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The naval Battle of Chesma took place on 5–7 July 1770 near and in Çeşme (Chesme or Chesma) Bay, in the area between the western tip of Anatolia and the island of Chios, which was the site of a number of past naval battles between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice. It was a part of the Orlov Revolt of 1769, a precursor to the later Greek War of Independence (1821–29), and the first of a number of disastrous fleet battles for the Ottomans against Russia.
The Russo-Turkish War had begun in 1768, and Russia sent several squadrons from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea to draw Ottoman attention away from their Black Sea fleet, then only 6 battleships (ships of the line) strong. Two Russian squadrons, commanded by Admiral Grigory Spiridov and Rear Admiral John Elphinstone, a British advisor, combined under the overall command of Count Alexei Orlov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Fleet and went to look for the Ottoman fleet.
On 5 July 1770 they came across it anchored in line just north of Çeşme Bay, western Anatolia. Details of the Ottoman fleet are uncertain but it included 14–16 ships of the line including Real Mustafa of 84 guns, Rodos of 60 guns and a 100-gun flagship. In addition there were perhaps 6 frigates, 6 xebecs, 13 galleys and 32 small craft, with about 1,300 guns in total. About 10 of the ships of the line, of 70–100 guns, were in the Ottoman main line with a further 6 or so ships of the line in the 2nd, arranged so that they could fire through the gaps in the first line. Behind that were the frigates, xebecs etc. The fleet was commanded by Kapudan Pasha Mandalzade Hüsameddin, in the fourth ship from the front (north end) of the line, with Hasan Pasha in the first ship, Real Mustafa, and Cafer Bey in the seventh. Two further ships of the line, probably small, had left this fleet for Mytilene the previous evening.
After organizing a plan of attack, the Russian battle line (see Table 1) sailed towards the south end of the Ottoman line and then turned north, coming alongside the Ottomans, with the tail end coming into action last (Elphinston had wanted to approach the northern end first, then follow the wind along the Ottoman line, attacking their ships one by one – the method used by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in 1798).
The Ottomans opened fire at about 11.45am, followed by the Russians slightly later. Three of the Russian ships of the line had trouble staying in position; Evropa turned around and came back behind Rostislav, Tri Svyatitelya circled the 2nd Ottoman vessel before coming back into the Russian line, being attacked in error by Trech Ierarchov as she did so, and Sv. Ianuarii turned around before coming back into the line.
Spiridov, in Sv. Evstafii, had a close-range battle with Hasan Pasha in Real Mustafa, before the latter was suddenly seen to be on fire. Her mainmast came down and landed on Sv. Evstafiis deck, causing the Russian ship to immediately blow up. Shortly later Real Mustafa blew up as well.
According to Elphinstone, who claimed the Russians were almost useless, Spiridov and Count Feodor Orlov (brother of the commander), had left Sv. Evstafii before the fighting became close-range. Spiridov ended up on Tri Svyatitelya. Sv. Evstafii's captain, Kruse, survived too. At about 2pm the fighting ended, as the Ottomans cut their cables and moved south into the bay, forming themselves into a defensive line of 8 ships of the line, a 2nd line, and the rest beyond.
On 6 July the Russians bombarded the Ottoman ships and land positions, and at about 12:30 a.m. on the morning of 7 July Orlov sent Samuel Greig, (who transferred to Rostislav) to attack with Evropa, Rostislav and Ne tron menya forming a south-north line facing the Ottomans, and with Saratov in reserve, Nadezhda attacking the batteries at the eastern side of the bay entrance, Afrika attacking the batteries on the western side, and Grom near Afrika. At about 1:30 a.m. or earlier (times were about 90 minutes earlier, according to Elphinstone), fire from Grom and/or Ne tron menya caused an Ottoman ship of the line to blow up after her main topsail caught fire, and the fire quickly spread to other ships of the line. By 2 a.m. two Ottoman ships of the line had blown up and more were on fire, and Greig sent in three fireships (the fourth, seeing the danger, stayed out), which contributed in a small way to the burning of almost the entire Ottoman fleet. At about 4 a.m., boats were sent in to save two ships of the line which were not burning, but one of these caught fire while it was being towed. The other, Rodos 60, survived and was captured along with five galleys. Fighting ended at about 8 a.m. Russian casualties on 5 July were 14 killed, plus 636 killed in Sv. Evstafii, and about 30 wounded, and on 7 July 11 killed. Ottoman casualties were much higher. Hüsameddin, Hasan Pasha and Cafer Bey survived. Hüsameddin was removed from his position, which was given to Cafer Bey. This was the only significant fleet battle during the Russo-Turkish War.
|Evropa (a)||66||Battleship (ship of the line)|
|Sv. Evstafii (b)||68||Battleship; blew up|
|Tri Ierarcha (c)||66||Battleship|
|Ne tron menya||66||Battleship|
|Sv. Pavel (e)||8||Pink (store ship)|
|Potchtalon (e)||14||Despatch vessel|
|Graf Tchernyshev (f)||22||Armed merchantman|
|Graf Panin (f)||18||Armed merchantman|
|Graf Orlov (f)||18||Armed merchantman|
|? (captain Dugdale)||Fireship; sunk|
|? (captain Mackenzie)||Fireship; expended|
|? (captain Ilin)||Fireship; expended|
|? (captain Gagarin)||Fireship|
Table 1: Russian ships. Battleships (ships of the line) are listed in the order they came into action. Orlov's squadron in pink, Spiridov's in blue and Elphinston's in yellow. Notes: (a) captain Klokatchev; (b) Spiridov's flagship, captain Kruse; (c) Orlov's flagship, captain Greig; (d) Elphinston's flagship; (e) One or both of these were present; (f) Hired English ships that were supporting the fleet
The Battle of Chesma was fought on the same day as the land Battle of Larga. It was the greatest naval defeat suffered by Ottomans since the Battle of Lepanto (1571). This battle inspired great confidence in the Russian fleet and allowed the Russians to control the Aegean Sea for some time. The defeat of the Ottoman fleet also sped up rebellions by minority groups in the Ottoman Empire, especially the Orthodox Christian nations in the Balkan peninsula, who helped the Russian army in defeating the Ottoman Empire.
After this naval victory, the Russian fleet stayed in Aegean for the following five years. It came back to Çeşme twice more to bombard it during this time. Historians[who?] still debate the rationale for this Russian military focus on this small fort town while there were many other more strategic targets along the Aegean coast.
Catherine the Great commissioned four monuments to commemorate the victory: Chesma Palace and Church of Saint John at Chesme Palace in St Petersburg (1774–77), Chesma Obelisk in Gatchina (1775), and Chesma Column in Tsarskoe Selo (1778).
- Action of 27 May 1770
- Action of 6 November 1772
- Action of 4 July 1773
- Action of 3 September 1773
- Action of 20 June 1774
- The history of Russian Navy, article Chesma and Patras
- Naval wars in the Levant 1559—1853 — R. C. Anderson ISBN 1-57898-538-2
- John Elphinston, Papers Relating to the Russo-Turkish War
- Jelavich, Barbara. History of the Balkans. Cambridge University Press, 1983. Page 69.
- Anderson, Roger Charles (1952) Naval wars in the Levant 1559—1853, Martino Publishing (New pub. 2006) ISBN 1-57898-538-2
- İsipek, Ali Rıza ve Oğuz Aydemir (2006) 1770 Çeşme Deniz Savaşı: 1768–1774 Osmanlı-Rus Savaşları, Istanbul:Denizler Kitabevi, ISBN 975-00051-4-7 (Turkish)
- Isipek Ali Rıza and Aydemir Oguz (2010) Battle of Çesme 1770. 1768-1774 Ottoman - Russian Wars, Istanbul, Denizler Kitabevi, ISBN 978-9944-264-27-3
- Baş, Ersan: Çeşme, Navarin, Sinop Baskınları ve Sonuçları [Çeşme, Navarino, Sinop Raids and the Results]. Türk Deniz Harp Tarihinde İz Bırakan Gemiler, Olaylar ve Şahıslar. Piri Reis Araştırma Merkezi Yayını, Sayı: 8. İstanbul 2007, Deniz Basımevi, ISBN 975-409-452-7