Siege of Taganrog
The Siege of Taganrog during the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 (1853–1856) was a series of military actions designed to allow the British and the French access to Rostov-on-Don
-History:The mouth of the Don River has been of great commercial and cultural importance since the ancient times. It was the site of the Greek colony Tanais, of the Genoese fort Tana, and of the Turkish fortress Azak...

, which was an important city for Russian military operations in the Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...



In the spring of 1855, as the Crimean War dragged on into its third year, the British and the French decided to begin operations in the Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov
The Sea of Azov , known in Classical Antiquity as Lake Maeotis, is a sea on the south of Eastern Europe. It is linked by the narrow Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea to the south and is bounded on the north by Ukraine mainland, on the east by Russia, and on the west by the Ukraine's Crimean...

. They reasoned that this would allow them to cut off the Crimea even further from Russia and prevent further supplies from reaching Russian forces there by sea via the seaports in the Taman. This required of them to occupy the Strait of Kerch
Strait of Kerch
The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating the Kerch Peninsula in the west from the Taman Peninsula in the east. The strait is to wide and up to deep....

, which was undertaken by a joint force of British and French soldiers and warships.

As British-French force preceded to take part in the developing Azov campaign, they began looking at Taganrog
Taganrog is a seaport city in Rostov Oblast, Russia, located on the north shore of Taganrog Bay , several kilometers west of the mouth of the Don River. Population: -History of Taganrog:...

 at the far, eastward end of the Sea of Azov as a potential target for invasion. Taganrog sits on a strip of land jutting out slightly into the Sea of Azov and, to the British and the French, an excellent stepping stone to Rostov-on-Don. If the two allies were to slow down Russian advances in the Caucasus, it would be by taking Rostov-on-Don, which would allow them to threaten the rear of the Russian front.

Plans were drawn up, and the British and the French prepared 16,000 ground troops and about forty small warships for the Taganrog operation. Meanwhile, Taganrog's governor-general, Nikolay Adlerberg
Nikolay Adlerberg
Count Nikolay Vladimirovich Adlerberg , Councilor of State, Chamberlain, governor of Taganrog, Simferopol and Finland.-Biography:Nikolay Adlerberg was born into a Swedish noble family of Adlerberg on May 19, 1819 in Saint Petersburg...

 left his position the earlier year due to the Crimean War and was replaced by Yegor Tolstoy
Yegor Tolstoy
Count Yegor Petrovich Tolstoy , was a Russian lieutenant-general, senator, governor of Taganrog, Kaluga and Penza.-Military career:...

, an aging, but versatile general who had served in the Russian army previously against the Turks. In April 1854, Tolstoy assumed command at Taganrog, along with ataman
Ataman was a commander title of the Ukrainian People's Army, Cossack, and haidamak leaders, who were in essence the Cossacks...

 Ivan Krasnov
Ivan Krasnov
Ivan Ivanovich Krasnov was a Russian general and author.-Military career:He was born in 1802, son to the general Ivan Kuzmich Krasnov , fellow-fighter of Alexander Suvorov and Matvey Platov. Ivan Ivanovich Krasnov was educated at the boarding-school by Kharkov University. He began military...

 (who commanded the Don Cossacks in the region) and prepared his forces. At his command at the time of the siege, he had two regiments of Don Cossacks
Don Cossacks
Don Cossacks were Cossacks who settled along the middle and lower Don.- Etymology and origins :The Don Cossack Host was a frontier military organization from the end of the 16th until the early 20th century....

 and a local garrison of some 630 soldiers. A unit of "home guards" were recruited from the local population, which totaled some 250 men. Taganrog lacked any modern fortifications and Tolstoy had no artillery to speak of.

First phase

Starting on May 12, 1855, the British and the French began operations in the Sea of Azov. They landed troops on either side of the Kerch Strait, capturing the cities of Kerch
Kerch is a city on the Kerch Peninsula of eastern Crimea, an important industrial, transport and tourist centre of Ukraine. Kerch, founded 2600 years ago, is considered as one of the most ancient cities in Ukraine.-Ancient times:...

 and Enikale quickly. Following those actions, naval power destroyed the Russian coastal battery at Kamishevaya Bay and entered the Sea of Azov.

By May 22 the English-French squadron, which consisted of 17 armed steam boats and 20 gunboats, appeared off Taganrog after crossing the Sea of Azov. The commanders of the expedition sent the city an ultimatum to surrender the town. The boat with French envoys carrying a white flag was met by Tolstoy's official for important missions, Otto Pfeilizer-Frank
Otto Pfeilizer-Frank
Baron Otto Wilhelm Hermanovich Pfeilizer-Frank, sometimes referred to as Otto Romanovich Frank or Otto Romanovich Pfeilizer-Frank was a Russian statesman, the 6th governor of Taganrog.-Biography:...

 and poet Nikolay Sherbina
Nikolay Sherbina
Nikolay Fyodorovich Shcherbina - Russian poet of 19th century.Nikolay Shcherbina was born on December 2, 1821 in Mius district of Don Cossack Host in the mansion of his mother. His father was of Ukrainian descent, and his mother of Greek descent. The parents of Shcherbina moved into the city of...

, who later described the event in Moscovskie Vedomosti of June 21, 1855. In one hour's time, Baron Pfeilizer-Frank returned to the envoys with Tolstoy's reply rejecting the offer by the British and the French. The Britist-French fleet began an initial bombardment of Taganrog that lasted about six and a half hours. A landing operation near the Old Stone Steps (Каменная лестница) and Greek Church in downtown Taganrog followed the bombardment. However, the allies were thrown back by the Cossacks and the volunteer corps. Seeing the town as temporarily impossible to take, the fleet retreated to launch other operations in the Sea of Azov.

Second phase

After the first phase of the Siege of Taganrog, the Russians deployed another fourteen regiments of Don Cossacks to the region around the Sea of Azov to protect the various coastal cities (for a total of 16 regiments when the two at Taganrog are included). These new forces arrived at the time when the British and the French began planning a second attempt at reaching Rostov on Don. Early in the month, the fleet of allied warships moved back of the Sea of Azov towards Taganrog, attempting to force their way up the Don River. Starting on July 7, the fleet began bombarding Taganrog again. Their attempt to move upriver on the Don was brought to a halt, however, due to the Russian steamer Taganrog and a pair of gunboats.

Blocked, the fleet moved back out into the Sea, but continued to bombard Taganrog for several weeks. Early in this bombardment, the allied fleet received a minor setback after local fishermen moved various buoys that marked water depth. This had the end result of forcing , a British gunship, ashore. The ship was seized by Don Cossacks and sunk with explosives found on board. Towards the end of July, the British-French fleet withdrew from the Taganrog region of the Sea of Azov.

Third phase

A third siege attempt was made by the British and the French beginning on August 19. However, their indecisiveness on how to take Taganrog allowed the Russians to build up fortifications and bring in reinforcements to make the city a stronghold. The combined British-French fleet attempted to move in to the city, but were pushed back by cannon fire and ground fire and could not launch appropriate ground operations against the city. Dissatisfied with the results, the allies pulled back on August 31, retreating back out into the Sea of Azov.

Following the retreat out of the Gulf of Taganrog, the British and French continued to launch minor military operations at coastal Russian positions, but these efforts simply wasted manpower. Operations in the Sea ceased on October 23.


Defense forces at Taganrog stood down on June 21, 1856, and the city began to return to normality. The Crimean War cost the city of Taganrog more than one million rubles
Russian ruble
The ruble or rouble is the currency of the Russian Federation and the two partially recognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Formerly, the ruble was also the currency of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union prior to their breakups. Belarus and Transnistria also use currencies with...

. Further, much damage was done to local structures. Twenty mansions were completely lost, and 74 were damaged to some capacity. One hundred and eighty-nine other buildings, primarily granaries and storehouses were destroyed and 44 damaged. Nearly a year after combat operations in the region were finished, Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

, the czar, exempted the citizens of Taganrog of taxes for the year of 1857.

A total of 163 Taganroger soldiers were awarded with medals and military orders because of their service during the siege.

External links and references

  • "Оборона Таганрога и его окрестностей" by Ivan Krasnov
    Ivan Krasnov
    Ivan Ivanovich Krasnov was a Russian general and author.-Military career:He was born in 1802, son to the general Ivan Kuzmich Krasnov , fellow-fighter of Alexander Suvorov and Matvey Platov. Ivan Ivanovich Krasnov was educated at the boarding-school by Kharkov University. He began military...

    , Saint Petersburg, 1862
  • "История Таганрога", П.Филевский, Moscow, 1898
  • Taganrog Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, Taganrog, 2003

Оборона Приазовья в Крымской войне 1853-1856 гг.
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