Anglo-Russian War (1807–1812)

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Anglo-Russian War
Part of Napoleonic Wars
Opyt and Salsette.jpg
Battle between the Russian ship Opyt and a British frigate, off the coast of Nargen Island, 11 July 1808
Date2 September 1807 – 18 July 1812
(4 years 10 months & 16 days)
Naval battles in the Baltic Sea as part of the Finnish War
Result French invasion of Russia, coalition between Britain, Russia and Sweden against France
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Supported by
Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden (1807–1810, officially)
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire

Supported by
Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark–Norway

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Anglo-Russian War (2 September 1807 – 18 July 1812) was the phase of hostilities between the United Kingdom and Russia after the latter signed the Treaty of Tilsit that ended its war with France. Anglo-Russian hostilities were limited primarily to minor naval actions in the Baltic and Barents Seas.

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Historical sovereign state from 1801 to 1921

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.


Treaty of Tilsit

After Napoleon I defeated the Russians at the Battle of Friedland (14 June 1807), Tsar Alexander I of Russia signed a peace treaty, known as the Treaty of Tilsit. Although the treaty was quite unpopular within the Russian court, Russia had no alternative as Napoleon could easily cross the Neman River (then the Russian border) and invade Russia.

Battle of Friedland battle in the War of the Fourth Coalition

The Battle of Friedland was a major engagement of the Napoleonic Wars between the armies of the French Empire commanded by Napoleon I and the armies of the Russian Empire led by Count von Bennigsen. Napoleon and the French obtained a decisive victory that routed much of the Russian army, which retreated chaotically over the Alle River by the end of the fighting. The battlefield is located in modern-day Kaliningrad Oblast, near the town of Pravdinsk, Russia.

Tsar title given to a male monarch in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia

Tsar, also spelled tzar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean "Emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in between a royal and imperial rank.

Alexander I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Alexander I was the Emperor of Russia (Tsar) between 1801 and 1825. He was the eldest son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. Alexander was the first king of Congress Poland, reigning from 1815 to 1825, as well as the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland, reigning from 1809 to 1825.

The terms of the treaty obliged Russia to cease her maritime trade with Great Britain. This closure was a part of Napoleon's continuing efforts to establish the Continental System, strengthening economic ties between the different countries in Europe under French domination. Napoleon's objective was to close one of Britain's most important markets and thus force it economically into submission.

Continental System Embargo of Napoleonic Europe against Britain

The Continental System or Continental Blockade was the foreign policy of Napoleon I of France against the United Kingdom during the Napoleonic Wars. As a response to the naval blockade of the French coasts enacted by the British government on 16 May 1806, Napoleon issued the Berlin Decree on 21 November 1806, which brought into effect a large-scale embargo against British trade. The embargo was applied intermittently, ending on 11 April 1814 after Napoleon's first abdication. The blockade caused little economic damage to the UK, although British exports to the continent dropped from 55% to 25% between 1802 and 1806. As Napoleon realized that extensive trade was going through Spain and Russia, he invaded those two countries. His forces were tied down in Spain—in which the Spanish War of Independence was occurring simultaneously—and suffered severely in, and ultimately retreated from, Russia in 1812.

Military activities

On 26 October 1807, Tsar Alexander formally declared war on the United Kingdom after the British attack on Copenhagen in September 1807. He did not actively prosecute the war; Alexander instead restricted Russia's contribution to the bare requirement to close off trade. The British, understanding his position, limited their military response to the declaration. However, there were a few notable incidents.

Battle of Copenhagen (1807) British bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807

The Second Battle of Copenhagen was a British bombardment of the Danish capital, Copenhagen in order to capture or destroy the Dano-Norwegian fleet, during the Napoleonic Wars. The incident led to the outbreak of the Anglo-Russian War of 1807, which ended with the Treaty of Örebro in 1812.

Detention of Russian vessels

The official news did not arrive in Britain until 2 December, at which time the British declared an embargo on all Russian vessels in British ports. Some 70 vessels shared in the seizure of the 44-gun Russian frigate Speshnoy (Speshnyy), then in Portsmouth harbour. [1] The British seized the Russian storeship Wilhelmina (Vilgemina) at the same time. [2] [3]

Speshnyy had sailed from Kronstadt with the payroll for Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s squadron in the Mediterranean, together with Vilgemina. [4] Vilgemina was slower but caught up with Speshnyy at Portsmouth. [4] The payroll consisted of 601,167 Spanish doubloons and 140,197 Dutch ducats that the British expropriated. [4] Consequently, an able seaman on any one of the 70 British vessels received 14sd in prize money. [5]

Kronstadt Municipal town in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Kronstadt, also spelled Kronshtadt, Cronstadt or Kronštádt is an early 18th-century foundation which became an important international centre of commerce whose trade role was eclipsed by the growth of its strategic significance in the ensuing centuries as the primary maritime defence outpost of the former Russian capital. It is now the port city in Kronshtadtsky District of the federal city of Saint Petersburg, Russia, located on Kotlin Island, 30 kilometers (19 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, near the head of the Gulf of Finland. It is linked to the former Russian capital by a combination levee-causeway-seagate, the St Petersburg Dam, part of the city's flood defences, which also acts as road access to Kotlin island from the mainland. In March 1921, the island city was the site of the Kronstadt rebellion.

Dmitry Senyavin Russian admiral

Dmitry Nikolayevich Senyavin or Seniavin was a Russian admiral who ranks among the greatest seamen of the Napoleonic Wars.

Doubloon Two-escudo or 32-real gold coin

The doubloon was a two-escudo or 32-real gold coin, weighing 6.867 grams in 1537, and 6.766 grams from 1728, of .917 fine gold. Doubloons were minted in Spain and the viceroyalties of New Spain, Peru, and Nueva Granada. The term was first used to describe the golden excelente either because of its value of two ducats or because of the double portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Lisbon Incident

In August 1807, Senyavin was ordered to bring his fleet from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, where the Finnish War with Sweden was already brewing. He set sail from Corfu on 19 September and although he planned to proceed directly to Saint Petersburg, stormy weather forced him to take refuge in the Tagus River and cast anchor in Lisbon on 30 October. Within days, John VI of Portugal had fled to the Portuguese colony of Brazil and the Royal Navy blockaded Lisbon, intercepting a Russian sloop as an enemy vessel because the Anglo-Russian War had been declared. In November, French forces under the Duc d'Abrantès overran Lisbon.

Senyavin, caught between two warring powers, proceeded to distinguish himself as a diplomat. He declared himself neutral and managed to save his ships from destruction. In August 1808 the Duke of Wellington defeated the French at Vimeiro, which forced them to leave Portugal. Senyavin's seven ships of the line and one frigate were left face to face with 15 British ships of the line and 10 frigates. Senyavin maintained his neutrality, threatening to blow up the ships and set Lisbon ablaze in case of attack. At last he signed a convention with Admiral Sir Charles Cotton, whereby the Royal Navy was to escort the Russian squadron to London, with the Russians still flying their flags. Moreover, Senyavin was to assume supreme command of the joint Anglo-Russian fleet (as the senior officer of the two). Two Russian ships (Rafail and Yaroslav) were left in Lisbon for repairs.

On 31 August Senyavin's squadron left Portugal for Portsmouth. On 27 September the Admiralty was informed that enemy vessels had cast anchor in Portsmouth, with their flags streaming, as if in times of peace. The British detained the Russian fleet in Portsmouth under various pretexts until winter weather made their return to the Baltic impossible. The British insisted that Senyavin squadron should sail to Arkhangelsk, else they would be intercepted by the Swedish fleet. In 1809, the departure was further delayed by the disastrous Walcheren Expedition. Finally, on 5 August the nearly-starved Russian fleet was allowed to leave Portsmouth for Riga, where they arrived on 9 September 1809.

Russia also invaded Sweden, then a close ally to Great Britain, in 1808. But it was unlikely related to Britain and the Treaty, as the two countries already were at odds at the time. British men-of-war supported the Swedish fleet during the Finnish War and had victories over the Russians in the Gulf of Finland in July 1808 and August 1809.

In May 1808 the British sent a fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez to the Baltic. The British 44-gun frigate Salsette captured the Russian cutter Opyt on 23 June [ O.S. 11 June] 1808 after her captain and crew put up a heroic resistance. The action took place off Nargen island, which defends Revel’ from the sea. [6] The Admiralty took Opyt into service as HMS Baltic.

Centaur and Implacable vs. Vsevolod

On 9 July, the Russian fleet, under Admiral Peter Khanykov, came out from Kronstadt. The Swedes massed a fleet under Swedish Admiral Rudolf Cederström, consisting of 11 line-of-battle ships and 5 frigates at Örö and Jungfrusund to oppose them. On 16 August, Saumarez then sent 74-guns Centaur and Implacable to join the Swedish fleet. They chased two Russian frigates on the 19th and joined the Swedes the following day.

On 22 August, the Russian fleet, consisting of nine ships of the line, five large frigates and six smaller ones, moved from Hanko to threaten the Swedes. The Swedes, with the two British ships, grouped at Örö, and three days later sailed to meet the Russians.

The Russians and the Anglo-Swedish force were fairly evenly matched, but the Russians retreated and the Allied ships followed them. Centaur and Implacable were better vessels than the Swedish ships and slowly pulled ahead, with Implacable catching up with a Russian straggler, the 74-gun Vsevolod (also Sewolod), under Captain Rudnew (or Roodneff). Eventually, and after heavy casualties, Vsevolod struck. [7] In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasps "Implacable 26 Augt. 1808" and "Centaur 26 Augt. 1808" to the surviving claimants (41 per vessel) from the action. [8]

Vice-Admiral Saumerez with his entire squadron joined the Anglo-Swedish squadron the next day. They then blockaded Khanykov's squadron for some months. After the British and the Swedes abandoned the blockade, the Russian fleet was able to return to Kronstadt. [7]

Boat actions

On 7 and 8 July 1809, the boats of Prometheus, Implacable, Bellerophon and Melpomene captured or destroyed gunboats and a convoy off Hango Head (Hangöudde) in the Baltic. Among the captured vessels were Russian gun boats No.5, No.10, No. 13, and No.15. [9] In 1847 the Admiralty issued the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "7 July Boat Service 1809" to 33 surviving claimants from the action. [10]

Then on 25 July seventeen boats from a British squadron consisting of Princess Caroline, Minotaur, Cerberus and Prometheus, attacked a flotilla of four enemy gunboats and a brig off Aspö Head near Fredrikshamn in Finland then still part of Sweden (present-day Hamina, Finland). Captain Forrest of Prometheus commanded the boats and succeeded in capturing gunboats Nos. 62, 65, and 66, and the transport brig No. 11. The action was sanguinary in that the British lost 19 men killed and 51 wounded, and the Russians lost 28 men killed and 59 wounded. [11] In 1847 the Admiralty issued the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "25 July Boat Service 1809" to 35 surviving claimants from the action. [10]

However the successes of the Russian army on land forced Sweden to sign a peace treaty with Russia in 1809 whereby, inter alia, Sweden ceded the Grand Duchy of Finland to Russia. Sweden sued for peace with France in 1810 and then formally joined the blockade against Britain as required by the Continental System. Sweden kept trading with Britain and the Royal Navy kept using Swedish ports.

The war overlapped, in time, the Gunboat War against Denmark-Norway, leading the British to expand their trade embargo to Russian waters and to forays by the British navy northwards into the Barents Sea. The navy conducted raids on Hasvik and Hammerfest and disrupted the Pomor trade, the Norwegian trade with Russia.

In June 1809 HMS Nyaden participated in at least one and possibly two actions. First, her boats conducted a night raid on Kildin Island that wiped out a Russian garrison. Boats from Nyaden also captured some 22-3 coastal trading vessels in the Kola River, many upriver from the present city of Murmansk. [12] Nyaden also took several other Russian vessels at sea as prizes.

Nyaden was probably the vessel whose boats in July took possession of Catherine Harbour, in the ostrog, or fortified settlement, of Kola. The British also commandeered all the stores belonging to the White Sea Company (est. 1803 at Archangel). The Times reported that this was the first attack of the English upon Russian territory, news of the attack on Kildin Island either being subsumed or overlooked. [13]

British naval involvement in the region continued into 1811. On 3 August 1810, the brig Gallant captured the St. Peder. Next year, on 2 January, Gallant captured the Danish privateer Restorateur off the Norwegian coast. Restorateur was armed with six 12-pounder guns and had a crew of 19 men. [14] Four months later, on 5 April, Gallant captured the Victoria. [15] Then on 1 August 1811, the frigate Alexandria, which was operating out of the Lieth station, captured the Russian vessels Michael, Ivan Isasima, and St. Oluff, and their cargoes. [16]


During the Russo-Persian War of 1804–13, several British officers, part of Sir John Malcolm's 1809 embassy to Persia, remained in that country, providing training to the reforming Persian army. One of the British officers, William Monteith, accompanied Abbas Mirza on his unsuccessful campaign in Georgia and then commanded a frontier force and the garrison of Erivan. [17]


Alexander I kept Russia as neutral as possible in the ongoing French war with Britain. He allowed Russians to continue secretly to trade with Britain and did not enforce the blockade required by Continental System. [18] In 1810 he withdrew Russia from the Continental System and trade between Britain and Russia grew. [19]

Franco-Russian relations became progressively worse after 1810. By 1811, it became clear that Napoleon was not keeping to his side of the terms of the Treaty of Tilsit. He had promised assistance to Russia in its war against the Ottoman Empire, but as the campaign went on, France offered no support at all. [18]

With war imminent between France and Russia, Alexander started to prepare the ground diplomatically. In April 1812 Russia and Sweden signed an agreement for mutual defence. A month later Alexander secured his southern flank by Treaty of Bucharest (1812), which formally ended the war against Turkey. [19]

After Napoleon invaded Russia in June, the British and the Russians signed one Treaty of Orebro on 18 July 1812; on that same day and in the same place the British and Swedes signed another Treaty of Orebro ending the Anglo-Swedish War (1810–1812), a war that had had no engagements and no casualties. [20]


  1. Speshnoy was the name ship for the 34-member Speshni-class of frigate.
  2. "No. 16276". The London Gazette . 15 July 1809. p. 1129.
  3. Clarke & Jones 1808, p. 129.
  4. 1 2 3 Tredrea & Sozaev 2010, pp. 198, 391.
  5. "No. 16195". The London Gazette . 25 October 1808. p. 1460.
  6. "No. 16167". The London Gazette . 30 July 1808. pp. 1049–1050.
  7. 1 2 Tredrea & Sozaev 2010, pp. 71–72.
  8. "No. 20939". The London Gazette . 26 January 1849. p. 242.
  9. "No. 16447". The London Gazette . 26 January 1811. p. 166.
  10. 1 2 "No. 20939". The London Gazette . 26 January 1849. p. 246.
  11. "No. 16291". The London Gazette . 22 August 1809. pp. 1345–1347.
  12. "No. 16291". The London Gazette . 22 August 1809. p. 1347.
  13. The Times, 29 July 1809.
  14. "No. 16448". The London Gazette . 29 January 1811. p. 182.
  15. "No. 16589". The London Gazette . 4 April 1812. p. 644.
  16. "No. 16584". The London Gazette . 17 March 1812. p. 526.
  17. Chichester 1894.
  18. 1 2 Nolan 2002, p. 1666.
  19. 1 2 Chapman 2001, p. 29.
  20. Norie 1827, p. 560.

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Further reading