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Artillery personnel
Great Embassy
Prisoners of war
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 1 March 2015
Diseases and wounds
Topic: Livonia

In the archive of the Livonian Governor General there are a couple of volumes dedicated to medical matters (EAA.278.1.XI-3 and 4). The latter of these contain material from the GNW, for examples lists of soldiers deemed unfit for further service. Some examples for the Österbotten infantry, 3 May 1705:

Nils Tarkolaby, 71 years old, has served for 49 years. Old and has an old wound in the legs which he got in the Scanian War.

Erik Petolax, 60 years old, has served for 34 years. Cannot march or stand guard.

Jonas Jöös, 70 years old, has served for 37 years. Of the Brabant recruits. Old and incapable.

Philip Kåudoby, 58 years old, has served for 46 years. Weak eyesight, chest defective, toes frozen off on the march through Prussia (1678-79, ny note) 

Thomas Ulfwä, 82 years old, has served for 44 years. Old and incapable.

Thomas Parkarij, 26 years old, has served fo 4 years. Confused and melancholic.


Some examples from a similar list, dated 8 May 1705:

Sven Jung of the Life Guards. Wounded in the foot at Düna. Have been bedridden for two years. Still considered incapable of marching. Permitted to go to Stockholm and join the Guard detachment there.

Nils Sohlberg of "Svenska Adelsfanan". The right eye cut out during the battle of Jacobstadt. 60 years old, has served for 27 years, incapable of further service.

Nils Galle of "Dalregementet". More than 60 years old, wounded in the previous war, has served for 35 years.  His legs are paralysed and the left arm useless.

Henrik Larsson of Col. Patkull's cavalry. Wounded more than 40 times, the right hand paralysed. Useless. 

Hans Meijer of Lt. Col. Lorentz corps. His horse fell on him in Lithuania. Broke his right leg, uses a crutch. Has served for 24 years. The leg is stiff and the right hand paralysed. Useless.





Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:59 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 1 March 2015 10:01 PM CET
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Sunday, 22 February 2015
Patkul's mission to Courland
Topic: Diplomacy

In one of the many LVVA fond 7349 volumes which contain documents once belonging to Carl Schirren there are a couple of odd Patkul items which suggest that the future conspirator at some point was entrusted with a diplomatic mission to the Duke of Courland (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 200). Unfortunately neither of the two drafts are dated, but Schirren's assumption (in a covering note) was that they are older than 1690. Patkul's task concerned a problem which for a long time irritated both the merchants in Riga and the Swedish government, i.e. the many small "illegal" harbors along the coast of Courland (for this issue, see for example Arnold Soom's Der baltische Getreidehandel im 17 Jahrhunderts, pp. 163 ff.).

Is it possible to date the two items (a letter to the Duke and the instruction for Patkul? Well, they are obviously younger than May 1687 as he called "Captain". If the documents were issued by Governor General Hastfer it would seem likely that it was done during the periods he was present in Riga (July 1687-May 1689, June-October 1690, June-October 1693 or August-December 1695). Based on Patkul's later activities as a spokesman of the Livonian nobility only the first two periods are reasonable possibilities and the first one the more likely. When scanning Hastfer's outgoing letters I soon found an interesting item, dated 22 October 1688 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 40, pp. 639-641). In a letter to Charles XI Hastfer reports that he has appointed a commission consisting of Leonhard Gustaf von Budberg, H. G. Trautvetter and Captain Patkul. There task was to look into a border conflict between the Livonian estate Pulkarn and Baldohn in Courland. The interesting thing about the composition of this commission is that Budberg was a "Landrat", Trautvetter a member of the court of appeal in Dorpat and Patkul a simple captain. So why this choice? Well, this as well as Patkul's appointment as captain in 1687 (and Patkul's subsequent letter of gratitude to Hastfer) suggests that he during this period of time was quite close to the Governor General, indeed something of a protegé. Whether this commission and Patkul's mission of discussing trade issues were connected I don't know, but if not it would seem likely that the commission came first. 

In his work about the struggle of the Livonian nobility against Swedish absolutism Alvin Isberg suggests that Patkul made himself a name as a outspoken defender of old privileges in private meeting with other nobles in 1689. My hunch is that was quite different - Patkul was perceived as being close to Hastfer and because of this (and his own ability) quickly became a rising star. Once he reached the top Patkul turned out to have a very different agenda...

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:49 PM CET
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Sunday, 15 February 2015
Adrian Virginius and Lt. Col. Tolcks
Topic: Livonia

In January 1701 Charles XII decided to increase the forces in Livonia and Estonia by creating a militia. One of the first to act along these lines was the reverend Adrian Virginius in Odenpäh (Est. Otepää). On 30 Januari Governor General Dahlbergh wrote to Virginius, commending him for his desire to serve the King by recruiting a militia in his parish. As Virginius had managed to collect 112 men Dahlbergh believed it best to divide them into two companies. This meant that two captains, two lieutenants and two ensigns along with non-commissioned officers would be needed and Dahlbergh asked Virginius to provide some names (LVVA, Fond 7349, op.1, vol. 53). This was apparently done quite soon as Dahlbergh on 11 February could sign commissions for officers and send them to Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt in Dorpat. In the letter Dahlbergh also asked for suggestions for commanders of the militia. Apparently Dahlbergh was considering forming two regiments, one in the Estonian district and one in the Latvian district. (Ibid.). Strömfelt replied on the 17th, stating that he had met with Virginius, discussed the matter and delivered the commissions. As for the appointment of a colonel Strömfelt reported that he had not had a chance to consult with his colleague Mikael von Strokirch, but personally he could think of no one but Lt. Col. Tolcks (likely Otto Hermann Tolcks), "a famous soldiers, who served well in the Polish war" (Otto Herman Tolcks was promoted to major in 1658). However, Strömfelt wrote, Tolcks was now fairly old... (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 321, pp. 68 ff.)

On 4 March Dahlbergh informed Strömfelt that he would be pleased with having Tolcks as colonel of the militia (LVVA, Fond 7349, op.1, vol. 53). On the 24th Strömfelt wrote back, saying that Tolcks had been inclined to accept, but eventually had declined due to his age and weak health. Strömfelt instead suggested the cavalry captain Hastfer as Colonel and Captain Wrangel of Sadjerw as Lt. Colonel. (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 321, pp. 85 ff.)

On 3 April  Strömfelt was able to give more details. He had talked to Hastfer, who at first was hesitant but finally had agreed. Strömfelt had written to Wrangel and offered him the position of Lt. Colonel, but unfortunately Hastfer had produced his own candidate, a certain Lt. Captain Plater. Plater was however unwilling to settle for an appointment as Major. But, Strömfelt wrote, if two regiments were created Hastfer could get Plater and Wrangel be placed in the other regiment. (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 321, pp. 88 ff.)

On 7 April Dahlbergh informed Strömfelt that he had decided to solve the problem in another fashion. Instead of two regiments there would be several batallions, each consisting of 6 companies of 50 soldiers each, and under the command of a Lt. Colonel. (LVVA, Fond 7349, op.1, vol. 53) . 

This apparently solved the problem. On 26 May Strömfelt wrote to Dahlbergh saying that Captain Wrangel had arrived in Dorpat to take command of the Dorpat militia batallion. Wrangel had proposed that he and his officers would be given the authority to personally go the parishes and choose the soldiers and then start training them, a method reportedly used in Estonia. (Riksarkivet, Ekonomiståthållaren i Dorpat Gustaf Adolf Strömfelts arkiv, vol. 4)

On the same day Wrangel also wrote to Dahlbergh, accepting the offered position. (LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 3, vol. 62, pp. 134 ff)


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:46 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 15 February 2015 8:48 PM CET
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Sunday, 8 February 2015
The attack on Patkul
Topic: Source criticism

In 1953 the historian Alvin Isberg published a dissertation called Karl XI och den livländska adeln 1684-1695. In this work Isberg attempted to investigate the various elements in the struggle between the absolute monarch and the Livonian nobility and particularly the role played by Johann Reinhold Patkul. One of the episodes covered by Isberg is the attempt in late 1692 to send Patkul (by then a captain in the Swedish army) to garrison duty at Kokenhusen. According to Isberg this was an idea hatched by Governor General Hastfer, Lt. Colonel Magnus von Helmersen and Charles XI with the purpose of removing Patkul from Riga, thereby making it difficult for him to continue his political work. 

One weakness in Isberg's account is the fact that the archive of the Livonian Governor General was unaivable to him and because of this he had to rely heavily on older literature such as Beiträge zur Lebensgeschichte Johann Reinhold Patkuls (1893) by Anton Buchholtz. What Isberg didn't know was Buchholtz (who used this archive) was severely handicapped by the fact that Carl Schirren had removed many Patkul documents and added them to his own collection (today partly in Riga and partly in Stockholm). These items allows us to get a slightly more complete picture.

The idea to send Patkul to Kokenhusen seems to have been Hastfer's. On 1 January 1693 Governor Erik Soop wrote to Hastfer (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 211, p. 28 ff.), informing him that he upon receipt of Hastfer's order (no date for it is given) immediately had written to Lt. Col. Helmersen, telling him that the King had decided that the garrison at Kokenhusen should be changed every six months. Helmersen should consequently order Patkul to take charge of the detachment and leave for Kokenhusen. Soop's order to Helmersen was issued on 28 December 1692 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 46, p. 1181). It soon ran into problems. Two days later Patkul replied (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 211, p. 27) that he was severely ill and could not possibly travel. Soop told Hastfer that Patkul was indeed ill and had been for some weeks, but as soon as there was a change for the better the Governor General would be informed. 

According to Isberg the failure of the Kokenhusen plan resulted in a change, i.e. that Charles XI on 16 January 1693 ordered Patkul to switch to the Åbo infantry regiment and go to Finland. As it turns out this is entirely impossible. The order to Patkul was issued on 28 December 1692, his reply was sent two days later and Soop's report on the matter, dated 1 January 1693, did not reach Hastfer in Stockholm until the 26th. So it is clear that Patkul's illness and reluctance to go to Kokenhusen had nothing to do with the King's decision to send him to Finland. 

In the same context Isberg also discusses the complaints lodged by Patkul and four other captains against Helmersen on 19 December 1692 and how these were handled by the authorities. As this is another interesting issue I will deal with it in a separate post in the coming weeks.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:07 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 8 February 2015 9:08 PM CET
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Sunday, 1 February 2015
New uniforms for Skytte's regiment : part 2
Topic: Livonia

In the first part I told the story of how Carl Gustaf Skytte in October 1700 requested new uniforms for his regiment and the subsequent delays. It so turns out that there was an additional twist:

Skytte's regiment had two different stations, Dorpat and Pernau. The commander at Pernau Lt. Col. Gustaf von Schwengeln was slightly quicker than Skytte and sent his list to Dahlbergh on 19 October 1700 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 339, p. 19). As noted in part one Skytte requested blue coats, red breeches and red stockings for the entire regiment, while Schwengeln asked for blue and yellow (!) for his battalion. From Dahlbergh's letters to the manufacturer it looks like he simply disregarded Schwengeln's list and instructed them to send what Skytte had requested. 

Some fragments of the replies from the manufacturer remains, most notably a letter from Hans Ekman dated Stockholm 7 June 1701(LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 306, p. 257 ff.) In the letter Ekman refers to lack of payment for earlier orders and states that unless this is remedied the collapse of the company will follow. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM CET
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2015 7:07 PM CET
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Sunday, 25 January 2015
New uniforms for Skytte's regiment
Topic: Livonia

The modern Swedish standard work when it comes to uniforms during the GNW is undoubtedly Höglund & Sallnäs Stora nordiska kriget 1700-1721 : fanor och uniformer (2000), published in English as The Great Northern War 1700-1721 : colours and uniforms. Uniforms and colours is generally a subject I stay away from, but in this particular case I came upon a few items which should not be available elsewhere.

The story starts with an item I found in LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288 (p. 78). It's a specification dated 21 October 1700, signed by Col. Carl Gustaf Skytte. It states what type of cloth his regiment needs for new uniforms. According the Höglund & Sallnäs the regiment was dressed in blue and yellow both in the late 1690's and in 1705 - yet in this document Skytte requests cloth for blue coats with red lining, red breeches and red stockings. So what's the story here?

Well, the specification was sent by Skytte to Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga as well as to the manufacturer in Stockholm (the heirs of Jacob Lagerstedt or "Barnängen") and Dahlbergh also forwarded it at about the same time - Dahlbergh's letter to the Lagerstedt heirs is dated 25 October 1700 (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72, p. 575). Then nothing seems to have happened for quite some time. On 28 March 1701 Dahlbergh reminded the Lagerstedt heirs about the specifications he had sent in October and requested information about the how far the work had progressed. (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 73, p. 234 f.) A month later he sent a new letter, this time more urgent (Ibid., p. 322) and finally on 15 May (Ibid., p. 397) an angry letter demanding a definite clarification of the situation. 

Not even this seems to have yielded an immediate response, as it was not until 25 June that Dahlbergh could inform the King about the situation (Ibid., p. 559 f.). The firm had finally simply told Dahlbergh that nothing could be done until they had been paid for previous orders. The situation was very difficult, Dahlbergh said, and if the regiments did not receive new uniforms before winter they would suffer badly. On 9 October 1701 the King wrote to Dahlbergh, telling him that he had received information that cloth would be sent from Sweden as soon as possible (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 150, p. 810 f.). The wheels of the Swedish bureacracy turned slowly...

On 1 December 1701 Skytte took the matter into his own hands, writing directly to Charles XII (Riksarkivet, M 753). The soldiers of his regiment were now, he wrote, more or less incapable of serving due to their poor clothing. They had received nothing new since 1696/97 and were now "naked". The King, who at this point had reached Courland, replied on 2 January 1702. As far as he recalled material had been sent from Stockholm to Riga so Skytte should send his request to Dahlbergh. So the story continues...

On 19 February 1702 Skytte wrote to Paul von Strokirch, an official in Riga, telling him that the regiment was simply unable to perform its duties until new uniforms arrived (EAA 278.1.XX-12c, p. 140 f.) On 3 April he again wrote Strokirch, wanting to know when new uniforms would arrive in Riga (Ibid., p. 146). Unless something happened very soon Skytte would, he wrote, have to send a courier to the King with information about the situation. On 11 April he again brought the issue to Strkirch's attention (Ibid., p. 151 f.). Same thing on 20 April (Ibid., p. 152). Finally, on 29 April 1702 Skytte again wrote to Strokirch, thanking him for the information about the arrival of uniforms and pointing out the King's decision in January. But the matter was not settled yet. On 7 May 1702 Skytte again wrote to Strokirch, thanking him for his advice to bring the matter to the attention of Governor Frölich (Ibid., p. 159). This he must have done immediately as Frölich on 10 May asked Skytte for a specification and promised to find out what was available (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 74, p. 481 f.) On 17 May the issue had anvanced to a point where Skytte expected to soon get what he needed (EAA 278.1.XX-12c, p. 163 f.). On the 21st Frölich wrote to Skytte, telling him that if the regimental quartermaster came to Riga he would get the new uniforms (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 74, p. 528). This was likely done shortly afterwards as on the 26th Skytte reported that he was in the process of sending the regimental quartermaster to Riga (EAA 278.1.XX-12c, p. 165 f.)

If this was the end (and it appears to have been) it took Skytte almost two years to get new uniforms for his regiment. It says, I think, something about the Swedish bureaucracy but even more about the financial difficulties caused by the war and how they very soon started to cause major problems. 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:22 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 25 January 2015 11:17 PM CET
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Sunday, 18 January 2015
Indexes: additional notes
Topic: Archives

Last week I gave a rough estimate of the number of documents for each month. This time I am going to take this one step further, starting with 1700:

January:  69 letters and other documents

February:  63

March: 92

April: 102

May: 131

June: 136

July: 90

August: 50

September: 58

October: 75

November: 94

December: 112


It should of course be remembered that several volumes remain and that this list only concerns incoming correspondence. However, despite losses I believe it does indicate a few things. Notable is first the increased volume after the Saxon attack on Riga and the subsequent arrival of Vellingk's relief army and later the decrease after Vellingk's retreat. The landing of the main army in October and the focus on Livonia after the battle of Narva also manifests itself. It should be noted that the archive of the Livonian Governor General appears to contain very little about the battle of Narva itself, but much regarding the subsequent efforts to keep the army supplied during the winter. Now 1701: 

January:  115

February: 129

March: 148

April: 121

May: 161

June: 182

July: 152

August: 122

September: 216

October: 182

November: 218

December: 233 


I think this is also fairly indicative of developments - many letters during the period leading up to the Düna crossing in early July, a brief interlude and then an increase as King's army moved further away and Russian forces began attacking eastern Livonia.  



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:04 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 18 January 2015 10:04 PM CET
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Sunday, 11 January 2015
Indexes : some notes
Topic: Archives

My attempt to create an index for the many GNW volumes in the archive of the Livonian Governor General continues. The database now contains about 13,000 entries. Of the letters and other documents about 800 are dated in Dorpat, about 350 in Narva, close to 600 in Reval, almost 1,500 in Pernau and about 800 in Mitau. The most prolific writers are Colonel Gustaf Ernst Albedyhl (750 letters), Major General Schlippenbach (600) and Colonel Carl Gustaf Skytte (about 400). A chronological list would look something like this:

1700: 1,100 documents

1701: 2,000 

1702: 1,600

1703: 850

1704: 1,600

1705: 850

1706: 870

1707: 1,000

1708: 1,300

1709: 500 

The remaining consists mainly of undated items or documents older than 1700.  

It's worth noting (again) that the database at present covers incoming correspondence from civilian and military officials and some other volumes, but not the very large series of letters from various suppliants or the letterbooks of outgoing correspondence. The rather confused state of the archive is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that I have thus far found letters from Gustaf Ernst Albedyhl in 16 different volumes (!). 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:22 PM CET
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Sunday, 4 January 2015
The attack on Riga in 1700 - part 2
Topic: Livonia

The presence of Saxon troops in the vicinity of Riga becomes more apparent in Dahlbergh's correspondence when 1699 becomes 1700. On 29 January he wrote to De la Gardie in Reval, informing him that rumours were saying that the Saxons had been transferred to the King of Denmark, i.e. would be used for some kind of diversion after a Danish attack on the Duke of Holstein. There was not much cavalry in Livonia, Dahlbergh wrote, but the small force available had been sent to the shores of the Daugava. Dahlbergh would be much obliged if de la la Gardie put the cavalry companies in Estonia on alert. 

Two days later Dahlbergh sent a long report to Charles XII. There were no firm information yet, he wrote. One set of rumours suggested that the Saxons had been given to the King of Denmark and would be picked up by Danish ships for use in Holstein. However, Dahlbergh believed that this could well be an attempt to convince him that there was no danger to Riga. As the fortress Dünamünde was very weak he had sent an additional 360 men with 8 guns in order to discourage the Saxons, but as he did not dare to weaken the garrison at Riga Dahlbergh had ordered them to sneak back the same evening. Dahlbergh also told the King that a merchant in Riga had received word from Lithuania that Hetman Sapieha had told his people to abstain from transporting goods to Riga. The Governor General also pointed out that he had on two occasions appealed for the strengthening of Riga's defences.

The actions by Dahlbergh are also traceable in the orders he sent to various commanders. On the 27th of January he wrote to Major Haij at Kokenhusen, telling him to keep his eyes open. To von Ceumern, the leaseholder of Bersohn and Lubahn, Dahlbergh wrote that he was grateful for the information received, i.e. that once the Saxon troops advanced the local peasants would stop obeying the Swedes. Dahlbergh would be very grateful if Ceumern could  obtain accurate information about the Saxons. On the 29th Dahlbergh wrote to Col. Skytte in Dorpat, telling him that Saxon units were gathering near the border, but it was still unclear what their intentions were.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 52, Letterbook for 1700 (in German)

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72, Letterbook for 1700 (in Swedish) 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:21 PM CET
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Sunday, 28 December 2014
Carl Gustaf Skytte again
Topic: Factoids

Some days ago my attention was drawn to the article (or rather part of an article) in Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon (Swedish Biographical Dictionary) which covers Carl Gustaf Skytte and the Skytte family. About Skytte's career during the first half of GNW the following is stated:

"1697 utnämndes S till kommendant i Dorpat och överste för ett värvat livländskt infanteriregemente. S blev ansvarig för förstärkningen av fästningen i Dorpat, som han framgångsrikt försvarade mot ryska angrepp. 1703 lyckades S besegra en överlägsen rysk styrka vid Wimarski, men följande år blev Dorpat belägrat av ryska trupper. S tvingades efter ett hjältemodigt försvar att kapitulera, och trots löfte om fritt uttåg fördes han till Reval och kvar-hölls en längre tid i rysk fångenskap. Han frigavs och blev 1706 utnämnd till generalmajor i infanteriet och fortsatte att delta i försvaret av Baltikum. Han var 1708 förlagd till Kurland och sändes följande år med sitt regemente till Litauen." 

The most interesting part here concerns the Russian attack on Dorpat 1704, which roughly translates as "Skytte was forced to surrender after a heroic defense. Despite promises of free passage he was brought to Reval and kept as a Russian prisoner for a long time. He was released and was in 1706 appointed Major General and continued to take part in the defense of the Baltic provinces."

Now, Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon is generally considered to be the most important Swedish reference work of its kind. It has been published since the late 1910's and the articles have over the years been written by some of the foremost experts we have (and have had). The part about Skytte is, particularly in light of this, absolutely awful. For starters - how could Skytte possibly have been a Russian prisoner of war in Reval in 1704?? The town wasn't captured by them until 1710... What makes things even worse is that Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon works out of the Riksarkivet building in Stockholm - with literally hundreds of Skytte letters right under their feet (to Schlippenbach, to Charles XII, to Governor Generals Dahlbergh and Frölich and so on). In fact, not even this would have been necessary - Skytte's so called "journal" of the siege was printed in 1916 and it contains sufficient information for avoiding such a mistake.

As for Skytte's "heroic defense" there were obviously other opinions (as I have mentioned before), but such opinions are symptomatic of what happens when too much weight is given to works which are based only on the writings of one side  - in this case Skytte himself.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:32 PM CET
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