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John Elphinston Papers Relating to the Russo-Turkish War

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Elphinston, John, 1722-1785

In 1769 John Elphinston (1722-1785), a captain in the British Royal Navy, accepted a commission as rear-admiral in the Russian Navy. In that capacity he sailed from Cronstadt for the Mediterranean, in command of a squadron of four ships of the line, with some frigates and smaller vessels. His ships suffered damage in the North Sea and were obliged to refit at Portsmouth. They remained at Portsmouth until the middle of April 1770. Towards the end of May the squadron was off the island of Cerigo where Elphinston decided to search for the Turkish fleet, which he had heard was heading to Nauplia. In July 1770 at Chesme Bay, with the assistance of Count Orloff, the Russian commander-in-chief, Elphinston secured a dramatic and conclusive victory over the Turkish fleet, which he destroyed with fireships. Upon his arrival in St. Petersburg, Elphinston was gratefully received by the Empress Catherine and made a noble of the Russian state. He settled down in Livonia with his wife, Amelia Warburton. They had seven sons and four daughters.

The collection consists of log books, letter books, letters, and documents preserved by John Elphinston, rear-admiral in the service of Catherine the Great. Includes his certificate of service signed by the Empress Catherine; his unpublished manuscript memoirs (1773) in four volumes; a narrative of the Russian expedition by sea (1769-70), with an account of his reception at the Court of St. Petersburg and his meetings with Catherine the Great, who had asked the British government to loan her some senior naval officers to rehabilitate the Russian fleet; and Elphinston's own letter book and log book for the expedition. There are also manuscript narratives of the expedition edited by his grandson Captain Alexander Elphinstone; petitions to the Russian Emperors Alexander (1777-1825) and Nicolas (1868-1918) for the reward due to his grandfather; and autograph letters in English, French, and Russian; and a 1780 mezzotint of the admiral.

Arranged by format.

Purchased from Julian Browning and Martyn Downer Works of Art with support of the the Program in Near Eastern Studies, 2003-2010. AM 2004-004, 2011-15.

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This collection was processed by Teresa T. Basler in 2003. Finding aid written by Teresa T. Basler in Teresa T. Basler.

No appraisal information is available.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Teresa T. Basler
Finding Aid Date
2003
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

Miscellaneous letters in French, English, and Russian. ALsS, 1769-1788. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Certificate of Service, signed by Catherine the Great. ADS, 1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Miscellaneous documents in French and English. ADsS, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"A Copy of the Remarks taken upon the Quarter Deck of Her Imperial Majesty's Ship Svatoslav, from first seeing the Ottoman Fleet in the Gulf of Napolis de romaine, to the loosing sight of them near the Island of Zea, with other transactions relative thereto," May-June 1770. French & English in parallel columns. AMs, 1770. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Memorial to the Empress Catherine, in French, with a note at the end 'pour Lord Cathcart July 1771'. AMs, 1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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The Case of Captain Alexander Francis Elphinstone of the Royal Navy, Grand Son & Heir to the late Admiral John Elphinstone of the Russian Service, AMs, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Extracts from journals, in the hand of Alexander Elphinston, AMs, circa 1850. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

To the King. The Memorial of John Elphinston Captain in your Majesty's Royal Navy, and late Rear Admiral and Commander in Chief or a Squadron of Her Imperial Majesty's Ships of War. AMsS, 1769. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Biographical sketch of John Elphinston. AMs, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Printed Muster Table with manuscript notes, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Photographs of a portrait of a naval officer, not yet identified, presumed to be John Elphinston, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Biography of John Elphinston. AMsS, circa 1850. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes details of his earlier service in the Seven Years War, and some later material.

Physical Description

1 folder

Original Letter Book, in the hand of John Elphinston, recording letters written by him Aug. 4, 1769 (Cronstadt) to June 26, 1771 (St. Petersburg). ALsS, 1769-1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Original Letter Book, recording letters (in English) received by John Elphinston from Russian ministers in England and Russia, relating to the preparation of the Russian fleet, Aug. 1769 to Jan. 1770. ALsS, 1769-1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Original Log Book, kept by John Elphinston, containing ships orders issued, memorandum, sightings, etc. Aug. 1769 to Sept. 1770. AMsS, 1769-1771. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"Journal from Spithead to the burning of the Turkish Fleet in Chesme Bay July 3rd to 7th 1770", 1770. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Admiral John Elphinston's personal logbook, observing the Russian squadron's victory over the Turkish fleet. [AM 2011-15]

Physical Description

1 folder

Letters and documents compiled by Alexander Elphinston relating to his attempt to secure compensation for his grandfather's service to Russia, dates not examined. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Contains: Memorial to the Emperor Alexander 1835; Memorial to His Imperial Majesty Nicholas I; 2 ALsS by Count Nesselrode, and other letters by Russian officials, secretaries to the Emperor, etc.; 5 ALsS by Lord Aberdeen; 2 ANsS in the 3rd person by Count Pozzo di Borgo; copies of Alexander Elphinstone's letters; John Elphinston's accounts with Thomson Peters & Co. at St. Petersburg 1769; ALS by John Elphinston 1782; 2 ALsS by Lord Durham, St. Petersburg 1836; miscellaneous papers.

Physical Description

1 folder

"Narrative of the Russian Expedition by Sea in the Years 1769 & 1770 by Rear Admiral John Elphinston, late Commander in Chief of a Squadron of Her Imperial Majesty's Ships, Capt in His Maj R. Navy, Compiled from Original Letters, Papers, & Journals, with an Acct. of the Treatment of the Author from the Court of St. Petersbourg with Every Thing that Has Happened to Him Since he Left that Court in Order to Obtain Justice from the Empress of His Acknowledged Service..." AMs, 1773. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

Two edited manuscript versions of the Elphinston's narrative, with additional material, apparently compiled by his grandson Alexander Elphinstone for possible publication. AMs, 1770s-1800s. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

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Mezzotint of John Elphinston, circa 1780. 1 box.
Physical Description

1 box

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