Baltic Lovers, The
DESCRIPTION: Mary escapes from her father's prison to follow her sailor Thomas to fight the Russians in Sir Charles Napier's Baltic Fleet. When she is discovered and taken, with Thomas, to Napier, he sends them back to England where they marry.
EARLIEST DATE: 1856 (Chambers)
LONG DESCRIPTION: In Southampton Thomas, a sailor "engaged with Sir Charles Napier" tried to leave Mary, a merchant's daughter, to join the fleet "to fight the Russians in the wars of Turkey" He had promised not to leave her. She threatened to sail with him in the Baltic fleet. Her father overheard the conversation and had her confined in a garret [or barracks]. She escaped to Portsmouth, dressed as a soldier, and met her lover aboard the Duke of Wellington - Napier's ship - "at the Dardanelles" The lovers were taken to the quartermaster who told the story to Napier. Napier promised they shall "be made both happy and that right soon" They embraced and sailed away to England while "we all joined in and we sang the chorus, 'God Save the King' and Sir Charles Lapier [sic Fowke-Ontario]." Now they live happily in Southampton.
KEYWORDS: love marriage navy war parting reunion separation escape cross-dressing ship England Russia father sailor
Crimean War [see bibliography for sources]
Mar 11, 1854 - The Baltic Fleet, Sir Charles Napier, commander, sails from Spithead; occupied principally in blockading.
May 28, 1854 - The Baltic Fleet destroys Russian forts at Hango, Finland.
Aug 15, 1854 - Russian forts captured at Bomarsund, Aland Islands, Finland, by the Baltic Allied Fleets and troops.
Sept 25, 1854 - Napier reports to Admiralty that it was too late in the season for an attack on Sweaborg, Finland.
Oct 4, 1854 - Admiralty orders attack on Sweaborg to be started "at the end of October"
Oct 10, 1854 - Napier declines the Sweaborg attack which he believed must fail.
Dec 7, 1854 - Napier sails for England with most of the Baltic Fleet not previously returned.
Dec 17, 1854 - Napier anchorsat Spithead.
Dec 22, 1854 - Napier ordered to strike his flag and come on shore. Napier and many observers consider this an insulting dismissal from service.
June 1, 1855 - The Baltic Fleet, now under the command of Rear-Admiral Dundas, joins the Allied Fleets.
FOUND IN: Canada(Ont)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Fowke-Ontario 47, "Sir Charles Lapier" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: William and Robert Chambers, editors, Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts (London, 1856 ("Digitized by Google")), Vol V, No. 124, May 17, 1856, p. 208, "The Baltic Lovers" (1 text: first four verses only)
Marcelle McMahon, "Sir Charles Lapier" (on ONEFowke01)
NOTES: In its less than 10 months time commanded by Napier the Baltic Fleet was never at the Dardanelles.
The historical references are just to give some idea of the time frame covered by this ballad. The ugly details of Napier's [non-]dismissal probably have no place here. You can read about it in the references in the bibliography, below.
For other broadsides about Sir Charles Napier and the Baltic Fleet see:
Bodleian, Harding B 26(25), "The Baltic Fleet" ("Don't you know the wrongs you are doing"), unknown, no date
Bodleian, Firth b.25(513), "The Baltic" ("To the Baltic's broad billows we go, boys"), T. King (Birmingham), c.1845
NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(95b), "Jack and the Bear-Skin" ("A sailor and his lass Sat o'er their parting glass"), unknown, c.1885
John Ashton, Real Sailor Songs (London, c.1973 reprint of 1891 edition), #27, pp. 3-4, "Bold Napier" ("Old England calls her sons to arms") - BS
These days, the Crimean phase of the Crimean War gets all the attention (song on the subject include, e.g., "The Crimean War" [Laws J9], "The Famous Light Brigade," "The Heights of Alma (I)" [Laws J10], the fullest versions of "The Kerry Recruit" [Laws J8], "The Kilties in the Crimea," and "Patrick Sheehan" [Laws J11]). But the Baltic Expedition, now largely forgotten, earned plenty of press at the time.
As Stokesbury points out on p. 244, points out that the goal of the British and the French was not to fight in the Crimea, it was to get to Russia (so as to take the pressure off the Ottoman Empire). The Crimea was not their ideal place to fight; the supply line was too long. The Baltic was closer. So an Anglo-French fleet went there under the command of Napier.
Stokesbury, p. 244, says of him, "The British commander was Admiral Sir Charles Napier, who had been a dashing middle-grade officer but who was now tempered by advancing age (he was nearly seventy) as well as by inhibiting instructions from the government." As often happened in nineteenth century wars, his reputation preceded his results: "The British public lionized its first hero of 'the War with Russia' long before the shooting started. Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier -- 'Mad Charlie', 'Black Charley', cousin of 'Peccavi' Napier who conquered Sind, kinsman of the Laird Napier who invented logarithms -- was one of those officer eccentrics whose vanity condemns them to success" (Palmer, p. 66).
He was genuinely successful in his earlier days, having commanded a frigate during the Napoleonic Wars and been part of the naval force that attacked Washington, D.C. in 1814. An unsuccessful businessman, he had fought well in the Portugese civil war and had led the capture of Lisbon (Palmer, p. 66).
Napier's flagship was the Duke of Wellington (Royle, p. 156); this ship is mentioned in the song (although Fowke failed to recognize this in her text by printing the name in italics). It makes some sense that this ship would need a lot of crew before the Baltic expedition; it was brand-new, having been laid down in 1849 and launched in 1852 after hasty conversion to steam (Marshall-Encyclopedia, p. 99).
The composition of the attacking force didn't help, while the British squadron had a number of steamships, the French supplied only sailing vessels, which slowed the fleet significantly. As Stokesbury acidly comments on p. 244, "Under these conditions the admirals decided that little could be accomplished, and then set out diligently to justify their prediction." This even though Napier had boasted before sailing, "Within a month of entering the Baltic I shall be in Kronstadt [the main Russian naval base], or in Heaven" (Palmer, p. 67).
The Russians didn't make things easy; they quickly (and surely correctly) concluded that they could not hold off the invading navies in either the Baltic or the Black Sea -- and so gave up control of the waters (Herman, p. 451). Instead they fortified and mined their harbors (Royle, p. 159). Napier and his fleet settled down to a blockade -- a policy which had little appeal to the authorities at home in Britain. Eventually they sent him 10,000 French troops (Royle, p. 160); on August 8, the attacks on the Bomarsund forts began. The 2000 Russians guarding the island surrendered a week later (Royle, p. 161).
Minor as it was, it was the first victory of the war for the anti-Russian coalition (Royle, p. 162). The problem was, once an officer started winning, the pressure naturally increased for him to win some more. Meanwhile, his officers were disagreeing, the weather was worsening -- and Napoleon III of France was pulling out his troops to send them to other fronts (Royle, p. 163). Napier did not want to take risks and jeopardize his victory (Palmer, p. 76). There followed an argument between the Admiralty and Napier over whether he should do more. The offensive was over, and the fleet eventually headed home. The ships reached Portsmouth on December 22 and Napier removed from his post (Royle, p. 164). Although he had not accomplished anything spectacular, he had succeeded in capturing a useful island in the Gulf of Finland and brought back every ship in his fleet safely. But he was greeted with sarcasm once felt by the "Noble Duke of York" as the less-than-poetic newspapers cried out, according to p. 76 of Palmer,
The Baltic fleet
With fifty thousand men,
Sailed up the seas --
And then sailed home again.
If the Baltic campaign is remembered for anything positive at all, it is an act of individual heroism, when on Charles Lucas picked up a live shell which had landed on the deck of the Hecla and threw it overboard (Palmer, p. 72). His reward was the first-ever Victoria Cross for a sailor (Royle, p. 159).
The Crimean land campaign did not begin until September 1854, and extended well beyond that. Thus, although Napier himself never went anywhere near the Dardanelles, some of his sailors certainly did. So, theoretically, the song is possible -- although likely the reference to the Dardanelles is either a confusion or a conflation of multiple ballads.
The fleet, however, was sent back to the Baltic the next year, where it attacked Sveaborg (Stokesbury, p. 245).
Napier did a fine job of making a laughing-stock of himself; absolutely refusing to admit either a failure on his own part; Palmer, pp. 178-179, describes his self-defence in parliament in which "He denounced the officers and men of his Baltic Squadron for giving him less personal loyalty than he might have deserved; he denounced the Admiralty Board; and, most of all, he denounced Sir James Graham [the First Lord of the Admiralty] for having ordered him to strike his flag and return to civilian life while the laurels of victory were still eluding him." Little surprise that Napier because the subject of a furious controversy!
Napier's successor in command of the Baltic fleet was Admiral Richard Dundas (Palmer, p. 192), who still found Kronstadt too strong to attack (Royle, p. 379). He did manage a bombardment of Sveaborg (Royle, pp. 381-383), it accomplished little: "Sveaborg does not stand high in the long list of British naval successes. While it was a thorough and cheaply won victory it did not bring the war any closer to a conclusion" (Royle, p. 382). And, yes, the Duke of Wellington was present.
It occurs to me that Dundas's action might supply another explanation for the confusion of the Baltic with the Dardanelles in this song. Richard Dundas was not the only Crimean War admiral with that surname. James Dundas commanded the British Mediterranean fleet at the start of the war, and set out for the Dardanelles very early on (Palmer, p. 20). He was responsible for the British fleet that landed in the Crimea (Stokesbury, p. 245). He left the Crimea in December 1854 (Palmer, p. 188). So perhaps the songwriter confused the two Dundases, thinking that the Duke of Wellington that went to the Baltic with Richard Dundas then ended up in the Dardanelles with James Dundas. This makes a hash of the chronology, but it's a hash anyway.- RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
- Herman: Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World, 2004 (I use the 2005 Harper Perennial edition)
- Marshall-Encyclopedia: Chris Marshall, editor, The Encyclopedia of Ships, Barnes & Noble, 1995 (based at least in part on an Italian original)
- Palmer: Alan Palmer, The Crimean War (originally published as The Banner of Battle), Dorset, 1987
- Royle: Trevor Royle, Crimea: The Great Crimean War 1854-1856 (Abacus, 1999)
- Stokesbury: James L. Stokesbury, Navy & Empire, Morrow, 1983
- [Sources used for the Historical Notes:]: William Nassau Molesworth, The History of England from the Year 1830-1874 (1882, Covent Garden (digitized by Google)), Vol. III, especially pp. 22-54.
- Charles Napier, The History of the Baltic Campaign of 1854 (1857, London (digitized by Google), pp. 534-557.
- Southport Visiter, c.March 9, 1854, "Sailing of the Baltic Fleet" [Copyright 2002 by Old Mersey Times]
- The New York Times, "The Baltic Fleet," June 12, 1854 (copyright The New York Times, from New York Times Archives site), p.1.
- The New York Times, "The Capture of Bomarsund - Summary of Military Operrations," September 8, 1854 [from The London Times, Aug. 24, 1854] (copyright The New York Times, from New York Times Archives site), p.2.
- The New York Times, "The Baltic Fleet - Its Failure," March 16, 1855 (copyright The New York Times, from New York Times Archives site), p.2.
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