Part III: Kamchatka Secondary Navy Expedition

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The plan of invasion of India included some particular details almost not studied until now.

This auxiliary military action against British possessions in India had to support the two separate expeditions described above. This plan was briefly outlined in the report of one of Napoleon's agents or envoys in Russian capital: "... During my stay at St. Petersburg I learned the details of the project submitted to Paul that he approved. Three frigates are to be armed in most eastern the part of Russian Empire - in port of St. Peter and St. Paul at very extremity of Kamchatka, These ships have to pass the Indian Ocean and to destroy numerous British fleet at sea. The success of this expedition is doubtless having in mind geographical position of Russia, its countless resources, and prompt and easy communications. It is agreed that within a limit of five weeks guns on sledge will be transported by snow to Kamchatka together with all required material to transform three ships into frigates. Three or four months arc needed to arm the vessels or even to construct the new ones. All this seems very realistic as the punctuality with which Paul is obeyed is well known"[31].

This fact is not described in any special publications related to the subject. However it is well known that some preventive measures have been undertaken to strengthen Kamchatka against the eventual British and Spanish attacks from Philippines Islands already in 1799[32].

Early in 1801 Colonel's Somov garrison regiment was mandated to march to Kamchatka from Irkutsk to secure Okhotsk, Geejiga and Udsk[33]. In St. Petersburg, Captain Boukharin was appointed to Okhotsk to prepare transport vessels (see map 3).

Thus, the details of three independent sources coincide. It seems obvious that measures undertaken to secure Kamchatka could turn the defensive military actions into offensive ones.

Analysing the described expeditions together with tsar's plans to attack Constantinople by Russian regular troops and Napoleon's ideas of advance to India via Persia from Egypt by land or directly to India by sea, we can conclude how serious the eventual threat for Britain was.

These combined military operations and plans produced much buzz and concern in London: "...The anxiety is almost general, - reported a Prussian secret agent at British capital, - especially when the society learned that Paul I mandated three frigates to set sails from Kamchalka to disturb our commerce with China".

Further on, the same agent outlines the fears of British society about the French who are still in Egypt and describes the economic consequences of invasion of India by British enemies. He believes that the threat is very serious and that British Royal Navy can secure only Ceylon where ships come for winter[34]. At the same time this agent writes that British government keeps quite. Pitt's Cabinet seemed to doubt strongly in reality of the threat.

Interrupted Advance

Now let us return back to our Cossacks, that we have left on the half road to Orenburg and listen to the abstract from one Russian book[35]: "...Generals Orlov, Platov and Colonel Belogorodzev came to staniza Meichetnaya to discuss further actions. Orlov looked at the map sent to him by the Emperor Paul I.

"We did not reach Orenburg" - he thought, - "but lost the road several times. To the South of Orenburg the way was traced by a thin line.... What should we expect to meet with...? No mountains, no rivers, no steppe were marked On the Landkarte".

"We did not pass 1/10 of the way", grumbled Orlov.

"Any casualties?" he asked hetman Platov.

"No one yet" replied general examining the horizon.

"Any news from Orenburg?" Platov asked Orlov.

"They can not open the road" sighed Orlov - very few are marked on the map".

"Should we advance by stars?"- smiled general Belogorodzev looking at Platov.

"Are you sure to find the right way by stars?"- Orlov asked.

"I am - replied Platov - we have nothing else to do".

Suddenly they heard voices: "Hetman, to Hetman, ... Emperor's courier to General Orlov!" "Tsar hurries up...", - Belogorodzev said.

"That is true, he sends me prescripts almost each day..."- confirmed Orlov. He looked pale and sick.

The courier arrived and stopped in front of general Orlov and handled him a letter. "What's in it?", - worried Orlov.

The courier kept silence. Orlov opened the envelope, read the most important abstract and embarrassed looked at Platov:

"Oath..., Matwey Ivanovitch, we have a new tsar!"

"Oh, really?"

"New tsar! His Majesty Alexander Pavlovitch!", confirmed Orlov. He put off his hat and crossing himself with a Holy Cross added with pleasure:

"We go home, boys!"

"Urrrah...!" the Cossacks cried.

The army turned back, crossed the Volga by one big piece of ice, that served as a bridge, and stopped for bivouac at staniza Katchalinskaya. All men visited church for Te Deum in this village and next day the army marched down to the Don.

Soon after, General Orlov died and General Platov was commissioned the Hetman and the Head of the Cossacks Army of the Don. The expedition to India was over.

Paul I was assassinated at St Michael castle in St. Petersburg at night on March, 12th, 1801 in a court conspiracy of higher officers.

A little earlier, on December 24, 1800 an attempt to assassinate Napoleon was undertaken in Paris.

It seems these two unexpected and tragic events saved England from a Franco - Russian invasion of India.

Dr. Alex Zotov, FINS, St.Petersburg, Russia


Historical magazine Gatchina Over the Centuries