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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 25 January 2015
New uniforms for Skytte's regiment
Topic: Livonia

The modern Swedish standard work when it comes to uniforms during the GNW is undoubtedly Höglund & Sallnäs Stora nordiska kriget 1700-1721 : fanor och uniformer (2000), published in English as The Great Northern War 1700-1721 : colours and uniforms. Uniforms and colours is generally a subject I stay away from, but in this particular case I came upon a few items which should not be available elsewhere.

The story starts with an item I found in LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288 (p. 78). It's a specification dated 21 October 1700, signed by Col. Carl Gustaf Skytte. It states what type of cloth his regiment needs for new uniforms. According the Höglund & Sallnäs the regiment was dressed in blue and yellow both in the late 1690's and in 1705 - yet in this document Skytte requests cloth for blue coats with red lining, red breeches and red stockings. So what's the story here?

Well, the specification was sent by Skytte to Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga as well as to the manufacturer in Stockholm (the heirs of Jacob Lagerstedt or "Barnängen") and Dahlbergh also forwarded it at about the same time - Dahlbergh's letter to the Lagerstedt heirs is dated 25 October 1700 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72, p. 575). Then nothing seems to have happened for quite some time. On 28 March 1701 Dahlbergh reminded the Lagerstedt heirs about the specifications he had sent in October and requested information about the how far the work had progressed. (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 73, p. 234 f.) A month later he sent a new letter, this time more urgent (Ibid., p. 322) and finally on 15 May (Ibid., p. 397) an angry letter demanding a definite clarification of the situation. 

Not even this seems to have yielded an immediate response, as it was not until 25 June that Dahlbergh could inform the King about the situation (Ibid., p. 559 f.). The firm had finally simply told Dahlbergh that nothing could be done until they had been paid for previous orders. The situation was very difficult, Dahlbergh said, and if the regiments did not receive new uniforms before winter they would suffer badly. On 9 October 1701 the King wrote to Dahlbergh, telling him that he had received information that cloth would be sent from Sweden as soon as possible (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 150, p. 810 f.). The wheels of the Swedish bureacracy turned slowly...

On 1 December 1701 Skytte took the matter into his own hands, writing directly to Charles XII (Riksarkivet, M 753). The soldiers of his regiment were now, he wrote, more or less incapable of serving due to their poor clothing. They had received nothing new since 1696/97 and were now "naked". The King, who at this point had reached Courland, replied on 2 January 1702. As far as he recalled material had been sent from Stockholm to Riga so Skytte should send his request to Dahlbergh. So the story continues...

On 19 February 1702 Skytte wrote to Paul von Strokirch, an official in Riga, telling him that the regiment was simply unable to perform its duties until new uniforms arrived (EAA 278.1.XX-12c, p. 140 f.) On 3 April he again wrote Strokirch, wanting to know when new uniforms would arrive in Riga (Ibid., p. 146). Unless something happened very soon Skytte would, he wrote, have to send a courier to the King with information about the situation. On 11 April he again brought the issue to Strkirch's attention (Ibid., p. 151 f.). Same thing on 20 April (Ibid., p. 152). Finally, on 29 April 1702 Skytte again wrote to Strokirch, thanking him for the information about the arrival of uniforms and pointing out the King's decision in January. But the matter was not settled yet. On 7 May 1702 Skytte again wrote to Strokirch, thanking him for his advice to bring the matter to the attention of Governor Frölich (Ibid., p. 159). This he must have done immediately as Frölich on 10 May asked Skytte for a specification and promised to find out what was available (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 74, p. 481 f.) On 17 May the issue had anvanced to a point where Skytte expected to soon get what he needed (EAA 278.1.XX-12c, p. 163 f.). On the 21st Frölich wrote to Skytte, telling him that if the regimental quartermaster came to Riga he would get the new uniforms (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 74, p. 528). This was likely done shortly afterwards as on the 26th Skytte reported that he was in the process of sending the regimental quartermaster to Riga (EAA 278.1.XX-12c, p. 165 f.)

If this was the end (and it appears to have been) it took Skytte almost two years to get new uniforms for his regiment. It says, I think, something about the Swedish bureaucracy but even more about the financial difficulties caused by the war and how they very soon started to cause major problems. 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:22 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 25 January 2015 11:17 PM CET
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