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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 18 May 2014
Creative quoting
Topic: Source criticism

The Finnish historian Eirik Hornborg (1879-1965) published a number of works about Swedish-Russian wars. In his work Sverige och Ryssland genom tiderna (1941) he quotes (page 63) a statement supposedly made by Major General Henning Rudolf Horn in 1703: 

"Sålunda äro dessa abandonerade provinser överlämnade fienden till skövling, om ej till egendom. Om ej Kunglig Majestät snart kommer, skall han så innästla sig, att det bliver svårt att få honom ut, evad makt som än användes." (Roughly: "So these abandoned provinces have been left for the enemy to devastate, if not conquer. If His Royal Majesty does not arrive soon, the enemy will strengthen his position to such an extent that it will be difficult to drive him out regardless of how strong a force is used").

In this form the quote has also found its way into Lars Ericson Wolke's recent work Sjöslag och rysshärjningar (2012). But did Horn actually write this? No, he did not. The actual letter is dated 16 July 1703 and contains a long account of the situation at hand. Horn states:

"Således så länge han ingen hafwer som honom distraherar eller motwährn giörer, så blifva dessa abandonerade Provincier honom till sköflings, Gud gifwer, eij heelt och hålne til Egendom, lährandes han wisserligen sig så innestla, att om intet den gode Guden snart skyndar hijt Wår Store Konung till undsättning, så lährer det sedan hålla swåhrt att få honom uth igen, ehwad macht och författning dertill skulle willia eller kunna användas, af hwilcket alt successen och uthgången står i Guds hand." (Roughly: "As long as the enemy does not encounter someone who opposes him or distracts him, these abandoned provinces will be left for him to devastate, God willing not entirely to conquer, and he will surely strengthen his position to such a degree that if the merciful God does not soon send Our Great King it will become difficult to drive him out regardless of force or method used, of which the success and result is all in God's hand.")

So while Hornborg's version is reasonably close to the original (although slightly more pessimistic) it's not a direct quote. Horn's letter is more of an appeal for money and some sort of local military diversion than it's an appeal to the King to abandon his campaign in Poland. Indeed, Horn expresses an understanding of the difficulty of simply leaving Poland but then vaguely suggests the Saxon intrigues are keeping Charles away from his own country.



Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 106, Skrivelser till Defensionskommissionen från kommendanten i Narva 1703 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:18 PM MEST
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Sunday, 11 May 2014
Axel Julius de la Gardie
Topic: Generals

Count Axel Julius de la Gardie (1637-1710), Governor General of Estonia 1687-1704 and Lieutenant Field Marshal, has not been favourably rated by posterity. Some of the criticism appeared already during his life time and nobody was more blunt than Charles XII himself. In a letter dated 28 December 1701 the King writes (roughly translated) this:

"We cannot fully express our displeasure with your stupidity and obstinate conduct, which more often than not results in our decrees (which are implemented without problems in Livonia and other provinces) either not being implemented at all or much delayed by your brutality".

In this case the issue was a decision to (if necessary by force) enlist citizens of the small Estonian towns as non-commissioned officers. In implementing this decision de la Gardie had also gone after some who held public offices and in other cases he had enlisted so many that it threatened the economic viability of these small towns. It was, the King wrote, also important for the Governor General to explain the purpose of the decisions if they were to be implemented without problems and delay. 

Despite this rather blunt royal outburst de la Gardie was allowed to remain at his post for nearly three more years.


Source: Riksarkivet, Livonica II, vol. 272 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:00 PM MEST
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Sunday, 4 May 2014
Top secret
Topic: Literature

In a recent blog entry on Örjan Martinsson discusses pikes, in particular how they were carried by the Swedish infantry. In the comments interest was focused on the printed infantry regulations of 1701 - Förordning och Reglemente för infanteriet Som den Stormäcktigste Konung och Herre, Herr Carl den XII. Sweriges, Götes och Wändes Konung. Due to the very ambitious digitalization work carried out in Estonia it's available online:

This discussion reminded me of a letter among the Lewenhaupt papers in Linköping (LiSB, H 79:3, no 219). In it Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach on 15 July 1707 replies to a request from Lewenhaupt for 8 copies of this work, which was printed in Reval. Unfortunately, Schlippenbach informs Lewenhaupt, he cannot send them as it's explicitly forbidden to distribute any copies without specific orders by the King. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:18 PM MEST
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Sunday, 27 April 2014
Military courts
Topic: Judiciary

Among the records of the Swedish Governor General of Livonia there is a substantial amount of judicial material, including about 15 volumes of records from military trials between 1662 and 1709. I recently had one of them scanned (EAA.278.1.XV-50). It covers the period between 1701 and 1709 and contains many odd bits and pieces such as occasional documents concerning the investigation of the surrender of Dünamünde fortress in 1700 and the captured library and archive of the Dukes of Courland. One document concerns three soldiers who were separated from their unit during the battle of Hummelhof and were suspected of desertion. A case from 1705 deals with a case where the body a fallen officer had been plundered during a battle and it was suspected that someone within his unit was responsible. Eventually it was discovered that the culprits were one of the fallen officer's servants and a soldier. One of them had managed to escape, but the other was sentenced to nine "gatlopp" (running the gauntlet) through 300 men and one year of hard labour.

In another case a soldier called Påvel (of Tokamåla, Småland) belonging to Per Banér's regiment was accused of trying to commit suicide. Påvel testified to the court that he had been convicted of beating one of the recently arrived recruits and as result lost his position as vice corporal despite being entirely innocent. This has resulted in a lot of thinking about his fate and how he was being persecuted. One morning Påvel had been drinking and after that he couldn't remember how he got hold of a musket and shot himself in the chest. Påvel stated he very much regretted what he had done and asked for the court's mercy. The regimental priest testified that Påvel must have been temporarily insane. The court decided that this was most likely the case and sentenced him to three "gatlopp" and three Sundays of "kyrkoplikt" (public penance in church).

In this case the votes are also present. The more unforgiving members of the court wanted to punish him with nine "gatlopp", while the more lenient ones (among them most of the officers) suggested 14 days of "water and bread" and 3 Sundays of "public penance". 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:24 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 27 April 2014 11:54 PM MEST
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Sunday, 20 April 2014
The Peipus squadron
Topic: Navy

In early March 1701 Charles XII decided to create naval forces for the lakes Ladoga and Peipus. Of the two lakes Peipus presented the biggest challenge. The force would have to be created locally and the only possible place was Dorpat. However, as Dorpat was situated about 30 km inland the ships would be forced to use the river Embach to reach the lake. Apart from being vulnerable for attacks during the passage there was always the danger that the enemy captured the estuary while the ships were out to sea. The attempted solution to second problem was to station a floating battery (a pram) at the mouth of the Embach and to support it by a redoubt. The first problem was more tricky and could only be solved by having army units escorting the fleet on land both on the way out and on the way in. This was not a problem in 1701, but it became an issue after the main army had left the area and the Russian forces began to make large raids into Livonia. Especially after the battle of Hummelhof in July 1702 Schlippenbach's weak army could not be expected to defend the border, so the only available force in the area was the garrison at Dorpat. But what sort of risks could be taken with it? 

The story of the Peipus squadron is mainly told in two articles by the archivist and military historian Lars Otto Berg and in Carl von Rosen's Bidrag till kännedom om de händelser... (1936). Berg mainly focuses on shipbuilding, while v Rosen briefly describes the naval campaigns in the context of Schlippenbach's attempts to defend Livonia. Berg's sources are mainly found among Admiralty records in Krigsarkivet, while v Rosen relied heavily on the Schlippenbach archive and other collections in Riksarkivet. The Schlippenbach archive is very large and it's very time consuming to search for items dealing with naval matters outside a key group of correspondents - Governor Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt, Colonel Carl Gustaf Skytte, Admiral Gideon von Numers and the two naval captains Jonas Hökeflycht & Carl Gustaf Löschern von Hertzfelt. Who else, among litterally hundreds of correspondents, could have anything to say about the Peipus squadron?

For the last couple of weeks I have attempted to put together a basic index of the relevant letters and documents I have come across in Swedish and in Baltic archives and right now I am at about 110 for 1701 and 200 for 1702. The more I look the clearer it becomes that this is literally only the tip of the iceberg - the Peipus squadron was given a lot of attention by a large number of people, not least Charles XII himself. It was no small matter to build and equip these ships in Dorpat, where almost everything except the timber had to be found elsewhere and in a time when the constant lack of funds was an enormous problem. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:13 PM MEST
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Sunday, 13 April 2014
Schlippenbach's Army of Livonia
Topic: Generals

On 28 July 1701 Wolmar Anton v. Schlippenbach sent Charles XII a detailed account of the Army of Livonia. Total number (corporals & soldiers) was 3, 188 plus a detachment of unspecified strength in Marienburg. Slightly more than a month later Schlippenbach sent a new list, which showed that he on 31 August had at his immediate disposal just under 2,000 men (corporals & soldiers), while another 890 were stationed at various outposts. In the same letter, dated 9 September, he also reported on the Russian attack a couple of days earlier. At Kasaritsa and Rauge, Schlippenbach wrote, 10,000 Russians had attacked the Swedish positions and a much greater force had appeared at Rappin. He had, Schlippenbach continued, personally directed the defense and after a fierce struggle the Russians had been driven back with losses of at least 2,000 men, including two colonels (not counting those dead bodies the retreating Russians had brought off).

At Rappin, Schlippenbach wrote, the Russians had been more successful, but more than 1,000 killed had been found on the battlefield or in the stream nearby. Eventually the Swedish defenders succumbed and two old, more or less useless, cannons had been lost. Of the 500 Swedes not much more than 100 had returned. At Pechory and Pskov the enemy had about 30,000 men, Schlippenbach reported, so it was quite impossible for him to defend everything. Reinforcements were urgently needed.

Schlippenbach also enclosed the testimony of a Russian prisoner, who had been taken on the road to Pechory on 7 September. He was a clergyman by the name of "Ivan Fiedoroffschin Koroboff". He had worked in the town of "Lushi", but then been drafted into Col. "Ussiakou's" regiment. According to the prisoner this regiment was stationed at Pechory and had taken part in the attack at Rauge. "Koroboff" didn't know how strong the Russian force was, but it was commonly said in Russia that the army at the border consisted of 100,000 men. So how strong was the Russian force that had attacked? "Koroboff" said that he had been told that 30,000 were to attack the post at Rappin. He did not know the total strength at Rauge and Kasaritsa, but he was certain that the dragoons had been 3,000. Who had been in in charge? At Rappin Sheremetev's son and at Rauge and Kasaritsa a certain "Jacob Michititz". 

In the minutes of the interrogation it was also noted that two letters found on the battlefield confirmed that Colonel "Ussiakou" had been killed along with Colonel "Kakoskau". 

It's of course worth mentioning that Russian sources give very different numbers. According to Sheremetev's journal the total loss in dead and wounded at Kasaritsa, Rauge and Rappin was 85 - 23 killed and 62 wounded.  Not so easy to reconcile with Schlippenbach's body count, that's for sure. 


Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 23 

Palli, H., Mezhdu dvumya boyami za Narvu. - Tallinn, 1960

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:23 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 13 April 2014 10:42 PM MEST
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Sunday, 6 April 2014
The Ketten affair
Topic: Diplomacy

When the Great Northern War broke out in 1700 the main Swedish fortresses in Ingria were Narva, Nyen and Nöteborg, in Estonia Reval and in Livonia Riga, Neumünde, Pernau and Riga. In Ingria substantial amounts had been spent on Narva, while the only major work done at Nöteborg during the latter part of the 17th century was the rebuilding of the so called "Black Tower". One cannot help wonder what would have happened if Czar Peter in 1700 had attacked Nöteborg and Nyen rather than the much more formidable Narva. Most likely had been able to capture them both rather quickly, totally changing the situation facing Charles XII when he landed at Pernau in early October. In such a scenario a foray into Courland and involvement in the Lithuanian civil war could well have appeared less appealing to him, but on the other hand it would have been both expensive and difficult to supply a large army in Livonia (and even more so in Ingria) for operations against the Russians. 

It is worth noting that the Saxon's did not particularly like the Czar's decision to attack Narva as they considered the fortress to be part of Estonia, which according to the agreements made before the war was off limits. However, Peter could rightly point out that Narva administratively belonged to Ingria. When Russian forces in 1704 captured Dorpat there was no question - the Czar had reached beyond what the agreements said. For the time being the matter was settled by a manifesto in which Peter stated that he had taken the town on behalf of the Polish Crown and assurances that the matter would be settled in the promised fashion.

Perhaps some of this uncertainty around the Czar's real intentions were a contributing factor in the peculiar episode called "the Ketten affair". In late 1702 Johan Reinhold Patkul visited Vienna, where he received a letter from a close associate of Jakub Sobieski, a clergyman called Ketten. Ketten asked Patkul about the Czar's view of Sobieski and suggested that Charles XII was prepared to grant Patkul amnesty if the latter could convince Peter to make peace with Sweden. Patkul replied with the interest, suggesting a personal meeting between him and Ketten. Apparently this went well enough and Patkul later wrote to Ketten saying that he was prepared to make an attempt to carry out his part of the deal if he received written assurances from Charles XII. However, no such document was issued (and it's unlikely that Charles was informed of Ketten's action). The mysterious incident ended with King Augustus warning the Czar about Patkul's intrigues - he was a man who only worked for his own benefit and couldn't be trusted. 



Erdmann, Y., Der livländischen Staatsmann Johann Reinhold von Patkul. - Berlin, 1970.  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:16 PM MEST
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Sunday, 30 March 2014
Governor General Frölich
Topic: Generals

When Erik Dahlbergh retired in early 1702 he was replaced by Lieutenant General Carl Gustaf Frölich (1637-1714), a highly original and very colourful man. On the positive side it could perhaps be said that he wasn't afraid of taking the initiative and always was prepared to offer suggestions on how to solve difficult problems, but in some cases his methods and proposals bordered on the bizarre. In the summer of 1711 Frölich suggested that a native Swede should be sent to the Danish king with the message that "the evil spirit" had inspired him to make war on Sweden and a couple of months later he offered to transport an army to Zealand without using any ships. In December 1711 Frölich stated that the plague could be stopped by prayers and juice from juniper berries, which was "a wonderful thing for both internal and external use". 

Frölich is more perhaps more famous for the innovative monetary reform he carried out in late 1705. Without any sort of authorization from Charles XII he on 5 December 1705 issued a proclamation concerning "doppelte, eintzele und halbe Carolinen auch die fünff Oehr-Stücke". They should be handed in to a committee appointed by Frölich (Captain Daniel Leijonancker, the commissioner Johan Hilleboldt and Lieutenant Johan Wilhelm Max). The idea behind seems to have been that people would only receive half of their coins in return, but these would after stamping be worth twice their original value so nobody would (in theory) lose anything. Needless to say Frölich's actions did not appeal to Charles XII, who shortly dismissed him and sent an angry letter ordering the immediate abolishment of the monetary reform.



LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 57 (German Letter book of 1705)

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol.  242 (documents concerning the monetary reform)

LiSB, H 79:2, nr 7 (Frölich's printed proclamation of 4 December 1705)

Grauers, S., Arvid Bernhard Horn. - Göteborg, 1920. - P. 126 ff.

Grauers, S., Generalen och presidenten Carl Gustaf Frölich // Karolinska Förbundets Årsbok. - 1966. - P. 86-128

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 1:32 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014 9:30 AM MEST
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Sunday, 23 March 2014
The siege of Selburg 1704
Topic: Archives

As I have mentioned many times before the military historian Hugo Uddgren (1876-1955) in 1919 published the first volume of his Lewenhaupt biography. During the preparations for this volume Uddgren made use not only of the most important archives in Riga, but also went to Saint Petersburg where the archive of the Dukes of Courland was kept at that time. This collection in 1929 came to Riga and is now fond 554 in Latvijas Valsts vestures arhivs. From the perspective of the GNW it is a very relevant archive because the records of the Swedish administration of Courland 1701-1709 have at some point been attached to it. Generally speaking this means that letters to Lewenhaupt as Deputy (and acting) Governor of Courland or as commander of the Courland army can most likely from 1703-1706 (when he was appointed Governor of Riga) be found in LVVA, fond 554. Letters from Lewenhaupt and other officers in the Courland army to the Governor General of Livonia can be found either in LVVA, fond 7349 or in EAA, fond 278. This latter fact can sometimes be really confusing, as Uddgren gives no details about the volumes in which the documents he used were found, only "Swedish archive, Riga" or "Courland archive, Petersburg). 

Let me give an illuminating example: On pages 206-210 Uddgren describes the short siege of Selburg (Selpils) by the Wisniowiecki forces in the summer of 1704. His main sources of information for the situation at Selburg before and during the siege are a couple of letters from the garrison commander Carl Lindschöld to Governor General Frölich in Riga. They are dated 7 June, 16 and 28 July. Of these, Uddgren states, the first is found in the "Swedish archive", the second in the "Courland archive" and the third in the "Swedish archive". Considering who they were addressed to it's a peculiar combination, but Frölich may of course have forwarded a copy to Mitau. Anyway, the situation today is as follows:

1. Lindschöld to Frölich, Selburg 7 June 1704 (EAA 278.1.XX-31, p. 156 f.)

2. Lindschöld to Frölich, Selburg 16 July 1704 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 292, p. 88 f.)

3. Lindschöld to Frölich, Selburg 28 July 1704 (EAA 278.1.XX-31, p. 158 f.)

This is in no way a unique situation and things get even more complicated if one is looking for Selburg letters older than the summer of 1704. Then there is also at least LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 315 and the Malmberg papers in Uppsala University library (which contain about a dozen letters from 1701 and 1702).


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 4:46 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 23 March 2014 5:26 PM MEST
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Sunday, 16 March 2014
The Embassy of 1684
Topic: Diplomacy

In 1684 a large Swedish embassy was sent to Russia. Among the notable members was the young Count Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt (1659-1719) and the linguist Johan Gabriel Sparwenfeld (1655-1727), whose diary from the journey was published in 2002. Some documents concerning this embassy have found their way into the archive of the Livonian Governor General (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 72). This volume bears the rather misleading title "Briefe von verschiedene Personen (H. Zimmermann, J. Kenning, H. Halmfeldt u.a.) über die Kampfhandlungen 1670-1684", but is reality a rather artificial collection of miscellaneous letters dealing with Swedish-Russian relations. Some of them are from Governor General Grundel-Helmfelt in Narva, others from Dorpat. With one or two exceptions they are all dated 1684. However, the bulk of the rather thin volume (less than 100 pages) consist of letters from the leader of the Swedish delegation Konrad Gyllenstierna, letters to him and material concerning Swedish complaints. One document, dated Narva 10 March 1684, gives a list of the complaints received by the embassy up to that point. No 1 is "The town of Narva's two memorials about the troubles caused on the Russian side contrary to the treaties", while others go back to damages caused during the war in the 1650's. No 19 is two letters written by the leaseholder Schubben regarding the fact that the Russians had strengthened a certain border post and would not allow Swedish subjects to cross, while no 21 is "Major Maidel's list of 19 peasants who have escaped..." Of the various complaints some seem to be included in the volume (but they are unfortunately undated). There is one from the city of Riga and others from Nyen and Narva.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:54 PM MEST
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