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The Great Northern War
Saturday, 23 May 2015
Schlippenbach's order of battle

On 18 August 1701 Col. Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach wrote to Charles XII from his camp at Kirrumpäh. The letter was accompanied by an order of battle:

Schlippenbach explained that is was unusual, but this was due to the fact that the Russians way of fighting was unorthodox. They preferred to attack flanks, so Schlippenbach had decided to place a few small detachments in a second line behind these. 

The text below the drawing explains that each battalion and squadron in the first lane consisted of 100 men and the small detachments in the second line of 20 men each. Not all units were included as some of his own regiment and Brandt's dragoons were positioned at Marienburg and Major de Molin's dragoons near Peipus.


Source: Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII:s tid, vol. 23 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:25 PM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 23 May 2015 8:41 PM MEST
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Sunday, 17 May 2015
In the wrong place
Topic: Archives


The image above is from LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 177, which contains letters mostly to the Estonian Governor General Bengt Horn (dated 1658). Why are they preserved in the archive of the Livonian Governor General. In the top left corner there is an inscription (A-138) which sheds light on the matter. This was a type of marking used by the Estonian State Archive when the archive of the Estonian Governor General was catalogued in the early 1930's. The idea was to show where the item was kept before the documents were rearranged according to modern principles. Based on the catalogue produced as a result of this work it seems likely that this letter should today be in EAA 1.2.225, but it's obviously not. Why? Most likely because of events during WWII, when several archives were evacuated (in some cases as far as Troppau). As some volumes from the archive of the Livonian Governor General are missing today it's tempting to think that they were mixed up with something else and have ended up in other Eastern European archives (documents from the archive of the Dukes of Courland have long after the war been found both in the Czech Republic and in Ukraine). And: if items which should be in Tartu are found in Riga - perhaps the opposite can be true as well? EAA 1. (the archive of the Estonian Governor General) is large and I don't yet know how closely the volumes have been examined after 1945.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:46 PM MEST
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Sunday, 10 May 2015
Schirren's collection
Topic: Archives

Some weeks ago I photographed most of the original documents in Carl Schirren's collection in Riksarkivet (15 volumes). At this point I have managed to make inventories of vol. 3-6 and 9-11. The content of these volumes is fairly typical of Schirren, i.e. a focus on Patkul and the struggle of the Livonian nobility against Swedish absolutism as well as on the intrigues leading up to the formation of the big anti-Swedish coalition in the late 1690's. Schirren's keen interest in the latter issue seems to have resulted in him pracitically cleaning out the collection of  letters from the Swedish representatives in Poland to the Governor General in Riga. In the abovementioned volumes I have for examples found almost 30 letters from Georg Wachschlager and nearly 25 by Per Cuypercrona in Danzig (in the archive of the Livonian Governor General I have up til now only found two letters from Wachschlager). 

Schirren also "took care" of some of the Russian correspondence (20 letters from Thomas Kniper in Moscow, 8 from Thomas Herbers in Pskov, 3 from Philip Vinhagen in Novgorod) as well as from Florian Thilo von Thilau at the borrder post of Neuhausen (Vastseliina). The collection also contains a few letters from the Swedish embassy to Moscow in 1699 as well as material pertaining to the Great Embassy and various other Swedish-Russian issues. 

A couple of odd items (vol. 11) are copies of Steinau's and Paykul's explanations of the reasons behind the Saxon defeat at Düna in July 1701. The fomer's is dated Warsaw 20 September 1701 and numbers about 60 pages, while the latter is dated Berlin 14 July 1702. 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:05 PM MEST
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Schirren's collection
Some weeks ago I photographed most of the original documents in Carl Schirren's collection in Riksarkivet (15 volumes). At this point I have managed to make inventories of vol. 3-6 and 9-11. The content of these volumes is fairly typical of Schirren, i.e. a focus on Patkul and the struggle of the Livonian nobility against Swedish absolutism as well as on the intrigues leading up to the formation of the big anti-Swedish coalition in the late 1690's. Schirren's keen interest in the latter issue seems to have resulted in him pracitically cleaning out the collection of  letters from the Swedish representatives in Poland to the Governor General in Riga. In the abovementioned volumes I have for examples found almost 30 letters from Georg Wachschlager and nearly 25 by Per Cuypercrona in Danzig. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:40 PM MEST
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Sunday, 3 May 2015
Topic: Newspapers

On 19 January 1699 Governor General Dahlbergh ordered the Postal Director in Riga Gerdt Gröen to "subscribe" for various European newspapers which were needed by his office (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 51). The papers were specified in a separate attachment (not present). Among the Schirren papers in Riksarkivet (vol. 4)  there are a number of items pertaining to this issue, most notably an undated list which appears to be the one Dahlbergh's letter refers to:

"Zur nöthigen Correspondence beym Königl. General Gouvernement werden folgenden Gazzetten erfordet"

aus Hamburg

1. Relations Courier bey Thom. Wiering

2. Europäische Fama bey Heuss

3. Europäische Relation

4. Relation ex Parnasso

5. Nordischer Mercurius

aus Altona

6. Relations Courier

7. Altonaischer Mercurius

8. Relations Courier

aus Holland

9. die Haerlemsche Courant

10. der Hagischer Mercurius 


A possibly more accurate list of the German publications was forwarded to Dahlbergh the following day. It had been put together in Hamburg by Polycarp Marci (1654-1724):

In Hamburg

Montag und Donnerstag

Relations-Courier bei Thomas Wiering 

Europäische Fama bei Heuss

Dienstag und Freitag 

Relations-Courier bei Thomas Wiering

Europäische Relation bei Heuss

Relation ex Parnasso bei Spiring 

Nordische Mercurius bei Greflinger

In Altona

Montag und Donnerstag 


Dienstag und Freitag 

Altonaischer Mercurius



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:57 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 3 May 2015 7:58 PM MEST
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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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