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Artillery personnel
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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 16 June 2013
A surprise visit?
Topic: Diplomacy

On 10 June 1700 Colonel Carl Gustaf Skytte, commander of the garrison at Dorpat, wrote to Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga about certain rumours concerning the expected Russian Embassy to Sweden. According to them the Czar himself would take part - but incognito. How, asked Skytte, should he receive the Russians when they came to Dorpat? The letter reached Dahlbergh two days later and he replied immediately. Dahlbergh could, he wrote, not believe such a rumour as it seemed strange that an Embassy would come to Dorpat rather than to Narva or Reval. However, if the Russians were planning to come Skytte should get advance notice from one of the Voyvod's across the border, so that the guests could be received in accordance with the Swedish-Russian treaties. 

The following day Dahlbergh reported to the College of the Chancery (Kanslikollegium) that there were rumours of a large Russian force having been sent in support of the Saxons outside Riga. Dahlbergh hoped these were unfounded, although a letter from Pskov dated 4 June indicated that preparations of war were being made. However, a letter from the Swedish representative in Moscow Thomas Kniper, dated 16 May, stated that the Czar had expressed great friendship for Sweden.This apparently made a greater impression on Dahlbergh than the news from Pskov did.




LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 52, Copy book of outgoing letters in German 1700

LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72, Copy book of outgoing letters in Swedish

LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1. vol. 288, Letters from Skytte to the Governor General in Riga

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM MEST
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Saturday, 15 June 2013
Carl Gustaf Dücker
Topic: Generals

In the Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, the standard biographical dictionary begun in 1917, it's claimed that the later Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Dücker (1663-1732) had served in the French army during the Nine Years War and after his return home to Livonia served as a volunteer during the siege of Riga in 1700. This is perhaps not quite correct, as on 15 February 1700 Governor General Dahlbergh orders the captains "Stahl and Dücker" to remain in Riga and not return to the Netherlands. The letter filed under that date is however undoubtedly addressed to just "Stahl", but a similar can be found mistakenly placed under the date 20 March. In this letter the Governor General tells Dücker that he understands that the latter's leave of absence has come to an end and that he must return to his regiment in France, but Dahlbergh will not permit it because of the Saxon attack. Instead Dücker should join in the defense of the city, being assured that this would not cause him any disrepute because a loyal subject must always put his own King before any foreign power.



LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 52, Copy book of outgoing correspondence in German 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 8 June 2013 6:46 PM MEST
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Sunday, 9 June 2013
Carl Gustaf Armfeldt
Topic: Generals

In Eirik Hornborg's biography Karolinen Armfelt och kampen om Finland under det stora nordiska kriget (1953) the author admits that he does not know what Armfeldt did in the months preceding his appointment as Aide-de-camp to Major General Cronhjort in December 1700. Hornborg, who used Cronhjort's letters to Charles XII, seems to have overlooked Governor Vellingk's letters to the King. On 10 December 1700 the Governor wrote to Charles about Captain Carl Gustaf Armfeldt, who Vellingk "last summer" had awarded the lease of the estate Gatchina because he was an able man, who had endured a lot of hardship in order to make himself suitable for Royal service. Unfortunately the previous leaseholder Albrecht Düring made difficulties. Vellingk pointed out that Düring's father had never served the Crown and Düring himself had left Ingria as soon as war broke out, while Armfeldt could personally describe to the King not only his 10 campaigns during the last "War of Brabant" but also how he since the Great Northern War broke out had taken part in real actions and had risked his life without receiving any payment. Surely the King would rather grant Armfelt Gatchina?


Riksarkivet, Livonica II, vol. 192. Letters from Governor Vellingk 1699-1702

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM MEST
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Saturday, 8 June 2013
An unwillingness to delegate?
Topic: Factoids

Recently I was given the opportunity to write a review of a recently published book on the Great Northern War. At one point the author of this books claims that Charles XII lacked an understanding of what efficient military leaderhip requires and that he was unwilling to delegate responsibility. This is a charge that has been repeated in various forms many times, but does it really stand up to scrutiny?

In 1950 Hugo Uddgren published the second part of his study of Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt as military commander during the period 1703-1709. He mentions one example from 1706, when the main army was encamped near Grodno. On 21 January 1706 Charles XII wrote to Lewenhaupt, telling him that he should consider the possibility of attacking the Russians in Courland. However, the King added, he left the matter for Lewenhaupt to decide. The letter reached Riga a month later and Lewenhaupt replied that it had been his intention to support the King's Grodno operation, but unfortunately it would not be possible due to the weakness of the Swedish cavalry and the bad weather.  At about the same time Charles XII sent a new order to Lewenhaupt, this time in more definite terms:he should march into Courland and Samogitia and would be supported by 10 000 Poles that were marching on Kaunas. On 8 March Lewenhaupt replied, telling Charles that he unfortunately would have to refuse. Interestingly enough this had no negative consequences for Lewenhaupt. Uddgren concludes (roughly translated): "This episode Charles XII - Lewenhaupt tells us a lot about the character and temperament of the two men. The orders from the former to his subordinate seem to have been characterized by confidence and understanding. He avoided giving direct orders and limited himself to general directions, respecting the judgment of the individual commanders"

A few months ago I studied the relationship between Charles XII and the commander in Ingria 1700-1703, Major General Cronhjort. The letters between the two corraborates Uddgren's conclusions. The King gave Cronhjort very firm orders as long as the Royal Army remained in Livonia, but once it had crossed the Daugava he almost totally stopped interfering with Cronhjort's dispositions. Indeed, one of the final letters dealing with such matters is dated as early as 14 June 1701. It is a reply to Cronhjort's question about how to conduct operations in light of the fact that the Russians had crossed the border at multiple points. The King wrote (roughly translated): We have already given you full powers of command, so instead of telling you what to do We leave the matter for you to decide as you see fit and consider to be in Our best interest." 


Riksarkivet, Riksregistraturet
Uddgren, H., Karolinen Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt. II. - Stockholm, 1950



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 1:45 PM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 8 June 2013 9:57 PM MEST
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Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Schlippenbach's sincerity
Topic: Generals

In the book The Great Northern War and Estonia : the trials of Dorpat 1700-1708 (2010) the Estonian historian and diplomat Margus Laidre discusses the effort to relieve Dorpat in the summer of 1704. According to Laidre Major General Schlippenbach on 14 July 1704 wrote to Charles XII, suggesting that the King should order Major General Lewenhaupt in Courland to march to Livonia and join Schlippenbach in an effort to relieve Dorpat. Laidre notes that this was very late and that it would have taken a couple of months (at the very least) for a reply to arrive, which in Laidre's opinion suggests that Schlippenbach simply wanted to make sure that he wasn't blamed if Dorpat fell.

Laidre also writes that Schlippenbach enclosed a copy of a letter from Skytte, dated 4 July, which has not been found. In a footnote Laidre gives the volume M 1394 in "Riksarkivet" as the place where Schlippenbach's letter is preserved. M 1394 belongs to Schlippenbach's "field archive" and contains drafts of his letters from June-July 1704. To find the letter that was actually sent (and any attachments to it) one needs to look elsewhere, in this case in the collection "Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII" - "Letters to the King. Charles XII". There are three volumes of Schlippenbach letters - 23, 24 and 46. The latter volume contains the letters from 1703-04. And there the letter in question can be found - with the Skytte report attached. The advantage with using this volume is that the date when the King received the letters are often noted. In this case he got it on 2 September 1704 at Lemberg - much too late.

However, this was not the first time that Schlippenbach suggested that he and Lewenhaupt join forces. He had taken a similar initiative already on 9 June in a letter to Governor General Frölich in Riga. Laidre is also incorrect in saying that Lewenhaupt could not act without the express order from the King. Lewenhaupt had full control of his forces and could act as he saw fit - but Schlippenbach could not force him to do anything. It is also clear that Lewenhaupt, in total agreement with the King's intentions, for political reasons considered Courland and Lithuania more important than Livonia. By moving northwards he would abandon those in Lithuania who had joined the Warsaw Confederacy and give the Oginski and Wisniowiecki forces a free hand. Charles XII (and Lewenhaupt) were for the time being fully prepared to make sacrifices on the Russian front in order to reach the goal in Poland, i.e. the removal of Augustus. 



Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Vol. 46.
Uddgren, H., Karolinen Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt. I. -Stockholm,1919



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:04 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 7 July 2013 8:03 PM MEST
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Saturday, 16 February 2013
Honor and distinction
Topic: Source criticism

In 2007 the Swedish historian Svante Norrhem published a book called Kvinnor vid maktens sida : 1632-1772. In it he analyses the position of women close to power, i. e. the wives of some of the most powerful members of Swedish aristocracy. On pages 78-79 he describes and interprets a curious episode in General Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's memoirs. In the autumn of 1706 the General carried out an expedition into Lithuania, where he had some skirmishes with enemy forces. At one point Lewenhaupt handed over the army to Major General Stackelberg and made a short visit to Riga. According to Lewenhaupt's memoirs this quickly became a subject for gossip and people started saying that the General neglected his official duties and came to Riga only for some private matter, i.e. negotiations concerning his daughters marriage. Lewenhaupt claims that his secretary Klinthen helped spread such innuendos and that some of them focused on Lewenhaupt's wife and her alleged vanity. These, the General suggests, were based on an misinterpretation of a conflict between the wife of Deputy Governor Rembert von Funcken's second wife Margareta Christina Frölich (1683-1735), daughter of former governor Carl Gustaf Frölich.

According to Lewenhaupt's memoirs v. Funcken's wife started to use the official seats in St. Peter's church, which forced the Lewenhaupt's own wife to sit among the burgher's wives. This resulted in gossip and criticism directed against von Funcken's wife, who then proceeded to buy another chair close to the official ones and make it bigger than the former. Lewenhaupt states that he, upon returning to Riga, confronted the Riga town councillor Ulrich and asked him how he as churchwarden could have allowed this to take place. Ulrich defended himself by saying that von Funcken had wanted it done and as he was in charge when Lewenhaupt was away they felt that his wish could not be denied. Ulrich suggested that Lewenhaupt talk to von Funcken, but the general refused. This was, he stated, a matter for the town council and the church wardens - they must restore the chairs or else face dire consequences. Major General von Funcken would at first not budge and sent Colonel Budberg to Lewenhaupt as an negotiator. Lewenhaupt told Budberg that von Funcken had allowed the King's rights to be infringed and if he had any complaints against Lewenhaupt he should write to Charles XII. Even former governor Frölich and eventually also von Funcken came to Lewenhaupt, asking him to reconsider, but were told that nothing could be done as it was an official and not a private matter. 

Now, this is a fascinating story and Norrhem seems to believe that this is what happened and that there was nothing more to it. He even suggest that the conflict resulted in a complete break between the two families, but Lewenhaupt himself does not go that far. He claims that von Funcken initially was obstinate and tried to make things difficult for Lewenhaupt, but eventually apologized. 

But does Lewenhaupt tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well, nobody seems to have looked for additional evidence. Surely there has to be something if the matter eventually involved the town council, former governor Frölich, churchwarden Ulrich, Colonel Budberg etc? Let's have a look:

On 4 October 1706 Lewenhaupt wrote to von Funcken from the Lithuanian town Kėdainiai. In the letter he accuses the Major General of having opened private letters addressed to Lewenhaupt and orders him to give every arriving letter to Lewenhaupt's wife, who will then open them in the presence of an official from the Governor's Chancellery and determine which are private and which are official. This order was repeated in another letter written six days later. Could this have caused friction between the two men? When did Lewenhaupt make his short visit to Riga?

To be continued...



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:58 PM CET
Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2013 8:02 PM CET
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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Abraham Cronhjort and Eirik Hornborg
Topic: Source criticism

In 1952 the Finnish historian Eirik Hornborg (1879-1965) published a biography of Carl Gustaf Armfeldt (1666-1736), in 1718 leader of the unsuccessful campaign to take Trondheim. In the book Hornborg, who was no admirer of Charles XII, paints a grim picture of the situation on the Ingrian front during the first years of the war. He is critical, but yet sympathetic, to the first Swedish commander, Major General Abraham Cronhjort. Cronhjort may have been a poor general, but the main fault lay with Charles XII who wandered away into Poland instead of giving proper attention to the defense of the Baltic provinces.

In January 1701 Cronhjort made an excursion into Russia across the eastern border of Ingria, arriving at a village called Saari (nowadays Shum). There he found a wooden manor, defended by a few hundred Russians. For nearly two weeks Cronhjort tried to force them to surrender, but could make no headway despite a large numerical advantage. Then, late one night, the garrison managed to elude the Swedish posts and escape - a real embarrassment for Cronhjort. Hornborg briefly touches upon the struggle for Saari, but places the emphasis on the reaction by Charles XII. The King, upon hearing of Cronhjort's initial difficulties, got quite upset and pointed out that the Major General a few weeks earlier had written about possible forays as far as Novgorod. Such promises and now he could not capture even "a simple wooden manor"? Hornborg found this reaction deeply unfair as the forces at Cronhjort's disposal were quite untrained, poorly equipped and the weather conditions difficult. But what about the embarrassing outcome? Well, Hornborg only says that the garrison secretly abandoned the manor in the night between the 28th and the 29th. Did he perhaps find this fact a bit "disturbing", i.e. not in line with his interpretation of where the real responsibility for the failure lay?

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:44 PM CET
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Sunday, 9 December 2012
An archival mystery
Topic: Archives

In the early 20th century the military historian Hugo Uddgren (1876-1955) started a very ambitious research project which was not completed until nearly 50 years later. Uddgren, who was inspired by historian Arthurs Stille and the so called "New School", wanted to investigate Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's military career 1700-1709. This resulted in Uddgren becoming the first Swedish historian to use the key archives in Riga. He also gained access to the archive of the Dukes of Courland (at that time preserved in Saint Petersburg), which also contained a considerable amount of material from the Swedish administration of the Duchy between 1701 and 1709.

In his presentation of the sources Uddgren states that some of the important records listed in Bienemann's catalogue of archive of the Livonian Governor General unfortunately had disappeared between the publication of the catalogue in 1908 and his first visit in 1909. Hugo Uddgren specifically mentions the copy book of outgoing letters for the period January-May 1705, saying that the corresponding volume for the latter part of the year is preserved in Krigsarkivet, Stockholm. This is a mystifying claim as he calls the latter volume "Lewenhaupt's copy book" - the General did not become Governor of Riga until 1706. Besides, Bienemann quite clearly states that there was only one volume for 1705. The situation is complicated by the fact that the Governor General's office had two departments - one "Swedish" and one "German". Both of them produced considerable amounts of letters. The Swedish one handled correspondence with the authorities in Sweden, with the King and with many of the most important military and civilian authorities in Livonia. The German department seems to have handled correspondence with bailiffs, town councils and other local authorities and individuals, which presumably were less fluent in Swedish. As Bienemann only mentions the existence of a Swedish copy book for 1705 it must be this one that Uddgren couldn't find. But it's there now - "hidden" in the series of copy books from the German department (Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 56 - LVVA, Riga). 

So what did Uddgren find in Krigsarkivet? Well, the volume came from the manor Bjärka-Säby via Uppsala University Library. Bjärka-Säby was once owned by the Cederhielm family, which included Lewenhaupt's son in law Germund Cederhielm. The most likely explanation is that the volume either comes from Lewenhaupt's so called "Field Chancellery"or perhaps from the office of the Governor of Courland (Lewenhaupt was Deputy Governor in title, but the de facto Governor as Carl Magnus Stuart had been on sick leave since the spring of 1703). 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:18 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 9 December 2012 11:25 PM CET
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Thursday, 6 December 2012
Who told the King?
Topic: Factoids

In almost every book about the Great Northern War it's stated that the report about the attack on Riga reached Charles XII through a courier sent by Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga. The courier, captain Johan Brask, left Riga on 12 February 1700 and presumably arrived in Kungsör on 6 March 1700 after travelling on land around the Bay of Bothnia. It would seem most remarkable to make such a long journey in just about three weeks.

Oddly enough almost nobody seems to have noticed an article by the Finnish historian Arvo Viljanti, who in 1939 pointed out that this version is contradicted by a Royal letter sent to Governor General Axel Julius de la Gardie on 9 March. In this it's stated that the news reached the King through a letter sent by de la Gardie on 19 February and that Brask has not yet arrived. De la Gardie's courier captain Otto Magnus Wolffeldt apparently went around the Gulf of Finland just like Brask, but instead of following his path chose a more dangerous but much faster route via the Åland Islands.


Viljanti, A., Suomen rykmenttien liikekannallepano ja marssi Liivinmaalle v. 1700 // Historiallinen arkisto. - 45(1939). - S. 303-356

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:33 PM CET
Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2012 5:34 PM CET
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Monday, 19 November 2012
Magnus Stenbock, part two
Topic: Generals

In a previous entry I mentioned the large autograph collection in the archive from the manor Ericsberg and in particular a series of letters from Casten Feif to Magnus Stenbock. Feif was before Poltava a junior member of the Field Chancellery, but afterwards became one of the King's closest advisors. From Bender he corresponded with Nicodemus Tessin the younger about the plans for the new Royal castle in Stockholm, in many instances conveying the King's wishes and ideas. He apparently also kept up a similar correspondence with Magnus Stenbock, who before the start of the campaign against Russia had returned to Sweden after being appointed Governor of Scania. Stenbock was a highly talented man in many ways and greatly appreciated by Charles XII, but he was also extremely sensitive and seems to have been in almost constant fear of falling into disfavor. He was, it seems, constantly looking for hidden enemies and "backstabbers" and forever asking for new favors and rewards.

On 29 November 1710 Casten Feif wrote to Stenbock and expressed his delight with the King's latest expression of confidence in Stenbock (presumably his appointment as Councillor of the Realm in late August). However, it's apparent from the letter that Stenbock had been less than satisfied. It would seem that the General not only wanted a Royal confirmation of his Field Marshal's baton (given to him by the Council after the victory at Helsingborg) but also the title "Governor General" of Scania. Feif explained to Stenbock that this would be quite impossible as it had been previously decided to have only a Governor in Scania. 

In June 1711 Feif returns to the matter of Stenbock's baton. He states that he is confident that the King will confirm it, but strongly advises Stenbock to stop bringing it up as the King always reads the letters to Feif. It would, Feif suggests, be much better if Stenbock emphasized how content he was and wrote some entertaining letters to the King.

On 31 July 1711 Feif again writes to Stenbock, referring to the latter's wish to be appointed Governor of Stockholm. Feif points out that this position is not vacant and suggests that Stenbock would probably not like having someone ask for the Governorship of Scania. Stenbock must, Feif insists, avoid using such expressions in his letters and should be satisfied with knowing that he remained in the King's favor. In a P.S. Feif particularly mentions Stenbock's claim that he had saved the King's throne by his victory at Helsingborg. This was a glorious thing for subject to do, Feif wrote, but he should never ever express the sentiment openly in a letter to the King as it could very well be interpreted as criticism.


Source: Riksarkivet, Ericsbergsarkivet, autografsamlingen, vol. 69

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:58 PM CET
Updated: Monday, 19 November 2012 6:59 PM CET
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