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The Great Northern War
Sunday, 1 April 2018
Hugo Hamilton
Topic: Generals

Hugo Hamilton (1655-1724) served in various capacities during the GNW. He is perhaps most known as County Governor in Gävle 1716-1719, but before that he had served in Göteborg and had also taken part in the battle of Helsingborg. In the Ericsberg autograph collection (Riksarkivet) there is a series of letters from him to Magnus Stenbock. The last of them, written as late as 24 March 1714, is very detailed despite the intended recipient being a prisoner of war in Denmark. 

Hamilton starts out by outlining how the Swedish forces were to be used during the coming campaign. Nils Gyllenstierna would be in charge in Scania, supported by Skytte, Örnestedt and Sinclair. General Spens would command near Stockholm, supported by Taube, Palmquist, Köhler and Tschammer. Mörner would be in charge at Göteborg and have a force of 40,000. Hamilton would serve under him. The naval squadron for the Gulf of Finland would be under the command of Admiral Wattrang. 

The Diet had been complicated, Hamilton wrote. There had been too much interest in the peace issue, a matter best left to the Council and Princess Ulrika Eleonora. Hamilton felt very strongly that peace could only be obtained with military means. The matter was most delicate as the absent King could well take issue with the whole thing, i.e. conclude that the Council and the Diet had overstepped their authority. 

All true patriots were very sorry for Stenbock and hoped that he would soon be released. 

Source: Riksarkivet, Ericsbergsarkivet, autografsamlingen, vol. 92 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 8:32 PM MEST
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Sunday, 23 July 2017
Axel Sparre
Topic: Generals

Axel Sparre (1652-1728) was, despite the considerable age difference, one of Charles XII's favorite officers. At some point in the first years of the war Sparre sent the King a rather peculiar bill.

The King had, Sparre wrote, on 14 March 1701 promised him that he would be killed in the next battle. If he was not, the King would pay Sparre 1,000 ducats. Because of the Saxons poor shooting Axel Sparre was still alive so he wanted the 1,000. The King had furthermore on the 24th thrown away a cushion belonging to Sparre, worth 20 ducats. On 23 May the King had made an effort to wound Sparre in the leg with one of his spurs. This was particularly expensive: 200 for the illegal wound, 100 for the pain, 100 for the surgeon and 200 for forcing Sparre to travel on a simple peasant's wagon in front of his regiment and then having to limp during the battle after the crossing of the Düna. 

Another couple of items and the entire bill was for 1,650 ducats. The document does not indicate a payment, but it's well-known that the King was quite generous. In an article in Karolinska Förbundets årsbok 1968 Sven Grauers list some expenses during the first years of the war: 148 thalers in silver to three Polish women whose houses had burnt down by accident, 67 thalers to a Polish nobleman whose oxen had been taken by the Swedes, 630 thalers to Swedish and Saxon wounded after the battle of Kliszow etc. 

Source: Riksarkivet, Ericsbergsarkivet,  Vol. 196

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 5:37 PM MEST
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Sunday, 8 January 2017
Rehnschiöld and Lewenhaupt
Topic: Generals

Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt's memoirs, first published in 1757 and again in 1952 (possibly based on another manuscript) are rich in scoundrels, big and small, who in one way or another treated the general unfairly. One of the major villains is Field Marshal Rehnschiöld, who blames Lewenhaupt for almost everything which goes wrong at Poltava. This animosity would appear to have been rather new as the two had no personal contact whatsoever from late 1701 until the arrival of Lewenhaupt at the King's headquarters in the spring of 1708.

Whether they knew each other before the war is unclear, but one item strongly suggests it. On 18 July 1700 Lewenhaupt was appointed colonel of a regiment which was to be raised in Uppland, Dalarna and Västmanland. As he had never held any rank whatsoever in the Swedish army (according to his memoirs he could not accept having to start as a common soldier despite being from an illustrious family) this appointment came as a bit of shock to him. So why had Charles XII remembered him?

Well, it would appear that Lewenhaupt believed that Lieutenant General Carl Gustaf Rehnschiöld had put in a good word. On 8 August Lewenhaupt wrote to him, saying that the appointment no doubt was a result of a recommendation from Rehnschiöld. Besides expressing profound gratitude Lewenhaupt asked Rehnschiöld for advice. There was a shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers and the King undoubtedly wanted the regiment to be ready as soon as possible. Some officers had been found and expressed a willingness to serve. However, Lewenhaupt wasn't sure that the King accepted proposals from the colonels, but if he did perhaps Rehnschiöld could present him with Lewenhaupt's list? It seemed possible to find enough captains and lieutenants with previous military experience, but ensigns were harder to find. Lewenhaupt was inclined to go for young ambitious men without experience. Non-commissioned officers were even more difficult to recruit. Could Rehnschiöld give some advice? Perhaps some corporals from the old regiments? Lewenhaupt was also looking for a lieutenant colonel as the King had only appointed a major. 

A rather amusing detail which adds to this letter: Ten days later Nils Gripenhielm, County Governor of Dalarna, wrote to Lewenhaupt about the efforts to raise the new regiment. There were many officers available in Dalarna, but Gripenhielm did not know if they would be willing to serve. It would be best if Lewenhaupt came to Dalarna himself. Gripenhielm noted that his own son Axel Johan (born in March 1686) wanted to join the army. He was only 15 years old (or rather 14), but Axel Johan was tall and energetic. Would there perhaps be a place for him in the regiment? Perhaps as officer, as he already knew the basics? Nils Gripenhielm's wife had a relative who was 17, who could perhaps be suitable as a non-commissioned officer? He was a bit short, but had recently grown considerably. The young man was the son of old major Gladtsten and his older brother was already an ensign in Dalregementet. The old major was very poor and had no way of helping his children. 

Axel Johan Gripenhielm was appointed ensign in Lewenhaupt's regiment on 30 September 1700. He died in 1755, having reached the rank of Major General. Ensign Adam Gladtsten also survived the war and many years as a prisoner of war in Russia. He died in 1729. The fate of his younger brother Göran (who seems likely to have been the one Gripenhielm tried to help) is unclear. He is sometimes called "ensign", but with no details about where and how long he served. Date of death is also unknown.

Source: Linköpings Stiftsbibliotek, H 79:4, no 19 and no 24 

P.S. Rehnschiöld had spent some time in the Netherlands in 1691 as a military aide and teacher to the young Duke Frederick IV of Holstein. He may have come into contact with Lewenhaupt, who was a lieutenant colonel in Magnus Wilhelm Nieroth's regiment. 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 6:08 PM CET
Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2017 9:12 PM CET
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Sunday, 11 December 2016
Scxhlippenbach and Stuart
Topic: Generals

About two years ago I wrote about the apparent friendship between Carl Magnus Stuart and Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach, the commander of the army in Livonia. In a letter dated 4 October 1701 Stuart advised Schlippenbach to remain at his post and assured him that he was just as unhappy about the King's decision to abandon the plan to move against the Russians after the Saxons had been driven away from Riga. Another slightly misplaced document further confirms their relationship. 

On 19 June 1701 Stuart wrote to his friend from the camp at Terrafer (Tõravere), expressing gratitude for the many letters Schlippenbach had sent him. Stuart had not had the opportunity to reply to them before, so he also wanted to express his happiness on hearing about Schlippenbach's many successful raids during the preceding year and during the winter. These had proved to Charles XII that Stuart's high opinion of Schlippenbach was fully justified. The King was now marching towards Düna with 24,000 men and would leave 6,000 at the Russian border. This force would hopefully be able to protect Livonia, so that something considerable could be achieved during the autumn. 

Riksarkivet, M 1414 (letters to Schlippenbach from Stuart during 1702).  

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 7:20 PM CET
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Sunday, 27 March 2016
The General's servant
Topic: Generals

In December 1703 Reverend Daniel Rydelius in Vinnerstad parish wrote to his superiors in Linköping. There were rumours circulating that General Lewenhaupt's bailiff Simon Larsson Hesselgren at the estate of Charlottenborg was having an extramarital relation with the late reverend Frodelius daughter Greta. Rydelius had tried to find out the truth, but with little success. What should he do?

The issue soon came to Hesselgren's attention and he lodged a complaint. There was absolutely no truth to the rumours. He had for a long time been friends with the Frodelius family. Hesselgren's own wife had been very ill for more than six years and their children were young. The war meant difficult times so it was only natural that he sought out friends for help and advice. Hesselgren lamented that his reputation had been tarnished by Rydelius report. Had he not, Hesselgren wrote, since he left school been in the service of Major General Lewenhaupt and accompanied the General on journeys through Germany, France, Italy, England, Holland, Persia and Russia? Would Lewenhaupt have kept Hesselgren in his service for so long if Rydelius view of him was correct?

Had Lewenhaupt and Hesselgren really visited all those countries? Well, the question mark is around Persia. Hesselgren and Lewenhaupt took part in the Swedish embassy to Russia in 1684, but there is nothing to suggest that they went further. Hesselgren's own journal is silent on the subject.


Landsarkivet i Vadstena, Domkapitlets i Linköping arkiv E IV:303 (Vinnerstad parish 1701-1725) 

Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, X  418 (Simon Hesselgren's travel journal)

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:32 PM MEST
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Sunday, 13 March 2016
Lewenhaupt in early 1708
Topic: Generals
Not a lot is known about Lewenhaupt's views on the situation as the main army drew closer in early 1708. It has often been assumed that he advocated a less ambitious plan, i.e. was opposed to a march on Moscow. Some insights can be gained from a volume in Tartu (EAA.278.2.86), which contains drafts of his outgoing orders during January. They show that he was in contact with persons close to Charles XII (for example Major Generaöl Meijerfelt). On 2 January 1708 Lewenhaupt wrote to the latter, stating that he believed the Russians would withdraw once the main army got closer. Interestingly Lewenhaupt claims that his own army is ready to march and would leave Courland if there only were supplies enough. Especially fodder was a problem as "our friends" the forces of Wisniowiecki and Sapieha had caused more damage than the enemy. If only Wisniowiecki still had been an enemy - then Lewenhaupt could march anywhere. If the Russians advanced Lewenhaupt would, he states, have no other choice than collect his forces and meet them despite the fact that he had fodder for just 3 days. If only the King would arrive and give the Courland army more room.

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:58 PM MEST
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Sunday, 29 November 2015
Lewenhaupt and Wisniowiecki
Topic: Generals

In my previous entry I touched upon the relationship between Lewenhaupt and Michał Wiśniowiecki. In his memoirs the General frequently underlines his high regard for the Lithuaninan magnate. Lewenhaupt's secretary Klinthen gives a few more details about the relationship in his letters to Olof Hermelin, an official in the Field Chancery. On 5 June 1707 Klinthen writes that there cannot be any doubt about Wiśniowiecki's sincerety, but the Prince is reluctant to transfer his troops to Hetman Sapieha. They are, Klinthen writes, more disciplined than Sapieha's. A month later, after the fall of Bychow, Klinthen states that Wiśniowiecki keeps on assuring the Swedes of his fidelity, but it's prudent to remain skeptical. On 8 Augusti Klinthen writes that the Prince and Oginski seem more interested in fighting with pens than swords, publishing various manifestos against each other.

Source: Riksarkivet (Stockholm), Kanslitjänstemäns koncept och mottagna skrivelser, vol. 80 

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:44 PM CET
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Sunday, 13 September 2015
Otto Vellingk vs Erik Dahlbergh
Topic: Generals
When General Otto Vellingk after the Saxon army had crossed the Düna in mid-July 1700 decided to retreat northwards he blamed Governor General Dahlbergh in Riga. Dahlbergh had failed to provide adequate supply of provisions, which had made it impossible for the army to take up the most suitable position on the northern shore.  Charles XII received Vellingk’s report on 15 August and promptly wrote Dahlbergh, expressing his surprise at the turn of events. Vellingk had previously sent optimistic reports and suddenly the General had been forced to retreat due to lack of provisions? How could this have happened? Dahlbergh and his colleague in Reval Axel Julius de la Gardie had shown an amazing negligence. 
The letter reached Riga on 16 September and Dahlbergh rapidly wrote back. The criticism was simply unfair. It had been very difficult to gather supplies during the period Riga was blocked by the Saxon forces and their raiding parties were roaming the countryside. Despite this a considerable amount of bread was ready for the army when it began arriving, but as Vellingk had inflated its size in his report some of the bread had turned bad before it could be consumed. But there had been no shortage of bread – Vellingk had even been forced to burn some before retreating. Other provisions had been brought into Riga.
The mistakes were entirely Vellingk’s, who had failed to cross the Düna himself. Large preparations for such an enterprise had been made, for instance were boats for 2,500 men built. In Dahlbergh’s opinion Vellingk had all along been looking for excuses for not going on the offensive. The General had also acted very arrogantly in his dealings with presumptive recruiters of new regiments, promising them more money than necessary.
Riksarkivet (RA), Riksregistraturet
RA, Skrivelser till Konungen. Karl XII, vol. 29
LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 10:14 PM MEST
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Sunday, 7 June 2015
Council of war
Topic: Generals

On 9 September 1701 Col. Wolmar Anton von Schlippenbach held a council of war in his headquarters at Kirrumpäh. The participants were Schlippenbach, Col. Adam Carl de la Gardie, Col. Gustaf Enesköld, Lt. Col. Arvid Johan von Kaulbars, Lt. Col. Hans Henrik von Liewen, the Adjutant general Carl Otto Freijmann, Major Herman Johan von Burghausen, Major Joachim Henrik von Wettberg and Captain Wolmar Gustaf Lauw (an engineer). 

Schlippenbach began by pointing out the difficulties.The troops were poorly clothed and there was a shortage of provisions. Enemy attacks and illnesses were decimating the army and the horses had suffered badly. What to do?

The cavalry commanders Colonel Enesköld (Åbo and Björneborg) and Major Burghausen (Carelian) stated that their was hardly a man (or perhaps horse) fit for real duty in their regiments. Kaulbars (Schlippenbach's dragoons) supported them and said that only about 100 men in his regiment were fit for duty. To march towards the border would likely result in a battle and even if this was won the army would become so weakened that it could not possibly stop further incursions. 

The infantry officers agreed. The situation was very bad and officers who had lost their horses and equipment to the enemy were incapable of replacing what had been lost.

The discussions continued the following day. Schlippenbach began by saying that reports from Pechory suggested that the Russians were preparing a massive invasion. What to do? It was decided to reinforce Dorpat, while the rest of the army should move away from Kirrumpäh and march back and forth as the supply situation allowed.


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


Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:12 PM MEST
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Sunday, 30 November 2014
Otto Vellingk and the fear of a Russian attack
Topic: Generals

On 16 February 1700 (Old Style) Erik Dahlbergh wrote to Colonel Carl Gustaf Skytte in Dorpat and Governor Otto Vellingk in Narva to inform them of the Saxon attack on Riga. The two letters were mostly identical, but in the one sent to Vellingk Dahlbergh added that the attack had not been preceded by any sort of declaration. Because of this, the Governor General stated, it was difficult to interpret the situation. Were these Saxon troops in fact in the service of the Danes or did they represent a new enemy? The letter did not reach Vellingk for quite some time as he was away inspecting the border with Russia, but on 9 March he was back in Narva. Several couriers were on there way to Sweden, Vellingk wrote. The mobilization of the Finnish regiments had also started due to an order by Governor General de la Gardie in Reval, but Vellingk himself had not dared to take similar action without orders from the King. He was also under the impression that the Saxons were not planning a direct attack on Riga, but simply wanted to collect provisions in Livonia after consuming those that could be found in Courland. Vellingk was expecting the King's orders any day and hoped these would permit an attack across the river into Courland. In the Governor's opinion such a development would be welcomed by the Polish Republic as a means of getting rid of the unwanted Saxons. 

About the situation on the Russian side Vellingk stated that there had been a lot of rumours about an attack, but this was just reports by nervous merchants. Even the Swedish representative Thomas Herbers in Pskov had been struck by this fear, Vellingk stated. However, Vellingk continued, he did not himself believe these reports as it was well known that the Czar would not undertake anything while his negotations with the Ottoman Empire were continuing. News from Moscow further suggested that the Czar was busy with his fleet and such preparations indicated that he did not plan to start a new war.


LVVA, fond 7349, op. 1, vol. 72, pp. 70-74, Erik Dahlbergh to Otto Vellingk, Riga 16 February 1700 

Uppsala University Library, Dorpat-Riga collection, Box 1, Otto Vellingk to Erik Dahlbergh, Narva 9 March 1700

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:58 PM CET
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