Siege of Corfu (1798–99)

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Siege of Corfu
Part of the War of the Second Coalition
Corfu Palaio Frourio.JPG
The old citadel (Palaio Frourio)
Date4 November 1798 – 3 March 1799
Result Russo-Ottoman victory
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg  Russian Empire
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg  Ottoman Empire
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France
Commanders and leaders
Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Fyodor Ushakov
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg Kadir Bey
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Louis Chabot   White flag icon.svg
12 ships of the line,
11 frigates,
1700 Marines
4250 Turkish troops
2000 Greek militia
3,500 soldiers
more than 650 guns
2 ships of the line
1 frigate
Casualties and losses
298 killed or wounded 2900 prisoners
635 guns
1 battleship &
1 frigate captured

The Siege of Corfu (October 1798 – March 1799) was a military operation by a joint Russian and Turkish fleet against French troops occupying the island of Corfu.

French rule in the Ionian Islands (1797–1799)

The first period of French rule in the Ionian Islands lasted from June 1797 to March 1799. Following the Fall of the Republic of Venice in May 1797, the Ionian Islands, a Venetian possession, were occupied by the French Republic. The French instituted a new, democratic regime and, following the Treaty of Campo Formio, annexed the islands to France, forming the three departments of Corcyre (Corfu), Ithaque (Ithaca) and Mer-Égée.

Corfu Place in Greece

Corfu or Kerkyra is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the margin of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality, which also includes the smaller islands of Ereikoussa, Mathraki and Othonoi. The municipality has an area of 610,9 km2, the island proper 592,8 km2. The principal city of the island and seat of the municipality is also named Corfu. Corfu is home to the Ionian University.



By the Treaty of Campo Formio (November 1797) and the dissolution of the Republic of Venice, the Ionian Islands were ceded to the French Republic, which occupied Corfu as the département Corcyre .

Treaty of Campo Formio 1797 treaty between Napoleonic France and Habsburg Austria

The Treaty of Campo Formio was signed on 18 October 1797 by Napoleon Bonaparte and Count Philipp von Cobenzl as representatives of the French Republic and the Austrian monarchy, respectively. The treaty followed the armistice of Leoben, which had been forced on the Habsburgs by Napoleon's victorious campaign in Italy. It ended the War of the First Coalition and left Great Britain fighting alone against revolutionary France.

Republic of Venice Former state in Northeastern Italy

The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic, traditionally known as La Serenissima, was a sovereign state and maritime republic in what is now northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. It was based in the lagoon communities of the historically prosperous city of Venice, and was a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Citizens spoke primarily the still-surviving Venetian language, although publishing in (Florentine) Italian language became the norm during the Renaissance and after.

Ionian Islands Traditional region of Greece

The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, but the group includes many smaller islands as well as the seven principal ones.

In 1798, Admiral Fyodor Ushakov was sent to the Mediterranean in command of a joint Russian-Turkish squadron to support General Alexander Suvorov's upcoming Italian and Swiss expedition (1799–1800). One of Ushakov's main tasks was to take the strategically important Ionian Islands from the French. In October 1798 the French garrisons were driven from Cythera, Zakynthos, Cephalonia, and Lefkada. It remained to take the largest and best-fortified island of the archipelago, Corfu.

Fyodor Ushakov Russian saint and admiral

Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov was the most illustrious Russian naval commander and admiral of the 18th century.

Alexander Suvorov Russian military commander

Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov was a Russian military leader, considered a national hero. He was Count of Rymnik, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Italy, and the last Generalissimo of the Russian Empire.

Zakynthos Regional unit in Ionian Islands, Greece

Zakynthos or Zante is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and its only municipality. It covers an area of 405.55 km2 (156.6 sq mi) and its coastline is roughly 123 km (76 mi) in length. The name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin. In Greek mythology the island was said to be named after Zakynthos, the son of the legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus.

The garrison of the island

The moat of Palaio Frourio Kontrafossa in Corfu.PNG
The moat of Palaio Frourio

The city of Corfu is located on the east coast in the central part of the island between two forts:

Corfu (city) Place in Greece

Corfu or Kerkyra is a city and a former municipality on the island of Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform, it is part of the municipality of Corfu island. It is the capital of the island and of the Corfu regional unit. The city also serves as a capital for the region of the Ionian Islands. The city is a major tourist attraction and Greek regional centre and has played an important role in Greek history since antiquity.

Old Fortress, Corfu geographical object

The Old Fortress of Corfu is a Venetian fortress in the city of Corfu. The fortress covers the promontory which initially contained the old town of Corfu that had emerged during Byzantine times.

From the new to the old fort a high wall ran along the shore. The town was also covered by bastions on two mountains, Abraham and Salvatore, and the intermediate fort of San Rocco. From the sea, the city was protected by the well-fortified island of Vido, and the smaller island of Lazaretto, two miles up the coast, was also strengthened by the French.

Vido is an island of the Ionian Islands group of Greece. It is a small island at the mouth of the port of Corfu.

The New Fortress Neo Frourio in Corfu.jpg
The New Fortress

The French, commanded by the governor General Louis Chabot, had 3000 soldiers and 650 guns in Corfu, plus 500 soldiers and 5 artillery batteries on the island of Vido. In the harbour was a French squadron of two ships of the line, the 74-gun Généreux and 54-gun Leander, the 20-gun corvette Brune, a bomb-vessel, a brig and four auxiliary vessels.

The siege of Corfu

On 4 November 1798 Ushakov's Russian-Turkish squadron, consisting of three ships of the line, three frigates and a number of small ships, began the siege of Corfu. They were joined shortly afterwards by a Turkish squadron and another Russian squadron under the command of Captain Dmitry Senyavin. Given the strong fortifications of the island and the lack of strength for a landing, it was initially decided to wait for Turkish reinforcements for a landing force. However, on the first day the French abandoned their fortifications on Lazaretto island, which the Russians immediately occupied.

On 13 November a small force of Russians landed without opposition and took the small port of Gouvia about five miles along the coast. From then on the Russians began building batteries and shelling the French-held forts. In December, another Russian squadron, this one under Rear-Admiral Pavel Pustoshkinthe, augmented the besieging forces. The combined fleet now consisted of 12 ships of the line, 11 frigates and many smaller vessels.

On the night of January 26 the Généreux, with her sails painted black, and the brig escaped from the harbour and sailed to Ancona.

In February, about 4,000 Ottoman troops arrived and it was decided to make a landing on the island of Vido – the key to the defense of Corfu – using naval artillery against its shore batteries.

Capture of Vido

Vido island Vido-on-Vidovdan-pano.jpg
Vido island

The assault on Vido began early in the morning of 28 February 1799. After a four-hour bombardment by several ships, all five shore batteries on the island had been suppressed. The Leander and Brune tried to intervene but were damaged and forced to retreat to the protection of the batteries of Corfu. The allied fleet then landed over 2000 men on Vido and after a two-hour battle the island was taken. Of the 800 men defending the island, 200 were killed and 400 were taken prisoner, including the commandant of the island, Brigadier-General Pivron. About 150 men managed to swim to Corfu. Russian losses were 31 killed and 100 wounded. The Ottomans lost 180 killed and wounded.

Capture of Corfu city

After the fall of Vido, the key to Corfu was in the hands of Ushakov. On March 1 the captured batteries on the island opened fire on the city's forts, supported by the Russians' shore batteries and some of the Russian and Turkish warships. The allied forces stormed and captured the outlying forts of San Rocco, San Salvatore and San Abraham.

On 2 March Ushakov planned to assault the main forts, but in the morning the French sent envoys to request a forty-eight-hour armistice, and on 3 March they surrendered.


The capitulation agreed between the French and Russians was an honourable one, including a provision for the French troops to be conveyed to Toulon. The remaining French ships in the harbour were taken by the allies, including the Leander which had been captured from the Royal Navy on 18 August 1798; the Russians returned her to the British.

Admiral Ushakov was honoured by the Emperor of Russia with the star of the Order of St Alexander Nevsky and by the Ottoman Sultan with a chelengk, rarely awarded to non-Muslims.

The capture of Corfu completed the Russo-Turkish takeover of the Ionian Islands, which was of great military and political importance. The islands became the Seven Islands Republic, a temporary protectorate of Russia and Turkey, and for several years Corfu served as a base for the Russian Mediterranean fleet. Ushakov's fleet went on to support the allied attack on Naples.

In 1953, director Mikhail Romm made a cinematographic dramatization of the Russian conquest of the Ionian Islands called Корабли штурмуют бастионы (The Ships Storm the Bastions), the second of a two-part biographical epic about admiral Ushakov. The movie was released by Mosfilm.

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