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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 10 August 2014
Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach
Topic: Generals

The commander of the Swedish forces in Livonia has been much vilified by posterity and the opinion seems to have been shared by many contemporaries. On 3 December 1704 Samuel Bark wrote to his friend Olof Hermelin: "Why in God's name has Schlippenbach been placed in Reval... he is hated and mistrusted by everybody."

An intriguing piece of information concerning Schlippenbach's career can be found among his papers in Riksarkivet, Stockholm. In a letter dated  Libau 7 October 1701 Major General Carl Magnus Stuart, one of Charles XII's closest military advisors, writes that he is very pleased with Schlippenbach's success. Schlippenbach should, Stuart writes, remember who persuaded him to remain in the army. His Majesty, Stuart continues, well understands that I am not advocating you because of my personal interest but because of your merits.

Stuart also writes (which is perhaps even more interesting) that he understands Schlippenbach's unhappiness with how things have developed. No one has more than I wished that the major part of the army had marched to that border, but other things have put a stop to this and I am not at all happy about it, Stuart writes. This of course strongly suggests that Stuart was no supporter of the decision to intervene in the Lithuanian civil war, but would have preferred a campaign against Russia. The "other things" were, if I may hazard a guess, the contacts with the Sapieha family and their appeal for assistance.



Riksarkivet, M 1402

Bark, Samuel, Bref från Samuel Bark till Olof Hermelin 1702-1708. I. - Stockholm, 1914 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:13 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 10 August 2014 10:14 PM MEST
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Sunday, 11 May 2014
Axel Julius de la Gardie
Topic: Generals

Count Axel Julius de la Gardie (1637-1710), Governor General of Estonia 1687-1704 and Lieutenant Field Marshal, has not been favourably rated by posterity. Some of the criticism appeared already during his life time and nobody was more blunt than Charles XII himself. In a letter dated 28 December 1701 the King writes (roughly translated) this:

"We cannot fully express our displeasure with your stupidity and obstinate conduct, which more often than not results in our decrees (which are implemented without problems in Livonia and other provinces) either not being implemented at all or much delayed by your brutality".

In this case the issue was a decision to (if necessary by force) enlist citizens of the small Estonian towns as non-commissioned officers. In implementing this decision de la Gardie had also gone after some who held public offices and in other cases he had enlisted so many that it threatened the economic viability of these small towns. It was, the King wrote, also important for the Governor General to explain the purpose of the decisions if they were to be implemented without problems and delay. 

Despite this rather blunt royal outburst de la Gardie was allowed to remain at his post for nearly three more years.


Source: Riksarkivet, Livonica II, vol. 272 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:00 PM MEST
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Sunday, 13 April 2014
Schlippenbach's Army of Livonia
Topic: Generals

On 28 July 1701 Wolmar Anton v. Schlippenbach sent Charles XII a detailed account of the Army of Livonia. Total number (corporals & soldiers) was 3, 188 plus a detachment of unspecified strength in Marienburg. Slightly more than a month later Schlippenbach sent a new list, which showed that he on 31 August had at his immediate disposal just under 2,000 men (corporals & soldiers), while another 890 were stationed at various outposts. In the same letter, dated 9 September, he also reported on the Russian attack a couple of days earlier. At Kasaritsa and Rauge, Schlippenbach wrote, 10,000 Russians had attacked the Swedish positions and a much greater force had appeared at Rappin. He had, Schlippenbach continued, personally directed the defense and after a fierce struggle the Russians had been driven back with losses of at least 2,000 men, including two colonels (not counting those dead bodies the retreating Russians had brought off).

At Rappin, Schlippenbach wrote, the Russians had been more successful, but more than 1,000 killed had been found on the battlefield or in the stream nearby. Eventually the Swedish defenders succumbed and two old, more or less useless, cannons had been lost. Of the 500 Swedes not much more than 100 had returned. At Pechory and Pskov the enemy had about 30,000 men, Schlippenbach reported, so it was quite impossible for him to defend everything. Reinforcements were urgently needed.

Schlippenbach also enclosed the testimony of a Russian prisoner, who had been taken on the road to Pechory on 7 September. He was a clergyman by the name of "Ivan Fiedoroffschin Koroboff". He had worked in the town of "Lushi", but then been drafted into Col. "Ussiakou's" regiment. According to the prisoner this regiment was stationed at Pechory and had taken part in the attack at Rauge. "Koroboff" didn't know how strong the Russian force was, but it was commonly said in Russia that the army at the border consisted of 100,000 men. So how strong was the Russian force that had attacked? "Koroboff" said that he had been told that 30,000 were to attack the post at Rappin. He did not know the total strength at Rauge and Kasaritsa, but he was certain that the dragoons had been 3,000. Who had been in in charge? At Rappin Sheremetev's son and at Rauge and Kasaritsa a certain "Jacob Michititz". 

In the minutes of the interrogation it was also noted that two letters found on the battlefield confirmed that Colonel "Ussiakou" had been killed along with Colonel "Kakoskau". 

It's of course worth mentioning that Russian sources give very different numbers. According to Sheremetev's journal the total loss in dead and wounded at Kasaritsa, Rauge and Rappin was 85 - 23 killed and 62 wounded.  Not so easy to reconcile with Schlippenbach's body count, that's for sure. 


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

Palli, H., Mezhdu dvumya boyami za Narvu. - Tallinn, 1960

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:23 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 13 April 2014 10:42 PM MEST
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Sunday, 30 March 2014
Governor General Frölich
Topic: Generals

When Erik Dahlbergh retired in early 1702 he was replaced by Lieutenant General Carl Gustaf Frölich (1637-1714), a highly original and very colourful man. On the positive side it could perhaps be said that he wasn't afraid of taking the initiative and always was prepared to offer suggestions on how to solve difficult problems, but in some cases his methods and proposals bordered on the bizarre. In the summer of 1711 Frölich suggested that a native Swede should be sent to the Danish king with the message that "the evil spirit" had inspired him to make war on Sweden and a couple of months later he offered to transport an army to Zealand without using any ships. In December 1711 Frölich stated that the plague could be stopped by prayers and juice from juniper berries, which was "a wonderful thing for both internal and external use". 

Frölich is more perhaps more famous for the innovative monetary reform he carried out in late 1705. Without any sort of authorization from Charles XII he on 5 December 1705 issued a proclamation concerning "doppelte, eintzele und halbe Carolinen auch die fünff Oehr-Stücke". They should be handed in to a committee appointed by Frölich (Captain Daniel Leijonancker, the commissioner Johan Hilleboldt and Lieutenant Johan Wilhelm Max). The idea behind seems to have been that people would only receive half of their coins in return, but these would after stamping be worth twice their original value so nobody would (in theory) lose anything. Needless to say Frölich's actions did not appeal to Charles XII, who shortly dismissed him and sent an angry letter ordering the immediate abolishment of the monetary reform.



LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 57 (German Letter book of 1705)

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 2, vol.  242 (documents concerning the monetary reform)

LiSB, H 79:2, nr 7 (Frölich's printed proclamation of 4 December 1705)

Grauers, S., Arvid Bernhard Horn. - Göteborg, 1920. - P. 126 ff.

Grauers, S., Generalen och presidenten Carl Gustaf Frölich // Karolinska Förbundets Årsbok. - 1966. - P. 86-128

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 1:32 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014 9:30 AM MEST
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Saturday, 29 June 2013
General Rodion Baur
Topic: Generals

The background of the Russian General Rodion Baur (Родион Христианович Баур/Бауэр/Боур) seems most unclear. According to Russian Wikipedia he belonged to a wellknown Swedish noble family which had settled in Germany (perhaps the author means the "Bonde" family? Bonde is  Swedish for "peasant" - or in German "Bauer") He had entered a Swedish regiment of dragoons in Livonia and had at the time of the outbreak of the Great Northern War reached the rank of captain. During the siege of Narva, the article continues, he suddenly switched sides and deserted to the Russian army. The German Wikipedia article for some strange reason calls Baur "Christian Felix", claims that he at the beginning of the Great Northern War served in the Prussian army, then switched to the Swedish because he had fought a duel and finally went over to the Russians.

Some of these unclear points can be cleared up directly. There is no doubt that Baur had served in the Swedish army in Livonia. Carl Gustaf Skytte, the commander of the Dorpat garrison, in his journal describes how Baur on 29 June 1704, after having seen Cavalry Captain Holden during a skirmish outside town, sent word to Dorpat asking to be allowed to talk to Holden. When Holden came out Baur showed him great courtesy because he had once been a private in the company where Holden had been a Lieutenant.  To the journal there is also attached a copy of a letter from Bour to Skytte in which the former writes: "Bitte meinen gewesenen Lieutenant itzigen Rittmeister Hollde unbeschwert zu grüssen...". This places Baur firmly in Drottningens Livregemente till häst, a cavalry regiment stationed in Estonia and Livonia in which Erik Johan Holden was a Lieutenant between 1679 and 1695. There are not too many muster rolls preserved for this regiment (at least not in Sweden), but the one from 1690 puts Holden in Otto Zöge's company. Unfortunately the pages are very heavily damaged and some names missing entirely.

So how about Baur and the start of the Great Northern War? Well, on 20 August 1700 Otto Vellingk wrote to Charles XII from Rujen (Latvian Rūjiena) about recent developments. According to Vellingk an enemy cavalry captain by the name of Bauer had arrived a couple of days earlier (According to Leonhard Kagg's diary Baur came on the 13th). Baur had explained that he had fought a duel, killed his opponent and been forced to flee. Baur claimed that King Augustus was weakly guarded and seems to have suggested that a strong Swedish detachment from the Riga garrison would have every chance of capturing him and destroy the Saxon camp.  Vellingk had immediately informed Dahlbergh of this and also sent the King a detailed list of the Saxon army - based on Baur's testimony. The matter is very reminiscent of Johan Gummert's action at Narva a few weeks later, when he upon arrival suggested that a a few hundred Swedish soldiers led by Gummert could capture the Czar.

Apparently Vellingk sent Baur to Narva, because it was there that the latter engineered a most curious escape (in the manuscript Utföhrlig berättelse it's stated that Baur arrived in Narva a few days before the siege started) On 28 September 1700 some gentlemen from Narva and Baur had met in the house of the merchant Samuel Meux, where they ate a dish based on celery. During their conversation one of them said that celery grew just outside the town gates and it was decided to ride out the following day to pick some more. During this expedition Baur, who was on horseback, suddenly rode off at great speed towards the Russian camp. 


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

Riksarkivet, M 1373 (Utförlig berättelse, huruledes- - -enkannerligen fästningarne Narwa och Ivangorod - - - belägrade blifvit av Zahren av Muscou)

Krigsarkivet, Rullor 1620-1723, vol. 1690:21

Kagg, L., Leonhard Kaggs dagbok 1698-1722. - Stockholm, 1912

Ramsay, J., Narvas rådsturätts protokoll för d. 1 okt. 1700 angående generalen R. F. Bauer // Historiallinen arkisto. XXVIII (1920).  Tieteelisiä ilmoituksia. - P. 12-14.

Skytte, C. G., Öfversten och kommendanten Carl Gustaf Skyttes berättelse om Dorpats belägring 1704 // Karolinska krigares dagböcker jämte andra samtida skrifter.Vol. XI. - Lund, 1916. - P. 219-326

Christian Felix Bauer. (2013-06-29)

Баур, Родион Христианович.,_%D0%A0%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD_%D0%A5%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87 (2013-06-29)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 3:41 PM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 29 June 2013 5:26 PM 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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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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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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Monday, 22 October 2012
Magnus Stenbock
Topic: Generals

In the vast autograph collection in the archive from Ericsberg there are a lot of letters addressed to Magnus Stenbock (1663-1717), Governor of Scania, Field Marshal, Councillor of the Realm etc. etc. Stenbock was in many ways a complicated character. Born into one of the most prominent and influential families as the son of Count Gustaf Otto Stenbock, Admiral of the Realm and a member of the regency during the early years of Charles XI, the young Magnus had everything. However, in the late 1670's his father fell into disfavor and lost much of his possessions. This possibly made Magnus Stenbock acutely aware of how fast things could change and how necessary it was to keep good relations with the monarch. When war broke out in 1700 Stenbock seems to have quite rapidly earned the favor of Charles XII, partly because of his considerable military experience and ability. However, of perhaps even greater value was Stenbock's sense of humour and his talent in creating amusements for the King. From the letters exchanged between the two during the Polish campaign it would seem that Stenbock reached a level of personal friendship with Charles XII that no one (family excepted) at that point had been able to reach. However, as the son in law of Bengt Oxenstierna, the old President of the Chancellery, it is clear that Stenbock also had one foot in the camp of those who wished to see a different foreign policy. From preserved letters it's obvious that Magnus Stenbock at the very least tried to give "the opposition" the impression that he worked for their interests - while on the other hand seemingly being one of Charles XII's most trusted advisors.

After the treaty of Altranstädt had ended the conflict with Augustus II, Stenbock was sent home to govern the province of Scania as Governor. In 1709 it fell upon him to organize the defense against the invading Danes and his victory at the battle of Helsingborg in 1710 made him an instant hero in the eyes of the Swedish public. The Council of the Realm, which after Poltava had taken a larger share in the governing of Sweden, rewarded him with the Field Marshal's baton - something that did not particularly please Charles XII. Not because he didn't appreciate what Stenbock had achieved, but because he was sensitive to intrusions into what he considered to be his prerogative. This was a position which Stenbock apparently found hard to accept, perhaps because he always needed fresh proof that the King still liked him. 

Next: Letters to Stenbock from Bender.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:32 PM MEST
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