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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 3 June 2018
Back from Norway
Topic: Archives
On 26 May I made a presentation in Stugudal, Norway about the de la Barre papers in Tartu. As I have previously touched upon they contain a number of previously unknown letters and other documents from Armfeldt's campaign in 1718. Most notable are a few letters sent by Armfeldt to Lt. General Reinhold Johan de la Barre in December 1718 during the latter's successful enterprise against Röros.

The reception was very positive and plans to publish the material in some suitable regional publication were tentatively discussed. After my presentation there were several questions and later one participant said (roughly) that he was used to hearing things he had heard before, so it was refreshing when some entirely new appeared.

The other presentations were quite interesting, although one or two of the Norwegians were not so easy to understand...

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:36 PM MEST
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Tuesday, 17 April 2018
Olof Sandberg writes from Lund : part 1
Topic: Archives

The first "coded" letter from Olof Sandberg to Samuel Barck is dated Lund 25 November 1717. Lennart Thanner appears to have considered the code as an attempt to cover the presumably sensitive content. This appears very unlikely as it would probably have taken a contemporary reader only a few seconds to figure out the meaning. It seems more likely that Sandberg tried to amuse Barck. 

Sandberg starts out by saying that the knight "Sankt Jörgen" (Goertz) appears to have lost favour with the King. He then mentions "Pehr Speleman i Gårdarijke" (the Czar), who in Sandberg's opinion has bitten off more than he can chew. Sandberg then goes on to say God bless "Far" (the King) as things will then go well for "ungefar och ungemor" (Frederick of Hesse and Ulrika Eleonora). If "far" dies they will inherit the farm, which has fared poorly lately. They will have to spend time on repairs etc. Pretty standard stuff and certainly not a code that would have been of any use if the intent was to keep the content secret.


Source: Riksarkivet, Ericsbergsarkivet, Autografsamlingen, Vol. 182



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:35 PM MEST
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Sunday, 7 January 2018
An anecdote
Topic: Archives

I have recently finished a longer article about the poet and clergyman Samuel Älf (1727-1799). In the course of that work I have read a lot of letters to him and from him as well as some from people he met. One of these was Olof Andersson Knös (1756-1804), who in 1779 visited Älf in Linköping. During his visit he spoke with Johan Sparschuch (1699-1781), who (just as Älf) had been a friend of the late bishop Andreas Rhyzelius (1677-1761). Rhyzelius was in the 1710's close to Charles XII and served as his chaplain. Rhyzelius had told Sparschuch the follwing story:

One day towards the end of the King's life Rhyzelius was told that the King wanted to receive communion. Rhyzelius was surprised and said that he could not give communion before having had a chance to speak with the King. Charles had immediately agreed and he had himself put a small stool in the middle of the floor, kneeled and during his confession almost melted in tears.

Rhyzelius autobiography is filled with moving stories of his time in the service of Charles, who he decades later remembered very fondly. I don't have it available right know, but among the things Rhyzelius writes is that the country would have been much better if Charles had lived. That's a pretty astonishing thing to say by a man who reached great heights during the "Age of Liberty", i.e. the period which followed the King's death.

Source: Olof Andersson Knös to Carl Christoffer Gjörwell 22 August 1779, Ep. G. 7:6, Royal Library

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:22 PM CET
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Sunday, 28 May 2017
Royal letters to Schlippenbach
Topic: Archives

In 1885 the Swedish archivist Per Sondén travelled to various archives along the coast of the Baltic sea from Stettin to Saint Petersburg, primarily in order to search for letters from Axel Oxenstierna. Occasionally he looked beyond his immediate task and made notes of other interesting items. Upon arriving in Reval (Tallinn) he went first to the town archive and then to the archive of the Estonian nobility. He found little of relevance for his mission, but as a representative of the Swedish National Archive was offered a volume of letters from Charles XII to Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach 1701-1705. The same offer was repeated twenty years later, but as it was not clear what the owners wanted in return the volume stayed in Tallinn. 

The volume was later added the archive of the Governor General of Estonia and is now labelled EAA.1.2.153. It's available online through VAU (registration needed). Most of the content can likely be found in Riksregistraturet, but a few of the very first letters are written by the King personally. The first is dated Koiküll 5 January 1701 and deals with Schlippenbach's march to Marienburg (Alūksne). The second is dated the same day and goes into more detail. Schlippenbach should take 200 men from his own dragoons, 100 Finnish cavalry and 100 of Lt. Col. Stackelberg's batallion and go to Marienburg. There he would like find 200 men of Skytte's batallion wirh four guns. This force, the King writes, should not only be sufficient for defensive purposes but also permit an expedition into Russia in order to collect contributions. If Schlippenbach deemed it necessary he should allow those Livonians who lived close to the border to move further west. 

The King assured Schlippenbach that Major General Spens would take a position at Sagnitz (Sangaste) and would be able to support him if necessary.

On 10 January Schlippenbach acknowledged the arrival of these two letters (RA, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 23) and gave an extensive account of the situation. 

In an odd twist to the story there is a similar volume in Linköpings Stiftsbibliotek (H 189). This volume consists of copies of Royal letters to Schlippenbach, but is not identical to the EAA 1.2.153. The first letter in this volume is dated 22 January, which chronologically would put it between letters 5 and 6 in the Estonian one. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 28 May 2017 7:46 AM MEST
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Sunday, 7 May 2017
The High Court of Dorpat in 1700
Topic: Archives

I recently bought Heikki Pihlajamäki's new book Conquest and the Law in Swedish Livonia. On page 135 he speaks of a "mystery" which was quite unknown to me. Apparently there has been some confusion as to what happened with regard to the Court once war broke out in February. Margus Laidre has apparently claimed that it relocated to Reval under armed escort, while Heinz von zur Mühlen stated that it went to Riga. Pihjalamäki mentions that the letters from the High Court clearly shows that it from January 1703 had its seat in Riga. 

The correspondence of the Governor General of Livonia is able to clear up a few things. On 9 March 1700 Charles XII wrote to Colonel Skytte in Dorpat (a letter which is missing in Riksregistraturet), telling him to bring the archive of the Court to safety in Pernau or Reval if the military situation started to appear dangerous. Some time later the Court itself had turned to the King for help and on 10 April he sent a new letter to Skytte (not in Riksregistraturet, but a copy is preserved in LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288). Charles ordered Skytte to start moving the archive immediately. 

Skytte got this letter about a month later and quickly informed Governor General Dahlbergh. All preparations had been made, he reported, but as the latest news from Riga was encouraging it seemed unnecessary to go through with the transfer. Was it really worth the cost, especially as the Court had changed its mind about relocating?

Dahlbergh tentatively agreed to postpone, but wrote the Court to confirm the change of heart. He noted that the fortunes of war could shift again, but he was quite happy to disregard the King's instructions if the Court did not want to move. 

And so it stayed.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:43 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2017 6:55 PM MEST
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Monday, 1 May 2017
De la Barre
Topic: Archives

Among the family archives preserved in Tartu one finds some volumes from the de la Barre family. Its most prominemt member during the Great Northern War was Lt. General Reinhold Johan de la Barre (166?-1724), who served under Armfelt in Finland, Sweden and Norway. One prominent letter from this collection was brought to light by Greta Wieselgren in an article in Svio-Estonica 1938. The letter was sent by Charles XII on 16 October 1718 and it contains a unequivocal instruction to de la Barre: he has to make sure that the King's orders are followed to the letter even if no one in the army survives. Parts of the letter echoes the King's sentiment towards the surrender at Perevolochna: those in command should not enter into discussions but rather give clear and distinct orders. They should not rely on reports from regimental commanders but look for themselves. 

Wieselgren apparently never noted that the archive contains much more military material, both from the first years of the GNW and from 1719-1721. One notable item is a letter from the aide-de-camp Major G. W. Marcks von Würtemberg, written in Långå at 5 in the morning on 26 December 1718. The existence of this document has been known for a long time. In his book about Armfelt's campaign in Norway Gustaf Petri mentions that Marcks on the very same day wrote to Armfelt that the reports of the King's death had been confirmed. This letter never reached Armfelt, but the earlier message Marcks mentions that he sent de la Barre has - in Tartu. 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:59 PM MEST
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Sunday, 2 April 2017
Carl Adam Stackelberg
Topic: Archives

The Baltic manorial archives have suffered large losses bevause of wars and revolutions, but some parts remain. One of these is the Stackelberg family archive (EAA.1862), preserved in Tartu. Notable from a GNW perspective are some volumes connected to Carl Adam Stackelberg (1669-1749), who first served in Livonia and later in the German provinces as well as during the Norwegian campaign in 1718. One of the earliest volumes is EAA.1862.1.16, which is labelled Memoriale /Konzepte/ und Schreiben an Könige, Generäle und Andere aus der Zeit des Nordischen Krieges und später and supposedly containing items from 1708-1710. 

The content is however of a different nature The largest document discusses whether it would be a good idea if Frederick of Hesse became King in accordance with the wishes of his wife Queen Ulrika Eleonora. The undated and anonymous memorial was obviously written some time in late 1719, after the Diet of 1719 and before the Diet of 1720 had started. The author is quite enthusiastic about Frederick, but formulates some conditions for his succession to the throne. If for example the Queen died the King should not be permitted to marry without the consent of the estates. The author is also very concerned about the future of the constitution, suggesting that one way to avoid an return of autocracy would be a sort of federal system made up of Sweden, Scania and the Baltic provinces. If two of these in one way or another agreed to the restoration of autocracy the third part could (if I understand the argument correctly) refuse to take part and seek support from foreign powers.

The author also believes it necessary to put Frederick on the throne in order to further pursue the war against the Czar. Without strong leadership it will be impossible to make an impression on the Russian ruler and to start a military operation to recapture Livonia. (This was of course very high on the agenda of the Swedish government after the death of Charles XII, i.e. to make peace with the other enemies, form a large European alliance and then undertake a large joint attack on Russia in order to force the Czar to moderate his terms. The Treaty of Nystad in 1721 was the logical conclusion to this rather far-fetched scheme). 

As far as I can tell none of the documents are in fact from 1708-1710, but rather about a decade younger. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:47 PM MEST
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Sunday, 12 March 2017
More from Tartu
Topic: Archives

The Estonian National Archives in Tartu (formerly Estonian Historical Archives) used to have a fantastic service level (as a mentioned a couple of weeks ago). After the opening of the new building they have somehow managed to improve further on it. Orders which used to take a couple of weeks to fill have recently been ready in just days and the fee seems to be even lower than it used to be. I have dealt with quite a few Swedish and foreign archives during the last 20 years, both by mail and in person, and Tartu stands without equals thus far. 

Ordering scans of entire volumes is obviously a bit hit and miss, but occasionally something interesting turns up. This time I found some of the missing material from 1692 about the Russian Old Believers and their first arrival in eastern Livonia. Documents mentioned by Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt some years later turned up in a volume where I didn't expect them to be. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:20 PM MEST
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Sunday, 26 February 2017
Niedersächsiche Landesarchiv, Stade
Topic: Archives

A couple a days ago I decided to take a look at the archive of the Swedish Governor General of Bremen-Verden. It's preserved in Stade and parts of the catalogue is available through Arcinsys Niedersachsen.

I was quite unfamiliar with the this archive, but it turned out to be quite substantial as far as GNW correspondence is concerned. Many of the more prominent military and civilian officials from the first part of the war(Rehnskiöld, Liewen, Stenbock, Piper, Cederhielm etc.) are represented and the same is true for several of the most important diplomats (Lillieroth, Palmqvist, Cronström etc.). Notable are also some volumes concerning Governor General Gyllenstierna's march from Pomerania to Krakow in 1702. Other parts of Gyllenstierna's papers are preserved in the Swedish National Archives and in the Royal Library. At least parts of the "Swedish archive" in Stade have been microfilmed and these films are preserved in the Swedish National Archives.

The new archive building in Tartu has now opened, so it's time to restart my "excavations" in the Estonian part of archive of the Livonian Governor General. As I have noted before the level of service is excellent. Find the right volume in AIS and then just a few simple steps for ordering copies. I have by now acquired complete scans of about a hundred volumes and the (electronic) delivery of them usually only take a couple of weeks. The quality is always excellent and if there are any glitches they always fix them almost immediately. The price is very reasonable and unless the volumes are very thick (like the muster rolls for the period 1634-1694) it's entirely manageable. I have also made some forays into the archive of the Estonian Governor General (almost a dozen volumes thus far) and a couple of days ago I decided on a small experiment as far as the town council of Dorpat is concerned. There was in late 1691/early 1692 a most curious case concerning Harald Igelström, an officer and nobleman who killed two people and then managed to escape from jail and across the Düna to Courland. There is among the papers of the Livonian Governor General a lot of correspondence about the murders and Igelström's escape, but the letters do not contain any account of the circumstances. The case is mentioned in a few older works, but these versions appear to be incorrect. According to one of them it happened just before the war broke out in 1700 and that's obviously incorrect. Another preculiar detail is that Igelström was married to a daugther of Major Otto Wilhelm Klodt, who in 1702 was executed in Dorpat for treasonous actions during the Saxon invasion. The Igelström case was initially handled by the town authorities in Dorpat in January 1692.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:45 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2017 7:47 PM CET
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Sunday, 16 October 2016
Jean Charles de Folard
Topic: Archives

Among the many French soldiers who entered Swedish service during the Great Northern War few acquired the reputation of Jean Charles de Folard (perhaps better known as Chevalier de Folard). His letters to Goertz form the basis for chapter IX in Charles de Coynard biographic study (1914). Folard greatly admired Charles XII and went to Sweden in 1716. An illness forced him to return to France in the autumn of 1717, but the ship he was travelling on was wrecked off Skagen. In Folard's company was Hans Gyllenskepp, who was carrying secret dispatches for Poniatowski. Folard lost most of his luggage, including manuscripts and letters, but survived and got back to France. He was still planning to return to Sweden when Charles fell in November 1718. 

What Coynard did not know was that some letters from Folard to Charles remain, well hidden in a private archive. They suggest that Folard and Charles had immersed themselves in discussions about ancient history as well as about more practical matters. On 23 June 1718 Folard writes to the King that he has sent a drawing of a gun carriage for naval use and has been working on similar inventions for field and siege artillery. Due to the risk of them being captured by the enemy he has not yet forwarded those plans, but will do so if the King requests it. He also writes about a rifle which will fire five shots in the time an ordinary musket fires one. 

The second surviving letter is dated Paris 28 August 1718. Folard discusses at some length the reasons behind Alexander's great success against the Persians and the exploits of Caesar. Folard seems to suggest that these ancient examples proves that a smaller force can succeed by a rapid and determined assault (something Charles undoubtedly fully agreed with).

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:49 PM MEST
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