Adventures in the Black Sea

At the same time when Chevalier Jones received his flattering letter
from the empress, her prime minister sent to him a despatch, requesting
him to repair to the naval headquarters on the Black Sea, that he might
take part in the opening of the campaign. The minister also assured him,
in the name of the empress, that everything possible should be done to
make his situation agreeable, and to furnish him with opportunities for
the exercise of his valor and skill. It is not surprising that the
admiral, receiving such marks of attention from her imperial highness,
should have formed a high estimate of the excellence of her character.
He wrote to Count Segur at this time, saying:

“I shall write to the empress, who hath sent me a letter full of
goodness. But I shall never be able to express how much greater I find
her than fame reports. With the character of a very great man, she will
be always adored as the most amiable and captivating of the fair sex.”

War had been impending for several years between Russia and Turkey. The
Turks, in the wanton spirit of barbarian conquest, without the shadow of
excuse for the invasion, had crossed the Hellespont with an overwhelming
army, had seized Constantinople, and rushing onward in the tide of
victory, had unfurled their triumphant banners within sight of the
battlements of Vienna. All Europe had trembled beneath the tread of the
terrible Moslem armies. Catherine was anxious to drive these usurping
Turks back from Europe, across the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, into
their Asiatic wilds. She would make the imperial city of Constantine her
maritime capital and her great naval depot, from which most admirable
point she could command the commerce of the world. This was the real and
ever-constant cause for the war, which for nearly a century had been
waged between Russia and the Porte. But innumerable and frivolous
pretexts had been brought forward, as excuses for an appeal to arms.

About ten years before this, the empress had established a naval depot
on the right bank of the Dnieper, not very far from the entrance of the
river into the Euxine, or Black Sea. Imperial influence soon brought a
population of forty thousand to this port, which became an important
dock-yard, where the largest ships-of-war were launched. The region
around was wild, savage, filled with wandering, half-civilized Tartar
tribes. Russian gold and Russian arms gradually gained the ascendency
and the tribes, with their territory, were gradually annexed to the
majestic Russian Empire.

Catherine then contrived, by a treaty with the Porte, to obtain the
sovereignty over the immense province of the Crimea; also a sort of
dominion over the Black Sea, and the right to pass with her ships
through the Dardanelles. In anticipation of the conquest of
Constantinople, she caused her young son to be called Constantine. The
King of Poland, the Emperor of Austria, and most of the other powers of
northern Europe, were in sympathy with the ambitious designs of Russia.
They all wished to see the Turks driven back into Asia. In that case,
most of them would receive portions of the immense territory which the
Turks had overrun in Europe. But England was intensely opposed to the
designs of Russia. The Turkish Empire, England regarded as an important
and necessary barrier between the rapidly growing power of Russia and
her own possessions in the East Indies.

In the year 1786, Catherine projected a magnificent progress to her new
possessions on the Euxine. The enterprise was organized with all the
imposing brilliance which oriental grandeur could create. The immense
cavalcade, numbering thousands of the plumed and gayly dressed chivalry
of Europe, followed down the magnificent valley of the Dnieper. All the
most prominent members of the Russian court accompanied the empress. The
ambassadors of France, Austria, and of England were in her train. The
latter were probably instructed, carefully to observe all the movements.

At the city of Kief, some six or seven hundred miles from the mouth of
the river, Prince Potemkin joined the imperial party with a brilliant
cavalcade of the princes, dukes, and counts of the minor powers of
Europe. The King of Poland, with a large retinue of his nobles,
commenced the journey with the empress. The Emperor of Austria, with a
still more imposing escort, joined her on the way.

The Turkish government was quite troubled, in view of this remarkable
visitation. Four of the largest ships of the line were sent to cast
anchor at the mouth of the Dnieper; though they were instructed not to
make any hostile demonstrations.

The empress returned to St. Petersburgh. Soon after this, Turkey
declared war against Russia, with England for her adviser. An army of
eighty thousand men was ordered to march instantly along the western
shore of the Euxine, to the mouth of the Dnieper. Sixteen ships of the
line, eight frigates, and a large number of gun-boats, passed through
the Bosphorus into the Euxine. The Turks had drawn the sword, and thrown
away the scabbard.

The news of this declaration of war by Turkey was received with great
joy at St. Petersburg. It was just what the empress desired. At Cherson,
Odessa, and other points at the mouth of the Dnieper, she had created
quite a formidable fleet. At very short notice, she could launch on the
waters of the Euxine, eight ships of the line, twelve frigates, and
nearly two hundred gun-boats. Joseph II. of Austria had entered into
alliance with the empress. Eighty thousand Austrian troops were sent to
coöperate with the Russian arms, in Wallachia. Two Russian squadrons,
under Admirals Kruse and Greig, were ready to coöperate in the
Mediterranean. Such was the state of affairs between Russia and Turkey,
at the time Commodore Jones accepted the invitation of the empress. He
subsequently wrote a very carefully prepared journal of the difficulties
he encountered, and of the results of this all-important enterprise.

This journal, very handsomely executed, was engrossed in the French
language, and was accompanied by ninety-three _Piéces Justificatives_,
or documentary proofs, of the accuracy of all his important statements.
The truthfulness of this narrative has never been called in question. It
was not published until after his death. Justice to Admiral Jones
demands that I should quote freely from this very important document.
The reader will thus obtain a more correct idea of the true character of
the man, and of the adventures upon which he entered, than could be
gained in any other way. After describing the circumstances under which
he was led to enter into the service of the empress, he writes:

“In Denmark I put in train a treaty between that power and the United
States, but it was interrupted by a courier from St. Petersburg,
despatched express by the empress, inviting me to repair to her court.

“Though I foresaw many difficulties in the way of my entering the
Russian service, I believed I could not avoid going to St. Petersburg,
to thank the empress for the favorable opinion she had conceived of me.
I transferred the treaty, going forward at Copenhagen, to Paris, to be
concluded there, and set out for St. Petersburg, by Sweden. At Stockholm
I staid but one night, to see Count Rasoumorsky. Want of time prevented
me from appearing at court.

“At Gresholm, I was stopped by the ice, which prevented me from crossing
the Gulf of Bothnia, and even from approaching the first of the isles in
the passage. After having made several unsuccessful efforts to get to
Finland by the isles, I imagined that it might be practicable to effect
my object by doubling the ice to the southward, and entering the Baltic

“This enterprise was very daring, and had never before been attempted.
But by the north, the roads were impracticable; and knowing that the
empress expected me from day to day, I could not think of going back by

“I left Gresholm early one morning, in an undecked passage-boat about
thirty feet in length. I made another boat follow of about half that
size. This last was for dragging over the cakes of ice, and for passing
from one to another to gain the coast of Finland. I durst not make my
project known to the boatmen, which would have been the sure means of
deterring them from it. After endeavoring, as before, to gain the first
isle, I made them steer for for the south, and we kept along the coast
of Sweden all the day, finding with difficulty room enough to pass
between the ice and the shore. Toward night, being almost opposite
Stockholm, pistol in hand I forced the boatmen to enter the Baltic Sea,
and steer to the east.”

Here it is obvious to remark, that this was outrageously unjust. These
poor boatmen, with parents, wives, and children perhaps, dependent upon
them, had never promised at whatever hazard, to take him across that
stormy sea. Indeed he had studiously concealed from them the peril of
the enterprise upon which he had embarked. If the admiral were willing,
in view of the fame and fortune which were enticing him beyond those
tempest-tossed ice-fields, to incur the dreadful risks, he had no right
to compel these poor men to peril their lives in a cause in which they
had nothing to gain. If we understand the facts, as given by the
commodore himself, the course which he pursued on this occasion is
entirely unjustifiable. Admiral Jones continues:

“We ran toward the coast of Finland. All night the wind was fair, and we
hoped to land next day. This we found impossible. The ice did not permit
us to approach the shore, which we only saw from a distance. It was
impossible to regain the Swedish side, the wind being strong and
directly contrary. I had no other course but to make for the Gulf of
Finland. There was a small compass in the boat, and I fixed the lamp of
my travelling carriage so as to throw a light on it.

“On the second night we lost the small boat, which was sunk. But the men
saved themselves in the large one, which with difficulty escaped the
same fate. At the end of four days, we landed at Revel in Livonia, which
was regarded as a kind of miracle. Having satisfied the boatmen for
their services and their loss, I gave them a good pilot, with the
provisions necessary for their homeward voyage when the weather should
become more favorable.”

The admiral arrived at St. Petersburg on the evening of 23d of April, O.
S. On the 25th, he had his first audience with the empress. On the 7th
of May, he set out for the seat of war. The long and dreary journey
across the whole breadth of Russia to the banks of the Euxine, occupied
twelve days. He reached the mouth of the Dnieper on the 19th. The Prince
Marshal Potemkin was there, and received him very kindly. He requested
the admiral immediately to assume command of the naval force stationed
near the mouth of the river. He remained at Cherson but one evening and
night, but that short time showed him that he would have very serious
obstacles to encounter.

The Russian rear-admiral, Mordwinoff, did not affect to disguise his
displeasure at his arrival. He gave the new admiral a very sullen
reception, delayed communicating to him the details of the force under
his command, and manifested no disposition to place him in possession of
the silk flag, which belonged to his rank as rear-admiral. The River Bog
empties into the Dnieper near the point where that majestic stream pours
its flood into the Black Sea. Here the waters expand into a bay,
affording good anchorage ground, called the Roads of Shiroque. The
Russian fleet of ships and gun-boats was assembled at this place. Early
in the morning after the admiral’s arrival at Cherson, he accompanied
General Mordwinoff down the river to the naval rendezvous. They reached
the flag-ship Wolodimir about mid-day.

One of the most prominent officers in the squadron was a Greek by the
name of Alexiano. He was a fearless, coarse, unmannerly fellow, who had
been, it was said, a pirate in the Archipelago, and by his piracies,
plundering the commerce of all nations, had greatly enriched himself.
This man had assembled all the commanders of the ships, and had
endeavored to unite them in a cabal against the new admiral. In this he
had not been fully successful. Still he had created antagonisms to the
authority of Admiral Jones which caused him great embarrassment.
Alexiano had obtained the grade of captain, with the title of brigadier.

The Turkish fleet and flotilla were a few miles below the roads of
Shiroque, nearly opposite Oczakow, which was held by a strong garrison
of the Turks, and was besieged on the land side by the Russians, the
Turkish fleet holding the harbor. Admiral Jones, very wisely avoiding
all angry contention with his opponents, proposed to one of the Russian
officers who was friendly to him, that they should descend the bay
together, and carefully reconnoitre the strength and position oi the
Turkish forces. While he was absent, Prince Potemkin, who was second in
authority to the empress only, exerted all his influence to restore
harmony. In this he was partially successful. The admiral, upon his
return, found all the officers apparently contented; and on the 26th of
May, 1788, he hoisted his flag on the Wolodimir.

The Prince of Nassau Siegen, one of the German principalities, was a
very singular man. He was rattle-brained, excessively vain, and quite
destitute of either ability in counsel or skill in execution. Admiral
Jones had been slightly acquainted with him in Paris, and was very sorry
to meet him as an associate on a military expedition. This man had a
most exalted idea of his own importance, and joined the expedition of
the Russian empress, with the impression that the success of the
campaign depended mainly upon him. One of his first instructive remarks
to Admiral Jones was:

“If we gain any advantage over the Turks, it is essential to exaggerate
it to the utmost.”

To this statement, which was made with a very patronizing air, the
admiral simply replied:

“I have never adopted that method of making myself of consequence.”

The rank of the prince, his possessions, and his boastful braggadocio
spirit had strangely deceived the empress. The fleet consisted of two
pretty distinct portions; a squadron of powerful war vessels and a large
flotilla of gun-boats. The necessity of coõperative action in military
expeditions is such, that Napoleon I. once remarked:

“It is better to intrust the command of an army to one poor general than
to two good ones.”

Admiral Jones found that while he was intrusted with the command of the
war-ships, the flotilla of gun-boats was placed under the independent
orders of the Prince of Nassau. Nothing efficient could be accomplished
against the powerful and well-manned navy of the Turks without the
coöperation of the whole Russian fleet of ships and boats under the
direction of a single mind. And yet there probably were not in all
Europe two men less calculated to act together than Admiral Jones and
the Prince of Nassau.

These two immense fleets and armies were facing each other. The
headquarters of the Russians was at Cherson, while the Turks had their
central rendezvous about fifty miles farther southeast, at Oczakow. The
spacious waters between Cherson and Oczakow, where the Dnieper and the
Bog pour their widening floods into the Euxine, were filled with the
ships of the line, the frigates, and the gunboats of the contending

For four months there was almost a continuous series of manœuvres and
skirmishes, rising occasionally into hotly contested battles. The region
was full of shoals and sand-bars, where the heavily-armed ships, and
even the gun-boats, were continually running aground. Prince Potemkin
was in the supreme command of the whole force, naval and military. He
stood in the place of the empress, and was said in reality to have more
power than Catherine herself. Admiral Jones found that he could
originate no movement. He could only obey orders, and must wait
patiently until he received them. When orders were given, the ships
alone were subject to his command. The Prince of Nassau was jealous of
his renown, and seemed often disposed rather to thwart than to aid the
efforts of the admiral. He was a man of considerable skill in cunning
and intrigue, and had led even Potemkin to apprehend that great results
were to be accomplished by the action of his gun-boats.

The latter part of May, 1788, the Turkish admiral came to the succor of
Oczakow, with an additional fleet of one hundred and twenty armed
vessels, and other armed craft. Thus the Turkish naval force, in those
waters, far surpassed that of the Russian. Admiral Jones was requested
with his ships to harass the Turks, in all the ways in his power without
exposing himself to loss. The Turks, conscious of their superiority,
were not disposed to run any risks. Admiral Jones was also disappointed
in finding that several of his ships were merely large pleasure barges,
with which the empress and her court, had floated down the Dnieper.
These were inefficiently armed, and were but poorly prepared for a
conflict with the oak-ribbed ships of the Turks.

Admiral Jones was sorely tried. He saw but little opportunity, under
such circumstances, for anything to be accomplished to the honor of the
Russian flag. He however invited all the leading officers, both of the
squadron and of the flotilla, to his cabin, and thus addressed them:

“GENTLEMEN—Having been suddenly called to serve her imperial majesty,
I have need of double indulgence, being as yet ignorant of the
language and customs of the country. I confess I mistrust my capacity
properly to discharge all the duties of the high trust with which her
majesty has honored me. But I rely on my zeal, and your favor,
coöperation, and candid advice, for the good of the service. You are
met, gentlemen, on serious business. We are to discuss points which
touch nearly the honor of the Russian flag and the interests of her

“We have to deal with a formidable enemy, but if we are united, and of
one mind in all our efforts; if our operations are well concerted and
vigorously executed, the known courage of the Russians, the cause of
the empress and of the country, the remembrance of so many past
victories, afford us the most flattering hope of success, and cannot
fail to inspire invincible resolution. We must resolve to conquer. Let
us join our hands and our hearts. Let us show that our feelings are
noble, and cast far from us all personal considerations. Honor enough
may be gained by every individual; but the true glory of the citizen
is to be useful to his country.”

This conciliatory speech of the admiral seemed to have produced a good
impression. They all agreed to combine their energies in an attack, the
next day, upon an exposed portion of the Turkish fleet, in accordance
with a plan presented by Admiral Jones.

In consequence of the shallowness of the water, most of the manœuvres
were to be conducted by the gun-boats. The heavy ships could sweep over
only a limited range, being of necessity confined to the channels of
deep water. Admiral Jones, consequently, took his station on board the
gun-boats, passing from one to another, as the incidents of the conflict
required. A very fierce battle was fought.

Admiral Jones seems to have been born insensible to fear. Amidst the
most terrific scenes of death and destruction, he moved with as
unperturbed a spirit as if he were merely contending with an ordinary
storm at sea. Much of the time, he was in the same gun-boat with the
Prince of Nassau. The prince had the good sense to be guided by the
advice of the officer who was, in every respect, so vastly his superior.
The victory was decisive for the Russians. Two of the Turkish ships were
burned. The Turkish flotilla of fifty-seven vessels was driven from the
ground it had occupied, to seek protection under the heavy guns of the
squadron. As the battle was mainly conducted by the gun-boats, the
admiral left all the honor with the Prince of Nassau. Still, Admiral
Jones formed the plan, and guided in all the tactics of the strife. And
he could not prevent it from being whispered, that the honor of the
victory really belonged to himself. This annoyed the Prince of Nassau.

Alluding to this fact, Admiral Jones wrote, on the 11th of June, in a
letter to Mr. Littlepage, chamberlain of the King of Poland:

“Prince Potemkin wrote me a letter of thanks for the affair of the 7th.
If the honor had been ten times greater, I should have renounced it
altogether, in favor of the Prince of Nassau. But I am sorry to say he
is too jealous to be content with my self-denial. Perhaps he is
ill-advised without knowing it. There is nothing consistent with my
honor that I would not do, to make him easy. I am the more in pain, as I
understand he spoke favorably of me to Prince Potemkin before I arrived.
If he now becomes my enemy, I shall not imitate his example. It was my
intention to pay him a compliment, when I said in my letter to the
prince, ‘that he had taken my counsel in good part, in the affair of the
7th.’ I showed the Prince of Nassau that letter, and he seemed pleased
with it. In the affair, he embraced me, and said we “should always make
but one.“ But now I find a false construction has been put upon my
letter, and his jealousy supersedes every noble sentiment.”

Ten days after this, Admiral Jones again wrote to Mr. Littlepage, in
which letter he says:

“I have put up with more from the Prince of Nassau than, under other
circumstances, I could have done from any man who was not crazy. I can
no more reckon upon his humor than on the wind. One hour he embraces me,
and the next he is ready to cut my throat.”

As we have mentioned, the naval force of the Turks far exceeded that of
the Russians. The Turkish admiral, whose title seems to have been
“Capitaine Pasha,” was a man of decided ability. Admiral Jones had been
led to form a very high opinion of his character both as an officer and
a gentleman. He had formed the plan to make a sudden and unexpected
attack, with his whole force of ships and gun-boats, upon the Russian
flotilla and squadron; by running down the gun-boats and throwing a
shower of fire-balls upon the squadron, he hoped to destroy the whole

It was the plan of Admiral Jones, to anticipate the contemplated attack
of the Capitaine Pasha, and so to weaken him as at least to embarrass
his movements. The plan he proposed was so necessary and apparently so
feasible, that it was accepted by all the officers. During the night, as
the wind did not favor, he warped the ships of his squadron, by means of
their anchors, to the positions he wished them to occupy. The next
morning, which was the 17th of June, 1788, the wind was fresh and fair.
At the earliest dawn the admiral signalled for all his war ships to bear
down upon the Turkish fleet, which was before him in the broad shallow
bay, at the distance of but a few miles. The gun-boats, under the
command of the Prince of Nassau, followed tardily behind the squadron.
Their progress was so slow, though there was no occasion whatever for
the delay, that the admiral had to halt twice, in order to allow the
gun-boats to come up with him.


It was a brilliant spectacle which was presented in the rays of this
June morning’s sun. The majestic bay, into which were poured the waters
of the Dnieper, the Bog, the Liman, and several other minor streams,
spread out in all directions. The whole Russian fleet of ships and
gun-boats, in beautiful battle array, was bearing down under full sail
with a fair wind, upon the unsuspecting and unprepared Turks. The moment
the Capitaine Pasha caught sight of the wondrous spectacle, he was
terror-stricken. The force rushing upon him appeared far more powerful
than it really was. The wind being fresh and fair, the Turkish admiral
saw at once that the whole Russian armament might strike any portion of
his line before other portions could come to its aid. His only resource
was in flight. The same wind which was bringing down the Russian fleet
upon him, would bear him onward in his escape, to take shelter under the
massive guns of the batteries and ramparts of Oczakow.

The signal was given for the flight. As in the twinkling of an eye, a
wonderful scene of tumult and confusion was presented along the whole
Turkish line. The ships, the frigates, the gun-boats were raising their
anchors, cutting their cables, spreading their sails, and pulling their
oars, in the frantic endeavor to escape the impending peril. Admiral
Jones opened fire upon the bewildered foe, from his bow chasers,
wherever a gun could be brought to bear.

The second officer in command of the Turkish fleet seemed to act like
one bereft of reason, in the panic which had apparently seized all
alike. He had charge of one of the finest of the Turkish line-of-battle
ships; a mammoth fabric, with its tiers of death-dealing guns, which
would have been a match for any ship in the British navy. But assailed
by a dozen Russian ships and gun-boats, it would in a few moments have
been sunk beneath the waves, or blown into the air. As the vast sails of
this ship were flung to the breeze, it slowly wheeled around, got under
rapid headway and ran plump upon a sand-bank, beyond all possible hope
of extrication. As she struck, she careened over at an angle of
forty-five degrees. The muzzles of her guns, on the lower side, were
dipped into the water; upon the upper side, they pointed to the clouds.
Thus the ship could neither fight nor run. The crew, as many as could,
crowded into the boats, escaped from the ship, and took refuge in other
vessels of the fleet.

Admiral Jones knew that the ship was his. It was a magnificent prize. It
needed no further attention. He therefore gave chase to the ship of the
Capitaine Pasha. The Prince of Nassau, to the great chagrin of Admiral
Jones, came up with his gun-boats, threw fire-balls into the splendid
prize, and burned it to the water’s edge.

The flag-ship of the Turkish admiral was also an unwieldy mass to
navigate the intricate channels of this shallow bay. It soon struck a
sand-bank, and was helpless. The crew fled. There were now nine of these
large Turkish ships-of-war aground. They were manned by Turkish sailors,
and also by a large number of Greeks, who had been subjugated by the
Turks, and being nominal Christians, were in entire sympathy with their
Christian brethren the Russians. These men were compelled to serve the
Turkish guns, as England often compelled impressed American seamen.

The Prince of Nassau seemed to have lost all control of his gun-boats.
They ran about here and there, independent of all command, and did what
they would. Like Indian warriors, each boat fought, plundered, or
destroyed, on its own account. A cannon-ball had struck the flag-staff
of the deserted admiral’s ship, and broke it off so that the flag hung
down draggling it in the water. The Prince of Nassau, eager of the honor
of capturing the flag of the Turkish admiral, hurried up with one of his
gunboats, seized the defenceless banner, and then insanely threw his
fire-balls into the ship till it was wrapped in flame and disappeared.

The other boats of the flotilla, imitating this example, rushed about
pell-mell without order or plan, offering no coöperation to follow up
the victory, and wantonly amusing themselves in burning the grounded
ships. All of these Turkish vessels had more or less of the Greeks on
board. In vain these poor creatures cried for mercy. They threw
themselves upon their knees; they made the sign of the cross, to
indicate that they too were Christians. The barbarous and fanatic
Russian sailors, ignorant and cruel, threw their fire-balls on board the
ships, and consigned vessels and crew alike to the flames. Above three
thousand of these unhappy men were burned with their ships. Only two of
the stranded vessels were saved from the flames. One was a sloop, very
indifferently armed, and the other a small brig.

Though this was a great victory, it probably gave Admiral Jones more
pain than pleasure. He was appalled by the frightful, needless carnage,
of burning the poor Greeks crying for mercy. Such a mode of carrying on
war was abhorrent to his humane feelings. No results had been
accomplished commensurate with what might have been secured, had there
been order in the fleet. These nine grounded vessels, with their
powerful armaments, would have been of immense advantage, transferred
from the line of the Turks to that of the Russians. It is not strange
that by this time Admiral Jones lost all patience with his very
undesirable coadjutor. Under date of June 20th, he wrote to his Polish
friend, Chamberlain Littlepage, as follows:

“Without explaining to me any of his reasons, the Prince of Nassau
wished to go to the sand-bank which was under the guns at Oczakow, with
all his flotilla. I opposed it, for all the Turkish flotilla was under
the cannon of the place, within cannon-shot of our right wing. He
permitted himself to say many uncivil things. Among others he said that
_he_ was always wanted to protect _my_ squadron with his flotilla.

“As he had often said such things, I told him that it was improper for
him to say this to me, or for me to hear him say it. He boasted that he
had taken the two ships. I told him “I saw nothing wonderful in that;
for they were both aground and captured before he came up.“ He said “he
knew better than I did how to take ships.“ I told him that without
impugning his skill, he was not ignorant that I had proved my ability to
take ships which were not Turks’. He lost all control of himself, and
threatened to write against me to the empress and Prince Potemkin.

“As for that, I told him if he were base enough to do it, I defied his
malice. Before this ridiculous dispute, our combination was unnecessary.
Otherwise I would have put up with still more for the good of the
service. I feel no rancor against him; and though he said, in a bitter
tone, that I would be rejoiced to see him beaten, he little understood
my heart.”

The prince claimed all the honor of this victory. He so boastfully
proclaimed his achievements, that Prince Potemkin was disposed to accept
his account of the adventure, especially as Admiral Jones had too much
self-respect to dispute his statements in a disgraceful squabble for the

Potemkin, elated by this discomfiture of the Turks, brought up his whole
land force to the walls of Oczakow, intending to attempt to carry the
works by storm. The Turkish gun-boats were riding at anchor, under the
protection of the guns of the fortress. The Prince of Nassau was ordered
to attack the flotilla with his whole force of gun-boats. The admiral
was to assist, as he could, in towing the Russian flotilla to the
position it was to take in the contest. The whole plan of the battle was
arranged by Potemkin, so that Admiral Jones had but little to do but to
obey the orders, which were sent to him, though in some respects he was
left to his own discretion.

At one hour after midnight, the flotilla commenced its advance toward
the Turkish boats; but hesitatingly, with no indication that they were
under the impulse of a guiding and inspiring mind. Some of the most
important of the boats were swept by the current to positions where they
could accomplish nothing. In the vicinity of the fortress there was deep
water. The admiral coöperated with great efficiency in bringing the
boats into position. At six o’clock in the morning, he saw five Turkish
galleys, protected by the guns of Fort Hassan. He plunged upon them,
boarded the first one he came to, seized it as a prize, and with his
boats towed it away. He then attacked the next galley, which was a very
large one, bearing the flag of the Capitaine Pasha. Before the admiral
could arrange his boats, to haul out the prize, a young officer,
inexperienced and agitated, cut the cable by which she rode at anchor,
and a fresh breeze drove her rapidly toward the fort.

The Turks were now pouring a destructive fire upon their own vessel. The
admiral despatched a boat to the Wolodimir to fetch another anchor and
cable. Leaving the galley to be manned with his own sailors, till the
boat should return, he pressed forward to other conquests. He writes in
his journal:

“Before the return of Lieutenant Fox, I had the mortification to see
fire break out in the galley of the Capitaine Pasha. I at first believed
that the slaves chained on board had found means to escape. But
afterwards I had positive proof that Brigadier Alexiano, being in a boat
at the time with the Prince of Nassau, on the outside of the flotilla,
and being aware of the intention of the rear-admiral, swore that it
should not succeed, and sent a Greek canoe to set fire to the galley.
The three other Turkish galleys were at once run down and burned by
fire-balls. There were also a two-masted ship, and a large bomb-vessel
burnt near Fort Hassan. This includes all that was taken or destroyed by
water, save fifty-two prisoners taken by the rear-admiral, in the two
galleys. The wretched beings who were chained in the galley of the
Capitaine Pasha, perished there in the flames.

“The prince marshal having made an important diversion on the land side,
it is to be regretted that advantage was not taken of this movement to
seize the remainder of the enemy’s flotilla; but our flotilla never came
up within reach of grape-shot.”

Admiral Jones took the precaution to have the accuracy of this statement
confirmed, by five of the leading captains of the Russian ships. The
Turkish fleet, being thus again humbled, retreated that very night, both
squadron and flotilla, to a strong position at the mouths of the Danube.
The admiral remained at his station, to watch the enemy and to be
prepared for any emergence. He gives the following account of the
proceedings of his two singular coadjutors, the German prince, and the
Greek brigadier.

“The moment the ships began to withdraw from Oczakow, the Prince of
Nassau and Brigadier Alexiano hurried straight to the headquarters of
Prince Potemkin to relate the things which both pretended they had
performed. In a few moments after the flotilla began to retire, the rain
fell in torrents, of which Nassau and Alexiano received their own share
before reaching headquarters.

“Two days afterwards, Alexiano returned on board the Wolodimir, having
caught a malignant fever, of which he died on the 8th of July. The
Prince of Nassau, who had made use of him in cabaling against me—God
knows wherefore—neither visited him in his sickness nor assisted at his
funeral. At first it was given out, that the service must sustain the
loss of every Greek in it, on account of his death; but I soon
experienced the reverse. Not one asked to be dismissed; they remained
under my command with the Russians, and were more contented than before.
On the day preceding the death of Alexiano he had received intelligence
of having been promoted two grades; and that her majesty had bestowed on
him a fine estate and peasants, in White Russia.

“At the same time, the Prince of Nassau had received a very valuable
estate, with three or four thousand peasants, also in White Russia, and
the military Order of St. George, of the second class. Her majesty
likewise gave him liberty to hoist the flag of vice-admiral at the
taking of Oczakow, to which event it was apparently believed he would
greatly contribute.

“I received the Order of St. Anne, an honor with which I am highly
flattered, and with which I could have been perfectly satisfied, had
others been recompensed only in the same proportion, and according to
the merit of their services.[G] All the officers of the flotilla
received a step of promotion, and the gratuity of a year’s pay. The
greater part of them also obtained the Order of St. George of the last
class. Only two of these officers had been bred to the sea; none of the
others had been engaged in navigation. The officers of the squadron
under my command were almost wholly marine officers. They had done their
duty well, when opposed to the enemy; but they obtained no promotion, no
mark of distinction, no pecuniary gratification. My mortification was
excessive; but my officers at this time gave me a very gratifying proof
of their attachment. On promising that I would demand justice for them
from the Prince Potemkin, at the close of the campaign, they stifled
their vexation, and made no complaint.”


Footnote G:

Upon the reception of the Order of St. Anne by the empress, Count
Segur wrote from St. Petersburg a very complimentary letter to the
admiral, under date of the 14th of July, 1788. In this letter he says:

“The empress being absent I forwarded a copy of the greatest part of
your letter to General Mouronoff, who had it read to that princess.
She is highly satisfied with it, and in two lines from her hand, has
been pleased to charge me with assurances to you, of the great respect
in which she holds your services. General Mouronoff begs me to say
that he will endeavor to merit the obliging things you say of him.”


Three days after this important naval battle, Prince Potemkin came from
the headquarters of the army, to visit Admiral Jones on board the
flag-ship Wolodimir. The prince was accompanied by quite a brilliant
retinue of the highest dignitaries of his military court. They all
remained to dine with the admiral in his spacious cabin. The prince was
very anxious to promote harmonious action between the admiral and the
Prince of Nassau. By his powerful influence he succeeded in inducing the
Prince of Nassau to make an apology to the admiral, in the presence of
all around the table. The apology was cordially accepted; and the
admiral, knowing the versatile and frivolous character of the prince,
hoped that it was sincere.

As Potemkin took his leave, he requested Admiral Jones to do all in his
power toward raising the cannon, anchors, and other effects, belonging
to the Turkish ships which had been burned. The next day, Admiral Jones,
in a spirit of conciliation, made a visit to the Prince of Nassau. He
had previously detailed one of the transport ships, which was empty and
unemployed, to the work of raising some of the sunken guns. As soon as
he stepped on board the gun-boat of the prince, he was disrespectfully
assailed, when he expected to have been received with open arms.

“That transport,” exclaimed the Prince of Nassau, angrily, “which you
have ventured to employ on your own services, belonged to my flotilla,
and you had no right to take it under your command.”

The admiral mildly replied, “Prince Potemkin charged me to engage at
once in that important business, as a servant of the empress. As all the
vessels of war, and all the transports alike belong to her imperial
majesty, and as the transport in question was empty and unemployed, I
cannot see that you have any reasonable cause of complaint against me.”

But Nassau fumed and raged. The admiral, ashamed of such puerile
quarrelling, sadly took leave of him, begging him to reflect that he had
no cause for displeasure. Thus affairs went on, day after day. There
were heart-burnings and bickerings, and the admiral found such
influences operating against him, that his hands were effectually tied.

At the close of the American war, there were many British officers
thrown out of employment, who eagerly entered into the service of the
Empress of Russia.

This vast northern empire, with then no access to the ocean but through
the Baltic Sea, was not a maritime power. The empress had very few naval
officers of any experience. By seizing Constantinople, undoubtedly the
finest port in the world, the empress expected that the sails of her
ships would whiten all the seas. Eagerly, therefore, she accepted the
services of able military men from whatever nation. There were no better
naval officers than England could afford. These men with one accord, as
we have mentioned, combined, with the most astonishing and persistent
malignity, to crush Admiral Jones. The Englishman, W. Tooke, to whom we
have before referred, with his bitter British prejudices expresses the
sentiments of them one and all. In his Life of Catherine II. he writes:

“This known scarcity of commanders could not fail to attract the
attention of foreign adventurers, who had acquired any experience and
reputation in maritime affairs. Of this number was the English pirate
and renegado, Paul Jones, who had rendered himself so notorious in the
American war by the mischiefs he did to the trade of his country, and
whose desperate courage, which only served to render his atrociousness
conspicuous, would in a good cause have entitled him to honor.

“This man could not but experience the common fate incident to his
character; and finding he did not meet the consideration which he
expected in America, he made a tender of his services to the court of
St. Petersburg, where he was gladly received, and immediately appointed
to a high command in the grand fleet which was under equipment at

“The British officers, full of those national and professional ideas of
honor which they had imbibed in their own country and service,
considered this appointment as the highest affront that could be offered
to them, and a submission to it, an act of such degradation that no time
or circumstance could wipe away the dishonor. They accordingly went in a
body, to the amount of near thirty, without a single dissentient lagging
behind, or hesitating on account of inconvenience or personal distress,
to lay down their commissions; declaring at the same time that it was
impossible for them to serve under, or to act in any manner or capacity
whatever, with a pirate or renegado.”

In the same spirit as the above, the English historians have, from that
day to this, written of this noble man.

On the 18th of September, the admiral received a secret order to attack
the advance guard of the squadron which was anchored near Beresane. The
attack was to be made with five frigates, mounted as batteries,
supported by a few other vessels of the squadron, as reserves. The
arrangements which were made for arming the frigates for the enterprise
were not such as he could approve. For instance, twenty-four pound-shot
were to be used in guns of thirty-six pounds calibre. To make these
balls fill the bore, they were dipped in pitch to enlarge their
circumference. This was exceedingly dangerous. If the smallest particle
of combustible matter adhered to the gun, it would set fire to the next
cartridge. A single such accident would paralyze the energies of the
bravest man.

The admiral presented to Potemkin a plan of attack. The Prince Potemkin
approved the plan. The Prince of Nassau objected to it. There were
delays, and fault-findings; the admiral being ready to move, either upon
his own plan or upon any other whenever the command should be given him.

On the 13th of October, the admiral received an order which wounded him
very deeply. It was as follows:

“As it is seen that the Turkish admiral has a greater number of
vessels than yourself, and he may resolve to attempt something before
quitting his grand fleet, I must request your excellency to hold
yourself in readiness to receive him courageously, and drive him back.
I require this to be done without loss of time; if not, you will be
made answerable for every neglect. I have already ordered the flotilla
to approach.


To these unkind words the admiral replied in his journal:

“It will be hard to believe that Prince Potemkin addressed such words to
Paul Jones.”

To the prince he wrote;

“I leave to your highness, as you have a noble heart and a magnanimous
soul to judge how an officer who fears nothing, and had nothing
wherewith to reproach himself, must have been affected by your order, of
the 13th. I was directed “to keep myself in readiness to receive the
enemy _courageously, and that without loss of time, for if not, etc._“

“I was in despair having been all heart and soul for the good of the
service; and having done all that a man of honor could to inspire a
confidence which I believed I had deserved at your hands, allow me, my
prince, to ask you how it happens that I have been so unhappy as to have
lost your regard. My enemies themselves cannot refuse me their respect.
General Count de Mamonow assured me of your confidence in me, giving me
the most flattering hope of your friendship, and her imperial majesty
told me the most obliging things to the same effect. At all events, your
highness has so good a heart that you will excuse the hastiness of
expression which escaped me in my letter on the 14th.

“I am anxious to continue in the service. It is unnecessary to recite
either the promises or the offers which have been made to me. I am
disposed to do all that can be asked of a man of honor, in my situation.
And if you find in me an acquisition to the imperial marine, it belongs
to yourself to fix me in Russia. But as I come neither as an adventurer,
nor a charlatan to repair a broken fortune, I hope in future to
experience no humiliation, and soon to find myself in a situation which
was promised to me when I was invited to enter into the marine of the
empress. Perhaps I love honors too much. But as to fortune, though my
own is not very great, I never bent the knee to that idol. I well know
that riches do not insure happiness. I am sure of one thing, if I had
the happiness of once enjoying your confidence, it would be for life,
for I am not of a character that can change.”

Prince Potemkin had gradually come to the conclusion that it was best to
remove both Admiral Jones from the command of the squadron and the
Prince of Nassua, and to place both squadron and flotilla under the
command of the Russian admiral, Mordwinoff. On the 9th of October, the
Prince of Nassau was deprived of his command, and left the shores of the
Euxine for Warsaw in Poland. Nine days after, on the 18th of October,
Admiral Jones received the following order from Prince Potemkin.

“According to the special desire of her imperial majesty, your service
is fixed in the northern seas. And as this squadron and the flotilla are
placed by me under the orders of Admiral Count Mordwinoff your
excellency may in consequence proceed on the voyage directed.”

This was unquestionably a severe blow to Admiral Jones. He had hoped to
accomplish great results in the campaign of the Euxine. And now he was
ordered to the shores of the Baltic, more than a thousand miles distant,
to serve her majesty in some manner as yet undefined. Russia was at that
time at war with Sweden. But in those high latitudes and ice-bound
waters, there was but little opportunity in midwinter for naval warfare.

On the 20th, the admiral replied to the unexpected order he had
received, in the following note to Potemkin:

“I am much flattered that her majesty yet deigns to interest herself
about me. But what I shall forever regret is the loss of your regard. I
will not say that it is difficult to find more skilful sea officers than
myself. I know well that it is a very possible thing. But I feel
emboldened to say that you will never find a man more susceptible of a
faithful attachment, or more zealous in the discharge of his duty. I
forgive my enemies who are near you, for the painful blow aimed at me.
But if there is a just God, it will be difficult for him to do as much.”

This intimation that Potemkin had been led to this action by the
persuasions of others, annoyed the imperial prince, who considered
himself rather the master than the servant even of her majesty. When, a
few days after, the admiral called at headquarters, to take leave of the
prince, Potemkin said to him, with much vehemence, at the same time
rising from his chair and stamping with his foot:

“Do not believe that any one leads me, not even the empress.” The
prince, however, presented the following letter to the admiral, to be
presented to the empress in testimonial of his services.

“MADAM—In sending to the high throne of your imperial majesty
Rear-Admiral M. Paul Jones, I take with submission the liberty of
certifying the eagerness and zeal which he has ever shown for the
service of your imperial majesty, and to render himself worthy of the
high favor of your imperial majesty.

“From the most faithful subject of your imperial majesty,