Lauri Õunapuu


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Teema: Reminiscences of the Baltic Fleet of 1855
"Reminiscences of the Baltic Fleet of 1855"


Põnev lõik Naissaare ja Tallinna kohta.

MY first thoughts on waking- up were—we are almost within gunshot of an enemy's ^;Sj) fortress, and the Baltic Fleet is now vindicating* its name and function in sealing- up hostile s piadrons. and so letting* the good folks of our maritime towns at home rest in security. Such a reflection was neither idle nor inappropriate, but was it sufficiently appreciated ? On returning home. I was asked, by a narrow and captious Radical in Aberdeen, what good the Baltic Fleet
had done? to which I replied, with natural warmth and contempt : " Why, enabled your unthankful head to sleep in peace ; and probably kept your blessed house from being knocked about jour ears." The " friend of every country but his own " made no reply.
I turned out very early, and on reaching the quarterdeck proceeded to take in as much as possible of our surroundings,-* especially of the island of which we were the temporary masters,
and the fortress of which we much desired to be Nargen is low and sandy, 9 miles in lengthr by from 1 to 2 in breadth ; it is almost covered with pine woods, and has a scanty Finnish, or Swedish, fishing population, whom we were cautioned not to molest; it lies off the Ethonian shore, about four or five miles from Revel ; it was as we found—an old rendezvous for a British
Fleet. An armed party at once proceeded on shore to scour the island, and establish an outlook from the dismantled light-house.
Revel lay due south, and with a glass was plainly visible ; for the atmosphere in the Baltic in the summer months is remarkably transparent. Every fort and prominent object could be clearly identified, of which the most conspicuous was the Domberg, or Cathedral, on a precipitous height and on another height the High Church. Between these heights is the seaward approach to the town, which then contained about 30,000 inhabitants. The batteries commanding the roadstead were partly earth and partly granite ; and of the latter one was a huge casemated fort of 300 guns. From it the smoke of furnaces for heating red hot shot was constantly visible. At our stand- point Revel was singularly pretty.
On the day after arrival targets were placed out for practice for our own benefit, and probably to waken up the enemy. The accuracy of the firing greatly pleased me, as the slender flagstaffs on floating barrels were constantly being shot down. The whole proceeding was keenly watched from Revel.
The 1 2th being- a general holiday we proceeded en masse on shore, and I put my first foot on Russian soil. We ran our boat on the beach,
beside a number of native fishing- craft. "We made straight for the village, which was a mere motley aggregation of cabins, barns, and byres, of rough hewn logs, dove-tailed without nails, and the interstices stuffed with moss and turf, to " expel the winter's flaw." The doors and windows in the cabins were placed anyhow, and the latter, at most, had only one or two panes of glass. The roofs were of grass or spruce thatch. Sometimes there was a chimney, but often none, so that smoke issued from many crevices as if they were on fire. The houses were fairly clean within, but, of course,
had the reeky flavour so characteristic of every- thing' Bussian. The walls were decorated with pictures of the Virgin and unnamed saints ; or, per contra, with sheets of the " Illustrated London News," obtained from the Fleet. The essential brick built stove for heating' and cooking- was always near the door ; a few plate racks, boxes, tables, and stools completed the furnishing'.
Around the dwellings were a few cleared patches of grass surrounded by wattle fences, butnotasinglecultivatedfieldorgarden. Agri- culture was confined to the grazing of a few cows and sheep, and to the rearing of poultry i for all other supplies the people were dependent on Eevel. On this account boats with provisions were allowed to come from the latter place every
day ; and spiritual food in the shape of a priest once a week. Here, as on all the Russian islands visited by the Fleet, the village had a most de- serted appearance, only old men, women, and
children were visible, all the able-bodied men
and boys of the maritime districts having been swept up by the merciless naval conscription, to rot in the pent-up Russian fleet. Ethnologically,
the people of these islands were Dot Russian Slavs, but a mixture of Finns, Swedes, and German Ethonians ; they are very fair, blue eyed, and some had the marked Finnish Mongolian expres- sion. Of course, to us they were entirely friendly, as indeed it was their interest to be. But if men
were scanty, so were animals ; cattle and sheep were few ; some lean dog's growled defiance, and a few grey hound pigs trotted about ; there were plenty of poultry, shut up in barns from which they kept up an incessant din. On leaving the village we struck through the woods for the light- house some six miles away ; here and there we
came across isolated log cabins ; and one excellent but empty chateau, built of sawn timber, with a shingle roof, and superior fittings throughout. The windows were smashed, and inside all was wrack and ruin ; it had been an official residence, and, even according- to our ideas, a snug and comfortable one.
The effects of our ball practice the previous day on the trees skirting and the shore were striking;
some were torn and splintered from top to bottom ; at the distance of over a mile from the ships we found a 68 pound shot. At a hamlet a party of our Marines were busy washing, using the tubs and boilers of the villagers,, who sat by smoking and chatting, quite unconcerned
We reached the lighthouse about one o'clock, and
immediately ascended by 231 steps ; a magnificent all round view was our reward ; a lookout party from the " Eoyal George " was in possession, but all the fittings had been carefully removed. We returned to the village about 4 p.m., and had bread and milk and a game at quoits. The Eevel priest passed by, and we joked about making him
prisoner hewTasapleasantfellow,andheandthe

Interpreter had a long- conversation in German and Finnish, in the course of which he mentioned that many families, fearing' a bombardment, had left Revel. The houses were full of soldiers, and the garrison provisioned for six months. He said the officials blamed the Xarg~eners for selling us milk, etc., which was obviously absurd ; because, we could help ourselves if need be. The people had a keen appreciation of our coin, but if they did not hide it, all would be grabbed by the officials directly our backs were turned.
When we got on board, our own dinner having- long' been over, Duncan asked me to dine, for the firsttime,intheWardRoom. Icametothecon- clusion that, with less pretence, our Gun Room mess was quite as good.
On the 18th, after some days of doubt, we were forced to recogmise that loathsome small-pox had broken out on board ; whether we brought it from England, or caugmt it at Faro, was a moot point : but the former was probable, and the strang-e death at Keil from " malignant measles" was evi- dentlysmall-poxafterall. Theforepartoftheupper deck was at once screened off for the isolation of about twenty cases, including Commander Preedy and Lieutenant Poore, R.M.A. Revaccination all round was at once begun.
On this day a curious fog, common in summer in the Gulf of Finland, was seen; in th-e morning" the ship was wholly enveloped ; but at noon it lifted for a time about six feet from the water, so that while we could see under it from the Gun Room ports the rest of the ship remained shrouded. It soon re-descended, however, and remained until dispersed in the evening by a westerly breeze.

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Lauri Õunapuu
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10.09.18, 14:15

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