The tzar accompanied his troops, not as commander-in-chief, but a volunteer soldier. Generals Gordon and Le Fort, veteran officers, had the command of the expedition. Azov was a very strong fortress and was defended by a numerous garrison. It was found necessary to invest the place and commence a regular siege. A foreign officer from Dantzic, by the name of Jacob, had the direction of the battering train. For some violation of military etiquette, he had been condemned to ignominious punishment. The Russians were accustomed to such treatment, but Jacob, burning with revenge, spiked his guns, deserted, joined the enemy, adopted the Mussulman faith, and with great vigor conducted the defense.
Jacob was a man of much military science, and he succeeded in thwarting all the efforts of the besiegers. In the attempt to storm the town the Russians were repulsed with great loss, and at length were compelled to raise the siege and to retire. But Peter was not a man to yield to difficulties. The next summer he was found before Azov, with a still more formidable force. In this attempt the tzar was successful, and on the 28th of July the garrison surrendered without obtaining any of the honors of war. Elated with success Peter increased the fortifications, dug a harbor capable of holding large ships, and prepared to fit out a strong fleet against the Turks; which fleet was to consist of nine sixty gun ships, and forty-one of from thirty to fifty guns. While the fleet was being built he returned to Moscow, and to impress his subjects with a sense of the great victory obtained, he marched the army into Moscow beneath triumphal arches, while the whole city was surrendered to all the demonstrations of joy. Characteristically Peter refused to take any of the credit of the victory which had been gained by the skill and valor of his generals. These officers consequently took the precedency of their sovereign in the triumphal procession, Peter declaring that merit was the only road to military preferment, and that, as yet, he had attained no rank in the army. In imitation of the ancient Romans, the captives taken in the war were led in the train of the victors. The unfortunate Jacob was carried in a cart, with a rope about his neck, and after being broken upon the wheel was ignominiously hung.
PETER THE GREAT.
From 1697 to 1702.
Young Russians Sent to Foreign Countries.—The Tzar Decides Upon a Tour of Observation.—His Plan of Travel.—Anecdote.—Peter’s Mode of Life in Holland.—Characteristic Anecdotes.—The Presentation of the Embassador.—The Tzar Visits England.—Life at Deptford.—Illustrious Foreigners Engaged in His Service.—Peter Visits Vienna.—The Game of Landlord.—Insurrection in Moscow.—Return of the Tzar, and Measures of Severity.—War with Sweden.—Disastrous Defeat of Narva.—Efforts to Secure the Shores of the Baltic.—Designs Upon the Black Sea.