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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 7 May 2017
The High Court of Dorpat in 1700
Topic: Archives

I recently bought Heikki Pihlajamäki's new book Conquest and the Law in Swedish Livonia. On page 135 he speaks of a "mystery" which was quite unknown to me. Apparently there has been some confusion as to what happened with regard to the Court once war broke out in February. Margus Laidre has apparently claimed that it relocated to Reval under armed escort, while Heinz von zur Mühlen stated that it went to Riga. Pihjalamäki mentions that the letters from the High Court clearly shows that it from January 1703 had its seat in Riga. 

The correspondence of the Governor General of Livonia is able to clear up a few things. On 9 March 1700 Charles XII wrote to Colonel Skytte in Dorpat (a letter which is missing in Riksregistraturet), telling him to bring the archive of the Court to safety in Pernau or Reval if the military situation started to appear dangerous. Some time later the Court itself had turned to the King for help and on 10 April he sent a new letter to Skytte (not in Riksregistraturet, but a copy is preserved in LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288). Charles ordered Skytte to start moving the archive immediately. 

Skytte got this letter about a month later and quickly informed Governor General Dahlbergh. All preparations had been made, he reported, but as the latest news from Riga was encouraging it seemed unnecessary to go through with the transfer. Was it really worth the cost, especially as the Court had changed its mind about relocating?

Dahlbergh tentatively agreed to postpone, but wrote the Court to confirm the change of heart. He noted that the fortunes of war could shift again, but he was quite happy to disregard the King's instructions if the Court did not want to move. 

And so it stayed.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:43 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2017 6:55 PM MEST
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Monday, 1 May 2017
De la Barre
Topic: Archives

Among the family archives preserved in Tartu one finds some volumes from the de la Barre family. Its most prominemt member during the Great Northern War was Lt. General Reinhold Johan de la Barre (166?-1724), who served under Armfelt in Finland, Sweden and Norway. One prominent letter from this collection was brought to light by Greta Wieselgren in an article in Svio-Estonica 1938. The letter was sent by Charles XII on 16 October 1718 and it contains a unequivocal instruction to de la Barre: he has to make sure that the King's orders are followed to the letter even if no one in the army survives. Parts of the letter echoes the King's sentiment towards the surrender at Perevolochna: those in command should not enter into discussions but rather give clear and distinct orders. They should not rely on reports from regimental commanders but look for themselves. 

Wieselgren apparently never noted that the archive contains much more military material, both from the first years of the GNW and from 1719-1721. One notable item is a letter from the aide-de-camp Major G. W. Marcks von Würtemberg, written in Långå at 5 in the morning on 26 December 1718. The existence of this document has been known for a long time. In his book about Armfelt's campaign in Norway Gustaf Petri mentions that Marcks on the very same day wrote to Armfelt that the reports of the King's death had been confirmed. This letter never reached Armfelt, but the earlier message Marcks mentions that he sent de la Barre has - in Tartu. 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:59 PM MEST
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Sunday, 23 April 2017
The fall of Dünamünde
Topic: Sieges

On 13 March 1700 the fortress Dünamünde surrendered after a Saxon assault during the night between the 11th and 12th had ended in a spectacular failure. According to Kungl. Fortifikationens historia 3:2 Charles XII on 19 April ordered Dahlbergh to investigate the circumstances surrounding Col. Budberg's decision to hand over the fortress. Munthe further states that the King countermanded this order on 26 November. 

Munthe's statements are not entirely accurate. What the King did on 26 November was to permit Dahlbergh to postpone the inquest until Governor Frölich returned from a visit to the headquarters and some officers from the garrison were back in Riga.

The inquest does in fact appear to have gone on for some time. In a letter to Charles XII on 24 August 1701 the prosecutor Ingel Biörndahl notes that he had reminded the King about this issue on 25 March. Charles had replied that the inquest had to be postponed for the time being. In his new letter Björndahl, stating that he considered the matter to be of great importance, asked for new orders. The King this time agreed and on 22 November ordered that a certain Lt. Westman (who had been present at Dünamünde) be instructed to cooperate with Biörndahl.

On 14 December Biörndahl wrote to Governor General Dahlbergh, reporting that the commission had met for the first time the previous day. They had then discovered that important witness Westman (now promoted to captain) had been arrested and Biörndahl requested that Dahlbergh permitted an interrogation.

On 16 January 1702 Biörndahl wrote again. Colonel Budberg had claimed that he had not received any instructions from Dahlbergh. If instructions had indeed been sent, the Commission wanted to have a look at them. They were also interested in seeing the explanation given to Dahlbergh by Budberg.

The inquest seems to have continued in February, but it's unclear to me how and when it ended.  


EAA 278.001.XV-50 

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 149

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 294

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 316 

Munthe, L., Kungl. Fortifikationens historia 3:2. - Stockholm, 1909-1911 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:06 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 23 April 2017 8:15 PM MEST
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Sunday, 16 April 2017
Patkul almost goes to Finland
Topic: Livonia

On 14 january 1693 Charles XI ordered the transfer of Captain Johan Reinhold Patkul to Finland, where he was to take charge of a company in the Åbo infantry regiment. The order was delivered to Governor General Hastfer the following day. According to Alvin Isberg Patkul reacted on 2 February by asking to be discharged. 

This is quite impossible. As Anton Buchholtz pointed out already in 1893 the information did not reach Riga until 23 February. Soop immediately informed Patkul, who was ill, and acknowledged the order in a message to Hastfer. Soop ordered Patkul to hand over his company on 1 March. On 14 March Hastfer again wrote to Soop, explaining the situation: Patkul had in late 1692 been ordered to Kokenhusen, but had lodged a protest with Hastfer, explaining that it would be very difficult for him to go there. Patkul had explained that he would rather choose to resign. The King had subsequently decided to solve the problem by ordering Patkul to Finland. This, the Governor General stated, meant that the Patkul problem was out of his hands - the troublesome captain no longer served in his regiment and was no longer the responsibility of the Governor General of Livonia. If Patkul wanted to resign his commission he should go to Åbo and do it there. 

Patkul seems at first have been intent on going (or at least to give the impression he was). At the beginning of April he wrote Soop, asking to receive his outstanding wages for the period he had served in Riga.

So did Patkul actually go? The evidence is less than clear. The pay records for the regiment lists him as being in charge of company n:o 8 as late as in the autumn of 1694. A note has been added stating that since Patkul had been sentenced to death in December 1694 he would not get paid. However, based on a number of preserved Patkul letters from 1693 it would seem that he never went. So how did he get away with that? Probably either by claiming to be too ill to travel or (more likely) by saying that there was a lot of unfinished business he needed to take care of before leaving. 

It should of course be noted that Patkul in July 1693 went to Courland and refused to return unless he received guarantees. These were not given until March 1694 and in May he came to Stockholm.  


Krigsarkivet, Krigskollegium, Militiekontoret G IV b: 47

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 44 

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 47 

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 142 

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol. 202

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol.  217

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:04 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 17 April 2017 6:55 PM MEST
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Sunday, 9 April 2017
Wenden 1692
Topic: Livonia

On 29 December 1691 Johann Reinhold Patkul returned to Riga from his mission to Sweden. Shortly after that the Livonian nobility asked Governor Soop for permission to meet on 28 February 1692. When Alvin Isberg in 1953 published his study Karl XI och den livländska adeln 1684-1695 he did not have access to the archive of the Livonian Governor General, so he could not fully examine how Governor Soop handled this issue and what sort of instructions he received from Governor General Hastfer, who for health reasons was in Germany.  Anton Buchholtz, who in 1893 published a biography of Patkul, had access but choose to focus on the aftermath rather than on the prelude. 

As far as I can tell from primarily the letterbooks (outgoing correspondence of Governor Soop) the request by the nobility was not made until mid-January 1692. The first mention of it is in a letter from Soop to Hastfer, dated 21 January. In this Soop states that the nobility has sent a letter to him asking for permission to meet at Dorpat. Soop had replied that it was most unusual to hold a Landtag at Dorpat and that the regulations clearly stated that it should be held at Riga or Wenden. There was, Soop had stated, no need to hurry. If many of the leading nobles found it difficult to meet outside Dorpat as they were members of the Court of Appeals, it was entirely possible to wait until the court's sessions had ended. Soop had also pointed out that he would find it difficult to come to Dorpat, so if the issues really were pressing the meeting should at least be held in Wenden.

The nobility had however been unwilling to accept Soop's decision, so he had eventually accepted their choice of Dorpat. In his letter he reminded Hastfer that the Governor General had earlier indicated that it would for certain reasons be better to keep such meetings away from Riga, so Soop hoped that Dorpat would be acceptable.

I have not found Hastfer's reply, but the content of it can be deduced from a subsequent letter from Soop, dated 18 February. Apparently the Governor General had refused to accept the reasons given by the nobility and on 3 February written to Soop explicitly forbidding them to meet at Dorpat. In the letter Soop states that the nobility had received the news with astonishment and suggested that it meant a complete ban. Soop had however replied that it did not: both Hastfer and Charles XI had approved their request, so they only needed to find a more acceptable place. The Governor had indicated that they should perhaps delay the matter somewhat and then meet at Riga, but after some deliberations the representatives of the nobility had asked permission to hold the meeting as soon as possible and at Wenden. Soop had after careful consideration of the instructions given to him by the King and by Hastfer decided to grant their wish. The meeting would begin in Wenden on 11 March with Soop present to keep an eye on things. 

On 11 March Soop his first report from Wenden. He had arrived the previous day. His intention had been to present the nobility with proposals more or less immediately, but as very few of the nobles had arrived he was forced to wait. On 23 March Soop sent a more extensive report to Hastfer. It deals however almost exclusively with the resignation of Landrat Vietinghoff and does not all mention any remarkable developments. As Isberg noted in his dissertation - the key discussions at Wenden seems to have gone unnoticed by Soop despite the fact that he was present from 10 March to 17 March.

Some time later Hastfer independently found out what had really taken place at Wenden and immediately informed Charles XI. The King was not pleased - as Soop soon found out.

An odd detail is that according to Isberg the first report from Hastfer dated 19 May 1692 reached the King at the beginning of June. The King then replied on 14 June. However, in LVVA there is preserved a letter from Charles XI to Hastfer dated as early as 14 May, which refers to a letter by the Governor General from the 19th preceding (!).

Isberg built his version on Hastfer's letter to the King and a copy of the King's reply (in Riksregistraturet). The letter in LVVA is however an original, signed by Charles and countersigned by Carl Piper. According to a note it was received by Hastfer in The Hague on 12 July 1692. Could it really have been on the road for two months? It seems unlikely, but Hastfer apparently left Frankfurt am Main in April and continued to Ems and The Hague. Could this explain the delay or is the original incorrectly dated? A peculiar mistake to make as late as the 14th.

According to Isberg Hastfer had an informant in Wenden and this would seem to indicate that the King's original is in fact correctly dated: the informant writes to Hastfer already in mid-March, Hastfer gets this letter some weeks later in Frankfurt am Main (where he had stayed for several months) and then proceeds to inform the King on 19 April. Neither the informant nor Hastfer would likely have hesitated before acting on such a matter, so 19 May and 14 June would from that perspective seem unlikely. But it is perhaps best to leave the issue open for the time being.



LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 44
LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 46
LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 142

Isberg, A., Karl XI och den livländska adeln 1684-1695. - Lund, 1953

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 9 April 2017 10:04 AM MEST
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Sunday, 2 April 2017
Carl Adam Stackelberg
Topic: Archives

The Baltic manorial archives have suffered large losses bevause of wars and revolutions, but some parts remain. One of these is the Stackelberg family archive (EAA.1862), preserved in Tartu. Notable from a GNW perspective are some volumes connected to Carl Adam Stackelberg (1669-1749), who first served in Livonia and later in the German provinces as well as during the Norwegian campaign in 1718. One of the earliest volumes is EAA.1862.1.16, which is labelled Memoriale /Konzepte/ und Schreiben an Könige, Generäle und Andere aus der Zeit des Nordischen Krieges und später and supposedly containing items from 1708-1710. 

The content is however of a different nature The largest document discusses whether it would be a good idea if Frederick of Hesse became King in accordance with the wishes of his wife Queen Ulrika Eleonora. The undated and anonymous memorial was obviously written some time in late 1719, after the Diet of 1719 and before the Diet of 1720 had started. The author is quite enthusiastic about Frederick, but formulates some conditions for his succession to the throne. If for example the Queen died the King should not be permitted to marry without the consent of the estates. The author is also very concerned about the future of the constitution, suggesting that one way to avoid an return of autocracy would be a sort of federal system made up of Sweden, Scania and the Baltic provinces. If two of these in one way or another agreed to the restoration of autocracy the third part could (if I understand the argument correctly) refuse to take part and seek support from foreign powers.

The author also believes it necessary to put Frederick on the throne in order to further pursue the war against the Czar. Without strong leadership it will be impossible to make an impression on the Russian ruler and to start a military operation to recapture Livonia. (This was of course very high on the agenda of the Swedish government after the death of Charles XII, i.e. to make peace with the other enemies, form a large European alliance and then undertake a large joint attack on Russia in order to force the Czar to moderate his terms. The Treaty of Nystad in 1721 was the logical conclusion to this rather far-fetched scheme). 

As far as I can tell none of the documents are in fact from 1708-1710, but rather about a decade younger. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:47 PM MEST
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Sunday, 26 March 2017
Karolinska krigares dagböcker
Topic: Literature

The famous publication Karolinska krigares dagböcker has for some time been available online through Projekt Runeberg. The twelve volumes are now also online at the site Litteraturbanken, where it is also possible to search the volumes for certain names or terms, for example like this.

It should be noted that this function means searching not only the journals and reports themselves, but also the introductions and footnotes by August Quennerstedt. These sometimes contain errors, which also appear in the indexes. One significant example is in volume XII, which contains Stenbock's account of his expedition in the winter of 1702/03. He frequently mentions a certain Potocki, who Quennerstedt (with limited access to Polish works) identifies as Józef Potocki (1675-1751), the later Great Hetman of the Crown. This is however incorrect, Stenbock's counterpart was Michał Potocki (c. 1660-1749), starosta of Krasnystaw and Crown Field Writer. The story of Michał  Potocki is a good example of the absurdity of the old view that Charles XII never forgot what he considered a betrayal. Potocki had made a deal with the Swedes before Stenbock started his expedition, but did not honor it. This did not stop the King from accepting him a couple of years later. Michał Potocki then fought on the Swedish side at Kalisz, where he fled. He subsequently acted rather carefully keeping his options open, but eventually joined Charles XII at Bender. So the supposedly harsh Charles ("the sword does not jest") forgave Potocki not just once, but at least twice (and possible even three times).

Charles was much more of a politician than subsequent historians have given him credit for - partially because they (just as Quennerstedt) did not fully understand what the sources told them. There were a lot of Potockis and Lubomirskis in early 18th century Poland and the sources must be carefully analyzed in order to separate them from each other. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:00 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2017 8:02 PM MEST
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Sunday, 19 March 2017
Harald Igelström
Topic: Judiciary

Some weeks ago I mentioned the curious case of Harald Igelström, who during Christmas 1691 had murdered two people in Dorpat. The case was initially handled by the town court, but as Igelström belonged to a noble family it was subsequently handed over to the appellate court. This court in eventually sentenced Igelström to death, but just before he managed to escape. His escape became a major scandal as he had been assisted by a certain lieutenant Anrep and a student by the name of Witte. The matter went as far as to the King in Stockholm, who in June decided that a special commission would have to investigate. It did not end there as Igelström during his flight had stopped at the estate of Major Otto Wilhelm Klodt - in order to marry Klodt's daughter. They had apparently managed to find a priest for the ceremony and the latter now became the focus of another investigation. The Igelström investigation was apparently not closed until May 1693. 

A letter from the prosecutor Eichler to Governor Soop in Riga, dated Dorpat 29 February 1692, gives the first report about Igelström's escape. He had the preceding day just after noon run out of the jail (without a cap) and jumped up in a waiting sledge, quickly disappearing out of sight. He had apparently been assisted by Anrep and Witte. One of them had stopped the soldiers who wanted to pursue Igelström and the other had been standing by the sledge, hindering a corporal who had attemped to interfere. According to Eichler another group of people had been waiting for Igelström some distance off and these had helped him change from the sledge to a horse. Eichler even claimed that fresh horses had been ready along the way, which of course meant that the escape had been very well planned and had involved a lot of people.


Rahvusarhiiv, Tartu, EAA.278.1.XV-25


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:23 PM MEST
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Sunday, 12 March 2017
More from Tartu
Topic: Archives

The Estonian National Archives in Tartu (formerly Estonian Historical Archives) used to have a fantastic service level (as a mentioned a couple of weeks ago). After the opening of the new building they have somehow managed to improve further on it. Orders which used to take a couple of weeks to fill have recently been ready in just days and the fee seems to be even lower than it used to be. I have dealt with quite a few Swedish and foreign archives during the last 20 years, both by mail and in person, and Tartu stands without equals thus far. 

Ordering scans of entire volumes is obviously a bit hit and miss, but occasionally something interesting turns up. This time I found some of the missing material from 1692 about the Russian Old Believers and their first arrival in eastern Livonia. Documents mentioned by Gustaf Adolf Strömfelt some years later turned up in a volume where I didn't expect them to be. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:20 PM MEST
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Sunday, 5 March 2017
The Gottorp Fury
Topic: Factoids

In the spring of 1698 Duke Frederick IV of Holstein-Gottorp arrived in Stockholm, where he was to marry Princess Hedvig Sophia, the sister of Charles XII. The Duke was almost 11 years older than Charles and (if foreign diplomats are to be believed) made a deep impression him - resulting in a number of adventures. These almost always find their way into biographies of Charles, more often than not markedly overshadowing the rather dull everyday work the King spent most of his time on. 

The alleged incident historians particulary love is said to have taken place in late May/early June, when according to the French envoy D'Avaux the King and his cousin spent 8 days decapitating dogs, sheep and calves in the former's quarters on the second floor in the Wrangel Palace. The young scoundrels threw out the heads through the windows and the furniture went the same way.

The remarkable thing about this is that no one has (as far as I know) been able to find any sort of corroborating evidence, i.e. no records of large purchases of animals, replacement furniture or massive cleaning of the King's rooms. So the story remains very hard to believe. D'Avaux's letter is dated 11 June (New Style), the equivalent of 1 June O.S. 

The previous letter from d'Avaux is dated seven days earlier (25 May O.S.), so if the envoy's story is correct the killings must have started the same day and continued until 1 June. But the facts don't add up: On the 23rd, 27th, 30th and 31st of May as well as on 1 June the King met with the Council in it's role as Supreme Court - in the very same building where the orgy (according to d'Avaux) continued for eight days without pause...

The story of course makes very little sense. The King is for example known to have been fond of dogs. I can certainly see the point in killing a few animals in a sort of competition, but for eight days? And indoors? "Sorry Frederick, I have a meeting with the Council in the next room, but I'll be back in a few hours. You can keep on killing animals while I am away". Rather absurd, in my opinion. 

Amomg the items made digitally available by the National Archives is a collection called "Kungliga arkiv". One of the volumes (K 33) contain some financial records from the period May-July 1698. The content is a lot less sensational. The King hands out money to a worker in the garden at Karlberg, to three soldiers from Pomerania, to a poor clergyman, to a poor soldier from Holstein and to many others - high and low. One item stands out: 82 thalers for some cattle the King and his cousin had shot at Kungsör. Is this verified "prank" the rather modest origin for the story D'Avaux told?

An ox apparently cost about 9-10 thalers in 1698, so maybe they shot half a dozen cattle and paid well above the market prize as compensation? 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:32 PM CET
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