Siege of Petropavlovsk

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Siege of Petropavlovsk
Part of Crimean War
Petropavlovsk-cannons.jpg
Cannons which were used to defend Petropavlovsk in 1854.
Date August 18 – August 28, 1854
Location Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka
Result Russian victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom United Kingdom
France French Empire
Russian Empire Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
France Auguste Febvrier-Despointes
United Kingdom David Price
United Kingdom Frederick Nicolson
Russia Vasily Zavoyko
Russia Yevfimy Putyatin
Strength
2,600 men
218 cannons
6 warships:
920 men
67 cannons
warships:
frigate Aurora (44)
transport Dwina (12)
Casualties and losses
500 dead 31 dead
65 wounded
2 ships:
cargo ship Avatska
transport Sitka (10)

The Siege of Petropavlovsk was the main mllitary operation in the Pacific Theatre of the Crimean War. The Russian casualties are estimated at 100 soldiers; the Allies lost five times as many.

In the China and Japan seas, at the beginning of the war, Russian Rear-Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin had under his orders the Pallada, 52 guns, Aurora, 44, and Dvina, 12. The British force on the station was under Rear-Admiral David Price (newly promoted after serving as post captain for 39 years) and the French under Rear-Admiral Auguste Febvrier-Despointes. In total, the Allied fleet had nine ships and over 200 cannons. Putyatin was, of course, helpless at sea against such a force; and therefore he sent the Pallada far up the river Amur, and put her crew to work in reinforcing the weak garrisons along the river's banks. The Aurora and Dvina took refuge in Petropavlovsk, a post against which it was foreseen that the allies would probably attempt operations. Price and Febvrier-Despointes, after having detached the Amphitrite, Artémise, and Trincomalee to cruise for the protection of trade off the coast of California, went in search of the Russians, and, on August 18, sighted the shores of Kamchatka.

The siege[edit]

The siege started on 18 August 1854, when an Allied squadron of three British and French frigates, one corvette, one brig and one steamship cast anchor in the Avacha Bay. The Allied forces far outnumbered the Russians, and the main Russian vessel, the 44-gun Pallada, was sent far up the River Amur out of harm's way. Aurora was anchored behind a sand spit topped by a shore battery.

The Allied force, commanded by Rear Admirals Febvrier-Despointes and Price, advanced to bombard Petropavlosk on 20 August 1854. They had some 218 cannons at its disposal, as compared to 67 cannons available to the defenders of Kamchatka's main city under Vasily Zavoyko. Almost immediately, Price went below decks and shot himself, either on purpose or by accident. The Allies withdrew, but returned to resume the bombardment the next day, 22 August, with Captain Nicolson of HMS Pique in temporary command.

The Petropavlovsk garrison consisted of 41 officers, 476 soldiers, 349 seamen, 18 Russian volunteers and 36 Kamchadals (total 920 men). The Allied squadron re-entered Avacha Bay to storm the city. On 24 August (5 September in Gregorian calendar), after a neutralization of Russian batteries, 970 Allied troops (with oarsmen reinforcements) landed west of Petropavlovsk, but were repelled by 360 Russians. A naval brigade of around 680 British and French seamen and marines landed, under Captains Burridge and de La Grandiere, but they were ambushed and, after some heavy fighting, retreated with 107 British and 101 French dead or wounded. The commanding officer of a landing party was killed. The Russians captured a British flag, seven officers' swords and a quantity of firearms, swords, and bayonets.

The Allies withdrew, although President and Virago managed to capture the Russian Anadis, a small schooner, and the 10-gun transport Sitka on 28 September 1854. The Allies left Petropavlovsk to the Russians until April 1855, when Nikolay Muravyov, aware of the insufficiency of troops and weapons to repel another attack on the city, had the Petropavlovsk garrison evacuated under the cover of snow.

The Allied fleet retreated to the Colony of Vancouver Island where Esquimalt Harbour was used for repairs, an event which led to a strong British presence there and led to investment in a graving dock at that location which has since evolved into CFB Esquimalt.

Allied fleet[edit]

British

The British force on the station was under Rear-Admiral David Price, and consisted of:

French

The French Rear-Admiral Auguste Febvrier-Despointes had at his disposal:

  • Forte, 60 (flagship)
  • Eurydice, 30
  • Artémise, 30
  • Obligado, 18.
In the action

From the British side - President, Pique and Virago. From the French side - Forte, Eurydice and Obligado. Total about 204 cannons.

References[edit]

External links[edit]