Action of 8 July 1716
|Action of 8 July 1716|
|Part of the Siege of Corfu, during the Ottoman–Venetian War of 1714–18|
Plan of the dispositions of the opposing fleets in the Corfu Channel
|Ottoman Empire||Republic of Venice|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Canum Hoca||Andrea Cornaro|
|~50 warships||27 warships|
|Casualties and losses|
|unknown||116 dead, 250 wounded|
|No ships were sunk in this action.|
This indecisive naval battle took place on 8 July 1716 during a Turkish attempt to capture the island of Corfu (Kerkyra), off the west coast of mainland Greece.
War had been declared between the Ottoman Empire and Venice on 9 December 1714, although it wasn't until June 1715 that a Turkish fleet left the Dardanelles Strait. Soon Venice had been forced out of almost all of the Morea.
In 1716, the Turks goal was the capture of the western Greek island of Corfu. This island forms a horseshoe shape, with the two ends close to the Greek mainland, and forms a bay with two narrow entrances. On the island, midway between the two entrances, is the town also called Corfu. Because of the prevailing winds it is difficult for sailing fleets to sail into this bay from the south. The Turkish fleet, under Kapudan Pasha Canum Hoca left the Dardanelles Strait in May 1716 and made its way around the Morea and up the west coast. Meanwhile, Venetian commander Andrea Cornaro had sailed south from Corfu to Sapienza with his sailing fleet, leaving the galley fleet behind, under Andrea Pisani. As the Turks approached he withdrew northward to Zante (Zakynthos), where he was met by Pisani and the galleys. After a search for the Turks, he realised on 27 June that they had sailed past him further out to sea, and he proceeded back to Corfu, sailing up the western side of the island so as to use the northern entrance to the Corfu Channel. Pisani was already in the bay with 2 galleasses and 13 galleys.
The Turkish fleet had already rounded the island and was anchored across the northern channel, between the island and the mainland. Pisani withdrew his vessels under the guns of the fortress, and later, on 5 July, he withdrew his vessels through the southern channel. On 8 July the Turks began landing troops from the mainland across to the north of the island. Meanwhile, Cornaro had reached Otranto in southern Italy on 7 July, where he learned of the Turkish presence at Corfu. He crossed to the Albanian coast with his 27 ships and sailed south, sailing through the northern channel and attacking the Turkish fleet, which was anchored off the town, at 1pm on 8 July.
The Turks had perhaps 62 vessels total, of which about 50 were proper warships. These included one 96-gun battleship, 12 battleships of up to 84 guns, and 10 African ships of 50 guns. The rest had 54 guns. The African ships stayed where they were, close to the island, but the Turks weighed anchor and sailed north, Canum Hoca in the van attacking the Venetian van, under Cornaro, then the rear, under Flangini. Cornaro turned to assist, then the Venetians turned to stay ahead of the wind, and attempted to launch a fireship attack, which failed when the Turkish galleys towed their sailing ships out of action. The action lasted between about 2.30pm and 7pm when approaching darkness and lack of wind stopped the battle. The Venetian fleet sailed south and anchored in a line just north of the town, with the Turks slightly to the north. No ships on either side were lost. Venetian casualties were 116 and 250 wounded.
This battle, although itself indecisive, showed that the Turkish sailing fleet could be faced, if not necessarily beaten, even if in superior numbers.
On 10 July, the Turks resumed crossing troops to the island, and for the next 6 weeks the fleets largely sat idle even while battle raged continuously on land between the Turks and the troops protecting the town. Pisani sailed up the west coast of the island, returning with the new 80-gun battleship Leone Trionfante, two troopships containing 1,500 troops and a cargo ship containing food. On 21 July the Maltese reinforcements of four battleships, five galleys and two small craft arrived, and on 31 July four Papal, five Spanish, three Tuscan and two Genoese galleys and four hired Papal battleships arrived. There was some attempt to attack, but this was not carried out largely due to lack of wind, and all that was done was to use galleys to support an assault from the town on 18/19 August. This failed, and there was a Turkish counter-assault. On 21 August, six Spanish battleships, under the Marquis de Mari, arrived, and on the same day the Turkish cavalry re-embarked. On 25 August the Turks sailed to the northern channel, leaving on 26 August.