The French artillery officer Saint-Rémy and his work on guncasting for the Ottoman army in Istanbul (1785-1787)
Until the rise of modern technology of firearms in the nineteenth century, the Ottomans either produced the necessary arms, ammunition and munitions within the Empire or imported them from Europe . Within this framework, the Ottomans employed foreign experts in war industry as well as in other fields. This paper, aims to shed light upon the employment of foreign experts by the Ottomans in order to transfer know-how in the field of guncasting at the end of the eighteenth century and to analyse the relations between Ottoman and French technicians.
The tightening of Franco-Turc relations and mutual cooperation in the years 1783-1788, resulted in arrival of numerous French experts to Istanbul -- officially or secretly - with the aim of serving in the Ottoman army. One of these experts was the artillery captain Charles Alexandre Louis Rouxel de Saint-Rémy (1746-1800). He arrived in Istanbul in 1785 together with ten cannon founders upon the demand of the Grand Vizier Halil Hamid Pasha and the order of the French government.
In 1786 he persuaded Admiral Gazi Hasan Paşa to apply the French method of guncasting instead of traditional techniques and got the permission to build a new furnace in the Hasköy foundry. However, the furnace did not function successfully. Later on, the Sublime Porte asked him to cast 12 bronze mortars accordingly to the standards set in the French ordinance of 1769. He designed these mortars in their natural size. One mortar was cast as a model, but the chief bombardier did not find it suitable and asked St. Rémy to modify its dimensions. This led to a disagreement between these two technical experts.
Following the agreement set between France and Russia on January 11, 1787 , Catherine II asked the French Government to call back all the French experts working in the Ottoman lands. Thus, St. Rémy left Istanbul together with other French technicians.
In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, as a result of fluctuations in the political balance between the Ottoman and French states, a group of French officers and engineers came to Istanbul and were employed in the army where they gave technical aid. Whether they were sent by the French government, as in the example of St. Rémy or invited by the Ottoman State , the European experts introduced many innovations to the Ottoman world in the fields of military training, the casting of guns and bombs, cannonry, navigation, ship building, fortification and cartography.