Dated: February 15, 2004.
Sweden-Finland in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and
Swedish-Finnish infantry uniforms during the Napoleonic Wars
by Björn Bergérus
Stockholm, Sweden, February 12th 2004
Sweden-Finland in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
Chronologically Sweden was at war with Russia (1788-90), France and her allies (1805-1810), Prussia (1806-07), Russia and Denmark-Norway (1808-09), Britain (1810-12), France and her allies; especially Denmark-Norway (1812-1814) and Norway (1814). Until 1809 Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom. At the turn of the century Sweden had 2.347.000 inhabitants, Finland some 800.000 and Swedish Pomerania 143.000. On paper the Swedish army in 1805 comprised of 2.400 officers and 52.000 other ranks and 4.000 in the reserve, but there were many vacancies, and due to poor economy the army's training had been neglected.
Sweden's era as one of Europe's great powers had largely eclipsed with the end of the Great Northern Wars (1700-1721) and the ascent of Russia. The Swedish king Gustaf III had far reaching plans of a Swedish military intervention in revolutionary France on the side of Louis XVI. It was halted by Gustaf III's assassination in 1792 by a conspiracy of nobles, whose powers had been curtailed by the king's reforms. His son Gustav IV Adolf did not inherit his father's charisma or leadership qualities, but well his hatred for the French revolution and, in particular, the upstart “N Buonaparte”, as he was referred to in Sweden. With the governmental powers centred in the king's hand, this lead Sweden on a dangerous path for which the country was not militarily or economically prepared.
In 1800, by initiative of tsar Paul I, Russia, Sweden, Denmark and Prussia joined a league of neutrality. It was designed to protect their trade with continental ports under French control against British naval interference. The British responded quickly by sending a fleet under Sir Hyde Parker and Horatio Nelson that defeated the Danish fleet outside Copenhagen in 1801. This forced Denmark out of the league. The Swedish fleet had failed to assist and were now in turn threatened, but saved by the murder of tsar Paul I, which effectively cancelled the league. At the same pace as Swedish relations with France deteriorated, they improved with Britain; a commercial agreement was signed in 1803. Sweden's export of timber, tar and iron was important to Britain and both countries benefited from an extensive trade throughout the period. The British were also to pay large subsidies to Sweden during the wars - to improve the fortifications of Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania and to equip Swedish troops.
In 1805, prompted by Napoleon's coronation as emperor, the Third Coalition against France was formed by Britain and Russia, soon to be joined by Austria and Sweden. The allies were keen to have Sweden aboard as it meant access to Swedish Pomerania along the North German coast - the perfect staging ground for operations on the continent. A Northern Army was to be formed and assembled around British Hannover with the Swedish king, Gustaf IV Adolf, as its titular commander. In October 1805 a Russian corps of 19.300 was put ashore on the island of Rügen outside Stralsund - a Swedish officer noted that they were “quite superb in both maintenance and bearing” in comparison to the Swedes who were “wretchedly attired”. With the help of British subsidies the Swedish-Pomeranian army mustered some 8.600 infantry, 1.800 cavalry and 22 guns. At the same time Swedish relations with Prussia was strained since Gustaf IV Adolf had returned a Prussian order on the grounds that it had also been conferred on Napoleon. Although the Prussians decided to join the coalition the Swedish king was suspicious of Prussian true interests, why he suddenly ordered the Swedish troops to turn around to guard the Pomeranian borders, in effect leaving his allies, soon to be joined by 10.000 British, alone. The king continued to issue conflicting and confusing orders annoying his allies, as well as Swedish officials and officers. The British general Sir John Moore that was stationed in Sweden later during 1808 reports of him: “The king … proposes measures which prove either derangement or the greatest weakness of mind. He has no minister but governs himself, and, as he has neither habits nor the talents requisite, Sweden… is only governed by fits and starts. The king is perfectly despotic … He does not see the perilous position that he is in, and nobody dares represent it to him.”
As a result of the battle of Austerlitz in December 1805 the Austrians were forced out of the coalition and by the end of December, through the treaty of Schönbrunn, the Prussians followed suit and entered into an alliance with France, through which they were to occupy British Hannover. Against the advice of the British king, the British troops had retired from the area, which had left the Swedes as Hannover's sole defenders. Through pressure from Russia, the Prussians acted cautiously and only made their intentions clear by feint attacks and firing in the air. The Swedes responded by letting its fleet blockade Prussian ports. To boost the defence of Stralsund the Swedish king proclaimed a Royal Pomeranian Militia to be formed, which in effect meant conscription for every unmarried man between 19 and 26 - the first “levée en masse” outside France. Although certain professions etcetera were exempt 3.000 Pomeranian Militia were mustered only a month later. The conscription prompted protests from the Imperial German courts, part of the Holy Roman Empire. It had been severely weakened by Napoleon's redrawing of the Europe's map, however, and was solemnly dissolved in August 1806. The Swedish king responded with annulling the Pomeranian constitution and made it into a proper province of Sweden with Swedish law instead, which led to the abolishment of serfdom in Pomerania in 1810.
In October 1806, as tension again mounted with France, Prussia decided to renew its alliance with Russia. Only a couple of days later the Prussians were soundly defeated at Jena-Auerstädt. Swedish troops that had occupied Lauenburg suddenly found themselves in the midst of fleeing Prussians. Still, the last Swedish troops did not get the order to retreat until late in November. When they tried to go back by boat on the river from Lübeck they found themselves caught in a cross-fire between Prussians under Blücher and French under Bernadotte. The Swedes could do nothing but to keep their heads down, as all their weapons had been stowed away for the voyage. It all ended with over a thousand Swedes having to surrender to the French. This small incident proved of historic importance, however, as Bernadotte treated the Swedish officers so well, that one of them was later to remember him for a specific purpose, as we shall see later.
The advancing French soon took Greifswald and pushed the Swedes back to Stralsund, which was besieged. The 15.000 or so French were not enough for a storming and during the spring of 1807 Swedish reinforcements arrived so that the Swedish-Pomeranians totalled some 18.000. The Swedes made an unsuccessful sortie with 1000 men under the harsh, competent, but disliked artillery officer von Cardell (who introduced horse artillery into the Swedish army), where 200 men were lost. The king was displeased. As the French redeployed further east to deal with the Russians the Swedes were able to break out successfully and pursue the French. Greifswald was retaken and a small Swedish force raided as far as Rostock in the west, capturing the French commandant, and in the east as far as Ückermünde and Wollin. The Swedes now planned to attack French positions at Stettin, but as French forces started to return the Swedes were again pushed back and a truce signed in April 1807.
The political situation changed dramatically when Russia was defeated at Friedland in June 1807, which resulted in tsar Alexander and Napoleon signing the secret treaty of Tilsit. If Sweden were not to join the French Continental System against Britain, it was a tacit understanding that Russia would have free hands in the east. Despite this ominous political change the Swedish king broke the truce, which only resulted in a massive Franco-Spanish assault on Damgarten in western Pomerania. With the French no longer tied up by the Russians, Marshal Brune had some 50.000 men at his disposal, while the Swedish-Pomeranians had only some 14.000 fit for action. Again the Swedes fell back on Stralsund. The French assault began on August 6th. During a daring French night raid on the fortified island between Stralsund and Rügen the French took some 600 prisoners. The situation looked bleak for the Swedes. The citizens of Stralsund had also long demanded that the city be surrendered without a fight. The Swedish commander, Toll, managed to save the situation by negotiating an armistice in which the Swedish troops were allowed to evacuate, but leaving Pomerania under French control. Swedish-Pomeranian losses during the war amounted to some 6.000 killed and taken prisoners.
As a response to the treaty of Tilsit the British launched a pre-emptive strike against Denmark, as Britain feared that the strong Danish fleet might otherwise end up under French control. The British fleet's terror-bombardment of Copenhagen for over a week, where the British also used rockets, eventually forced the Danes to surrender and give up its fleet to the British. The whole affair also pushed the Danes into a more pro-French camp.
In Sweden Gustaf IV Adolf had refused to join France's Continental System and instead decided to stick with its British ally. At the beginning of 1808 an agreement for British subsidies, partly in the form of munitions was signed. In February 1808, as a result of Sweden's refusal and according to the tacit understandings of Tilsit, 24.000 Russian crossed the Finnish border on frozen roads against initially 12.000 Finnish defenders. In the border region in particular Finland had two brigades, which were now up against two advancing Russian divisions. The army in Finland was largely unprepared, despite several reports of a Russian build up. This because the Swedish King Gustaf IV Adolf did not want believe that his own brother in law, the tsar, would attack.
The Swedish commander, Klingspor, widely overestimated the Russian superiority, why the army fell back to wait for reinforcements from Sweden when the ice on the Baltic had broken. This caused much gloom among the soldiers, having to leave their homes in enemy hands. The Finnish army was able to retreat largely unmolested by the Russians, but most of the South of Finland was soon under Russian control. Also the Åland-islands were occupied. The strategy of a retreat in the face of a superior Russian attack had been considered an option by the Swedes all ready before the war, and with the strong base of the Suomenlinna/Sveaborg-fort, also the naval base for Sweden's important archipelago fleet, just outside Helsinki - the chances for a successful counterattack in the South was not unrealistic. Still, the Finnish inland - with dense forests, plenty of lakes and only poor roads - offered good defensive opportunities, which were also shown by successful Finnish rear-guard actions and guerrilla warfare. The situation changed drastically for the Swedes, however, when both the fort of Svartholmen, but in particular Suomenlinna/Sveaborg, which had a garrison of 6.750 soldiers and some 2000 guns - widely superior to their Russian besiegers - surrendered without resistance in April 1808. By the Swedes this was seen as nothing but an act of treason, but can probably be explained by certain defeatism or even “practical politics” among some of the higher-ranking officers and nobles in Finland. One must remember that Sweden had been in war with Russia no less than three times during the last hundred years - none of which successful for the Swedes, and twice Finland had been occupied. Circumstances did not look much better this time. The Swedish king Gustaf IV Adolf, were not either the leader to instil hope or firm control - rather even the opposite. With the surrender of Suomenlinna/Sveaborg - “the Gibraltar of the North” - the plans for a successful Swedish-Finnish counterattack, as well as the entire plans for Finland's defence faltered as well as Swedish-Finnish morale. Despite everything the Swedish-Finnish were largely successful in the many smaller engagements during the war (Juutas, Siikajoki and Virta bro etcetera). The main island of Åland was also freed with the help of a popular uprising. Nevertheless, the Swedish-Finnish lost the only major battle during the war - at Oravais, close to Vaasa in Western Finland - some 6000 Swedes-Finns against some 7000 Russians. This prompted a cease-fire in September 1808. Both sides needed time to recuperate, reorganise and wait for reinforcements. During the spring Swedish reinforcements arrived, but Russian reinforcements also arrived, which did not turn the odds in Sweden's favour. At the same time sorely needed Swedish troops were tied up in the west and south of Sweden to guard against Denmark-Norway, who had accepted the continental blockade and as a consequence also declared war on Sweden in March 1808.
Sweden was faced with a serious invasion-threat from Denmark, where the French Marshal Bernadotte (the very same) early in 1808 had been stationed with a Franco-Spanish-Dutch force of 32.800 men to cross the Sounds between Denmark and Sweden if it froze. This actually happened in January 1808, but the ice soon broke up again before the opportunity could be taken advantage of. When Spain revolted, the Spanish contingent sailed home on British ships, which effectively left the invasion force undermanned. Still, another try was attempted in January 1809 with 25.000 men assembled around Copenhagen. The Danes was hesitant, however, and soon the ice had broken again and the British navy returned to control the Sounds. On the Swedish side the British had landed an auxiliary force under general Sir John Moore of 11.000 men in Gothenburg in May 1808, but it had not yet been decided how they were to be used. The Swedish king wanted to use the British offensively in an operation to capture Norway, to eliminate the threat of invasion from the west or as badly needed reinforcements in Finland. General Moore, however, wanted to use them as protection against Bernadotte's invasion force. The disagreements resulted in a fiasco with the aggravated Moore embarking his British force and sailing home only a month later, without anything having been achieved. Moore's opinion of the Swedish king can be read above. The British could also do with the troops elsewhere for its Peninsular War (1807-1814) in Spain and Portugal against their main opponent, France.
Sweden still tried a rather weak and hesitant attack on Norway in April 1808, which was soon halted after a couple of lost skirmishes. The small gains that had been won in southernmost Norway were lost when the Danes counterattacked in June. It soon came to a stalemate and nothing more happened on the western front, except for a Norwegian advance during the summer of 1809 before peace was signed later that year. A scholar describes the whole business along the Swedish-Norwegian border as “rich in plans but poor in war activities”. As long as the British navy controlled the seas Norway could not get needed supplies or reinforcements from Denmark for any larger scale operation, while most of the Swedish resources were tied up in the east.
There is also the odd incident of the Russian invasion of the island of Gotland. Using eight merchant ships - only one of which was armed - the Russians landed in April with 1.800 men and a single battery of guns. The island was without Swedish defenders, as Sweden relied on its naval supremacy together with Britain, and thus was taken completely by surprise. The Gotlanders decided not to put up a fight, especially as the Russians behaved well. In May, when a Swedish relief-force of 2.000 men arrived, the Russian commander Bodisco believed them to be more numerous and immediately surrendered. He was allowed to sail home with his troops after they had surrendered their weapons. The whole affair had occurred without a single shot being fired. It is said that neither the Russian or Swedish monarch was particularly pleased with what had happened.
In Finland the hostilities continued, but with the news of the surrender of Suomenlinna/Sveaborg the spirit among the Swedish-Finnish could have been better. In the north the Russians pushed the Swedish army back across the Swedish-Finnish border into Sweden proper.
Due to the developments in Finland and with the king being increasingly irritable - the opposition against him grew. At one point during the war the king had devised a somewhat overoptimistic landing attempt northwest of Turku/Åbo in September 1808. When it failed the king angrily degraded the participating guards' regiments into ordinary infantry of the line. This caused bad blood and at the beginning of 1809 a plot was forming among the officers in one of the degraded regiments. When nothing seemed to happen, the commander of the western army, Georg Adlersparre, left the inactive western front and marched his troops on Stockholm. As soon as the king got news of this he planned to seek the support of the Southern army. Sweden was on the brink of civil war. The dangerous situation was defused by some officers under the command of Carl Johan Adlercreutz who promptly marched to the Royal Palace and arrested the king without bloodshed. A parliament was quickly summoned, the old childless brother of Gustaf III was crowned king Karl XIII, and a new constitution adopted on June 6th along the lines of Montesqieu's division of power (formally in effect in Sweden until 1974). The guard regiments status was restored, while Gustaf Adolf was allowed to leave the country to live in exile.
These dramatic changes in Sweden did not end the war however. Russia still demanded the whole of Finland and for Sweden to join the Continental Blockade against Britain. The new Swedish leadership hesitated - the first meant that Sweden would loose a third of the kingdom, while the latter spelled catastrophe for Swedish trade. In Russia tsar Alexander was now impatient and set out to crush the final resistance with a major offensive against the Swedish mainland. As a result the islands of Åland were overrun. The Swedish army at Åland counted 9.000, but only some 5.400 of them were fit for fight. The Russians corps designated for the task probably had up to 17.000. The Swedish commander von Döbeln requested reinforcements but got none. The Swedish army managed to save itself by a march across the frozen waters between Åland and Sweden - all the time harassed by Cossacks and other Russian cavalry, which also raided Grisslehamn on the Swedish coast. The second Russian advance came across the frozen waters of Kvarken towards Umeå. After some initial resistance, but hearing of the events on Åland, the troops surrendered in March 1809. In the North the situation was similarly critical for the Swedes - the war now taking place on the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothnia. The Swedish army at Tornio at the very north of the Gulf of Bothnia capitulated. It was ravaged by sickness and the medical facilities were poor to non-existing. More than 2.000 men died in less than three months. The threat to the Swedish capital of Stockholm could now not be underestimated, but at this critical point the Russian commanders, who never had been very fond of the idea of an invasion of the Swedish mainland in the first place, decided to withdraw. The offensive perhaps having been more of a demonstration of power, but it is also true that the Russians faced huge supply problems, especially while the Gulf of Bothnia was still frozen. Most likely the Russians also overestimated Swedish defences and worried about being cut off - and not unjustly so, as Swedish landing-operations in the Russian rear had been attempted before. Probably they also considered to have done what was expected of them, as Finland had all ready been conquered as planned, and anything else being more of unnecessary risk-taking.
On September 17 1809 a peace could finally be signed. Sweden lost Finland - a third of the kingdom and a quarter of its population. Finland instead became an independent Grand Duchy under the tsar. Swedish-Finnish losses - mostly from epidemics among the poorly led and equipped militia - accumulated to some 20.000. Later that year a peace was signed with Denmark-Norway and in January 1810 with France on condition that Sweden declared war on Britain before the end of 1810. As a result of the peace France returned Swedish Pomerania.
The elected Swedish king Karl XIII was old and childless, why Sweden was now in urgent need of a crown prince. After Gustaf IV Adolf had been deposed Sweden wanted to make its peace with Napoleon and if possible find a resolute Monarch that could lead the army to retake Finland if opportunity arose. The choice fell upon the Danish prince Christian August (in Sweden called Karl August), who had been kind enough not to advance with the Norwegians when the Swedish western army had marched on Stockholm in 1809. He was unceremonious, fond of drinking and smoking, and immediately became popular with the Swedes. But destiny had other plans - under the inspection of some Swedish troops he suddenly fell dead from his horse. The autopsy indicated a stroke. A new candidate had to be found. Karl XIII sent a ceremonious letter to Napoleon to have his advice on the matter. The courier was a thirty-year old lieutenant, Carl Otto Mörner, who had been captured by the French in 1806. After having delivered the letter to Napoleon, he quickly went about to make his own enquiries in the matter without any formal authorisation. He first asked the French Marshals Masséna and Eugène de Beauharnais, which declined. He then remembered and sent a letter to Bernadotte, who acted promptly. The Swedes had by then almost decided to elect Christian August's older brother, but as rumours of the French Marshal's considerable fortune began to circulate allegiance shifted, as Sweden was in an almost bankrupt state. So it happened, that the former French Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected crown prince of Sweden and formally adopted by Karl XIII under the name Karl XIV Johan.
As Karl XIII was increasingly senile Bernadotte was pretty much in command from the start. In 1810 and according the peace-treaty with France Sweden half-heartedly agreed to join France's Continental System. On paper Sweden also declared war on Britain, but trade continued to flourish just like before. The French were not particularly pleased with Sweden's compliance, or rather non-compliance, and without any formal declaration of war or any other warning, they occupied Swedish Pomerania in 1812. The two defending regiments were on peacetime footing and quickly taken prisoners by the French. From now on it became increasingly clear that Bernadotte did not share his former masters interests and vice versa. Still, when Bernadotte heard of Napoleon's death on S:t Helena in 1821, he wrote of Napoleon in ambiguous praise: “He was the greatest captain that has appeared on earth since Julius Ceasar. …If he was the greatest man of his age in military conceptions, I surpassed him in method and calculation”. And although Jean Bernadotte, the son of a lawyer, is definitely not as famous as his former Emperor, his family is still on the Swedish throne today - the only dynasty of France's many Marshals that survived the Napoleonic Wars.
When the French retreated from Russia in 1812 they also evacuated Swedish Pomerania. In 1813, as a result of Bernadotte's negations with Russia, England, Prussia and Austria and with the help of British subsidies a Swedish army of some 30.000 was assembled in Pomerania - virtually every Swedish regiment was represented. The majority were to be part of a new Northern Army that together with a Bohemian and a Silesian army were to encircle Napoleon from the south, east and north respectively. Bernadotte was to lead the Northern army. Under his command he had two Prussian corps under Bülow and Tauentzien, a Russian corps under Wintzingerode and a mixed corps of Germans, Russians and Swedes under Wallmoden. For political reasons Bernadotte - who had hopes of being elected King of France once Napoleon had fallen - advanced only slowly against his former compatriots. Bernadotte actually devoted time and effort in propaganda aimed at the French forces, not least the Saxon contingent, of which he had previous experience as French Marshal. And he was not without success as several thousand Saxons - whole units - deserted to the allies. There were also reasons why Bernadotte tried to keep his Swedish contingent out of harms way. Influential people in Sweden had hoped that Bernadotte would ally himself with Napoleon and with his help re-conquer Finland, but Bernadotte had discarded these ideas after meetings with the tsar. Many Swedes were not either too comfortable with suddenly having to fight side by side with Sweden's “hereditary enemy” - Russia. Thus, Bernadotte knew that a serious defeat now or serious Swedish or indeed French losses could very well jeopardize his own future. A Russian envoy reports Bernadotte to have said: “Ah, you have to understand, … The utmost prudence is necessary …My fortune is at stake in every battle. Should I be defeated, I could go searching the whole of Europe for someone to lend me six francs”. But the Swedish contingent was also needed intact for his planned attack on Denmark, to make them cede Norway to Sweden. This would secure Sweden's western borders, as well as offer compensation for the loss of Finland. To these plans the other allies had all ready agreed and even promised troops to assist.
During the 1813-campaign in Germany the Swedes saw action at battles such as Grossbeeren and Dennewitz - but only involving minor elements of Swedish artillery and cavalry, the infantry usually not arriving until the fighting was over. Swedish losses for both these battles were less than 30 killed and wounded, while the Prussians lost as many as 7.000 in the battle of Dennewitz alone. Bernadotte was criticised by his German allies for this apparent apathy in committing his Northern army and especially his Swedes. This dented Bernadotte's military reputation and resulted in bad German publicity for the Northern Army in the Wars of Liberation. Bernadotte felt this, which is perhaps why he more readily committed both himself and his troops at battle of Leipzig. The Swedes under Adlercreutz took part in the final storming; more precisely of the Grimma gate/Grimmisches Tor - the eastern entrance to city. The Swedes lost 46 killed and 124 wounded. Before that, however, in late September 1813, around Dessau and Roßlau the Swedish single-handedly and resolutely repulsed the French under Ney who tried to capture their strongly fortified bridgehead over the Elbe. Swedish losses accounted to some 300 killed. The Swedes themselves was well aware that they had been kept away from the fighting, and here showed much willingness and ability to take their share of the fighting, despite Bernadotte's strict orders to avoid any more heavy involvement.
After Leipzig Bernadotte's Norhtern Army of some 51.000 turned north, under the pretext to clear Germany of the French, commanded by Davout, and the French allies. Bernadotte's true interests soon showed as he concentrated his forces against the Danes. Swedish cavalry under Skjöldebrand defeated and pushed back the Danes at Bornhøved in December. Wallmoden's corps managed to severe the Danish troops from their French allies, but the Danes managed to secure their retreat by their victory at the battle of Sehestad. The Swedes together with British naval forces also lay siege on Glückstadt, held by the Danes. The Danes were now politically isolated and facing superior numbers, why the Danish king Fredrik VI felt that there was little choice, but to make piece with Bernadotte, which was accordingly done with the treaty of Kiel. Norway was ceded to Sweden, but as compensation Denmark received Pomerania, which they immediately in 1815 handed over to Prussia in exchange for Lauenburg. Fredrik VI's hereditary right to the Norwegian throne was transferred to Bernadotte personally, while Sweden accepted to honour Norway's share of Denmark's national debt.
The Norwegians, headed by the Danish Crown Prince and governor of Norway, Christian Fredrik, did not willingly agree to the Swedish-Danish agreement. Some saw benefits with closer ties to Sweden, but most felt that it was time for independence. Thus Christian Fredrik was elected king of Norway and a new constitution adopted on May 17, 1814 at Eidsvoll. As a result Sweden assembled a force of some 45.000 and meticulously started to plan for invasion. It is clear that Bernadotte had a huge and positive influence on the Swedish army at this time. The Austrian Major-General Steigentesch reports in August 1814: “The Swedish army is in a condition not known since the days of Charles XII. It would not be possible to find finer or more well drilled troops, nor a higher morale amongst the officers. The merits of the crown prince are in this respect obvious, and each and all who knew the Swedish troops some years ago will admit that he has created a new army, unlike the previous one. Accordingly, he enjoys to an extraordinary degree the troops' confidence and love”. The promised support from Prussia and Russia failed to materialise in time to be of any use, despite repeated requests from the Swedes. The Norwegian defenders counted a total of 28.000. The declaration of war was handed over and hostilities started in late July 1814. The Norwegians repulsed a Swedish diversionary attack at Lier, close to Kongsvinger, in South-Eastern Norway, but otherwise retreated without serious resistance up the Glommen-river towards Christiania, which Oslo was called at that time. Once the war had started Christian Fredrik realised that his cause was lost. A peace was soon signed in August 1814 at Moss, where Christian Fredrik abdicated and Norway recognised the Swedish king as their monarch - a union that lasted until 1905. Bernadotte gave the Norwegians good peace conditions, allowing them to keep their recently adopted constitution. It is clear that he did not want to cause more bloodshed and hard feelings among his new subjects than absolutely necessary. Christian Fredrik on his part was not either too eager to continue, only as long as to grant Norway good peace conditions - seeing the body of a dead lieutenant being carried away he spoke his mind “…Too much blood for my sake…”. With the possible exception of the half-officially organised small force of Swedish volunteers in Finland during the Second World War and participation in UN peacekeeping operations, this was Sweden's last war till the present date.
A more detailed account of events can be found in “Between the Imperial Eagles - Sweden's armed forces during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars 1780-1820”, ISBN 91-86478-230, published by the Swedish Army Museum (Armémuseum), Stockholm 2000. The book is of some 500 pages, in English, and with contributions from several authors.
The Swedish-Finnish infantry uniforms during the Napoleonic Wars
The uniforms of the Swedish-Finnish army went through many changes during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period - due to influence and development on the continent, the pressure of war and a wish to give the troops the best equipment affordable. Still, due to poor finances the troops were usually issued with new items only when the old had been worn out. Many times old uniforms were locally altered to fit the newest regulation. Thus different regulation often existed side by side and together with some local variation. This makes it hard to be absolutely certain about the appearance of a particular Swedish or Finnish unit at any given time. Still, with some reservation to what has been said and sometimes sketchy and at times contradictory information, the below should offer good guidelines of how to paint the Swedish-Finnish uniforms. It will also tell you of variations that can be painted as well as easy conversions that can be made with the figures - this to give you as full a compliment as possible of Swedish-Finnish infantry from the Napoleonic era.
The General wears a dark-blue greatcoat, gilt buttons, white leather gauntlets, black riding-boots with gilded spurs, a black felt hat with gold lace, a gold-yellow cockade, probably with a blue centre, under two gold straps attached with gilt buttons. The plume's lower half is in mid-blue and the upper half in yellow. The belt worn outside the greatcoat for campaign was probably black with a gold buckle. The leather scabbard black, gilt fittings, sword handle in gold and the sword-strap striped in gold and mid-blue.
Beneath the greatcoat, the coat was dark blue, single row of gold buttons. Collar, cuffs and turnbacks (extending to the rear of the knees) were in the same dark blue as the coat. Collar and cuffs piped with gold lace, breeches in buff and worn with black cuffed riding boots with gilded spurs. Belt in light buff trimmed in gold with a rectangular belt buckle - probably in silver with the national coat of arms embossed in gold at the centre; two standing lions holding the shield with a rounded crown above with the shield itself enamelled in true colours.
If mounted the horse furniture was square cut, dark blue, dark blue pistol holsters, both holster and lid trimmed with a wide gold border, the lied most likely being decorated with three open golden crowns (two above and one centred below; three golden crowns on a blue background being Sweden's national symbol).
By swapping heads with any of the different infantry figures you would have an officer of that type. The guards' officers generally had a slightly larger crest than the privates. Guard officers also appear to have had lace on the greatcoat's collar similar to that of their uniform beneath. An officer greatcoat should generally have been in dark-blue, as for the General's, but with the upturned facings at the front in the same colour as the facing used by the troops. During 1802-07 officers' belts had been white, but was prescribed to be black both for parade and campaign from 1810. The buckle would have been in either silver or gold with the embossed national coat of arms. Up till 1809 officers carried a white brassard on their left upper sleeve, but otherwise there were no visible insignia of rank on the greatcoat. Between 1807-1810 officer greatcoats for the line infantry were prescribed to be dark-grey with blue upturned facings and a blue trim to the otherwise dark-grey collar. Variations with greatcoats in lighter grey appear to have also existed.
Examples of some Swedish generals are:
Carl Johan Adlercreutz (1757-1815) - victories of Siikajoki, Revolaks, Lappo, but defeat at Oravais 1808, the initiator of the arrest of Gustaf IV Adolf in 1809, chief of the general staff during the 1813 German campaign as well as during the invasion of Norway in 1814.
Carl Natanael af Klercker (1734-1817) - quickly mobilised the Finnish army at the outbreak of the war 1808, and later replaced General Klingspor as commander-in-chief.
Johan August Sandels (1764-1831) - the victory at Virta Bridge (Virta bro) 1808, commanded the Savolax sharpshooters (Savolax jägarregemente) and the Savolax brigade.
Georg Carl von Döbeln (1758-1820) - the most famous of all Swedish generals. Not the least through Swedish-Finnish literature. He was easily recognisable by a black ribbon around his forehead to conceal a shot-wound. Fought in a Swedish enlisted regiment on the French side against the English in India 1781-88, captain during Sweden's war with Russia 1788-90 (where he received the mentioned shot-wound at Porrasalmi), commander of the Björneborg's Brigade 1808-09, victories of Juutas, Siikajoki and Lappo 1808, commanded the Swedish army on Åland 1809, but was forced to retreat over the frozen waters to the mainland of Sweden as none of his requested reinforcements arrived, led the defence in Northern Sweden and secured supplies for the Swedish at Umeå 1809, accused for treason and sentenced to death during the German campaign in 1813-14, as he had responded to a Danish request for help to defend Hamburg against the French without proper authorisation (before the Danes had officially again sided with the French), the death-sentence was altered to one year in prison after which he was given command over a regiment to take part in the invasion of Norway in 1814, he was appointed President of the High Military Court in 1816. His motto: “Honour, Duty and Will” (Ära, skyldighet och vilja).
The uniform shown on the box cover is of the 1812-regulation. For parade the gaiters were white, as shown, but for campaign black with brass buttons. From 1812 plain white overalls were also issued for campaign. The ammunition pouch is in plain black leather.
There were three Swedish guards regiments. The Foot Life Guards/Svea Life Guards (Svea livgarde), the Finnish Guards (Finska gardet) - renamed the Second Guards regiment (Andra gardet) in 1809 - and the Göta Guards (Göta gardesregemente) - from 1806 re-named the Swedish Guards and in 1808 amalgamated with the Finnish Guards. The figure on the box shows the Svea Life Guards. The Finnish/Second Guards had the same uniform, but with scarlet lapels and turnbacks. From 1813 it seems that the cuffs and collars also have been in scarlet - perhaps even the epaulettes. The Göta guards had a coat of previous regulation - see below in mid-blue with pale lemon yellow collar and cuffs, piped salmon pink, yellow turnbacks and salmon-pink lapels.
A guard's battalion had six companies of 100 men each and one separate company of sharpshooters (jägare). Usually the sharpshooters from the different regiments were grouped together in special jägar-battalions. It was these combined jägar-battalions that took part in the storming of the Grimma-gate at Leipzig in 1813 with the guards' sharpshooters leading the attack. The guards, as all specialists, like engineers, artillerymen, but also garrison-troops were enlisted and received pay for full time military service.
The jägare were dressed the same way, but probably had their coats and breeches in deep green and a green plume and crest on the casque - some even with a green or white cord/tassel. The gaiters were black with brass buttons, but ending just below the knee. From 1812 green overalls with a white lace on the outer seam was also issued for campaign. From 1813 the Svea Life Guard's jägare are seen in bell-shaped shakos with a bushy green plume at the top front, front plate in brass (oval?), some with a cord/tassel in white or green (?) and brass chinscales.
Before and possibly to some extent after 1812 the jägare wore a previous regulation uniform with the jacket being closed at the waist, not showing any waistcoat. The lapels did not go all the way down, but ended square cut just below the ribs. The last pair of white lace was situated below the lapels. From 1803 this uniform was deep green for the jägare, except for the collar and lapels, which were in the same facing as their parent regiment (yellow or scarlet). Lapels and the deep green cuffs were also piped according to the regiment (white or salmon pink for the Göta). The epaulettes and lace was white and the same as on the 1812-pattern shown. The breeches for the jägare were also deep green and the gaiters black with brass buttons, but ending just below the knee. All belting for the jägare was black.
All regiments had four colours. The colour of the first company was called “livfana” (”life”colour or the king's colour) and was white with the royal coat of arms in the centre and four rounded golden crowns pointing outwards in each corner. The other colours were called “kompanifana” (company colour) and were white with the King's crowned cipher in gold in the centre and crowns in the corners, as for the Livfana. The jägare did not carry any colours, but were kept in order by the sound of the bugle. The “kompanifana” of the Finnish Guards appear to have been divided diagonally into four fields of red and white with the crowned royal cipher in the centre as above.
There were two regiments of Guard Grenadiers. The one shown is the Grenadier Corps of the Life Regiment Brigade (Livregementsbrigadens grenadjärkår). From 1810-11 a variation of the lace on the thighs seems also to have been introduced - yellow pointed stripes with a thin red stripe within, with the yellow also being piped scarlet. One source states the regiments' coats to be mid-blue, but illustrations seem to show little difference. The other regiment was the Life Grenadier Regiment (Livgrenadjärregementet) of which there were two formations; the “rotehållsdivisionen” and the “rusthållsdivisionen”. Both had the same uniform design with white rounded (instead of diamond shaped) Hungarian knots on the thighs and white lace on the outer seam of the overalls. The collar and cuffs were scarlet. Lace and turnbacks white and buttons in white metal. Unlike the Grenadier Corps, the lace on the collar and cuffs of the Life Grenadiers did not have a tassel or button at the end, but were plain straight. The Life Grenadiers are also shown to have worn their crest from side to side, plume in white and the brass hatband having a concave design with a small oval badge of red with a yellow standing griffon on it. Above the hatband was a grenade in brass, just like for the Grenadier Corps. If wanting to make these you can swap head with the Värmland Sharpshooter figure.
The jägare of the grenadiers appear to have worn the same basic blue uniform but with a green plume and crest and black belting. It is possible that some kept black gaiters ending just below the knee, but overalls would surely also have been issued.
The regiments' colours would have been similar to those of the Life Guards above, but with three golden opened crowns upright in each corner (the Swedish national symbol) for the Grenadier Corps and a golden grenade pointing inwards in each corner for the Life Grenadier Regiment.
Officers of the line infantry wore the same basic uniform as the men, but with longer yellow tails and of finer quality, sometimes appearing like a somewhat lighter shade of blue. The overalls are either blue like the coat or grey, often with gold embroidered scarlet Hungarian knots or stripes on the thighs and scarlet lace on the outer seam of the overalls - trimmed with gold on either side. The buttons and hatband gilt and gilded straps on the up-turned brim. The yellow plume is distinctly taller than for the men. Higher-ranking officers would have had only one single row of buttons. For parade white breeches were worn with black Hungarian style knee boots with a pointed or dented top, often with a tassel. Probably white wrist gloves was also worn for parade.
The rank can be seen by the golden epaulettes; one epaulettes on the right shoulder and a fringeless contre-epaulettes on the left for captain and less. Majors and above would had fringed golden epaulettes on both shoulders. The exact rank could be seen on the number of stars on the epaulettes, but also from the collar; captains appear to have had three white horizontal lace batons on the collar, lower ranks two or one respectively. Majors and up seem to have had gold-embroidered buttonholes instead, looking like very narrow small batons - one to three depending on rank. Between 1772-1809 all officers carried a white brassard around the upper left sleeve in commemoration of Gustaf III's bloodless coup d'état.
The box-cover show the 1810-regulation, what the Swedish line infantry would have looked at the start of the Leipzig-campaign in 1813. What cannot be seen is the characteristic copper-flask at the back of the backpack. Some regimental variations appear to have existed for the cuffs - some also show blue cuffs with scarlet cuff-flaps, some scarlet with scarlet cuff-flaps. Some regiments had collar and cuffs in yellow, mostly worn with a previous regulation-coat, but by 1813 almost every regiment had adopted scarlet. The strap on the side of the upturned brim was yellow, the pom-pom below the plume white. The hatband had a semi-circular top for the regiments of Småland and Södermanland. Also for the regiments of Bohuslän, Älvsborg, Södra skånska and Uppland, but in white metal.
A regiment normally consisted of two battalions of four companies of 150 men each. A brigade consisted of between 3-8 batallions. 24 men - “the youngest, most agile and most understanding men” - of each company were selected as sharpshooters, usually grouped together in special jägar-batallions. The most common battle formation would have been the line with two or three ranks - a battalion occupying 100 and almost 150 metres respectively. The jägare would have operated in open order, most likely in pairs with some 5 to 10 metres between each man. If operating together with regular troops probably deployed some 50-100 metres in front or to the side of them.
In wartime independent brigades, corps or “fördelning” (the difference being quantitative) were formed with allotted staff and supply bodies to function independently for a considerable length of time in a wider area of operation. In 1808-09 such an independent brigade normally consisted of 6 battalions of line infantry, 1 battalion of Sharpshooters, 2 squadrons of hussars or dragoons, 1 battery of field artillery - totalling 4.500 men and 8 guns. A “fördelning” in 1813 would normally have consisted of 12 battalions of line infantry (2 brigades), 1 battalion of sharpshooters, 8 squadrons of hussars and/or dragoons and 1 division of field artillery - totalling 9.000 men and 16 guns.
From 1810 the sharpshooters - or jägare - were officially only distinguished by their black belting and a hat similar to the guards, but with a green crest and plume. If you want to make a line-infantry jägare, just swap heads with one of the Guard figures. Some jägare are recorded to have kept their 1807-jägare uniform, like the regimental jägare of Bohuslän and Västgöta during the 1813-campaign (see the information about the Värmland sharpshooter).
During the 1813-campaign the Swedish equipped themselves with captured sabres, greatcoats, backpacks as well as French and Russian shakos. The latter was especially popular, as they were more fashionable than their old style hat. During 1814 several regiments had been issued a bell-shaped shako (Russian style) with white cords and an edged rounded front-plate in the shape of a large eight-pointed brass star with the national coat of arms embossed. At the top centre it had a yellow plume, resting on a white pompom. Below, on the shako front above the eight-pointed star, there was a yellow cockade with a blue centre. The jägare had green plumes and cords. Indeed with the Russian-style shako, the Swedish line infantry of 1814 would in uniform design (but not colours - the coat being blue) much have resembled a Russian grenadier, except for overalls being worn instead of breeches and gaiters. By 1814 the Swedes also appear to have received new backpacks, which - like the Russians' - had a white strap across the chest between the two carrying straps of the backpack, for better comfort when wearing.
Often the Swedes used special greatcoats which they called “kapott”; basically a regular greatcoat, but with a wide cape with upstanding collar (like on the uniform) extending from the shoulders to the waist or sometimes slightly below. Often the cape was turned back and fastened at the back with small hooks at the corner tips, exposing the lining in the regiment's facing colour. The collar was also in the facing colour. The “kapott” was generally in the same colour as the uniform, that is dark blue or mid-grey. During the campaign in Germany many Swedes adopted the Russian and Prussian habit of rolling the greatcoat and wearing it across the left shoulder as protection against sabre slashes. A similar design to the “kapott”-overcoat was used in the American Civil War (1861-65), but here with buttons on the cape, which the Swedish did not have. If wanting to make Swedes in the “kapott” there should be some American Civil War-figures around that could be used to swap heads with.
The main part of the Swedish line-infantry was part of the “indelningsverket” and would generally have been of the “the right stuff”, but probably with a somewhat high average age. Due to poor finances the soldiers' training had been neglected, but we can see that they shaped up well after some experience in the field. The “indelningsverket” was a system based on a kind of lifetime enlistment introduced in 1680, through which a certain number of farmers provided for the equipment and homestead of a soldier in return for tax-exemption. In peacetime the soldier farmed his own patch of land, often developing the skills of being the right-hand-man in the local community to make some extra money. The soldiers were organised into companies and regiment with men from the same neighbourhood together, which created a strong sense of comradeship, but also social pressure to do ones best. In other words the Swedish line-infantryman was usually a mature man, who knew how to take care of himself and also had something to fight for besides king and country - the lives and respect of his comrades and a homestead and wife to return to.
Still, the system of the “indelsverket” exempted a large portion of the population from tax, leaving the country almost constantly short on cash - as well as limiting the army's available number of soldiers. Sweden tried to remedy the latter by different reforms towards conscription of militia, which was generally resisted by the largely rural population. Nevertheless in 1812 a resolution was passed of compulsory military service for men between 21-25, which was mainly to act as reinforcements and replacements to the “indelta”. During the 1813-campaign these new recruits were intermingled with the “indelta”.
About the line infantry's colours - there was some experimentation with new designs. During the military build up between 1811-1813 virtually all regiments received new colours. Each battalion had two. The “Livfana” in white with a national symbol in the centre, usually the national coat of arms, and in the inner upper corner their regiment's provincial coat of arms in full colour. Generally the “kompanifana” were in the provincial colour(s); either in one single colour or diagonally quartered if there were two colours with the crowned provincial coat of arms resting in a golden or green laurel in the middle. Often the provincial coat of arms was of an animal - elk, reindeer, standing he-goat, lion or griffon with its body in a single colour as white, yellow, red or black. The usual colour of the background was blue, yellow (or yellow and black) and red.
Besides the designated sharpshooters of the line infantry regiments, there were special sharpshooter regiments of enlisted professionals. In Finland there were three of these: the Savolax Rifle Regiment (Savolax jägarregemente), the Nyland Rifle Batallion (Nylands jägarbatalion) and the Carelian Rifle Corps (Karelska jägarkåren). In wintertime these were also issued with skies. During most of the 1808-09 Russo Swedish war the Finnish sharpshooters appear to have worn the 1802-regulation uniform, which is hear shown with the distinctive deep green shako particular to the Finnish jägare. It had a large black peak that could be turned up, which is shown on these figures. The plume is green. To the 1802-regulation an ordinary belt - black for the jägare - was worn with a square plain brass buckle, which easily could be painted. These particular figures, however, are depicted with the new 1807-regulation yellow sash with two blue stripes. The gaiters are black with brass buttons. The uniform is in mid or lighter grey and brass buttons. The lapels, collar, cuffs and turnbacks are deep green piped white. The front tips of the collar are decorated with a thin semicircular white round lace that would form a complete circle if one were to press the collar together.
If swapping heads with the line-infantry-man you basically have a Finnish line-infantry soldier in an 1802-regulation uniform, which would still have been worn by many Finnish regiments during the war of 1808-09. Most Finnish line-regiments appear to have had their uniforms in mid-grey with the lapels, collars, cuffs and turnbacks in mid blue, with one single shoulder strap in the coat's colour on the left shoulder. The belting was now ordered to be black, but many regiments appear to have kept or not changed their previous white belting. The rifle-sling was now temporarily red. A sabre was still worn similar to that of the guards. If painting the coat dark-blue, with buff yellow lapels, collar, cuffs, turnbacks and breeches you will have a uniform of the Finnish Österbotten's regiment, which also would have been what many national Swedish regiments looked like, except that their breeches would have been white or dark-blue. Although a yellow plume had now been adopted by most - the 1802-regulation stated it to be white with white straps on the upturned brim. Most jägare of the line infantry appear to have had deep-green coats and breeches with facings as their regiments'.
This was the only enlisted professional Swedish rifle-regiment. They were usually at the forefront during the 1813-campaign and they were also part of the storming of Leipzig. Here they are made in their 1807-uniform, which were kept until 1814. The Värmland's jägare, as all the jägare according to the 1807-regulation had both coat and trousers in deep green. The collar, cuffs, turnbacks was in very dark green (resembling black) piped white. The coat had only one shoulder strap; on the left shoulder - most likely in green as the coat. The gaiters were black, ending just below the knee, with brass buttons. The belting was black. Most of the regimental jägare appear to have had casques similar to those of the guards, but with a dark green plume and possibly from 1810 also with the crest in green instead of black. The Värmland's, however, had their crest from left to right as shown. The Värmland's sharpshooters short rifles were not issued with bayonets, which are reported to have put them at some disadvantage when coming up against cavalry or when close-quarters were needed.
If swapping heads with a line-infantryman and painting the uniform and trousers grey with collar, cuffs and turnbacks in mid blue, gaiters black with brass buttons, you would get a Swedish or Finnish line infantryman in an 1807-regulation uniform. The sabre had been discarded, except by the jägare, which may have discarded them later, perhaps with the 1810-regulation. The grey uniform was an experiment to try to save money. The experiment was short-lived, however, as it did not prove to be much cheaper than to dye in blue, at the same time as it seemed hopeless to get all uniforms in the same shade of grey. It never became popular with the army, why the traditional Swedish colour of blue was soon reintroduced with the 1810-regulation uniform.
Stockholm, Sweden, February 12th 2004
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