Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

The Swedish Army in the Napoleonic Wars

By Magnus Olofsson

Regular Army Units in 1808 - 1814

Obviously, the largest change in this period was the loss of Finland and the Finnish army in the autumn of 1809. After the peace treaty was signed with Russia most of the remaining soldiers of the Finnish army, 760 out of over 20,000 (including reserves and volunteers) returned to Finland. However, the Finnish artillery regiment was kept and the few remaining Finns who did not want to return home were organized into two värvade border guard companies. The land cessions also meant that Vesterbottens Regiment lost 117 men, though that did not lead to any other change in the unit’s establishment.

It was soon realized that the Swedish cavalry was too large and too expensive and therefore the whole of Västgöta dragonregemente was turned into infantry under the name Västgöta regemente in the spring of 1811. A year later, half of Smålands dragonregemente was turned into infantry. The new unit, which was organized in four companies with strength of 500, was named Smålands dragonregementes infanteribataljon (“Infantry battalion of Smålands Dragoon Regiment”). The remaining 500 men of Smålands Dragoons were reorganized into six squadrons instead of four.[23]

To further increase the strength of the infantry it was decided that the region Skåne, which had only been included in the rusthåll but not the rotering when the indelningsverk was created, was to join the rotering and support two Infantry Regiments. The two new units, Norra skånska infanteriregementet and Södra skånska infanteriregementet (”North Skånska Infantry Regiment” and ”South Skånska Infantry Regiment”), were raised in the winter 1811/1812 and had a strength of 1,240 and 1,283 respectively. Both had a standard eight company establishment.[24] 

The dismounting of the Västgöta regemente, half of Smålands dragonregemente, and the raising of the two Skånska infantry units thus increased the strength of the indelta infantry by some 4,000 soldiers.

The last change of the indelta army during the Napoleonic Wars occurred on the 7th of June 1812.  The 1,674 soldiers of the large Närike-Värmlands Regiment were split between two new regiments, named Närikes regemente and Värmlands regemente respectively. They were organized with eight companies each, and had a strength of 766 and 908 respectively.[25]

In the years 1808 and 1809, the guard infantry entered a period turmoil, starting with the infamous “degradation of the guards”. In the fall of 1808, all three guard infantry units participated in landing operations in the Russian occupied parts of southern Finland. These operations were thought out by King Gustavus with the purpose to tie down Russian troops there. The landings had absolutely no chance of success, being outnumbered by a wide margin by the Russian occupation forces and wisely their commanders only advanced a few miles inland and withdrew by sea when the Russians appeared in strength, ignoring the king’s suicidal orders to advance deep into Finland, where the Russians would have crushed them with ease.

This “cowardice” was swiftly punished by Gustavus: on the 13th of October, Livgardet till Fot and Finska gardesregementet lost their guards status, were placed at the bottom on the list of seniority, and renamed after their colonels to Fleetwoodska regementet and af Palénska regementet respectively. Svenska gardesregementet was disbanded entirely and its personnel divided between the two other former guards; the Fleetwoodska regementet kept its old number of companies but its strength increased to 800 men; af Palénska regementet incorporated four companies wholesale and got the personnel of a fifth so that it too had 800 men in ten companies. (Note that the Fleetwoodska regementet and af Palénska regementet thus had the same strength as the three old guards regiments had before). Thus King Gustavus punished his guard regiments for failing to obey his own stupid orders and outraged the most socially elite officers in the Swedish army. Not surprisingly, not a single guard officer or guardsman stood up to defend their monarch during the coup in 1809 and the unfortunate Gustavus ended his days wandering through Europe, deserted by all.

On the 13th of March 1809, the new government as one of its first acts, gave the Fleetwood and af Palénska Regiments their guard status back; the Fleetwoodska regementet was named Svea Lifgarde (“Svea Life Guards”) and the af Palénska regementet was named Andra gardesregementet (“Second Guard Regiment”).[26]

During the war the small Régiment du Roi was disbanded. Its personnel were probably incorporated into other värvade units. The exact date the unit was disbanded has not been found, but it’s clear that the unit disappeared during the war.

When Pomerania was evacuated in 1807, the Drottningens lifregemente and Engelbrechtenska regementet had lost many men to desertion and were cut from 1,200 to 600 men, each as mentioned above. After the war they served as garrison units in Sweden, but when Pomerania was returned to Sweden in 1810 after a peace treaty was finally signed with France, both units returned there. On the 11th of May 1811, they were ordered to return to their original strength of 1,200 men each. However, for Drottningens lifregemente and Engelbrechtenska regementet the French invasion of Russia spelled doom: in the spring of 1812 the French invaded Pomerania again, since Napoleon thought it to dangerous to leave the Swedes a bridgehead that could be used to assault the lines of communications of the Grand Army during the invasion of Russia. Pomerania could not be defended against the vastly stronger French forces and the two German regiments had to surrender. On the 3rd of July 1812, they went into French captivity. The story of the Drottningens lifregemente and Engelbrechtenska regementet did not end with that.  On the 11th of March 1813, with Pomerania now in Swedish control once again, both units were re-raised in Stralsund, using the few officers and soldiers of the old units that had managed to avoid captivity as cadre. As before, the units each had 1,200 men organized in two six company battalions. During the campaign against France in 1813 and 1814, both units had one battalion serving in the field and one in garrison duty. When Swedish Pomerania was handed over to Prussia in 1815, both Drottningens lifregemente and Engelbrechtenska regementet joined the Prussian army and were turned into the 33rd Fusilier regiment in 1816.[27]

By the 4th of February 1812, Vermlands fältjägarebataljon doubled its establishment: a new three company battalion, three hundred strong was raised and the unit renamed Vermlands fältjägareregemente (“Vermlands Field-Chasseur Regiment”).[28]

In the autumn of 1813, a new värvad unit was raised in Pomerania from deserters and prisoners of war from the French army, mainly of French and Italian nationality. It was first called the Franco-Italian Battalion, but was soon renamed Le Royal Suédois. Originally, it was of battalion strength, but a second battalion was added in early 1814, and it was to be organized in eight companies with a total strength of 1,520 (excluding sappers, musicians, NCOs, officers and others), though it only ever reached about two-thirds of its theoretical establishment. The unit participated in the Norwegian Campaign and was disbanded on the 23rd of December 1814.[29]

On the 1st of October 1811, the Lifgardet till Häst decreased its number of squadrons from six to four. Since each squadron still had a strength of 70 the whole corps now only numbered 280 privates and corporals. One and a half years later (8th April 1813), shortly before the unit was shipped to Pomerania to participate in the continental campaign against Napoleon, one squadron and 100 men were added to its strength; this increase was only meant to be for the duration of the war, but was made permanent in 1815.[30]

At roughly the same time Lifgardet till Häst was increased in size - the exact date has not been found - the Mörner Hussars, shortly before leaving for the continent also increased its strength. Each of its eight squadrons were  to number 100 instead of 75 soldiers giving it a total strength of 800.[31]

Somewhere between the spring of 1808 and the summer of 1811 - the precise time has not been found - Wendes Artillery returned to its original nine company establishment. In 1810, the ten companies of the Finnish Artillery Regiment, which was kept after the war in 1808 - 1809 as already mentioned, were consolidated into five and a year later (4 June 1811) it was disbanded and two companies transferred to Svea Artillery and three to Vendes Artillery. These two regiments thus were organized on a 15 and 12 company establishment respectively for the rest of the Napoleonic Wars.[32]

Table 5: The Swedish Army in 1813 - 1814

Unit name and type

Companies

Number strength

     

Indelta infantry units

   

    Lifregementetsbrigadens grenadiercorps

4

500

    Lifgrenadierregementets rothållsfördelning

8

1,200

    Lifgrenadierregementets rusthållsfördelning

8

1,000

    Västgöta regemente

8

1,000

    Smålands dragonregementes infanteribataljon

4

500

    Uplands regemente

8

1,200

    Skaraborgs regemente

8

1,200

    Södermanlands regemente

8

1,200

    Kronobergs regemente

8

1,100

    Jönköpings regemente

8

1,100

    Dalregementet

8

1,200

    Helsinge regemente

8

1,200

    Elfsborg regemente

8

1,200

    Vestgötadals regemente

8

1,200

    Bohuläns regemente

8

904

    Vestmanlands regemente

8

1,200

    Vesterbottens regemente

8

939

    Kalmar regemente

8

1,100

    Nerikes regemente

8

766

    Vermlands regemente

8

908

    Jemtlands regemente

8

1,048

    Norra skånska infanteriregementet

8

1,240

    Södra skånska infanteriregementet

8

1,283

     

Värvade infantry units

   

    Svea Lifgarde

10

800

    Andra gardesregementet

10

800

    Kungens eget värfvade regemente

10

800

    Drottningens lifregemente

12

1,200

    Engelbrechtenska regementet

12

1,200

    Vermlands fältjägareregemente*

6

600

    Le Royal Suédois

8

1,520

     

Indelta cavalry units

   

    Lifregementbrigadens kyrassiercorps

4

505

    Lifregementbrigadens husarcorps

8

500

    Smålands dragonregemente

6

500

    Skånska husarregementet

8

1,000

    Skånska karabinierregementet

8

1,000

    Jemtlands hästjägaresqvadron

1

100

     

Värvade cavalry units

   

    Lifgardet till häst

4 (1)

280 (100)

    Mörnerska husarregementet

8

800

     

Artillery units (all värvade)

   

    Svea artilleriregemente

15

1,200

    Göta artilleriregemente

16

1,305

    Vendes artilleriregemente

12

960

     

Sources: Ahlgren, Bergenstråhle 1907, Bergenstråhle 1917, Björnstjerna, Historiska upplysningar, Kindberg, Lundh, Nordensvan, Sveriges Krig, vol. 1, Wendes regemente 1813

Thus, in 1814 the Swedish army had a strength of 39,388 (including those numbers that were only to be raised only in wartime). Of these numbers, 31,138 were infantry (24,188 indelta, 6,950 värvade), 4,785 were cavalry (3,605 indelta, 1,180 värvade), and 3,465 were artillery (all värvade); 27,793 numbers were indelta and 11,595 numbers were värvade.

 

Notes:

[22] Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 1, pp.159-160.

[23] Rill, C., Statistiskt sammandrag af svenska indelningsverket, vol. 1, Stockholm 1855, facsimile ed. 1988, pp.131 and 166; Tingsten, L., Huvuddragen av Sveriges yttre politik, krigsförberedelser, m.m. från och med fredssluten 1809-1810 till mitten av juli år 1813, Stockholm 1923, pp.93-94.

[24] Ahlgren, G., Anteckningar ur Kongl. Södra Skånska infanteriregementets historia, Malmö 1894, pp.2-3, 15; Skåne och regementet, pp.126-127.

[25] Nordensvan, C. O., Värmlands regementes (Närkes och Värmlands reg:tes) historia, vol. 1, Stockholm 1904, pp.281-282.

[26] Bergenstråhle, G., Historiska anteckningar om Kungl. Göta lifgarde, vol. 1, Stockholm 1907, pp.96-97; Historiska upplysningar om Kungl Svea lifgardet, Stockholm 1906, p.20; Kungl. Svea livgardes historia 1719 - 1976, pp.24 and 365.

[27] Lehfeldt, R., Geschichte des Füsilier-Regiments Graf von Roon (Ostpreußischen) Nr. 33, Berlin 1901, pp.68-114.

[28] Kindberg, A, Anteckningar om Värmlands fältjägare, vol. 1, Stockholm 1918, pp.195, 197.

[29] Axel-Nilsson, G., ”Regementet Le Royal Suedois”, Föreningen armémusei vänner, meddelande 32, Stockholm 1971, p.49.

[30] Björnstjerna, C. M., Anteckningar om Konungens Lif-garde till häst, Stockholm 1873, pp.40-47.

[31] Anteckningar om Kronprinsens husar-regemente, Lund 1858, p.40; Stille, A., Striden vid Bornhöft i Holstein 7 december 1813 jämte kort öfversigt af Kronprinsens husarregementes historia af Bror Cederström, Lund 1913, p.102.

[32] Hedberg, J., Kungliga Finska artilleriregementet, Helsingfors 1964, pp.211-217.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2008

 

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