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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Topic: Sieges

On 11 December 1701 Colonel Gustaf Ernst Albedyhl wrote to Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga. The Saxon commander of the fortress Dünamünde, the only remaining prize from the campaign of 1701, had offered to give up on honorable terms. Albedyhl was noncommittal, but pointed out the rather poor situation for the Swedish forces outside. He had held a council of war and the officers favored accepting the Saxon offer. In Albedyhl's opinion it would be unwise to refuse because it could result in the commander blowing up Dünamünde, destroying not only the fortress but also all presumptive trophies.

In his immediate reply Dahlbergh assured Albedyhl of full support. It would serve the King better to capture the fortress quickly and it made no sense to risk having it blown up by desperate Saxons. A destruction of trophies would damage the glory of King Charles. So Albedyhl should by all means enter into an agreement, but also make sure that it allowed him to take quick possession of Dünamünde.

In a subsequent report to the Chancery in Stockholm Dahlbergh outlined his thinking. The commander Colonel Kanitz had been cut off from alla support for 21 weeks. He had shown his fidelity to King Augustus and deserved to be treated honorably by the Swedes. Albedyhl had several days ago sent a courier to Charles XII to ask for orders, but no reply had yet been received. In this situation Dahlbergh had called all his generals and colonels to a council of war. The view of the majority had been that it was necessary to wait for the King's orders as he had previously declared that the garrison must surrender unconditionally. Reports from the army suggested that Charles had broken camp on the 3rd and Dahlbergh hoped that this would not mean further complications with the Polish republic. On the 12th Dahlbergh wrote to the King, informing him that an agreement had been signed.

The King's position on the matter did not become clear until the beginning of January 1702. On the first day of the new year he sent a letter to Albedyhl. Upon returning from an expedition into Lithuania he had been informed that Albedyhl had made an agreement without waiting for orders. Charles expressed his deep dislike of this. Had he not already shortly after the Düna crossing informed the Saxon commander that if he did not immediately turn over Dünamünde he would be considered as a rebel? Because of these circumstances Charles had every right to refuse to accept the agreement made by Kanitz and Albedyhl, but since some time had passed he would not make an issue of it. However, Albedyhl would do well to avoid a repetition and remember not to make such decisions without express orders. 


LVVA, fond 7349, op 1, vol.  73

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 235 

Riksarkivet, Riksregistraturet


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:26 PM CET
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Sunday, 8 January 2017
Rehnschiöld and Lewenhaupt
Topic: Generals

Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's memoirs, first published in 1757 and again in 1952 (possibly based on another manuscript) are rich in scoundrels, big and small, who in one way or another treated the general unfairly. One of the major villains is Field Marshal Rehnschiöld, who blames Lewenhaupt for almost everything which goes wrong at Poltava. This animosity would appear to have been rather new as the two had no personal contact whatsoever from late 1701 until the arrival of Lewenhaupt at the King's headquarters in the spring of 1708.

Whether they knew each other before the war is unclear, but one item strongly suggests it. On 18 July 1700 Lewenhaupt was appointed colonel of a regiment which was to be raised in Uppland, Dalarna and Västmanland. As he had never held any rank whatsoever in the Swedish army (according to his memoirs he could not accept having to start as a common soldier despite being from an illustrious family) this appointment came as a bit of shock to him. So why had Charles XII remembered him?

Well, it would appear that Lewenhaupt believed that Lieutenant General Carl Gustaf Rehnschiöld had put in a good word. On 8 August Lewenhaupt wrote to him, saying that the appointment no doubt was a result of a recommendation from Rehnschiöld. Besides expressing profound gratitude Lewenhaupt asked Rehnschiöld for advice. There was a shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers and the King undoubtedly wanted the regiment to be ready as soon as possible. Some officers had been found and expressed a willingness to serve. However, Lewenhaupt wasn't sure that the King accepted proposals from the colonels, but if he did perhaps Rehnschiöld could present him with Lewenhaupt's list? It seemed possible to find enough captains and lieutenants with previous military experience, but ensigns were harder to find. Lewenhaupt was inclined to go for young ambitious men without experience. Non-commissioned officers were even more difficult to recruit. Could Rehnschiöld give some advice? Perhaps some corporals from the old regiments? Lewenhaupt was also looking for a lieutenant colonel as the King had only appointed a major. 

A rather amusing detail which adds to this letter: Ten days later Nils Gripenhielm, County Governor of Dalarna, wrote to Lewenhaupt about the efforts to raise the new regiment. There were many officers available in Dalarna, but Gripenhielm did not know if they would be willing to serve. It would be best if Lewenhaupt came to Dalarna himself. Gripenhielm noted that his own son Axel Johan (born in March 1686) wanted to join the army. He was only 15 years old (or rather 14), but Axel Johan was tall and energetic. Would there perhaps be a place for him in the regiment? Perhaps as officer, as he already knew the basics? Nils Gripenhielm's wife had a relative who was 17, who could perhaps be suitable as a non-commissioned officer? He was a bit short, but had recently grown considerably. The young man was the son of old major Gladtsten and his older brother was already an ensign in Dalregementet. The old major was very poor and had no way of helping his children. 

Axel Johan Gripenhielm was appointed ensign in Lewenhaupt's regiment on 30 September 1700. He died in 1755, having reached the rank of Major General. Ensign Adam Gladtsten also survived the war and many years as a prisoner of war in Russia. He died in 1729. The fate of his younger brother Göran (who seems likely to have been the one Gripenhielm tried to help) is unclear. He is sometimes called "ensign", but with no details about where and how long he served. Date of death is also unknown.

Source: Linköpings Stiftsbibliotek, H 79:4, no 19 and no 24 

P.S. Rehnschiöld had spent some time in the Netherlands in 1691 as a military aide and teacher to the young Duke Frederick IV of Holstein. He may have come into contact with Lewenhaupt, who was a lieutenant colonel in Magnus Wilhelm Nieroth's regiment. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:08 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2017 9:12 PM CET
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Friday, 30 December 2016
Topic: Miscellaneous

On 8 May 1706 Henrik Falkenberg, deputy president of the Göta appellate court, wrote to Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt who was in Stockholm on official business. It was, Falkenberg wrote, a great joy to hear that Charles XII had rewarded a member of an old family by promoting L. to Lieutenant General. Perhaps Lewenhaupt's successes in Courland would teach the King the difference between men from old and distinguished families and those who despite very few real accomplishments had risen (or perhaps rather brought up) from the dirt. Hopefully this would lead to changes and and more appreciation for the former category. Falkenberg (from an old German noble family) was particulary pleased that his son Melker (a captain in Lewenhaupt's regiment) had taken part in the campaigns and in some small way contributed to the successes. 

Melker Falkenberg would eventually become colonel of Västmanland's regiment and fell at Moss in 1716. This particulary branch of the family (Falkenberg af Bålby) still exists today. 

Source: Riksarkivet, E 4645 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:24 PM CET
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Sunday, 18 December 2016
A Polish messenger
Topic: Diplomacy

On 17 August 1701 a Polish messenger arrived in the Swedish headquarters at Bixten (today Biksti in Latvia). Gustaf Adlerfelt calls him "the starosta Potocki, a son of the Crown Hetman" and states that he came on behalf of Cardinal Radziejowski, who wanted to tell Charles XII that it was not a very good idea to insist upon the removal of King Augustus. The Poles did not like this at all, according to Radziejowski. If Charles however would drop this proposal the Cardinal and the Republic would be ready to work for peace and were prepared to offer satisfaction. 

Later historians have had very little to add. Carl von Rosen in 1935 simply followed Nordberg (whose account is very similar to Adlerfelt's) and Gustaf Jonasson did the same in 1960. According to Jonasson the starosta was called Józef Potocki, a name he likely got from Nordberg's index. 

The Grand Crown Hetman in 1701 was Stanisław Jan Jabłonowski, so the messenger was rather a son of Field Hetman Feliks Kazimierz Potocki. Hetman Potocki had several sons: Michał, Józef Felicjan, Stanisław and Jerzy. Circumstantial evidence would seem to suggest that Nordberg likely got the name Józef from more famous Voivode of Kiev, later a close ally of the Swedes and that the messenger was in fact Michał, starosta of Krasnystaw since 1686 and one of the most "difficult" Polish leaders the Swedes faced during the Great Northern War. In 1702-1703 he repeatedly tricked the Swedes (most notably the cunning Magnus Stenbock), but eventually regained the favor of Charles XII and fought at Kalisz in 1706 (where his units rapidly fled). When Augustus returned to Poland in 1709 Michał Potocki left the Swedish side and then soon enough broke with Augustus again, joining Jan Grudziński's raid into Poland in 1712.  A few years later he fought the Saxons as member of the Tarnogrod Confederation. When Augustus died in 1733 Michał Potocki followed the example of many of his old Swedish and Polish comrades in arms and joined Stanisław Leszczyński's side once more. Eventually unsuccessful this time as well he reconciled with the victorious Augustus III. He died in 1749 and was buried in Sędziszów Małopolski.  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:26 PM CET
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Sunday, 11 December 2016
Scxhlippenbach and Stuart
Topic: Generals

About two years ago I wrote about the apparent friendship between Carl Magnus Stuart and Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach, the commander of the army in Livonia. In a letter dated 4 October 1701 Stuart advised Schlippenbach to remain at his post and assured him that he was just as unhappy about the King's decision to abandon the plan to move against the Russians after the Saxons had been driven away from Riga. Another slightly misplaced document further confirms their relationship. 

On 19 June 1701 Stuart wrote to his friend from the camp at Terrafer (Tõravere), expressing gratitude for the many letters Schlippenbach had sent him. Stuart had not had the opportunity to reply to them before, so he also wanted to express his happiness on hearing about Schlippenbach's many successful raids during the preceding year and during the winter. These had proved to Charles XII that Stuart's high opinion of Schlippenbach was fully justified. The King was now marching towards Düna with 24,000 men and would leave 6,000 at the Russian border. This force would hopefully be able to protect Livonia, so that something considerable could be achieved during the autumn. 

Riksarkivet, M 1414 (letters to Schlippenbach from Stuart during 1702).  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:20 PM CET
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Sunday, 4 December 2016
24 March 1702 : part 3
Topic: Diplomacy

The news about the meeting at Jurburg reached Riga in early April. On the 9th Governor General Dahlbergh wrote to Major General Horn in Narva, telling him that the meeting had been followed by an advance by the Swedish army, apparently towards Warsaw. Dahlbergh prayed that the enterprise would end well, noting that it had been reported from Poland that Great Crown Hetman Jabłonowski had died - "we have lost a man of good intentions."

Two days earlier Dahlbergh had informed the Chancery in Stockholm. Jabłonowski had, he said, on a number of occasions made considerable efforts for the common good.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol.  74

Riksarkivet, Kanslikollegium E VII : 5

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:51 PM CET
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Sunday, 27 November 2016
24 March 1702 : part 2
Topic: Diplomacy

In the afternoon Piper held another meeting, undoubtedly of more lasting consequences. The Grand Treasurer of Lithuania Benedykt Sapieha, his ally Kazimierz Michał Pac and one of his sons along with one of Hetman Sapieha's sons met with Piper, Josias Cederhielm and Georg Wachschlager, the Swedish envoy in Warsaw. After some initial pleasantries the Grand Treasurer expressed his gratitude for the assistance given to his family by Charles XII. Pac pointed out that his actions had resulted in breaking up of the recent diet in Warsaw. Piper assured him that Charles XII was well aware of it and would remember Pac's effort. Piper then asked Sapieha to list the issues he wanted to have discussed and clarified. They were:

1. What were the King's intentions? 

2. That Sapieha and the magnates he had consulted wanted a good relationship beween Sweden and the Republic. 

3. That they wanted a such a close relationship between Sweden and the Republic that the interests of the two countries would be firmly united.

4. That a suitable method for bringing this into fruition would be found. 

Benedykt Sapieha then asked: Did Charles XII still insist on having King Augustus removed from the throne? Yes, Piper replied, Charles could not change his mind on that point as he viewed the dethronisation as the only method of bringing security to Sweden as well as to the Republic. Sapieha agreed and stated the most Poles shared this view, but they had not had the resources to act. There was also uncertainty about the Swedish intentions. Some believed that Charles wanted to make large conquests from the Republic. It was, Sapieha emphasized, absolutely vital for Charles to make a firm statement about his aims. Piper replied that these were well-known and the King was a man of his word. It was unnecessary to have doubts on this point. Charles XII wanted to have Augustus removed because this was the only way to bring Sweden and the Republic together in an alliance for mutual benefit. The King's program was:

1. The removal of King Augustus

2. The election of a new Polish king with whom a good friendship could be entertained.

3. The full restitution of the Sapieha family.

The first two had long been the King's position, but the third was new. Charles XII had realized, Piper said, that he and the Sapieha family had a common interest. The Sapiehas had proved their friendship and deserved Swedish support. While Piper explained this, the Grand Treasurer got tears in his eyes and said that the Sapiehas would for the rest of their lives remain faithful to Charles. The Republic was, he assured Piper, well pleased with the King's declaration of his intentions.

(To be continued...)

Source: Riksarkivet, Diplomatica, Polonica, vol. 310

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:08 PM CET
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Sunday, 20 November 2016
24 March 1702 : part 1
Topic: Diplomacy

On 24 March 1702 Carl Piper, head of the Field Chancery, held a couple of important meetings in Jurburg (Jurbarkas) on the right bank of the river Neman. He first held talks with Mikołaj Franciszek Ogiński, Court Treasurer of Lithuania. Oginski claimed that he had been sent by Prince Jakub Ludwik Sobieski with an important mission. Oginski wanted the Swedish forces to continue advancing towards Warsaw in order to force King Augustus to flee. The whole army would not be needed, Oginski suggested. 3,000-4,000 would be entirely sufficient. It would also be advisable to have some units march on Vilnius. The most important part of his mission from Prince Jakub did however concern the Cossacks and Tatars. They would be able to give Sweden assistance in the war with Russia. Oginski possessed, he claimed, estates near the border to the Cossacks and they had told him of their fear of Russia and how the Czar already had begun to limit their rights. The Cossacks had informed both Cardinal Radziejowski and Prince Jakub of their need for foreign support and they had thought it best to contact Charles XII. 

Piper replied that it seemed risky to make contact with the Cossacks, who had "neither head nor firm decisions" - Mazepa had been arrested by the Czar and had no deputy. Oginski said that the arrest of Mazepa had caused a lot of irritation among the Cossacks, but there were 15 colonels who corresponded with each other about the important decisions. 

Help could also be obtained from the Tatars if they received money. But, the Swedes replied, the Tatars were allied with the Ottoman Empire. Could they really go to war wíth Russia without his permission? Oginski did not give a clear reply to this, but said that the Ottomans were less than happy with the Russians and the Tatars feared that the Czar had designs on their land. 

Piper promised that he would bring the matter to the King's attention and praised Oginski's devotion. Oginski assured Piper that he had taken no part in his brother's rebellion - they had always been in disagreement. The Court Treasurer said that he would send a message through his son in Vilnius and recommend Grzegorz Antoni to make peace with the Sapiehas. 


Source: Riksarkivet, Diplomatica, Polonica, vol. 310. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:46 PM CET
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Sunday, 13 November 2016
The artist Erik Dahlbergh
Topic: Battles

Örjan Martinsson has recently in his blog published a number of short essay on drawings and paintings of GNW war battles and the possibility of using them as sources for uniforms and colours. On 24 January 1702 Governor General Dahlbergh wrote a letter to the Chancery College, outlining the work he had managed to do in regard to illustrating the battles of Charles XII. In the letter Dahlbergh emphasized that these drawings should be seen as a continuation of the ones he had previously made for the military history of Charles X Gustavus and Charles XI. The list goes as follows:

1. A geographical drawing of the town of Riga with surroundings and the events from the beginning of the war.

2. Two prospects of the town of Riga and the events.

3. A drawing of the bombardment and the assault on Dünamünde.

4. A scenographic drawing of the crossing of the Düna and the great victory.

5. An ichnographic drawing of the fortress of Narva and the Russian siege.

6. A perspective drawing of Narva and the Swedish assault on the Russian camp.

7. A prospect of Mitau.

Would the Chancery please look at these drawings and determine if they were suited for illustrating a future history of the war? If others were able to produce better works, Dahlbergh would be happy to take a step back. His only wish was to show devotion to his dear Fatherland.

Some of the preparations for these drawings can be followed in Dahlbergh's correspondence, mot notably in the letters from Henning Rudolf Horn in Narva (which I believe I have written about earlier). These shows that Dahlbergh was very adamant about getting accurate sources for his own works, i.e. had drawings made by officers who had been present in Narva during the siege.

Source: Riksarkivet, Kanslikollegium E VII: 5-6 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:39 PM CET
Updated: Monday, 14 November 2016 9:34 AM CET
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Sunday, 6 November 2016
Schlippenbach's "enemies"
Topic: Battles

In his analysis of the Errastfer defeat the major general hinted that certain people were responsible for delaying his expected reinforcements. Who were they? One of Governor General Dahlbergh's letters gives a hint. On 4 February 1702 he wrote to Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt, saying that Schlippenbach in rather shocking terms had accused him of delaying the rasing of militia cavalry units from the small towns in Livonia. Dahlbergh found Schlippenbachs expressions most offensive, but was prepared to drop the matter if Strömfelt made the situation clear to the major general. If the latter was not prepared to let the matter rest it would be best to let the King decide. The following day Dahlbergh wrote to Strömfelt's colleague Mikael von Strokirch, telling him to use a planned visit to Schlippenbach's headquarters for persuading the major general to make better arrangements.

The King had already reached a similar conclusion. On 16 January he had written to Strokirch and Strömfelt, ordering them to go to Schlippenbach and discuss how the Livonian army was to be supplied. On 18 February Strömfelt sent a report to Dahlbergh. According to this it had soon become clear to the participants that Livonia could not provide everything the soldiers needed. The discussions had ended with the decision to send a formal appeal to King, asking him for support from Stockholm as well as from Finland. They were reluctant to ask for more recruits from Livonia leaseholders and officials as it could cause further supply problems, so the recommendation was requests for horses, wagons, clothes and shoes rather than for more men. As for the militia from Estonia they were rather troubled by the costs and suggested it would be more useful if these units were used as a recruiting pool for other regiments, thereby bringing the raw recruits into already well disciplined and well trained units. 

On the same day Strokirch, Strömfelt and Schlippenbach also sent a joint report to Charles XII. The King replied on 10 April, categorically dismissing the suggestion to make changes to the militia units. He also turned down the proposal to bring supplies from Finland as these must go to Cronhjort's army. As for the supplies in Livonia the King rejected the suggested construction of depots. It would be better if the supplies were kept at the various estates where they were produced, thereby limiting the risks for massive losses if the enemy attacked. To permanently keep 1,000 horses by the army (another proposal) just for bringing forward supplies was simply impossible and could not be accepted.


LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 74

Riksarkivet, Livonica II, vol. 126 

Riksarkivet, Riksregistraturet

Riksarkivet, Gustaf Adolf Strömfelts arkiv, vol. 4 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:31 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2016 8:48 PM CET
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