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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 29 June 2014
More about indexes
Topic: Archives

Since my previous post about a project to make an index (or database) of the letters in the archive of the Livonian Governor General I have finished EAA 278.1.XX-31 (The war in Courland 1701-1708) and started on LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 272 (the old XX-3) . According to the modern heading it's supposed to contain letters from the officers of the regiment "Livländska Adelsfanan", but this is a distortion of Bienemann's "Schreiben des Ob. der livländischen Adelsfahne O. Brakel, des Oberstl. H. J. von Brandt, des Ob. Joachim v. Cronmann, Christer Horn's, des Oberstl. Hans Hinrich von Liewen, des Ob. Andr. v. Zöge.". Of these officers only Brakel belonged to "Livländska Adelsfanan. Brandt commanded dragoons and Cronman a Finnish infantry regiment, while Horn belonged to Governor General Dahlbergh's regiment. Liewen and Zöge commanded battalions of infantry and the latter was also deputy garrison commander at Dorpat.

XX-31 is perhaps most interesting for the letters from 1708 (about 100 of 260) and the light they shed on the situation in Lewenhaupt's corps in the weeks leading up to the arrival of the King's order to gather supplies for three months. This was a period which Hugo Uddgren didn't really analyze in the second volume of his Lewenhaupt biography (he used just about 10 pages for describing the events during the first six months, while he spent 50 on the last days of June 1709) and I don't think any Swedish historian has even looked at the volume since. 

As is often the case XX-31 contains a rather haphazard collection of letters and documents. Notable correspondents include Lt. Col. Mathias Gustaf Staël von Holstein (1666-1720), stationed at Bauska (about 35 letters) and Lt. Col. Ernst Carl von Glasenapp (about 30). 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:11 PM MEST
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Sunday, 22 June 2014
Dahlbergh and Frölich
Topic: Livonia

On 7 April 1702 Charles XII finally granted Erik Dahlberg's request for retirement and appointed the Governor of Riga Carl Gustaf Frölich as his successor. However, the new Governor General of Livonia was not given the same powers as his predecessor. Frölich was told that he would rule over Riga and Neumünde, while the rest of Livonia was to be divided between the two "Economy Governors" Michael von Strokirch and Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt. When the historian Sven Grauers in 1966 wrote a biographical essay about Frölich he suggested this was caused by a lack of confidence in Frölich, but why then appoint him in the first place? Why not follow the pattern when Governor General Hastfehr died in 1695, i.e. let the Governor of Riga remain at his post and find a new Governor General?

It seems to me that the more likely explanation is the one given to Strokirch and Strömfelt - that the war made it desirable to speed up the decision making and remove the delay caused by Strömfelt and Strokirch having to put matters before Frölich. Especially Strömfelt, who mostly stayed in Dorpat and was heavily involved with both Schlippenbach's army and the Peipus naval squadron, should have felt relieved by the new arrangement. Colonel Skytte in Dorpat was perhaps less enthusiastic as Strömfelt was one of the many people he did not see eye to eye with.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:44 PM MEST
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Monday, 16 June 2014
Johann Ernst Glück (1654-1705)
Topic: Archives
The clergyman Johann Ernst Glück is known for many things, for example his translation of the Bible into Latvian and his close connection to the later Catherine I. In 1894 Friedrich Bienemann jr published a number of letters from Bienemann to Governor General Dahlbergh during the period 1700-1701, letters which modern researchers have failed to find. I believe there could be a very simple explanation for this - they have looked in the wrong place... However, there exists a few more letters which Bienemann in 1894 had not yet found. They are in EAA.278.1.XX-19 and from early 1702. The first is dated 2 January and contains an account of the Russian devastation of Marienburg (Aluksne) parish: It happened on the second day of Christmas, Glück writes, ... in the afternoon when the peasants were at church. It was so unexpected that their arrival was not diiscovered until they started to burn a quarter of mile from the castle. Glück reports that only a part of the parish was torched, but unfortunately it was an area where many of those who had lost their homes in the summer and autumn of 1701 now lived. Many of the inhabitants had been captured and others killed. The reason for this disaster was the lack of cavalry, Glück writes. The event had resulted in such fear among the peasants that no one wanted to live there anymore. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:06 AM MEST
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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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