Pekka Toivanen, January 1991 at SHA conference, Richmond, Virginia
|The galley fleet founded by czar Peter the Great
achieved its first victory ever over the Swedish Coastal Fleet at the battle of Hankoniemi on July, 1714. This
victory gave czar Peter's navy free passage to the west into the Baltic
Sea and to the north into the Gulf of Bothnia. In honor of the victory,
the name Gangut (from 'Hangöudd', the Swedish form of Hankoniemi)
was thereafter reserved as the name of major Russian (and later Soviet)
battleships. In september 1714, the treacherous shoals and storms of
the Gulf of Bothnia caused the first major casualties to the same
fleet. Twenty-eight ships of different types, i.e. more than a third of
the entire fleet, were destroyed in the coastal waters and went down
with all hands. The casualties in ships and men were, according to the
diary of Peter the Great, "greater than in the bloody battle of
Together with divers of Bothnia Navalis, the marine historical society, the Pietarsaari Town Museum, has been examining wrecks dating from the Great Northern War (1700-1721) since 1979. Included in the project was the research done on the fate of the Russian galley fleet, conducted in Närpiö (Swed. Närpes) in summer 1983 and 1984, in Maksamaa (Swed. Maxmo) in 1985, and again in Närpiö in 1990. The aim has been to locate the sites of the shipwrecks, to identify the units which suffered casualties and to investigate the origins of booty carried by the ships. The National Board of Antiquities in Finland made a deposition in winter 1990 of finds acquired in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the Pietarsaari Town Museum to support the work being done on the Russian galley fleet. With the advent of perestroika, Soviet scientists have also expressed interest inthe project, but for financial reasons their rather extravagant scheme could not be executed in summer 1990.
During the Great Northern War, czar Peter the Great attempted to penetrate to the Baltic sea; he conquered the top of the Gulf of Finland and founded there the fortified city of St. Petersburg, which became the new capital of Russia. The proximity of the new metropolis to Finnish soil has for the three centuries elapsing since then had a profound effect on the vicissitudes of Finnish history and on the borders of Finland, both when she was part of Sweden (until 1809) and when she was part of Russia (1809 to 1917), as well as after she gained independence (from 1917). The still existing naval base and fortress of Kronstadt was also founded in 1703. From 1704, Russia controlled all of Ingria, and, in subsequent years, all of the Baltic lands, which are now independent countries. The conquest of Finland was begun in 1710 after the fall of Vyborg; Helsinki (Sved. Helsingfors) and Turku (Swed. Åbo) were taken in 1713, and the fate of the rest of Finland was sealed during 1714. The Swedish-Finnish army suffered a crushing defeat in winter 1714, which made the inland areas accessible to the Russian infantry and cavalry. During the same summer, detachments of the Russian Navy and Archipelago fleet broke into both the Baltic to the west and the Gulf of Bothnia to the north after the battle of Hankoniemi mentioned above.
In recent years the research conducted by Pietarsaari Town Museum and the Bothnia Navalis society has concentrated on the expedition made by the Russians to the Gulf of Bothnia in autumn 1714. The fleet commanded by vice-admiral Fedor Matveyevitch Apraxin, a favorite of Peter the Great, had received orders in August 1714 to advance up the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia to Vaasa and from there to send a smaller detachment to reconnoitre waterways on the Swedish side and to kidnap pilots. The main fleet was to proceed to Kokkola before the ice came, to make contact with the remnants of the Swedish-Finnish forces and to destroy the northern coastal area. They were to overwinter further south on the Gulf of Bothnia, where the ice would melt earlier in spring.
Vice-admiral Apraxin's fleet had moved from Åland to Vaasa by
September 9, suffering heavy casualties in continuous storms on the
exposed and rocky coastal route. Apraxin formed some of his ships into
a special detachment under major general Golowin, consisting of nine
scampavoyas and an unknown number of sloops. Golowin's detachment was
given the task of reconnoitring and marking the passage to Umeå
on the Swedish side and of taking prisoner pilots who knew the routes
south to Stockholm and north to Tornio (Sw. Torneå). The
detachment was also to capture cargo ships, to appropriate everything
they could find in their holds, and then burn the ships. The expedition
of the Golowin detachment on September 14-20, 1714 is quite well
documented, since Golowin's own report of the trip to vice-admiral
Apraxin has been preserved. He mentions having filled his scampavoyas
with booty captured from ships taken in Umeå. A fire started in
the town of Umeå during the raid, "but whether it was burned by
us or by them will never be known."
Golowin also mentions that four scampavoyas were shipwrecked on the return voyage off the Finnish coast near an island named "Vestervo". Since the work by the Russian scholar Myschlayevski on the Great Northern War of Peter the Great (and Golowin's report, which it contains) has not previously been available to Finnish researchers, this place has remained unidentified, although the description fits well with the place called Ryssberget ('Russian mountain') investigated in 1985 (Toivanen 1988:95-104).
Instead, Russian sources, including the diary of Peter the Great and his letters, which have been published, are very detailed in some respects; however, they have not been used in Finnish research to any great extent up to now. The reports contained in these sources set forth the approximate locations of the shipwrecks. It has been the task of the field work teams to examine the shipwreck sites, the locations of the wrecks and incidental finds on the basis of the literature and the oral tradition, to identify and date these finds, and to restore the objects recovered. Most of the objects restored to date have been the result of salvage excavations, the work having been done at sites raised above or close to sea level by uplift and thus made subject to destruction by ice or vandalism. Since the losses suffered by the galley fleet occurred in the course of a long voyage, the finds are widely scattered along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, and the traces of each individual shipwreck have been scattered over large areas by the movements of ice and waves. Therefore work on the galley fleet will continue for many years to come (Sjurnal Ili Padennaja sapiska imperatora Pjotra Velikogo 1698 Goda).
Another galley shipwreck site which has been known for a long time is in the municipality of Maksamaa, about 40 km north of Vaasa, in the outer archipelago as specified in folk tales and Golowin's report. Golowin mentions a shipwreck at a place called "Vestervo", most probably a corruption of Västerö ('western island'), which has since joined with Österö ('eastern island') whose the westernmost crags are locally known as Ryssberget ('Russian mountain'). The local inhabitants found in the coastal waters and on the rocky shore many items which had belonged to the Russian galley fleet: money, ammunition, weapons and dishes. Early finds were transfered to museum collections in the late 19th century, but it was not until the 1960's that the Museum of Ostrobothnia and a local divers' club explored the area, albeit unsystematically. Nevertheless, Ryssberget yielded a notable amount of incidental objects, such as silver coins, Swedish sheet metal money, ammunition, dishes and other personal effects. Awareness of these finds and the find of a cannon in Närpiö led to the start of a long-term project in the 1980's to study the events which had affected local folk traditions and history so profoundly (Toivanen 1988:95-104).
Peter the Great acquired his first galleys from Holland as a result of his famous sojourn in Holland and England studying the ways of the West, but the main part of the rapidly assembled galley fleet was built in Russia and in lands conquered by Russia. Thus, Peter founded a school for shipwrights at the Voronets shipyeard in 1703, in Reval (Tallinn) in 1703 and in Kronstadt in 1719, but at the same time, galleys were built for the Russians at shipyards along the occupied Finnish coast (Belik 1990:4, Toivanen 1988:99).
Both Myschlayevski and, more recently, Belik have classified the ship types in the galley fleet. Both defined ship sizes by the number of oars (pairs of oars) and crew. According to Myschlayevski, a galley (another picture) had sixteen to eighteen benches, with one pair of oars and one to six oarsmen each. Belik presents a detailed breakdown of the crew of a galley of a galley of fifty oars (twenty-five pairs of oars) as follows:
A scampavoya was a two-masted ship, about 30 m long and with a draught of 1.5 m; it had 16-18 pairs of oars and a crew of about 125 (Mysclayevski 1896, Belik 1990:5-6).
Furthermore, seven sloops and five 'long boats' were destroyed on the expeditions commanded by Apraxin and Golowin. Golowin's report reveals that he had captured "Swedish" (i.e. Swedish and Finnish) skutas and boats which he called "karbus". Evidently the sloops and boats listed on the casualty roster were just such skutas and karbuses. The galley fleet also had cavalry galleys, rectangular, two-decked towed gun barges carrying 40 cannons each (Myschlayevski 1896, Toivanen 1988:99).
Reconstructed uniform of a Russian seaman.
Sketch: PKM - Pekka Toivanen.
|The finds made in Närpiö in 1983-84
and 1990 and at Ryssberget in 1985 contain many parts of uniforms,
mainly buttons and buckles and very well preserved footwear. Although
they do not reveal which unit their original owners belonged to, the
finds clearly show that the remnants are Russian army issue: uniform
buttons and buckles adorned with the
double-headed eagle, Dutch-style ammunition holders made of wood and
worn on a belt, parts of weapons and ammunition. The Russians enlisted
their seamen from coastal provinces, but the oarsmen and infantrymen
for the galleys could have been seconded from any unit whatever.
However, the winter camp order sent by vice-admiral Apraxin to the czar
for the winter of 1713-1714 gives an indication of the origin of the
troops. In the drawing by Tryshnikov, lieutenant general Bruce and his
cavalry (who participated in the Ostrobothnian expedition in autumn
1714) and major general Golowin's men were placed in the same camp.
This was the winter camp for the Siberian grenadiers and the regiments
from Archangel, Galicia, St. Petersburg, "Vätski" and Palagots
They had uniforms from their own regiments, and although the cloth parts have disintegrated, the metal, wood and leather objects have been preserved. Metal detectors identified a Russian soldier from a row of buttons, a buckle and weapons with ammunition lying close by.
The navy had its own uniform by this time. In 1701, part of the navy, the Moscow Navigation School, was fitted out with its own uniform; in 1707, the oarsmen of the aristocracy's galleys were similarly dressed, and in 1710 the seamen. The uniforms were intended to be changed every two years. The style of the uniform followed the Dutch model, and the color was cornflower blue. The boots and shoes found also belong to the navy uniform: non-commissioned officers received a new pair of boots every two years (Belik 1990:11). Information to be revealed by the bones preserved in the surviving parts of the uniforms, e.g. boots, is pending the result of osteological examination; the decision on how to treat the remains is also still to come. The most probable solution is to declare the Truthällan and Ryssberget areas a military cemetery.
The iron parts of the hand weapons have rusted completely over the years, but the wooden and brass parts have been preserved, the former partly, the latter in toto. The origin of these weapons is clear from the numerous "Amsterdam plaques" originally fixed to the sides of the musket stocks. Peter the Great's acquisition of muskets was no doubt connected with his purchase of ships from Holland. The pistols and edged weapons were possibly also of Dutch origin, but their iron parts have rusted totally, and the wood is damaged as well. The sword hilts, made of wood and coated with a brass fibre weave, are very well preserved. The sword sheaths, made of wood and covered with leather, have also been preserved intact in many cases (PKM: The Ryssberget Report).
Grapeshot used on the armed ships in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The four figures show the different parts of the charge: from the right, the base and the connecting rod, the balls of iron or lead, which werethen covered in a canvas tube. The finished charge was dipped in pitch or tar, which has kept the left-hand charge so well preserved. This grapeshot belonged to the Russian galley fleet and was found by divers from the Bothnia Navalis' diving camp. (PKM BSN 762:5) Photo: Jens-Ole Hedman
According to the commanders of the galley detachments and to the losses recorded in Peter the Great's diary, the scampavoyas carried grenariers armed with 70 mm diameter hand grenades, hollow iron balls of very fragile, easily splintering cast, with a mouthpiece made of oak and covered in tarred canvas. The iron of preserved hand grenades, or parts of them, has rusted away entirely, but the remaining graphite has retainedits shape.
The bulk of the finds consisted of 14, 16 and 18 mm lead bullets, both finished and 'raw shot'. The 'raw shot' was apparently ground down to fit the calibre of the muskets and pistols on grindstones carried on board the ships (Belik 1990).
From written sources we know that each vessel had a gun master as well as other craftsmen. Studies at the Svarthällan site in Närpiö revealed a pine chest that seems to have belonged to the gun master, as it contained some smaller tools and spare parts for weapons.
Fourteen millstones about 53 cm in diameter and 70 mm thick were found at the two Närpiö shipwreck sites, Truthällan and Svarthällan. Some of the 'Russian ovens' of the Apraxin detachment which camped there still remain on Truthällan (PMK: The Närpiö Reports 1983-84).
General Armfelt's Swedish and Finnish troops, which were chaced by the Russians, used the same provisioning strategy. The personal equipment of every soldier included a sickle for reaping grain. The galley fleet, on the other hand, took the grain they needed straight out of barns.
Among the preserved cooking utensils are a number of copper pans, whole or in fragments. These would seem to have been used by the Russians rather than being part of the booty. On the other hand, a bronze tap with lead and copper packing, intended for a wooden barrel, which was found on Ryssberget where major general Golowin's detachment had been shipwrecked, bears the maker's initials HGW, indicating Swedish origin (PMK: The Ryssberget Repport 1990).
However, it is also possible that the wooden barrel with the tap could also have been used on a Russian vessel for storing water. A pot, originally cast iron, mounted on a tripod and still well preserved in shape, could be either Russian or Swedish. Like the other iron objects, the iron has rusted away completely, leaving only graphite.
The old and more recent finds from Ryssberget include numerous items of glassware and earthenware of various kinds, most of which has been ground into small pieces. However, the bases of decorated beakers, the lower part of medicine bottles, and bottle openings with their necks are still recognizable. Their origin is also unclear, which means they could either be booty or part of the crew's personal effects. If they are booty, the glass and earthenware at Truthällan and Svarthällan in Närpiö would be from the Finnish coast, whereas the objects that ended up on Ryssberget after Golowin's disaster could be from Umeå and Holmö in Sweden. The objects identified as booty will be examined in more detail below (PKM: The Närpiö Report 1990, The Ryssberget Report 1990).
It is characteristic of the abundant booty finds at Ryssberget that the only Swedish coins were found there. The coins in question were a square copper thaler from 1712 and a one öre coin from 1635. More coin finds might have been expected from the Golowin detachment as the whole war chest of the Swedish Västerbotten regiment, containing 4,200 thaler's worth of money in different denominations, had fallen into the hands of the Russians in Umeå (PKM: The Ryssberget Report 1985).
The old and new finds at Ryssberget include a large number of pewter dishes or their fragments. All the intact pewter plates and the hallmarked fragments are Swedish; so, in all likelihood, are the unhallmarked fragments. A large four-sided pewter bottle bears the hallmark of Göran Jeske (1623-1652), a Stockholm jug maker. The initials 'ES/MW', surrounded by leaves, are engraved on the front of the bottle, suggesting that it was a wedding gift. Jeske also made two of the damaged pewter plates found at Ryssberget. These, too, are engraved with the initials of the original owners. Among the finds is the upper part of an eight-sided pewter bottle, with a very clear hallmark, made by Johan Johansson, a pewterer who was active from 1677 to 1715. A pewter tankard in the early Ryssberget finds was hallmarked by Stockholm pewterer Jacob Sauer (active 1697-1723) in 1707. Stockholm pewterer Mickel Gerber's (active 1697-1710) two unusual baroque plates and Stockholm jug maker Hans Moritz's (active 1652-1688) two plates are very well preserved, while the hallmarks of two broken plates also remain. The findings also include hallmarked or signed pewter plates and candlesticks and fragments whose hallmarks have not been identified (PKM: The Ryssberget Report 1990)
Parts of chandeliers from the Skultuna brass works (founded 1607) are also part of earlier findings made at Ryssberget but which have only been studied in the past years. Dating from the second half of the 17th century, they represent three identifiable models still in use in both Finnish and Swedish churches. The finds of chandeliers and one two-branch bronze candlestick were probably part of Golowin's great booty, which he and his troops amassed in Umeå and Holmö and which he refers to in his report. The chandeliers either came from the burned-down Umeå church or they could have been part of the cargo carried by ships taken in Holmö, which was transferred to the scampavoyas. In the latter case the chandeliers could originate from Finland, having been brought to Sweden by refugees from Ostrobothnia in an attempt to save valuables from their churches (PKM: The Ryssberget Report 1990).
The Russian 'drop' coins, which are still in the Ostrobothnia museum, date from the period between 1699 and 1712 and thus, like the other finds, support the theory that they come from the Russian offensive on the coast of Ostrobothnia in autumn 1714. The following list gives the dates, seals and number of the coins (PM Ryssberget, 'drop' kopek coins, bags 1-36):
only relevant parts translated!
denomination year ruler seal numberDuring the research currently under way, a leather purse containing 247 one kopek 'drop coins' was found at Svarthällan. These are at present being identified and restored, but it is likely that they date from the same years as coins of the old find at Ryssberget. The money was either for paying the seamen, as it was all of the same denomination, or then it could havesimply belonged to the men. The combined monetary value is not very great, however: the ruble, introduced in 1704, was worth 100 kopeks; the monthly pay of a seaman was then two rubles, which would make the 600 or so kopek coins found at Ryssberget the equivalent of three month's pay for a seaman and the Svarthällan find that of one month's pay. A first mate's monthly salary was 10 rubles, a captain's 25 and vice-admiral Apraxin's was about 200 rubles (Belik 1990, Sarvas 1990).
1 kopek Aleksei Mikhailovich
Peter the Great
The Russians also had copper money at that time, but it had only recently come into use and was not as popular as silver money. Thus the Svarthällan finds of 1990 include only one Russian copper denga (= ½ kopek) from 1704, the same year the first rubles were minted (PMK, the Närpiö report 1990).
Further finds in this group from Närpiö over years have included snuff boxes of various descriptions, even a silver snuff box in baroque style. The material and workmanship of this box suggest that it belonged to an officer, although it could also have been part of the booty. A small earthenware bottle found in 1990 was probably the ink well of the secretary on board of the foundered vessels. Several tinder boxes were also found at Svarthällan. The best preserved brass box still contained the flint and tinder, but the striking steel had rusted away. The use of a box, missing its lid and decorated with plant motifs, found in the summer 1990 excavations at Svarthällan is still unknown (PM Nä S 13, PKM BSN 660:7 and 662:6).
In addition to coins and buttons and buckles decorated with the two-headed eagle, the most typically 'Russian' finds are Greek Orthodox objects found at Ryssberget, which include portable icons and Orthodox crosses. One panel of an enamelled brasstriptych was recovered in the 1960's. In 1985, this group of objects was augmented with a portable icon and a 'blossoming crucifix'. The former was a two-part brass 'panagia' or icon pendant from the 18th century, reminiscent of the school of famous 16th century icon painter Andrei Rublev. It consists of two round (36 mm diameter) panels, representing the omen of the Mother of God ('Znamenia'), the so-called 'Mandylion icon', the crusifixion and the Holy Trinity. The 'blossoming crucifix' is made of gold inlaid with silver to which are attached black marcasites in the form of a cross. Between the arms of the cross there are plant (or flower) stems. The inlay of silver and marcasites, which were very typical of Russian jewellery, forms an orthodox cross inside the cross itself (Toivanen 1988:102).
So far, Finnish historical literature has contained very little information on the part played by the galley fleet in the Russian invasion of Finland in 1714. An example of this is the most recent seven-volume Finnish history which does not once mention the Russian campaign against Ostrobothnia and Sweden in autumn 1714.
The two known and partially explored shipwreck sites, the graveyeards of the galley fleet, cover several square kilometers of sea. Therefore, further studies are planned for years to come, if the financial situation allows, possibly in cooperation with Soviet and Swedish scientists.
BELIK, ANATOLI (1990) The Russian Navy in the 1700's. A paper from the VIII Baltic Seminar. The War of King Gustavus III and the Naval Battles of Ruotsinsalmi. Kotka 5-7.7.1990.
BOXER, C.R. (1977) The Duch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800. London
FINLANDS SVENSKA FOLKDIKTNING II (1924) Sägner, 2 Historiska sägner, utgivna av V.E.V. Wessman. Svenska Literatursällskapet i Finland. Helsingfors.
JANE, FRED T. (1899) The Imperial Russian Navy. London.
JUTIKKALA, EINO and PIRINEN, KAUKO (1979) A History of Finland. Espoo.
LEHMANN, L.Th. (1984) Galleys in the Netherlands. Amsterdam.
MATERIAL DLA ISTORII RUSSKOGO FLOTA I (1866) Material dla istorii Russkogo Flota izvlechenyja iz churnalov Petra Velikogo, Jekateriny I i knasja Menschikova i morskye churnaly N. A. Sinyavyna i grafa Apraxina. Sankt Petersburg.
MATTSSON, RAINER (1984) När ryska galärer spred skräck i skärgården från Hangö till Umeå. Hufvudstadsbladet. Helsingfors.
MOROZOV, A.V. (1912) Katalogh, Russkih I. Moskva.
MYSCHLAYEVSKIJ, A.S. (1896) Pjotr Velikij. Vojna v Finlandij v 1712 1714 goda. Sankt Petersburg.
SJURNAL ILI PADENNAJA SAPISKA IMPERATORA PJOTRA VELIKOGO S 1698 GODA (1770) Sankt Petersburg.
SVENSKA FLOTTANS HISTORIA I-III (1944-49) Stockholm.
TOIVANEN, PEKKA (1988) Expedition to Ostrobothnia by the Russian Island Fleet, 1714. On the Russian Trial in the Maksamaa (Maxmo) Islands.
WARNER, OLIWER (1979) Fighting Sail: Three hundred Years of Warfare
at Sea. London.