Sinope, Battle of

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The battle of Sinope, fought on November 30, 1853, was the last major naval action between sailing ship fleets. The battle resulted from worsening relations between the Ottoman and Russian empires. For naval historians, the battle is notable for the first broad use of shell guns, marking the end of the use of smooth bore cannon that had previously been the primary naval weapon for nearly three centuries. In the spring of 1853 Tsar Nicholas's emissary Admiral Alexander Menshikov broke off negotiations with the Ottoman Empire. Menshikov opposed plans for a preemptive strike against the Bosporus, and the Russian Black Sea Fleet subsequently prepared for a defensive war within the Black Sea. The Ottoman government ordered a squadron of Vice Admiral Osman Pasha to the Caucasus coast in early November 1853 in support of Ottoman ground forces, but bad weather forced the ships to seek shelter at Sinope. A Russian squadron under Vice Admiral Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov on his flagship Imperatritsa Maria -60 decided to attack. Following a war council, Nakhimov ordered his officers in an evocation of Nelson at Trafalgar: "I grant you the authority to act according to your own best judgment, but I enjoin each to do his duty." With six ships of the line and two frigates with 720 guns, Nakhimov attacked an Ottoman squadron of seven frigates, three corvettes, two steamers, two brigs, and two transports mounting 510 guns under shore defenses with 38 pieces of artillery. The shell guns proved lethal in Nakhimov's two-columned assault; the only Ottoman vessel that managed to escape the carnage was the steam frigate Taif -20 carrying the British officer Slade, who brought news of the defeat to Constantinople. Ottoman losses totaled 15 ships and 3,000 men with the Russians taking 200 prisoners; on the Russian side, 37 were killed and 235 wounded. Osman Pasha, wounded in the engagement, was taken prisoner.

See also: menshikov, alexander danilovich; military, imperial era; nakhimov, pavel stepanovich; russo-turkish wars; turkey, relations with


Daly, Robert Welter. (1958). "Russia's Maritime Past," In The Soviet Navy, ed. Malcolm George Saunders. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

John C. K. Daly