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Artillery personnel
Great Embassy
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The Great Northern War
Saturday, 16 February 2013
Honor and distinction
Topic: Source criticism

In 2007 the Swedish historian Svante Norrhem published a book called Kvinnor vid maktens sida : 1632-1772. In it he analyses the position of women close to power, i. e. the wives of some of the most powerful members of Swedish aristocracy. On pages 78-79 he describes and interprets a curious episode in General Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's memoirs. In the autumn of 1706 the General carried out an expedition into Lithuania, where he had some skirmishes with enemy forces. At one point Lewenhaupt handed over the army to Major General Stackelberg and made a short visit to Riga. According to Lewenhaupt's memoirs this quickly became a subject for gossip and people started saying that the General neglected his official duties and came to Riga only for some private matter, i.e. negotiations concerning his daughters marriage. Lewenhaupt claims that his secretary Klinthen helped spread such innuendos and that some of them focused on Lewenhaupt's wife and her alleged vanity. These, the General suggests, were based on an misinterpretation of a conflict between the wife of Deputy Governor Rembert von Funcken's second wife Margareta Christina Frölich (1683-1735), daughter of former governor Carl Gustaf Frölich.

According to Lewenhaupt's memoirs v. Funcken's wife started to use the official seats in St. Peter's church, which forced the Lewenhaupt's own wife to sit among the burgher's wives. This resulted in gossip and criticism directed against von Funcken's wife, who then proceeded to buy another chair close to the official ones and make it bigger than the former. Lewenhaupt states that he, upon returning to Riga, confronted the Riga town councillor Ulrich and asked him how he as churchwarden could have allowed this to take place. Ulrich defended himself by saying that von Funcken had wanted it done and as he was in charge when Lewenhaupt was away they felt that his wish could not be denied. Ulrich suggested that Lewenhaupt talk to von Funcken, but the general refused. This was, he stated, a matter for the town council and the church wardens - they must restore the chairs or else face dire consequences. Major General von Funcken would at first not budge and sent Colonel Budberg to Lewenhaupt as an negotiator. Lewenhaupt told Budberg that von Funcken had allowed the King's rights to be infringed and if he had any complaints against Lewenhaupt he should write to Charles XII. Even former governor Frölich and eventually also von Funcken came to Lewenhaupt, asking him to reconsider, but were told that nothing could be done as it was an official and not a private matter. 

Now, this is a fascinating story and Norrhem seems to believe that this is what happened and that there was nothing more to it. He even suggest that the conflict resulted in a complete break between the two families, but Lewenhaupt himself does not go that far. He claims that von Funcken initially was obstinate and tried to make things difficult for Lewenhaupt, but eventually apologized. 

But does Lewenhaupt tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well, nobody seems to have looked for additional evidence. Surely there has to be something if the matter eventually involved the town council, former governor Frölich, churchwarden Ulrich, Colonel Budberg etc? Let's have a look:

On 4 October 1706 Lewenhaupt wrote to von Funcken from the Lithuanian town Kėdainiai. In the letter he accuses the Major General of having opened private letters addressed to Lewenhaupt and orders him to give every arriving letter to Lewenhaupt's wife, who will then open them in the presence of an official from the Governor's Chancellery and determine which are private and which are official. This order was repeated in another letter written six days later. Could this have caused friction between the two men? When did Lewenhaupt make his short visit to Riga?

To be continued...



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:58 PM CET
Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2013 8:02 PM CET
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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Abraham Cronhjort and Eirik Hornborg
Topic: Source criticism

In 1952 the Finnish historian Eirik Hornborg (1879-1965) published a biography of Carl Gustaf Armfeldt (1666-1736), in 1718 leader of the unsuccessful campaign to take Trondheim. In the book Hornborg, who was no admirer of Charles XII, paints a grim picture of the situation on the Ingrian front during the first years of the war. He is critical, but yet sympathetic, to the first Swedish commander, Major General Abraham Cronhjort. Cronhjort may have been a poor general, but the main fault lay with Charles XII who wandered away into Poland instead of giving proper attention to the defense of the Baltic provinces.

In January 1701 Cronhjort made an excursion into Russia across the eastern border of Ingria, arriving at a village called Saari (nowadays Shum). There he found a wooden manor, defended by a few hundred Russians. For nearly two weeks Cronhjort tried to force them to surrender, but could make no headway despite a large numerical advantage. Then, late one night, the garrison managed to elude the Swedish posts and escape - a real embarrassment for Cronhjort. Hornborg briefly touches upon the struggle for Saari, but places the emphasis on the reaction by Charles XII. The King, upon hearing of Cronhjort's initial difficulties, got quite upset and pointed out that the Major General a few weeks earlier had written about possible forays as far as Novgorod. Such promises and now he could not capture even "a simple wooden manor"? Hornborg found this reaction deeply unfair as the forces at Cronhjort's disposal were quite untrained, poorly equipped and the weather conditions difficult. But what about the embarrassing outcome? Well, Hornborg only says that the garrison secretly abandoned the manor in the night between the 28th and the 29th. Did he perhaps find this fact a bit "disturbing", i.e. not in line with his interpretation of where the real responsibility for the failure lay?

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:44 PM CET
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Sunday, 9 December 2012
An archival mystery
Topic: Archives

In the early 20th century the military historian Hugo Uddgren (1876-1955) started a very ambitious research project which was not completed until nearly 50 years later. Uddgren, who was inspired by historian Arthurs Stille and the so called "New School", wanted to investigate Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's military career 1700-1709. This resulted in Uddgren becoming the first Swedish historian to use the key archives in Riga. He also gained access to the archive of the Dukes of Courland (at that time preserved in Saint Petersburg), which also contained a considerable amount of material from the Swedish administration of the Duchy between 1701 and 1709.

In his presentation of the sources Uddgren states that some of the important records listed in Bienemann's catalogue of archive of the Livonian Governor General unfortunately had disappeared between the publication of the catalogue in 1908 and his first visit in 1909. Hugo Uddgren specifically mentions the copy book of outgoing letters for the period January-May 1705, saying that the corresponding volume for the latter part of the year is preserved in Krigsarkivet, Stockholm. This is a mystifying claim as he calls the latter volume "Lewenhaupt's copy book" - the General did not become Governor of Riga until 1706. Besides, Bienemann quite clearly states that there was only one volume for 1705. The situation is complicated by the fact that the Governor General's office had two departments - one "Swedish" and one "German". Both of them produced considerable amounts of letters. The Swedish one handled correspondence with the authorities in Sweden, with the King and with many of the most important military and civilian authorities in Livonia. The German department seems to have handled correspondence with bailiffs, town councils and other local authorities and individuals, which presumably were less fluent in Swedish. As Bienemann only mentions the existence of a Swedish copy book for 1705 it must be this one that Uddgren couldn't find. But it's there now - "hidden" in the series of copy books from the German department (Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 56 - LVVA, Riga). 

So what did Uddgren find in Krigsarkivet? Well, the volume came from the manor Bjärka-Säby via Uppsala University Library. Bjärka-Säby was once owned by the Cederhielm family, which included Lewenhaupt's son in law Germund Cederhielm. The most likely explanation is that the volume either comes from Lewenhaupt's so called "Field Chancellery"or perhaps from the office of the Governor of Courland (Lewenhaupt was Deputy Governor in title, but the de facto Governor as Carl Magnus Stuart had been on sick leave since the spring of 1703). 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:18 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 9 December 2012 11:25 PM CET
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Thursday, 6 December 2012
Who told the King?
Topic: Factoids

In almost every book about the Great Northern War it's stated that the report about the attack on Riga reached Charles XII through a courier sent by Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga. The courier, captain Johan Brask, left Riga on 12 February 1700 and presumably arrived in Kungsör on 6 March 1700 after travelling on land around the Bay of Bothnia. It would seem most remarkable to make such a long journey in just about three weeks.

Oddly enough almost nobody seems to have noticed an article by the Finnish historian Arvo Viljanti, who in 1939 pointed out that this version is contradicted by a Royal letter sent to Governor General Axel Julius de la Gardie on 9 March. In this it's stated that the news reached the King through a letter sent by de la Gardie on 19 February and that Brask has not yet arrived. De la Gardie's courier captain Otto Magnus Wolffeldt apparently went around the Gulf of Finland just like Brask, but instead of following his path chose a more dangerous but much faster route via the Åland Islands.


Viljanti, A., Suomen rykmenttien liikekannallepano ja marssi Liivinmaalle v. 1700 // Historiallinen arkisto. - 45(1939). - S. 303-356

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:33 PM CET
Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2012 5:34 PM CET
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Monday, 19 November 2012
Magnus Stenbock, part two
Topic: Generals

In a previous entry I mentioned the large autograph collection in the archive from the manor Ericsberg and in particular a series of letters from Casten Feif to Magnus Stenbock. Feif was before Poltava a junior member of the Field Chancellery, but afterwards became one of the King's closest advisors. From Bender he corresponded with Nicodemus Tessin the younger about the plans for the new Royal castle in Stockholm, in many instances conveying the King's wishes and ideas. He apparently also kept up a similar correspondence with Magnus Stenbock, who before the start of the campaign against Russia had returned to Sweden after being appointed Governor of Scania. Stenbock was a highly talented man in many ways and greatly appreciated by Charles XII, but he was also extremely sensitive and seems to have been in almost constant fear of falling into disfavor. He was, it seems, constantly looking for hidden enemies and "backstabbers" and forever asking for new favors and rewards.

On 29 November 1710 Casten Feif wrote to Stenbock and expressed his delight with the King's latest expression of confidence in Stenbock (presumably his appointment as Councillor of the Realm in late August). However, it's apparent from the letter that Stenbock had been less than satisfied. It would seem that the General not only wanted a Royal confirmation of his Field Marshal's baton (given to him by the Council after the victory at Helsingborg) but also the title "Governor General" of Scania. Feif explained to Stenbock that this would be quite impossible as it had been previously decided to have only a Governor in Scania. 

In June 1711 Feif returns to the matter of Stenbock's baton. He states that he is confident that the King will confirm it, but strongly advises Stenbock to stop bringing it up as the King always reads the letters to Feif. It would, Feif suggests, be much better if Stenbock emphasized how content he was and wrote some entertaining letters to the King.

On 31 July 1711 Feif again writes to Stenbock, referring to the latter's wish to be appointed Governor of Stockholm. Feif points out that this position is not vacant and suggests that Stenbock would probably not like having someone ask for the Governorship of Scania. Stenbock must, Feif insists, avoid using such expressions in his letters and should be satisfied with knowing that he remained in the King's favor. In a P.S. Feif particularly mentions Stenbock's claim that he had saved the King's throne by his victory at Helsingborg. This was a glorious thing for subject to do, Feif wrote, but he should never ever express the sentiment openly in a letter to the King as it could very well be interpreted as criticism.


Source: Riksarkivet, Ericsbergsarkivet, autografsamlingen, vol. 69

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:58 PM CET
Updated: Monday, 19 November 2012 6:59 PM CET
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Monday, 22 October 2012
Magnus Stenbock
Topic: Generals

In the vast autograph collection in the archive from Ericsberg there are a lot of letters addressed to Magnus Stenbock (1663-1717), Governor of Scania, Field Marshal, Councillor of the Realm etc. etc. Stenbock was in many ways a complicated character. Born into one of the most prominent and influential families as the son of Count Gustaf Otto Stenbock, Admiral of the Realm and a member of the regency during the early years of Charles XI, the young Magnus had everything. However, in the late 1670's his father fell into disfavor and lost much of his possessions. This possibly made Magnus Stenbock acutely aware of how fast things could change and how necessary it was to keep good relations with the monarch. When war broke out in 1700 Stenbock seems to have quite rapidly earned the favor of Charles XII, partly because of his considerable military experience and ability. However, of perhaps even greater value was Stenbock's sense of humour and his talent in creating amusements for the King. From the letters exchanged between the two during the Polish campaign it would seem that Stenbock reached a level of personal friendship with Charles XII that no one (family excepted) at that point had been able to reach. However, as the son in law of Bengt Oxenstierna, the old President of the Chancellery, it is clear that Stenbock also had one foot in the camp of those who wished to see a different foreign policy. From preserved letters it's obvious that Magnus Stenbock at the very least tried to give "the opposition" the impression that he worked for their interests - while on the other hand seemingly being one of Charles XII's most trusted advisors.

After the treaty of Altranstädt had ended the conflict with Augustus II, Stenbock was sent home to govern the province of Scania as Governor. In 1709 it fell upon him to organize the defense against the invading Danes and his victory at the battle of Helsingborg in 1710 made him an instant hero in the eyes of the Swedish public. The Council of the Realm, which after Poltava had taken a larger share in the governing of Sweden, rewarded him with the Field Marshal's baton - something that did not particularly please Charles XII. Not because he didn't appreciate what Stenbock had achieved, but because he was sensitive to intrusions into what he considered to be his prerogative. This was a position which Stenbock apparently found hard to accept, perhaps because he always needed fresh proof that the King still liked him. 

Next: Letters to Stenbock from Bender.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:32 PM MEST
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Sunday, 23 September 2012
Lieutenant Colonel Johan Kinnaird
Topic: Artillery personnel

I have in an earlier entry briefly discussed Colonel Carl Gustaf Skytte and his disagreements with the commander of the Swedish naval squadron stationed at Dorpat. Another man who had his fair share of problems with Skytte was Major (later Leiutenant Colonel) Johan Kinnaird. On 30 November 1702 Kinnaird wrote to Governor General Carl Gustaf Frölich in Riga, lamenting his misfortune. According to Kinnaird he had been insulted and badly treated by Skytte. When Kinnaird delivered a muster roll of the personnel he had brought to Dorpat from Riga and Pernau Skytte had, in the presence of many officers, torn it to pieces and told Captain Gustaf Monpenne to give it back to Kinnaird so that the latter could "wipe his ass" with it. If Kinnaird was not satisfied with this Monpenne could show him where the jail was. Kinnaird was deeply incensed by this and found it intolerable that a regimental officer and a nobleman should have to experience such a treatment. He had requested a court martial and also asked to be transferred elsewhere. At least the latter request was eventually granted as Kinnaird appears as commander of the artillery in Narva during the siege of 1704 and on 5 and 16 May reported to Frölich about developments. Skytte mentions Johan Kinnaird in his journal on 7 August 1704, stating that he was expected to arrive in the Russian camp outside Narva but did not appear. He was killed by a musket ball the following evening. 


Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 345 - LVVA, Riga

Hansen, H. J., Geschichte der Stadt Narva. Dorpat, 1858


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 3:45 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2012 6:57 PM MEST
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Wednesday, 5 September 2012
Riga 1697
Topic: Great Embassy

In late March 1697 the Great Embassy crossed the Swedish border near Neuhausen (today Vastseliina in Estonia) in Livonia, setting in motion a series of events which may have played a significant role in the process leading up to the outbreak of the Great Northern War. In Russian propaganda before and after the outbreak of hostilities, the treatment of the Great Embassy by the Swedish authorities and in particular by Governor General Erik Dahlbergh in Riga was emphasized. In this version Dahlbergh had acted rudely, not properly acknowledged the presence of the Czar, been unhelpful and even outright hostile. In Shafirov's A discourse concerning the just causes of the war between Sweden and Russia (Russian ed. 1717, English ed. 1722) it is even suggested that Dahlbergh planned to seize or possibly kill the Czar. The Swedish view was of course quite different. Dahlbergh was first of all displeased with the secrecy surrounding the arrival of the Embassy. He wasn't informed of its intended arrival date until very late and the Czar's decision to travel incognito made it difficult to determine exactly how the Russians should be greeted. Should his incognito be respected and his presence consequently ignored or was it better to give the Czar the same welcome he would have received under normal circumstances? Dahlbergh believed that the Czar wished his incognito to be respected and that the other Russians were strictly forbidden to divulge his identity, so he decided to treat the Russians exactly as the Swedish-Russian treaties stipulated. A problem was the great famine which had struck the Baltic provinces, making it hard to gather provisions, horses and other necessities.

What really happened when the Great Embassy reached Riga has been described and analyzed by a couple of historians. The first was Alexander Bergengrün, who based his work Die grosse moskowitische Ambassade von 1697 on documents preserved in Riga and the second was Alvin Isberg, who based his analysis on Bergengrün's work and a voluminous report sent by Dahlbergh to Charles XII in March 1700. Bergengrün placed himself emphatically on the side of Dahlbergh, suggesting that the Russian complaints were just poor excuses for an attack on Sweden which in reality had quite different causes. Isberg was a bit more ambivalent, finding some of the statements made by Dahlbergh and others on the Swedish side a bit hard to believe when they were compared to contemporary Russian sources. As some bits and pieces seems to have escaped both Bergengrün and Isberg I will in subsequent posts return to this topic. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:27 PM MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2012 8:28 PM MEST
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Monday, 20 August 2012
Emanuel Werner
Topic: Navy

The collection "Meritförteckningar Flottan" in Krigsarkivet contains a substantial number of "CVs" from the years just after the GNW. Some of them are quite detailed and almost like short memoirs. One example is the one for Emanuel Werner, who joined the Swedish navy as an apprentice mate on 1 May 1700. In the summer he participated in the operations against Denmark and the landing at Humlebaek. The following year Werner was sent to Ladoga, where he served on the Astrild. In April of 1703 he was again on the same ship, which at the beginning of May was ordered to enter the Neva river together with Gieddan to investigate the situation at Nyen. During this expedition a superior Russian force was encountered and the small Swedish ships were overpowered. Most of the crew of the Astrild was either killed or wounded, Werner writes. The ship's commanding officer, Lieutenant Kilian Wilhelms, then gave instructions that the Astrild was to be blown up. His last words were, Werner writes, "Låt springa i Jesu nampn" (In the name of Jesus let her explode). Werner says that he did as Wilhelms requested, but survived and was taken to Czar Peter. The Czar treated him kindly and ordered that Werner be sent to Moscow.

In January 1704 Werner's wounds had healed. He was then put in prison and tortured in attempt to persuade him to convert and join the Russian navy. When this failed Werner was sent to Kolomna and put in a tower together with "robbers, thieves and scoundrels" for a year. In January 1705 Werner was sent back to Moscow and put in solitary confinement. He was then again asked to convert and enter Russian servic, but still refused. Werner was then sent away again, this time to a town 300 km from Moscow. There he was put in another tower until August, when he again was sent back to Moscow. Werner was then released and given to a boyar he calls "Michael Iwanowitz Chaputoff", with whom he stayed until the summer of 1707. Werner was then sent to the "house of the prisoners", where Major General Henning Rudolf Horn was kept and placed together with the cavalry captain Fabian Schütz. The Swedish prisoners were shortly thereafter sent away from Moscow and Werner came to a town he calls "Sabacksahr" (probably Cheboksary). On 31 May 1710 he and the other non-commissioned officers and soldiers were sent to Kazan to work on fortifications. On 29 March 1711 all the prisoners were put in jail and the following day "deported to Siberia" (or rather to the town of Khlynov). Werner spent the next decade there, returning to Sweden in July 1722


Source: Meritförteckningar Flottan, Krigsarkivet

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:33 PM MEST
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Monday, 13 August 2012
Online archives
Topic: Archives
In recent years we have in Sweden seen a large boom in regard to digitalization of records. Riksarkivet has through Svensk arkivinformation (SVAR) made a lot of previously microfilmed material available online. Arkiv Digital (AD) has for many years photographed the original records (in color), which in most cases makes their product vastly superior to the SVAR version. From a purely user perspective it's unfortunate that several producers compete by putting the same material online while other interesting records remain "offline". Still, quite a few categories of military records pertaining to the GNW are now online. First of all the collections of muster rolls and rolls in Krigsarkivet, but also their large and heterogenous "Biografica" collection as well as "Flottans meritförteckningar". The latter contains "CV's" of naval officers, some rather extensive and others very brief. Both "Biografica" and "Flottans meritförteckningar" are arranged alphabetically, so it's a very time consuming task to find just the ones relevant for the GNW. Another interesting addition is "Krigskollegii brevböcker", which is the incoming correspondance for the College of War. The number of letters for each year is huge, and as the typed indexeed produced in the mid-20th century are not included you will need a lot of patience when working with these volumes. All these records and many more can be found through "Nationella arkivdatabasen" (NAD). In most cases a subscription is needed if you want to look at the images.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 1:37 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 13 August 2012 1:39 PM MEST
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