This page was created by James Browning. 

Imperiia: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Supply Issues for the Black Sea Port

While in the autumn of 1780 Ivan Gannibal complained of being over-supplied and under-manned, supply issues became more pronounced as time wore on.1 For example, lumber for two of Kherson's ships was to be supplied via Poland under the supervision of Lieutenant-General Rzhevskii. Work began successfully but quickly ran into snags followed by “insurmountable difficulties” including the Polish ban on Russian copper coins, the spread of disease in those areas where timber was being collected and prepared, and the circulation of Russian state banknotes within Poland. In light of the issues he faced, Rzhevskii requested that he not be considered an "ineffective contractor."2

In the spring of 1783, Kherson's shipmaster Afanas'ev reported on the progress of Kherson's ships under construction to Vice-Admiral Klokachev who was to take command of the budding fleet on the Black and Azov seas. The 60-gunner Ekaterina had been laid out back in 1779, but by May of 1783 it was in need of retimbering due to rot. The remaining six large warships that had been ordered were in varied states of completion and work only continued on three of the seven due to limited supplies. The ship camels, support vessels, and merchantmen were also only in the preliminary stages of construction. Assuming the proper delivery of supplies and the immediate resumption of work on all vessels, Afanas'ev estimated that the order would be fulfilled in roughly a year, already exceeding the Empress' deadline.3

It was in this environment that Klokachev arrived to take command. Upon his initial inspection of Kherson he was struck by the underdeveloped state of the commissioned ships and the general incompetence of his immediate inferiors. Furthermore, he was disturbed by the waste he observed traveling to a shipyard that was allegedly strapped for supplies. In his journey from Akhtiar (Sevastopol), he noted large quantities of logs, scattered along the riverbanks and lying, rotting, in water. Yet when he arrived in Kherson, he was appalled by the lack of material. “I visited all of the storehouses to see the material reserves, however, I unexpectedly found them almost empty and the storekeepers were unable to provide a report. Maritime provisions are not being procured and there are few land provisions either, in a word, I found this port in a sorry and disorganized state. I feel keenly a trouble and burden that I have not once encountered in all of my service.”4

1. Ivan Gannibal, "Vypiska iz doneseniia Ganibala admiralteistve-kollegii, 1780 goda noiabria 17," Materialy dlia istorii russkago flota VI, 719. 
2. Stepan Rzhevskii, "Vypiska iz prosheniia general-poruchika Rzhevskago grafu Chernyshevu, 1783 goda maia 11," Materialy dlia istorii russkago flota XV, 8.
3. Ivan Afanas'ev, "Vedomost', predstavlennaia korabel'nym masterom Afanas'evymi vitse-admiralu Klokachevu, o stroiashchikhsia v Khersone sudakh, 1783 goda maia 18," ibid., 10. The Ekaterina would never be launched. By 1785 it was decided that the rot was too extensive to warrant further construction and the hull was broken down.
4. Fedot Klokachev, "Vypiska iz pis'ma vitse-admirala Klokacheva grafu Chernyshevu, iz Khersona, 1783 maia 20, ibid., 10-11. 

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