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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 26 April 2015
An engineer regiment
Topic: Archives

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:

1. Wigmaker 

2. Linen weaver

3. Tailor

4. Baker 

5. Brewer

6. Button maker

7. Lace-maker

8. Spirit distiller

9. Tea or coffee-maker

10. Confectioner

11. Soap-maker

12. Dyer

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. 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 3:12 PM MEST
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Sunday, 19 April 2015
Koporye prisoners

On the 30 September 1708 the eight Russians captured at Koporye two days earlier were interrogated. A short summary of the result:

The first one said he was a corporal in Col. Hupowitz regiment of Cossacks, 1,000 men strong. However, only 400 were present at Koporye and they had arrived from Pechory eight days earlier. They were not the only ones to arrive, a detachment of dragoons under the command of Lt. Col. Stepanov (6 companies of about 100 men each) had also come from Pechory. These detachments were at Koporye under the command of Brigadier Frazer, who had six regiments at his disposal. There was a garrison of 700 in Koporye itself, but these had not taken part in the battle.

The next two prisoners belonged to the Tobolsk dragoon regiment. They had deserted from their unit, which was under the command of Lt. Col. "Wasili Czatzeoff". The regiment consisted of six companies. They had arrived from Livonia about six weeks earlier. There were 700 men in the garrison at Koporye.  When the Swedes had attacked there were six Russian regiments.

The last five prisoners were from Monastyrev's dragoons (2), Manstein's dragoons (2) and "Pladur's" battalion (1). According to them there hade been five dragoon regiments and one Cossack regiment at Koporye. There were six Lt. Colonels and six Majors. The regiments were:

Monastyrev's dragoons (900 men), Schauenburg's dragoons (800), Jarsen's (?) dragoons (500), Alontkof's (?) dragoons (400), Tobolsk dragoons (600) and Bachmetov's Cossacks (600). 

(It should be emphasized that this is a summary of the testimonies given by these prisoners - or rather how the Swedish interrogators interpreted their remarks). 


Source: Krigsarkivet, Krigshandlingar, Stora nordiska kriget, vol. 11


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:00 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 19 April 2015 8:01 PM MEST
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Sunday, 12 April 2015
The fight at Koporye 28 September 1708 : part 2
Topic: Battles

During last week I had a look at some of the Swedish sources for the Ingrian campaign of 1708, including Lybecker's report about the encounter near Koporye fortress on 28 September 1708. A short summary of what he claims:

While his army for three days was busy unloading and distributing provisions brought by sea a report arrived. This indicated that the Russians were moving their cavalry from Duderhof to Koporye in order to cut off the Swedish army. Upon receiving this news Lybecker detached a cavalry force of 1,800 men under the command of colonels Ramsay and Armfelt. They were instructed to observe the enemy and attack if the latter made a stand. Upon reaching a nearby village the Swedes were told that a Russian force of about 100 cavalry and 100 infantry had been there about an hour earlier and that the Russian force had taken up a position near Koporye. Ramsay and Armfelt discussed the situation with several officers in their detachment and decided to advance towards Koporye. Their approach was made up a very steep hill towards a large open field which reached beyond the fortress. The Russians were drawn up in two lines on this field, at a distance of a few musket shots from the fortress itself. Some additional squadrons were placed behind the two lines. As the Swedish force approached and took up position Armfelt assumed command of the right flank and Ramsay of the left. Orders were given to abstain from firing and attack with the sword only. As the Swedish attack started the Russians advanced as well. Cossacks and a force of boyars which were positioned in front of the Russian lines opened fire and the Cossacks attacked the Swedish left. Major de la Barre counterattacked with some squadrons and hit the flank of the Cossacks and drove them off. The Russian line opened fire and tried to regroup, but the strong Swedish assault forced both lines to retreat and the Russians started streaming backwards. As they were doing this they came upon a very deep ravine which crossed the field and went into the moat. Many Russians were driven down into the ravine and got stuck in the mud, where they were picked off by Swedish fire. Major Danielsson and some of his men jumped off their horses and went down into the ravine where they killed a large number of Russians with the sword. Another group were killed in similar fashion by Col. Ramsay very near the moat.

The garrison in Koporye tried to support the Russians with artillery fire and another force opened fire with muskets from a dry moat on the right as well as from a large house on the left. This did not stop the Swedes, who again attacked and pursued the fleeing Russians for several kilometres until they reached a small river which the Russians were forced to swim across.

Those who fled towards Koporye fortress were pursued by Lt. Col. Brakel with seven companies all the way to the drawbridge, forcing some Russians to jump into the moat to save themselves. The Russian fire from the fortress was intense but very inefficient, only killing one officer and wounding another. When the Swedes fell back from the drawbridge the Russians in the fortress counterattacked with both infantry and cavalry (with a force estimated to have been about 1,200). Col. Armfelt counterattacked and drove them back, but the Russians got reinforcements and attacked again. Eventually Armfelt decided to retreat and this was conducted very skillfully. His force lost about 50 men in total and the rest of the Swedish units lost another 20. The Russian losses were estimated as having been about 600. The enemy's baggage was captured. Among Brigadier Fraser's belongings several letters were found and they contained much valuable information. According to the prisoners Fraser commanded 5 dragoon regiments, 1 regiment of Cossacks and 1 unit of "selected Boyars". The Russians had left their colours in the fortress, so none were taken during the fight.

To be continued... 

Krigsarkivet, Krigshandlingar. Stora nordiska kriget, Vol. 12d, Letter from Lybecker dated Nurmis, 1 October 1708.


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:56 PM MEST
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Sunday, 5 April 2015
The fight at Koporye 28 September 1708
Topic: Battles

On 28 September (Swedish calendar) 1708 a detachment from Lybecker's army fought some sort of engagement near the fortress Koporye. The known Swedish sources seem to be quite few - an official description sent by Lybecker to Governor General Stromberg in Reval, an account by Col. Ramsay who commanded the Swedish force (apparently it's very siimilar to the official one) and a brief note in cavalry captain Bengt Stigman's description of his military career.

Apparently the official account states that the Swedish force consisted of 1,800 horse (Stigman claims 1,500). According to Stigman the Russians were 5,000. Fredrik Hjelmqvist states that Russian prisoners who were captured during the fight claimed there were 3,800 men (5 regiments of dragoons and 1 regiment of Cossacks). The Swedish losses were supposedly 70 men.  During the fight the Swedes supposedly managed to capture some letters, among them:

Letters from Vice Admiral Cruys to Brigadier Fraser, dated 19 and 22 September; Letter from Major Blandau to his stepfather Brigadier Fraser, dated 20 September; Letter from Fraser to Major General Bruce, dated 23 September and letter from Bruce to Fraser, dated 24 September. 

The sources for this encounter appear to be few in the archive of the Livonian Governor General. The volume containing letters from Cronhjort and Lybecker appears to have been plundered. In LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 304 there is a letter from Vyborg dated 9 October, which mentions a vague rumour about a fight near Koporye. Governor General Stromberg writes a few days later (12 October) to Major General von Funcken in Riga. In this letter Stromberg tells Funcken that his scouts (or spies) have returned with news about a fight near Koporye in which the Russians had been soundly beaten. Later, Stromberg continues, Lybecker's army had reached Ivangorod and caused panic among the Russians forces west of Narva. Unfortunately no report had yet arrived from Lybecker, but reports of a fight was coming in from many sources so that part was undoubtedly true (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 332)

In the so called Malmberg papers (rearranged after I used them, so the old volume numbers are useless) in Uppsala there are a few more bits and pieces. The first one is a letter from Lybecker to Major General Funcken, dated 1 October (it did not reach Riga until the 31st). In it Lybecker states that the enemy attempted to take up a strong position near Koporye, but was driven off by a detachment of cavalry. The letter was accompanied by an account of the event, but this attachment is now missing (possibly because it was forwarded elsewhere). 

As for the decision to abort the Ingrian campaign the Malmberg papers contributes to items. The first one is a letter from Lybecker, dated 27 October. In this he explains that the supply situation had been difficult, not least because of the continuing rain which had destroyed the roads. The plan to evacuate the army by sea had unfortunately been betrayed by an officer who deserted, so about 400 men were still ashore when the enemy attacked. On 16 November Lybecker again wrote to v. Funcken, further explaining his decision to abort the campaign. This was because of the "barbaric" enemy, who had burnt everything. However, the army had before then handed the Russians several defeats and forced them to bring reinforcements to Ingria. The destruction of the countryside and the losses suffered by the Russians would, Lybecker suggested, make any offensive operations unlikely. 


Sources (apart from those specified above):

Hjelmqvist, Fredrik: Kriget i Finland och Ingermanland 1707 och 1708. - Lund, 1909

Karolinska officerares tjänsteförteckningar. - Stockholm, 1901 (Bengt Stigman's "CV", dated 1721) 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:39 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 5 April 2015 11:07 PM MEST
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Sunday, 29 March 2015
Odd volumes
Topic: Livonia

Many of the volumes in the archive of the Livonian Governor General contains items with little or no relation to its title. One such example is LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 186, supposedly only about payment of contributions by citizens of Riga 1703-1706. However, it also includes a number of items delaing with an entirely different subject - the organization of the defence of the town in 1704-1705. First comes a list of where the various citizen companies were to be stationed in case of an attack. It's followed by lists which gives details about where the artillery personnel was stationed, how the guns were placed, where the infantry had its positions etc. Towards the end there are also a few items concerning Governor Frölich's attempted monetary reform (a matter I have previously covered briefly here

In LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2 there are quite a few volumes which deal with Swedish-Russian relations (vol. 57-104). Some of them appear to have originated from the Swedish delegations themselves, i.e. drafts of outgoing letters, notes from negotiations with their Russian counterparts etc. In volume 77 one finds lists of Russians who had escaped across the border (1677-1678), in vol. 78 the itineraries for Bengt Horn's return journey from Moscow in 1662 and the journey to Moscow for the Swedish embassy of 1673-74. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:43 PM MEST
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Sunday, 22 March 2015
Blåman's account
Topic: Livonia

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days in Riksarkivet. One of the items I looked at was a big volume called Relation om Sachsarnas infall i Lifland (Account of the Saxon invasion of Livonia). It was written by Governor General Dahlbergh's secretary Gustaf Magnus Blåman, but should undoubtedly for all practical purposes be considered as Dahlbergh's work. The actual account is about 230 pages long and stops in early May when the first units of the relief army arrived outside Riga. The volume does however contain a lot more - several hundred pages of attachments (letters, specifications of the strength of the garrison, lists of available supplies etc. - a lot of it originals). Notable are for example letters from Paykull and Flemming, copies of Dahlbergh's letters to them, letters to the Governor General from the Swedish embassy to Russia and from Nils Lillieroot in the Hague - items which of course as a result are missing in the archive of the Livonian Governor General.

One example of what the volume contains is the following list of artillery personnel and guns in the citadel as of 11 March 1700:

Bastion Horn: Two 18-pounders, thirteen 12-pounders and four 3-pounders (also four mortars).

Bastion Christina: Six 12-pounders and six 3-pounders (also one mortar).

Bastion Carolus Gustafvus: Four 24-pounders, two 18-pounders, nine 12-pounders, four 3-pounders (also two mortars).

Bastion Carolus Undecimus: Eleven 18-pounders, two 12-pounders and eight 3-pounders (also two howitzers and three mortars).

Bastion Gustafvus Primus: Four 24-pounders, twelve 18-pounders, four 12-pounders and two 3-pounders (also four mortars).

Bastion Carolus Nonus: Four 24-pounders, six 18-pounders and four 12-pounders (also four mortars). 

Bastion Gustafvus Adolphus: Two 24-pounders and four 12-pounders (also two mortars).


The ravelins:

Prins Gustafvus: Two 12-pounders and six 3-pounders.

Prins Carl: Six 12-pounders and one mortar.

Princesse: Six 12-pounders and four 3-pounders.

Prins Ullrick: Two 6-pounders, four 3-pounders and one howitzer. 


Source:  Riksarkivet, M 1374 (list on pages 1008-1009)


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:42 PM MEST
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Sunday, 15 March 2015
The artillery at Dorpat
Topic: Livonia

As my previous blog post resulted in a small discussion about the artillery at Dorpat it is perhaps logical to give some small details about the situation there. 

First, in regard to old guns. There exists a list of guns which was made in January 1700. At that time there were 105 guns of various calibers. Some old ones:

Lithuanian 3-pounder dated 1563.

Two Polish 3-pounders dated 1554.

One 1 1/2-pounder with the name and arms of Johann von der Recke, dated 1549.

One falconet with the arms of Dorpat, dated 1530.

One falconet with the arms of Dorpat, dated 1533.

One falconet of "dhe herrmästerska" (Livonian Order), dated 1544.

Six falconets with the arms of Dorpat but no date. 


This list is followed by another one (unfortunately undated), which gives details about how the artillery was positioned:


Bastion Gustafwus Adolphus: Four 24-pounders and six 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, seven 12-punders on the two lower flanks.

Bastion Carolus Gustafwus: Four 24-pounders and seven 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, three 12-pounders on one of the middle flanks and five 12-pounders on the two lower flanks.

Bastion Carolus Undecimus: Six 24-pounders and seven 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, five 12-pounders on the middle flank and five 12-pounders on the two lower flanks.

Bastion Carolus Nonus: Four 24-pounders and three 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, three 12-pounders on the middle flank and seven 12-pounders on the two lower flanks.

Gustafwus Primus: Four 24-pounders and five 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, four 12-pounders on the middle flank and seven 12-pounders on the two lower flanks. 

On the five ravelins which are placed beyond and between the bastions: Six 12-pounders on each.

Bastion Hedvig Eleonora: Four 24-pounders and five 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, eight 12-pounders on the two lower flanks.

On the ravelin between Hedvig Eleonora and Christina Regina: Six 12-pounders.

Bastion Ulrika Eleonora: Four 24-pounders and five 18-pounders on the two upper flanks, nine 12-pounders on the two lower flanks.

On the ravelin between Ulrika Eleonora and Christina Regina: Twelve 12-pounders.

Bastion Christina Regina: Six 24-pounders and six 18-pounders on the cavalier, six 12-pounders on the lower flank and the faces.

On the towers of the city wall: Sixteen 3-pounders.

In total: 213 guns

Mortars: Two 150-pounders, four 100-pounders, four 80-pounders and six 60-pounders.


Source: Krigsarkivet, Krigskollegium, Artilleridepartementet, G III b, Dorpat & Dünamünde 1642-1703


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 2:34 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 15 March 2015 7:30 PM MEST
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Sunday, 8 March 2015
Artillery records
Topic: Livonia

A few days ago I received the latest batch of scanned files from Tartu. This time I hade decided to include a non-correspondence item, an inventory from 1701 of the artillery material (and lots of other stuff) in storage in Riga castle. In the book (EAA.278.1.XXV-95) one literally finds everything: nails of every conceivable size, ammunition, lead, sheepskins, wagons, axes, muskets, crowbars...

The book also lists very thoroughly all deliveries and all items which were distributed to various units. It is for example possible to follow the preparations for the crossing of the Düna as well as the raising of militia regiments. For example: On 17 July 1701 Governor General Dahlbergh ordered that 54 swords and various other items should be handed over to Liphardt's battalion. A month later Liphardt 300 received flintlock muskets. At about the same time another militia unit got 280 matchlock muskets and a third one 600 matchlock muskets.

Many types of muskets are mentioned:  matchlock, new caliber; matchlock, old caliber; Dutch muskets; useless matchlock muskets; flintlock muskets, new caliber; flintlock muskets, new caliber; dragoon muskets. The regiments mostly received flintlock muskets, but there are a few exceptions apart from the militia units. The Uppland infantry regiment received three on 27 August and Lewenhaupt's infantry regiment got 92 on 8 July. Almost 4,000 swords  and 2, 000 pikes had also been handed out.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 11:08 PM MEST
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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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