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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 8 January 2017
Rehnschiöld and Lewenhaupt
Topic: Generals

Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's memoirs, first published in 1757 and again in 1952 (possibly based on another manuscript) are rich in scoundrels, big and small, who in one way or another treated the general unfairly. One of the major villains is Field Marshal Rehnschiöld, who blames Lewenhaupt for almost everything which goes wrong at Poltava. This animosity would appear to have been rather new as the two had no personal contact whatsoever from late 1701 until the arrival of Lewenhaupt at the King's headquarters in the spring of 1708.

Whether they knew each other before the war is unclear, but one item strongly suggests it. On 18 July 1700 Lewenhaupt was appointed colonel of a regiment which was to be raised in Uppland, Dalarna and Västmanland. As he had never held any rank whatsoever in the Swedish army (according to his memoirs he could not accept having to start as a common soldier despite being from an illustrious family) this appointment came as a bit of shock to him. So why had Charles XII remembered him?

Well, it would appear that Lewenhaupt believed that Lieutenant General Carl Gustaf Rehnschiöld had put in a good word. On 8 August Lewenhaupt wrote to him, saying that the appointment no doubt was a result of a recommendation from Rehnschiöld. Besides expressing profound gratitude Lewenhaupt asked Rehnschiöld for advice. There was a shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers and the King undoubtedly wanted the regiment to be ready as soon as possible. Some officers had been found and expressed a willingness to serve. However, Lewenhaupt wasn't sure that the King accepted proposals from the colonels, but if he did perhaps Rehnschiöld could present him with Lewenhaupt's list? It seemed possible to find enough captains and lieutenants with previous military experience, but ensigns were harder to find. Lewenhaupt was inclined to go for young ambitious men without experience. Non-commissioned officers were even more difficult to recruit. Could Rehnschiöld give some advice? Perhaps some corporals from the old regiments? Lewenhaupt was also looking for a lieutenant colonel as the King had only appointed a major. 

A rather amusing detail which adds to this letter: Ten days later Nils Gripenhielm, County Governor of Dalarna, wrote to Lewenhaupt about the efforts to raise the new regiment. There were many officers available in Dalarna, but Gripenhielm did not know if they would be willing to serve. It would be best if Lewenhaupt came to Dalarna himself. Gripenhielm noted that his own son Axel Johan (born in March 1686) wanted to join the army. He was only 15 years old (or rather 14), but Axel Johan was tall and energetic. Would there perhaps be a place for him in the regiment? Perhaps as officer, as he already knew the basics? Nils Gripenhielm's wife had a relative who was 17, who could perhaps be suitable as a non-commissioned officer? He was a bit short, but had recently grown considerably. The young man was the son of old major Gladtsten and his older brother was already an ensign in Dalregementet. The old major was very poor and had no way of helping his children. 

Axel Johan Gripenhielm was appointed ensign in Lewenhaupt's regiment on 30 September 1700. He died in 1755, having reached the rank of Major General. Ensign Adam Gladtsten also survived the war and many years as a prisoner of war in Russia. He died in 1729. The fate of his younger brother Göran (who seems likely to have been the one Gripenhielm tried to help) is unclear. He is sometimes called "ensign", but with no details about where and how long he served. Date of death is also unknown.

Source: Linköpings Stiftsbibliotek, H 79:4, no 19 and no 24 

P.S. Rehnschiöld had spent some time in the Netherlands in 1691 as a military aide and teacher to the young Duke Frederick IV of Holstein. He may have come into contact with Lewenhaupt, who was a lieutenant colonel in Magnus Wilhelm Nieroth's regiment. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:08 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2017 9:12 PM CET
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