1877-09-03 A MERCHANTMAN and an IRONCLAD

London Times, 3 September 1877, p. 10: "A MERCHANTMAN and an IRONCLAD"


Sir, -- Having seen a report in The Times of the 8th inst., headed "A Merchantman and an Ironclad," allow me to remark that, while I have not the slightest wish to detract from the courage shown by the captain of the Vesta for having been rash enough to fire at so powerful an opponent, or to begrudge him the honours so profusely awarded, still, as Chief of the Staff of Hobart Pasha's fleet, and as the officer who boarded the Fethi-Bouland a few days afterwards to inquire into the circumstances of the Vesta's escape, I cannot but feel that a true report should follow Captain Baranoff's letter, if only to prevent non-professional readers forming erroneous ideas of the comparative power of ironclads and wooden merchant steamers.

The Fethi-Bouland -- an ironclad corvette carrying four 12-ton guns in a main deck battery, and none on her upper deck, as stated by Captain Baranoff -- was proceeding from Constantinople to Sulina, having on board 26 guns and a large quantity of shot and ammunition for that place. Some 30 miles from Kustendji she observed a steamer standing towards the land from the direction of Sebastopol, and immediately gave chase. The vessel, which, it seems, was the Vesta, instantly turned and made all speed in the opposite direction. The Fethi-Bouland chased her for four hours, occasionally taking a long shot, until some apparent accident to the Russian enabled her to gain a little (this, as officially reported by the Vesta, was something wrong in her rudder) for a short time only, when she managed to get into a range of about 4,000 yards, and threw seven shells from her two foremost guns, not, to the knowledge of the Turkish captain, with any effect. The Vesta in the meantime having repaired whatever was wrong, gained ground quickly, firing whatever artillery she had far short of the mark, and as she continued thus rapidly to increase her distance, the captain of the Fethi-Bouland, having other urgent duties to attend to, and feeling it a hopeless chase, proceeded on his course. Nothing was known of the loss sustained by the Vesta till her report appeared; it seems, however, that the Turkish fire was pretty good. As for grenades, rifles, or anything else being used, all this is purely imaginary. That officers were seen in blue is not impossible, that being the uniform of the Turkish Navy; but not an officer or man was touched in the Turkish ship.

I have heard that writing a good despatch is better than fighting a good battle; but I regret that such a document as the one in question should be signed by a Russian naval officer.

I have the honour to remain your obedient servant,

MANTHOP BEY, Chief of the Staff, Black Sea Fleet, Varna, Aug. 21, 1877.

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin