Warship Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018: The first steamer-on-steamer scrap

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018: The first steamer-on-steamer scrap

“Battle of the steam-frigate Vladimir with the Turkish steam frigate Pervaz-i Bahri on November 5, 1853, by Alexey Petrovich Bogolyubov. 1850s Canvas, oil. via wiki commons.

Here we see the British-built steam frigate Vladimir of the Russian Imperial Navy who, 165 years ago this week, won the first naval battle between two steamships.

While steam-powered warships started to appear in numbers on all sides during the Crimean War and then became standard in the U.S. Civil War, they had an earlier start when the floating steam-powered battery Demologos was built in the U.S. during the War of 1812 to defend New York City. The Royal Navy commissioned the early paddle sloop HMS Medea in 1833. Not to be outdone, the Tsar ordered the 28-gun paddle frigate Bogatyr in 1836 (predating the U.S. Navy’s own inaugural paddle gunboat USS Fulton by a year) and over the next 20 years Russia picked up almost two dozen more of these early steamships before moving on to screw-driven vessels.

Steam frigate Bogatyr by Russian maritime artist Vladimir Emyshev

Paddle frigate Gremyashchy built in 1849-1851 by Russian shipbuilder Ivan Afanasyevich Amosov at the Okhta shipyard

One of these was Vladimir, ordered from the private shipyard of Ditchburn & Mare’s, Blackwall, after a design of Mr. Burry & Co, Liverpool.

Some 179-feet long at the waterline, she was an iron-hulled paddle frigate capable of making 10.5-knots on her Rennie of London 1,200 ihp steam engine by design. She made a trials voyage from Plymouth covering 154 miles in just 13 hours, at a sustained rate of 11.75-knots, belching smoke from her twin stacks. It was all pretty impressive for the era.

Paddle frigate Vladimir by naval artist A.N. Ivanov

In fact, she was handier than some of the British Admiralty-built vessels in the RN, and at a cheaper price– a fact not lost on the Mechanic’s Magazine of 1848.

The 758-ton vessel mounted a 9.65-inch shell gun as well as four 24-pounder gunnades, although this was later upped to 13 guns including two 10-inch shell guns, three 68-pounders, six 24-pounders and a pair of 18-pound chase guns.

Sailing for the Russian Black Sea Fleet in 1848, the Vladimir became the flagship of VADM Vladimir Kornilov and, by 1853, the country was at war with their traditional enemy in the area, Turkey.

With LCDR Grigory Butakov in command of the Russian paddle frigate, she met the 10-gun Turko-Egyptian armed steamer Pervaz-i Bahri (Lord of the Seas) on 5 November. Spotting her around 8 in the morning at a distance, Butakov laid on the coal and closed by 10 a.m.

Butakov soon assessed that the Turk had no stern-firing guns and, after delivering an initial salvo broadside, moved to that exposed quarter. With her shell guns firing over the bowsprit, Vladimir soon disabled the steering of the enemy steamer, destroyed her observation deck, knocked away her stack, and then, closing with the wounded ship, started to rake her decks with canister.

The slaughter was kept up for two hours.

Her skipper killed along with 58 of her crew, Pervaz-i Bahri struck her colors by 1 p.m. and was taken as a prize by a Russian boarding party who renamed her Kornilov in honor of their admiral.

Butakov lost just two men in the action and was quickly promoted to Captain 2nd Rank, and knighted in the Order of St. George.

As for Vladimir, the Crimean War was her downfall, being trapped in the harbor at the siege of Sevastopol. Butakov did, however, according to Russian sources, try out a new tactic then of taking on ballast to one side, increasing the elevation of his guns to extend the range to hit British and French infantry outside of the besieged city.

As the Allies moved in, the steamer was scuttled 30 August 1855.

The destruction of Vladimir

Adm. Kornilov had already been killed on Malakhov Hill the previous October during the first bombardment of the city by Anglo-French troops.

Vladimir‘s cannons were later salvaged by divers and she was raised after the war in 1860 by an American firm, though found to be too damaged to repair and turned into a floating workshop for the naval base. In the end, she was sunk as a target ship for good in 1891.

As for Butakov, he later rose to admiral in 1878.


A number of flags from the ship as well as caps and epaulets from Butakov and Kornilov’s telescope are maintained in the Central Naval Museum in St. Petersburg. It seems the Communists couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of them post-1917.

The battle, vessel, and her skipper have been commemorated in a series of models, stamps, and paintings.


Displacement: 758-tons
Length: 200 ft oal, 179 wl
Beam: 35.9 ft.
Draft: 14.5 ft.
Machinery: Rennie, London four-boiler steam plant, 1,200 ihp, twin paddlewheels
Speed: 10.5 kts, 2,000-mile range at 8
Crew: 150
9.65-inch shell gun
4x 24-pounder gunnades,
2x 10-inch shell guns,
3x 68-pounders,
6x 24-pounders
2×18-pound chase guns.

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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