Battle of Lissa

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Lissa ( modern Vis in Croatian ) is an island in the eastern Adriatic Sea. Two naval battles have been fought in its waters.

Battle of Lissa, 11 March 1811. A squadron of four British frigates under Captain William Hoste defeated a Franco-Venetian flotilla of ten ships (including 6 frigates) which had been ordered to capture the then British held island. The flagship of the French Commodore Dubourdieu ran aground, three of his frigates were captured and the rest of the fleet fled the scene. Whilst a minor skirmish when compared to the great naval battles of the period, it is regarded with great favour by British historians as a case of victory against a significantly greater force.

Battle of Lissa, 20 July 1866 is regarded as the first significant battle between predominantly ironclad ships. It is also notable for the use of rams during the battle, a tactic not seen in a major engagement since Lepanto nearly 300 years before. It would be thought of as a possible tactic by armoured warships up until the “Dreadnought” era when the sheer power of the guns made close-in fighting obsolete..

It was fought between an Italian fleet of 12 ironclads, 14 wooden ships and various scouts and transports under Admiral Count Carlo di Persano, attempting to capture the island, which was intercepted by an Austrian fleet of not much over half its size. The Austrian Admiral, Wilhelm von Tegetthoff ordered his ironclads to ram the enemy, two of the Italian ironclads were destroyed, and with the Austrians holding a position between the Italians and the island, the Italians withdrew. The Austrian victory is seen as due to the order to ram and the timidity of the Italian commander.