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Chapter XXXIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


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We have already narrated the abortive effort of the allies to destroy Petropaulovski in 1854. No attempt on the mouth of the Amoor was made in that year. But in 1855 the allied squadron was strengthened, both on the China and Pacific stations. There were five steamers - one French, the others English - and twelve sailing vessels, four of which were French. The total guns of the squadrons amounted to 480. Admiral Bruce and Admiral Fournichon commanded the Pacific squadron, Admiral Stirling the China squadron. On their side the Russians had augmented the fortifications at Petropaulovski, and had erected new works, and assembled a strong garrison, on the Amoor. But their naval force was of no value; they had only seven vessels, mounting ninety guns; of these four were in the beginning of the year at Petropaulovski. Two British steamers arrived off this place on the 14th of April, but while they were waiting for the squadron the Russians cut a channel through the shore ice, and, favoured by a fog, escaped on the 17th and reached Castries Bay. When, at the end of May, the allied squadron arrived, the place was found to be abandoned; there were only three Americans there. They consequently destroyed the batteries and burnt the Government stores. Admiral Bruce sent one ship to join Admiral Stirling, and with the rest returned to the American coast.

Admiral Stirling, in the meantime, had detached Commodore Elliot, with three ships, a frigate, and two steamers, into the Gulf of Tartary. He found the Russian vessels which had escaped Admiral Bruce, in Castries Bay; but he did not attack them, judging the disadvantages to be too great. Yet the weight of metal was in his favour; his ships were free to fight, being unencumbered, while the enemy was deeply laden with the garrison, the inhabitants, and the stores of Petropaulovski. It is to be regretted that Commodore Elliot did not risk an action. Instead of that, he sent a steamer for reinforcements, and while he was waiting for them, the enemy got away. At the time it was supposed he had escaped by some inner channel leading to the Amoor, but no such channel exists. The Russians went by the sea under the noses of their opponents. Commodore Elliot returned to the southern shore of Saghalien, where he found two English and two French ships. After some delay Admiral Stirling, taking with him five British vessels, steered for the Sea of Okhotsk. On his way he met three ships of war detached by Admiral Bruce, and with this strong squadron, mounting 252 guns, he rounded the Island of Saghalien and appeared off the Amoor. Here the boats of the squadron pursued a brig up the river. She was blown up before they could reach her, but several of her crew, trying to get away in boats, were pursued and captured. Although the British ships remained cruising off the Russian coasts until late in October, they effected nothing more remarkable than the capture of a merchant ship conveying to the Amoor the crew of the Russians frigate Diana, which had been wrecked by a submarine earthquake in Simoda Bay, in December, 1854. Thus the naval operations of the allies presented nothing striking, and the opportunity of striking a blow at the colonisation of the Amoor was lost. Since then the Russians have redoubled their efforts in this region. The territory they occupied has been formally ceded to them by the Chinese; and Russia is in a fair way of becoming a great Pacific power. In 1860 her navy there included nineteen steamers, carrying 380 guns, while there were twelve steamers afloat on the Amoor itself. The man to whom Russia most owes her progress on the Amoor is Count Nicolas Mouravief, for a long time Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, and for his services in these regions invested with the title of Amur sky.

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