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Russian frigate Alexander Nevsky

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Title: Russian frigate Alexander Nevsky  
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Subject: Russian Empire–United States relations, Uragan-class monitor, Russia–United States relations, September 25
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Russian frigate Alexander Nevsky

Alexander Nevski in New York Harbor, 1863. Detail from an illustration in Harper's Weekly.
Career (Russian Empire) Ensign of the Russian Navy
Name: Alexander Nevsky
Fate: Wrecked on 25 September 1868
General characteristics
Class & type: 51-gun screw frigate
Tons burthen: 5,100 bm
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament: 51 guns

The Alexander Nevsky, which was named after the famous Russian historical figure, was a large screw frigate of the Russian Imperial Navy. The ship was designed as part of a challenge being offered by the Russian Empire to the Royal Navy, but was lost in a shipwreck in 1868 while Grand Duke Alexei, son of Tsar Alexander II, was aboard.

Design, military service and extended visit to the United States

Alexander Nevsky was a screw frigate of 5,100 tons, and mounting 51 smoothbore cannon, making her a large vessel for her class.[1][2] The ship's cannon were all sixty-pounder smoothbores, divided into long- and medium-class guns.[1] The vessel was part of the expansion of the Russian Imperial Navy in cooperation with the United States, in order to challenge then-rival Great Britain's Royal Navy. The ship was designed by Americans and carried American armament.[3]

Once commissioned, the vessel was part of the Atlantic Squadron of Rear Admiral Lessovsky. In 1863, Lessovsky sailed the Atlantic Squadron, using the Alexander Nevsky as his flagship, to New York City in order to show the flag during a low point in Anglo-Russian relations. The ship's captain at the time was Captain Federovski.[1] The fleet's American design was noted with enthusiasm by American spectators.[4] For instance, it was noted in Harper's Weekly that:

The two largest in the squadron, the frigate Alexander Nevski and Peresvet, are evidently vessels of modern build, and much about them leads the unpracticed eye to think they were built in this country ... The flagship's guns are of American make, being cast in Pittsburgh.[1]

Alexander Nevsky and the other vessels of the Atlantic squadron stayed in American waters for seven months, despite the state of civil war then existing in the United States, even dropping anchor at Washington, D.C., the ships having sailed up the Potomac River.[5] At one point during this extended stay, Alexander Nevsky had engine problems during a local cruise and had to return to New York for repairs.


Alexander Nevsky, 1868, Toulon

On September 25, 1868, on her way home from a visit to Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, and while carrying Grand Duke Alexei, son of Tsar Alexander II, Alexander Nevsky became shipwrecked off the coast of Thyborøn, a fishing village in Jutland. The vessel was travelling by sail at that time and both the admiral (who had been responsible for Grand Duke Alexei's naval education) and the ship's captain miscalculated the ship's position due to incorrect drift information recorded in the pilot book. Buffeted by rain, Alexander Nevsky struck a sandbar, and her masts and some of the ship's cannons had to be pitched into the sea to prevent the vessel from immediately capsizing.

Responding to the ship's distress signal (a gun was fired), the local fishermen poured out into the now becalmed sea and rescued all of the ship's crew, aside from five crewmen who had drowned while attempting to reach shore in one of the ship's liferafts.

The warship eventually sank, the wreck settling in roughly 60 feet (20 m) of water, only 300 feet (100 m) from the present coast of Thyborøn.[6] The captain and admiral aboard were convicted of dereliction of duty at a court-martial, but the tsar intervened and pardoned them due to their long service to the fleet. Grand Duke Alexei often claimed that he almost drowned when the ship went down, and enjoyed telling the story through the rest of his life.[7]


The ship's name was later given to a Sverdlov-class cruiser and a Borei-class submarine.

The shipwreck was the topic of a great deal of local and international reporting at the time, and is the subject of a major exhibition at the Lemvig Museum.


  1. ^ a b c d "Our Russian Visitors".  
  2. ^ G. Smirnov, V. Smirnov (1978). Накануне броненосной эры. Моделист-Конструктор (in Русский) (Moscow) (1). Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  3. ^ Mordwinken, George. Russian White Guards, 2003, Trafford Publishing, 183.
  4. ^ At the time, during the American Civil War, many Britons sympathized with the Confederacy, and it was widely believed that Britain, which lent material support to the Confederacy, might enter the war on its side.
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Cussler, Clive. "North Sea and English Channel Hunt". National Underwater and Marine Agency. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  7. ^ Pleshakov, Constantine. The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima. 2002, Basic Books, p. 21.

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