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Admiral Saumarez Versus Napoleon - The Baltic, 1807-12

Admiral Saumarez Versus Napoleon - The Baltic, 1807-12

Tim Voelcker
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Admiral Saumarez Versus Napoleon - The Baltic, 1807-12
    Book Description:

    The maritime war against Napoleon did not end with the Battle of Trafalgar, but continued right up to 1815, with even more British ships and sailors deployed after 1805 than before. One key theatre was the Baltic, where the British commander was Admiral Saumarez. He had had a highly successful career as a post-Captain, notably at the two battles of Algeciras as a newly-promoted Rear-Admiral. For five years from 1808 as Commander-in-Chief of a large Baltic fleet, he played a very skilful diplomatic role, combining firmness and restraint, and working with Sweden contrary to the instincts of his superiors in London, even when she declared war. Despite the determined efforts of Denmark's gunboats and privateers, he successfully kept British trade flowing in and out of the Baltic, undermining Napoleon's 'Continental System' - the economic blockade of Britain - and leading to Napoleon's fateful decision to invade Russia in 1812. This book, based on extensive original research in both British and Scandinavian archives and making considerable use of Saumarez' unpublished correspondence, charts the maritime and political history of the war in the Baltic. It illustrates the highly successful, highly esteemed role the Admiral played and looks at the nature and motivation of the man himself revealed in his letters and in the private letters of Count von Rosen, Governor of Gothenburg and chief link between Saumarez and former French Marshal Bernadotte, Crown Prince of Sweden, later to be crowned King Karl XIV Johan. TIM VOELCKER gained his PhD in maritime history at the University of Exeter.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-607-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    ‘You are now the theme of every conversation, the toast of every table, the hero of every woman, and the boast of every englishman.’¹ A favourite sister-in-law may perhaps be permitted to indulge in a little hyperbole, but there is no doubt that Admiral Sir James Saumarez was held in great esteem both by the general public and by his fellow-officers when he carved victory out of disaster in the two battles of Algeciras in July 1801. A letter of the same date from Earl St Vincent said:

    I hear nothing but praise and admiration from every quarter … I...

  7. 1 The Baltic in Autumn 1807
    (pp. 5-19)

    To understand the situation in the Baltic in April 1808 when Saumarez took up his command, it is necessary to be aware of the dramatic political, diplomatic and military events that took place during 1807. In March 1807, the Ministry of All the Talents fell, having achieved the passage of the Act for the Abolition of Slavery, but little else in its brief life. When Pitt had died in January 1806 there had been four obvious contenders for leadership of the Pittite Tories – Hawkesbury, Spencer Perceval, Castlereagh, and Canning, ‘all roughly the same age and with about the same qualifications...

  8. 2 Sir James Saumarez’ Early Career
    (pp. 20-33)

    When the Admiralty came to consider the Baltic at the start of 1808, it was quite evident that substantial forces would be necessary to meet the needs of a complex and demanding situation. They would also require a commander-in chief of considerable ability, capable of handling the defensive problems likely to be caused for the important British maritime trade by Danish and Norwegian gunboats and French, Danish and Norwegian privateers; of judging what offensive action might be taken against the Russians; and whether, if Zealand were not to be retaken, there were alternative bases in the Baltic that might be...

  9. 3 Saumarez takes up his Baltic Command
    (pp. 34-53)

    TheVictorywas ready to sail by 17 March, after extensive repairs to make good the damage at Trafalgar. This was to be both her first and her last seagoing commission after that battle, apart from brief trips in the winters of 1808/9 and 1810/11 to Corunna and Lisbon as a troopship.¹ The Admiralty lingered over giving Saumarez his final instructions and he hung around London, impatiently waiting. The reasons for the delay in his departure became apparent on 21 April. ‘The causes of my detention in Town on Monday was in consequence of Ministers having decided to send troops...

  10. 4 The Crisis of Rogervik
    (pp. 54-74)

    Cederström’s replacement in command of the Swedish fleet was Admiral Nauckhoff who had written Saumarez ‘a very handsome letter, expressing his great desire to serve with me against l’Ennemi Commun – but if this last has kept in his lurking Den, he will scarce venture out in the presence of the two Squadrons’.¹ Nauckhoff was to write again seven days later from off Örö, at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland, with the amazing news that 20 ships of the Russian fleet had indeed come out of Cronstadt on 5 August to chase away the three Swedish ships of the...

  11. 5 The Conversion to Peacemaker
    (pp. 75-92)

    The blockade of Rogervik and the capture and destruction of theSevolodbeforehand were significant turning points in both the military and the political situation in the Baltic. Good relations were restored between Britain and King Gustav, aided by the recall to London of Thornton who had never got on as well with the King as Pierrepont and who, after the Moore affair, had becomepersona non grata.¹ With his usual blindness to reality, King Gustav told Saumarez that he had given orders to his fleet at Karlskrona to resume the blockade and requested ‘that you will help with as...

  12. 6 The Pea Islands
    (pp. 93-105)

    One of the running problems that Saumarez had to face almost throughout his five years as Commander-in-Chief, Baltic, was the Eartholms. Their possible capture was a controversial issue and shows the degree of discretion given to Saumarez to make his own judgement. the events highlight the way in which a commander-in-chief can avoid taking action when he has doubts about its viability by throwing the decision back to the Admiralty or by procrastination and show differences between the Danish and the British reports of the action.

    The Eartholms are a cluster of four small islands lying some ten nautical miles...

  13. 7 Marshal ‘Belle-Jambe’ Declares War
    (pp. 106-127)

    A new French chargé d’affaires, Desaugiers, arrived in Stockholm on 8 April, 1810, to ensure the complete extension of the Continental Blockade to the Swedish ports. The Swedish Ambassador Brinkman was recalled from London, although his departure was delayed until May by the dilatoriness of the new Foreign Secretary, Lord Wellesley. Whether this was deliberate or just his natural behaviour it is difficult to say since he soon became notorious for his reluctance to make use of his considerable intellect. A letter between his two brothers in March complained ‘[that] he hardly does any business at his Office, that nobody...

  14. 8 The Affair of the Carlshamn Cargoes
    (pp. 128-140)

    Captain Barrett of HMSMinotaurhad written, in November 1810, of the seizure of merchant ships at Pillau (Baltysk) and forwarded a plea from the masters of 13 ships there, unsigned but giving their own names and those of their ships:

    To all or any Commanders of His Majesty’s ships of War cruising in the Baltic.

    We beg leave to inform you that all ships & goods lying here or coming from Great Britain have been put under sequestration, and the most rigorous measures have been taken that no ship should escape confiscation, that every ship lying in Pillau Road...

  15. 9 The Von Rosen Letters
    (pp. 141-154)

    ‘If I could have any further doubts upon my mind relative to the sincerity of the intentions of this Government, they have been perfectly removed by the conversation I had yesterday with Count Rosen’. Saumarez’ comment at the height of anxieties over the Carlshamn cargoes incident encapsulates the relationship that had built up between Saumarez and his Swedish counterpart, von Rosen.

    Saumarez’ cordial relationships with both von Rosen and Admiral Krusenstjerna were fundamental to his judgement of the correct line of action to follow. they encouraged him to follow his own line regardless of the anxieties of London. Just after...

  16. 10 Diplomatic Intrigues: Napoleon’s Fateful Decision
    (pp. 155-176)

    In the winter of 1811/12 relations with France were at breaking point. Princess Desirée had returned to France, which might have improved relations since she was so unpopular, but it represented a further breaking of Bernadotte’s bonds with his native country. Coquelle, however, maintains that her influence on Bernadotte was favourable to Napoleon and that he ‘was still entirely behind his former master’.¹ these views appear to be too much based on the reports of Alquier who had evidently misread the situation, unlike Saumarez. A more recent biographer, Christian Bazin, also maintains that until 1812, Bernadotte ‘was cautiously pro-French’ and...

  17. 11 The Final Year
    (pp. 177-197)

    It seems clear that by the winter of 1811/12, there was little doubt on all sides that the long-threatened war between France and Russia would take place in the coming summer. both France and Russia were beginning to accumulate forces near the frontier under various pretexts. the Russians sought to release their army of the Danube by a treaty with turkey, which took place in May 1812, and were rather more assiduous and successful than France in their courtship of Sweden to protect their western flank and St Petersburg. A Swedish–Russian offensive/defensive alliance was formed in April that year.¹...

  18. 12 Conclusions: the Man or the Situation
    (pp. 198-220)

    In the introduction, I set out five main questions to be considered in this study:

    1 How far did Saumarez create the policy of restraint, as opposed to offensive use of his fleet, or was he simply implementing orders from London?

    2 Was the decision not to attack the Russian fleet at Rogervik a sign of weakness and indecision, or of mature judgement and political understanding?

    3 Why were his initial suspicions of Swedish constancy replaced by confidence that their actions would remain friendly even under a French marshal and in a state of war?

    4 Were there other vice-admirals...

  19. Epilogue
    (pp. 221-222)

    After his return from the Baltic in November 1812, Saumarez did not serve again afloat. Promotion up the ranks of admirals followed as those ahead of him in seniority died. He flew his flag again as Admiral of the White from April 1824 till 10 May 1827 as Port Admiral, Plymouth, and in 1830 he became Admiral of the Red, the highest rank short of Admiral of the Fleet. He received an Honorary DCL from Oxford in 1814, but it was not until 1 October 1831 that the longed-for reward was announced – his being raised to the peerage as baron...

  20. Appendix 1: Glossary of Place Names
    (pp. 223-224)
  21. Appendix 2: Brief notes on some Lesser-known Names
    (pp. 225-226)
  22. Bibliographical note
    (pp. 227-232)
  23. Notes
    (pp. 233-258)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-272)
  25. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)