Museum stories: snuffbox with medal commemorating the Gangut battle

Today issue of the "Museum Stories" is featuring the story the Snuffbox with the medal for the victory at Gangut on July 27 (August 7), 1714, that was created in the last third of the 18th century in Moscow, Russian Empire.

Silver parcel-gilt snuffbox with detachable lid. Embedded in the lid of the snuffbox is an award medal commemorating the victory in the Battle of Gangut with the portrait of Tsar Peter I on the front side and, on the reverse side, an image of a naval battle among islands borrowed from the Book of Mars of 1713, with the Cyrillic circumscription “" ПРИЛѢЖАНИЕ * ИВѢРНО[СТЬ*ПРЕ] ВОСХОДИТЬ*СИЛНО". The Battle of Gangut in 1714 was the first naval victory of Peter the Great in the Northern War of 1700-1721, which "made the whole of Europe talk It made it possible to shift the military action to the territory of Sweden. In honor of it "staff- and chief-officers were awarded medals (gold), each in proportion to his rank, and the unranked − with silver medals and money.
A medal "For the Naval Battle of Gangut" was made for the combatants. Gold medals were equivalent to 100, 70, 45, 30, 11 and 7 chervonets (ten-ruble coin). Silver medals with diameter and weight equaled to ruble coins of that time. Initially only 1,000 silver medals were stamped out. But this was clearly not enough to reward all the lower ranks, as there were about 3,500 participants in the battle. In 1715, another 1000 pieces were minted, but this quantity was also not enough. And only in 1717, at the request of Fyodor Apraksin, another 1.5 thousand silver medals were stamped out, which was more than enough. The remaining 387 medals were returned to the office of the Admiral-General.

On August 7, 1714 in the battle at Cape Gangut (now Peninsula Hanko, Finland) the first significant naval victory in the Northern War was won. Its history is as follows.

By the spring of 1714 the southern and almost all central parts of Finland were occupied by Russian troops. To finally resolve the issue of Russia's free access to the Baltic Sea, it was necessary to defeat the Swedish navy, which had retained supremacy in this territory. At the end of June the Russian galley fleet and auxiliary ships with 15 thousand troops, led by Admiral-General Fyodor Apraksin (the battle was actually commanded by the tsar, who joined the fleet) concentrated near the eastern coast of Gangut to land troops to reinforce the Russian military garrison in Abo. The way to the Russian combatants was blocked by the Swedish squadron of Admiral Gustaf Wattrang, consisting of 15 battleships, 2 bombardier ships, 3 frigates and 9 galleys.

To avoid fighting with the superior forces of the enemy, Peter I used a military cunning, ordering to drag part of the galleys to the area north of Gangut by land, across the isthmus of 2.5 km wide. When he learned that the Russians began to build a turnstile (wooden planking), G. Wattrang sent to the west coast of the peninsula 18-gun frigate "Elephant", 6 galleys and 3 scheerboots) under the command of Rear-Admiral Nils Ehrenschiöld. His main forces, consisting of 8 battleships and 2 bombardier ships under Vice-admiral E. Lillier, the Swedish commander planned to attack the main forces of the Russian galley fleet.

This was the division of the enemy's forces that Peter sought. The weather favored him. On the morning of August 6 there was no wind, depriving the Swedish sailing ships and vessels of the ability to maneuver. By order of the tsar the vanguard of Russians − 20 galleys under the command of admiral Matvei Zmayevich − started to break through, bypassing the Swedish squadron from the sea and keeping the enemy at a distance exceeding the range of his guns. After the vanguard the second Russian detachment of 15 ships rushed into the breakthrough. During the crossing, galleys of M. Zmayevich were engaged in combat with a vessel from the detachment of E. Taube, sent to reinforce squadron of Gustaf Wattrang. The Swedish flagship was forced to withdraw to the Åland Islands, allowing the galleys of Zmayevich to block Nils Ehrenschiöld detachment near Lackisar Island, thus eliminating the need to haul ships across the isthmus. In the meantime, the plan of Peter I continued to be carried out, thanks in large part to the Swedish flagship. G. Wattrang, assuming that other detachments of Russian galleys would break through the same way, ordered Lillier to take a new position, moving away from the coast and essentially opening the coastal fairway for the passage of Russian ships, which was used by Fyodor Apraksin, who headed for the west coast of the peninsula with the main forces of the galley fleet, as soon as the sea was calm again.

On the 7th of August, about two o’clock, 23 ships of the Russian advanced guard attacked the detachment of Nils Ehrenschiöld, marshaled in two lines in a crescent, with forward flanks, hidden by islands. The Swedes managed to repel the first two attacks by the fire of the ship's guns. The third attack was carried out against the flanking ships of the Swedish detachment, which did not allow the enemy to use the advantage in artillery. The attack was successful. The fight culminated in a fierce boarding battle, in which Peter I participated personally, showing his subordinates an example of courage and heroism. After a relentless battle Nils Ehrenschiöld, holding his flag on the frigate "Elephant", surrendered. All his nine rowing ships were captured as well.

As a result, the Battle of Gangut ended with the first major victory of the Russian regular fleet, giving it freedom of action in the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, and thus effective support for the Russian forces in Finland. In the Battle of Gangut the Russian commanders skillfully used the advantages of rowing ships, which, compared to sailing ships, were much less dependent on the strength and direction of the wind. Equally skillfully was used the availability of a large number of soldiers, which gave the Russians a decisive advantage in the boarding battle. Quickly and expediently the commanders reacted to changes in the situation, applying military cunning, revealing the enemy's intentions, pre-empting him and imposing their plan.

In September 1714, large-scale celebrations dedicated to the victory of Gangut were held in St. Petersburg, with the carrying the captured Swedish ships into the Neva River. Peter I himself, realizing the significance of the first victory of the Russian regular fleet, ordered that its importance be equated with the great Battle of Poltava.

See: Kuznetsov A.A., Chepurnov N.I. Medal of Honor. In 2 vols. 1: 1701-1917. М., 1995. pages 35-40