Battle of Rochensalm. Johan Titrich Schulz
The Second Battle of Rochensalm took place 230 years ago. The Swedish fleet inflicted a heavy defeat on the Russian rowing flotilla under the command of Prince Nassau-Siegen. This allowed Sweden to conclude an honorable peace with Russia.
Chasing the enemy
During the Vyborg battle (“How Chichagov missed the opportunity to destroy the Swedish fleet”), the Swedish ship and rowing fleet, at the cost of heavy losses, was able to break through and avoid complete death in the encirclement. The sailing ships of the Swedes went to Sveaborg for repairs. The rowing fleet under the command of King Gustav III and flag captain Lieutenant Colonel Karl Olaf Kronstedt remained in Rochensalm (Svenskzund). There was already a Pomeranian skerry division – 40 ships. The Swedish command significantly strengthened the defense of the naval base. In particular, artillery batteries were placed on the islands. The Swedish ships anchored in the roadstead with a powerful L-shaped formation, anchored. The Swedish flotilla consisted of about 200 armed ships, including 6 frigates and 16 galleys, according to various sources, 12.5-14 thousand crew. The Swedes had here about 100 gunboats with 450 heavy guns. In addition, there were a large number of transports.
Thus, the Swedish flotilla stood in a strong position south of the large roadstead. The northern passage was blocked, blocked. Galleys and gunboats stood between the large ships, and bombardment ships on the flanks beyond the islands. Batteries have been installed on the islands. The flanks were covered by gunboats.
The Russian rowing flotilla, which was pursuing the enemy, was commanded by Vice Admiral Karl Nassau-Siegen. The brave naval commander longed for victory. The prince had already beaten the enemy at Rochensalm in August 1789. Russian ships reached Rochensalm on the night of June 28 (July 9), 1790 and decided to attack the enemy on the move, despite the wind unfavorable for our ships. Obviously, the Russian command underestimated the enemy, believing that the enemy was demoralized and would not offer strong resistance. They also counted on superiority in naval artillery. Therefore, the Russians did not even conduct reconnaissance. The Russian flotilla consisted of about 150 ships, including about 20 rowing frigates, 15 medium ships, 23 galleys and shebeks, over 18 thousand people.
The Prince of Nassau decided to attack from only one side (during the first Battle of Rochensalm, they attacked from two sides). In the morning, Russian ships attacked the enemy’s southern flank. In the vanguard was Slizov with gunboats and floating batteries. In the midst of the battle, when our sailing ships began to enter the first line, in the intervals between the ships of the rowing fleet, Slizov’s gunboats, due to the strong fatigue of the rowers and the wind, were thrown onto the galley line. The system was mixed. Swedish ships took advantage of this, went to a rapprochement and opened heavy fire, which caused serious damage to the Russian ships.
Active fire from Russian floating batteries corrected the situation for a while. The ships began to take their places, the battle flared up with renewed vigor along the entire line. However, the wind intensified and interfered with the movement of our ships. The pitching did not allow aimed fire. The rowers fell from exhaustion. Swedish ships were at anchor, firing at the enemy from behind the islands. The Russian flotilla suffered losses. After a five-hour stubborn battle, when part of the enemy flotilla began to bypass our ships, the Russian gunboats began to retreat to the south.
As a result, this time the superiority was on the side of the Swedes. The weather was unfavorable, the Russian ships were thrown away by a strong wind, their movement and maneuvering was difficult. The Russians came under heavy fire from coastal batteries and anchored Swedish galleys and gunboats. Then, skillfully maneuvering, the enemy gunboats moved to the left wing and attacked the Russian galleys. The Russian system was confused, and the retreat began. In the course of the indiscriminate retreat, most of the Russian frigates, galleys and shebeks were smashed against the rocks, capsized and drowned. Some Russian ships anchored and resisted. But the enemy had the advantage, and they were burned or taken on board.
On the morning of June 29 (July 10), the Swedes themselves attacked and drove the defeated Russian flotilla away from Rochensalm. The Russians lost about 7,400 people killed, wounded and captured. 52 ships were lost, including 22 large ones. The Swedes have captured the Russian flagship – “Katarina”. The Swedish fleet lost only a few ships and about 300 people.
The commander of the Russian flotilla, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, admitted that the main reason for the defeat was his self-confidence and frivolity. He sent all the orders and awards bestowed to him to the Russian empress. But Catherine was merciful and returned them with the words: “One failure cannot wipe out from my memory that you were 7 times the winner of my enemies in the south and in the north.”
It is worth noting that Rochensalm could not have a significant impact on the course of the campaign. The Russian armed forces retained the initiative. Having received reinforcements from Kronstadt and Vyborg, the Russian rowing flotilla returned to Rochensalm and blocked the Swedes. The Russians were preparing for a new attack on Rochensalm. The Russian army in Finland was attacking Sveaborg, where the enemy’s sailing fleet was stationed. The Russian naval fleet blocked Sveaborg. That is, the continuation of the war led to the complete defeat of Sweden.
However, the unsuccessful battle for the Baltic Fleet had major political consequences. The prestige of the king of Sweden and his fleet in Europe, shaken after Reval, Krasnaya Gorka and Vyborg, was restored. The Battle of Svensksund (in the Svensksund Strait) is considered the most brilliant victory in Swedish naval history. The Swedes were able to start peace negotiations on equal terms. Catherine II, who from the very beginning looked at this conflict as an annoying obstacle in the war with Turkey, also did not want to continue the campaign. On August 3 (14), 1790, the Peace of Verela was signed. On behalf of Russia, the treaty was signed by Lieutenant General Osip Igelstrom, on behalf of Sweden – by General Gustav Armfelt. The two powers decided to maintain the status quo; no territorial changes took place. Russia abandoned some of the formulations of the Nystadt and Abo treaties, according to which St. Petersburg had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Swedish kingdom.
The Swedish monarch Gustav II wanted to get from Catherine II territorial concessions in Finland, and that St. Petersburg made peace with the Ottoman Empire. However, the Russian empress gave a categorical refusal. Stockholm had to come to terms and abandon the alliance with Turkey. Gustav quickly changed his tone and began to ask to restore fraternal relations. Rochensalm was a great fortune for a war-weakened Sweden. The Swedes did not have the financial and material opportunities to continue the war. The Swedish society and the army wanted peace. At the same time, Catherine the Great, wishing to restore friendly relations with her cousin (“fat Gu”), provided him with financial assistance. Gustav was preparing for a new war – with Denmark and revolutionary France. True, he did not have time to start a new war. Such a zealous king is already tired of the order of the Swedes. In 1792 he fell victim to a conspiracy of the aristocracy (the king was shot).