1853-06-18 AUSTRIA

London Times, 18 June 1853, p. 6: AUSTRIA (From our own correspondent).

 

London Times, 18 June 1853, p. 6: AUSTRIA (From our own correspondent). Vienna, June 12. (Excerpts).

            Some information concerning the Russian navy and army, Sebastopol, and Odessa can hardly prove unacceptable at such a moment. The fleet in the Black Sea consists of two "divisions." Each division, or squadron, is supposed to contain one three-decker, eight two-deckers, two of which are of 84 and the others of 74 guns, six frigates, one corvette, and four brigs. Thus the fleet, if complete, would consist of two three-deckers, four two-deckers of 84 and 12 of 74 guns, 12 frigates, two corvettes, and eight brigs. "To these," says Haxthausen, "must be added several steamers and a great many galleys or row-boats." There may be about 180 of these galleys, which are principally employed on the east coast of the Black Sea. M. Haxthausen, although he writes in a Russian sense, insinuates that the navy appears more formidable on paper than it is in reality. We are told that the galleys have, up to the present time (1852), rendered more service than the large vessels. In 1743 Admiral Golovin did not attack the Swedish fleet "because he had but 17 vessels to his adversary's 12." General Keith, however, in the same year, attacked a Swedish squadron of equal strength, and came off victorious. Under Catherine II, a certain Spiridoff acquired some reputation, but the names of the commanders under him were Elphinstone, Greig, and Dagdale. During the war which after the first French revolution desolated Europe, the Russian navy was a mere cipher. When allied with England, the fleets of the latter were powerful enough; when opposed to her, Russian vessels were of no avail. The fact that the ships are still principally manned with "land-lubbers" is not denied, but this is not surprising when it is considered that Russia has no mercantile fleet worth mentioning. There is a law that the captain of a merchantman sailing under Russian colours must be a native of the country, but this is continually evaded. In port the Russian is the captain; but once at sea, off goes his uniform, on goes an apron, and he figures as the ship's cook. The real skipper is generally either a German, a Swede, or a Norwegian, as the English have been unpopular since, during the war, they took a great part of the Russian fleet into "safe keeping." The ships are thus manned: -- A three-decker and a corvette have a crew composed of 1,100 sailors and marines; a two-decker of 84 and two brigs have the same number of men. A crew of the same strength also suffices for a two-decker of 74 guns and one frigate. The vessels, being built after different models, do not sail well together. English seamen may well sneer at which Russian ships are in general handled. The newer large vessels are of oak, but of such inferior quality that they do not last more than 10 or 15 years; the others are of larch. The Black Sea fleet has some good sailors, who are taken from the coasts, and also many Greeks. Of the Cossacks dwelling on the shores of the Sea of Azof good boats' crews are formed. The fact that the Black Sea is continually subject to squalls nearly as violent as those near the tropics must not be lost sight of; shallows and dangerous reefs also abound. How many of the Russian ships above enumerated have been damaged or completely wrecked has never transpired, but we often read that, in consequence of a violent storm, a great many vessels have been lost in the Black Sea. "Sebastopol is a fortified seaport, which, in the opinion of scientific men, is almost without its equal in the world. If Europe should have a weak moment, and Russia a thirst for conquest, hostilities may be begun from Sebastopol with energy and security. Either the fleet can disembark troops behind the mountains and rivers on the west coast of the Black Sea, or at any port that can be found. No one can seriously suppose that the Turkish fleet at the present or in future will be able to prevent this. Before the battle of Navarino it was otherwise, for then the Greek sailors could be depended on." The Prussian Baron, who probably did not foresee that Russia would so soon make a move against Turkey, continues -- "It is more difficult to provide for 20,000 men in Turkey than for 200,000 in Germany. On this account the communication which the fleet can keep up between Varna and Visa, and the productive countries on the banks of the Bug, Dniester, Dnieper (Borysthenes), and Don, render it invaluable." To this it is but necessary to add, that even here there is a very prevalent idea that if the united fleets should be necessitated to visit the Black Sea, very few of the Russian vessels would escape the war steamers. As to Rear-Admiral Kornileff's 46 gun-boats in the Danube, the admirals could take 20 each, and toss up for the odd six....

            ...The fortifications of Sebastopol consist of three large forts. Those called Constantine and Alexander are at the entrance to the port; that which bears the name of Nicholas is in the haven itself. Except for the fortifications of Paris this is perhaps the most important, and strategically important, piece of military architecture which has been completed since 1830. The harbour of Odessa is formed by two large moles, defended by strong works. It can contain 200 ships. The town is regularly built, in the form of an oblong parallelogram, on a declivity, which slopes down to the bay....

 

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