Capture of the Sewolod
|25th August 1808 - 26th May 1808|
|English Ships, Sir Samuel Hood|
|Implacable||74||Thomas Byam Martin||6 killed, 26 wounded|
|Centaur||74||William H Webley||3 killed, 27 wounded|
|Russian Squadron, P I Khanykov|
|Zacatie Sviatoi Anny||66|
|Notes on Action|
The Navy, however, rendered excellent service. Early in August a Russian fleet of nine sail of the line, three 50-gun ships, eight frigates and large corvettes, two brigs and two cutters, left Kronstadt, and, on the 19th of the month, anchored in the Bay of Hango, a port of Swedish Finland then in Eussian occupation. At that time Saumarez, with a few ships, lay off Langeland, one of the Danish islands; another part of the fleet was off Copenhagen; and yet another part was off Nyborg in the island of Fiinen; while a Swedish squadron of seven sail of the line and four frigates was at anchor in Oresund. This squadron was joined on August 20th by Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, with the Centaur and Implacable. Later on the same day, the Russian fleet from Hango appeared and anchored outside, and in the evening of the 22nd it weighed and stood off and on. On the 22nd, four more Swedish sail of the line joined Hood and the Swedish rear-admiral, bringing up the force in Oresund to eleven sail of the line besides small craft; but the allied fleet was very sickly, and a third of the Swedish seamen were down with scurvy, so that the ships were inefficient. Nevertheless, early on the 25th, the allies weighed, and, with a fresh N.E. breeze, made sail in pursuit of the enemy, which, at 9 A.M., was seen to the S.E. off Hango Head. The Russians made all sail to get away, and were followed; but the uncoppered Swedish ships, with their weak and inexperienced crews, made but slow progress in a windward chase, and soon the Centaur and Implacable drew ahead of their friends. By 4 A.M. on the 26th, the Implacable was two miles to windward of the Centaur, and only four or five miles behind the Russians; and the Centaur was about ten miles to windward of the nearest Swede. The Russians were scattered, and evidently making all possible efforts to get away. At 4.30 A.M., the Implacable, then on the port tack, observed a Russian two-decker well to leeward of her consorts; and at 5.30 A.M., the Russian, which was the Sewolod, 74, Captain Roodneff, being on the starboard tack, passed the bow of the Implacable, which at once tacked after her. At 6.30 A.M. the Sewolod tacked, and at 6.45 A.M., when the ships again crossed one another, the Russian opened fire, the Implacable, of course, replying promptly. The British ship tacked again, and when, at 7.20 A.M., she had overtaken the Sewolod, she closed her within pistol-shot to leeward, and brought her to action with such determination that in less than half an hour the Russian struck. Before, however, the Implacable could take possession, she was recalled by Hood, who having observed the Russians bear up, desired to save Captain Martin from being cut off and overwhelmed. Martin rejoined Hood at about 8 A.M., and with him ran towards the Swedes. In this action the Implacable 2 had six killed and twenty-six wounded, 3 among the latter being Master's Mate Thomas Pickernell and Captain's Clerk Nicholas Drew. The loss of the Russians amounted to forty-eight killed and eighty wounded.The Russian admiral, having ordered a frigate to take in tow the almost entirely disabled Sewolod, hauled his wind. Soon afterwards, when the Implacable had made good such slight damages as she had suffered, she and the Centaur again made sail in chase, soon obliging the frigate to cast off the Sewolod and the Russian fleet to bear up in support of the cripple. But presently, rather than bring on a general engagement, the enemy took advantage of a change of wind to the N.E. and stood for the port of Roggersvik or Port Baltic, in which he anchored at about noon. He left the Sewolod aground on a shoal outside the harbour; but she soon floated and rode at her anchors; and, in the afternoon, numerous boats were sent out to tow her into the road. At 8 P.M., while the operation was in progress, the Centaur, thanks to the excellent seamanship of her officers and men, managed to run on board the Russian 74. For a few moments the Russian's starboard bow scraped along the Centaur's starboard side and was fired into by every gun that would bear upon it. Then the Russian's bowsprit, or what remained of it, was lashed under a withering fire to the Centaur's mizen rigging by Captain Webley, Lieutenant Paul Lawless, 4 and Mr. Edward Strode, Master. Hood had hoped to be able to tow off the Russian ship; but she had dropped an anchor in six fathoms, and could not be moved. For about half an hour each vessel fought hard, and made ineffectual attempts to board the other. At 8.40 P.M., however, ten minutes after the Implacable had arrived and had anchored in a favourable position for assisting her consort, the Sewolod again hauled down her colours. In this action the Centaur had three killed and twenty-seven wounded; and the Russian ship, which had been reinforced with one hundred men since her action with the Implacable, had one hundred and eighty killed, wounded, or missing. Both the Centaur and her prize grounded soon after the latter had surrendered; and this encouraged the Russian admiral to send out a couple of ships to attempt their capture; but the Implacable was soon successful in getting her consort afloat again, whereupon the Russians returned to port. In the course of the following night the Sewolod was burnt by the victors. The port of Roggersvik was blockaded until early in October by the Anglo-Swedish fleet, which was joined on August 30th by Sir James Saumarez, with the Victory, Mars, Goliath, and Africa, and some smaller craft. Plans were prepared for burning the Eussian ships at their anchorage by means of fire-vessels; but upon the harbour being reconnoitred by the Salsette, 36, Captain Walter Bathurst, and the Swedish frigate Camilla, 44, it was found to be so excellently defended by means of a boom, that the project had to be abandoned. When, in consequence of the advancing season, the blockading force was withdrawn, the Russians made sail, and, in due course, found their way back to Kronstadt.
Towards the end of July the position as far as the sailing fleets were concerned was somewhat as follows. At Oro and Jungfrusund was a Swedish fleet of eleven battleships and five frigates. In Kronstadt a Russian fleet of nine battleships (two three-deckers), eleven frigates, and eighteen smaller craft was slowly being prepared for sea, while in Danish waters was an English fleet of eleven battle ships. Some of the English ships had been as far as Danzig and Pillau, but the beginning of August saw them concentrated in the Belt to help in the removal of the Spanish troops. On July 26 the Russian fleet left Kronstadt under Admiral Chanykov and on August 9th it reached Hango. Ships were sent out cruising, and brought in a Swedish brig and five transports, but for the moment nothing of importance was attempted. On August 16th Admiral Saumarez sent off two English battleships to join the Swedes. These were the Centaur 74, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, and the Implacable 74, under Captain Martin. On the 19th these ships sighted and chased three Russian frigates, and on the 20th they joined the Swedes in Oro Roads. Two days later the Russian fleet moved from Hango and took up its position just south of the Allies; the Swedish commander therefore recalled his ships from Jungfrusund and prepared for sea. On the 24th these ships rejoined and on the 25th the combined fleet weighed anchor and put to sea to attack the Russians.
They were therefore roughly equal in strength, but Admiral Chanykov retreated at once. He is said to have intended to attack next day, but he gave little sign of this, and continued to work to windward with a wind about E.N.E. The Swedish ships sailed badly, and the two English battleships soon drew ahead, but even the Swedes gained on the Russians. The chase began at about 8 a.m. on August 25th, and by the evening the Implacable and Centaur were five miles ahead of the foremost Swede, while at four o'clock in the morning of the 26th the Implacable was two miles to windward of the Centaur and about ten miles from the Swedes. The Russians were also in disorder, and one of their ships, the Vsevolod 74 was much to leeward of her fleet. At 5.20 a.m. she opened fire on the Implacable as the ships passed on opposite tacks. The Implacable tacked in her wake, and at 6.45 as the Russian again tacked she was badly cut up by the English raking fire. Tacking again, the Implacable came alongside the enemy to leeward at 7.20, and in half an hour the Vsevolod struck. At this moment, however, the Russian fleet bore up to her rescue, and at the same time Hood, in the Centaur, signalled to recall the Implacable. She therefore abandoned her prize, and the Vsevolod was taken in tow by a frigate. The Implacable had lost 32 men and the Vsevolod 128. About this time the Russian Syevernaya Zvyezda 74 damaged her foretopmast, and this, together with the crippled state of the Vsevolod, induced Chanykov to take refuge in Rager Vik or Port Baltic. At about eleven o'clock the Russian fleet entered the harbour, but the approach of the Centaur and Implacable had forced the frigate to cast off the Vsevolod, and she therefore had to anchor just outside. In the afternoon the Russian fleet sent its boats to tow the disabled ship into the harbour, but Hood, seeing this, pushed in with the Centaur, drove off the boats, and ran across the bow of the Vsevolod just as she was reaching the harbour. Lashing the bowsprit of the Russian ship to her mizzen, the Centaur open fire at 8 o'clock. Both ships went aground almost at once, but the action went on without interruption. Attempts at boarding were made in vain on both sides, and at 8.40, after the Implacable had also fired on her for ten minutes, the Vsevolod surrendered. The Implacable then succeeded in hauling the Centaur off, and was finally towed out by the boats of the two ships. The Russian fleet made sail, but soon returned to its anchorage, and the two English ships were thus left undisturbed to remove their prisoners and destroy the prize. At six o'clock in the morning of the 27th the English set fire to the Vsevolod, and a few hours later she blew up. In this second action the Centaur lost thirty men and the Vsevolod 124
The only Swedish ships which were anywhere near during this action were the Tapperhet 62 and the frigates, but during the course of the following day (August 27th) the rest came up and anchored. Three days later Admiral Saumarez arrived with the Victory 100, Goliath 74, Mars 74, Africa 64, and some smaller ships. On September 1st he went in close to the harbour mouth with the Victory and Goliath, and as a result of his observations decided to attack. All preparations were made, but during the night the wind shifted to the south and the attack had to be postponed. The wind, however, kept in that quarter for a week, and gave the Russians time to make such preparations for defence that an attack became impossible. The English bombs threw a few shells into the harbour, and a fire-ship attack was attempted, but little harm was done, and the Allies had to content themselves with a blockade, which they kept up for a month.
|TRN5||The Royal Navy : a history from the earliest times to the present Vol V||William Laid Clowes||Digital Book|
|NWB||Naval wars in the Baltic during the Sailing Ship Epoch||R C Anderson||Book|