In March 1799, a Russian squadron under the command of Fyodor Ushakov took the fortress of Corfu in the Mediterranean Sea. The decisive actions of the great naval commander made it possible to take the fortress, considered impregnable, with minimal losses. During the storming of Corfu, the stable opinion of contemporaries - military experts - that sea fortresses can only be taken from land, and the fleet only carries out a blockade, was refuted. Ushakov proposed a new solution: heavy shelling of coastal fortifications with naval artillery, suppression of coastal batteries with the help of the fleet and landing of troops.
Assault on Vido
At the beginning of 1799, the position of the Black Sea squadron near Corfu improved somewhat. New ships of Rear Admiral P. V. Pustoshkin (74-gun battleships "St. Michael" and "Simeon and Anna") arrived from Sevastopol. Arrived ships that had previously been sent at the direction of St. Petersburg to perform other tasks. Ushakov now had 12 battleships and 11 frigates. The Turkish authorities have finally sent food. Russian sailors erected two batteries in Corfu: at Fort San Salvador (Southern Battery) and on the hill of Mont Oliveto (Northern Battery). It is from these positions that they will storm the enemy fortress in Corfu. Turkish auxiliary troops arrived - more than 4 thousand soldiers. About 2 thousand people were fielded by the Greek rebels. Ushakov decided to move from the blockade to a decisive assault.
At the military council on February 17, 1799, on the Russian flagship "St. Paul”, it was decided to first strike the main blow on the island of Vido, which was a key position off Corfu. To attack enemy positions on Vido, all ships of the squadron were allocated, the commanders of each ship received positions. The ship's artillery was supposed to suppress the French batteries on the island, then paratroopers were landed for the final defeat of the enemy. At the same time, the landing troops on the island of Corfu were to attack the advanced forts of the enemy fortress - Fort Abraham, Saint Roca and El Salvador. The battle plan was approved by most of the commanders of the ships, only the Turks expressed doubts that "a stone cannot be pierced with a tree." The Turkish commanders were reassured by the fact that the Russian ships would go in the first line, the Turkish ones behind.
The assault on. Vido, where about 800 Frenchmen were defending under the command of General Pivron, began on the morning of February 18 (March 1) 1799. At the same time, Russian batteries in Corfu opened fire on enemy forts. The ships of the squadron, in accordance with the plan of the operation, were removed from anchors and moved to positions near the island of Vido. Three frigates were the first to move, they began to approach the northern tip of the island, where the first French battery was located. The French saw the movement of the Russian ships and as soon as they approached the distance of an artillery shot, they opened fire. The French gunners were well protected by stone parapets and earthen ramparts. The French were confident that their batteries could easily withstand an attack from the sea. Despite enemy fire, the frigates moved quickly forward, and soon they also opened fire on the French positions.
Meanwhile, the main forces of the fleet were approaching Vido. Ahead was the flagship "Pavel". At 8:45 am, he approached the first enemy battery and opened fire on the enemy on the move. The French concentrated fire on the Russian flagship. Enemy shells often flew over it, the ship received several damage. However, despite the French fire, "Pavel" steadily marched at the head of the squadron, setting an example for everyone else. "Pavel" reached the second battery and concentrated the fire on it. Ushakov tried to get as close as possible to the shore in order to use guns of all calibers. The positions of the French were swept away with buckshot. The battleships "Simeon and Anna" under the command of Captain 1st Rank KS Leontovich and "Maria Magdalena" Captain 1st Rank GA Timchenko took up positions next to the flagship. Further, closer to the northeastern promontory of the island, the ship "Mikhail" took up a position under the command of I. Ya. Saltanov, which fired at the third enemy battery. To the left of it are the battleship "Zakhari and Elizabeth" captain I. A. Selivachev and the frigate "Grigory" I. A. Shostok. They fired at the enemy's fourth battery. The battleship "Epiphany" under the command of A. P. Aleksiano did not anchor, all the time was under sail and fired on enemy fortifications on the move.
Source: War of Russia in the Second Coalition against France in 1798-1800. The assault on the Corfu fortress on February 18, 1799. Marine Atlas of the USSR Ministry of Defense. Volume III. Military-historical. Part one
French ships - the battleship Leander and the frigate LaBrune - tried to support the French garrison. They defended the island on the east side. However, the Russian admiral foresaw such a step by the enemy and allocated in advance from the squadron the battleship "Peter" under the command of DN Senyavin and the frigate "Navarkhia" by ND Voinovich. While under sail, the Russian ships fought stubbornly with enemy ships and the fifth batteries of the French. In addition, they were supported by the battleship "Epiphany", which also began to fire on French ships and the fifth battery. As a result, the French ships were badly damaged, especially the Leander. Barely keeping afloat, the enemy ship of the line abandoned its combat position and went under the protection of the guns of Corfu.
After a 2-hour battle, the French wavered. The island of Vido, surrounded on three sides by Russian ships, was subjected to incessant shelling. With each ship's salvo there were more and more killed and wounded, the guns were out of order. By 10 o'clock the fire of the French batteries had noticeably weakened. The French gunners began to abandon their positions and fled inland.
Ushakov closely watched the battle. As soon as he saw that the French had weakened the fire, the order was given to start the landing of the landing units. The ship's artillery did its job, cleared the way for the landing. Now it was necessary to complete the defeat of the enemy. The amphibious groups on barges and boats moved towards the shore. The first landing group was landed between the second and third French batteries. At this point, the Russian fleet inflicted maximum destruction on the enemy. The second airborne detachment was landed between the third and fourth batteries, then the landing force was also landed at the first battery. In total, about 1,500 Russian soldiers and sailors and more than 600 people from the Turkish-Albanian auxiliary detachment were landed ashore.
More and more ships approached the shore, disembarked paratroopers, guns. Step by step, the Russian-Turkish landing began to press the enemy. The French were well prepared for the defense of the island of Vido. An antiamphibious defense was equipped: earthen ramparts, blockages of stones and logs, wolf pits were set up on the coast, and barriers were erected on the approaches to the coast, which prevented the approach of small rowing vessels. French riflemen fired at the approaching boats disembarking Russian sailors. However, no matter how desperately the French resisted, the Russian paratroopers overcame all obstacles and quickly pressed the enemy back. Having seized the bridgeheads, the airborne detachments continued to move. They attacked enemy batteries, which were the main centers of the French defense. The French, already demoralized by the attacks of naval artillery and the successful landing of the landing, could not stand it. The third battery fell first, then the Russian flag was raised over the strongest second battery. Several French ships docked at about. Vido were captured.
The remnants of the French garrison fled to the south side of the island and tried to escape in rowing ships. Some were able to escape, others were prevented by the Russian ships "Peter", "Epiphany" and "Navarkhia". At about noon, the Russian flag was raised over the first battery. The French resistance was finally broken. As a result of this brutal battle, 200 Frenchmen were killed, 420 people, led by the commandant Pivron, surrendered, and about 150 more people were able to escape to Corfu. The losses of the Russian troops amounted to 31 people killed and 100 wounded. Turks and Albanians lost 180 people killed and wounded.
Capitulation of Corfu
The fall of the island of Vido also predetermined the surrender of Corfu. The Russians have captured a key position. For some time, the French still defended themselves, hoping that the enemy would not be able to capture the advanced forts - Abraham, St. Roca and El Salvador. When the main Russian forces stormed the fortifications of Vido, a fierce battle also began on Corfu. Russian batteries from the very morning were constantly shelling enemy positions. And Russian ships fired at the Old and New Fortresses.
Soon, landing troops on Corfu withdrew from their fortifications and began an attack on the advanced forts of the French fortress. The French mined the approaches to them, but with the help of local residents they bypassed the mines. A battle ensued for Fort Salvador, but the French repulsed the first attack. Then reinforcements were sent from the ships of the squadron. With the arrival of new forces, the assault on enemy positions resumed. Russian sailors attacked the fort of St. Roca, and in spite of strong gunfire, went down into the moat and began to erect ladders. The French were broken, they riveted the cannons, destroyed the powder stocks and fled to El Salvador. Russian volunteers on the shoulders of the enemy broke into this French fortification. The enemy fled, did not even have time to rivet the guns. Soon the fortification of St. Abraham. As a result, despite fierce French resistance, all three advanced forts were captured. Enemy soldiers fled behind the fortress wall. By evening, the battle had subsided. Allied losses amounted to about 298 people killed and wounded, of which 130 were Russians and 168 were Turks and Albanians..
The French command, having lost the batteries of the island of Vido and the forward forts of Corfu in one day of the battle, decided that further resistance was pointless. In the early morning of March 2 (February 19), 1799, the adjutant of the French commander arrived on the Ushakov's ship, who conveyed Shabo's request for an armistice. The Russian admiral offered to surrender the fortress in 24 hours. Soon the French announced that they agreed to surrender. On March 3 (February 20), 1799, the act of surrender was signed. The surrender was honorable. The French received the right to leave Corfu with a promise not to fight for 18 months.
V. Kochenkov. Storming Corfu
Two days later, the French garrison (over 2900 people) left the fortress and laid down their arms. Ushakov was given the keys to Corfu and the French flags. Russian trophies were about 20 combat and auxiliary ships, including the battleship Leander, the frigate LaBrune, a brig, a bombarding ship, three brigantines, etc. On the walls and in the arsenals of the fortress, 629 guns, 4 thousand rifles were captured. more than 100 thousand nuclei and bombs, more than half a million cartridges, as well as a large number of various property and provisions.
The brilliant victory of Russian arms in Corfu caused a great response in Europe, where they closely followed the events in the region of the Ionian Islands. In European capitals, I did not expect such a quick and decisive victory of Russian weapons. The main blow to the French fortress was inflicted from the sea, which was an innovation in the theory and practice of naval art of that time. The victorious assault on Corfu refuted the theoretical constructions of the western naval commanders that it was impossible to win over a strong seaside fortress with the forces of only the fleet. Previously it was believed that it was impossible to attack the fortress from the sea. The French admitted that they had never thought that it was possible with ships alone to proceed to the impregnable bastions and powerful batteries of Corfu and Vido. Ushakov used naval artillery to break into enemy defenses. Also, great attention was paid to the actions of the marines, the organization of the landing.
For this brilliant assault, the Russian sovereign Pavel the First promoted Ushakov to admiral and awarded him with diamond insignia of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, the Neapolitan king awarded the Order of St. Januarius, 1st degree, and the Ottoman sultan - with a fringe (decoration for a turban in the form of a sultan, strewn with precious stones), insignia of Turkey.
In 1800, Russia and Turkey created the Republic of the Seven Islands on the liberated territory, under the protectorate of two empires. The island republic became the base of the Russian fleet. After the Peace of Tilsit in 1807, the French returned control of the Ionian Islands. In the future, England established its control over the islands.
In the Mediterranean itself, Ushakov continued his victorious campaign. Russian sailors won a number of victories in Italy. However, the successes of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean, as well as the victories of the army of A. Suvorov in Italy, did not bring serious benefits to Russia. Due to the treacherous policy of "partners" in the war with France - Austria and England, Emperor Paul made a sharp turn in foreign policy. He broke with the former "allies" (London and Vienna), and decided to establish relations with France, with which Russia, in fact, had no fundamental contradictions, any military, territorial and economic disputes. In response, the British orchestrated the assassination of Paul.
When the Russian squadron left the Ionian Islands for the Black Sea, the Kefalonians, as a token of gratitude, presented F. F. between which there are two French ships, and in front of Vido - six Russian ships (inscription: "All the Ionian Islands to the savior of Kefalonia."