A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit a little known private archive which contains a significant number of items from the time of the Great Northern War. One of the more interesting ones is an undated proposal by the fortification officer Lorentz Christoffer Stobée (1676-1756) for the creation of an engineer regiment. It is from the content possible to conclude that it must be from the final years of Charles XII's reign, i.e. after his return to Sweden in late 1715.
In the proposal Stobée outlines his plan. The regiment should consist of 1,500 men and be used during sieges, landings and transports. The personnel would also be adept at building all sorts of bridges, ships, barges and rafts. However, the regiment could also be used as a standard infantry regiment if the circumstances called for this. So how would the necessary manpower be found in a situation where it was difficult to muster enough men for the existing regiments? Well, Stobée had an idea: there was in Sweden a large number of jobs which were filled by men, but could just as well be handled by women:
2. Linen weaver
6. Button maker
8. Spirit distiller
9. Tea or coffee-maker
Stobée suggested that it would be entirely sufficient to leave one or two male experts in each town and these could then start factories manned by women, which would produce everything needed.
Another unnecessary occupation for men was the making of saltpetre. It was simple enough and could be learned by anyone. By leaving some old and infirm saltpetre-makers as teachers it would be possible to mobilize another 3-4,000 men for the army.
Stobées engineer regiment would be divided in three battalions, each battalion made up by four companies of 125 men. To each company would be added about 20-30 craftsmen (carpenters, blacksmiths, bricklayers etc.). Each company would also have its own baggage train with all necessary equipment. If the King accepted the proposal, Stobée stated, the regiment would be ready in four months. To make serving in the regiment more appealing to officers Stobée suggested that it should take precedence over both the artillery and the fortification - engineering being a science which contained parts of many other sciences.