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HOSTILITIES ON THE BLACK SEA., Daily Southern Cross, Volume XI, Issue 703, 24 March 1854
HOSTILITIES ON THE BLACK SEA.
The commenoeffient of naval hostilities on the Black Sea between squadrons of the Turkish and Russian fleets will be an event of considerable interest and novelty j for tke naval strength of both countries must be regarded as untried in its present form, and there is hardly any sea on the globe which has witnessed so few naval contests as the Euxine. Scarcely 80 years have elapsed since the Porte consented to open the Black Sea to the merchant flags of foreign nations, which had been jealously excluded from it since the expulsion of the Genoese in the 15th century. T&e creation of the Black Sea fleet of Russia may be said to date from the present century, and when the last war between the two empires took place, and the disaster of Navarino had recently deprived the Turks of all means of maritime warfare. The passage of the Bosphorus has been -still more strictly guarded by the policy of the Porte and by treaty against the naval flags of the other European Powers; and we believe that, with the exception of a short cruise of the Blonde frigate, under Captain Lyons, about the year 1829, no English ship has entered the Euxine ; certainiy none has entered it for purposes of war. In spite of the extensive trade carried on by British vessels with the mouths of the Danube, Odessa, Gherson, and Taganrog, the navigation of this sea, more especially of the Asiatic coast of it, is little known ; and we enter upon a new field, in considering the effects to the Russian empire of an attack to which it has never yet been exposed. There is no doubt, however, that in strict conformity to existing treatise, the Black Sea is now open in time of war, with the consent of the Porte, to the naval flags ef all the Powers, and Russia has no reason to express surprise that we should avail ourselves of this opportunity to improve our knowledge on the subject. Indeed, while two .Russian vessels, the Navarin and the Aurora, continue week after week to hang about Portsmouth Dockyard for repairs, we are bound to presume that an English squadron would, in case of need, find the same hospitable reception from the Imperial authorities at Sebastopol. The British steamers Retribution, Tiger, Niger, and Sampson, under the command of Captain Drutnmond, had not started on theiivcmise on the 16th inst., and it is possible that their movements may have been countermanded. But the object proposed by Lord Stratford --arid Admiral Dundas was certainly aot a hostile demonstration, and we believe these vessels were to be sent merely to take off Mr. Colquhoun, our late Council General in the Principalities, and to view the state of the months of the Danube. The Turkish squadron under Muschaver Pacha, better known in the British service as Captain Adolphus Slade, as sailed with more warlike intentions, and, although its destination was not known with precision, if it be true that a Russian squadron has come out of Tebastopol, we have no doubt that Admiral Slade's destination will be wherever he can fall in with the enemy. This Turkish force consists, it seems, of a line-of-battle ship and six frigates, with a compliment of steamers, in which the Turks are better provided than the Russians, their engines being all worked by English firemen. Some of the Turkish frigates are very powerful vessels ; Captain Slade's own ship is a double-banked frigate of 72 guns on two decks, as large in all respects as one of our old seventy-fours. These ships have been at sea during a great part of the Bummer, which the larger line-of-battle ship have not, and they may fairly be able to hold their own against an equal Russian force. The discipline and system on' board are entitely borrowed from the English navy by the persevering exertion of Captain Slade, his predecessor, Sir Baldwin Walker, and Captain Borlase, the instructor in gunnery. The crews and officers are Turkish, and are described as excellent artillerymen, though second-rate seamen ; in that respect, however, they are perhaps not inferior to their antagonists. If the weather should prove rough, and the winter set in with its accustomed severity in climate, both squadrons ■would probably suffer more by the extreme rigour of cold than by the enemy. The legendary fears of antiquity accumulated all the monsters of the deep between the "sounding Symplegades" and the shores of Colchis; and modern -science has not had the same opportunities of observation in these waters, which it possesses in other parts of the globe. No doubt the terrors of this sea have been exaggerated, and it is not more tempestuous than other seas ; but it is subject to sudden and dense fogs, the coast is rude and ill-provided, with harbours, and the climate in winter is intensely cold, insomuch that the thermometer sometimes descends to zero (Fahrenheit), and the bays and esturies on the north and western coast are, to some extent, frozen. An effective blockade of these coasts during winter would, therefore, be an operation of great difficulty. It seems, however, to be agreed for the present by the belligerents that no restrictions are to be put upon the trade of neutrals, and with regard to Russian ships, whether of wax or commerce, we have no doubt that the officers directing the operations of the Turkish squadron had rather that they should come out than remain in harbour; f jr, once at sea in an enclosed basin which affords no escape, and few points of refuge, their fate would be inevitable, unless they succeed in defeating the Turkish naval power. The political and military consequences to Russia of tho loss of the security she has hitherto enjoyed in the Black Sea are incalculable. She not only ceases to be invulnerable on her whole southern frontier, but every point on which she is weakest lies open to direct attack, should hostilities assume a more serious character. The trade of the whole of Southern Russia, and of the vast basin- watered by the Dniester, the Bug, and the Dnieper can be interrupted. Odessa would be at the mercy of the enemy. Sebastopol might be blockaded or attacked, and there is reason to believe that its seaward batteries ar« of inferior force to the weight of metal which might be brought against it, while the place is ill-fortified in the rear. The fort of Oczakoff, the arsenal of Nicolaieff, and the building yards of Cherson are said to be very imperfectly protected, the Russians having apparently contented themselves with defences sufficient to ward off the Turks The whole Crimea is peculiarly open to attack by sea, and forces despatched for the defence of that peninsula must cross the enormous steppes which divide it from Russia Proper. The towns on the sea of Azoff are defended only by the difficulty of navigating that shallow inlet. Circassia and Georgia and #U the country from the Tereth to the Araxes are held chiefly by small forts along the coast, and toy supplies and reinforcements sent by sea. An. .enemy disposing of a competent maritime force, especially of steamers, and having his base of operations on tha Bosphorus, would be able, in a space of time varying from (three jto eight days, to attack any point on or about 2000 miles of coast, and t>&§ facilities for carrying oa eipfr opelationg are in #je proportion of the diameter to the circumference of tis fjlac& gsa. The Rug.-
sians, on the contrary, if they had this circumference to defend, and had lost the command of the sea, would find themselves absolutely precluded by distance, by the absence of roads, and by tke wild nature of the country, from effecting any concentration of force. The policy of the Emperor Nicholas has not only roused the Turks to collect a considerable naval armament, capable, perhaps, of meeting the Russian fleet without disadvantage, but it has brought into the Bosphorus, for the first time in history, the most powerful squadrons which England and France have for many years, we might, indeed, say ever sent to sea. He has contributed to place this force within reach of everything that is most vulnerable in his dominions, and he has directed the attention of Europe to points which place our relations to the Russian empire in a new light. By opening the Black Sea to foreign navies, a far greater blow has been given to the security of Russia than Turkey has received from the temporary occupation of the Principalities. That is the present position of the game. — Times.
HOSTILITIES ON THE BLACK SEA., Daily Southern Cross, Volume XI, Issue 703, 24 March 1854
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