ThebattleofNarva
Inthe1stofOctober1st1700thesailedfromKarlskronatoPernauinthenorthernpartofthe
Rigabay.HewasdeterminedfirsttoturnagainsttheRussiansandthentrytofreeNarva,the
stronglyfortifiedSwedishfrontierfortressbytheNarovaRiver.Thecrossingwasstormy.From
PernauhemarchedwithpartsoftheSwedishandFinnishtroupestoRevalonwetautumnroads
andthetoWesenbergtenSwedishmileswestofNarva.
Afterawhileasmallarmyof10thousandsoldiersweregatheredinWesenberg.Moretroupes
wereapproachingbutthekingconsideredthetimetoshorttowaitforthem.Therewasasevere
shortageoffoodintheSwedishcamp.TheRussianhadwastedthelandaroundWesenberg–
andithadcometoabattlebeforethetroupesstarvedtodeath.Narvaalsowasstronglytroubled
bytheenemy,andeverysavedhourwasimportantrelievingthefort.
Thekingintendedtoattack“patrasket”(thepack)andforce“kanljen”(thevillain)toturnback.
Theentireluggagewasleftbehindandthetroupesmovedforwardinthewastedlandfully
prepared.Theconditionoftheroadswasmiserableandtheaccessoffoodwaspoor.Somenight
onehadtosleepoutside“upptilllortenunderknäs”(inknee‐highmud).Nowonderthatthe
soldierslongedforclosecombatwiththeenemy“ochgöraändskappåalltbesvär”(andmakean
endofthetroubles).
Inthe17thofNovembertheSwedesforcedtheRussiantroupes,whotriedtostoptheadvance
inanarrowpassage,away.Theyfled“medettgräsligtskri”(withahorriblescream),tellsJohan
Stiernhöök,asoldieroftheking.Thedayafter,whichwasaSunday,therewasasermonbefore
theSwedesmovedthroughthepassage.
Inthe19thofNovembertheyreached–ledbyanEstonianfarmerthrewmashlandandon
narrowforestpaths–theburntdownandwreckedmanorhouseLagena,oneandahalfSwedish
mileoutsideNarva.Heretheysentsignalswithtworocketstothefortandwithdelighttheygot
theanswerthatthebesiegedwiththeircommandantHenningRudolfstillheldthefort.
Intheforenoonofthe20thNovembertheSwedesformedtoanattackontheHermansberghill,
infrontoftheRussiansiegetroupes.KarlXIIhadduringthistimereconnoitredtheRussian
positions,andtheywerestationedinafortifiedcampwhichinacurvedlinereachedaboutsix
kilometresalongtheNarovaRiver.Accordingtotheusualhabittheyhadstrengthentheirlines
bothoutwardsandinwardstowardstheenclosedfortificationwithwatermoats,“spanska
ryttare”(anobstacleconsistingoftwoormorecrossedandpointedlogs)andartilleryplacedin
parapets.
InthenorthsomeRussianeliteregimentsinchargeofGermanofficerswereplaced,themain
partoftheRussiantroupeswereunpractisedandhadneverparticipatedincombat.TsarPeter
hadleftthearmyafewdaysearliertohurryupthereinforcement.Thecommanderofthe
Russianarmywasaforeigner,DukeCharlesEugenedeCroy.Hawasanoldacquaintancetothe
Swedes–hehadformerservedtheDanisharmyandhadbeenthecommandantinHelsingborg
afterKarlXIIscanianwar,wheretheDanisharmyinvadedthefortress.
KarlXIIandhisnextincommand,GeneralCarlGustafRehnskiölddecidedto
attackimmediatelyalthoughtheRussiansstayedinthecampsincetheydidn’t
wanttocombatintheopenfield.Rehnskiöldhadplannedtheattackwhichwas
verysimple.Insteadofattackingallalongthelinethesoldiersandtheartillery
wereconcentratedintospots.Theyshouldmakeabreakthroughandthenroll
uptheenemyline.TheSwedisharmyformedintolineduringaRussian
cannonade,tellsStiernhöök.
Allwasmadeclearfortheattack,coatsandknapsacksweretakenoff.Thenthe
Swedesfiredadoubleparoleandtworocketsweresentup,itwasthestart
signalfortheattack.“DärpåIJesunamnmarscheradeviåstad”(Thenwe
marchedoninthenameofJesus).TheSwedishsoldier’shadn’teatenbreadinfourdays,soit
wasamiraclethattheycouldcombat.
Theattackstartedatabouttwoo’clockintheafternoon.Atthesametime,ourLord,senta
snowstorm,tellsStiernhöök,adensesnowstormwithhailthatblewagainsttheRussiansand
madeithardforthemtoseetheSwedesbeforetheywereveryclose.Inthetrainingmoorsthe
Swedeshadlearnedtoshotonlyoncefromthedistanceoftenmeters.“vilkenGudvareära
gjordegodeffekt,emedandeföllosomgräs”(Which,BlessGod,madeagreateffect,theyfelllike
grass).
Thenthesoldierswenttoattackwiththeswordsintheirhands,tearingdownthe“spanska
ryttarna”andatlastwentintothecamp.“Ochmassakreradevialltvadförosskomochvardet
enalltförterriblemassaker.Deskötostarktpåossigenochskötoihjälmycketvackertfolkför
oss”(Andmassacredeverythinginourwayanditwasaterribleslaughter.Theyfiredheavilyat
usandmanyofoursoldierswerekilled).TheRussianfrontwassplitinthreepeacesandthe
SwedishattackcolonnadesintheRussiancampweresoonabletorolluptheirrightwing.A
greatconfusionoccurredamongthecompressedRussians,andsoontheyalltriedtoescape.
ThousandsofridersinpanictriedtowadeovertheNarovaRiver,butmanyofthemweredraged
downbythewhirlsinthewaterandmanywerecrushedtowardsthecliffs.
ManyRussianinfantrysoldierstriedtomakeitdowntoafloatingbridgewhichwentfromthe
KamperholmIslandtotheothersideoftheriver.Buttherivercouldn’tstandtheweightand
collapsedandthesoldierswiththeirheavyarmsandpackingfellintotheriver.
“FörvirringenvarvåldsamochallasprangIbestörtningliksomfårsominteharnågonherde”
(Theconfusionwastotalandeverybodyranlikesheep’swithouttheirshepherd)toldaRussian
whoparticipated.Itwasimpossibletokeeptheregimentstogether.Therewasn’tasingleofficer
givingordersandnosoldierswerelistening.TherewasasevereoppositionbetweentheRussian
andGermanofficers,andduringthesehoursofpanicseveraloftheforeignerswerekilledbythe
commonsoldiers.AftertheSwedeshadcrossedthecentreandrightwingDukedeCroydecided
tosurrender.Hewenttotheswishsidewithhisstaff.HemetcolonelStenbockandhandedover
hissword.
Thebattlewasoverbyfiveo’clockintheafternoonandithadstartedtogetdark.Butthe
Russianleftwingwithalloftheeliteregimentshadn’tyetcapitulated.Theystrengthenedtheir
forcestokeeponmakingresistancebehindbarricadesandturnedovercarriages.Theking
hurriedtherefollowedbyhisbodyguardlieutenantAxelHårdtoencouragehisexhausted
troupes.Duringtheridingheandhishorsewentdowninamudhole.Hewassavedinthelast
minutebysomFinnishsoldiers,buthehadtoleaveoneofhisbootsinthehole.Buttherewere
nocombatandtheRussianleftwingwasleftaloneduringthenight.Itseemstherewassome
disorderintheSwedisharmy.
Thesoldierscouldn’tresistthetemptationsintheRussiancamp.Theywerealluredbythefood
andthedrinks.Manyofthemgotintoxicatedbythespiritsandstartedtofiretheirweapons
againsttheirownthinkingtheywereenemies.DuringthenighttheDalregimenthappenedto
battlewiththeguardiantroupes.Unfortunatelythemistakecausedabiglossofmenonboth
sides.
Thesituationwascritical,butduringthenightthecommanderoftheleftwingstartedto
negotiatetomakeanagreementwiththeSwedes.Thenegotiationstartedintheearlynightand
twoo’clockitwasreportedtothekingthattherestoftheRussianarmyhadsurrendered.He
wasthenrestingonhiscoatonthebareground.
TheguardianPatrickThomsontellsthatheearlyinthemorninggotthekingsknightservice.He
hadtheorderfromhisbosstosendawayallofthesoldierswhowerelootingtheRussiancamp.
ThomsonmadeacircuitousmovementandthenmetaRussiancompanythathadn’tparticipated
inthecombatanddidn’tknowwhathadhappened.Theystoppedconfoundedbyhissightand
hethenfetchedcourageandsignedtothemtotaketheriflesfromtheirshouldersandleave
themontheground.Thenhealsomadethemlaydowntheirswordsandmusketsandfinallyto
marchbareheadedtohiscommander.
NextmorningtheRussiantroupesstartedtodeparttotheKamperholmIslandovertherepaired
floatingbridge.Theymarchedpassingtheking,whostoodonaheight,withbareheadsandlaid
theirweaponsandbannersdown.“OchvardetettalltförstortGudsunderverkatt30,000gavsig
åtosspånådochonåd,somintevarflerän9,000”(AndwasitatogreatGodsmiraclethat
30,000surrenderedtousingraceanddisgrace,whoweren’tmorethan9,000),saysStiernhöök.
TheRussiancommandersbecame–againsttherulesofcapitulation–warprisoners,butthe
troupeswerefreetoleave,andthedefileinfrontofthekingcontinuedthewholeday.Morethan
230bannersand180cannonsfellinthehandsoftheSwedes.
Inthe22ofNovemberthekingandthetroupesarrivedtoNarva,“varesthanblevmedogemen
glädjeavallaemottagen”(andhewasreceivedwithagenuinedelightbyall).Asermonwasheld
andahymnwassung,“DigGudlovprisavi”(WepraisetheLord).Thecannonsthatwereplaced
onthewallsofNarvathunderedinasaluteofvictory.ThebravecommanderofNarva,colonel
Holm,wasappointedtogeneral.ThevictoryhadimmediatelyconsequencesfortheRussians,
theyleftIngermanland,andtheSwedesnowcouldturnagainstthethirdenemy,Sachsen‐
Poland,withprotectedback.
ThecrossingofDuna
InaletterfromNarva,datedthe18thofNovember1700,MagnusStenbocktellshis
“HögvälbornaGeneralmajorska,allrakärastelillahustru”(Highlyhonorablewifeofmajor‐
general,dearestlittlewife)aboutthegreatvictorythearmyofkingKarlXIIhavewon.Hewrites:
“Jaghoppasryssenejkommersåsnartigen,varandesdennagångengenomGudsförsyn
tämligenbränder”(IhopetheRussianswon’tbebacksoon,becausetheprovidenceofGudthis
timemademequiteexhausted).Hehadlostagreatdealofhisofhissoldiersandhealsohad
beenwoundedhimself,thoughnotbadly.HehadcapturedDukedeCroy,twomoregeneralsand
fivecolonelsandalsotaken28banners.Thekinghadconquered120nicecannons,24mortars,
60,000“daler”andlotsofgrain,tobaccoandliquor.Anyhowitwas“enfinviktoriasåstoratt
manaldrignogsamtkantackaGud”(agreatvictoryandyoucan’tblessGodenough).
SomeoftherichwarbootywenttoStenbock,andhenowhurriedtosendhometohis“ängel”
(angel)abeautifulmartenskincoverwithlining,twosilvercans,twocupswithcovers,twosalt
cellar–thatyoucouldmakesomethingelsewith–andtenmoneybagswithgoodRussian
money,andshecouldspenditasshepleased.Butthewinterquartershaditsvictims.“allamina
drängarsjuknarochhästarnakreperaravdesvåra,utståndnastrapatserna”(Allofmymenare
illandmyhorsesbreakdownbecauseoftheseverehardship)hetellshiswife.Itwasthecamp
diseasethatflourished.“jagharejmerän200mäntjänstbaraimittregemente”(Idon’thave
morethan200meninmyregimentwhoareabletoserve).Hewasjustasworriedinaletterto
hisfatherinlaw:”Vistårhärförattrefraicheravåratrupper,menveteGudhurudanmager
julhelgdelärhålla.Härärgodarådnödiga”(Herewearetorestourtroupes,butGodknows
howpoorChristmasgoingtobe.Goodadvicesarenecessary.Certainlytherewasalotof
courage.“Hjärtaharviallatillöverflöd”(Weallhavealotofheart).Butitwasfoodandforage
thatwasneeded,butitwasagreatlackofit.
NewrecruitsfromSwedencamebyandbyandfilledthegaps,andfoodwastakenbyforcefrom
thepeasantvillages.
Stenbockbecameapopularpersonoftheking’squarterandgotthetasktoarrangeapartyfor
Karl’snamedayinthe28thofJanuary.Thehighofficerswereinvitedfordinnerwithmusic
performedbyThe“Dal”regimenthautboy‐playersduringthemeal,andviewan
operacomposedbyStenbockhimself.IntheoperaTurkishmusicians,aRussian
“knäs”(probablewithaRussiancoat)withsixstreilitzer,threeunarmed
scribblers,drunkenSwissandeight“dal”menparticipated.The“knäsens”song
wasspeciallyliked:”Enmotenmentioryssar/slåsomkullochdrivasbort/
utanvapen,svärdochbyssor/avensvenskäralltförhårt.(Oneagainstbutten
Russians/wereknockedoveranddrivenaway/withoutweapons,swordsand
rifles/ofaSwedeisfartoohard).
AnotherdayStenbockwentmoosehuntingwiththeking,andinalettertohissisterUlrika
Eleonorathekingtellsaboutapracticaljoketheymadewhentheyreturnedtothecamp:
“Vikomsenthemochgjordetockelarm,såattsommamente,attryssenvardär.Sommabegynte
ropaefterpistolerna,ochherrNilstogtillstekspettet,efterhanspuffertar,somhanfördeislaget
varbortaochlagas.Härgåralltlustigttill.”(Wereturnedhomelateandmadeaterriblenoise,
somethought,theRussianshadarrived.Somebegantoshoutfortherepistols,andsirNilstook
aspitbecausethepistolsheusedinthebattleweresentouttobemended.Everythinghereis
veryjolly.)
InthebeginningofMarsStenbockbuiltasnowfortwithsixbastionsandouterwork.Therewas
alsoacitadelwithfourbastions,whichhenamed“Bullersborg”(clatterfort).350menwere
defendingthefort,while1,600menonhorsesorfootwereinforceofattack.Themeaningwas
teachingthemenhowtooccupyafort.Everythingwentverywell,althoughdangleswere
distributedonbothsides.AfterwardsStenbockgaveadinnerinabarrackhehadmadeofspruce
twigs.
Realisticbattlepreparations
Therewasdiligentlytraininginmanualexerciseandturningsatthecamp.Everyone–officers
andcommonsoldiers–werepreparedforashortbattle.Therewasagreatoptimisminthe
army.Soonthewarwouldbeover.Youcanreadaboutthissentimentinauniquesoldier’sletter
fromspringtime1701.Theletteriswrittenbyarider,LarsRask,oftheking’sownregimentto
hiswifeBritaJohansdotterinFlistainthedistrictofÖstergötland.Ittells:
“Högtäradek(ära)HustruochHögtäradeKFöräldrar.Gudmedoss.Såsomtidenmedgiverkan
jagickeförbigå,utanjagmåsteskrivaminK.HustruochH.K.FöräldrarochminaHusböndertill
ochlåtaedervetaattjagärvidgodhälsaGudskelov,ochhästochmunderingärvidmaktännu,
Gudvarelov,ochjaghavervaritillasjukmennuGudvarelovärjagheltfrisk,ochmångaäro
sjukaochmångaärodöda,meningenivårtgäll(vårförsamling)meränJönsTravareblevdöd
påförstapartietochArvasryttareiValbyblevsotdöd.11ryttareäroskottdödaivårtkompani.
Menjaghaverskrivit2gångerochaldrigfåttnågonbokstav,menjagtrorattGuddenallra
högstehanhjälperosshemtillederisommarmedJesuhjälp,ochjagmenarattinnan
midsommarskalljagochminakamratervaraiSverige.HälsaminbroderochhansH.K.hustru
ochbarnochLarsHåkanssonochhustruochbarnochJonochhanskärahustru.Allaryttare
havafåttbrevsånärsomjagochErik.
Gudgiveossfred.
Dorpatden29mars1701.LarsRask”.
(HighlyHonorableDearWifeandHighlyHonorableDearParents.MayGodbewithus.Thetime
allowsmeandIwouldliketowriteomyDwifeandH.H.ParentsandMastersandletyouknow
thatI’mwell,BlessGod,andthatmyhorseandequipmentareingoodshape,BlessGod,andI
havebeenveryillbutnow,BlessGod,haverevered,andmanymenareillandmanyaredead,
butnooneinourparishexceptJönsTravarewhodiedinthefirstcombatandArvastheriderin
Valbywhodiedintheplague.11ridersinourcompanyhavebeenshottodeath.Ihavewritten
twicebuthaven’treceivedanyanswers,butIbelieveinthegreatGodthathewillsendushome
toyounextsummerandwithalittlehelpfromJesusmeandmyfriendsevenbefore
midsummer.MybestregardstomybrotherandhisH.K.wifeandchildrenandLarsHåkansson
andhiswifeandchildrenandJonandhisdearwife.Alloftheridershavereceivedlettersexcept
meandErik.
MayGodgiveuspeace.
Dorpat,the29thofMars1701.LarsRask).
Theexpectationthattheyallwouldbehomeinmidsummer1701wasnotredeemed.InApril
1705Larswasdismissed,butallofhiscomradeshadalongwaytomarchbeforetheycould
returnhome.
ThegovernmentbackinSwedenhadproposedtotheking,afterhisgreatvictory,shouldstart
negotiationswiththethirdenemy,Sachsen‐Poland.Butthekingrefused.Augustiiwasadeeply
unreliablepersonwhomustbedefeatedinthefield,hethought.Anyothersettlementwith
Augustbutwiththeswordwasuseless.
Accordingtothemarchingplanof1701thekingshouldgosouthwiththemainforce,crossthe
RiverDunaandoccupyKurland.AsmallnumberofmenshouldbeleftattheRussianboarder,
andwhentheSachsen’sweredrivenoutofKurlandthekingonceagainwouldconcentratethe
mainforcetowardstheRussiansandconcquerthefortofPskovbythesouthsideofLakePejpus.
Thiswasthecombatplansofthisyear.
MagnusStenbockwasveryworriedfortheyoungking.Hewassooccupiedbythewarthathe
wouldn’tdoanythingelse,Stenbockwascomplainingtohisfatherinlaw.Itwasimpossibleto
discussthematterwithhim.Hiswords:“härgårunderligentill.IngengällernågotmerIråd
ellerangivande.DetsynessomGudallenagiverkonungeninvadhanskallentrepenera”(things
aredoneinastrangeway.Nooneislistenedtowhenitcomestoadvicesorfacts.Itseemsthat
Godalonetellshimwhattodo).
Inthe17thofJune1701,theking’sbirthday,thearmybrokeupthewintercamp.“Ommorgonen
klockan4gickHansMaj:tsarmeöverDunaströmmenochblevbrukat195farkoster,nämligen
74storaöversätterebåtar,89småbåtar,20storastrusoroch12pråmarsomblevbrukademed
kanoner.”(Fouro’clockinthemorninghismajesty’sarmycrossedthestreamfDunaand195
vesselswereused,74biglandingboats,89smallboats,20bigshallowdraughtboatsand12
bargeswithcannons.ThisisthebriefstoryofKarlXIIcrossingoftheRiverDunainthe9thof
JulytoldbythecaptainHenrikSpåre.
JustasshortisthestoryofthelieutenantcolonelJonStålhammar,whenheinaletterfromRiga
datedthe20thofJulyiswritingtohiswifeinSalsta,“Högtäradeallrakärastemittlillahjärtaoch
utvaldastevänhärutivärlden”(Highlyhonorablemydearlittlehartandchosenfriendfthis
world).Thekinghimselfcrossedtheriverwithsomethousandsofmen,hewrites,andbattled
down2,000SaxonsandRussianshereinthetownandgotabigbootyconsistingofvariousfood
andequipmentsformanythousandsofmen.
AlsoathirdCarolinewarrior,CaptainLudvigVisocki‐Hochmuth,tellsabouttheDunaoperation.
Heparticipatedinthecrossingasanengineerofficer,andthereforehisstoryisofspecial
importance.Itwasbetween6,000and7,000menwhoweretransportedcrosstheriver,hetells.
Themendisembarkedwhereevertheycouldinspiteofalltheshootingwithgunpowderand
bulletsfromtheenemybattery.
Westartedtobuildlandingstagesovertheriver,tellsVisocki‐Hochmuth.Thatwasoneofthe
decisivemomentsinthebattle.Whiletheinfantrydefendedtheterrainthecavalierlyshoulduse
thelandingstagesandthendeterminethecombat.Thekingpushedhardlythebuildingofthe
landingstages.Inthemeantimetheroyalbodyguardsandtheinfantryhadtostandfivehard
attacks.Atlastthelandingstageswerecompleted.Thecavalierlywentovertotheothershore,
andbysixo’clockinthemorningtheenemylefttheirpositions.ThelinealongNarvawasgained.
KarlXIIdirectlyparticipatedinthecombat.Foroncehebattledwiththeinfantryandhe
commandedtheminthefirstline.InthiswayhealsoisshowninacontemporarypaintingI
belongingtotheNordicMuseum.Theking’sconclusivecontributioninthecombatisunderlined
bythewords:“MedGudshjälpharkungKarlsmaktFiendenalldelesundersigbragt”(Withthe
helpofGodallthepowerofkingKarlhasdestroyedtheenemy).
ThearmyofKingAugustuswasdrawnbacktoPreussenandtheSwedescouldoccupythewhole
ofKurland.ButtherehadbeennodecisiveintheMinacombat.TheSaxonarmyhadescapedand
thelosseswerequitesmallandtheystillwereathreatagainsttheSwedishdominioninthe
Balticarea.Thereforethekingdecidedtogiveuptheoriginalplanforthebattle.Hecancelled
theattackofRussianPskovandcontinuedthewaragainstkingAugustinpolishground.Magnus
Stenbockwasworriedaboutthedevelopment.“Gudgiveattfredenvoresluten,typådetsättvi
förakrigärdetlångtifrånangenämt”(Godgivethatpeacesoonwillbemade,thewayweare
pursuingwarisfarfrompleasant),hewrotetohiswifeshortafterthecrossing.Towardsthe
wintertherewasashortageoffoodinKurland.“Visaknaalltochfåingapenningar.På15
månaderharjagintelyftettöreavminlön”,(Wearelackingeverythingandgetnomoney.I
haven’tgotpaidasingle“öre”in15months),heiscomplaininginDecember.Aboveallhewas
worriedaboutthenewplansoftheking.“Viliggahärsysslolösa,ochdettyckssomomviej
visstevadviskallgöra.Vigåriniettkrig,urvilketviinteskallkommaututandengodeGudens
underbarabistånd”,(Wearelayingheredoingnothing,anditseemswedon’tknowwhattodo.
Wegetintoawarwecan’tgetoutofwithoutmiraculoussupportfromourgreatGod).
InSeptemberasmallSwedisharmycorpsenteredpolishground.AndattheendofJanuarythe
restofthearmygotorderofdecamping.ThemarchwasheadedsouthintoPoland.“Nuärkriget
medrepublikenförklarat”,(Nowwarisdeclaredagainsttherepublic),Stenbockverifiedduring
decamp.“HurviskallkommadärurvetendastGud”,(HowwearegoingtogetoutofitonlyGod
knows).
PartsfromtheSwedishbook:“Karoliner”byAlfÅberg.
DrawingsbyGöteGöransson.
EditedandreproducedbyWeronichaSvaleng.
TranslatedbyThomasLinderoth.
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