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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 8 June 2014
Topic: Archives

I have recently begun a project which will likely take a couple of years to finish. Frustrated by the in many cases rather chaotic arrangement of EAA 278 and LVVA, fond 7349 I have started to work on a index of documents in the archive of the Livonian Governor General. Thus far I have covered EAA. 278.1.XIX-68 (Letters from governors and commandants in Narva 1691-1699), EAA. 278.1.XIX-74 (Letters to Paul von Strokirch 1699-1702), EAA.278.1.XX-18 (Letters concerning the war in Livonia 1700-1709) and EAA.278.1.XX-19 (Letters from Livonian clergymen 1700-1708) - in all about 270 letters. To begin with I am just registering "From", "to", "place", "date", "volume no" and "page no" - it would simply take an eternity to make summaries of the content. 

Just from this small sample it's clear that a lot is missing. In XIX-68 there are for example only a dozen letters from the period 1696-1699. One reason for this is, I believe, the fact that the historian Carl Schirren was very interested in anything which concerned Swedish-Russian relations in the years just before 1700 and got permission to take documents from the archive. Volume XX-18 is in many ways no less mysterious. It contains a very haphazard collection of letters from a limited number of correspondents. Notable is that a few of them are from the period covered in Bienemann's work Die Katastrophe der Stadt Dorpat während des Nordischen Krieges (1902), but not mentioned by him. The same is in fact true of some letters among the Malmberg papers (Uppsala University Library), which perhaps suggest that these volumes had not been yet arranged when Bienemann prepared his book.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:48 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 8 June 2014 10:09 PM MEST
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Sunday, 1 June 2014
Stäket 1719
Topic: Museums

Today a Swedish "battlefield museum" opened near Baggensstäket, the site of a legendary encounter between Swedish and Russian forces in August 1719. For various reasons I happened to get involved in the preparations, mostly by doing research in various archives. The modern scientific interpretation of the event is a product of research conducted by the military historian Arne Stade (1912-1999), who among other things brought down Col. Rutger Fuchs from the pinnacles of fame. In Stade's view Fuchs, the commander of Södermanland's infantry regiment and the classical hero of the battle, was really a fraud. Fuchs had, according to Stade, more or less lied about the result of the battle and also usurped honours which rightly belonged to his second in command Lt. Col. von Essen.

When I started to look into the matter I was fairly certain there wasn't really much more critical information to be found. Stade's reputation as an extremely critical and analytical historian suggested that his interpretation of Fuchs would stand, but I soon became convinced that Stade had been entirely mistaken. In my opinion, after looking at the sources Stade used (and some others) there is nothing suspicious at all in regard to Fuchs. To explain it briefly:

The events leading up to Stäket had given many the impression that the Swedish army was unreliable, i.e. when the Russians landed on the Swedish coast the defenders had several times showed very little stomach for fighting (although it should be said that they were often heaviliy outnumbered). There was great anxiety not only in Stockholm but also far inland  (it was for example feared that the Russians would move their galleys across land near Södertälje and get to Lake Mälaren). So when the Södermanland regiment actually fought and did so quite doggedly the Councillors of the Realm were pleasantly surprised and immediately came upon the idea of rewarding the regiment. The cost would not be great, but it would set an example for other units - fight well and you will get rewarded. Stade's conclusion was that the reward money was only intended for one of the two Södermanland battalions and that Fuchs by trickery got money for both. In my opinion this is quite impossible as the money was intended to encourage those who fought well. Why then reward only half of Södermanland's regiment? Both battalions had suffered casualties - why should only one half get rewards? What sort of signal would that send to other units? Fight well and hope you are in the right battalion? No, Stade's interpretation is quite wrong. 

Fuchs may in his report have exaggerated, but which commander doesn't? The Russians would surely put out their version, so of course the Swedes did the same. The Russian material I have seen actually fits very well with the basic information given by Fuchs. While the Russian force did not plan to capture Stockholm it is natural that their mission appeared to be just that to the horrified citizens of the capital and that Fuchs and his superiors "milked" the subsequent Russian retreat as much as they could. Nothing particularly sinister about that. 

Something should perhaps be said about the other units present and about Baltzar von Dahlheim. Why were they not rewarded in the same way as Fuchs? Well, the truth is most likely that they played a very insignificant role. The other army units served, as far as I can see, on the Swedish galleys and the outposts on shore seem to have been withdrawn as soon as the Russians landed. These army units suffered practically no losses at all, which also suggests that they were well away from the infantry action. Dahlheim? Well, he appears to have been a rather peculiar figure who wasn't too well regarded by his superiors. I tend to think that his role during the actual fight was fairly insignificant as well. 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:03 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 1 June 2014 10:04 PM MEST
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Sunday, 25 May 2014
Narva 1700
Topic: Literature

The Estonian historian Hendrik Sepp (1888-1943) in 1930 published an extensive study of the siege of Narva in 1700 (Narva piiramine ja lahing a. 1700). Sepp was fortunate to have access to the archives of the Livonian Governor General and the Estonian Governor General, which had not been used by Carl Bennedich and his associates when they prepared the Narva chapter in volume 2 of Karl XII på slagfältet (1918).  I have during the last few months obtained copies of most of the Narva related records from the two above-mentioned archives. Although Livonia in 1700 was a vastly more important province than the much smaller Estonia it's the latter archive which is more rewarding in this case. In EAA 1.2.285 (incoming letters July-December 1700) one finds for example:

Carl Gustaf Skytte to A. J. de la Gardie, Dorpat 16 September 1700 (about the unfortunate news which have arrived today from Narva).

Henning Rudolf Horn to C. G. Skytte, Narva 10 September 1700 (attached to the previous letter. Reports the sudden invasion by Russian troops and how they were marching towards Narva).

Skytte to de la Gardie, Dorpat 21 September 1700 (how everything still remains quiet along the border, except for rumours of planned transport of artillery from Pskov to Narva).

A summary of recent reports from Narva, dated Dorpat 20 September 1700 (attached to the previous letter)

Skytte to de la Gardie, Dorpat 25 September 1700 (with a copy of Florian Thilo von Thilau's letter, dated Neuhausen 21 September 1700, which contains a report of news and rumours from Russia)

Colonel Johan Apolloff's undated report about Russian forces having crossed the border.

Skytte to de la Gardie, Dorpat 5 October 1700 (about rumours suggesting that a combined Saxon-Russian force will attack Dorpat)

Apolloff to de la Gardie, dated Nyen 4 September (but has to be October) 1700 (about attempts by Christian Adrian Rosenmüller to get the Ingrian peasants to fight the Russians, the fall of Koporie fortress and rumours that the Czar had told his soldiers to take Narva within three days or be massacred)

Apolloff to de la Gardie, undated (about Rosenmüller's capture during a fight near Koporie and his death a couple of days later).


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:35 PM MEST
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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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