By Ivan Aivazovsky
The last major naval engagement of the age of sail (Battle of Sinop) can be seen on this painting by Ivan Aivazovsky. In November 1853 a Russian squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral Pavel Nakhimov (3 84-gun ships) was on patrol off the northern coast of Anatolia. Russian ships approached the Bay of Sinop to check the rumors of the Turks gathering a landing force there. A squadron of 7 Turkish frigates and 5 smaller ships was anchored in the bay protected by 6 coastal batteries. Nakhimov’s force blockaded the port and waited for reinforcements to come. Soon 3 120-gun ships of the line and 2 frigates commanded by Rear-Admiral Novosilsky joined Nakhimov. Fearing that the Anglo-French fleet might reinforce the Turks the Russians decided to attack.
The Russian fleet sailed down to Sinop in two columns. The ships of the line were armed with a new and formidable weapon: the Paixan 68-pounder shell guns, which were especially deadly against wooden warships. On 18 (30) November 12:30 PM the action began. The Russians took position in a crescent along the anchored Turkish ships and started firing. A fierce cannonade from the Turkish batteries and ships inflicted some serious damage on the Russian fleet, but still the Turkish frigates were no match to the shellfire of the bigger guns of the Russian ships of the line. In slightly more than an hour all the Turkish ships were either destroyed or ran aground. By 4 PM the batteries were silenced as well. Only one Turkish steamer escaped the carnage.