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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 11 September 2016
The Swedish calendar
Topic: Livonia

1700-1712 Sweden had its own calendar, which was one day ahead of the Julian calendar and ten days behind the Gregorian calendar. Why? Well, that's an issue which surprisingly hasn't been investigated in detail. The standard work on the issue (Den svenska tidräkningen 1700-1712 by Emil Hildebrand) came as early as in 1882 and it's very brief. I will not attempt go beyond what Hildebrand has to say, except on a couple of details. 

The background was of course the problems with the Julian calendar and the fact that the difference between it and the Gregorian increased by time. During the 17th century it was ten days, but would be eleven by the next century. A German mathematician by the name of Erhard Weigel took a great deal of interest in the matter and in late 1696 he arrived in Stockholm. Sweden was of course at that time one of the most important Protestant countries in Europe, so the position taken by the Swedish authorities could be expected to influence other countries. Upon arriving in Stockholm Weigel presented Charles XI with a number of proposals, including calendar reform. Unfortunately he soon ran into problems. Swedish experts, most notably Johan Bilberg (1646-1717) and Anders Spole (1630-1699), were not enthusiastic. The Gregorian calendar was invented by a pope, a change would bring disorder and Weigel had not been able to prove that he enjoyed the support of other German mathematicians or princes. Weigel should start at home and return when he had convinced everyone else.

Weigel did just that and managed to get quite far at the Diet in Regensburg. The Swedish minister Snoilsky in 1698 informed Charles XII of the developments and so did Weigel himself. In 1699 the discussions continued in Sweden and various proposals were debated. During this period a letter from the Diet arrived: it was in favour of Weigel's proposal and asked for the Swedish opinion. Bengt Oxenstierna, the Chancery President, concluded that the Swedish provinces in Germany had to follow suit, but that this did not mean that Sweden itself would have to make the change. 

Further debate brought forth the idea to change gradually. Johan Bilberg suggested to remove eighth days in 1700 (one in February and the rest in November) and the leap days in 1704, 1708 and 1712. This became the Swedish position and the Diet in Regensburg was informed of it. However, the decision was to go ahead anyway and remove eleven days in February 1700. So how would Sweden respond?

Well, here things get a bit unclear, but apparently Bilberg came forward with a new idea: remove one day in February 1700 in order to keep the difference from growing and use the time for further discussions. On 11 November this was decided in the Chancery.

Then nothing happened for several years. In 1711 Charles XII decided that the "experiment" had gone on for too long and decreed that Sweden in 1712 would go back to the Julian calendar. Thus far Emil Hildebrand's description. 

To this I can add a rather peculiar detail. The decision was apparently not conveyed to the Governors of Livonia and Estonia until well past February 1700. On 20 March 1700 Charles XII wrote to Dahlbergh and de la Gardie, ordering them to make the correction.The letter reached Dahlbergh on 4 April and two days later he sent instructions to both the clergy and the Court of Appeal in Dorpat. 


LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 52, German letterbook for 1700

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 149, Royal letters for 1701

Hildebrand, E., Den svenska tidräkningen 1700-1712. - Stockholm, 1882

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:07 PM MEST
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Sunday, 4 September 2016
Vellingk's second thoughts : part 2
Topic: Battles

Otto Vellingk sent his next report on 6 June 1700. He started by alluding to his letter two days earlier and the supply problems he would encounter if the army crossed the river into Courland. Vellingk then went on to say that he believed the King would not favour an attack into Courland since this would risk drawing not only the Polish Republic but also Brandenburg into the war. Vellingk believed it important to proceed carefully and not move ointo Courland until the army could be supplied from Livonia. The General also stated that he was about to send letters two Hetman Sapieha and to the Duke of Courland in order to ascertain their views on the situation. Otto Vellingk also suggested that it would be beneficial to open an additional mail route from Pernau to Sandhamn, thereby improving on the two existing (Pernau-Reval and Dorpat-Narva). A couple of yachts going back and forth between Pernau and Sandhamn would speed up communications.

Vellingk's next report was sent on the 11th. He informed the King that the letters to Sapieha and the Duke of Courland had been sent. Three Danish ships had appeared outside Dünamünde and small vessels had been seen travelling between them and the fortress. Major Rosen had been sent on a scouting mission to Courland and the Lithuanian border in order to find out if rumours about Russian reinforcements to the Saxon army were true. Rosen had found that they were quite false. As for more Saxon troops, Vellingk believed it unlikely they would arrive before Midsummer. Before then Vellingk hoped to have collected enough supplies to be able to cross the river. It was unfortunate, Vellingk concluded, that many believed all sorts of rumours. Not long ago the peasants near Dorpat had started to run away because Colonel Skytte had spread unfounded reports.

On the 13th Vellingk again wrote to the King, informing him that Duke Ferdinand had replied. The Duke was in the Saxon camp and had had taken command of their forces. In his letter the Duke made it clear that his own service to King Augustus was an entirely different from him being the administrator of Courland. The Duchy remained outside the conflict. As Vellingk had been made aware of disagreemnts between the Dowager Duchess and Duke Ferdinand he had written to the former as well. The Saxon army had received reinforcements from Lithuania, but these consisted of untrained and badly clothed men. Vellingk remained intent on crossing the Düna, but the supply problems were still unsolved. For the time being it seemed better to remain on the defensive.

The news indicated that the Polish Republic would remain neutral. Sapieha's decision to support King Augustus with troops had caused a rift in Lithuania and many had gone over to Oginski. Vellingk had spread a rumour that a relief army of 8,000 had arrived from Sweden and he hoped that this would spread fear among the Saxons.

Source: Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 29

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:20 PM MEST
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Sunday, 28 August 2016
17th and 18th century newspapers
Topic: Newspapers

A online resource which I had not noticed before - Zeitungen des 17. Jahrhunderts

Despite the title there are a lot of 18th century material as well, including issues of Stralsundischer Relations Corier, Revalische Post-Zeitung and Rigische Novellen. Very useful for tracing how news and rumours travelled across Europe.

A Swedish version covering some of the major domestic 19th and 20th century papers - It's usefulness is still somewhat limited due to an extremely careful handling of the copyright issue (only items older than 1901 can be read online).

An older attempt at something similar, but this mostly with smaller local papers -

And a Dutch version going back to the 17th century:

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 4:32 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 28 August 2016 8:00 PM MEST
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Sunday, 21 August 2016
Vellingk's second thoughts : part 1
Topic: Battles

On 12 May 1700 Otto Vellingk wrote to Charles XII, stating that he was on his way to join the relief corps. Major General Maydell, who was in charge of the lead units, had attacked the Saxons and made them go back across the Düna. Vellingk was very pleased with this development and assured the King that rumours about strong Saxon reinforcements most likely were untrue. As the Polish Republic apparently did not want to have anything to do with the war it was likely that Augustus could find no other support than Oginski's forces. No matter what the Saxons brought, Vellingk stated, he would put up such a resistance that they could not cross the Düna again even if they managed to gather a force three times as strong as Vellingk's. He would even, Vellingk assured Charles XII, seek out those places where the glorious Gustav II Adolf had crossed the river and make an attack on the enemy (these proud boasts are quite similar to the ones made by Major General Cronhjort in Ingria when he took charge after the battle of Narva. The results there were also quite similar to the ones Vellingk managed to produce....)

Vellingk reached his army on 17 May. On the 21st he wrote the King again. All was well and the enemy back on the south side of the river. The fear among them was great. The duchess of Courland and many citizens of Mitau had already brought their possessions to safety, while some nobles had requested letters of protection from Vellingk. The general has assured everyone that no harm would come to them who respected the Treaty of Oliva. Three bridges were being built in order to make an attack across the river possible and Vellingk stated that he would soon make the Saxons regret their attack on Riga. In Vellingk's opinion the Saxons enterprise was a speculation, attempted in the hope of receiving support from Hetman Sapieha, Brandenburg and the Czar. But these hopes were all in vain. According to rumour Lt. General Flemming had been arrested in Warsaw and Patkul had gone into hiding. Prince Ferdinand of Courland had tried to raise three regiments, but the nobility had refused. The recruitment attempts by the Saxons had completely failed. Colonel Göhr had promised to recruit 400 but had arrived in camp with just 40. Everything was going fantastic!

A couple of weeks the mood was a bit different. On 4 June Vellingk wrote that he needed more supplies before he could cross as the Saxons already had taken everything on the other side. It would also send bad signals if Vellingk went into Courland and had his army live off the land when the Polish Republic remained neutral. 


Source: Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 29  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:25 PM MEST
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Sunday, 14 August 2016
Personal initiative
Topic: Factoids

In 1975 Roland Persson published a dissertation called Rustningar i Sverige under det stora nordiska kriget. When studying how the effort to raise more troops at the outbreak of the war he discovered that some of the county governors in Finland acted quite independently from the government in Stockholm, in fact in some cases actually going directly against previous orders because they evaluated the situation differently. Persson states that this shows that local authorities in reality was given much more leeway than they theoretically had. 

Another example of the same thing is the decision in February 1700 by Governor General de la Gardie in Reval to order the mobilization of the Finnish regiments without waiting for orders from Stockholm. In a letter to Erik Dahlbergh in Riga, dated 9 March, Governor Vellingk mentions this decision by de la Gardie. Vellingk says that he personally will not dare to follow the example in absence of a direct request from Dahlbergh. The impression he had received from Dahlbergh's letters was that Riga was under no immediate threat. Hopefully the King's orders would soon arrive. Vellingk believed these would not only contain instructions to drive the Saxons back to Courland, but also permit an advance into the duchy. Surely the Polish Republic would welcome the removal of the Saxon forces?

In his letter to Dahlbergh Vellingk enclosed a copy of a letter he had written to de la Gardie.  Vellingk noted de la Gardie's actions and suggested that the Finnish regiiments should be quartered in the vicinity of Narva until orders from the King arrived. Small cavalry detachments could meanwhile operate against the Saxon raiding parties in Livonia.

On 13  April Vellingk again wrote to Dahlbergh. 12000 infantry and cavalry had passed through Narva and two more regiments were expected shortly. The entire force would number 18000 and that would be far more than Charles XI ever had in Scania during the war 1675-79, Vellingk wrote. This should be more than sufficient to handle the Saxon forces for quite some time and Vellingk had already reached agreements with Lt. Colonel Albedyhl, Lt. Colonel Schlippenbach and Captain Liewen for the recruiting of three new regiments. Vellingk would personally raise two more and de la Gardie was in the process of recruting one. So, Vellingk wrote, what could King Augustus do? He couldn't raise any more regiments in Saxony and had because of this been forced to get Danish regiments in. The Polish Republic had refused all cooperation and Brandenburg would not help him either. The only problem was that no firm orders had yet arrived from Stockholm as to how the campaign was to be conducted. 


Source: Uppsala University Library, Riga-Tartusamlingen, vol. 1. (nowadays rearranged as "Livonica" with different numbering) 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:17 PM MEST
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Sunday, 7 August 2016
Lindehielm 1700 : the end
Topic: Battles

Lindehielm sent his next report on 12 December. All was now quiet in the Keksholm area and Abraham Cronhjort had on the 10th passed through on his way to Nyen, where he was to take charge of the forces in Ingria. A lot of the soldiers under his command had already arrived and and another 2,000 were expected soon. This would give Cronhjort a force of about 6,000. Lindehielm enclosed a summary of the units which had gone to Nyen, in all about 2,100 cavalry and 1,900 infantry. He also included a letter from Colonel Appoloff in the camp at Duderhof, written on the 7th. Armfeldt had been sent to Narva eight days ago and was expected back with news. Jacob Höök from Sarishoff had visited the camp the previous day with news from Russia. According to Höök the Russian generals fleeing from Narva had plundered on their way back, taking people and cattle and anything else they could get their hands on. Everything which they had been unable to take had been burnt. The Czar had reportedly hastily gone back to Moscow, travelling both night and day. General Repnin, who had been ordered to Narva with 7,000 soldiers and ammunition, but failed to get there in time for the battle was now in hiding. Two other prominent Russians had been arrested and jailed in Novgorod.

Lindehielm wrote his next letter on the  21st. The news was scare, but the King had left Narva on the 13th in order to chase some Russian detachments near Dorpat. Marauders had also been appearing near Keksholm and in Ingria. 

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:01 PM MEST
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Sunday, 31 July 2016
December 1700
Topic: Battles

Anders Lindehielm sent his next letter to Stockhpolm on 4 December. He reported that no more news had arrived from Narva, but travellers coming from Nyen claimed that Charles XII had pursued the Russians and on 23 November inflcted a heavy defeat on them near Jamo. According to rumours there had been 6,000 Saxons at Narva. They had fought very hard, but most of them were killed. 

According to another rumour the Czar had held a large council of war before invading Ingria. During this meeting his Russian advisors had suggested an attack on Nyen and Nöteborg, but his German officers had voted against. According to them Narva would not be able to hold out very long. Nyen and Nöteborg would then fall more or less automatically, while Narva could serve as protection against the Swedish army. The Czar had been persuaded to choose the latter option, thereby saving Nyen and perhaps even Finland as it gave the Swedish side time to mobilize more forces. According to Lindehielm this fortunate escape clearly demonstrated the need for strengthening Nyen and Viborg. Lindehielm also suggested that the victory at Narva should be followed up by an invasion of Russia and the creation of a buffer against future attacks. The peasants in Viborg county held the same opinion, saying that they would never feel safe within the present borders.

Lindehielm closed by reporting that more troops were passing Viborg on their way to Nyen.

On the 7th Lindehielm wrote a new letter, enclosing an account of the Narva battle which he had received two days before from a man who came from Narva. He could also report a Russian attack near Salmis, where a Swedish officers had been captured and five guard houses been burnt. The garrison commander at Keksholm had requested reinforcements and Lindehielm had forwarded the request to Govenor Vellingk. 27 men of the Life dragoons had arrived at Viborg after having been shipwrecked.

The account of the Narva battle contained the following: the Swedish army had broken camp early on the 20th. At about noon it had reached the field where the Russian camp was. The King had been in overall command, with Rehnskiöld on one flank and Vellingk on the other. The assault began at 2 pm and lasted until after 5. It had been very successful, forcing the Russians back. Some had tried to flee across a bridge, but many of them had drowned. The Czar's most prominent generals, such as the "Prince of Siberia, Knees Dolgoruka and Knees Golowin" had eventually surrendered. General Weide had asked Vellingk for terms and the King had replied that the Russians would be free to go after laying down their arms and promising not to burn or plunder anymore. The Swedes had captured 130 guns and 30 mortars, provisions, ammunition and 150 colours. 

It had been said that the Czar had left 300000 thalers in the Russian camp, but the generals had only handed over 64000. The King had because of this arrested them. Sheremetev had fled before the attack. The victory was enormous, almost impossible to describe. The Swedes had lost 2,000 men, among them Major General Ribbing and Colonel Hans Henrik Rehbinder.

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:48 PM MEST
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Sunday, 24 July 2016
After Narva
Topic: Battles

Lindehielm sent his next report from Viborg on 27 November. No more details had arrived frpm Narva, but the previous report had been confirmed. The Russians were defeated and the road to Narva from the west open. They had also abandoned Koporie and the Czar had gone back to Russia. The road between Viborg and Narva was still unsafe. More soldiers were arriving from Finland and continuing to Nyen.

Lindehielm sent his next letter on the 30th. Finally more details were available. Colonel Aminoff had on the 25th gone from Reval to Porkala and sent a letter which arrived in Viborg on the 29th. Just as Lindehielm was writing more news arrived by way of Nyen. 

First the report from Reval: On the 24th one of General Vellingk's servants had arrived with a letter from Carl Gustaf Wrangel to Vellingk's wife. According to this report the King had on the 17th defeated 12,000 Russians at Pyhäjoggi and then continued towards Narva. When the Swedish army approached the Russian camp 10,000 Russians advanced against it, but these were immediately repulsed and the Swedes had followed up with an assault on the Russian camp. The battle continued until evening, when the Russians were forced to retreat towards their bridges. Some of them had drowned. Vellingk had Rehnskiöld had pursued, but had been forced to abandon this enterprise when night fell. Many houses in Narva had been destroyed by the Russian bombardment.

The second report came from the camp at Duderhof: Two officer's servants from Rehbinder's regiment had arrived from Narva. They said that the battle had continued until midnight. The King had attacked the Russian camp. The Russians had initially defended well, but had eventually been forced to yield. The King had let 1,800 prisoners go, but these had later been attacked by peasants and mostly been killed. Appoloff had recaptured churchbells at Koporie and he was going to give them back to the church at Duder. Armfeldt, his aide-de-camp, would be sent to the King in order to request permission for Appoloff to come to Narva. The Russian artillery at Narva had been captured - 150 guns and various mortars as well as a lot of ammunition. Judge Rosenmüller's corpse would be transported from Koporie to Nyen. 

Just as Appoloff was finishing his letter a few horsemen arrived from Narva. According to them 10,000 Russians had been killed in the battle and many more had drowned. 6,000 had surrendered. Major General Maydell and two colonels Rehbinder had been killed on the Swedish side, along with 3,000 soldiers.

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77. 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:12 PM MEST
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Sunday, 17 July 2016
Topic: Battles

Lindehielm sent his next report on the 13th. A lieutenant by the name of Knorring had arrived from Nyen, stating that the enemy had retreated beyond Duderhof. Colonel Appoloff intended to march towards Koporie with a few hundred men in order to collect information and see if it would be possible to attack the Russians, who appeared to fear something as they had withdrawn. Appoloff had requested that Lindehielm move towards Nyen with a force in order to be at hand if needed. Lindehielm had as result ordered those units and soldiers who were arriving at Viborg to move on. 

Next report was sent on the 16th. No more news had arrived from Narva, but reports from Nyen did not suggest any cause for concern. The feeling was that the arrival of the King and his force had made the Russians more careful. Appoloff was advancing towards Koporie.

On 20 November Lindehielm sent his next letter to Stockholm. Appoloff had crossed the Neva on the 15th and 16th. No more firing had been heard for 12 days, but last Sunday (the 18th) heavy gunfire had again been heard from the direction of Narva. According to a rumour from Keksholm the Russians had killed a leaseholder and his entire entourage, but the information was unreliable. It was claimed that the peasants at Sordavala had offered to march into Russia on a revenge mission if they were given muskets, powder and a good leader.

Letters from Nyen arrived just as Lindehielm wrote. They  said that peasants had captured a Russian who was carrying a lot of letters back to Russia. According to him there had only been one assault (on Ivangorod), which had resulted in heavy losses. 200 Russians had attacked Loppis and plundered two estates. There was no way of stopping them due to the shortage of soldiers.

On the 22nd Lindehielm wrote again. 106 infantry had arrived the previous evening, but their clothes were very poor so it was hardly påossible to let them continue to Nyen. 333 cavalry, which had not been able to get to Reval, were continuing to Nyen. The clergy was supposed to produce 30 dragoons, but there had been much delay despite the fact that the clergy should set a good example. Letters from Nyen stated that Appoloff was advancing towards Koporie and had yet to encounter any regular forces. 

Next letter was sent on the 25th. In this Lindehielm reported that a courier from Appoloff had arrived with a very pleasing report. At Duderhoff the Colonel had captured a peasant and a Russian soldier. These had said that the Czar had marched towards the King's army and there had been a heavy battle some 20 km west of Narva.  The Swedish had attacked so fiercely that the Russians had been thoroughly defeated, Narva relieved and many thousand of the enemy drowned when fleeing across a bridge. The Czar was supposedly at Jama. Koporie had been abandoned, leaving plenty of supplies and ammunition. A strong Swedish cavalry force was according to rumour already east of Narva. The King was safe. 

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:04 PM MEST
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Sunday, 10 July 2016
On the eve of Narva
Topic: Battles

Lindehielm sent his next report on 5 November 1700. In the morning following his previous letter on the 2th heavy firing had been from the direction of Narva. It had lasted several hours and been so intense that the earth trembled in Viborg. The feeling was that it must have come either from a battle or from an assault. No more firing had been heard thereafter apart from five shots in the evening and some more during the night. No news had arrived, so everyone was anxiously waiting for an explanation. Hopefully it meant that the Swedish army had arrived and forced the Russians to withdraw.

The "dubblering" from Nyland was ready to march and was expected at Viborg within two weeks. County Governor Cronhiort had received the King's orders to take charge of the forces in Ingria.  

Lindehielm's next report was sent on 9 November. No more heavy firing had been heard from the direction of Narva, only a few occasional shots now and then. Nothing had been heard from Nyen about the enemy's actions and no enemy activity had been reported from Nyslott or Keksholm. This hopefully meant that the enemy had not been able to achieve anything of consequence before the arrival of the King's army and had been forced to withdraw. 

The Swedish forces at Nyen were getting stronger and two companies from Nyland were expected at Viborg any day. Soldiers from Savolax and Viborg were also gathering, so if properly handled the Swedish forces would soon be able to go on the offensive. The Russians were however keeping a strong guard everywhere and were being assisted by the Russian peasants in Ingria. This made it very difficult get information about the enemy's real strength. 

Just as Lindehielm was about to send the letter some news arrived from Nyen. The most important piece of information was that one of Governor Vellingk's men had managed to escape from captivity. According to him there had been no assault on Narva, but there was supposedly more than 100 000 Russians outside the town. A recently arrived peasant had said that the enemy had already lost 10 000 men. Many were dead and others had deserted. The latter were complaining about the lack of supplies - nothing to eat but boiled rye. There was no hay for the horses, so they had to make do with chopped branches of willow.

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:49 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 17 July 2016 8:19 PM MEST
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