Revel and Krasnaya Gorka


Forced to wage war on two fronts, the Russian military command was faced with many difficult decisions. The bulk of Russia's forces were fighting the Ottoman Empire in the south, and consequently the army did not have a large ground force to dispatch to Finland. In place of army troops it was decided that Russian seamen would have to do battle with the Swedish land and sea forces. The campaign of 1789 was marked by the victories of the 22-gun craft Mercury under the command of Lieute-nant-Commander Roman Crown. While patrolling the coastline of Bornholm Island on 29 April, the Mercury came upon, attacked and captured the 12-gun Swedish tender Snapupp.

Then, on 21 May in Christians Fjord, the Mercury approached and began firing upon one of the largest of Sweden's frigates, the 40-gun Venus. Taken by surprise and unable to withstand the Mercury's barrage, the captain of the Venus ordered a retreat. However, a sudden calming of the winds and the presence of more Russian ships at the fjord's entrance prevented escape and compelled the Swedes to strike their colours; the Venus and its crew of 302 surrendered to Captain Crown. Having captured two enemy vessels within a period of just three weeks, Crown was awarded the Order of St. George and given command of the captured Swedish frigate. The Venus became part of the Russian fleet and, in accordance with naval tradition, retained its name.

The defeats of 1789 did not dissuade Gustav III. The following spring, having assembled the forces of Sweden's army and fleet, he decided to set sail once more against Saint Petersburg. General-Admiral Duke Carl was sent to eliminate Admiral Chichagov's squadron, which had wintered in the harbour at Revel. The Swedish king himself headed the galley fleet, while General-Admiral Duke Carl approached Revel with 26 ships of the line and large frigates armed with 1,680 cannon. Chichagov, preparing to meet the enemy in the harbour, formed a battle line made up of ten ships of the line and the Venus.

With twice as many ships as the Russians, the Swedes began their attack on 2 May. Duke Carl was certain of victory, but his hopes were short-lived. One after another, the Swedish ships passed in front of the Russian line and were fired upon by Russian gunners. The first five enemy vessels were heavily damaged, and one-the 64-gun Prinse Carl-lost its helm and rudder to Russian cannon fire and surrendered. Carl ordered the last six vessels to turn back immediately. During the retreat and consequent panic, two large Swedish warships became grounded on a shoal. The Swedes could not extricate the 60-gun Riksens Stander and set it afire to prevent its falling into enemy hands. In order to dislodge the second ship, the Tapperhet, the vessel's buoyancy had to be increased by throwing 42 of its cannon overboard into the harbour. In all, the Swedes lost 652 seamen in the battle, 520 of whom were captured. Chichagov's losses were eight killed and 27 wounded.

After the defeat at Revel, the Swedish prince still maintained hope for his galley fleet. General-Admiral Carl spent ten days repairing the damaged vessels and, receiving an additional two ships of the line and a frigate, sailed into the eastern Gulf of Finland to support Gustav III's land forces. The king of Sweden was hastening to seize the fortress of Friedrichsham before the main forces of the Russian army approached. On 4 May the Swedes began to storm the fortress; Gustav III ordered 10,000 seamen into combat, supported by 1,600 guns and 110 vessels; 63 rowing craft advanced to defend the fortress, equipped with half as many guns. Captain Mikhail Slizov headed the flotilla with only 2,000 seamen and soldiers under his command.

The Swedes were confident at the battle's beginning, but neither gunfire nor the Swedish attacks themselves broke the resistance of the fortress's defenders. At last the Russian army arrived at Friedrichsham and drove off the enemy landing party. Having sustained great losses, the Swedes retreated to their ships. Upon leaving the unconquered fortress, Gustav III made for Rochensalm, then crossed Vyborg Bay and concentrated his rowing craft in Bjorke Sound; any further action would need to depend upon Swe-dish ships of the line.

General-Admiral Carl nearly reached the meridian of Krasnaya Gorka, but on 23 May he encountered Vice-Admiral Kruse's Kronstadt squadron. Having repelled the first enemy onslaught, Vice-Admiral Kruse, while aboard the 100-gun Ioann Chrestitel, advanced and began the attack. The commander of the Russian vanguard, Vice-Admiral Yakov Sukhotin on the Dvyenadtsat Apostolov [Twelve Apostles], supported him. The fierce cannon duel brought no success to either side and casualties were heavy for both. Aboard the light frigate Ulla Fersen, Duke Carl was observing the battle from a prudent distance when he received word that Chichagov's squadron was approaching from the west. Although the Swedes still outnumbered the Russian forces, the General-Admiral retreated and, following Gustav III's orders, took shelter in Vyborg Bay.

On 26 May Admiral Chichagov joined Kruse's squadron and took command of Russia's fleet of 27 ships of the line and eighteen frigates. The Swedes were unable to retreat from Vyborg Bay. King Gustav at once realized that all his land and sea forces were in serious jeopardy.