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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 12 April 2015
The fight at Koporye 28 September 1708 : part 2
Topic: Battles

During last week I had a look at some of the Swedish sources for the Ingrian campaign of 1708, including Lybecker's report about the encounter near Koporye fortress on 28 September 1708. A short summary of what he claims:

While his army for three days was busy unloading and distributing provisions brought by sea a report arrived. This indicated that the Russians were moving their cavalry from Duderhof to Koporye in order to cut off the Swedish army. Upon receiving this news Lybecker detached a cavalry force of 1,800 men under the command of colonels Ramsay and Armfelt. They were instructed to observe the enemy and attack if the latter made a stand. Upon reaching a nearby village the Swedes were told that a Russian force of about 100 cavalry and 100 infantry had been there about an hour earlier and that the Russian force had taken up a position near Koporye. Ramsay and Armfelt discussed the situation with several officers in their detachment and decided to advance towards Koporye. Their approach was made up a very steep hill towards a large open field which reached beyond the fortress. The Russians were drawn up in two lines on this field, at a distance of a few musket shots from the fortress itself. Some additional squadrons were placed behind the two lines. As the Swedish force approached and took up position Armfelt assumed command of the right flank and Ramsay of the left. Orders were given to abstain from firing and attack with the sword only. As the Swedish attack started the Russians advanced as well. Cossacks and a force of boyars which were positioned in front of the Russian lines opened fire and the Cossacks attacked the Swedish left. Major de la Barre counterattacked with some squadrons and hit the flank of the Cossacks and drove them off. The Russian line opened fire and tried to regroup, but the strong Swedish assault forced both lines to retreat and the Russians started streaming backwards. As they were doing this they came upon a very deep ravine which crossed the field and went into the moat. Many Russians were driven down into the ravine and got stuck in the mud, where they were picked off by Swedish fire. Major Danielsson and some of his men jumped off their horses and went down into the ravine where they killed a large number of Russians with the sword. Another group were killed in similar fashion by Col. Ramsay very near the moat.

The garrison in Koporye tried to support the Russians with artillery fire and another force opened fire with muskets from a dry moat on the right as well as from a large house on the left. This did not stop the Swedes, who again attacked and pursued the fleeing Russians for several kilometres until they reached a small river which the Russians were forced to swim across.

Those who fled towards Koporye fortress were pursued by Lt. Col. Brakel with seven companies all the way to the drawbridge, forcing some Russians to jump into the moat to save themselves. The Russian fire from the fortress was intense but very inefficient, only killing one officer and wounding another. When the Swedes fell back from the drawbridge the Russians in the fortress counterattacked with both infantry and cavalry (with a force estimated to have been about 1,200). Col. Armfelt counterattacked and drove them back, but the Russians got reinforcements and attacked again. Eventually Armfelt decided to retreat and this was conducted very skillfully. His force lost about 50 men in total and the rest of the Swedish units lost another 20. The Russian losses were estimated as having been about 600. The enemy's baggage was captured. Among Brigadier Fraser's belongings several letters were found and they contained much valuable information. According to the prisoners Fraser commanded 5 dragoon regiments, 1 regiment of Cossacks and 1 unit of "selected Boyars". The Russians had left their colours in the fortress, so none were taken during the fight.

To be continued... 

Krigsarkivet, Krigshandlingar. Stora nordiska kriget, Vol. 12d, Letter from Lybecker dated Nurmis, 1 October 1708.


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:56 PM MEST
Post Comment | View Comments (6) | Permalink

Sunday, 12 April 2015 - 11:09 PM MEST

Name: "Gromoboy"

I will put a summary about Russian movings in the end of September 1708 in some days. Russian cavalry was under Chekin, not Fraser

Sunday, 12 April 2015 - 11:33 PM MEST

Name: "Bengt Nilsson"

Well, apparently Cruys informed Whitworth that Fraser's coat was at Koporie (and Whitworth drew the very logical conclusion that Fraser was in command). I would be inclined to think that the presence of a coat belonging to Fraser with letters addressed to him at least suggests that Fraser was there - in command or not.

I can well imagine that Lybecker exaggerated the results of the engagement, but that something happened is fairly clear. 

Monday, 13 April 2015 - 12:03 PM MEST

Name: "Bengt Nilsson"

I am also doubtful about Chekin. My impression from "Pisma i bumagi" 8:2 is that Chekin was sent from the main army to Apraksin and did not arrive until well into October, se for instance 8:2, no 2704, page 784 and no 2698, page 776. 

Monday, 13 April 2015 - 9:00 PM MEST

Name: "Bengt Nilsson"

Further about Frazer: On 19 September 1708 Apraksin wrote to the Czar (Pisma i bumagi 8:2, no 2633, page 684) stating that he had been forced to appoint Frazer as commander of the cavalry in place of the dead Monastyrev. Some weeks later Frazer was apparently removed from command (PiB 8:2, no 2682, p. 740) as Apraksin on 19 October in describing the attack on the Swedish units who had not yet embarked on the fleet speaks of having given command of the cavalry to Chekin who had just joined him and placing Frazer in charge of an infantry batallion. 

Timchenko-Ruban in Voennij Sbornik 1900 apparently states that Apraksin became unhappy with Frazer's conduct and sent a certain Kikin to him as some sort of support. Kikin found Frazer "with the entire cavalry" near Yamburg (which of course is significantly to the west of Koporie) and promptly removed the brigadier from command. 

Whether the latter version is fully accurate or not, it does seem to suggest that Frazer for some weeks was in command of the cavalry and that he subsequently was removed from that position. This removal suggests to me that something may indeed have happened, especially if Kikin in fact did find Frazer at Yamburg. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 - 7:58 AM MEST

Name: "Bengt Nilsson"

Another thing worth noting: In "Severnaja vojna na Ingermanlandskom.." one finds a substantial number from Apraksin to the Czar: 3 August, 19 August, 22 August, 27 August, 2 September, 7 September, 19 September, 29 September -  and then a gap all the way to 19 October. Then the flow continues again: 22 October, 26 October etc.  

So it's not so surprising that there is nothing about the Koporie fight on 28 September in this work, nor in "Pisma i bumagi" - the letter from 29 September is too early and the one from 19 October to late (because by then the recent Swedish embarkation was in focus). 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015 - 10:58 PM MEST

Name: "Bengt Nilsson"

Another potentially tricky issue is the table published by Myshlaevski. If I am not entirely mistaken it's supposed to show the Russian force at S:t Petersburg and Kronshlot on 8 September 1708. So what about the force which on the 5th fought Lybecker at "Karhila" and subsequently retreated westwards, apparently eventually as far as Yamburg? This force was certainly not at S:t Petersburg on the 8th. Is it still included in the list or does the list only show the strength on hand on that date?

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