Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« November 2016 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Artillery personnel
Great Embassy
Prisoners of war
Source criticism
The Great Northern War
Sunday, 27 November 2016
24 March 1702 : part 2
Topic: Diplomacy

In the afternoon Piper held another meeting, undoubtedly of more lasting consequences. The Grand Treasurer of Lithuania Benedykt Sapieha, his ally Kazimierz Michał Pac and one of his sons along with one of Hetman Sapieha's sons met with Piper, Josias Cederhielm and Georg Wachschlager, the Swedish envoy in Warsaw. After some initial pleasantries the Grand Treasurer expressed his gratitude for the assistance given to his family by Charles XII. Pac pointed out that his actions had resulted in breaking up of the recent diet in Warsaw. Piper assured him that Charles XII was well aware of it and would remember Pac's effort. Piper then asked Sapieha to list the issues he wanted to have discussed and clarified. They were:

1. What were the King's intentions? 

2. That Sapieha and the magnates he had consulted wanted a good relationship beween Sweden and the Republic. 

3. That they wanted a such a close relationship between Sweden and the Republic that the interests of the two countries would be firmly united.

4. That a suitable method for bringing this into fruition would be found. 

Benedykt Sapieha then asked: Did Charles XII still insist on having King Augustus removed from the throne? Yes, Piper replied, Charles could not change his mind on that point as he viewed the dethronisation as the only method of bringing security to Sweden as well as to the Republic. Sapieha agreed and stated the most Poles shared this view, but they had not had the resources to act. There was also uncertainty about the Swedish intentions. Some believed that Charles wanted to make large conquests from the Republic. It was, Sapieha emphasized, absolutely vital for Charles to make a firm statement about his aims. Piper replied that these were well-known and the King was a man of his word. It was unnecessary to have doubts on this point. Charles XII wanted to have Augustus removed because this was the only way to bring Sweden and the Republic together in an alliance for mutual benefit. The King's program was:

1. The removal of King Augustus

2. The election of a new Polish king with whom a good friendship could be entertained.

3. The full restitution of the Sapieha family.

The first two had long been the King's position, but the third was new. Charles XII had realized, Piper said, that he and the Sapieha family had a common interest. The Sapiehas had proved their friendship and deserved Swedish support. While Piper explained this, the Grand Treasurer got tears in his eyes and said that the Sapiehas would for the rest of their lives remain faithful to Charles. The Republic was, he assured Piper, well pleased with the King's declaration of his intentions.

(To be continued...)

Source: Riksarkivet, Diplomatica, Polonica, vol. 310

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:08 PM CET
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 20 November 2016
24 March 1702 : part 1
Topic: Diplomacy

On 24 March 1702 Carl Piper, head of the Field Chancery, held a couple of important meetings in Jurburg (Jurbarkas) on the right bank of the river Neman. He first held talks with Mikołaj Franciszek Ogiński, Court Treasurer of Lithuania. Oginski claimed that he had been sent by Prince Jakub Ludwik Sobieski with an important mission. Oginski wanted the Swedish forces to continue advancing towards Warsaw in order to force King Augustus to flee. The whole army would not be needed, Oginski suggested. 3,000-4,000 would be entirely sufficient. It would also be advisable to have some units march on Vilnius. The most important part of his mission from Prince Jakub did however concern the Cossacks and Tatars. They would be able to give Sweden assistance in the war with Russia. Oginski possessed, he claimed, estates near the border to the Cossacks and they had told him of their fear of Russia and how the Czar already had begun to limit their rights. The Cossacks had informed both Cardinal Radziejowski and Prince Jakub of their need for foreign support and they had thought it best to contact Charles XII. 

Piper replied that it seemed risky to make contact with the Cossacks, who had "neither head nor firm decisions" - Mazepa had been arrested by the Czar and had no deputy. Oginski said that the arrest of Mazepa had caused a lot of irritation among the Cossacks, but there were 15 colonels who corresponded with each other about the important decisions. 

Help could also be obtained from the Tatars if they received money. But, the Swedes replied, the Tatars were allied with the Ottoman Empire. Could they really go to war wíth Russia without his permission? Oginski did not give a clear reply to this, but said that the Ottomans were less than happy with the Russians and the Tatars feared that the Czar had designs on their land. 

Piper promised that he would bring the matter to the King's attention and praised Oginski's devotion. Oginski assured Piper that he had taken no part in his brother's rebellion - they had always been in disagreement. The Court Treasurer said that he would send a message through his son in Vilnius and recommend Grzegorz Antoni to make peace with the Sapiehas. 


Source: Riksarkivet, Diplomatica, Polonica, vol. 310. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:46 PM CET
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 13 November 2016
The artist Erik Dahlbergh
Topic: Battles

Örjan Martinsson has recently in his blog published a number of short essay on drawings and paintings of GNW war battles and the possibility of using them as sources for uniforms and colours. On 24 January 1702 Governor General Dahlbergh wrote a letter to the Chancery College, outlining the work he had managed to do in regard to illustrating the battles of Charles XII. In the letter Dahlbergh emphasized that these drawings should be seen as a continuation of the ones he had previously made for the military history of Charles X Gustavus and Charles XI. The list goes as follows:

1. A geographical drawing of the town of Riga with surroundings and the events from the beginning of the war.

2. Two prospects of the town of Riga and the events.

3. A drawing of the bombardment and the assault on Dünamünde.

4. A scenographic drawing of the crossing of the Düna and the great victory.

5. An ichnographic drawing of the fortress of Narva and the Russian siege.

6. A perspective drawing of Narva and the Swedish assault on the Russian camp.

7. A prospect of Mitau.

Would the Chancery please look at these drawings and determine if they were suited for illustrating a future history of the war? If others were able to produce better works, Dahlbergh would be happy to take a step back. His only wish was to show devotion to his dear Fatherland.

Some of the preparations for these drawings can be followed in Dahlbergh's correspondence, mot notably in the letters from Henning Rudolf Horn in Narva (which I believe I have written about earlier). These shows that Dahlbergh was very adamant about getting accurate sources for his own works, i.e. had drawings made by officers who had been present in Narva during the siege.

Source: Riksarkivet, Kanslikollegium E VII: 5-6 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:39 PM CET
Updated: Monday, 14 November 2016 9:34 AM CET
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 6 November 2016
Schlippenbach's "enemies"
Topic: Battles

In his analysis of the Errastfer defeat the major general hinted that certain people were responsible for delaying his expected reinforcements. Who were they? One of Governor General Dahlbergh's letters gives a hint. On 4 February 1702 he wrote to Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt, saying that Schlippenbach in rather shocking terms had accused him of delaying the rasing of militia cavalry units from the small towns in Livonia. Dahlbergh found Schlippenbachs expressions most offensive, but was prepared to drop the matter if Strömfelt made the situation clear to the major general. If the latter was not prepared to let the matter rest it would be best to let the King decide. The following day Dahlbergh wrote to Strömfelt's colleague Mikael von Strokirch, telling him to use a planned visit to Schlippenbach's headquarters for persuading the major general to make better arrangements.

The King had already reached a similar conclusion. On 16 January he had written to Strokirch and Strömfelt, ordering them to go to Schlippenbach and discuss how the Livonian army was to be supplied. On 18 February Strömfelt sent a report to Dahlbergh. According to this it had soon become clear to the participants that Livonia could not provide everything the soldiers needed. The discussions had ended with the decision to send a formal appeal to King, asking him for support from Stockholm as well as from Finland. They were reluctant to ask for more recruits from Livonia leaseholders and officials as it could cause further supply problems, so the recommendation was requests for horses, wagons, clothes and shoes rather than for more men. As for the militia from Estonia they were rather troubled by the costs and suggested it would be more useful if these units were used as a recruiting pool for other regiments, thereby bringing the raw recruits into already well disciplined and well trained units. 

On the same day Strokirch, Strömfelt and Schlippenbach also sent a joint report to Charles XII. The King replied on 10 April, categorically dismissing the suggestion to make changes to the militia units. He also turned down the proposal to bring supplies from Finland as these must go to Cronhjort's army. As for the supplies in Livonia the King rejected the suggested construction of depots. It would be better if the supplies were kept at the various estates where they were produced, thereby limiting the risks for massive losses if the enemy attacked. To permanently keep 1,000 horses by the army (another proposal) just for bringing forward supplies was simply impossible and could not be accepted.


LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 74

Riksarkivet, Livonica II, vol. 126 

Riksarkivet, Riksregistraturet

Riksarkivet, Gustaf Adolf Strömfelts arkiv, vol. 4 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:31 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2016 8:48 PM CET
Post Comment | Permalink
Monday, 31 October 2016
After Errastfer
Topic: Battles
Shortly after the battle of Errastfer Schlippenbach sent the King an extensive account of the battle. A couple of days later (5 January 1702) he added his own analysis. Schlippenbach emphasized that he had always attempted to serve Charles to the best of his ability and the defeat was primarily a result of the cavalry not having done its duty. It was impossible, the major general wrote, to rely on such soldiers. Could the King not send some reinforcements? The units sent in September had only partially reached him. Albedyhl’s dragoons were supposed to be 300, but were only 60. Only ¼ of Stenbock’s dragoons were with the army and Wactmeister’s regiment was 120 men short.
Schlippenbach’s brother had also been ordered to join the army, but his unit had neither received supplies nor weapons. I dare not, the major general stated, write everything because of fear that those who have caused these problems will take their revenge on me. The artillery had done very well, especially captain Sonnenberg who had been forced to assist in loading the guns. The guns had 25 to 30 shots each and had used up all but 3-4. If the cavalry had had not begun to flee so quickly the guns would have been saved and the army could have stopped its retreat much earlier.
Schlippenbach had, he stated, done everything he could and no one could reasonably blame him for the defeat. All the officers had done their duty, so the fault lay with the common soldiers in the cavalry. The major general had brought the executioner from Dorpat to set an example. 
Source: Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol.  24.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:46 PM MEST
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 23 October 2016
The bold Schlippenbach
Topic: Factoids

In 1719 Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach, by then in the service of Czar Peter, claimed that he upon receiving his promotion to Major General in 1701 had replied to Charles XII: "Thank you, but I would have preferred 7,000- 8,000 soldiers". This is (naturally) quite untrue. On 2 October 1701 Schlippenbach acknowledged the arrival of his promotion and expressed his gratitude. There was nothing he would rather do for the rest of his life, Schlippenbach wrote, than serve the King and try his outmost to please him. 

The closest to this dramatic (but apparently untrue) warning can be found in Schlippenbach's letter dated 6 September. After relating the recent fairly successful skirmishes he points out the enemy's numerical superiority and his own army's weakness, asking for instructions and reinforcements. Upon receiving this dispatch in Grobin on 16 September Charles XII immediately acted accordingly, sending the regiments of Fritz Wachtmeister and Erik Stenbock as well as 300 men from Albedyhl's dragoons and another 50 dragoons just arrived at Reval. The King also ordered Governor General Dahlbergh to send 937 from the garrison at Riga and nearby post. Charles had carefully looked at Dahlbergh's dispositions and decided that the post at Kobron could be brought down from 190 men to 30. By making similar savings elsewhere (6 men here, 42 there, 24 here, 18 there etc.) he managed to scrape together almost 1,000 infantry, which together with the other reinforcements more or less doubled the size of Schlippenbach's force. Charles realized that this may still prove to be insufficient and gave Schlippenbach full control of corps in Livonia. If the newly appointed major general believed the situation forced him to retreat there was no need to ask for permission first - Schlippenbach had every right to conduct the campaign as he saw fit. Advance or retreat, it was Schlippenbach's call to make. Similar instructions were issued to Cronhjort in Ingria, a fact which rather disproves the old myth that Charles was reluctant to delegate.


Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol 23-24

Riksarkivet, Riksregistraturet 

Ustryalov, N., Istoriya Tsarstvovaniya Petra Velikago. Tom 4 Chast 2. - Saint Petersburg, 1863

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:00 PM MEST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Sunday, 16 October 2016
Jean Charles de Folard
Topic: Archives

Among the many French soldiers who entered Swedish service during the Great Northern War few acquired the reputation of Jean Charles de Folard (perhaps better known as Chevalier de Folard). His letters to Goertz form the basis for chapter IX in Charles de Coynard biographic study (1914). Folard greatly admired Charles XII and went to Sweden in 1716. An illness forced him to return to France in the autumn of 1717, but the ship he was travelling on was wrecked off Skagen. In Folard's company was Hans Gyllenskepp, who was carrying secret dispatches for Poniatowski. Folard lost most of his luggage, including manuscripts and letters, but survived and got back to France. He was still planning to return to Sweden when Charles fell in November 1718. 

What Coynard did not know was that some letters from Folard to Charles remain, well hidden in a private archive. They suggest that Folard and Charles had immersed themselves in discussions about ancient history as well as about more practical matters. On 23 June 1718 Folard writes to the King that he has sent a drawing of a gun carriage for naval use and has been working on similar inventions for field and siege artillery. Due to the risk of them being captured by the enemy he has not yet forwarded those plans, but will do so if the King requests it. He also writes about a rifle which will fire five shots in the time an ordinary musket fires one. 

The second surviving letter is dated Paris 28 August 1718. Folard discusses at some length the reasons behind Alexander's great success against the Persians and the exploits of Caesar. Folard seems to suggest that these ancient examples proves that a smaller force can succeed by a rapid and determined assault (something Charles undoubtedly fully agreed with).

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:49 PM MEST
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 9 October 2016
Guns and ammunition from Courland
Topic: Archives

When the Swedish army took control of Courland in 1701 they came upon considerable amounts of guns and ammunition. On 26 September Governor General Dahlbergh wrote to Major General Carl Gustaf Mörner in Mitau, asking him about the size and quality of the captured items. Mörner was blunt in his reply. Very little was of any use. The hand grenades were so brittle that they broke into pieces if dropped to the floor. The cannonballs and musket balls were of the wrong caliber and not worth wasting any time on.

During the attempts to strengthen the Peipus squadron the following year a new attempt was made. Would it possible to obtain guns from the iron works at Angern? The result was not much better. On 22 March Nils Klintenhielm wrote from Mitau that the boring house had burnt down five years earlier, so no guns could be produced there and none were available at Mitau. The only items available at Angern were horseshoes and nails - of little use to a navy.


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

Riksarkivet, Gustaf Adolf Strömfelts arkiv, vol. 16 

Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Dorpat-Rigasamlingen, vol. 1 (these papers later rearranged and renamed "Livonica".)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:55 PM MEST
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 2 October 2016
Hedvig Sofia
Topic: Archives

Charles XII was extremely fond of his two sisters Hedvig Sofia and Ulrika Eleonora. It is well known that the news of Hedvig Sofia's death, which had arrived just before Poltava, was kept from him for quite some time because his entourage feared that such a blow could cause grave damage to his health. Charles XII and his eldest sister were very close, which her letters to him clearly show. Upon hearing the news from Narva she wrote to him on 7 December 1700. The first report had reached Stockholm on the 4th and futher confirmation had arrived the next day. The joy was indescribable, the Duchess wrote. God would undoubtedly continue to help and bring the Polish business to a quick resolution.

On the 28th the Duchess wrote again, thanking the King for a greeting sent by Arvid Horn and for the account of the battle by Carl Gustaf Wrangel. It was obvious, she wrote, that a very thorough fact checker had been at work. This was particularly pleasing as it proved that the King had not forgotten his devoted sister. May the Lord continue to protect His Majesty and help him carry out all his plans. I only wish, the Duchess wrote, that I will one day have an opportunity to meet Your Majesty again.

In her next letter, dated 29 January 1701, Hedvig Sofia jokingly informed Charles that some of the women at court had become soldiers and had enrolled her. They had their own uniforms and was now preparing to sail to Livonia. They would surely frighten the Russians more than the Russians would frighten them. The life at court was merry, but the King was missed. When he returned it would surely become even merrier.

On 4 February Hedvig Sofia gently reprimanded her brother. She was pleased with the greetings sent through Arvid Horn, but wished the King would write himself. She did not particularly like the stories about his disregard for his health. On him rested all hopes and he should take better care of himself. 

Source: Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 38 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:05 PM MEST
Post Comment | Permalink
Sunday, 25 September 2016
Vellingk's second thoughts : part 4
Topic: Battles

On 25 July 1700 Vellingk was forced to inform Charles XII that the Saxons had been able to cross the Düna in force. In light of the General's previous optimistic assessments of the situation this must have embarrassed him. What had happened?

Well, according to Vellingk the cause was Governor General Dahlbergh's failure to keep the army supplied. Otto Vellingk had, he stated, repeatedly asked Dahlbergh for bread but none had arrived. Major General Maydell's advance party of 2,700 men had been without bread for three days and had been unable to remain. On the 20th Vellingk had anvanced towards the Saxons with his entire army, but they had already built a formidable camp near the shore. Vellingk placed his force in battle order, but could not get the Saxons to attack. Finally he had been forced to withdraw towards Yxkull. The Saxons pursued and as Vellingk considered them to be significantly stronger (about 14,000 to 15,000 men) than his own army (about 8,000), he decided to continue his withdrawal. During this two squadrons of the Åbo Cavalry were attacked, but the enemy pulled back when these were supported by infantry. The enemy had used a peculiar tactic. Each horseman was supported by a musketeer sitting beside him, who stepped forward and fired when the cavalry was about to attack. The Swedish cavalry withstood this fire as well as the fire from the Saxon horse and returned fire. A lot of Saxons were killed and 30 Saxons horses with empty saddles came over to Swedes. 

In this situation Vellingk sent an officer to Dahlbergh, informing the Governor General that only two options remained. Either to fight the Saxons, in which case Dahlbergh ought to send 2,000 men from the Riga garrison or further retreat. Dahlbergh replied by sending Governor Frölich and colonels Wangersheim and Albedyhl, who informed Vellingk that no reinforcements from the garrison were possible. Instead Vellingk should detach 4,000 infantry from his own army as well as some cavalry. Vellingk accepted and kept only 1,600 infantry. Dahlbergh also took 400 cavalry. This meant, Vellingk wrote, that the garrison in Riga was stronger than the Saxon infantry.

Vellingk hoped that the events would not be harshly judged by the King. All the officers under his command had conducted  themselves very well and he hoped that no one would be able spread unfavorable stories. He could have crossed the Düna himself, but too much was lacking. There was a shortage of fodder for the horses and the two Governor Generals had not been very helpful. 

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

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:49 PM MEST
Post Comment | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older