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Sunday, 2 August 2020
The march to Prussia : part 4
Topic: Archives

After further debate for and against Lt. General Hans von Fersen, Governor of Riga, said: His Majesty has not ordered us to discuss but rather to march. Several of the others replied that the circumstances were different when he gave that order. 

Major General Mengden asked what aliances made by the King of Poland personally really means. Governor General Horn replied that Pac's actions have demonstrated how little regard he has for them.  

And so the discussion continued... Fersen again said that in his opinion it was hardly necessary to repeat all the difficulties as the King quite clearly had given an order to march. 

The discussion continued on 5 February 1678 and ended with the decision to postpone. Governor General Horn reported this to the King - who was not pleased. On 24 March Charles XI wrote an angry letter to Horn, questioning why the participants in the council of war had dared to disobey a direct order. This letter reached Riga on 29 April, but the army didn't start to move until October.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:40 PM MEST
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Sunday, 12 July 2020
The march to Prussia : part 2
Topic: Archives

Governor General Horn stated that in his view it would be best to discuss the pros and cons. Charles XI had in his letter emphasized the importance of relieving Stettin and as the city had now fallen. Should the army march anyway?

The Councillor of the Realm Fleming said that he had been invited, but felt this was really a question for the Governor General (who was also a Field Marshal) and the generals. However, as the fall of Stettin had changed the situation considerably it was important to carefully consider the options. 

The secretery Segebaden read a letter from the King of Poland, who asked that Courland shouldn't be harmed as the army passed through. Segebaden also read a letter from the King to ambassador Lilliehöök, in which the former stated that what can be done today will be impossible tomorrow. If the Swedish army had marched in November 1677 it would have taken a few towns in Prussia and the Lithuaninan army had not been prepared to stop it. The Elector would also have been forced to abandon the siege of Stettin. Now it was too late and there was no chance for any sort of success. The Lithaunian army under the command of Hetman Pac was in Samogitia and all of the nobility was under arms. 

To be continued...

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:25 PM MEST
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Sunday, 5 July 2020
Off topic : the march to Prussia
Topic: Archives

I have been rather lazy for a very long time, but I'll try and and make some amends from time to time. 

In 1912 Nils Wimarson published the final volume of his large work Sveriges krig i Tyskland 1675-1679. Most of it is devoted to events in Germany (as the title indicates), but he also touched upon the preparations for the ultimately failed plan to support the Swedish forces in Pomerania by sending a relief corps from Livonia. In volume III (p. 195 ff.) Wimarson mentions a council of war held in Riga at the beginning of February 1678. He did not have access to much in terms of sources, only a letter from Governor General Christer Horn dated 7 February and some summary from 2 February.

In the Estonian National Archives there are extensive records from these deliberations (EAA.278.001-XIX-21). They apparently were held both on the 4th and the 5th. It was a large gathering: Governor General Horn, the President of the Court of Appeals in Dorpat Lars Fleming, Governor Hans von Fersen, Major General Jacob von Yxkull, Major General Gustav von Mengden, Major General Christoffer von Güntersberg, almost ten colonels and Jacob Sneckensköld, who was in charge of financial matters. 

The Governor General started the discussion by pointing out that the troops had been brought together and could not remain so for very long. Should the army march or was there some other alternative? The aim had been to relieve Stettin, but the city had fallen i late December. The appointed commander Bengt Horn (the Governor General's brother) was ill so if the army was to march someone would have to take his place. Christer Horn declared that he was ready to do so. 

The Governor General then proceeded to read a number of letters from Charles XI, all written long before Stettin fell. Then he posed the question: Should the army march? Major General Mengden replied that he wanted to know what the Swedish Envoy Lilliehöök had reported from Poland. The Secretary Segebaden stated that Lilliehöök had written that there were very small Brandenburger forces in Prussia, only about 2,000. The Lithuanian Hetman Pac claimed that he would oppose a Swedish intrusion, but his forces were also small. If the Swedish army showed its usual resolve he would yield. The news from Pomerania showed what the Swedish army was capable of - Königsmarck had beaten an enemy force of 7-8,000 men with just 5,000 and had lost only about 15. 

Major General Mengden then pointed out two things:

1. If Governor General Horn decided to march everyone present was ready to follow him.

2. If there were to be further discussions it was important to consider what would be most beneficial to Livonia - to march immediately or to wait some time. 

(To be continued). 


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 4:53 PM MEST
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Sunday, 3 June 2018
Back from Norway
Topic: Archives
On 26 May I made a presentation in Stugudal, Norway about the de la Barre papers in Tartu. As I have previously touched upon they contain a number of previously unknown letters and other documents from Armfeldt's campaign in 1718. Most notable are a few letters sent by Armfeldt to Lt. General Reinhold Johan de la Barre in December 1718 during the latter's successful enterprise against Röros.

The reception was very positive and plans to publish the material in some suitable regional publication were tentatively discussed. After my presentation there were several questions and later one participant said (roughly) that he was used to hearing things he had heard before, so it was refreshing when some entirely new appeared.

The other presentations were quite interesting, although one or two of the Norwegians were not so easy to understand...

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:36 PM MEST
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Tuesday, 17 April 2018
Olof Sandberg writes from Lund : part 1
Topic: Archives

The first "coded" letter from Olof Sandberg to Samuel Barck is dated Lund 25 November 1717. Lennart Thanner appears to have considered the code as an attempt to cover the presumably sensitive content. This appears very unlikely as it would probably have taken a contemporary reader only a few seconds to figure out the meaning. It seems more likely that Sandberg tried to amuse Barck. 

Sandberg starts out by saying that the knight "Sankt Jörgen" (Goertz) appears to have lost favour with the King. He then mentions "Pehr Speleman i Gårdarijke" (the Czar), who in Sandberg's opinion has bitten off more than he can chew. Sandberg then goes on to say God bless "Far" (the King) as things will then go well for "ungefar och ungemor" (Frederick of Hesse and Ulrika Eleonora). If "far" dies they will inherit the farm, which has fared poorly lately. They will have to spend time on repairs etc. Pretty standard stuff and certainly not a code that would have been of any use if the intent was to keep the content secret.


Source: Riksarkivet, Ericsbergsarkivet, Autografsamlingen, Vol. 182



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:35 PM MEST
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Sunday, 7 January 2018
An anecdote
Topic: Archives

I have recently finished a longer article about the poet and clergyman Samuel Älf (1727-1799). In the course of that work I have read a lot of letters to him and from him as well as some from people he met. One of these was Olof Andersson Knös (1756-1804), who in 1779 visited Älf in Linköping. During his visit he spoke with Johan Sparschuch (1699-1781), who (just as Älf) had been a friend of the late bishop Andreas Rhyzelius (1677-1761). Rhyzelius was in the 1710's close to Charles XII and served as his chaplain. Rhyzelius had told Sparschuch the follwing story:

One day towards the end of the King's life Rhyzelius was told that the King wanted to receive communion. Rhyzelius was surprised and said that he could not give communion before having had a chance to speak with the King. Charles had immediately agreed and he had himself put a small stool in the middle of the floor, kneeled and during his confession almost melted in tears.

Rhyzelius autobiography is filled with moving stories of his time in the service of Charles, who he decades later remembered very fondly. I don't have it available right know, but among the things Rhyzelius writes is that the country would have been much better if Charles had lived. That's a pretty astonishing thing to say by a man who reached great heights during the "Age of Liberty", i.e. the period which followed the King's death.

Source: Olof Andersson Knös to Carl Christoffer Gjörwell 22 August 1779, Ep. G. 7:6, Royal Library

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:22 PM CET
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Sunday, 28 May 2017
Royal letters to Schlippenbach
Topic: Archives

In 1885 the Swedish archivist Per Sondén travelled to various archives along the coast of the Baltic sea from Stettin to Saint Petersburg, primarily in order to search for letters from Axel Oxenstierna. Occasionally he looked beyond his immediate task and made notes of other interesting items. Upon arriving in Reval (Tallinn) he went first to the town archive and then to the archive of the Estonian nobility. He found little of relevance for his mission, but as a representative of the Swedish National Archive was offered a volume of letters from Charles XII to Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach 1701-1705. The same offer was repeated twenty years later, but as it was not clear what the owners wanted in return the volume stayed in Tallinn. 

The volume was later added the archive of the Governor General of Estonia and is now labelled EAA.1.2.153. It's available online through VAU (registration needed). Most of the content can likely be found in Riksregistraturet, but a few of the very first letters are written by the King personally. The first is dated Koiküll 5 January 1701 and deals with Schlippenbach's march to Marienburg (Alūksne). The second is dated the same day and goes into more detail. Schlippenbach should take 200 men from his own dragoons, 100 Finnish cavalry and 100 of Lt. Col. Stackelberg's batallion and go to Marienburg. There he would like find 200 men of Skytte's batallion wirh four guns. This force, the King writes, should not only be sufficient for defensive purposes but also permit an expedition into Russia in order to collect contributions. If Schlippenbach deemed it necessary he should allow those Livonians who lived close to the border to move further west. 

The King assured Schlippenbach that Major General Spens would take a position at Sagnitz (Sangaste) and would be able to support him if necessary.

On 10 January Schlippenbach acknowledged the arrival of these two letters (RA, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 23) and gave an extensive account of the situation. 

In an odd twist to the story there is a similar volume in Linköpings Stiftsbibliotek (H 189). This volume consists of copies of Royal letters to Schlippenbach, but is not identical to the EAA 1.2.153. The first letter in this volume is dated 22 January, which chronologically would put it between letters 5 and 6 in the Estonian one. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 12:01 AM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 28 May 2017 7:46 AM MEST
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Sunday, 7 May 2017
The High Court of Dorpat in 1700
Topic: Archives

I recently bought Heikki Pihlajamäki's new book Conquest and the Law in Swedish Livonia. On page 135 he speaks of a "mystery" which was quite unknown to me. Apparently there has been some confusion as to what happened with regard to the Court once war broke out in February. Margus Laidre has apparently claimed that it relocated to Reval under armed escort, while Heinz von zur Mühlen stated that it went to Riga. Pihjalamäki mentions that the letters from the High Court clearly shows that it from January 1703 had its seat in Riga. 

The correspondence of the Governor General of Livonia is able to clear up a few things. On 9 March 1700 Charles XII wrote to Colonel Skytte in Dorpat (a letter which is missing in Riksregistraturet), telling him to bring the archive of the Court to safety in Pernau or Reval if the military situation started to appear dangerous. Some time later the Court itself had turned to the King for help and on 10 April he sent a new letter to Skytte (not in Riksregistraturet, but a copy is preserved in LVVA, Fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288). Charles ordered Skytte to start moving the archive immediately. 

Skytte got this letter about a month later and quickly informed Governor General Dahlbergh. All preparations had been made, he reported, but as the latest news from Riga was encouraging it seemed unnecessary to go through with the transfer. Was it really worth the cost, especially as the Court had changed its mind about relocating?

Dahlbergh tentatively agreed to postpone, but wrote the Court to confirm the change of heart. He noted that the fortunes of war could shift again, but he was quite happy to disregard the King's instructions if the Court did not want to move. 

And so it stayed.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72

LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 288 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:43 PM MEST
Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2017 6:55 PM MEST
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Monday, 1 May 2017
De la Barre
Topic: Archives

Among the family archives preserved in Tartu one finds some volumes from the de la Barre family. Its most prominemt member during the Great Northern War was Lt. General Reinhold Johan de la Barre (166?-1724), who served under Armfelt in Finland, Sweden and Norway. One prominent letter from this collection was brought to light by Greta Wieselgren in an article in Svio-Estonica 1938. The letter was sent by Charles XII on 16 October 1718 and it contains a unequivocal instruction to de la Barre: he has to make sure that the King's orders are followed to the letter even if no one in the army survives. Parts of the letter echoes the King's sentiment towards the surrender at Perevolochna: those in command should not enter into discussions but rather give clear and distinct orders. They should not rely on reports from regimental commanders but look for themselves. 

Wieselgren apparently never noted that the archive contains much more military material, both from the first years of the GNW and from 1719-1721. One notable item is a letter from the aide-de-camp Major G. W. Marcks von Würtemberg, written in Långå at 5 in the morning on 26 December 1718. The existence of this document has been known for a long time. In his book about Armfelt's campaign in Norway Gustaf Petri mentions that Marcks on the very same day wrote to Armfelt that the reports of the King's death had been confirmed. This letter never reached Armfelt, but the earlier message Marcks mentions that he sent de la Barre has - in Tartu. 



Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:59 PM MEST
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Sunday, 2 April 2017
Carl Adam Stackelberg
Topic: Archives

The Baltic manorial archives have suffered large losses bevause of wars and revolutions, but some parts remain. One of these is the Stackelberg family archive (EAA.1862), preserved in Tartu. Notable from a GNW perspective are some volumes connected to Carl Adam Stackelberg (1669-1749), who first served in Livonia and later in the German provinces as well as during the Norwegian campaign in 1718. One of the earliest volumes is EAA.1862.1.16, which is labelled Memoriale /Konzepte/ und Schreiben an Könige, Generäle und Andere aus der Zeit des Nordischen Krieges und später and supposedly containing items from 1708-1710. 

The content is however of a different nature The largest document discusses whether it would be a good idea if Frederick of Hesse became King in accordance with the wishes of his wife Queen Ulrika Eleonora. The undated and anonymous memorial was obviously written some time in late 1719, after the Diet of 1719 and before the Diet of 1720 had started. The author is quite enthusiastic about Frederick, but formulates some conditions for his succession to the throne. If for example the Queen died the King should not be permitted to marry without the consent of the estates. The author is also very concerned about the future of the constitution, suggesting that one way to avoid an return of autocracy would be a sort of federal system made up of Sweden, Scania and the Baltic provinces. If two of these in one way or another agreed to the restoration of autocracy the third part could (if I understand the argument correctly) refuse to take part and seek support from foreign powers.

The author also believes it necessary to put Frederick on the throne in order to further pursue the war against the Czar. Without strong leadership it will be impossible to make an impression on the Russian ruler and to start a military operation to recapture Livonia. (This was of course very high on the agenda of the Swedish government after the death of Charles XII, i.e. to make peace with the other enemies, form a large European alliance and then undertake a large joint attack on Russia in order to force the Czar to moderate his terms. The Treaty of Nystad in 1721 was the logical conclusion to this rather far-fetched scheme). 

As far as I can tell none of the documents are in fact from 1708-1710, but rather about a decade younger. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:47 PM MEST
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