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The Diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Lowenstern: 1793 to 1803 and 1806 to 1815

The Diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Lowenstern: 1793 to 1803 and 1806 to 1815

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The Diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Lowenstern: 1793 to 1803 and 1806 to 1815

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Nov 17, 2014


Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern (1777-1836), as a younger son of the landed gentry in Estonia, had no prospects of being given an estate, i.e. a means of livelihood in his homeland. Therefore, at the age of 15 he entered Russian naval service. In 1797 while in England, he began keeping detailed diaries during the English sailors' revolt and continued them until leaving the Russian navy in 1815 to marry and take over estates in Estonia. From England in 1799, he sailed to Gibraltar, Sicily, Greece,

Nov 17, 2014

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The Diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Lowenstern - Victoria Joan Moessner



The originals of these diaries are in the Historical Archives in Tartu, Estonia under the archival number 1414.

Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern was born on November 13, 1777, on the estate of Jendel in Estonia, where he died in 1837. He was the fourth of ten children. Like many of the younger sons of the landed gentry in Estonia, who did not inherit an estate, as he writes at the beginning of this diary, he entered Russian Naval Service as a fifteen-year-old, first as a volunteer and then as a midshipman. He started keeping a diary quite regularly in 1797 in England during a rebellion of English sailors and unfortunately stopped when he retired in 1815, married Wilhelmine von Essen (1795-1862), and took over the estates of Allafer, Rasik, and Campen in Estonia until his death in 1836. His diaries were not published during his lifetime and therefore were not subjected to censorship. In his diaries we are given an intimate glimpse and appreciation of his life and the life of a seaman at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century and how his upbringing and various cultures and events shaped his views of himself, his language, and the world he lived in or passed through. This volume is a translation of his diary from 1793–1803 before he joined the voyage around the world under Adam Johann von Krusenstern and 1806 to 1815 after his return. A translation of the voyage around the world can be found in The First Russian Voyage around the World: The Journal of Herman Ludwig von Löwenstern, 1803-1806 (Fairbanks, Alaska, 2003). Excerpts of his diary from 1806 to 1815 follow the translation of his diary from 1793–1803. An English version of his younger brother Edward’s memoirs has also been published: With Count Pahlen’s Cavalry against Napoleon: Memoirs of the Russian General Eduard von Löwenstern (1790-1837).

The diary is not easy to translate. A person’s choice of words and language usage is an integral part of the personality. Since Löwenstern entered Russian Naval Service at fifteen, he did not attend school or the university as long as was possible at the time. He grew up in a multilingual environment, which continued in the Russian Navy, though the main language on shipboard was Russian. He learned Baltic German, French, Russian, English, Estonian, some Latin, and some words and expressions in the countries where he was stationed. Löwenstern’s language is a fascinating mixture of a contemporary spoken German with admixtures of the other languages he knew. He wrote words as he spoke or heard them, thus often orthography, gender, and endings vary from the standard usages today in those languages. He uses, for example, both Arzt and Chirurius sometimes for the same man. Thus, I have translated Arzt as doctor but left Chirurius (surgeon) since modern English surgeon does not mean the same thing as in his time. The diary reflects how he really spoke German. At no point does he mention that anyone found his language strange or incorrect, especially when he was visiting students in Leipzig and Jena or in Berlin. Unfortunately, this cannot be reflected in an English translation. I have left his English words in italics as he wrote them, e.g. bodyhouse for bawdy house, but have not marked all of them with [sic.]. I have substituted English V for German W and Y for German J except in family, estate, and German city names. His spellings of personal names (e.g. ff for v) have been kept with a transcription of the Russian or alternate spellings in footnotes.

Sometimes one would wish to ask him for an explanation of some of his remarks and attitudes, indeed in view of history since then, toward the Jews, or if it were true or just a rumor that the Russians might have captured Napoleon returning from Egypt. Löwenstern often used his diaries as an outlet for his personal feelings, dislikes, frustrations, which he possibly could not discuss with anyone. He also used them to record events and people he did not want to forget and would share later with others. Here the reader gains insights into the life and fate of a Baltic German nobleman living and working for Russia in the early ninettenth century.


I am grateful to my daughter, Petra, for editing and finding many of my typographical errors, also to Owen Matthews for helping me with modern names and spellings of towns and villages in Russia as well as all of the others who have helped with translations, identifications, and suggestions.

Chapter 1


I¹ made my first sea voyage as a volunteer on the Parmen under Captain Grevnitz.² Admiral Kruse commanded the fleet. We sailed to the North Sea and cruised there for several weeks amusing ourselves by fishing, stopped for a time in Copenhagen, and returned for the winter to Reval.³ I was a little past fifteen at the time and was still going to the Dom [Cathedral] school [in Reval]. During the dog days[of summer]⁴ on that voyage, I found how much I liked service at sea and my fate was decided. I did not understand a word of Russian. I took lessons in navigation from a Russian mate and also afterwards. I tried very hard but still did not make much progress. [Note on the edge of the page] Never before nor since have I seen such a large number of threatening water spouts as during the campaign in the North Sea. The warships found it necessary to fire cannonballs at them so that they dissolved.


I was ordered as a volunteer to the frigate Venus under Captain Bodisco.⁵ We cruised around the Baltic. Every merchant ship was interrogated. It was a true joy to do chase with the Venus since she sailed exceedingly well. We spent the winter in Reval. It was at the period when Bodisco was building his house and garden in the suburbs. Whenever we were at the roadstead in Reval, often with only the sentinel on board, the rest of the crew was working on the little homestead.


I was commanded to serve as volunteer on the Helena under Captain Breyer.⁶ Nothing was heard about my promotion [to midshipman] even though I had been examined and passed. The fleet was sailing under the orders of Admiral Chanikoff⁷ to England. Counter-Admiral Makaroff⁸ hissed his flag on the Helena. We spent some time in Copenhagen and after that we cast anchor again in Deal. There we suffered in a very heavy storm, which drove the Helena with four anchors, until we collided with the Peter smashing her bowsprit and the whole stern and the admiral’s cabin on the Helena. Luckily, one anchor was so good that it held at the right time. Old Makaroff with his wig was thrown out of his cabin like a ball onto the quarterdeck. Our bittings had caught fire. The anchor hawsers had become tangled and the confusion had no bounds. A short time before, an English warship had passed us with the entire crew armed with grappling hooks, in case we were to collide, to be able to chop everything to pieces, that seemed to be the order of things.

The damages were soon repaired by English carpenters after the Russian fleet had lost all of its boats on the shores of Deal because we were totally inexperienced in landing in surf, and the English had provided us again with new boats. We had continual visits from ladies and gentlemen, who all left us filled with disgust about the swinishness of the Russians. Our sailors teemed with lice and made no secret of it, so we finally sailed away to cruise before Texel.

In November and December, we had continual storms. One ship after another, Russian as well as English, signaled that they could no longer remain at sea. One had damaged masts or yardarms, another leaked, etc. Several weeks later only the Admiral’s ship⁹ the Venerable and Makaroff on the Helena were still at sea. The entire fleet had been scattered by the storm to Norway, Scotland, and England. Makaroff’s obstinacy was at fault for our staying at sea. He wanted to show that Russians could bear up under storms. Our leak increased so that even though the pumps worked day and night, the water in the ship still rose. The storms had driven us so close to the Dutch coast that we were only able to save ourselves in Cuxhaven near Hamburg. The Helena was so in motion that we had to rope her down. The grooves between the planks during the rocking moved three fingers–wide apart and more. The stern with all of its cabins sank so far that the tiller of the rudder jammed. With difficulty, we wedged ourselves clear. The roar caused by the wedges while rocking, the crashing of the ship, and the uproar of the storm were so strong that you became totally stunned. Makaroff, anxiously asking about the increase in the amount of water, since pumping was no longer helping, had buckets used to empty the hold of water. Makaroff accepted the fact that his false ambition had led him to this folly and kept still as a mouse. Old Breyer drank one glass of punch after another, where something needed to be done however he was there. The English pilot we had on board saved the ship by bringing us safely to Cuxhaven.

The Helena was repaired superficially. The entire battery was lowered into the hold. Caulked and bound together with ropes and with the first favorable wind, we raised anchor and sailed to Sheerness. No one could remember in Cuxhaven ever seeing such a large ship entering port there. It would not have taken much, and we would have shipwrecked or even sunk.


Soon after our arrival in Sheerness, it was determined that the Helena, which had suffered so greatly in the storm, should be brought to the docks in Chatham. I used this opportunity to travel with Ungern ¹⁰ to London; and since the Garde Marines had been advanced to officers but nothing had been said about me, I decided to enter the English East Indian service. I wrote to my father and received permission to do it. From London, I moved to Greenwich and Ungern to Camberwell. I to Blyth and he to Smith, two Scottish pastors. I eagerly learned English and had lessons in navigation and astronomy. For over five months, we both had quite pleasant lives until we, especially I who was already imagining myself sailing around in East India and China, were thrown from that fancy. Ungern was recalled since he was already an officer; and I, on the order of Empress Catherine,¹¹ had been promoted to midshipman. I felt desperate to have to enter the service against my will and in the future to be behind all of the Garde Marines in standing on the voyage to England. Protesting did not help, I had to go to Sheerness and take up my duties.

After the Russian fleet had been repaired in England, the Admiral received the order to return to Russia. In the Kattegat, we collided with Bakeeff¹² on the Piemen. We were lucky. It was a massive collision, could have been nasty. In Copenhagen, we received a contra order, and the best ships returned to England under Makaroff’s orders. The Helena returned to Russia, and I was transferred to the Peter commanded by Captain Prince Trubezkoi.¹³

It was our duty to cruise near Texel. The stormy time of the year we spent at Nore, Sheerness, and Blackstakes. That was again a quiet pleasant time. Walks to Queensborough and Milton and trips to Rochester, Chatham, etc., filled our time. At that time, Master Attendant Mr. Fraser gave me Sherwin’s Tables,¹⁴ which I had tried to buy in vain.

Depressing was the feeling to have to serve on a ship under such a crude lout as Makaroff. Every now and again, the English became annoyed with him and let him feel it; mostly they laughed at his follies. For us, there was nothing laughable about those accursed whims.


In April, we sailed from Sheerness to Yarmouth in order to cruise again near Texel. Yarmouth is a quite pretty city. Large convoys with anthracite coal from Newcastle sail by every day. The roadstead is very open, the shores flat, and for that reason the surf is fathom high in a strong wind. In a strong east wind, Makaroff sent me for the mail and to deliver dispatches. The waves threw my boat around like a ball. Luckily, I reached the breakwater built like a tongue into the sea to keep the boat from the surf, but the waves already were breaking over it. The waves were breaking on the shore with a fear-inspiring force. After completing my business, I hurried back to the boat. With hard work and effort against the current and waves and my boat half full of water, because the waves were continually breaking over it, and cramps in both arms from controlling the rudder whose blade was smashed, I arrived on board. Only with a light English boat do you dare to put yourself at the mercy of the turbulent seas. When I was leaving the breakwater, a merchant ship shipwrecked nearby. Only the people were saved.


On the 17th, I spent a very pleasant evening in Yarmouth at a ball. I danced to exhaustion.

20th The English fleet is in an awkward position. Several lawyers have been forced to become sailors or, as others say, have diligently entered service in order to instigate sailors [to revolt]. United, they demand higher wages, better food and more of it, and more liberty to go ashore, because otherwise men forced to be sailors, even though there were opportunities enough, often went five or six years without being allowed to go on land from fear that they would run off.¹⁵

21st I fell ill with scarlet fever as the Chirurius called it.

24th The convoy of several hundred ships coming from Newcastle and sailing against the current looked beautiful as it cast anchor at the Yarmouth Roadstead.

30th In answer to the rumor that the Parliament was dissatisfied with their demands, the sailors have arrested or sent on land all of their captains and officers. At the slightest cause, immediately hurrahs can be heard from the English ships, which spread and are repeated like wildfire through the entire fleet. Admiral Duncan is still keeping the sailors here under control. But in Yarmouth they are all the noisier, because daily every ship lets sixteen men go ashore except for the rowers. The sailors full of high spirits do not know themselves what they should do on land.

In Portsmouth, Lord Howe,¹⁶ who had been sent by the Admiralty from London, invited the delegates to meet with him at noon. After he had given a long moral speech, the sailors said, The Lord should be ashamed of himself, having served lifelong at sea with them and not having taken one step to alleviate the deprivations oppressing them, of which he could not be unaware.


5th Finally, I have lost my fever.

6th Ungern brought me the news that Merchant Jürgens¹⁷ has played bankrupt causing us not to have received our bank draft. I am not losing much, Ungern however all the more.

In Sheerness, the sailors do not know themselves anymore what they want.

10th If English sailors have been ashore and have not boxed, then they have not had any fun. This rule is being maintained in Yarmouth. On every street corner you find a boxing party. You have to be very careful not to be challenged to box.

11th I was on the Europa, which was in Sheerness when the sailors revolted. They wanted to hang several officers but were only prevented from this murderous intent by Admiral Buckner.¹⁸

With handshakes and requests, Buckner had been able to calm them down. They keelhauled a butcher, and they dunked some drunken sailors on a rope several times in the water. At first they did not let the Europa pass, then gave her the honors and sent sailors on board to have the honors returned, since they would have shown loyalty to the flag. Every ship has nooses at the end of the yardarms to hang, without much ado, anyone disobeying. Discipline is said to be exemplary among the sailors.

15th We received the order to return to Russia. On shipboard the sailors are rather quiet here, ashore however wild. Admiral Makaroff is very worried and fears that this disorder could make an impression on our sailors. Great unity prevails among the English and Russian sailors. Our people always come back totally drunk from shore, where the English have treated them. Last Sunday, a troop of sailors forced the pastor on the pulpit to shorten his sermon in order to marry five sailors with just as many common girls. Captain Blyth¹⁹ used a fishing boat to go from his ship to Sheerness, when the sailors on his ship revolted and did not want to let him have a boat. One evening when Captain Lieutenant Moller²⁰ wanted to go from Sheerness to his frigate, several sailors confronted him with raised clubs and stopped him. He tried quietly to go past them, but because of threats, he was forced to say, I am a Russian. God damn! said the sailors, you could have said that right away! and set out on further adventures.

17th Admiral Duncan weighed anchor in order to sail to Texel. It is suddenly quiet in Yarmouth.

19th Admiral Duncan’s fleet has also revolted. One part has sailed to Sheerness and the other part to here. Every ship has hoisted a red flag (The Flag of Defiance) up the mast. Admiral Duncan’s ship and Admiral Onslow’s ship the Venerable and the Monarch are the only ones staying in Texel. Now it has really become quite restive and noisy here in Yarmouth.

21st They are also trying to get the soldiers against the king and government. The government has promised rewards to those who would disclose the producers and distributors of lampoons and handbills. In Norwich the dragoons razed a house into which the distributors of these handbills had fled. They are saying that the French and Dutch are arming themselves to invade England.

Strife, quarrels, envy, hate, deceitfulness, subterfuge, self-interest, unkindness, lies, and laziness, these are the driving forces that are the daily regime on our ship.

22nd According to reports from Sheerness, the fleet that has revolted is twenty-three pennants strong. The inhabitants of the city are moving deeper into the countryside. The fort has been put on defensive alert. No boats are being permitted to go from the ships on shore anymore, and water and provisions are no longer being delivered. The members of the Admiralty, who had come to Sheerness, have returned to London because the sailors had greeted them so unfriendly and nothing could be accomplished with them. The demands of the delegates, aside from the demands made in Portsmouth, were 1. The King’s pardon 2. Two months’ pay in advance, and the freeing of the five delegates who had been arrested.

24th The Thames has been formally blockaded. All merchant ships are being stopped. Sailors have taken over two transports to America with riggings and ship’s provisions. The ships’ officers have been arrested and are being held hostage, as Parker²¹ with the delegates has declared, for the lives of the imprisoned delegates on land. They undressed a Chirurius, smeared him with tar, sprinkled with feathers, and towed him on land behind a jolly boat. They have insulted many officers in the most sensitive manner and dunked a couple midshipmen in the water from the end of a yardarm. The delegates have a president whom they choose every day anew. Unfortunately, the entire English fleet is in rebellion.

25th Four rebel ships sailed to Sheerness from here today. The fishermen have declared that they are willing to act against the sailors, since Parliament is determined to check the insurgency, and if necessary to man the recently launched ships.

Parliament has declared the rebelling sailors pirates because they have already robbed and detained twenty-five merchant ships.

Today Makaroff, our Admiral, returned from London where he had spent fourteen days. We are sailing to Texel to cruise there.

28th The sailors have sent a captain on his word to London and given him a letter to the Admiralty Collegium said to be filled with flowery republican phrases. Parker signed it with Health and Fraternity. They have also written to the king with the demand that, if they would not receive an answer within fifty-six hours, they would undertake something which would astonish the nation. The government has had all of the marker buoys and signs removed, making it impossible for the ships to sail to sea. Parliament has declared whoever voluntarily obeys the laws once again is to be pardoned, capital punishment for anyone who corresponds with the rebels or helps them in any way.

Today Makaroff gave the signal not to send any more boats ashore and on the 1st of June we went to sea. The following day in order to cruise before Texel, we met Admiral Duncan with ten ships of the line from Portsmouth, two frigates, three cutters, three lugers, and four tenders. We got the news from him that three ships, even though the others had fired balls at them, had raised the white flag in Sheerness. During a calm, we amused ourselves with fishing.

5th We sailed with a fresh wind toward Texel to show the Dutch that, even though the sailors in England were revolting, the sea was nevertheless not empty of English ships.

6th A doctor from the Venerable has been with us for the last few days because of Makaroff’s indisposition. Today he brought the news that in greater Nore near Sheerness the sailors, after long resistance, had submitted to the law; and all of the rebel leaders, that is, so-called Admiral Parker and sixty delegates, had been turned over to the English criminal courts. On one of the frigates, the two parties had got into hand-to-hand fighting and thirteen men were killed.

The Dutch fleet is ready to sail and has a lot of transport ships around it ready for landing. Our squadron, in case the Dutch should attempt to invade, is to prevent the transport ships from landing or prevent them from carrying out their intentions.

8th Admiral Duncan sent our Admiral newspapers with the following announcement: when Captain [K]night²² of the Montague had returned from London on his parole d’honneur, he was met by his sailors with respect. Parliament’s declaration: those will be pardoned who voluntarily submit to the laws, but those who persist in rebellion are to be treated as pirates, Parker had suppressed. The sailors have become distrustful. A great change has taken place in the mood, and a couple of days later that ship raised the white flag, and the other ships have followed their example. In London four ships of the line and twenty-five cannon ships have been manned with volunteers to act against the rebels.

9th We dropped anchor twenty versts²³ from Texel. On the Sandwich (a three-decker on which Parker lived) the sailors have gone to their officers and demanded that Parker and the delegates be put in chains; whereupon the white flag was raised and sailed to Sheerness. On another ship the sailors have asked the officers to punish the delegates themselves in order to excuse them from the criminal courts, etc.—and thus the rebellion has had an end.

In Texel sixteen ships of the line are waiting not counting frigates and transports.

11th At two o’clock, Makaroff crowned all coarseness, that is, Makaroff had been ordered to return to Russia, was however through the Russian minister in London and the English ministry convinced to cruise so long near Texel until the sailor’s rebellion had been suppressed, so he stole away with his Russian squadron without taking leave of Admiral Duncan. At seven o’clock, Duncan gave a signal accompanied by three cannon shots asking for Makaroff’s ship. Makaroff acted as if he had not seen the signal, set sail, and tried to abscond. Then a lugger took up the chase for Makaroff, caught up with him, and announced itself as express from Admiral Duncan.

12th In the morning at five o’clock, we had the bad luck to lose a man who fell overboard. All of our efforts to save him were in vain. The wind was too strong, and we were sailing with full sails.

16th Fifteen miles from Helsingor, about twenty-five versts, we had to drop anchor because of a lull in the wind. Captain Lietenant Treskin²⁴ of the Narva visited us. He related that he had been in Nore during the sailors’ revolt, that the sailors had arrested over five hundred merchant ships and plundered part of them. Parker had given them receipts in the name of the king and admiralty for the provisions that had been taken. A sloop of war (a small frigate) with dispatches for America, especially to notify the commanding admirals in the West Indies of the sailors’ rebellion in England, stole through the rebels. Several ships asked where she was going and got as an answer: She had orders from Parker to change her position. As she was sailing by the Sandwich, she was greeted with cannonballs and ran a gauntlet up the mouth of the Thames. As luck would have it, the balls left her riggings undamaged and the frigate hurried away. Two ships attempted to follow her, but in vain. In the Swin between the sandbanks, she was met by ships coming from Yarmouth, but she got rid of them with the lie she had been sent to capture a runaway cutter, and thus happily arrived in Portsmouth, from where she sailed farther. Parker had condemned a midshipman to be hanged because he had been coarse and disobedient and did not want to recognize the authority of the sailors under any circumstances.

The crew, which according to the laws, had to carry out hangings did not want kill a fourteen-year-old boy who was brave enough, with the rope around his neck, to make fun of them. He remained alive. The rumor, that the delegates with Parker at their head wanted to turn the fleet over to the French, has actually brought the sailors to their senses because they were afraid of betrayal. Parker has declared that his death would fill Temple Bar with the heads of traitors. As a start, he is said to be playing insane and has already made several attempts to commit suicide. Parker is a dishonored English lieutenant who from hardship had become a sailor.

The wind came up after the lull and turned into a storm, which was softened somewhat by heavy rain. At four o’clock we dropped anchor near Helsingor.

18th We arrived at the roadstead in Copenhagen. We found a Swedish and a Danish frigate already there. Both sent officers to Makaroff to wish him luck upon his arrival.

19th If you compare here to England, everything in Copenhagen seems bad and tasteless and especially desolate and empty. From Bodisco I learned that brave Reimers²⁵ has died.

24th We have sailed into the Baltic. A heavy fog has forced us to drop anchor in Kioge Bay.

25th Moens Klint, the 26th Bornholm, the 30th Gotland, nice weather. The 3rd of July we saw Gagerort, the 4th Odinsholm.


5th The cutter Merkur met us bringing the order to sail straight to Hochland [Hogland/Gogland], where the Kronstadt fleet would join us.

6th We passed Nargen and my beloved Reval. At twelve o’clock we met the Kronstadt fleet near Hochland. We, however, did not join it.

11th Stormy bad weather. We dropped anchor in the protection of Hochland. The Merkur brought us the news that Emperor Paul²⁶ was now near Krasnaya Gorka waiting there for better weather and a favorable wind. The storm from the northwest is however still continuing.

13th We saw five ships. The drum was rolled because we suspected the Emperor. It was however a badly battered cruising Russian squadron. One of them had tattered sails; this one a broken yardarm; that one a cracked topmast; she looked really bad.

15th The wind finally was somewhat calmer and Puschkin²⁷ approached us with his squadron after being patched up behind Hochland. A frigate brought us the news that the Emperor has returned to Petersburg, and we received orders to sail to Kronstadt.

One wishes too much in the world, as if all wishes could be granted. We thus did not go to Reval.

16th We have arrived in Kronstadt.

19th Very bad weather. I went over to the frigate Brincheslaw, where Brevern²⁸ with the Garde Marines is going to sea. He could not give me any news from home except that Estonia and Livonia had been granted their old constitution²⁹ again, that my father is provincial councilor and that my sister Julchen³⁰ is very gravely ill.

20th We moved closer to Kronstadt. Every day we are hearing about new regulations which hit us in the heart, liver, and pocketbook. What are we poor devils now going to do with our beautiful white uniforms?

21st Was Smotre (inspection). Kronstadt is a filthy hole. The quarters truly shacks and few of them available because there are a lot of military people here, i.e., personal grenadier regiment, the Archarov and the Keksholm regiments, the fleet battalions, and the entire fleet except for the garrison and artillery. How can Kronstadt take in so many men?

23rd We unloaded our gun powder.

24th We had a lot of hard work. We wanted to pull our ship into the harbor. It was either too heavily loaded or the entrance to the middle harbor was clogged. In short, the ship hit the bottom with her keel, and we had to give up our plans. Captain Trubezkoi was ashore at the time and came on board just as we were sitting tight. He raged vociferously, which did not help, bawled the officers out, and insulted honest Syme.³¹ Trubezkoi seemed to have something on his mind because he talked and acted like an insane man who did not know what he was doing. After he had screamed himself hoarse, he returned ashore, and the next morning we pulled ourselves into the middle harbor.


New regulations without end. [Who knows] if they will also be useful? I am without money and uniforms, without a hat, and without a sword. I only dare wear the white uniform when I am going to the bathhouse; and if my hat or any other trifle is not according to regulations, I end up at the main guard.


My hope to be granted leave has failed. In answer to my repeated requests, I received indelicate dismissive answers. I had used my last money for my equipment in England; not a piece of all of it did I dare wear. I wrote my father and received no money. My pay was 120 rubles a year. In order to have no debts, I had a uniform made, out of necessity, from soldier’s cloth. (That was nothing unusual during Paul’s time.) My westowoi,³² since I had neither a servant nor a denschick,³³ an honest old sailor named Evtampi fed me with his denschick’s provisions. I happily bore this depravation, and it was a good feeling even in need not to have any debts because I knew how unpleasant it had been for my father when he had to pay debts in arrears for my older brothers.³⁴ I was passionate about naval service. But wading around in the filth in Kronstadt, I found exceedingly unpleasant; and since I always fulfilled my duties punctually, I also had to run around a lot. The large number of military in Kronstadt was the cause for so small a light as I was being reduced to fending for himself. I had to pal around with the coarse folk or be satisfied with my solitude. I chose the latter; felt however that my forced solitude gave my thoughts a melancholy streak. During that period the question arose in me for the first time: Why are you living? A question that repeated itself more often in later life so that it horrified me. The thought to drift about as a midshipman for eight to nine years, to vegetate in Kronstadt, of no use to others or myself, brought me to despair and the decision to ask for my discharge. On the old Rinok [market] in Kronstadt stood dilapidated Russian booths, the home of rogues and robbers. Four murder victims have already been found there. Every evening around eight or eight thirty, I had to wade through the filth there with my report for Admiral Simanski.³⁵ How often did I wish to be attacked in the hope that the robbers would kill me and I would be rid of a life which was so burdensome. I finally received permission from my father to hand in my request for discharge and how revived was I after I had handed in my petition to the Admiral.

Several weeks later I received my petition with the remark that I had not yet served five years. That is the law, that Garde Marines trained at Crown costs had to serve. That law could not however apply to me because I had entered the service as a volunteer. There was nothing that could be done. No protest would help. Now Emperor Paul has ordered that, if an officer is ill for more than six weeks, he should be excluded from service. I set my hopes on that and reported ill. From Petersburg a whole medical faculty was named with Admiral Chanikoff as its head to examine me. I continued to maintain I was ill and could not serve at sea any longer, was however neither debarred nor dismissed.

Chapter 2





At end of January, Admiral von Desen, Wilhelm Petrovitsch³⁶ called me to him and told me I should report myself as healthy again; my egoism would not help further. If you give me twenty-eight days leave, I will report myself as healthy tomorrow, I answered, and two days later I had my leave—but!—no money to travel. I rented a Russian peasant under the condition I would pay him either in Forel or Reval; and dressed for the severe cold, a three-cornered hat on my head and a buckle, I began my trip. Tired underway, I fell asleep and my peasant too. The horse threw me out, shied, and dragged me for a fairly long way. It scraped the left side of my face very raw; no surprise that my brother Carl in Forel did not recognize me when I arrived. My brother certainly did not expect a uniform of soldier’s cloth and the strict required clothing on a trip in the middle of winter. My parents also did not recognize me when I came to Reval, since my scraped-up cheek made me unrecognizable. My father reproached me because I had not received the money he maintained he had sent. The fourteen days I spent in Reval passed like in a dream. When my leave was over, I set out on my return trip with the post, reported in time in Kronstadt, and took up my now doubly unpleasant duties.


At the beginning of this month the news was confirmed that a squadron would be sailing for England. Everyone hurried to fill up Admiral Makaroff’s antechamber, who was very favored by Paul and had been named head of this expedition. I did not even take the trouble to go to him and request to be part of this expedition because I suspected I would receive a negative answer because there were so many asking to go that Makaroff’s chamber could hardly hold the crowd.

On Sunday, the 19th, Syme met me at Prince Trubezkoi’s and gave me the advice to go to Makaroff and ask him to assign me to one of the ships being ordered to sail to England under his command. I could expect nothing worse than a negative answer. Without blushing, I listened to Makaroff’s polite well-founded negative answer in the presence of an assemblage of officers I did not know. Several days later, Makaroff traveled to Petersburg where he was given permission to take surplus officers with him. Upon his return, the number of supplicants had increased immensely.

The warship Mstislaff, that Crown³⁷ commanded, also received orders to sail to England but was still in the docks. The other ships were already completely tackled. The work on the Mstislaff was overwhelming, for Emperor Paul demanded blind obedience. Crown’s officers were: Captain Lieutenant Sievers,³⁸ a capable officer but drunk every day. The lieutenants were all advanced from recruits and had not yet had any experience commanding a watch, and the midshipmen had recently been graduated from the cadet corps. Therefore, Crown went to Makaroff and said: Give me other officers or take the ship from me; I cannot go to sea this way. Through Syme I had got a spot on the list of the ones Makaroff was thinking of taking with him to England; unfortunately there were already more on the list than were necessary and next to each name stood the name of the person who had recommended him. My name had a very weak figure, for that rubric was blank; and, nevertheless, I was unexpectedly commanded on the 26th to the Mstislaff as Nastoischtschoi [consignor].


1st I put in an unbelievable effort to fulfill my duties according to the way Crown, strict from reputation, would want them, and I succeeded. On the 3rd, I was on duty with the crew and had to be on my legs from four in the morning until eleven in the evening.

5th Now I can only rest from twelve to three at night. For aside from being on duty this week, at noon I have to give my own people and those sent to me schnapps and in the evening after work distribute meat; and in addition, I was put in charge of the ship’s consignments. I suggested to Crown that this was too much for me. He asked me to continue doing these jobs for a few more days. My comrades were too lazy to have lightened my jobs for me. My blood became so stirred up, that for fourteen days in a row, every morning I had strong nosebleeds and became quite ill.

Commanded to для перевозу Елизабетљ.³⁹ were Minitzkoi,⁴⁰ Dimidoff,⁴¹ Long,⁴² Balley,⁴³ Herzenberg, Popotzoff,⁴⁴ and Krischanofski.

The big rush doing the work on the Mstislaff made my head spin. Along with our crew, daily two-hundred-fifty men from other ships were with us to work, one-hundred-fifty carpenters and joiners for riggings, fifty workers putting in the timbers, and about sixty caulkers. I, poor fellow, had to get these men up every morning for work and, after having called them out by name, to lead them to work. Our ship was so full of people, riggings, wood, wood shavings, and dirt so that you

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