London Times, 16 January 1858, p. 10: FRANCE. (From our own correspondent.) PARIS, Thursday, Jan. 14, 6 P.M. (Excerpt)
The following facts from the Moniteur de la Flotte, relating to the Russian navy, are not without interest: --
"Previous to the last war the Russian ships in the Black Sea were chiefly built at Nicolaieff, but, the river being too shallow to permit them to embark their guns or their stores, these were taken on board at Sebastopol. On the arrival of a new ship at the latter port a warehouse was placed at the captain's disposal for himself, his officers, and his crew, and he occupied it as long as he remained in port. By this system an entire fleet might be prepared for sea within two or three days, or even, if necessary, within 24 hours. This system, though expensive, is at the same time economical, inasmuch as every ship's stores are preserved in a good state by the same men, for the crew of a Russian ship-of-war never quit her during their period of service, except in case of accident, and their period of service lasts 20 years. The seamen always remaining in the same ship become attached to it, and an emulation is created among the various ships, which tends to establish good discipline. A French naval officer, who had an opportunity of observing the manner in which the Russian captains manoeuvre their ships, expressed himself in the following terms in the year 1850: -- 'The manner in which a Russian crew handle their sails, the silence which reigns on board, the agility, intelligence, and zeal displayed by the seamen are something surprising when one considers that those men have been taken from the plough to converted into seamen. Previous to coming into contact with a Russian ship I never saw the three topsails of a corvette changed in less than three minutes, particularly when they are set. I now see it every day, and, if I can credit the assertions of the Russian captains, their largest ships are handled equally well. The manner in which they anchor, heave their anchors, and set sail before leaving port is remarkable for the celerity with which each is performed.' The same officer added that the discipline aboard a Russian ship of war is perfect, and it is not the result of corporal punishment, as has often been asserted, for flogging is reserved for such crimes as robbery and desertion. According to an excellent authority the Russian navy suffers from the difficulty of finding recruits, and this arises from the slow development of the merchant navy, notwithstanding the encouragement afforded to it by the Government for the last 150 years. The best merchant seamen are the Fins of the Baltic, the Cossacks and Greeks of the Black Sea, but their number is far below the necessities of the State. For that reason the crew of a Russian ship of war is infinitely superior to that of a merchantman. The maxim of Peter the Great, that every man is good for everything, is applied more easily in Russia than in any other country, and for that reason seamen are levied not only on the sea coast but in the interior of the country. The dislike the Russians feel for the sea service is now beginning to disappear, in consequence of the Emperor Nicholas having educated his son Constantine for the navy. The time is past when the officers of the Russian navy were in the habit of wearing boots and spurs, and of repeating that they would soon exchange into the cavalry."
Provided by Stephen McLaughlin