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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 15 May 2016
Lindehielm again
Topic: Battles

On 18 September 1700 Lindehielm again reported to Stockholm. After his letter from the 14th no mail had arrived from Narva or Nyen. A large number of people had fled from Nyen to Viborg and they had confirmed the news about the Russian invasion. One part of the invading force had gone towards Narva and another was marching back and forth through Ingria in order to bring the peasants under Russian control. Particularly the Orthodox had been well treated, but it was claimed that if the Lutherans among the peasants had been given muskets, powder and a leader they would have been willing to fight. 100 muskets and two barrels of powder had been sent from Viborg for support and Lindehielm was expecting a report from Colonel Apolloff. If this was positive he would send more, but it was important that the stores at Viborg was resupplied from Stockholm. Lindehielm had gathered the peasants and any regular soldiers he could find and sent them to Nyen in order to protect Viborg by setting up a line of defence on the shores of the Neva. Perhaps this force even might persuade the Russians to withdraw some of the army outside Narva. A major problem for Lindehielm was the lack of officers. 

In his next report, dated 21 September, Lindehielm stated that more people had arrived from Nyen and other parts of Ingria. They said that the Russian force was very large. The invaders had sent out proclamations assuring that everybody who remained would be treated well. The attack on Narva had begun, but no details were known. The panic had also spread to the Keksholm area. The source was said to be deserters from the Swedish army in Livonia, who had taken refuge in the forests. Lindehielm had instructed the bailiffs to keep the peasants from fleeing and make them guard the borders, telling them that regular units were marching to the relief of Nyen so as to keep the Russians occupied. Lindehielm had also been forced to send muskets and powder to Savolax. Colonel Rehbinder had sent a letter from Reval, saying that he would come to Viborg as soon as he could. A man who had fled from Ingria claimed that Johan Sjöblad, commander of the Swedish artillery, and 40 men had managed to get into Narva, while Charles XII had landed with a large force at Reval. These rumours (which were false) had caused much joy in Viborg and increased moral significantly. However, two days later there came letters from Reval and they said nothing about this. This incident showed, Lindehielm said, that the people were willing to fight if they just received assurances of support.

Source: Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol. 77

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:21 PM MEST
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Sunday, 24 April 2016
A new website
Topic: Battles

A website dedicated to events in 1718 (and 1716) has recently opened:

The project seems ambitious enough with several prominent institutions and organizations in Sweden and Norway working together. It is understandable that some of the material is fairly provisional at this point, but it seems to me that some of it has been published a bit prematurely. It is for example quite disappointing to read that Peter I of Russia, Frederick IV of Denmark and August II of Saxony-Poland declared war on Sweden in 1700. The fact that Denmark attacked only the Duke of Holstein and Sweden got involved in that particular conflict only to uphold the Treaty of Altona in 1689 ought to be common knowledge - it is after all one of the keys for understanding the events in 1700. The text then goes on to suggest that the Swedish army subsequently was shipped across the Baltic to relieve the besieged Narva - a decision which was only made once the army got across and Charles XII found that Riga was less threatened.

Another rather preculiar detail is the attempt to explain the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calender without even once mentioning the unique Swedish calender in use 1700-1712. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:38 PM MEST
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Sunday, 20 March 2016
Kobron 1700
Topic: Battles

When Saxon forces crossed the border on the evening of 11 February 1700 and moved towards Riga they came upon the small fort of Kobron, situated just across the river from Riga. The fort was very small and the garrison minimal. The commander Major Conrad von Bildstein reported to Dahlbergh at 1 p.m. on the 12th that he had observed advancing Saxons since 7 a.m. He had not been able to determine the enemy's strength. Bildstein asked for reinforcements and orders how to act. Dahlbergh, who was unwilling to weaken the defense of Riga, immediately replied that Bildstein would have to do the best he could with the men he already had..

The distraught commander wrote back in the evening of the 12th, stating that the fort was weak and the garrison insufficient, but he would with the help of God do his best. However, Bildstein assured Dahlbergh, it was quite impossible for anyone to defend Kobron under the present circumstances. The Saxon infantry had already arrived, he added. 

The next day Bildstein gave a frank assessment of the situation. He had at his disposal "41 useless soldiers" who would not be able to fire a single shot and the other 9 could certainly fire once, but before they had been able to reload the enemy would be at their throats. It was a pity that the enemy would get all the beautiful ammunition stored at Kobron. The Saxon cavalry and artillery had passed the fort, Bildstein added.

In the night between the 13th and 14th the Saxons forces attacked Kobron and captured it after a short fight.

Source: Riksarkivet, Stockholm, M 1374 (Account of the attack on Riga written by Dahlbergh's secretary Blåman. Several reports by Bildstein are attached.)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:56 PM MEST
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Sunday, 14 February 2016
The decision : September 1701
Topic: Battles

On 11 September 1701 Governor General Dahlbergh wrote a series of letters about the recent events in eastern Livonia, where a Russian force had attacked Col. Schlippenbachs corp. To the Chancery in Stockholm and Major General Horn in Narva Dahlbergh sent a brief account and expressed his concern for the future. To Charles XII he sent a longer letter, enclosing a report from Schlippenbach himself. The courier, Lt. Col. Stackelberg, had been present during the Russian attack and could expand on the subject if necessary. What was Dahlbergh's primary concern? Well, the supplies collected for the expected return of the King's army. The original plan had of course been to drive the Saxon army away from Riga and then at some point go back to eastern Livonia in order to prepare for an assault on Pskov. As late as 16 September Dahlbergh appears to have believed that this was still in the cards, although the lateness of the season made him believe that it would take a considerable time for the King's army to get there.

A couple of days later Dahlbergh was informed of a new decision. Charles XII had ordered two regiments (Fritz Wachtmeister's and Erich Stenbock's) to leave Mitau and join Schlippenbach's force along with 1,000 men from the garrison of Riga. When writing to the Chancery in Stockholm on 23 September the Governor General could add a bit of juicy gossip to this news: there had reportedly been a great uprising in Moscow. The German Quarter had been thoroughly plundered and a number of the Czar's favorites, including Anna Mons, killed.

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

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:20 PM CET
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Sunday, 12 July 2015
Erik Dahlbergh and the battle of Narva
Topic: Battles

Some time after the battle of Narva in late November 1700 Erik Dahlbergh started asking Henning Rudolf Horn (the garrison commander at Narva) for information about the siege and the battle. Dahlbergh's letters to Horn are possibly lost, but some of the replys are preserved. On 24 March 1701 Horn writes that he would already have sent the map of the battle and the drawings of the town if the King had not requested changes. On 13 May Horn writes that Captain Palmstruch has been ordered to modify the drawing and make the breach of the walls somewhat clearer. On 27 May Horn again writes to Dahlbergh, saying that the key to the map will follow shortly. On 3 June Horn returns to the subject and says that the view of the town isn't quite ready yet. On 13 June Horn states that Captain Palmstruch was hard at work.

On 21 June Horn informs Dahlbergh that the drawing of the town from the Ingrian side has  been sent and Palmstruch is working on the drawing from the Estonian side. On 7 July Horn tells Dahlbergh that this work soon will be finished. On 18 July he writes that this work is done as well (by lieutenant De la Vallée).

It seems likely that this matedrial was used by Johan Lithén (ennobled Litheim 1718), who made several drawings of battles and towns in the Baltic provinces and Courland.

Source: LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 276 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:56 PM MEST
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Sunday, 14 June 2015
Swedish losses at Narva
Topic: Battles

For some reason Karl XII på slagfältet, vol. 2 does not give a detailed list of Swedish losses in the battle of Narva 1700. At least some of shortcomings can be remedied by a document dated Narva 28 November 1700 and signed by Major General Maydell. The units covered are the participating detachments from the Finnish infantry regiments:

Col. Funcken's (Åbo): 1 captain wounded, 1 NCO missing (presumed dead), 1 NCO wounded, 1 corporal missing (presumed dead), 1 corporal wounded, 3 soldiers wounded and 13 killed.

Col. Creutz (Björneborg): 1 captain wounded,  2 NCOs wounded, 5 soldiers wounded and 50 killed.

Major General Maydell's (Tavastehus): 1 captain dead, 1 lieutenant dead, 1 lieutenant wounded, 3 NCOs wounded, 1 corporal dead, 14 soldiers wounded and 7 killed.

Col. Mellin's (Viborg): 1 captain wounded, 1 corporal dead, 14 soldiers wounded and 7 killed.

Col. Cronman's (Savolax): 1 captain dead, 1 lieutenant dead, 27 soldiers killed.

Col. Budberg's (Nyland): 8 soldiers wounded.


Source: Krigsarkivet, Krigshandlingar. Stora nordiska kriget, Avd. 3, vol. 10



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:15 PM MEST
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Sunday, 12 April 2015
The fight at Koporye 28 September 1708 : part 2
Topic: Battles

During last week I had a look at some of the Swedish sources for the Ingrian campaign of 1708, including Lybecker's report about the encounter near Koporye fortress on 28 September 1708. A short summary of what he claims:

While his army for three days was busy unloading and distributing provisions brought by sea a report arrived. This indicated that the Russians were moving their cavalry from Duderhof to Koporye in order to cut off the Swedish army. Upon receiving this news Lybecker detached a cavalry force of 1,800 men under the command of colonels Ramsay and Armfelt. They were instructed to observe the enemy and attack if the latter made a stand. Upon reaching a nearby village the Swedes were told that a Russian force of about 100 cavalry and 100 infantry had been there about an hour earlier and that the Russian force had taken up a position near Koporye. Ramsay and Armfelt discussed the situation with several officers in their detachment and decided to advance towards Koporye. Their approach was made up a very steep hill towards a large open field which reached beyond the fortress. The Russians were drawn up in two lines on this field, at a distance of a few musket shots from the fortress itself. Some additional squadrons were placed behind the two lines. As the Swedish force approached and took up position Armfelt assumed command of the right flank and Ramsay of the left. Orders were given to abstain from firing and attack with the sword only. As the Swedish attack started the Russians advanced as well. Cossacks and a force of boyars which were positioned in front of the Russian lines opened fire and the Cossacks attacked the Swedish left. Major de la Barre counterattacked with some squadrons and hit the flank of the Cossacks and drove them off. The Russian line opened fire and tried to regroup, but the strong Swedish assault forced both lines to retreat and the Russians started streaming backwards. As they were doing this they came upon a very deep ravine which crossed the field and went into the moat. Many Russians were driven down into the ravine and got stuck in the mud, where they were picked off by Swedish fire. Major Danielsson and some of his men jumped off their horses and went down into the ravine where they killed a large number of Russians with the sword. Another group were killed in similar fashion by Col. Ramsay very near the moat.

The garrison in Koporye tried to support the Russians with artillery fire and another force opened fire with muskets from a dry moat on the right as well as from a large house on the left. This did not stop the Swedes, who again attacked and pursued the fleeing Russians for several kilometres until they reached a small river which the Russians were forced to swim across.

Those who fled towards Koporye fortress were pursued by Lt. Col. Brakel with seven companies all the way to the drawbridge, forcing some Russians to jump into the moat to save themselves. The Russian fire from the fortress was intense but very inefficient, only killing one officer and wounding another. When the Swedes fell back from the drawbridge the Russians in the fortress counterattacked with both infantry and cavalry (with a force estimated to have been about 1,200). Col. Armfelt counterattacked and drove them back, but the Russians got reinforcements and attacked again. Eventually Armfelt decided to retreat and this was conducted very skillfully. His force lost about 50 men in total and the rest of the Swedish units lost another 20. The Russian losses were estimated as having been about 600. The enemy's baggage was captured. Among Brigadier Fraser's belongings several letters were found and they contained much valuable information. According to the prisoners Fraser commanded 5 dragoon regiments, 1 regiment of Cossacks and 1 unit of "selected Boyars". The Russians had left their colours in the fortress, so none were taken during the fight.

To be continued... 

Krigsarkivet, Krigshandlingar. Stora nordiska kriget, Vol. 12d, Letter from Lybecker dated Nurmis, 1 October 1708.


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:56 PM MEST
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Sunday, 5 April 2015
The fight at Koporye 28 September 1708
Topic: Battles

On 28 September (Swedish calendar) 1708 a detachment from Lybecker's army fought some sort of engagement near the fortress Koporye. The known Swedish sources seem to be quite few - an official description sent by Lybecker to Governor General Stromberg in Reval, an account by Col. Ramsay who commanded the Swedish force (apparently it's very siimilar to the official one) and a brief note in cavalry captain Bengt Stigman's description of his military career.

Apparently the official account states that the Swedish force consisted of 1,800 horse (Stigman claims 1,500). According to Stigman the Russians were 5,000. Fredrik Hjelmqvist states that Russian prisoners who were captured during the fight claimed there were 3,800 men (5 regiments of dragoons and 1 regiment of Cossacks). The Swedish losses were supposedly 70 men.  During the fight the Swedes supposedly managed to capture some letters, among them:

Letters from Vice Admiral Cruys to Brigadier Fraser, dated 19 and 22 September; Letter from Major Blandau to his stepfather Brigadier Fraser, dated 20 September; Letter from Fraser to Major General Bruce, dated 23 September and letter from Bruce to Fraser, dated 24 September. 

The sources for this encounter appear to be few in the archive of the Livonian Governor General. The volume containing letters from Cronhjort and Lybecker appears to have been plundered. In LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 304 there is a letter from Vyborg dated 9 October, which mentions a vague rumour about a fight near Koporye. Governor General Stromberg writes a few days later (12 October) to Major General von Funcken in Riga. In this letter Stromberg tells Funcken that his scouts (or spies) have returned with news about a fight near Koporye in which the Russians had been soundly beaten. Later, Stromberg continues, Lybecker's army had reached Ivangorod and caused panic among the Russians forces west of Narva. Unfortunately no report had yet arrived from Lybecker, but reports of a fight was coming in from many sources so that part was undoubtedly true (LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 332)

In the so called Malmberg papers (rearranged after I used them, so the old volume numbers are useless) in Uppsala there are a few more bits and pieces. The first one is a letter from Lybecker to Major General Funcken, dated 1 October (it did not reach Riga until the 31st). In it Lybecker states that the enemy attempted to take up a strong position near Koporye, but was driven off by a detachment of cavalry. The letter was accompanied by an account of the event, but this attachment is now missing (possibly because it was forwarded elsewhere). 

As for the decision to abort the Ingrian campaign the Malmberg papers contributes to items. The first one is a letter from Lybecker, dated 27 October. In this he explains that the supply situation had been difficult, not least because of the continuing rain which had destroyed the roads. The plan to evacuate the army by sea had unfortunately been betrayed by an officer who deserted, so about 400 men were still ashore when the enemy attacked. On 16 November Lybecker again wrote to v. Funcken, further explaining his decision to abort the campaign. This was because of the "barbaric" enemy, who had burnt everything. However, the army had before then handed the Russians several defeats and forced them to bring reinforcements to Ingria. The destruction of the countryside and the losses suffered by the Russians would, Lybecker suggested, make any offensive operations unlikely. 


Sources (apart from those specified above):

Hjelmqvist, Fredrik: Kriget i Finland och Ingermanland 1707 och 1708. - Lund, 1909

Karolinska officerares tjänsteförteckningar. - Stockholm, 1901 (Bengt Stigman's "CV", dated 1721) 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:39 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 5 April 2015 11:07 PM MEST
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Sunday, 16 November 2014
Systerbäck 1703
Topic: Battles

The known Swedish sources for the encounter at Systerbäck on 9 July 1703 are few. Most extensive is Relation von der Action, so den 9 Julii 1703 bey Sösterbeck zwischen der unter meinem Commendo stehenden under feindtlichen armee vorgefallen, printed by Yrjö Koskinen in 1865. This account was sent by Cronhjort to "Defensionskommissionen" on 14 July and is preserved in the committee's archive.

A couple previously overlooked Systerbäck sources can be found in LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 358 as attachments to a letter from Lt. General Georg Johan Maydell to Governor Frölich in Riga. Maydell had at that point not yet reached the army in Finland, but as a long time commander of a Finnish infantry regiment he undoubtedly had many contacts in Cronhjort's army. In the letter Maydell writes that the losses luckily hadn't been as bad as the rumours had been suggesting despite the fact that the action had started at 6 in the morning and continued until 2 p.m. The Swedes had lost 250 killed and 220 wounded, but the Russian losses were twice as high, Maydell claimed (according to Cronhjort's account there had been 203 killed and 184 wounded on the Swedish side). 

Maydell's sources seems to have been two letters, one from captain Maydell and one from captain Paykull (summaries attached to the letter to Frölich).



Riksarkivet, ÄK 243, vol.  107 (Letters to Defensionskommissionen from Cronhjort 1703)

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 258 (Miscellaneous letters 1693-1703) 

Handlingar till upplysande af Finlands öden under det Stora nordiska kriget / utg. af Yrjö Koskinen. - Helsinki, 1865


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:39 PM CET
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