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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 7 October 2018
A visit to Halden
Topic: Museums
A couple of weeks ago visited Halden and Fredriksten fortress, partially acting as an expert on the events of 1718. This was (I think) my fifth visit. Among other things I got the opportunity to follow in Bengt Wilhelm Carlberg's footsteps down the very steep hill he and his small group of soldiers brought the dead king. I manages to get down without falling, partly because of the many trees growing there nowadays. If Carlberg went down where I did it's certainly very understandable that the body fell off the stretcher on the way down. 

The museum exhibition was not very large, but nice. For some not quite obvious reason they focused on the "canister scenario", one of the most unlikely theories. It's strange that such basic things still have not been quite cleared up despite the fact that serious research started as far as in the 1840's. 

I will visit Halden two more times this autumn, the final one being a conference 10-12 December. Maybe I will then get a chance to explain why the canister theory is quite unreasonable. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:31 PM MEST
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Sunday, 1 June 2014
Stäket 1719
Topic: Museums

Today a Swedish "battlefield museum" opened near Baggensstäket, the site of a legendary encounter between Swedish and Russian forces in August 1719. For various reasons I happened to get involved in the preparations, mostly by doing research in various archives. The modern scientific interpretation of the event is a product of research conducted by the military historian Arne Stade (1912-1999), who among other things brought down Col. Rutger Fuchs from the pinnacles of fame. In Stade's view Fuchs, the commander of Södermanland's infantry regiment and the classical hero of the battle, was really a fraud. Fuchs had, according to Stade, more or less lied about the result of the battle and also usurped honours which rightly belonged to his second in command Lt. Col. von Essen.

When I started to look into the matter I was fairly certain there wasn't really much more critical information to be found. Stade's reputation as an extremely critical and analytical historian suggested that his interpretation of Fuchs would stand, but I soon became convinced that Stade had been entirely mistaken. In my opinion, after looking at the sources Stade used (and some others) there is nothing suspicious at all in regard to Fuchs. To explain it briefly:

The events leading up to Stäket had given many the impression that the Swedish army was unreliable, i.e. when the Russians landed on the Swedish coast the defenders had several times showed very little stomach for fighting (although it should be said that they were often heaviliy outnumbered). There was great anxiety not only in Stockholm but also far inland  (it was for example feared that the Russians would move their galleys across land near Södertälje and get to Lake Mälaren). So when the Södermanland regiment actually fought and did so quite doggedly the Councillors of the Realm were pleasantly surprised and immediately came upon the idea of rewarding the regiment. The cost would not be great, but it would set an example for other units - fight well and you will get rewarded. Stade's conclusion was that the reward money was only intended for one of the two Södermanland battalions and that Fuchs by trickery got money for both. In my opinion this is quite impossible as the money was intended to encourage those who fought well. Why then reward only half of Södermanland's regiment? Both battalions had suffered casualties - why should only one half get rewards? What sort of signal would that send to other units? Fight well and hope you are in the right battalion? No, Stade's interpretation is quite wrong. 

Fuchs may in his report have exaggerated, but which commander doesn't? The Russians would surely put out their version, so of course the Swedes did the same. The Russian material I have seen actually fits very well with the basic information given by Fuchs. While the Russian force did not plan to capture Stockholm it is natural that their mission appeared to be just that to the horrified citizens of the capital and that Fuchs and his superiors "milked" the subsequent Russian retreat as much as they could. Nothing particularly sinister about that. 

Something should perhaps be said about the other units present and about Baltzar von Dahlheim. Why were they not rewarded in the same way as Fuchs? Well, the truth is most likely that they played a very insignificant role. The other army units served, as far as I can see, on the Swedish galleys and the outposts on shore seem to have been withdrawn as soon as the Russians landed. These army units suffered practically no losses at all, which also suggests that they were well away from the infantry action. Dahlheim? Well, he appears to have been a rather peculiar figure who wasn't too well regarded by his superiors. I tend to think that his role during the actual fight was fairly insignificant as well. 

 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:03 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 1 June 2014 10:04 PM MEST
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