The Little Known Engagement of Great Importance
Changing gears again from movies to history. I was doing some research for an article I'm writing for work on the Great Northern War. What, you haven't heard of the Great Northern War (GNW for those that know of it)? Of course you haven't. If you're not a Swede, Russian, or Pole it wasn't part of your history classes.
In any event, I was looking into the naval battles during the war and came across this nice little story. I found it charming enough to go ahead an write a short post on it tonight before going to bed. Afterall, I needed to get an article posted on Steemit and this seemed like some fun material.
So here goes. The GNW was fought primarily between the Russians and Swedes at the latter part of the 17th century and early part of the 18th century. It also included other nations like the Danes, Poles, and even the Ottomans, but for our short little post tonight, we are going to talk about a Swedish plan to cut the Russians off from trade in the North.
Artist depiction of Novodvinsk Fortress in 1700
You see, before 1700, the Russians didn't really have a navy. They had no ports. They had river craft, but nothing that could compete with the Ships of the Line, Frigates, or even Galleys of other European nations. However, Peter the Great was very big on ships and sailing and his desire for Russia was for it to be a true European power. Therefore, it needed a real navy.
In order to have a real navy, one needs to have a port that can function most of the year. Fortunately for the Russians, they defeated the Swedes in the area that is now St. Petersburg and they were able to develop a port. Of course, they still didn't have a sizable navy. At least not one that could contend with Charles XII of Sweden. The Swedes conveniently were blockading Russia from getting any outside materials through the Baltic Sea. So, Russia was importing goods through its northern harbor of Arkhangelsk (Ark Angel in English).
The Remnants of the Wall of the Fortress Today
The Swedes decided that they couldn't allow this to happen so they sent a fleet of about 7 to 8 ships around Norway to the White Sea and towards the port of Arkhangelsk in order to take control of the city and effectively cut off the Russians. The fleet arrived in the area in June of 1701.
In order to sail in these waters, the Swedish captains needed some locals with some knowledge of the waterways in and around Arkhangelsk so their ships wouldn't run aground. So, they sent a recon group of ships with some soldiers to go and capture some local fisherman from the area and force them to help navigate the difficult waters in the area.
View of the White Sea from Atop the Wall at Novodvinsk
Enter our 2 Russian heroes - Ivan Sedunov and Dmitry Popov. These two men both independently guided 2 of the 3 recon vessels directly into shoals within site of a Russian fort named Novodvinsk. Of course, in June this far north it is light nearly all day so the the artillery at the fort immediately spotted the ships and began firing on them.
The captain of one ship was mortally wounded and the crews of both abandoned their vessels and went aboard the 3rd vessel, which made a hasty retreat. The locals were alerted to the presence of the Swedes and began to prepare a defense.
The Main Building of the Fortress Today
The Swedish commander, Commodore Karl Lewe, decided against any further engagement as he had already lost two ships and the Russians were aware of his presence. He took his remaining ships and sailed back to Sweden. The Russians took possession of the two Swedish ships, repaired them, and they became part of the new Russian Navy.
Russian ship "Poltava" 1703
Russia would go on to defeat the Swedes and take control of most of the Northern regions in the Eastern Baltic Sea. In the end, Russia established itself as a naval power by developing a fleet of it own and proving itself capable on sea and land. Peter the Great would also become one of the most iconic and memorable leaders in all of Russian and European history.
Now, don't you feel smarter? No, nobody seems to know what happened to the 2 fisherman. We know their names, but I can't find anything else about them. Now you should read something about the GNW
graphic by @habeebability
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