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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 12 March 2017
More from Tartu
Topic: Archives

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

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

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:20 PM MEST
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Sunday, 26 February 2017
Niedersächsiche Landesarchiv, Stade
Topic: Archives

A couple a days ago I decided to take a look at the archive of the Swedish Governor General of Bremen-Verden. It's preserved in Stade and parts of the catalogue is available through Arcinsys Niedersachsen.

I was quite unfamiliar with the this archive, but it turned out to be quite substantial as far as GNW correspondence is concerned. Many of the more prominent military and civilian officials from the first part of the war(Rehnskiöld, Liewen, Stenbock, Piper, Cederhielm etc.) are represented and the same is true for several of the most important diplomats (Lillieroth, Palmqvist, Cronström etc.). Notable are also some volumes concerning Governor General Gyllenstierna's march from Pomerania to Krakow in 1702. Other parts of Gyllenstierna's papers are preserved in the Swedish National Archives and in the Royal Library. At least parts of the "Swedish archive" in Stade have been microfilmed and these films are preserved in the Swedish National Archives.

The new archive building in Tartu has now opened, so it's time to restart my "excavations" in the Estonian part of archive of the Livonian Governor General. As I have noted before the level of service is excellent. Find the right volume in AIS and then just a few simple steps for ordering copies. I have by now acquired complete scans of about a hundred volumes and the (electronic) delivery of them usually only take a couple of weeks. The quality is always excellent and if there are any glitches they always fix them almost immediately. The price is very reasonable and unless the volumes are very thick (like the muster rolls for the period 1634-1694) it's entirely manageable. I have also made some forays into the archive of the Estonian Governor General (almost a dozen volumes thus far) and a couple of days ago I decided on a small experiment as far as the town council of Dorpat is concerned. There was in late 1691/early 1692 a most curious case concerning Harald Igelström, an officer and nobleman who killed two people and then managed to escape from jail and across the Düna to Courland. There is among the papers of the Livonian Governor General a lot of correspondence about the murders and Igelström's escape, but the letters do not contain any account of the circumstances. The case is mentioned in a few older works, but these versions appear to be incorrect. According to one of them it happened just before the war broke out in 1700 and that's obviously incorrect. Another preculiar detail is that Igelström was married to a daugther of Major Otto Wilhelm Klodt, who in 1702 was executed in Dorpat for treasonous actions during the Saxon invasion. The Igelström case was initially handled by the town authorities in Dorpat in January 1692.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:45 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2017 7:47 PM CET
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Sunday, 16 October 2016
Jean Charles de Folard
Topic: Archives

Among the many French soldiers who entered Swedish service during the Great Northern War few acquired the reputation of Jean Charles de Folard (perhaps better known as Chevalier de Folard). His letters to Goertz form the basis for chapter IX in Charles de Coynard biographic study (1914). Folard greatly admired Charles XII and went to Sweden in 1716. An illness forced him to return to France in the autumn of 1717, but the ship he was travelling on was wrecked off Skagen. In Folard's company was Hans Gyllenskepp, who was carrying secret dispatches for Poniatowski. Folard lost most of his luggage, including manuscripts and letters, but survived and got back to France. He was still planning to return to Sweden when Charles fell in November 1718. 

What Coynard did not know was that some letters from Folard to Charles remain, well hidden in a private archive. They suggest that Folard and Charles had immersed themselves in discussions about ancient history as well as about more practical matters. On 23 June 1718 Folard writes to the King that he has sent a drawing of a gun carriage for naval use and has been working on similar inventions for field and siege artillery. Due to the risk of them being captured by the enemy he has not yet forwarded those plans, but will do so if the King requests it. He also writes about a rifle which will fire five shots in the time an ordinary musket fires one. 

The second surviving letter is dated Paris 28 August 1718. Folard discusses at some length the reasons behind Alexander's great success against the Persians and the exploits of Caesar. Folard seems to suggest that these ancient examples proves that a smaller force can succeed by a rapid and determined assault (something Charles undoubtedly fully agreed with).

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:49 PM MEST
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Sunday, 9 October 2016
Guns and ammunition from Courland
Topic: Archives

When the Swedish army took control of Courland in 1701 they came upon considerable amounts of guns and ammunition. On 26 September Governor General Dahlbergh wrote to Major General Carl Gustaf Mörner in Mitau, asking him about the size and quality of the captured items. Mörner was blunt in his reply. Very little was of any use. The hand grenades were so brittle that they broke into pieces if dropped to the floor. The cannonballs and musket balls were of the wrong caliber and not worth wasting any time on.

During the attempts to strengthen the Peipus squadron the following year a new attempt was made. Would it possible to obtain guns from the iron works at Angern? The result was not much better. On 22 March Nils Klintenhielm wrote from Mitau that the boring house had burnt down five years earlier, so no guns could be produced there and none were available at Mitau. The only items available at Angern were horseshoes and nails - of little use to a navy.


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

Riksarkivet, Gustaf Adolf Strömfelts arkiv, vol. 16 

Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Dorpat-Rigasamlingen, vol. 1 (these papers later rearranged and renamed "Livonica".)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:55 PM MEST
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Sunday, 2 October 2016
Hedvig Sofia
Topic: Archives

Charles XII was extremely fond of his two sisters Hedvig Sofia and Ulrika Eleonora. It is well known that the news of Hedvig Sofia's death, which had arrived just before Poltava, was kept from him for quite some time because his entourage feared that such a blow could cause grave damage to his health. Charles XII and his eldest sister were very close, which her letters to him clearly show. Upon hearing the news from Narva she wrote to him on 7 December 1700. The first report had reached Stockholm on the 4th and futher confirmation had arrived the next day. The joy was indescribable, the Duchess wrote. God would undoubtedly continue to help and bring the Polish business to a quick resolution.

On the 28th the Duchess wrote again, thanking the King for a greeting sent by Arvid Horn and for the account of the battle by Carl Gustaf Wrangel. It was obvious, she wrote, that a very thorough fact checker had been at work. This was particularly pleasing as it proved that the King had not forgotten his devoted sister. May the Lord continue to protect His Majesty and help him carry out all his plans. I only wish, the Duchess wrote, that I will one day have an opportunity to meet Your Majesty again.

In her next letter, dated 29 January 1701, Hedvig Sofia jokingly informed Charles that some of the women at court had become soldiers and had enrolled her. They had their own uniforms and was now preparing to sail to Livonia. They would surely frighten the Russians more than the Russians would frighten them. The life at court was merry, but the King was missed. When he returned it would surely become even merrier.

On 4 February Hedvig Sofia gently reprimanded her brother. She was pleased with the greetings sent through Arvid Horn, but wished the King would write himself. She did not particularly like the stories about his disregard for his health. On him rested all hopes and he should take better care of himself. 

Source: Riksarkivet, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 38 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:05 PM MEST
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Sunday, 6 March 2016
Very stubborn
Topic: Archives

At present I am preparing an article on the clergyman and poet Samuel Älf (1727-1799), today perhaps best known for the large collection of Swedish poetry in Latin which he gifted to the Diocesan Library in Linköping. Without his lifelong efforts many of these works would likely have been lost. Älf naturally kept an extensive correspondence with scholars and public officials, of which at least a considerable number of incoming letters have been preserved in Linköping and in Uppsala. One example:

In late May 1790 Magdalena Stenbock (1744-1822), married to a member of the Cederhielm family, wrote to Älf about some books he had lent her. One of these "The Prince of Württemberg" (likely an edition of Bardili's work, first published in 1730) she had leafed through and found "the same things as in the histories of Charles XII: bravery, good intentions, a good heart, but no order, much stubbornness and vanity, which often results in misfortunes. Which we and he himself had to pay dearly for. If he had in time made peace with Poland and just disciplined our proud neighbour on the other side she would right now be less overbearing and we a formidable power. But -  what did not happen then will hopefully happen now. However, it would have been better to nip it in the bud and he had such an opportunity."

Magdalena Stenbock was of course referring to Russia and Gustav III's attempts to "discipline the proud neighbour" during the war of 1788-1790. 

Source: Linköping Diocesan Library, Br 37

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:49 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 6 March 2016 10:33 PM CET
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Sunday, 28 February 2016
A Royal doodler
Topic: Archives

There are few instances when you get as close Charles XII as when you hold in your hand a letter which contains his notes. A particular group of such documents which contains his own "illustrations":

A doodle made by Charles XII usually (in my experience) contains weapons (axes, halberds and such) and field-works. This example would seem to be slightly more civilian in character (a lot of Latin numbers) and an even today often used vulgar term for urine ("piss"). The Royal unhappiness may have had something to do with the content of letter - the letter from Col. Schlippenbach and the attachment from Lt. Col. Romanowitz vividly explains the poor state of the soldiers due to the cold and the various hardships suffered.

Source: Riksarkivet, Stockholm, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII:s tid, vol. 23 





Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM CET
Updated: Saturday, 27 February 2016 8:51 PM CET
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Sunday, 7 February 2016
The archive of the Estonian Governor General
Topic: Archives

When the last Swedish possessions in Estonia and Livonia were being threatened by the Russians in 1709-1710 some of the archives were evacuated. One of them was the archive of the Estonian Governor General. It stayed in Sweden for more than a decade. In 1726 or 1727 it came back to Estonia due to the regulations in the Treaty of Nystad. However, some parts were never handed over to the Russians. This means that some incoming letters to Governor General de la Gardie are in Riksarkivet (Livonica II, vol. 270-300) and others in Tartu (as far as the GNW is concerned vol. 1.2.284-291).

When one looks at the individual volumes in Tartu they are quite different. Vol. 284 (first half of 1700) consists of nearly 300 pages, while 291 (1704) is less than 100 pages (all heavily damaged by water). One of the few partly legible items in the latter volume is a letter from Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt to de la Gardie, dated Mitau 24 September. Lewenhaupt writes of the remarkable successes of the troops under his command and the victory at Jacobstadt. With no more that 3,080 men he had soundly beaten the enemy which lost 5,000 men in dead and wounded (just after the battle Lewenhaupt claimed that 2,000 enemy soldiers had been killed). 

In Livonica II there are a few more letters from Lewenhaupt to de la Gardie: 23 May, 6 June, 11 July and 14 September 1703 (all from Mitau). While it's very likely that Lewenhaupt did not write to de la Gardie as often as he did to Frölich in Riga one can safely assume that this means that many letters have been lost.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:51 PM CET
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Sunday, 31 January 2016
Fond 7349, op. 2 and 3
Topic: Archives
After several years of more or less intense work I am finally in the process of finishing those parts of the "Swedish archive" which have been added post-1908. Generally speaking they consist of a mixture of items, i.e. parts of various collections (most notably Carl Schirren's and manuscripts which once belonged to the Gesellschaft für Geschichte und Altertumskunde in Riga). So while Schirren, the Gesellschaft and others in the 19th century took advantage of the lack of interest in the archive of the Swedish Livonian Governor General by removing interesting volumes and documents subsequent generations have been doing the opposite. However, an old catalogue made in the 1810's (op. 3, vol. 86) suggest that some volumes have either been lost altogether or are yet to be returned. Whether this practice of "reconstruction" is advisable is another matter - it makes it rather difficult to check footnotes in older litterature.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:38 PM CET
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Sunday, 22 November 2015
Lewenhaupt and Charles XII
Topic: Archives

Among the documents in the archive of the Livonian Governor General there is a fragment of Lewenhaupt's letter book for the autumn of 1707. Among the copies of letters is a fairly long one to the King, which (as far I know) isn't preserved elsewhere. It's dated Mitau 13 September 1707 and starts by describing the military situation in Courland and Lithuania. Prince Wisniowiecki is positioned near Birsen and the enemy has advanced as if the intention was to the Prince's forces. Lewenhaupt had sent some cavalry in support, which the enemy (according to Lewenhaupt) believed were the first units from the approaching Royal army (which of course was far away in Poland). The enemy had as a result of this hastily retreated. Bauer was advancing from Kaunas with orders to fall back if the King's army approached. Repnin and a considerable force of infantry remained at Vilnius. His plan was to attack Courland if the Swedish main army stopped in Silesia. Lewenhaupt intended to stay close to Riga until the main army approached. The supply problems were considerable, so if he could not get assistance from Stockholm the King himself would have to intervene. Lewenhaupt also informed Charles that the was working on clearing up the remaining differences between Wisniowiecki and Sapieha. Both had visited Lewenhaupt both on the 11th and the 12th. Good progress had been made, but the most difficult item remained - the transfer of Wisniiwcki's forces to the Hetman. Wisniowiecki claimed (and Lewenhaupt agreed) that most of his units would desert if this was forced upon them. Lewenhaupt emphasized that he had always found Wisniowiecki to be an honest and truthful supporter of King Stanislaw.

This letter preceeds the discussion Lewenhaupt in his memoirs claims he had with the King during his visit to the latters headquarters in the spring of 1708, during which Charles supposedly got upset when Lewenhaupt suggested that Wisniowiecki had shown himself to be much more reliable and useful than Hetman Sapieha ever had been (a pretty bold statement as Lewenhaupt well knew the King's strong and long support for the Sapieha family).

Source: LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 331 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:52 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 22 November 2015 10:53 PM CET
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