Siege of Petropavlovsk

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Siege of Petropavlovsk
Part of the Crimean War
Cannons which were used to defend Petropavlovsk in 1854.
Date 18–28 August 1854
Location Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka
Result Russian victory
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
2,600 men
218 cannons
6 warships:
920 men
67 cannons
frigate Aurora (44)
transport Dwina (12)
Casualties and losses
500 dead 31 dead
65 wounded
2 ships:
cargo ship Anadyr
transport Sitka (10)

The Siege of Petropavlovsk was the main military 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 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 Pallada far up the river Amur, and put her crew to work in reinforcing the weak garrisons along the river's banks. 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 Amphitrite, Artémise, and Trincomalee to cruise for the protection of trade off the coast of California, went in search of the Russians, and, on 18 August, 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. The sole Russian heavy ship, frigate Aurora, was anchored behind a sand spit topped by a shore battery. The 52-gun Pallada, was by then on the Amur, out of harm's way.

The Allied force, commanded by Rear Admirals Febvrier-Despointes and Price, advanced to bombard Petropavlovsk on 20 August 1854. They had some 218 cannons at their 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 Anadyr, 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]


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


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.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°01′00″N 158°39′00″E / 53.0167°N 158.6500°E / 53.0167; 158.6500