Battle of Hogland
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|Battle of Hogland|
|Part of Russo-Swedish War (1788-1790)|
|Swedish Navy||Imperial Russian Navy|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Prince Karl, Duke of Södermanland||Samuel Greig|
|Casualties and losses|
On the outbreak of war with Russia in 1788, Sweden planned to attack the Russian capital St. Petersburg. One Swedish army was to advance through Finland; a second army, accompanied by the Swedish coastal flotilla, was to advance along the Finnish coast into the Gulf of Finland; while a third army sailed with the Swedish battlefleet in order to land at Oranienbaum to advance on St. Petersburg. To succeed, the Russian Baltic Fleet had to be eliminated or blockaded in its ports at Reval (now Tallinn) and Kronstadt.
Swedish battlefleet of 12 ships of the line and 5 frigates under command of Prince Karl, Duke Charles of Södermanland had set sail from Karlskrona on 9 June 1788. While Duke Charles had overall command of the fleet belonged to Admiral Anton Johan Wrangel (the younger) with experienced naval officer Lieutenant Colonel Otto Henrik Nordenskjöld as his flag-captain. Already before the war started it intercepted small Russian squadron of 3 ships of the line and 4 frigates headed for Denmark and demanded these to salute his flag which was in direct contradiction of the treaties of 1743.
After being notified that star of war was in effect on 7 July Swedish fleet headed for Helsingfors to wait for reinforcements. Before reaching the destination Swedes intercepted and promptly captured two Russian frigates which were unaware of the war and got caught unaware of the situation. At Helsingfors three ships of the line joined the fleet together with one frigate and 2 light frigates from the Swedish archipelago fleet. On 14 July, the Swedish fleet with battle line of 20 ships, of which 15 were ships of the line and five were frigates, together with 6 lighter frigates sailed deeper into the Gulf of Finland.
Russians were well aware of the Swedish movements in the Baltic Sea but still had hopes that situation would not escalate into a war. Already on 4 July 1788 moved Admiral Samuel Greig his fleet of 12 ships of the line, 5 frigates and 3 cutters out of Krondstadt. Fleet was ordered on 7 July to engage and defeat the Swedish fleet and after receiving reinforcements on 9 July fleet started sailing towards western Gulf of Finland. The Russian fleet consisted of 17 ships of the line, 7 frigates and 7 smaller ships after being reinforced. Calm winds left the Russian fleet adrift near the island of Bolshoi Tyuters. Admiral Grieg used this lull for training his hastily assembled fleet.
Calm winds made slowed the progress of the fleets and it took until the morning of 17 July that the opposing fleets were able to see each other. Swedish fleet formed into line and tried to close in the distance using north-easterly heading. After preparing the ships for battle Swedish battle line reversed their direction and headed towards south in order to avoid the perilous coastal waters. The Russian fleet responded in kind but the turn had reversed their intended battle line and caused some disorder in the formed vanguard which forced four ships to leave behind of the others. First shots were fired by the Swedish lead ship Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta at 1700 on 17 July.
While the ships from both sides joined into the battle the already very mild winds kept getting calmer. As the winds becalmed it became impossible for ships to maintain their positions by sails due to the currents in the sea which forced both sides to use longboats both to move and steer their ships in the respective battlelines. Swedes further concentrated their fire on the masts and riggings of the Russian in order to further impede them.
Swedish flag ship Gustaf III had drawn the attention of the Russian flagship Rotislav as well as that of two other Russian ships which concentrated their fire on the Swedish flagship. Damage to the rigging of the Gustaf III made it vulnerable to the currents and ship started turning nearly exposing its vulnerable rear to the Russians. The Russians tried to take advantage of this by towing two of their ships into positions where they could fire on the Swedish flagship. Meanwhile Russian 64 gun ship of line Vladislav had to struck its colors to Swedish ships Prins Gustaf Adolf and Sofia Magdalena after fierce close range action. Vladislav had drifted into the Swedish line after losing both its rigging as well as the longboats used for towing the ship in the battle.
By 2000 in the evening the Swedish ship of the line Prins Gustaf, commanded by Vice-Admiral Gustav Wachtmeister, which had finally forced its opponent, the Russian ship of the line Svetaja Jelena to depart from the battle line was engaged by another Russian ship of the line Vseslav. Calm winds hadn't dissipated the thick clouds of gunpowder smoke which hid the Prins Gustaf from the other Swedish ships which by this time turned around leaving the Swedish ship to face several Russian ships alone. Prins Gustaf was pounded by four Russian ships of the line and was forced to struck its colors. Disorder in the Swedish line following the turn and the visible attempts to tow the flagship away from the battle line made Russians to believe that they had won the battle. Gunfire finally ended with the surrender of Prins Gustaf by 2200 on 17 July 1788.
Swedish flag-captain Nordenskiöld intended to resume the engagement in the first light but the reports of severe damage to the ships as well as lack of ammunition prevented this and instead at 0300 on 18 July the Swedish fleet was ordered to sail to Sveaborg. Swedish fleet had come better off from the engagement as unlike the Russian fleet it had been able to sail away from the battle. Nine of the ships of the line had suffered only light damage which full third of the ships in fleet had suffered heavy but mostly repairable damage to the hull, riggings and masts.
The Russian fleet under Admiral Grieg had been unable to chase the Swedish and was forced to lay anchor at the site of the engagement. Several ships had been hulled and stayed only afloat by pumps. Eight of the Russian ships of the line had been severely damage and four of those could no longer be sailed but had to be towed away. Russian fleet started slowly back towards Kronstadt on 19 July after critical repairs. On return voyage fleet encountered heavy weather near island of Seskar causing more damage to some of the ships.
Unusually for a naval battle, both sides captured one ship. Swedes fared slightly better in the artillery duel leaving four Russian ships dead in the water but failed to capitalize their success while all Swedish ships were able to set sail after the battle. The Russians suffered the worst casualties, losing 319-580 men killed compared with between 200 and 300 Swedes, but the battle was a strategic victory for the Russians because Greig had done enough to prevent the Swedish landing.
One reason why fight had ended even though Swedish battlefleet had the advantage was that Swedish fleet was rapidly running out of ammunition especially to its heavier cannons and had to depart. Swedish battlefleet retired to Sveaborg for repairs and resupply. However upon arriving the prepared stocks at the Swedish forward base were noticed to have been prepared solely with coastal or archipelago fleet in mind. Result was that Swedish battlefleet had sailed to Sveaborg only to be stranded there as the ships could not be armed or repaired. Situation was aggravated when small Russian squadron under James Travene blockaded Hangö cutting the coastal sea route causing considerable problems for Swedish material deliveries from Sweden.
Admiral Grieg hurried the repairs of the Russian fleet and constructed a forward base to the island of Seskar to accomplish this. Already by 5 August the Russian fleet set sail towards Sveaborg. It encountered Swedish squadron which had been tasked on investigating the status of the Russian fleet outside of Sveaborg on the early hours of 6 August. Swedish ships fled disorderly to the safety of the fortress but the ship of the line Prins Gustaf Adolf run into a previously unknown underwater rock at full speed and sails spread. Ship got grounded on the rock and started flooding heavily. Water quickly also flooded the ship's gunpowder magazines forcing it to struck its colors. Russians took the crew as prisoners but were unable to re-float the ship and instead torched it.
Prisoners the Swedes had captured from the Vladislav had carried relapsing fever which now spread widely amongst the Swedish crews at Sveaborg further impeding any chances of getting the fleet either ready to sail or ready to fight. The Russian fleet under Admiral Grieg had total control over the Baltic Sea and with new ships could deploy full 18 ships of the line. Control of Reval made it easy for the Russians to maintain their blockade.
Order of Battle
- 15 × ships of the line
- 7 × frigates
(1 180 guns)
- 1 × 100-gun threedecker - Rostislav
- 8 × 74-gun ships - Vseslav, Mecheslav, Rodislav, Mstislav, Vladislav
- 8 × 66-gun ships
- 7 × big frigates
(1 236 guns)
- Mattila (1983), p. 147-148.
- Mattila (1983), p. 148.
- Mattila (1983), p. 137.
- Mattila (1983), p. 143.
- Mattila (1983), p. 146-147.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 93-94.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 99-101.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 101.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 102-103.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 106-109.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 109-110.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 111.
- Mattila (1983), p. 148-150.
- Johnsson (2011), p. 130-133.
- Anderson, R.C. Naval Wars in the Baltic, 1522–1850 (London, 1969)
- Derry, T.K. 'Scandinavia' in The New Cambridge Modern History, Volume IX (Cambridge, 1965).
- (Finnish) Johnsson, Raoul (2011). Grönroos, Maria; Karttunen, Ilkka, eds. Kustaa III ja suuri merisota [Gustaf III and the Great Naval War] (in Finnish). Helsinki: John Nurminen Foundation. ISBN 978-952-9745-31-9.
- Mattila, Tapani (1983). Meri maamme turvana [Sea safeguarding our country] (in Finnish). Jyväskylä: K. J. Gummerus Osakeyhtiö. ISBN 951-99487-0-8.