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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 3 April 2016
Short break
There will be no new post today as I have had to spend the weekend immersing myself in the workings of mid-18th century bureaucracy in preparation for an article on the poet, clergyman and collector Samuel Älf (1727-1799). Perhaps something later in the week or else next Sunday.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:40 PM MEST
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Sunday, 27 March 2016
The General's servant
Topic: Generals

In December 1703 Reverend Daniel Rydelius in Vinnerstad parish wrote to his superiors in Linköping. There were rumours circulating that General Lewenhaupt's bailiff Simon Larsson Hesselgren at the estate of Charlottenborg was having an extramarital relation with the late reverend Frodelius daughter Greta. Rydelius had tried to find out the truth, but with little success. What should he do?

The issue soon came to Hesselgren's attention and he lodged a complaint. There was absolutely no truth to the rumours. He had for a long time been friends with the Frodelius family. Hesselgren's own wife had been very ill for more than six years and their children were young. The war meant difficult times so it was only natural that he sought out friends for help and advice. Hesselgren lamented that his reputation had been tarnished by Rydelius report. Had he not, Hesselgren wrote, since he left school been in the service of Major General Lewenhaupt and accompanied the General on journeys through Germany, France, Italy, England, Holland, Persia and Russia? Would Lewenhaupt have kept Hesselgren in his service for so long if Rydelius view of him was correct?

Had Lewenhaupt and Hesselgren really visited all those countries? Well, the question mark is around Persia. Hesselgren and Lewenhaupt took part in the Swedish embassy to Russia in 1684, but there is nothing to suggest that they went further. Hesselgren's own journal is silent on the subject.


Landsarkivet i Vadstena, Domkapitlets i Linköping arkiv E IV:303 (Vinnerstad parish 1701-1725) 

Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, X  418 (Simon Hesselgren's travel journal)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:32 PM MEST
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Sunday, 20 March 2016
Kobron 1700
Topic: Battles

When Saxon forces crossed the border on the evening of 11 February 1700 and moved towards Riga they came upon the small fort of Kobron, situated just across the river from Riga. The fort was very small and the garrison minimal. The commander Major Conrad von Bildstein reported to Dahlbergh at 1 p.m. on the 12th that he had observed advancing Saxons since 7 a.m. He had not been able to determine the enemy's strength. Bildstein asked for reinforcements and orders how to act. Dahlbergh, who was unwilling to weaken the defense of Riga, immediately replied that Bildstein would have to do the best he could with the men he already had..

The distraught commander wrote back in the evening of the 12th, stating that the fort was weak and the garrison insufficient, but he would with the help of God do his best. However, Bildstein assured Dahlbergh, it was quite impossible for anyone to defend Kobron under the present circumstances. The Saxon infantry had already arrived, he added. 

The next day Bildstein gave a frank assessment of the situation. He had at his disposal "41 useless soldiers" who would not be able to fire a single shot and the other 9 could certainly fire once, but before they had been able to reload the enemy would be at their throats. It was a pity that the enemy would get all the beautiful ammunition stored at Kobron. The Saxon cavalry and artillery had passed the fort, Bildstein added.

In the night between the 13th and 14th the Saxons forces attacked Kobron and captured it after a short fight.

Source: Riksarkivet, Stockholm, M 1374 (Account of the attack on Riga written by Dahlbergh's secretary Blåman. Several reports by Bildstein are attached.)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:56 PM MEST
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Sunday, 13 March 2016
Lewenhaupt in early 1708
Topic: Generals
Not a lot is known about Lewenhaupt's views on the situation as the main army drew closer in early 1708. It has often been assumed that he advocated a less ambitious plan, i.e. was opposed to a march on Moscow. Some insights can be gained from a volume in Tartu (EAA.278.2.86), which contains drafts of his outgoing orders during January. They show that he was in contact with persons close to Charles XII (for example Major Generaöl Meijerfelt). On 2 January 1708 Lewenhaupt wrote to the latter, stating that he believed the Russians would withdraw once the main army got closer. Interestingly Lewenhaupt claims that his own army is ready to march and would leave Courland if there only were supplies enough. Especially fodder was a problem as "our friends" the forces of Wisniowiecki and Sapieha had caused more damage than the enemy. If only Wisniowiecki still had been an enemy - then Lewenhaupt could march anywhere. If the Russians advanced Lewenhaupt would, he states, have no other choice than collect his forces and meet them despite the fact that he had fodder for just 3 days. If only the King would arrive and give the Courland army more room.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:58 PM MEST
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Sunday, 6 March 2016
Very stubborn
Topic: Archives

At present I am preparing an article on the clergyman and poet Samuel Älf (1727-1799), today perhaps best known for the large collection of Swedish poetry in Latin which he gifted to the Diocesan Library in Linköping. Without his lifelong efforts many of these works would likely have been lost. Älf naturally kept an extensive correspondence with scholars and public officials, of which at least a considerable number of incoming letters have been preserved in Linköping and in Uppsala. One example:

In late May 1790 Magdalena Stenbock (1744-1822), married to a member of the Cederhielm family, wrote to Älf about some books he had lent her. One of these "The Prince of Württemberg" (likely an edition of Bardili's work, first published in 1730) she had leafed through and found "the same things as in the histories of Charles XII: bravery, good intentions, a good heart, but no order, much stubbornness and vanity, which often results in misfortunes. Which we and he himself had to pay dearly for. If he had in time made peace with Poland and just disciplined our proud neighbour on the other side she would right now be less overbearing and we a formidable power. But -  what did not happen then will hopefully happen now. However, it would have been better to nip it in the bud and he had such an opportunity."

Magdalena Stenbock was of course referring to Russia and Gustav III's attempts to "discipline the proud neighbour" during the war of 1788-1790. 

Source: Linköping Diocesan Library, Br 37

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:49 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 6 March 2016 10:33 PM CET
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Sunday, 28 February 2016
A Royal doodler
Topic: Archives

There are few instances when you get as close Charles XII as when you hold in your hand a letter which contains his notes. A particular group of such documents which contains his own "illustrations":

A doodle made by Charles XII usually (in my experience) contains weapons (axes, halberds and such) and field-works. This example would seem to be slightly more civilian in character (a lot of Latin numbers) and an even today often used vulgar term for urine ("piss"). The Royal unhappiness may have had something to do with the content of letter - the letter from Col. Schlippenbach and the attachment from Lt. Col. Romanowitz vividly explains the poor state of the soldiers due to the cold and the various hardships suffered.

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





Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM CET
Updated: Saturday, 27 February 2016 8:51 PM CET
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Sunday, 21 February 2016
A report from London
Topic: Diplomacy

The Governor Generals of Livonia kept a fairly extensive correspondence with Swedish diplomats abroad and it went far beyond the area of immedia interest (Poland and Russia). A typical item from 1670:

On 30 December 1670 the Swedish envoy to London wrote to Claes Tott (1630-1674), one of the more illustrous men to hold the position (his grandfather had married a daughter of Erik XIV and Claes Tott had been one of Queen Christina's favourites). In his letter Leijonbergh reports on recent events. During Christmas the Court had spent the first day "with devotion", but the following days with comedies and other amusements. On the 29th Parliament had met. "Johan Coventry" (Sir John Coventry), who had had recently been attacked (on the 21st) had appeared before Parliament to show his wounds.

"Sir Edward Sprag" (Edward Spragge) was reportedly chasing 9 pirate ships from Algier. In the meantime money was being collected in London for ransoming English captives and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Gilbert Sheldon) had reportedly pledged 4,000 pound sterling.

At the Royal Exchange there was great unrest as a result of a large "Harzican" (Hurricane) near Barbados. 12 ships were reportedly missing.

"Mons. Bertue" (Charles Bertie), brother of the Earl of Lindsey, had been ordered to prepare for his journey to Denmark where he would serve as Envoy.

Source: EAA, Tartu, EAA 278.2.186 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:16 PM CET
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Sunday, 14 February 2016
The decision : September 1701
Topic: Battles

On 11 September 1701 Governor General Dahlbergh wrote a series of letters about the recent events in eastern Livonia, where a Russian force had attacked Col. Schlippenbachs corp. To the Chancery in Stockholm and Major General Horn in Narva Dahlbergh sent a brief account and expressed his concern for the future. To Charles XII he sent a longer letter, enclosing a report from Schlippenbach himself. The courier, Lt. Col. Stackelberg, had been present during the Russian attack and could expand on the subject if necessary. What was Dahlbergh's primary concern? Well, the supplies collected for the expected return of the King's army. The original plan had of course been to drive the Saxon army away from Riga and then at some point go back to eastern Livonia in order to prepare for an assault on Pskov. As late as 16 September Dahlbergh appears to have believed that this was still in the cards, although the lateness of the season made him believe that it would take a considerable time for the King's army to get there.

A couple of days later Dahlbergh was informed of a new decision. Charles XII had ordered two regiments (Fritz Wachtmeister's and Erich Stenbock's) to leave Mitau and join Schlippenbach's force along with 1,000 men from the garrison of Riga. When writing to the Chancery in Stockholm on 23 September the Governor General could add a bit of juicy gossip to this news: there had reportedly been a great uprising in Moscow. The German Quarter had been thoroughly plundered and a number of the Czar's favorites, including Anna Mons, killed.

Source: LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 73.  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:20 PM CET
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Sunday, 7 February 2016
The archive of the Estonian Governor General
Topic: Archives

When the last Swedish possessions in Estonia and Livonia were being threatened by the Russians in 1709-1710 some of the archives were evacuated. One of them was the archive of the Estonian Governor General. It stayed in Sweden for more than a decade. In 1726 or 1727 it came back to Estonia due to the regulations in the Treaty of Nystad. However, some parts were never handed over to the Russians. This means that some incoming letters to Governor General de la Gardie are in Riksarkivet (Livonica II, vol. 270-300) and others in Tartu (as far as the GNW is concerned vol. 1.2.284-291).

When one looks at the individual volumes in Tartu they are quite different. Vol. 284 (first half of 1700) consists of nearly 300 pages, while 291 (1704) is less than 100 pages (all heavily damaged by water). One of the few partly legible items in the latter volume is a letter from Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt to de la Gardie, dated Mitau 24 September. Lewenhaupt writes of the remarkable successes of the troops under his command and the victory at Jacobstadt. With no more that 3,080 men he had soundly beaten the enemy which lost 5,000 men in dead and wounded (just after the battle Lewenhaupt claimed that 2,000 enemy soldiers had been killed). 

In Livonica II there are a few more letters from Lewenhaupt to de la Gardie: 23 May, 6 June, 11 July and 14 September 1703 (all from Mitau). While it's very likely that Lewenhaupt did not write to de la Gardie as often as he did to Frölich in Riga one can safely assume that this means that many letters have been lost.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:51 PM CET
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Sunday, 31 January 2016
Fond 7349, op. 2 and 3
Topic: Archives
After several years of more or less intense work I am finally in the process of finishing those parts of the "Swedish archive" which have been added post-1908. Generally speaking they consist of a mixture of items, i.e. parts of various collections (most notably Carl Schirren's and manuscripts which once belonged to the Gesellschaft für Geschichte und Altertumskunde in Riga). So while Schirren, the Gesellschaft and others in the 19th century took advantage of the lack of interest in the archive of the Swedish Livonian Governor General by removing interesting volumes and documents subsequent generations have been doing the opposite. However, an old catalogue made in the 1810's (op. 3, vol. 86) suggest that some volumes have either been lost altogether or are yet to be returned. Whether this practice of "reconstruction" is advisable is another matter - it makes it rather difficult to check footnotes in older litterature.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:38 PM CET
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