under Admiral Corry; and that the rest should be subsequently despatched. Sir Charles's division consisted entirely of steamers, sixteen in number: comprising 8 screw line-of-battle ships, 4 screw-frigates, and 4 paddle-steamers. The Duke of Wellington and theRoyal George were three-deckers. Sir Charles's flag floated on the Duke of Wellington; Admiral Chad's on the Edinburgh; and Admiral Plumridge's on the Leopard.
The Duke of Wellington was originally laid down at Pembroke as a man-of-war of 120 guns, but she underwent three changes—she was cut in two at the middle, and lengthened by 23 feet, for the reception of 11 additional guns; she had a screw-propeller fitted as an auxiliary to the power of the sails; and her launching, occurring as it did about the time of the death of the great warrior, led to the change of name from the Windsor Castle to the Duke of Wellington. Thus was produced the majestic three-decker of 131 guns— having an extreme length of 278 feet, extreme breadth of 60 feet, and the total weight, when fully equipped for sea, of 5600 tons. Such a leviathan had never before ploughed the seas, for it possessed large steam-power in addition to the usual fittings for a sailing man-of-war of the first-class. The problem was yet to be solved, how far a vessel necessarily drawing so great a depth of water would be fitted for active service in a closed, shallow, intricate sea like the Baltic.
Exciting was the day when Queen Victoria witnessed the departure of the fleet to the Russian waters. On the 11th of March, 1854, the shores of Hampshire and of the Isle of Wight were crowded with thousands of eager spectators, who then for the first time witnessed the departure of a large fleet destined to a possible career of war and destruction. The various ships being assembled at Spithead, the Queen came from Osborne in the Fairy yacht, steamed up to the gigantic flag-ship, received all the principal officers on board the yacht, and bade them farewell and God-speed. Early in the afternoon the signal was given, and the ships weighed, and sailed or steamed forth. The Royal George led the way; then followed the St Jean d'Acre and the Tribune; to these succeeded the Imperieuse, Blenheim, Amphion, Princess Royal, and the other ships in succession. Her Majesty literally headed the fleet; the little Fairy darted on in advance of all, insomuch that, when returning westward, the Queen passed the stately ships in succession. Nearly all the seamen were enabled to catch a glimpse of their sovereign, as she stood upon the deck of her yacht; and the recognition was not likely to be forgotten either by seamen or sovereign. No such sight had been witnessed, perhaps, on English shores since Queen Elizabeth's parting visit to her defenders at, Tilbury, 266 years earlier, on occasion of the Spanish Armada.
The fleet—or more correctly one division of the fleet under Sir Charles Napier—passed the Downs at midday on the 12th. It pursued its majestic course up the German Ocean, through the Skager Rack, thence to Helsingor, at the mouth of the Sound, and onward to Copenhagen, where Sir Charles landed on the 20th to pay his respects to the King of Denmark. The paddle-steamer Hecla had previously been sent out, on the the 19th of February, to make a preparatory survey of the Baltic, carrying several masters and pilots; she was absent about five weeks, during which time a run of 3000 miles had been made.
No sooner had the naval authorities at Portsmouth despatched the first division of the fleet under Sir Charles Napier, than arrangements were made to send off the second division under Rear-admiral Corry—an officer who had seen nearly half a century of active service, although his name was not associated in a marked degree with any special achievements. On the 16th of March, the Queen visited Corry's squadron at Spithead, as she had before visited that of Napier. The ships ready at that time were few in number, not exceeding six or seven; they sailed in the following week —to be succeeded by other vessels as rapidly as the equipment and manning could be completed.
On the 28th of March, at Kiel, in the Holstein, news reached the fleet of the declaration of War. Despatches reached Sir Charles Napier by mail-route from London; and, in consequence of the information thus received, the following characteristic address was issued to the fleet by its indomitable commander:— "Lads—War is declared. We are to meet a bold and numerous enemy. Should they offer us battle, you know how to dispose of them. Should they remain in port, we must try to get at them. Success depends upon the quickness and precision of your fire. Lads, sharpen your cutlasses, and the day is your own."
Having thus traced the British fleet to the Baltic, it becomes necessary to notice the maritime contingent furnished by our French ally for the same service.
France, as a military nation, has paid far more attention to campaigns on land than to encounters at sea. Her shipwrights and engineers, however, have not failed to watch and to profit by the improvements introduced in England; and during the long peace, a fleet of considerable power was gradually formed. At the beginning of 1854, the naval forces of France comprised 290 sailing-ships and 117 steamers; presenting an aggregate of about 13,000 guns, and 30,000 horse-power for the steamers. Of this force, about 30 vessels were set apart to share in the Baltic expedition; comprising 9 ships-of-the-line, 12 frigates, 4 brigs and corvettes, and the remainder smaller vessels. This fleet was placed under the command of Admiral Parseval-Deschenes, who left Paris for Brest on the 20th of March, and the ships began to leave Brest for the Baltic on the same day.
The Russian naval forces at the beginning of 1854, appear, from the figures furnished by Haxthausen and other writers, to have comprised about 60 ships-of-the-line, ranging from 70 to 120 guns; 36 frigates, of 40 to 60 guns; 70 corvettes, brigs, and brigantines; and 40 steamers—the whole carrying about 9000 guns, and requiring a force of 40,000 seamen. Somewhat later in the year, it was known that at Helsingfors (Sveaborg) and Cronstadt, the Russians had not less than 30 ships of 74 guns or upwards each; with an aggregate armament of 2468 guns; besides 3 steamers of 400 horse-power each, 2 of 120 horse-power, and 1 steamer-corvette of 450 horse-power—the six steamers carrying collectively 66 guns. The numbers could not have deviated much from this in April, at the time when the English and French fleets entered the Baltic.
Although the Allied fleets entered the Baltic early in April, the sea was not yet fitted for navigation by large ships, owing to the length of time during which the ice of winter clings to the ports and inlets. Cronstadt, the island-fortress which guards St. Petersburg and the Neva, was naturally the point to which the attention of the two admirals was mainly directed; and this island, together with the mouth of the Neva, were known to be encumbered with ice at tha time. In no case did the opening of the Neva occur till April; most of the openings were in the third or fourth week of that month; while some were retarded until May. The closing begins generally some time in November. The ice lingers about Cronstadt nearly a week later than at the mouth of the Neva, insomuch that the month of May is in most years fairly advanced before the vicinity of that fortress can be safely approached by large ships. This icy fringe-work is present during about 150 days in each year.
Slowly and cautiously did the Allied admirals advance, watchful of shoals on one part, and of ice in another. Of the enemy, there was rather a fear that he would not be met with; the seamen were eager for an encounter ; but it began already to be suspected that the Russian ships would shelter behind stone-fortresses. To many, even among the educated officers, the expedition partook of the nature of a voyage of discovery, or at least of exploration in a little-known region, " The Baltic had entered little into our speculations as a seat of war, and was to ships of the navy almost a mare ignotum. Merchant-vessels had traversed it backwards and forwards, and visited all the different ports with their cargoes; but the professional knowledge of its water and shores was very small, and derived chiefly from foreign charts. The men of the last war, depending chiefly on their seamanship and enterprise, had added little to our scientific information on the subject, and, as the result of their experience, only the warnings of disaster and a few oral records. The high hopes, therefore, which followed the departure of the first Baltic fleet, must have been dashed by a fear that some of the magnificent ships might return no more." The merchants engaged in the Baltic trade do indeed know the perils of that region— taught, as they have been, by costly experience. In a series of years immediately preceding the war, the vessels which passed the Sound, either inwards or outwards numbered no less than 16,000 annually, of which nearly one-fourth were British. Never did a year pass without many of these ships being wrecked. The Baltic navigators have found the most dangerous points, in so far as regards wrecking on the coast, to be— Sandhammer and Falsterbo, near the southern extremity of Sweden; the east coast of the island of Gothland ; the Aland Islands; the Dager Ort, near the entrance to the Gulf of Finland; and a hazardous shoal between Christiana and Gothenbord. Any criticism on naval manoeuvres in the Baltic would be unjust which did not take into account the perils of such a sea to bulky ships drawing so great a depth of water as those in Sir Charles Napier's fleet.
When Sir Charles Napier thus began to move eastward, in the middle of April, his armament had accumulated to nearly forty ships, of which more than half were screw-steamers. The whole had on board about 1700 guns and 18,000 men; with Corry, Plumridge, and Chads, as the three admirals under Napier. But from that time, it was seldom that all the ships were assembled at or near one spot; special expeditions being always in progress, by detached portions of the fleet.
The French fleet, commanded by Admiral Parseval-Deschenes, comprised about twenty-four vessels. The commander hoisted his flag on the Inflexible ; while Rear-admiral Penaud, second in command, sailed in the Duguesclin. Unlike the English armament, this French fleet took out a small body of infantry, and another of artillery, ready for prospective land-service. These ships joined Sir Charles Napier's fleet at different times and different places.
The huge vessels passed from Kioge Bay to the island of Gothland, and remained there some time. Early in May, Sir Charles Napier moved the fleet to Hango Head, despatching single ships to the north and east of it. A spirited affair occured on the 19th, under the management of Captain Yalverton of the Arrogant, and Captain Hall (who had won distinction a few years earlier in the Chinese War) in the Hecla—both steamers. The two vessels steamed up a small firth which bounds the Hango peninsula on the east, and which is marked at the entrance by the town of Ekness or Eknas. Yalverton and Hall determined to capture one, at least, of three large laden Russian merchant-vessels which were lying at anchor in Ekness Bay; but the whole coast was bristling with defences—a sandbank-battery in one place, a stone-battery in another, a masked-battery behind a wood near the shore, infantry armed with Minie-rifles in one place, and a troop of horse-artillery in another. Shot and shell and Minie-balls flew about in all directions : the Hecla had several shots through her funnel, steam-pipe, and hull, and both vessels were studded with Minie-balls. Nevertheless, in the midst of a torrent of shot, Captain Hall ran into the harbour at Ekness, captured a bark, and towed her away, much to the astonishment of the inhabitants. The little Hecla, a 6-gun steamer, bore most of the rough usage; the Arrogant, 46 guns, was too heavy to approach the shoal water as closely as Captain Yalverton would have wished. It was, indeed, an extraordinary fight thus maintained by the Hecla; for the Russian infantry, cavalry, and artillery moved along the coast parallel with the steamer's course, dodging its movements, and firing-incessantly. This was the first among many examples furnished in the Baltic, that vessels of light draught are better fitted to render useful service in that sea than first-class men-of-war.
Another subsidiary expedition was intrusted to Captain Cooper Key, with the Amphion (34) and the Conflict (8,) both screw-steamers. The destination was the coast of Courland, not far from the Prussian frontier. Arriving off the port of Libau, Captain Key learned that several Russian merchant-vessels lay in the port, and that the place was defended by 600 or 700 soldiers. He resolved to capture the vessels, some or all. Haveing steamed within gunshot of the town on the 17th of May, the governor was summoned by Captain Key to surrender; a refusal led to the manning of all the boats belonging to both ships—those of the Amphion being commanded by Captain Key, and those of the Conflict by Captain Cumming. The boats had to pull a mile and a half up a small creek or river to reach Libau; and the river was only fifty yards broad. The captains deemed it fortunate that the Russian soldiers did not appear on the banks, else might the fate of the boat-expedition have been doubtful. The invaders were 130 men in all only, against a population of 10,000, aided by 600 soldiers. Nevertheless, so judiciously did Captain Cumming manage a conference with the magistrates, that all the ships were given up, without a shot being fired on either side; and the Amphion and Conflict, before nightfall, steamed forth with eight new Russian merchant-vessels in tow.
An achievement of a somewhat similar nature was performed by Captain Wilcox, in the Dragon, a paddle steamer of 6 guns. While cruising in the Gulf of Finland, he reconnoitered the port of Revel, situated on the coast of Esthonia, nearly opposite Sveaborg. Seeing two vessels at anchor there, he made a dash at them. Regardless of the shot poured towards his little steamer from the batteries, he ran in close ashore, captured both the ships, and towed them into Hango Bay on the following morning.
The destructive expedition of Admiral Plumridge was closed by an encounter in which defeat, instead of success, attended him. On the shore of Finland, a little south of Brahestad, are two small towns named Gamle (Old) and Ny (New) Karleby. The Odin and the Vulture arrived off Gamle Karleby on the 7th of June; and sent out several boats at eleven o'clock in the evening—at which hour there is still a little daylight in the summer of high latitudes. A summons to surrender any stores contraband of war, made two hours earlier, seems to have been refused. The boats approached the shore, and attempted a landing. Two pieces of artillery, and two companies of infantry, resisted the attempt; and a brisk interchange of bullet and ball ensued for nearly an hour. The boats were ultimately obliged to retire, carrying away a few dead and wounded, and leaving a few prisoners in the hands of the Russians. The water is so shallow at that part, that the steam-frigates could not safely come within four or five miles of the shore; and this circumstance prevented them from assisting the boats. Whether the insignificance of the place (comprising less than 2000 inhabitants) rendered the admiral indifferent to a second attack, certain it is that the result of the hour's fighting greatly elated the Russians, and gave occasion for high coloured accounts in the Journal de St. Petersburg and the Invalids Russe, in which the Russian loss was set down at " four men slightly wounded."
Shortly after these transactions in the Gulf of Bothnia, the French fleet arrived, and joined the English. Admiral Parseval-Deschenes made his appearance off Hango, on the 13th of June; on the following day, Sir Charles Napier, accompanied by Admirals Corry and Chads, made a visit of ceremony to the French admiral : and on the 15th, Parseval-Deschenes made a similar complimentary visit to his brother officers on board the Duke of Wellington. It was a novel and exciting scene; for never before had English and French fleets met in amity on the Baltic; and the crews, when once they had learned to rub off early prejudices, cheered each other right heartily. The blockade of all the Russian ports in the three Gulfs of Livonia, Finland, and Bothnia, had been formerly effected by Sir Charles Napier before the French arrived, and was officially notified in the London Gazette on the 16th of June.
Sir Charles Napier had delayed his advance up the Gulf of Finland, partly to await the arrival of his French allies, and partly by reason of numerous difficulties which had to be encountered.
Instead of, or in preference to, any attack on Sveaborg, the Allied admirals advanced up the Gulf of Finland to Cronstadt, the island which constitutes virtually the fortresses in defence of St. Petersburg. This advance was made during the last week in June. When within ten miles of the island, three small paddle-frigates, the Lightning, Bull-dog, and Magicienne, were sent on ahead to sound and reconnoitre more closely, and especially to search for any " infernal machines" or submarine explosives, the existence of which in these parts was apprehended. Three larger vessels, the Imperieuse, Arrogant, and Desperate, followed them at a short distance to afford protection. No "infernal machines" were found; but the reconnoitring vessels approached Cronstadt sufficiently near to render manifest a formidable array of granite batteries, and a large fleet sheltered within the harbour. The admirals had heard of certain destructive machines, which had been made at a government establishment near Moscow early in the year—copper vessels, capable of holding 700 pounds of powder, to be exploded either by percussion or by galvanic current; the knowledge obtained was vague, but sufficient to induce a cautious examination of all the approaches to Cronstadt, lest any such submarine apparatus should endanger the hulls of the ships. So far as could be discerned, the Russian fleet within the harbour nearly equalled in number—about thirty—the Anglo-French ships on the outside; but made no attempt to emerge from their hiding-place behind stone walls. Some of the English officers landed at the small island of Tolbuken, or Toll Beacon, westward of Cronstadt, ascended to the summit of a light-house, and there inspected, in the distance, such a tremendous range of granite batteries as astonished all. A general impression was made, that the place could not be taken by a naval attack; and thereupon, after a careful examination of the vicinity, the fleets returned early in July from Cronstadt to Baro Sound. The whole subject of the fortifications of the Baltic was at the commencement of the war a matter of great interest. But the eyes of the civilised world were fixed on Cronstadt. We shall, therefore, give a rather lengthy description of this stronghold of Russian power.
A vessel that shall be sailing up the Gulf of Finland will have to the north the Finnish coast, to the south the Ingrian and Esthonian coasts. These gradually recede until they leave a space of nearly a hundred miles; but after you pass Narva Bay the shores again near each other, and, narrowing by degrees, are at last only eight miles apart. And at the east-end of this channel is St. Petersburg and the Neva estuary. This is the vulnerable part of Russia, as a capital must always be a matter of vital importance to the existence of a nation. To render this point invulnerable, and to secure the chief city of the vast Muscovite empire, Peter the Great, that renowned rival of Sweden, erected the fortress of Cronslott, thus laying the foundation of that system of military defences which we are now viewing from afar with so much interest. A writer, who appears to have studied the matter from a military point of view says:—"The strength or the impregnability, as the case may be, of the positions of this bulwark of St. Petersburg will be easily understood by attention to the following considerations. The Island of Kotline is an irregularly shaped acute triangle, seven miles long, planted in the Gulf of Finland in an oblique direction, with its base towards St. Petersburg, and its apex seawards. The broad and eastern end is covered by the town of Cronstadt, the sharp, or north-western, point being marked by the lighthouse of Tollboken."
It would appear on the surface that any man-of-war which should wish to make the mouth of the Neva had but to round the Tollboken, and bear up, by sailing round Cronstadt, to the north, and thus heading up between the island and the shore of Finland ; or it might steer to the south, with Cronstadt on one hand and the Ingrian shore on the other.
But Russia, which has for years been preparing for a gigantic contest with the whole world, has taken care that it shall not be so easy to do these things as it may appear on paper. The northern channel has been blocked up and destroyed by means of long rows of piles, miles in length, round about which stone and other barricades have been cast, so that the whole channel between Cronstadt and Lisi Noss has become useless, to an advancing force, unless it used gun-boats of a very peculiar construction. That something of the kind might be brought to bear, is evident from the fact that the smaller craft of the place still use this channel, which is made useless to large ships under quite novel circumstances.
The long delays and hesitations which have taken place with regard to Constradt, will be appreciated by all who know anything about the locality, except that knot of persons in all countries who are so fond of excitement as to want nothing less than a bombardment every morning with their breakfast. But war is bad enough in every sense, without aggravating its evils by recklessness and foolhardiness—qualities which, under the name of desperate courage, have led men to do such useless deeds of valour. A calm examination of the fortified place we now speak of, will open the eyes of many persons to facts that they were not previously aware of.
The north channel is impassable to ships. It is a fact which may be seen by sea-charts of these waters, that the centre channel, which averages from five to seven feet, is in the shape of a triangle, of which the base stretches from Forts Alexander and Risbank, while the point is the narrow mouth of the same channel between Cronstadt and the shoal which is called the Oramenbaum Spit. This at once gives an idea of the nature of the obstructions which are to be found at once in the south channel.
To the left of an invading force would be Fort Alexander. This is a most formidable construction, evidently intended to cope with a very huge invading force. A military writer says: " This fort is, in its ground plan, of a somewhat elliptical shape, and consists of a front, with four tiers of embrasures, and two flanks of three tiers, and a rear wall mounted with guns en barbette. It is built on rocks of granite, on a foundation of piles driven in eighteen feet of water." The whole casemates of this very serious fortification would pour a fire of 116 eight-inch and ten-inch guns on an enemy; so that the loss of human life would necessarily be very great, while it would take a considerable time to silence them.
The fort of Risbank, in about the same range, is quite new, and was finished, it is quite clear, with a view to the late war. In 1852 it was in a very unfinished state, but has been hurried on to be prepared for all contingencies. It rests upon similar foundations in sixteen feet of water, but it differs from its twin fort in being oblong. When it was last heard of, it had two tiers of guns, one on a level with the water, and another some distance above. The number of guns is believed to be about half those of the other fort. They are very heavy guns.
The next difficulty a fleet would have to encounter, supposing these first obstacles overcome, would be the guns of the bastion of Fort Peter. This, one who speaks from intimate knowledge assures us, has three towers or bastions with two curtains to unite them. This fort, which sweeps in various directions, has twenty-eight guns in its bastions in casemates, and twenty-eight above. The curtains have twenty guns mounted on the summit.
The next defence is of a less imposing character, quite different from what we should expect a fortification erected by Peter the Great would be. It presents to the sea nothing but along line of timber casemates, with altogether forty guns, in ten batteries, on a level with the water. It is nothing but a mole supported on piles, built in the form of an irregular pentagon. This is Cronslott, which has been also hurriedly armed since the demonstration of Menschikoff at Constantinople.
This, however, forms a very important part of the defences of the anchorage, though less important than some interior fortifications. One of these is the mole which flanks the harbour for merchant-vessels, on the side towards the sea. This is about a thousand yards long, and joins the land fortifications. There are three basins in the harbour, one of which is set apart for the merchant service. This dock is not an excavation, but an inclosure made by driving piles in and inclosing the space necessary. The piles are of great strength, as they are made to support a heavy mass of timber and granite, sometimes timber alone, sometimes granite alone. This makes a kind of flat rampart covered by guns, some of them are of very heavy calibre, with plates of sheet-iron under them, where they rest on wood. The men who would work these guns would have no protection, so that ships' batteries would rake them in a very short time, and silence them effectually, if once the great Fort Menschikoff could be silenced.
But here is the great difficulty; and on this point one acquainted with fortifications has written a very remarkable paragraph:—"We will assume, for argument's sake, that some fortunate accident has removed the whole of this elaborate machinery for boring holes and exploding mines in the scantlings of enemies' ships, and that a screw-liner has advanced up to the beginning of the narrow channel between Cronslott and the mole-head. For more than one ship at a time to attempt, amidst the smoke and confusion of battle, to run through an opening only 250 yards wide, where there is always risk of going aground, would be almost an impossibility. And when the successful Austerlitz or Ajax arrives, and that alone, at the end of ' the great road,' she is at once raked by a fort bearing the ominous name of Prince Menschikoff.
" Fort Menschikoff, built of cubes of granite on a bastion projecting from the mole of the merchant harbour, mounts forty-four ten-inch and eight-inch guns in four tiers of casemates. The flank turned towards Cronslott is pierced with loop-holes for musketry, five on each of the three lower tiers. The back is not susceptible of defence against a coup de main ; but this is of little consequence, as the necessary coup is not very likely to reach it before the fall of Cronstadt itself. The ventilation is secured by six arched longitudinal openings, the draught from which would, when the wind blew from the eastward, carry the smoke out of the casemates. That the broadside of a line-of-battle ship, directed against Fort Menschikoff, would produce a very sensible effect upon its flat front, is not to be denied. What we doubt, is, whether our screw will ever be able to bring her broadside so to bear; as, before taking up the position necessary to effect this, she must first come end on against Menschikoff, and then present the steadiest of targets to the Russian gunners. Making every allowance for the relative inferiority of the enemy's aim, we do not think that such a mark could be well missed; and some of the shells plunging down from the upper tiers of the battery through the ship's decks, would not improbably find their way into the engine-room or the powder-magazine. Meanwhile the steamer could only reply from her bridle ports and sixty-eight-pounder pivot guns, so that the damage inflicted by her before coming into position would be quite insignificant. And if the Russians were to adopt the very obvious measure of mooring three or four line-of-battle ships on a line parallel to the face of Fort Menschikoff, they would be able to rake the entrance to the Little Road with an additional fire of 150 guns. A few old vessels sunk near the mole would, however, settle the question still more effectually; and as there is no actual night in a Cronstadt summer, there could be but little chance of the attacking party being able to remove such obstacles. Under these circumstances again, the Russian fleet, if withdrawn into the furthest basin, would be tolerably safe from the dangers of that uncertain operation—a bombardment."
But all the fortifications are not yet mentioned. There are two sides to Cronstadt. There are the batteries against an attack from without, and those apparently directed against an attack from within. It would seem as if the cunning of the government of Russia had been directed to provide against insurrectionary movements in St. Petersburg.
Mention has already been made of the mole which runs along the basins, both those provided for the merchantmen and those for the men-of-war. This part of the fortifications trends away in a new direction opposite Cronslott, and runs along the northern side of the island for about a mile. It is this part of the mole which separates the Mercantile and Central Harbour from the Little Road. On the front of the bastions of this same fortified rampart is Fort Menschikoff, of which we have already spoken; and at the end of the Central Harbour is the Military Harbour, which is rectangular in shape, about nine hundred yards in length, by three hundred and fifty broad. At the extremity of this are two bastions, and two on each flank. The bastions on the side of the Little Road " are truncated," and they have an opening for the passage in and out of ships. Except under and around Fort Menschikoff, the mole is of timber ; but in other places it is of heavy masses of granite. Up to the time when English visitors could see it, this mole was defended only by a few guns, but it is probable that the warlike preparations made elsewhere have also been carried out here. It has been suggested that a line of hulka has probably been brought to bear so as to clear tha mole.
Line-of-battle ships are not able to advance beyond the end of the last basin; only steam frigates after that point being able to find enough water. Behind this, and under the embankment which runs along the southern and eastern part of the island, none but small boats and little sailing craft can approach. The bank is connected with a brick wall, about a hundred yards long, which has a gateway in it leading to a wooden pier, which is used by the steam ferry-boats which ply between the island and the main land. Access to this gateway is afforded by a draw-bridge, and near the gate is a well-fortified guard-house. This military fort is further guarded by a battery of sixteen guns, which are pointed towards the capital of the empire. Then comes a dead wall, a barracks, and the huge hospital of the city ; and then a platform battery. Beyond all this is another line of works, double, with a rampart rising up from the water's edge. Then they traverse the whole breadth of the island with a parapet three thousand yards long. There are other batteries commanding the shallow water, which are however of little importance.
About the middle of June, while the main portion of the English fleets was yet in Baro Sound, an attack on Bomarsund was planned by Captains Hall, Scott, and Buckle, in the Hecla, Odin, and Valorous. On the 21st, the three steamers took up a position in front of the town, about 2000 yards distant, and opened fire. The fortress was heavily mounted, and was defended also by two companies of riflemen. A brisk cannonade was kept up for several hours. The English account of the transaction was—that two strand-batteries were soon silenced; that scarcely any of the Russian shot reached the ships; that all the houses, vessels, and ships' stores were burnt or otherwise destroyed; that the ships left when, during the night, the fortress was in flames in several places; that the loss of the enemy must have been severe; and that the Allies had none killed and only five wounded. According to the Russian version, however, a red-hot ball from the fort set fire to one of the ships; the English did no serious damage to the fortress; they were obliged to give up the contest and retire for the night; the English loss must have been considerable; while the Russians had only two killed and fifteen wounded. Such contradictory accounts would be embarrassing, were it not that the Journal de St. Petersburg, during the war, presented so many instances of untruthfulness and glaring exaggeration. A gallant act was performed by Midshipman Lucas on this occasion; one of the bombs fired by the Russians having fallen on the deck of the Hecla, Lucas boldly picked it up, and threw it into the sea before the fuse had ignited the explosive compound within: it was a question of life or death for him in either case, whether he touched the dread missile or not.
On the 18th of July, the fleets weighed anchor, left Baro Sound, and steered for Aland—leaving some of the ships behind, however, to watch the movements of the Russians at Sveaborg and Cronstadt. They reached Led Sound, south of the Aland Islands, on the 21st. On the 22d, the Edinburgh, Blenheim, Hogue, Ajax, Amphion, and Alban, arrived off the forts of Bomarsund, passing beautiful scenery by the way, but requiring delicate handling to prevent them from going on shore. As it was fully expected that Russian troops were hidden behind the woods on shore, preparation were made to guard the ships from a sudden attack; shot and shell were brought up ready on deck, the men were placed at the guns, 10-inch guns were loaded with canister-shot, and a screen of hammocks was fitted up ; for the ships sailed and steamed so close to land, on some occasions, that "a biscuit might have been thrown ashore." The precaution was not unnecessary, for shot and shell speedily began to pour forth from Bomarsund, which would have wrought great injury if better aimed. The admiral, in accordance with instructions from home, suspended active operations until military reinforcements should arrive; he therefore ordered the ships to retire beyond reach of the guns at Bomarsund, but continued a very careful survey of the intricate channels between the islands. Two or three of the ships went on shore in the narrow passages, and were with difficulty liberated. The officers, by the aid of their glasses, could observe that the great fort or battery at Bomarsund had a double range of casemates ; it was built in a curve, commanding the whole sweep of the harbour, and had a bombproof roofing, covered by a layer of sand four feet in depth. Besides this, there were two round towers or forts, built on elevated spots of ground. A temporary strand-battery was also visible on the beach.
On the 30th of July, from the mast-head of the Duke of Wellington, Sir Charles Napier's flag-ship, at Led Sound, the ships which brought the first division of the French troops were descried. General Baraguay d'Hilliers came in the Reine Hortense; while the Algiers, 91, Royal William, 120, St. Fincent, 104, and other large ships, brought the troops. Courtesies and congratulations speedily followed; visits of ceremony were paid; admirals and generals, English and French, vied with each other in friendly demonstrations; and all felt that now, at least, somewhat ought to be achieved to give eclat to a campaign which had hitherto been deficient in stirring incidents.
The commanders, military and naval, immediately commenced arrangements for an attack on Bomarsund; they steamed up to the vicinity of the fort, to make such reconnaissances as might determine the nature of the plan to be adopted. Three Russians, escaped from Bomarsund, gave information that the fortress contained two round towers and a long battery, 1000 troops of the line, 350 irregulars, 100 armed convicts, and 650 artillerymen; while on various parts of the islands were 600 riflemen, 700 irregulars, 80 Cossacks, and 4 field-pieces. The statements of deserters, however, are to be received with caution; and the Allies simply made use of this information as one among several means of arriving at the truth. Some of the ships were so placed as to form a cordon round the islands, to remain at signal-distance to watch the movements of the troops on shore, and to cut off all supplies of provisions and ammunition; while others entered the straits or fiords leading up to Bomarsund.
The Russian Commandant at Bomarsund, in accordance with the spirit which had dictated the burning of Moscow in a former war, fired most of the villages around, and changed the neighbourhood to a scene of misery and desolation.
By nine o'clock on the morning of the 8th of August, the disembarkation had been effected, and the troops began their preparations for a march to the forts. Sir Charles Napier, in the mean time, was busily moving from place to place, from ship to ship, reconnoitring the shore, and signaling orders to the various ships of the fleet, of which nearly fifty were in the immediate vicinity, four-fifths of the number being steamers. The small steamers were employed in carrying ammunition and provisions on shore; while the larger vessels were preparing to bring their broadsides to bear upon any assailable points.
The 10th, 11th, and 12th, of August were busily occupied by the Allies in making preparations for the commencement of the bombardment; both the sailors and soldiers being fully employed in this necessary duty.
The following was the position and arrangement of the forts. Close to the shore was a range of fortifications, with two tiers of guns, forty being mounted in each tier. On a hill above, about a mile and a half from the shore, was a round tower, also with two tiers of guns; on another and higher hill, to the west of this, was a second round tower, and a third occupied the summit of a hill on the extreme east. These three towers were perfectly similar, and from twenty to thirty guns of large calibre were mounted on each.
Shortly after daybreak, on the morning of the 13th, the French, having been actively employed since the 8th in bringing up and planting their siege-train, and having finished their battery No. 1, opened fire on Fort Tzee, and continued with very little interruption throughout the day. The effect was tremendous, although the guns and mortars were few in number; the shells burst in the embrasures and on the roof; and the face of the stone-work was shattered to fragments. Towards evening, the Russians exhibited, not for the first or the last time during the war, a disregard of the honourable principle which usually regulates an agreement under a flag of truce. A flag was hoisted; General Baraguay d'Hilliers went up with a small escort; a request was made that the Russians might have an opportunity to bury their dead; and he so far assented as to yield one hour. It is understood, in such matters, that the time shall be really appropriated in the manner specified; but the Russians, on the contrary, sent down to the great fort, and brought up a new store of ammunition wherewith to continue the struggle. This breach of honour greatly exasperated the French commander; insomuch that he refused a second flag of truce, when signaled at a later stage of the proceedings. The contest became very severe as night approached; for, on the one hand, the French chasseurs, clambering upon the rocks, poured a destructive fire of bullets into the embrasures of the fort, striking down the Russian gunners where they stood; while, on the other hand, Fort Nottich rendered aid to Fort Tzee, by sending shells completely over it into the French camp.
The first conquest of any of the forts was effected on the 14th. The vigorous firing by the mortars and the chasseurs told so severely on Fort Tzee, that it surrendered during the forenoon, and about fifty men became prisoners. The nimble chasseurs appear to have taken the place by surprise. General Jones's battery was not at that time finished, and could render no aid in capturing the first fort; but as the great fort and Fort Nottich maintained a vigorous fire, it speedily became necessary to attack them.
During many hours on the 14th, the French, secure in the possession of Fort Tzee, were busily engaged in erecting on an adjacent elevated spot a battery for breaching the great fort. The state of Fort Tzee itself had encouraged the Allies to persevere in a similar attack on the other forts; for, during a bombardment of twenty-four hours, the granite face of the tower was jagged and splintered in all directions, and the sides and edges of the embrasures were thickly marked by the bullets which the deadly aim of the chasseurs had poured into them. The English battery was by this time finished, and presented a formidable appearance, with its array of sand-bags nine or ten feet in height. Although Fort Tzee was only 300 yards distant, and Fort Nottich 750, yet, as the former had just been taken by the French, the English turned their guns against the more distant fort, and in eight hours succeeded in breaching the side opposite to them. The battery was manned by seamen and marine-artillery from the Hague, Edinburgh, Ajax, and Blenheim, under the direction of Captain Ramsay, of the first-named vessel. Sir Charles Napier, in his despatch relating to the capture, summed it up in these brief words: "Their fire was beautiful! At six p. m., one side was knocked in, and the tower surrendered." It appears that by three o'clock the interior of the tower or fort had been laid open, and its guns silenced. At six o'clock, a white flag having been hoisted, Brigade-major Ord was sent to take possession; he did so; but finding that it would not be possible for him to maintain his communications with the English advanced-posts after daylight, in consequence of the proximity of the great fort, he left the place, bringing away with him 3 officers and 115 soldiers. In the fort he found sixteen 18-pounders, and two 32-pounders. The two forts, the second of which was thus taken, so much resembled towers, that they were described indifferently by either name. Meanwhile the ships were preparing to take part in the attack on the great fort, which, from its proximity to the shore, was more within their reach. The Asmodee, Phlegethon, Darien, Arrogant, Amphion, Valorous, Driver, Bull-dog, Hecla, Trident, Duperre, Edinburgh, and Ajax, kept up a well-directed fire of shells, which worked much mischief on the stern granite fortification. Captain Pelham, of the Blenheim, landed a large 10-inch gun, and planted it on the earthen battery which the Russians had been forced to abandon a few days before; and there he bore with wonderful coolness an attack of a formidable character. The crew raised a high defence, and kept up a steady fire with their one gun against the south-west end of the large fort, while the enemy, with a double range of heavily shotted and shelled guns, returned the fire with far greater force; shells burst over and around the solitary gun, but the blue-jackets took matters very cheerfully, throwing themselves on the ground until the shells had burst. Captain Pelham maintained his position, despite the formidable antagonist against which he had pitted himself. In another part of the scene of contest, Fort Tzee, warm work of a different kind was in progress during the day. After this fort had been taken by the French, and before Fort Nottich had yielded to the English, the commandant of this latter fort, knowing the danger to be apprehended from the presence of the French in the other, maintained a fierce fire against it; and at length a shell, falling apparently on a magazine, blew up the greater part of the fort with a tremendous explosion.
At length came the day, the 16th of August, when the final conquest of Bomarsund was to be achieved by the capture of the formidable strand-fort. While dawn had yet hardly broken, a force was despatched to Fort Nottich, to take the prisoners who had surrendered to Captain Ramsay at six o'clock on the preceding evening. The marines and seamen, when they entered the place, found three officers and about 100 men; and these prisoners were marched down three miles to the beach there to be placed on board one of the ships: the commandant was a colonel in the Russian army. As day advanced, the land-batteries and the ships' guns kept up a deafening roar, maintaining an incessant cannonade against the great fort. The arrangements, however, called for much caution; the narrowness of the slip of ground on which the French had established their breaching-battery, circumscribed the operations, else might the ships have fired upon the French troops in the endeavour to hit the great fort; while the limited space in the anchorage before Bomarsund, and the intricacy of the navigation, prevented the ships from making so near an approach as could be wished. The fort, replying to the ships and to the land-batteries with some of its guns, had still a few to point to the audacious one gun which Captain Pelham had maintained in position during the preceding day; his situation becoming perilous, the ships were ordered to increase the rapidity of their fire. Seven of the ships who happened to be within range with their 10-inch guns, were ordered by Sir Charles to " give them a shot and shell every five minutes"—as if he were speaking of pills and powders for a sick man. This iron torrent, in conjunction with that which was being poured out by the French breaching-battery, was too much to be borne long: a flag of truce was held out, and the place surrendered. It was the opinion of Sir Charles Napier, expressed in his despatch, that if the fort had not surrendered on the 16th, the whole place would have been reduced to ashes on the 17th, so terrible was the power of the breaching-battery which General Niel had judiciously placed within 400 yards of the fort, and so heavy the weight of metal poured in from the ships. Admiral Plumridge, during this busy day, was rendering service north-east of the town and forts; he placed his squadron so as to prevent reinforcements from being thrown in from the Finland coast—a contingency which might else have happened; for the Allies had reason to believe that two Russian admirals had been sent among the islands, to determine the practicability or otherwise of aiding the beleaguered forts. It had been intended that Plumridge's squadron should aid the attack by shelling the north side of Bomarsund; but finding that he could not do so without endangering the men in the French breaching-battery, he directed his attention to the Prasto fort. Admiral Plumridge, who had the Leopard, Hecla, and Cocyte, at his disposal, described, in characteristic language, in his despatch to Sir Charles, the tactics he adopted: everything is "beautiful" to a professional man, which exhibits efficiency in his own particular vocation. He moved his three ships " into a delightful sequestered position, screened from observation by the trees on the neck of land to the eastward of the tower; having the great Bomarsund fort and it in one [in a right line], so that our over-shot and shell should fall to the lot of Bomarsund. The simultaneous opening fire from the three broadsides was the first intimation the tower had of our movements; and I had the satisfaction of seeing at times, from aloft, the steadiness and precision with which the shot and shell were delivered from each vessel. I only regret that the trees alluded to obscured us all from your view, as I feel almost assured this bit of service would have been deemed worthy of better notice than it becomes me to give at so short a distance from your flag."
Meanwhile, Prasto was the scene of separate operations. The tower or fort, mounting 20 guns in two casemated tiers, and 6 en barbette on the roof, had been invested by a combined force of French and English marines, with some field-pieces, on the 15th; and on the 16th, it was attacked both by this force and by Admiral Plumridge's squadron. When it was known that the great fort had yielded, the commandant of Prasto hoisted a white flag. The Allies approached; the gates were thrown open; the garrison marched out; and the whole became prisoners of war. These prisoners, numbering three officers and about 160 men, were removed in one of the ships.
When the flag of truce was held out from the great fort, the Admiral sent Captain Hall on shore; and he, in company with an officer from Admiral Parseval-Deschenes, and two staff-officers from General Baraguay d'Hilliers, entered the fort, and received the surrender of the place. The three commanders, Napier, Parseval, and Baraguay, then went to receive the submission in form. The governor, General Bodisco, attempted a parley in the first instance; but nothing less than an unconditional surrender being admissable, he gave up his sword, and yielded himself and the garrison prisoners. Chasseurs poured down from the batteries on one side, marines and artillerymen from the other; the place was entered, the magazine secured, and the prisoners taken. The victors demanded the arms, which were brought and piled up in the square, near the furnace in which so many of the shot had been made red-hot. All the principal generals and admirals on the part of the Allies were drawn up in a brilliant group; the troops formed a line of about half a mile from the entrance of the port to the mole or landing-place; and the Russians, care-worn, dispirited, and, in some few cases, frenzied with drink, were marched down to the place of embarkation. From a statement made by Governor Bodisco, it appears that the Russians had been as much annoyed by Captain Pelham's single gun, placed on their own abandoned mud-battery, as by whole ranges of guns elsewhere—so fatal had been the shots aimed through the embrasures. The loss of this great fortress was the first defeat of consequence the Russians had suffered in the Baltic, and they were deeply mortified; for it was not simply a surrender of the place, but a yielding of all the men as prisoners of war. The victors captured 112 mounted guns, 3 mortars, 7 field-pieces, and 79 unmounted guns. When all had surrendered, and had been fairly shipped for England, the prisoners amounted to the following numbers—323 shipped in the Hannibal, 420 in the Algiers, 764 in the Royal William, 207 in the Termagant, and 521 in the St. Vincent; making a total of 2235, of whom 51 were officers, 28 women, and 13 children.
The courage displayed during the siege shows that the long peace has not deteriorated the fighting qualities of the nation's defenders ; and our brave allies have well maintained the honour of La Belle France. At the same time, it is but just to observe that the Russians held out as long as they were able, and only surrendered when a further resistance would have greatly increased the sacrifice of human life, without at all affecting the result. The western tower was blown up on the day following its capture, by a well-directed shell from the long fort, and a French sapper was killed, and two or three others wounded.
The arrival of the Russian prisoners in England and France excited a great deal of interest in both countries, it was so long since we had to receive the men of other nations in any other way than that of friends. General Bodisco, who surrendered at Bomarsund, together with a number of Russian officers, was placed on board the Souffleur, and taken to France. He was accompanied by his wife and son, a child about four or five years old, together with his aides-de-camp, Captains Tosche and Vienberg. The prisoners received the utmost kindness and attention, and were conducted to the Golden Eagle Hotel. The general was about sixty years of age, although on his first entrance into Havre he appeared considerably older. Madame Bo-disco was much younger, and seemed less cast down by her reverse of fortune than her noble husband.
The Valorous and the Termagant brought a vast number of prisoners to England. The ladies of the Russian officers were permitted to accompany their husbands, and even the soldiers' wives, though separated from them on the voyage, were permitted to rejoin them. The officers were stout-built powerful men, but the men had that thin lathy appearance which is seen in the inmates of our workhouses and prisons. The prisoners brought by the Termagant were, for the most part, young men, and had little about them of that military air and carriage which the nations of the West inseparably associate with the profession of arms. So far from being stiff and formal in their ways, they were quite the opposite, squatting themselves on the deck with a freedom which reminded one of their eastern origin. Their long great coat, reaching to the ankle, appears a comfortable garment, wrapping closer round the body than in our service, and of right colour for warfare. Their forage caps also seem convenient, without being frightfully ugly, like that worn by our Foot Guards. The knapsack is of undressed skin, apparently capable of holding very little, and held on the back by broad cross-belts of black leather. One half of the prisoners belonged to a Russian corps, and wore red facings; the other were Finnish Chasseurs, and had blue facings. During the voyage, they held themselves entirely aloof from each other.
While the captives from Bomarsund were on their way to the land of their captors—while the English and French nations were exchanging congratulations on the important achievement—the Allied generals and admirals were called upon to decide on the line of conduct to be pursued towards the Aland Islands and their inhabitants. There was no evidence that the Western Powers had previously agreed on the course to be adopted in such a contingency; unity of plan was difficult of attainment where two governments claimed to have an equal voice in all important proceedings ; and on this account, at Aland, as well as at other parts of the seat of war, the commanders were frequently at a loss to interpret faithfully the wishes of their respective governments. After the fall of Bomarsund, the Allied commanders issued the following proclamation to the Alanders:—
"We, the undersigned Commanders-in-Chief of the combined naval and land forces, hereby authorize the authorities of these islands to continue in the administration of their respective duties, and we rely on their doing so with zeal and circumspection.
" In times of tumult and war, it devolves upon every well-disposed citizen to do his utmost in maintaining order and peace; the lower classes must not be led away with the belief that no law or order exists, for these will be enforced with as much rigour as heretofore.
" Since the late events, which have changed the aspect of these islands, the blockade has been raised, and the public are informed that they are at liberty to trade with Sweden on the same conditions and privileges as heretofore.
" Each and every one is cautioned against holding any communication or intercourse with the enemy or Finland; and if any one is found aiding them in any way, he will be punished most severely."
The demolition of the forts at Bomarsund was the first work to be done. The vast constructions on which Nicholas had spent so many rubles, and so many years of time, were doomed to destruction. All the fortifications of Bomarsund were to be reduced to a shapeless mass of stone and brick. It was about a fortnight after the conquest that the demolition commenced. The fort which Admiral Plumridge had attacked, Fort Prasto, and which, from its position, had had little influence on the progress of the struggle at the main stronghold, was blown into atoms by a large store of powder placed beneath it.. The other three forts, nearer the town, had already suffered severely; the work of destruction was already half effected ; nevertheless, they were blown up by a succession of explosions, and many a scene of terrific grandeur was presented—granite blocks flying up, timbers blazing, and unspent shells bursting. The wives of conveyed by the Alban to the coast of Finland near Abo. The poor Alanders were benefited in some degree, in their forlorn desolation, by receiving all the stores of corn and meal which, in immense quantity, had been found in the forts; the peasants were allowed to come and take it away in carts, as a reserve against possible starvation in the ensuing winter. A part of one of the forts was left standing for a time, that Admiral Chads might have an opportunity of trying the power of his guns against it; the Edinburgh was brought up, with its broadside about 600 yards distant, at which range the shot made a thorough breach in the walls, knocking several embrasures into one, and splintering the granite in all directions; the ship then retired a distance of 1000 yards, a change which materially affected the potency of the shot. When the work of destruction was completed, the soldiers embarked in the various troop-ships, and returned to Led Sound; guns and trophies being carried away, some by French, and some by English, and only a few ships remaining for a time at Bomarsund.
The time had now arrived for the military commanders to assist the admirals with their judgment concerning the possibility or impossibility of capturing Helsingfors and its great fortress, Sveaborg (Sweaburg). The army was too large to be profitably employed in cruising about among unimportant places : was it powerful enough to capture a second of the czar's strongholds, in size and in strength more formidable than Bomarsund ? Many of the ships belonging to the fleet had passed and repassed Sveaborg frequently during the summer, partly to examine its fortifications, and frequently to tempt the Russian fleet to emerge from its granite hiding-place. Rear-admiral Martin, with a squadron of twelve or fourteen ships, was, at the time of the siege of Bomarsund, employed in a double service: his larger ships were anchored off the island of Nargen, in the Gulf of Finland, blockading the port of Revel; while his smaller steamers were cruising between Revel and Sveaborg, offering a tempting bait for the Russian ships to come out and attack them—a bait, however, which failed in its purpose, both here and in every part of the Baltic throughout the year. Later in the month, Martin assumed the command of a flying squadron in the Gulf of Finland. General Baraguay d'Hilliers, Brigadier-general Jones, and the two admirals-in-chief, went in a steamer to examine carefully Sveaborg and the Finnish coast. Abo, as Captain Scott had before reported, was found to be well defended, both by gunboats and by land batteries; the ships of the Allies were amply powerful to destroy or take it, could they have approached sufficiently near; but this was one among many examples furnished during the year, in which gun-boats would have rendered more service than ponderous ships-of-the-line; the channel for deep-draught shipping into Abo was too narrow to warrant an entry by vessels-of-war drawing so many feet of water. As the reconnoitring steamer rounded Hango Head, on the way from Abo to Sveaborg, the Allied commanders found that the Russians had destroyed the fortifications which defended that headland, fearful lest the enemy might capture and retain them. Fort Meyerfeld had first been blown up; next, Fort Gustaf Adolf; and, lastly, the main defence, Fort Gustafsvarn: the entire garrison, and many country-people, having been employed in this work of demolition. The Allied commanders then advanced to Sveaborg, the inspection of which was long and earnest; for they knew that they would be called upon to justify their proceedings, whether those proceedings involved or not an attack on the island-fortress.
This famous stronghold—rendered famous by the knowledge acquired in 1854, for it was little known to the Western nations before that year—is in effect a group of islands. To understand its arrangement, the distinction between Helsingfors and Sveaborg must be clearly apprehended. Helsingfors, the capital of the Russian government at Finland (Abo was the capital when Finland belonged to Sweden), is situated at the mouth of the river Vanna or Wanna, on the north coast of the Gulf of Finland, at about one-third of the distance from Hango Head to Cronstadt.
The town was built by Gustavus I. of Sweden; it was burned during the war with Russia in 1728, but rebuilt. When Finland was ceded to, or rather forcibly taken by, Russia in 1808, Helsingfors was selected as the site for a powerful naval station. The town underwent a remodelling in 1815—masses of rock being blown up, and inequalities levelled to obtain space for new buildings. The defences are of a formidable nature, and have evidently engaged much attention on the part of the Russian government. There are two forts on the mainland—Braborg and Ulricaborg, defending and partly inclosing a port in which sixty line-of-battle ships might safely lie at anchor. The outer works, built on a series of islands, bear the collective name of Sveaborg; the islands are seven in number, all fortified in immense strength, and some of them connected by bridges. The forts altogether mount nearly 1000 guns; while complete accommodation is provided for a garrison of at least 12,000 men. Some of the most formidable of the works have been constructed in the solid rock; and the barracks, arsenals, and magazines are on a complete scale.
The scrutiny of Sveaborg by the Allied commanders, from such a sea-distance as could be safely maintained, resulted in a decision that the stronghold could not be advantageously attacked. Between the islands which constitute Sveaborg, only one war-ship can pass at a time; and any hostile vessel, sailing up to Helsingfors, would encounter the muzzles of 300 or 400 large pieces of ordnance, which would effectually riddle the hull, if not set the ship on fire, ere the perilous passage had been completed, unless some unforeseen and fortuitous occurrence aided the adventure. It seemed to the commanders that a powerful army, landing at a short distance, and encircling Helsingfors, could alone, by drawing off much of the defensive power in that direction, enable the fleet to succeed in an attack sea-ward: an opinion analogous to that which had before been formed concerning Cronstadt.
At a latter date, Sir Charles Napier, indignant of accusations which, somewhat hastily and ungenerously, had been brought against him concerning his want of success in the Baltic, communicated to the Times a plan and a letter, in which the danger of the region around the fortress, by reason both of the shoals and the batteries, was forcibly depicted.
About the middle of the month of September, Sir Charles Napier received a despatch ordering him to send the principal part of his remaining ships to Kiel, on their way to England.
In accordance with this order, the Duke of Wellington, St. Jean d'Acre, James Watt, Princess Royal, Blenheim, Hogue, Edinburgh, Royal George, Nile, Casar, Majestic, and Cressy, weighed anchor, and commenced their westward journey on the 10th. During several days, the weather was boisterous, insomuch that the ships were scattered, and each captain steered towards Kiel without waiting for the others; it was not until the 28th that all assembled at the rendezvous off Kiel. A squadron of steamers, including the Imperieuse, Euryalus, Arrogant, Magicienne, Desperate, Basilisk, Bull-dog, and Dragon, under Captain Watson, was left to maintain the blockade in the Gulf of Finland down to the latest date the season would permit. In respect to the Gulf of Bothnia, the blockade was formally raised during the last week in the month.
The last month of the year witnessed the final separation and departure of this great armament. In the first week of December, Captain Watson announced that the state of the ice in the Gulf of Finland was such as, in virtue of his instructions, warranted him in steaming away towards Kiel; which he accordingly did. Some of the larger ships about the same time steered towards the Sound, ready for orders to take their final departure. Those orders speedily came; and Christmas-day witnessed the presence of all, or nearly all, the ships and crews on English shores. Sir Charles Napier himself landed at Portsmouth on the 18th of December, where he was received kindly and heartily by the inhabitants. On the last day of the year, the Duke of Wellington, Blenheim, Imperieu&e, Arrogant, Penelope, and Locust were at Portsmouth; the St. Jean d'Acre, Princess Royal, Nile, Caesar, and Euryalus at Devonport; the Edinburgh, Cruiser, Archer, and Magicienne at Leith; the Odin at Woolwich; the Cressy, Majestic, Royal George, and Amphion at Sheerness; the Conflict and Desperate at Hull; the Bull-dog at North Shields ; the Dragon, Rosamond, Basilisk, and Vulture at Cromarty; and the Driver at Harwich.
Thus ended the operations in the Baltic in 1854— operations which had involved large military and naval arrangements; which had called into use a larger fleet than lad ever before entered the Baltic; which had been commenced amid the most extravagant anticipations, by the English nation, of great results; which had entailed a vast outlay; and which had ended in much disappointment to the nation, the officers, and the men.
There was great disappointment and chagrin felt by many in England at the barren result of the Baltic expedition. In the Houses of Parliament conflicting opinions were expressed by various members on the causes which had prevented the fleet from accomplishing more important effects. At length, Sir Charles Napier and the government were at issue; and much acrimony and bitterness were engendered between the Admiral and one or two members of the government. Sir Charles, in his bluff off-hand way, did not appear to pay that deference to those in office to which they thought they were entitled.
We will now just glance at what was taking place about this time in and near the White Sea. In the first week of June, the English frigate Eurydice, 26 guns, the screw-corvette Brisk (16,) and the Miranda (15,) anchored off Hammerfest, in Norway, the most northern town in Europe, and the last of any importance met with on the sea-route from England to the White Sea; here they remained for awhile, and then proceeded eastward, on the look-out for Russian men-of-war or large merchant-ships. Late in the same month, the entrance to the harbour of Archangel was reached; and from that time an almost continuous process followed of boarding trading-vessels, to ascertain whether their ownership or their contents were such as to render them liable to capture.
Towards the close of August, the cruising brought the little squadron near the town of Kola, situated at the junction of the rivers Kola and Toulom, in Russian Lapland, a considerable distance north-west of the White Sea. Kola was the extreme north-west fortress of any importance belonging to Russia, being within a short distance of the Norwegian frontier, and is often regarded with uneasiness by Norway, as a fulcrum for the Russian love of conquest. Kola became a fortified town in the time of Peter the Great; and, being situated some distance up a river not easily navigable, it has always been regarded by the Russians as beyond the reach of probable capture. Understanding that the creeks adjacent to the Kola River were likely to conceal vessels belonging to the enemy, and knowing that Kola was so far a place of importance as to be the seat of government for Russian Lapland, and to have a military garrison, Captain Ommancy of the Eurydice, commander of the squadron, determined that the place should be reconnoitred, if not attacked. This duty he intrusted to Captain Lyons, in the Miranda ; and on the 21st of August the enterprise commenced.
So great are the difficulties of the Kola River, in the thirty miles of distance from the sea to the town, that five miles of it are laid down in the charts as unnavigable; and the river is in some places so narrow that a ship can scarcely turn in it; in fact, Kola had been hitherto regarded as inaccessableto anything but boats. Captain Lyons, therefore, had abundant call for the exercise of judgment. By sending boats ahead to sound, he succeeded on the first day in reaching to within two miles of the town. At one point, the steamer had to pass within fifty yards' distance of a precipitous cliff, which, if defended, might have seriously checked her progress; but nothing interfered with her anchoring for the night. On the 22d, the Miranda resumed her course upwards amid incessant difficulties—running aground repeatedly, owing to the narrowness and intricacy of the channel, and the violence of the springtide. At six in the evening, she anchored within 500 yards from the town, which was found to be defended by a 2-gun battery, built of stone and faced with turf, an extensive stockade, with blockhouses at the corners, and loopholes in the houses for musketry. Lieutenant Buckley was sent on shore, under a flag of truce, to demand its surrender. The night having passed without any response to the summons, and early morn on the 23rd having shown that the battery was manned and the defences made ready, Captain Lyons saw that the Russians intended to resist; and he accordingly began active operations immediately. He hauled down his flag of truce, and opened fire on the battery, stockade, and loopholed houses; the battery-guns were soon dismounted, and the battery was demolished.
A few other smaller achievements of this character terminated the year's proceedings in the White Sea. No Russian ships-of-war were encountered; and as Archangel could not be reached on account of the shallowness of the water, no town of any importance suffered from the Allies, except Kola. The expedition was without political importance; yet was it justifiable in the existing ignorance of the nature and extent of Russian power in that remote region. Here, however, as at Aland, the Allies departed too soon; for at the end of October and the beginning of November, the port of Archangel was full of shipping, busily engaged in exporting and importing during the few remaining days of an unusually favourable autumn.
When war broke out, the operations of the Western Powers, besides expeditions on land, of course comprised the adoption of plans against Russian ships-of-war, in whatever part of the world they might be. In this sense, and in this sense only, was the North Pacific worthy of the attention of the English and French governments. Petropaulovsk, Okhotsk, and Sitka, might have been left untouched, had it not been necessary to keep a watch on all ships belonging to the Russian navy. The czar was known to possess three or four ship-of-war in the Pacific at that time, which might have wrought great injury to the English commerce in the Chinese and Australian seas if left unmolested; hence the necessity for active interference. Admiral Price, in command of the British squadron in the Pacific, was off Callao when he received news, early in May, of the declaration of war. The squadron sailed in a few days to the Marquesas Islands, situated nearly in the centre of the Pacific, almost due west of that part of the coast of South America marked by the port of Callao. At one of these islands, Nukahiva, the French had a settlement consisting of a small fort of three guns, storehouses for salt provisions, a few neatly built houses for the governor and officers, and barracks for about 160 soldiers belonging to the French colonial regiments ; a French ship-of-war was stationed there, the captain of which acted as governor. The settlement was kept up partly as a means of retaining a place of rendezvous for French ships in that region of the Pacific, and partly as a rich store-house of bananas, cocoa-nuts, guavas, and numerous fruits and vegetables with which to victual either war or trading ships. Near this remote settlement at the Marquesas, several English and French ships-of-war remained at anchor during the greater part of the month of June. Thence, when another ship had arrived from Rio Janeiro, the whole sailed northward or northwestward to Honolulu, one of the Sandwich Islands ; the English and French nations here, as elsewhere, taking equal part in the enterprise. Honolulu is in the direct route from the Marquesas to Kamtchatka; and being a very fertile island, it was a convenient spot at which to complete arrangements necessary for the due victualling and watering the ships.
The Allied squadron remained at Honolulu from the 17th to the 25th of July. It comprised eight ships, four English and four French. The English division, under Rear-admiral Price, consisted of the President, frigate, 60 guns, Captain Burridge ; Pique, frigate, 40 guns, Captain Nicholson; Amphitrite, frigate, 24 guns, Captain Fredericks; and Virago, steamer, 6 guns,300 horse-power, Commander Marshal. The French division, under Rear-admiral Fevrier des Pointes, consisted of La Forte, frigate, 60 guns, Captain de Miniac; L'Eurydice, frigate, 32 guns, Captain Lagrandiere; L'Artemise, corvette, 30 guns, Captain L'Eveque; and L'Obligado, brig, 16 guns, Captain Rosenavat. The French guns were more numerous, but the English of heavier metal. All the ships left Honolulu on the 26th; but the Amphitrite and the Artemise were detached on the 30th, to sail east or north-east to San Francisco; while the remainder of the squadron proceeded on their northern route to the rugged seas around Kamtchatka.
On the 29th of August the Allied squadron arrived off Petropaulovsk, after five weeks' voyage from Honolulu. The admirals speedily formed a plan of attack, which was to be made on the 30th; when suddenly the English squadron was thrown into consternation by an announcement of the suicide of Admiral Price. Just as the action was about to commence, Admiral Price went down into his cabin and shot himself: this was the beginning and the end, so far as his brother officers knew. He was a brave officer, and had seen much service.
On the 31st of August, the weather being calm, the three English Frigates, under the command now of Capt. Sir F. W. E. Nicholson, were placed in position by the steamer, broadsides on towards the batteries outside Petropaulovsk. The marines from the President, under Captain Parker, were transferred to the Virago steamer, and landed to take possession of the 3-gun battery, which was expected to give much annoyance. Although greatly impeded by bruskwood of an almost impenetrable character, the marines, aided by English and French seamen, soon reached the battery, which they found deserted. A 5-gun battery was soon silenced; and there remained a fascine-battery of 11 heavy guns, on which the ships directed their fire, which, after some time, they succeeded in silencing.
On the 4th of September the contest was renewed by the ships, and a party of marines and seamen on land. This land-expedition had a disastrous result. The plan was that the marines and French seamen should ascend Nikolaiska Hill, which commanded the town on the north ; and that the English seamen should proceed by a road to the left, with a view to storm certain batteries in the town which commanded the passage of the Gorge. Immediately on the landing of the force, the Russians, strong in position and in numbers on the hill, opened fire on them. The marines, supported by a small portion of the seamen, ascended the hill as well and as quickly as they could; but they were sadly impeded, not so much by the steepness of the hill as by the thick jungle which covered it. The Russians, however, were driven back and the Allies succeeded in outflanking some of the batteries; but their loss was most severe; for the Russians were in considerable force on the brow of the hill, while other parties kept up a harassing fire of musketry from log-houses at a short distance. When, struggling against these difficulties, the Allies reached the top of the hill, Captain Parker was killed while gallantly leading on the marines, and Lieutenants M'Callum and Clements wounded. The men, losing their commanders, began to give way; and after many rallies, they were compelled to yield to the incessant fire maintained against them. They retreated to the boats; but even here further loss attended them, because the boats had to be brought within range of the enemy's musketry. Besides Captain Parker of the Royal Marines, Captain Lefebre of the Eurydice was killed; and in addition to Lieutenants M'Callum and Clements, Lieutenants Howard and Palmer were wounded. It was a mortifying termination to the enterprise. Captain Burridge, in his despatch relating to the movement, said: "The difficulties of the land and the jungle were more than they could contend against, while an unseen enemy was firing upon them from all sides." The numerical strength of the garrison was greater than the Allies had been led to expect. The left attack, by the road, was frustrated by the strong defences of the Gorge, in musketry and field-pieces ; while the right attack, up the hill, was checked by the dense jungle, which at once impeded the advance and covered the defenders.
Whether the advance up the hill to the jungle was justifiable, depends on the amount of information which the commanders possessed at the time; but it put an end to the contest and to the whole expedition. All the eye-witnesses, whether engaged or not, described the contest on land as terrible; and all bore evidence to the bravery with which the Russians defended their positions. One sentinel attracted especial admiration: sixty rifle-shots were aimed at him; but he never ceased for an instant to pace to and fro at his post, regardless of the balls which whistled around his head: he escaped untouched. The marines on the hill were exposed to a succession of perils; when, impeded by the thick bush of underwood and brambles, they were compelled to retreat, many of them came to the edge of a precipice seventy feet deep; deadly volleys were pouring in upon them from the rear, and they had the alternative of being shot as they stood, or of jumping down the precipice: many took the leap and were either maimed or killed.
The 5th of September was a mournful day for the Allies. Instead of renewing the attack with a hope of victory, they buried their dead. In their official returns, they were obliged to include " killed" and " missing" in one entry; for they remained in ignorance of the real fate of many of their companions. The totals presented in the two squadrons were—Killed or missing, 4 officers and 48 men; wounded, 6 officers and 146 men: upwards of 200 in all; among whom, however, many were merely contused.
As it was felt that the force, thus reduced, had not strength sufficient to take or destroy either the town or the two Russian frigates, preparations were made to leave the place. These preparations being completed on the 6th, the two squadrons took their departure on the 7th—the English to Vancouver, and the French to San Francisco. The Russian commander congratulated his garrison, and rightly so, on the repulse of the enemy; he acknowledged a loss of 40 killed and 75 wounded; but when he put down the Allied loss at 300, "besides the killed and wounded on board the ships," he indulged in the usual Russian exaggeration on such subjects.
Immediately on leaving Petropaulovsk, the Allies encountered two vessels outside the harbour. One, a small Russian government schooner, the Anadis, was captured by the Virago; the other, the Sitka, a merchant-ship of 800 tons, with a valuable cargo of stores and provisions from Hamburg for Petropaulovsk, was taken by the President. The Anadis was emptied, dismantled, and burnt; while the Sitka was taken away as a prize; and there can be little doubt that the Russians at Petropaulovsk afterwards suffered severely by the loss of the stores contained in the latter vessel. The French squadron, arriving at San Francisco early in October, remained there several weeks to repair damages, before proceeding southward to winter-quarters. The Allied fleet was short of provisions and stores; and this appears to have influenced the commanders, in some degree, in abandoning any further operations after the conflict on the 4th. The object of the Allies was not so much to destroy Petropaulovsk, as to engage and capture the Russian fleet in the Pacific, be it large or small; but it was not until after conversation with the prisoners taken on board the Sitka, that the Allied Admirals ascertained particulars respecting certain Russian ships-of-war safely harboured at the mouth of the river Amur, at the south-west corner of the Sea of Okhotsk. Had this knowledge been possessed earlier, it is possible that the Allies would have steered in that direction; but the unfortunate encounter at Petropaulovsk had unfitted them for further enterprise.