Antiqua Print Gallery Crimean War: Baltic theatre
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Crimean War: Baltic theatre

The Baltic was a forgotten theatre of the war. The popularisation of events elsewhere had overshadowed the significance of this theatre, which was close to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital. From the beginning, the Baltic campaign was a stalemate. The outnumbered Russian Baltic Fleet confined its movements to the areas around fortifications. At the same time, British and French commanders Sir Charles Napier and Alexandre Ferdinand Parseval-Deschenes – although they led the largest fleet assembled since the Napoleonic Wars – considered Russian coastal fortifications, especially the Sveaborg fortress, too well-defended to engage and they limited their actions to blockading Russian trade and conducting raids on less fortified sections of the Finnish coast.
Russia was dependent on imports for both the domestic economy and the supply of her military forces and the blockade seriously undermined the Russian economy. Raiding by allied British and French fleets destroyed forts on the Finnish coast including Bomarsund on the Åland Islands and Fort Slava. Other such attacks were not so successful, and the poorly planned attempts to take Hanko, Ekenäs, Kokkola and Turku were repulsed.
The burning of tar warehouses and ships in Oulu and Raahe led to international criticism, and in Britain, MP Thomas Gibson demanded in the House of Commons that the First Lord of the Admiralty explain "a system which carried on a great war by plundering and destroying the property of defenceless villagers". In the autumn, a squadron of three British warships led by HMS Miranda left the Baltic for the White Sea, where they shelled Kola (which was utterly destroyed) and the Solovki. Their attempt to storm Arkhangelsk proved abortive, as was the siege of Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. Here, an Anglo-French naval squadron successfully shelled the town but a naval brigade of 800 sailors and marines landed the next day was repulsed.
In 1855, the Western Allied Baltic Fleet tried to destroy heavily defended Russian dockyards at Sveaborg outside Helsinki. More than 1,000 enemy guns tested the strength of the fortress for two days. Despite the shelling, the sailors of the 120-gun ship Rossiya, led by Captain Viktor Poplonsky, defended the entrance to the harbour. The Allies fired over twenty thousand shells but were unable to defeat the Russian batteries. A massive new fleet of more than 350 gunboats and mortar vessels was prepared, but before the attack was launched, the war ended.
Part of the Russian resistance was credited to the deployment of newly created blockade mines. Perhaps the most influential contributor to the development of naval mining was inventor and civil engineer Immanuel Nobel, the father of Alfred Nobel. Immanuel helped the war effort for Russia by applying his knowledge of industrial explosives such as nitroglycerin and gunpowder. Modern naval mining is said to date from the Crimean War: "Torpedo mines, if I may use this name given by Fulton to self-acting mines underwater, were among the novelties attempted by the Russians in their defenses about Cronstadt and Sevastopol", as one American officer put it in 1860.

(Source Wikipedia)