DEFENSE OF PETROPAVLOVSK
He said: “I do hopethat not only the officers, soldiers and sailors, but residents in case of attack by the enemy would not remain idle viewers of the battle, butwould be prepared with all their vigor, without sparing their life, tooppose the enemy and inflict him every possible damage. I remain firmlyresolved, nomatter how numerous the enemy may be, that we would do everythingin our mightto defend the port and honor of Russian arms, and would fightto the lastdrop of blood: I am convinced that the flag of the port ofPetropavlovsk wouldin any event witness the feats and honor of Russianvalor.”
And the residents of Petropavlovsk and surrounding settlements and nomad encampments, aswell as crews of naval vessels, enthusiastically responded to Zavoiko’sappeal. Most of them took part in building fortifications, and a specialvolunteer detachment was formed to incorporate besides civil servants andpeasants sharpshooter hunters from among local Itelmen (Kamchatka residents).
In those sunny but alarming days of
June, the frigate “Aurora” sailed into Avacha Bay. It completed
the entirepassage via three oceans in then record speed to be at sea only
66 days.The trip from Peru was especially quick, when Isylmetiev, havingoutwittedthe
British and French, took away the “Aurora” fromCaliao to Petropavlovsk.Despite
the storms that obstructed the way almostevery mile, and courageouslyfighting
the scurvy that had knocked down numeroussailors on the way,the crew arrived
in Kamchatka just in time. Its threehundred members andforty-four cannons
considerably strengthened the Petropavlovskgarrison.
On July 24, the transport “Dvina” delivered from Petropavlovsk to De Castri Bay 350 soldiers from the Siberian line battalion, two bombing cannons, caliber 32 kg, and fourteen cannons, caliber 36 lb. Lieutenant K. Mrovinsky, a military engineer, arrived on board the “Dvina” to subsequently head the construction of coastal batteriesin Petropavlovsk port. By the end of July, the port garrison together withship crews numbered 920 men (41 officers, 476 soldiers, 349sailors, 18Russian volunteers and 36 indigenous Kamchatka residents). Thecity’s entirepopulation of Petropavlovsk and its vicinities (about1,600 people) alsotook part in preparing the defense.
The work for constructingseven shore batteries and establishing the cannons continued for almosttwo months round the clock. Petropavlovsk’s defenders erected fortifications,cut platforms in cliffs for the batteries unassailable to sea landings,removed cannons from warships, dragged them manually over steep hill slopesand established them on shore. The ports of frigate “Aurora” and militarytransport “Dvina” were anchored facing the harbor outlet. Again, the port cannons were removed from the ships to reinforce the coastal batteries,and the harbor inlet was blocked with a floating barrier.
The batteries encompassedPetropavlovsk like a horseshoe. In its right end, in the rocky extremityof Mt. Signalnaya, there was a battery that defended the entrance to theinterior roadstead.Also to the right, on the isthmus between Mt. Signalnayaand Nikolaevskaya,another battery was installed. At the northern end ofMt. Nikolskaya, on thevery shore, a battery was put up to prevent an enemylanding in the rear andpossible attempts to capture the port from thenorth. Yet one more batterywas erected on the “horseshoe” bend. It wasdesigned to hold underfire the defile and road between Mt. Nikolskayaand Mt. Kultushkin lake incase the enemy would succeed in suppressingthe resistance of the coastalbattery. Next were three batteries that weresituated in a rare chain to theleft along the mother coast opposite theisthmus, in the base of the sandbar.
At noon August 17, 1854, beacon advance posts discovered a squadron of six warships. An alarm signal sounded in Petropavlovsk, and the city’s defenders too up their positions in tense observation. A three-mast steamship separated from the squadronand began fathoming depths at approaches to the signal mountain and harborentrance. When a boat started from the port, the steamship retreated atfull speed.On the morning of August 18, the squadron entered Avacha Bay.The Britishships included the frigate “President” (52 cannons), the frigate“Pike” (44 cannons) and the steamship “Virago” (10cannons), and the Frenchvessels the 60-cannon frigate “La Forte”,the 32-cannon corvette “Euridica”and the 18-cannon “Obligado”.British Rear-Admiral Price was in commandof the combined squadron, and FrenchRear-Admiral De Point in command ofthe French detachment. The squadron hada total of 216 cannons, and itspersonnel numbered 2,600 officers and men.
Tension on shore grew to thelimit. A sea battle was imminen.
A.V. BORODIN. Leading editor, Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Colonel (Retired), Pacific Fleet veteran.
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