Battle of Hango

Battle of Hango 1714. The combat at Hango 6 August 1714 occurred at a critical strategic point where the difficult inshore navigation suitable only for galleys could be interrupted by deep-draught sailing ships. The victory of the Russian galleys paved the way for a series of amphibious raids on the Swedish coast. After crushing Saxony and taking control of Poland, Charles finally turned to deal with Russia. Underrating his enemy after the easy success of Narva, and lured on by promises of local support, Charles allowed his army to be drawn deep into the Ukraine where, his troops exhausted and their supply lines cut, he was decisively defeated at Poltava in 1709. The folly of abandoning his secure Baltic base demonstrated the limits of Charles’s strategic vision. It is doubtful if his army, with a secure maritime supply line, would have been defeated.

Battle of Hango

Denmark rejoined the war after Poltava. Her fleet immediately complicated the movement of Swedish troops, ruining the Swedish position on the southern shores of the Baltic. After an indecisive battle in 1710, the Danes crippled a big military convoy to the Pomeranian fortress of Stralsund in 1712. With the bulk of her navy deployed against the Danes, Swedish forces in the Gulf of Finland were outnumbered by the Russians, and on 6 August 1714 one hundred Russian galleys overpowered seven Swedish sailing warships at Hango after a prolonged and costly battle.

Hangö, Battle of (1714)

Battle of Hango

(in Russian, the Battle of Gangut), a naval battle near the Hangö Peninsula between the Russian and Swedish fleets during the Northern War of 1700-21.

In 1714 a Russian galley fleet under the command of Admiral-General F. M. Apraksin (99 galleys and scampavias [small galleys], with an amphibious landing force of 15,000) was sent to the Åbo-Åland reefs (skerries) to effect a landing. However, the Russian flotilla that left Kronstadt on May 9 was forced to stop at Tvärminne because the further route was barred by the Swedish battle fleet (15 battleships and 14 smaller ships) of Vice-admiral Wattrang. In order to bypass the Swedish ships in the southern extremity of the Hangö Peninsula, it was decided to create a portage on the narrow part of the isthmus and to drag the galleys across and into the rear of the main forces of the Swedish fleet. The Swedes sent a detachment under Rear Admiral Ehrensköld (one frigate, six galleys, and three skerry boats) toward one end of the portage and another detachment under Rear Admiral Lillje (eight battleships and three other ships) to Tvärminne in order to attack the Russian flotilla.

Taking advantage of the division of the Swedish forces and of the calm, Peter I decided to break through along the shore. On July 26 the Russian vanguard (35 scampavias) bypassed Hangö Peninsula on oars and blockaded Ehrensköld’s detachment in Rilaks Fiord; on July 27 it was joined by the main forces. On July 27 the vanguard attacked Ehrensköld’s detachment, which surrendered after a stubborn battle. The Swedes lost ten ships with 116 guns; 361 men were killed, 350 wounded, and 237 captured, including Ehrensköld. On July 28 the Swedish fleet withdrew to the Åland Islands. The Hangö battle, which was the first major naval victory of the Russian fleet over a strong enemy, ensured domination over all Finland to the Russian troops. In memory of the victory, a medal was instituted and a monument erected on the shore at Rilaks Fiord.

The following year the Danish fleet blockading Stralsund defeated the Swedish fleet, enabling an allied amphibious force to capture a key offshore position, sealing the fate of the fortress. These operations were supported by a British fleet which had entered the Baltic with the Dutch to protect their commerce against Swedish privateers. The new king of Britain, George I, was also Elector of Hanover, and his continental ambitions gave a new importance to the Baltic. Charles had hoped the privateers would deny Russia any economic benefit from the recently conquered Baltic provinces, but Britain and Holland would not allow the supply of naval stores to be interrupted. In 1716 Danish warships destroyed the Swedish galley fleet in the Sound, crippling Charles XII’s attempt to invade Norway. In 1719 Russian galleys landed troops to ravage the Stockholm region and, after Charles XII’s death, a Danish amphibious force bombarded and captured the Swedish fleet and base at Marstrand, wiping out Swedish communications for operations in Norway. The same year Britain made peace with Sweden, and tried to remove Russian influence from north Germany in order to re-establish a Baltic balance. The former policy was successful, but the latter proved impossible. Sweden was now too weak and isolated to return to the front rank of European states. However, a British battle fleet and the Swedish galleys were able to restrict Russian naval activity between 1719 and 1721, when the Peace of Nystad ended the war.

The collapse of the Swedish Empire was the result of naval attrition. Sweden simply did not have the naval power to deal with the fleets of Denmark and Russia operating at opposite ends of the Baltic, and so her naval forces, adequate against either, were whittled down in small-scale, largely indecisive actions. These minor defeats culminated in the loss of Stralsund and the ravaging of the Swedish coast. The process was hastened by the loss of vital commercial revenues. Unable to use the sea, Sweden could not move her army to meet the allied attacks.

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