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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 4 August 2013
"Here is nothing" - the attempt to save Narva

On 3 August 1704 Governor General Axel Julius de la Gardie wrote to the Castle Court (Burggericht) in Reval. In the letter he asked the court to immediately call Colonel Bernhard Johan Mellin, the postmaster Grubb and some others to testify in the presence of Anders Lifman, who was one of the top officials in the administration. According to de la Gardie he had ordered Lifman to send provisions to Narva, but the latter had failed to carry out the instruction. De la Gardie also claimed that one ship that was to carry supplies to Narva had been diverted and used by Lifman for private business.

When Mellin testified he said that he had understood that the Governor General was troubled by the lack of provisions in Narva, but he has not been present when de la Gardie ordered Lifman to take care of the matter. Next witness on the list was Major David Philip von Hertzog, but Lifman objected as there was jealousy between him and the Major. When asked to explain he stated that something had occured last winter, but neither Hertzog nor the court deemed the event important. 

In his testimony Major Hertzog  said that he had not been present when de la Gardie gave the order to Lifma. The only thing he knew was that there had been talk in the Governor General's Chancery about the urgent need to supply Narva. The only thing he knew about Lifman's actions was that the latter once had said "God knows when Horn gets enough supplies". 

Next witness was Johan Corylander, secretary to the Governor General. Corylander said that he had no recollection of any written order to Lifman. He did know that Major General Horn last summer had learned through spies that the enemy was planning an attack on Narva and had therefore asked for provisions. De la Gardie had called a meeting and read Horn's letter aloud and it had been established that Horn had already received supplies from other places. From Reval nothing could be sent as half of Estonia had been devastated by the enemy and not only Narva but also the garrisons at Dorpat and Reval as well as Schlippenbach's army needed provisions. When Horn through a new letter had repeated his request de la Gardie had, according to Corylander, exclaimed "What can I do. Here is nothing. You have heard what Ribbing and Lifman said during the meeting." Corylander had replied: "It would be a very serious matter if such an important fortress as Narva was forced to surrender. If Major General Horn did indeed ask for more than he needed it would would most certainly result in the King demanding an explanation, but if a loss of Narva could be blamed on lack of supplies it would also be a most serious thing". Corylander had asked De la Gardie to contemplate this. The Governor General had then recalled Ribbing and Lifman, who both had agreed that nothing could be found at Reval. 

When Horn then in the autumn had repeated his request with considerable urgency the Governor General had called for Ribbing and Lifman again. He had read Horn's letter aloud and Lifman had again said "Here is nothing". Coylander had again repeated his warning and de la Gardie had sat in silence for a while. He had then turned to Ribbing and asked for his opinion. Ribbing had said that Narva most certainly needs some provisions and de la Gardie had agreed with him. Lifman had remained silent. 

To be continued...

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 11:03 PM MEST
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