1863-1864 Russian Fleet Expedition to North America


This American expedition became a military demonstration by Russia during the U.S. Civil War. England and France advocated for the southern rebels. Russia held a friendly position in respect to the federal government in the North. It increased hostility toward Russia on the part of England and France, which strove for loosening its international influence. The Russian government decided to send two ship squadrons to the US to demonstrate support for the northerners, as well as to create a potential threat to marine communications of England and France in order to make them refuse assistance to the South States.

The Russian squadrons set out towards the coast of North America in the second half of 1863. The Atlantic squadron commanded by rear admiral S.S. Lesovskii (frigate “Aleksandr Nevsky”, “Peresvet”, “Osliabia”, corvettes “Variag”, “Vitiaz” and clipper “Almaz”) departed from the Russian port of Kronshtadt and went to New York. Another squadron – Pacific – was commanded by rear admiral A.A. Popov (corvettes “Bogatyr”, “Kalevala”, “Rynda”, “Novik”, clippers “Abrek” and “Gaidamak”). They went from the ports of the Far East and set out to San Francisco. In September 1863, the squadron of Lesovskii arrived at the port of New York, and the squadron of Popov – to the port of San Francisco. The Russian squadrons stayed in these ports of North America and sailed near its West and East coasts until August 1864. Individual ships of the Atlantic squadron, which were based in New York, visited Baltimore, Annapolis, Hampton, the Caribbean sea, the gulf of Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Havana, Jamaica, Curasao, Cartagena, Bermuda islands and Aspinwall. The ships of the Pacific Ocean squadron had were based in San Francisco and went for practical sailing to Honolulu, the South hemisphere, Sitka and Vancouver. Russian navy seamen showed high naval
skills, discipline and good organization during these voyages.
The Atlantic squadron returned to Russia late July. The Pacific squadron returned in August 1864. The appearance of the Russian squadrons off the coasts of America caused a great political reaction and forced England and France to change their positions in respect to Russia and the Northern states of America. In 1866, the government of the US sent a ship detachment with special deputation. This detachment officially expressed gratitude to the Russian government for assistance to the northerners in their struggle against slavery.




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