1905-12-01 THE RUSSIAN CRISIS

London Times, 1 December 1905, p. 5: THE RUSSIAN CRISIS./THE BATTLE AT SEVASTOPOL./FATE OF THE MUTINEERS. (FROM A CORRESPONDENT.) ST. PETERSBURG, NOV. 30, 12 45 P.M.

            There is no absolute confirmation yet of the horrors at Sevastopol briefly reported last night, but all the morning papers treat the story seriously and the Novoe Vremya claims that similar reports have been received at the Admiralty.

            The versions appearing in this paper and in the Russ and the Bourse Gazette differ in many particular, though they agree in the main points. It seems that the southern batteries which remained loyal opened fire on the Otchakoff, whereupon the warships and the northern batteries responded and shelled the town. The Government had assembled over 20,000 troops who stormed the northern forts. Several warships were sunk or damaged, and the revolt was suppressed.

 

1 5 P.M.

            The opening of hostilities at Sevastopol was decided upon because the proposed investment of the marine barracks could not be effected. The sailors were able to go into the town to obtain provisions under cover of the guns of the Otchakoff, which continuously displayed the battle flag. I hear that the mutiny was expected on the 15th inst., but as nothing happened on that day the fears of the authorities were set at rest, and the authorities allowed a number of the officers to go on leave. The following version of yesterday’s tragedy appears in the Russ, which, however, does not guarantee its authenticity: –

            “The squadron which had joined the Otchakoff was ordered yesterday morning at 8 o’clock to surrender. The squadron replied by hoisting the red flag. Then the northern batteries were told to open fire on the squadron, but the batteries joined the warships, and together they proceeded to shell the town, directing their fire chiefly against the southern batteries. The whole squadron was under the command of Schmidt, a former lieutenant. Half the town was destroyed. The warships suffered severely. The cruiser Otchakoff and the training ship Dniester were sunk, and three shots pierced the hull of the Potemkin, doing severe damage. The torpedo-boats went aground.

            “In order to silence the northern batteries the Brest regiment carried them by storm at the point of the bayonet. Lieutenant Schmidt was mortally wounded. The mutineers, after seeing their leader fall, surrendered about 5 in the evening.”

            The Novoe Vremya says that the brief and incomplete reports received by the Admiralty show that the Otchakoff yesterday hoisted the red flag. The infantry on shore and the marines in the Rostislav opened fire on the Otchakoff, the crew of which replied with artillery. Thereupon the batteries bombarded the Otchakoff. The Novoe Vremya adds the details given by the Russ and supplements them with the statement that the mutineers who had hoisted the red flag sank two torpedo-boats and damaged a third which was beached.

            The Bourse Gazette prints practically the same account and states that the bombardment began at 3 p.m. A great many men were killed and wounded. The battle ended two hours later.

            St. Petersburg is horror-stricken by these accounts. The Admiralty still declines to give official information. The entrances to the General Naval Staff are closed to visitors. The telegraph office here is strongly guarded by troops.

 

5 P.M.

            I hear that Count Witte denies the story of the Sevastopol battle, but according to the evening edition of the Russ Admiral Birileff has received further confirmation from Admiral Chukhnin ... Constantinople.

 

8 P.M.

            Admiral Wirenius confirms the substance of the accounts which are published of the Sevastopol tragedy, but declares that Lieutenant Schmidt began hostilities. The mutineers demanded a Constituent Assembly and the fulfillment of the promises contained in the Tsar’s Manifesto.

 

OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT. ST. PETERSBURG, NOV. 30.*

            The Admiralty announces that the following telegram was received this morning from General Kaulbars in Odessa: –

            Admiral Chukhnin communicates the following on November 29: –

            “We wished to terminate the affair on November 28 by surrounding the mutinous division with troops and issuing an ultimatum demanding unconditional surrender, but the mutineers began to attack on the night of November 27, seizing the torpedo-boat Sviryepi and three other vessels which drew near to the Otchakoff. All these vessels hoisted red flags, after which the Otchakoff flew the siganl that Lieutenant Schmidt commanded the fleet.

            “Lieutenant Schmidt, on board the Sviryepi, then steamed among the squadron, he and his crew cheering. The other crews did not reply. Lieutenant Schmidt afterwards proceeded to the port and released those who had been arrested by his orders. In the course of the morning armed detachments of mutineers continued to seize the small craft in the harbour which were not guarded by troops.

            “During the dinner time armed parties in sloops from the Otchakoff went to the Panteleimon, which was without arms. They captured the officers and removed them to the Otchakoff. We were compelled to tolerate these doings as the fleet had been disarmed in view of the dangerous attitude of the men. After midday the activity of the mutineers increased and one after another the craft on the eastern shore of South Bay wereoccupied [sic] and placed under the red flag.

            The plan first proposed was abandoned, and it was resolved to adopt energetic measures to prevent any increase in the gravity of the situation during the day if possible. The officers captured by the mutineers were removed to the Otchakoff in the belief that owing to their presence the Otchakoff would not be fired on. Lieutenant Schmidt informed the captured officers that he would hang them if the troops took any action.

            “At half-past 3 fire was opened by the field artillery on the ships in the southern harbour flying red flags and on the sloops. The red flags were immediately lowered. Lieutenant Schmidt signalled ‘Have many captured officers.’ After the sinking of a sloop with mutineers on board the Otchakoff opened fire. Their fire was returned by the north shore battery and the ships whose breech blocks were retored to-day. The Sviryepi advanced to the attack but met with a strong fire from the two cruisers Kapitan Saken  and Pamyat Merkurya and the battleship Rostislav. The Sviryepi was immediately put out of action, as were two other torpedo-boats, one of which was sunk.

            “The Otchakoff had barely fired six shots when she hoisted the white flag. The squadron then ceased fire. A conflagration broke out on board the Otchakoff and boats were sent to fetch the wounded and rescue the men. Lieutenant Schmidt, who was dressed as a common sailor, was arrested. When the firing began the mining transport Bug had on board 300 torpedoes. Fearing an explosion, the crew sank her. Captain Slavotchinsky, aide-de-camp to the commander of the 7th Army Corps, started for the Bug, but was severely wounded en route.

            “During the firing on the Otchakoff the field batteries bombarded the naval barracks, which returned the fire. The number of wounded has not yet been ascertained. The Otchakoff is burning, and it is impossible to extinguish the flames.”

            The following further despatch has been received from General Kaulbars: –

            “I have just received a telegram from Captain Bergel, the chief of Admiral Chukhnin’s staff, stating that during the night about 1,500 men surrendered with ten quick-firers to the Brest Regiment, and that the barracks have been occupied by troops.”

            General Kaulbars forwards the following additional despatch from Admiral Chukhnin: –

            “Sevastopol, Nov. 29, 3 50 p.m. – The Barracks occupied by the mutineers were finally occupied by the troops at 6 o’clock this morning. The number of men surrendered, including those captured in the Otchakoff, is 200 (? 2,000). The majority of them are reservists who had been sent to the barracks at the time of the mutiny. A torpedo-boat which was believed to have been sunk has been found ashore. The fire in the Otchakoff has been put out. She is still floating, but the interior is gutted. The town is quiet. Captain Bergel telegraphs that Captain Slavotchinsky died of his wounds on Nov. 29.”  

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin

 

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