Postcard - Russian Galley 1714


Le Teich, France

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Artist's Description

During the first Baltic War, Peter the Great, founder of St. Petersburg, called on Italian engineers and architects to define his galleys, the ship most suited to the shoals of the Baltic which was to be the node of his clashes with Sweden. Three types of galleys were defined to constitute the Russian fleet: “standard” galleys, about 40 meters, directly inspired by the Genoese and Venetian models, also built in the Black Sea, with a swim of 27 oars per side and four men each, “a scaloccio”, which represented a total number of 216 men, three artillery pieces in chase, sometimes two in stern, and a company of marine riflemen. The largest galleys, as in the Mediterranean fleets, were divided between “patrons” and “admirals”. Thes were to command detachment of galleys and were a little larger (46 to 50 meters, 30 to 36 oars as the illustration above), and five men per bench, as well as reinforced artillery.

The total width was around 9 meters. The above illustration shows five artillery pieces, four 4-pounders and a 24-pounder, as well as six side pieces in the quarterdeck and two 18-pounder at the sterns, as well as 14 culverins. The smaller 3-pounders on mobile mounts were located on the side rails. These galleys-admirals were supreme command units to lead a squadron, likely to bear the Tsar’s mark in person. They were 50 meters long and over, with a crew of 380 rowers distributed by five out of the 38 oars per side, and using a mixture of bombardes and 24, 18 and 12 pounders. This same type of galley was still in use during the Second Baltic War led by Sweden’s King Gustav III against Catherine of Russia. Rarely armed in comparison to their size, the great Russian galleys could not seriously worry the Swedish ships except for ramming, thanks to a speed of 7 knots, quite formidable in calm weather. These are the “half galleys”, xebecs and half-xebecs, and the famous <strong>Skampayevas</strong> who were the most effective.

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