October 23, 1863 San Francisco Fire

receives assistance of Russian officers and sailors


     Just how the Mare Island Naval Cemetery came to be the final resting place of six Russian sailors only five years after the cemetery was designated as the first U.S. Navy cemetery in the Pacific, is shrouded in lore. An oft repeated story is that they died fighting a fire in San Francisco. However, as described in the following excerpt from "The Russian Navy and Mare Island 1863-2009" by John Middleton, although some of the Russian sailors sent to assist with fighting the fire were injured, it’s unlikely that the six who are buried here died as a result of fighting the fire.

Note: On the 148th anniversary of the San Francisco fire which sailors from the BOGATYR fought, John Middleton will be the featured guide aboard the River Dolphin on a boat cruise along the Mare Island Naval Shipyard riverfront and up the Napa River. Click here for reservation details.

    On the night of October 23rd a fire broke out in the financial district of San Francisco.Admiral Popov dispatched 200 officers and sailors in the BOGATYR's boats to the landing at the Embarcadero. An article written by Albert P. Wheelan in the April, 1928 South of Market Journal noted:
"Suddenly the spectators began to cheer, and to cheer again and again. A thousand throats took up the cheering. The firemen were electrified when they observed boat load after boat load of Russian sailors and their officers from the Russian fleet in the harbor, landing with buckets and other fire fighting instruments… They took the places of the tired and exhausted firemen and worked hard and long at the pumps and finally conquered the fire."

  1.     Three of the BOGATYR's  sailors were injured during the fire, one with a dislocated shoulder, another with a severely injured hand, a third reported having suffered minor injuries. The citizens of San Francisco were deeply touched by this offer of assistance, especially as some of the sailors had been injured. A collection was taken up with Barry and Patten's saloon being the repository for the funding for making gold medals to be awarded to the injured men. David Skannell, the Chief Engineer of the San Francisco Fire Department  wrote to Admiral Popov on behalf of the citizens of San Francisco expressing his gratitude for the "heroic conduct of Admiral Popoff and the officers and men under his command"

  2.     The city Supervisors of San Francisco issued a proclamation to the Russian Squadron which officially recognized Russian Admiral A. A. Popov, Captain Tachelisacoff, and Lieutenants Scraggin, Echren and Machov, and the Russian sailors "for the timely and efficient services so nobly rendered by them".