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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 23 June 2013
The grand solution
Topic: Diplomacy

The historian Birger Fahlborg (1880-1978) between 1932 and 1961 published a series of books concerning Swedish foreign policy 1660-1672. One of the aspects he covers in great detail is the "Eastern Question", i.e. how the provinces Ingria, Estonia and Livonia should be protected politically. The frequent Polish-Russian wars suggested that it could be fruitful to establish an alliance with one of these countries. As the Oliva treaty of 1660 removed key issues of conflict between Poland and Sweden it seemed logical to attempt to create a closer relationship between the two countries for the common defense against Russia. Fahlborg writes (roughly translated): "That the friendship with Poland, if and when it could be gained, had to be a major asset for Sweden was after the Oliva treaty not disputed by any of the Swedish statesmen". As the Republic seemed to have been weakened the Swedish government believed they could negotiate from a very strong position. In May 1660 the Swedish diplomat Johan von Weidenhayn was given an instruction which detailed the plans: Swedish forces would attack from Livonia, Ingria och Finland, while Polish armies moved in from Lithuania and the Ukraine after having convinced Cossacks and Tartars to join them. For this assistance Widenhayn should (among other things) demand a part of Polish Livonia. In 1664 the issue came to the foreground again. A new envoy was sent to Poland and the leading Councillors of the Realm discussed the situation. The Chancellor Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie spoke of the importance of preserving Poland and the envoy was given an instruction which stated that Sweden wanted an alliance in order to "reduce the Russian appetite for the Baltic Sea".

Despite changing circumstances this view of Poland-Lithuania and Russia was never far away from Swedish thinking during the next fifty years. Bengt Oxenstierna's famous "political will" from 1702 belonged to the same tradition and so did the plans of Charles XII as they manifested themselves in the negotiations with Polish representatives in 1704-05 - in return for Courland and commercial concessions Sweden would assist Poland in reclaiming the territories lost to Russia in 1667/1686. By doing this the Commonwealth and Sweden would be bound so tightly together by a common interest that the Swedish dominance of northeastern Europe would remain "forever". Maybe, as the Chancery official Samuel Bark speculated in 1707, the Swedish Empire could even be extended as far as Arkhangelsk. 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:10 PM MEST
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Friday, 21 June 2013
The state of Livonia 1697
Topic: Livonia

On 30 May 1697 the Governor General of Livonia Erik Dahlbergh, in light of the recent death of Charles XI, sent a long report to Stockholm about the situation in Livonia. Here is a summary of what he had to say:

1. The Church: It had not yet been brought to perfection as there were too few churches and to few clergymen. This, together with the very bad roads, made it difficult for people to come to church and as a result superstition and idolatory was common among the peasants.

2. The Judiciary: It was generally satisfactory.

3. The Economy: It was handled by Strokirch (Latvian district) and Strömfelt (Estonian district) and they understood their tasks well.

4. The Chancery: Dahlbergh had built offices for the staff, so it worked quite well.

5. The Military: The situation was, considering the dangerous times, not satisfactory. In the large and important province of Livonia there were only six cavalry companies, in all 350 men. Their horses were poor and the equipment even worse. The pistols and the carbines were so bad that they coudn't be fired even twice. The "Adelsfana" in Livonia and on Ösel (Saaremaa) had not been mustered during the last 15 years, but numbered 207 men. New uniforms had been ordered and would soon be delivered, but the unit lacked guns and swords. In March Charles XI had ordered that it should be divided into four companies, but their were not yet a sufficient number of officers. It was obvious, Dahlbergh concluded, that such a weak cavalry force could not be of any use in case of an attack. A system similar to the one in place in Sweden was needed and Dahlbergh hoped to present such a proposal in the near future.

6. The infantry: The Riga garrison had been mustered on 1 May. At that time Dahlbergh's own regiment numbered 993 common soldiers,  Governor Soop's 901, Colonel von Campenhausen's 874, Colonel Funck's 164 - in all 2 932 men. This was sufficient in time of peace, but totally inadequate of war broke out as there were 6 large bastions, the citadel, the works around the castle and also the large town fortifications. 6- 8000 men would be needed for Riga to be fully defended and it was necessary to use "national troops" as only they could be fully trusted. The inhabitants of Riga could be expected to assist in the defense, but there was a substantial jealousy between them and the garrison. 

The Neumünde garrison was very weakened and it was necessary to bring in new recruits from Finland to Budberg's regiment. The garrisons and Pernau and Dorpat were also weak. Kokenhusen was manned by just 70 men and Kobron by 40.

7. The artillery: Dahlbergh enclosed a list of the needs.

8.  Provisions: The food situation in Livonia was difficult. Since the cavalry could be expected to have to abandon the countryside in case of war there was a need for larger magazines in the towns.

9. The Fortifications: Dahlbergh gave along and detailed description of the situation at Riga, what had been done and what was needed. Kobron was very weak and not even worty of a garrison, but because of the strategically important position it should be strengthened. Neumünde was unfinished, but it could be developed into a nice fortress. More work was also needed at Pernau. Dorpat was "bizarre", i.e. the position was unsuitable. However, as it was the only major fortification near the Russian border it seemed wise to continue with improvements. Kokenhusen was poor and should really be torn down, but there were no resources to build a new fortress. The fort at Ewst (Aiviekste) should be rebuilt and garrisoned. Dahlberg also wanted to tear down the many old, half ruined castles in the countryside as they could be used by an invader.

Finally Dahlbergh suggested remedies for the ongoing famine and pointed out the vulnerability of the postal communications if the German mail was cut off. Last winter the Finnish mail had failed to appear for three consecutive months.

 

Source: LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1. vol. 69, Copy book of outgoing letters in Swedish.

 

 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:29 PM MEST
Updated: Friday, 21 June 2013 9:12 PM MEST
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Wednesday, 19 June 2013
You have mail
Topic: Communications

During the time of the Great Northern War communications were understandably slow, a factor which is important to bear in mind when it comes to judging responses to events. Here are some examples:

The attack on Riga 11 February 1700: the news reaches Stockholm around 6 March. The King, who was in Kungsör, issued his first orders on 7 March.

Letters from the commander of the relief army in Livonia Governor Vellingk: A letter dated 4 July 1700 reached the King at Humlebaek on the 31st. Such letters were often sent by more than one route - on 1 August Vellingk wrote that he had sent two couriers with his previous letter dated 25 July. One copy was carried by Lt. Colonel Hans Henrik von Liewen, who was to sail from Pernau and the other went from Reval through Stockholm with Captain von Essen. In a letter dated Rujen 11 September Vellingk could inform Charles that Essen had returned with the King's letter dated 13 August. This news reached Charles in Karlshamn on 19 September. On 19 September Vellingk had just been informed of the Russian invasion of Ingria.

The fall of Nöteborg on 13 October 1702: the news reached Vyborg on the 17th and Stockholm on the 30th. Charles XII, who was near Kraków, seems to have received the first reports in early December. 

Letters from the Swedish Governor in Pomerania (Stettin) to his colleague in Livonia (Riga): About 10-14 days. 

Letters from the Swedish representative in Danzig to the Governor General of Livonia: About 5 days.

Letters from the Swedish representative in Moscow to the Governor General of Livonia:  About 10 days-3 weeks.

Letters from the Swedish representative in Novgorod to the Governor General of Livonia: About 1 week.

News from London to reach Stockholm: About 3 weeks.

News from London to reach Göteborg: About 2 weeks.

Letters from Stockholm to the Governor General of Livonia: About 2 weeks when the mail could go directly by boat, otherwise close to a month.

Letters from Estonia/Livonia to reach Charles XII in Poland: Of course very much depending on his whereabouts. A letter written by W. A Schlippenbach on 6 April 1704 was answered by the King in Heilsberg (Lidzbark Warmiński) on the 22d, while a letter dated Reval 15 August reached him in Lemberg (Lviv) on 8 September.

News of the defeat at Poltava: Firm confirmation reached Riga through the arrival of Josias Cederhielm, who had been sent by the Czar with peace terms. Cederhielm reached Riga in the evening of 16 August 1709 (Swedish calendar). He arrived in Stockholm on 1 September. 

 

 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:57 PM MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 June 2013 11:07 PM MEST
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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.

 

 

Sources:

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.

 

Source:

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?

Sources:

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." 

Sources:

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. 

 

Sources:

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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