Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

The Swedish Army in the Napoleonic Wars

By Magnus Olofsson

Other Units

This chapter discusses a very heterogeneous collection of units which were part of the Swedish army during the Napoleonic Wars.  Most of them were ephemeral and contributed little to the army’s fighting power, and have been almost completely ignored by Swedish military research.  The information available is scanty at best. This article sums up what’s been found about them; to give a better description of them would require a huge amount of archival research.  

Starting with a few units that existed a the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars King Gustavus personal bodyguard, Konungens Lifdrabantcorps (approximately “The King’s Life-guard corps”), 75 men strong, should be mentioned, as should his uncle Charles bodyguard, Hertigens af Södermanland Lifdarbantcorps (approximately “The Duke of Södermanland’s Life-guard corps”), 34 men strong. After Charles became king only the Konungens Lifdrabantcorps seems to have been kept, though no details about the latter’s history or organization have been found.[13]

The Adelsfaneregementet (approximately “Noble’s-banner regiment”) was the oldest of all existing units in the Swedish army; it could actually trace its ancestry back to the medieval knight’s duty to defend the realm. It became indelt at the end of the 17th Century and had a strength of 395 men in six companies (squadrons). However, these numbers were all vacant: the unit supported no privates or corporals at all, though its indelta officer-posts were used to support retired or supernumerary officers; basically the unit served as a kind of retirement fund! The officers of the unit were mobilized in 1808 and 1809 to lead the lantvärn.[14]

The island of Saint-Barhélemy in the Caribbean had a diminutive värvad garrison and a small militia force, some 200 men strong together.[15]

Traditionally, the burghers of Stockholm were obliged to perform guard and garrison duties in wartime, serving in the Stockholm City Burghers Cavalry Corps (Stockholms stads borgerskaps kavalericorps) and the Stockholm City Burghers Infantry Corps (Stockholms stads borgerskaps infantericorps). On 7 May 1808, they were mobilized for the first time in 18 years, due to the fact that most of the guard infantry and cavalry were activated for field service at the start of that month. They served in the capital until 28 September 1809, two weeks after the peace treaty with Russia was signed. The corps served again for a few weeks in 1814, which was the last of their service during the Napoleonic Wars.

Every burgher of Stockholm were obliged to serve in one of the burgher corps until 55 years old and they were to pay for uniforms and weapons themselves. The cavalry corps was four squadrons strong and seems to have had an average strength of about 275 men. The infantry corps had five battalions: Stads, Norra första, Norra andra, Södra första and Södra andra (”City”, “First North”, “Second North”, “First South” and “Second South”). They had four companies each (Södra andra had only three) and a total strength of some 1,500 or 1,600 men. There were large differences in the social standing between the different units: the cavalry included the richest and most important men in the city, while burgher middle class belong to the city or the northern battalions. The southern battalions included members of the lower rungs of the burgher class. The units of the burghers formed a separate brigade, with the mayor of Stockholm as brigadier.[16]

The 30th of April 1806 saw the birth of the predecessor to the Swedish lantvärn of 1808: that day a lanvärn was ordered to be raised in Pomerania. Known as the Kongliga Pommerska lantvärnet (“Royal Pomeranian Lantvärn”), all unmarried and able-bodied men in the ages 19 to 26 were to join this force, though as with the lantvärn of 1808 in Sweden, the exemptions were very generous. The Pomeranian lantvärn was to consist of six battalions, each with 600 men organized in four companies, officered by the riches landowners of Pomeranian. On the 22nd May that year the six battalions, named Stralsund’s, Griefswald’s, Wolgast’s, Barth’s, Bergen’s, and Gartz’s respectively, were 3,557 men strong. The Pomeranian lantvärn served until the Swedes abandoned the province in 1807. At some point in its short history the Pomeranian lantvärn seems to have been split into two corps of roughly equal size, one still named Pommerska lantvärnet and the other known as Stralsunds borgarskap (“Stralsund Burghership”), though why this reform was made or the details of it is not known. The Pomeranian lantvärn seems to have been reborn in 1811 in the shape of a lantstorm (“Landsturm”), which probably lasted until 1814 or 1815, though its doubtful if this lantstorm saw any kind of active duty.[17]

During the War of 1808 - 1809 a number of volunteer units were raised, almost all of them in Finland, where they to some extent can be said to have filled the same functions as the lantvärn did in Sweden. Very little is known of these units; some can be guessed from the monumental Sverges Krig published by the Swedish general staff, but much is unknown.

Two of these volunteer units were raised in Sweden, both in the county of Dalarna. Dalfriskyttekåren (approximately “Dal marksman-corps”) served from the spring of 1808 until the end of the war; the original strength of 300 soon dwindled to about 100. The unit was attached to Dalregementet for most of the war. Another unit of friskyttar, some 70 men strong, was raised in Särna parish and was thus known as Särna friskyttar. It served as border guard from the summer of 1808 until April 1809.[18]

The isles of Åland, situated in the Baltic between Sweden and Finland, belonged to the latter for administrative purposes, and was thus exempt from the lanvärn; however, Åland became a staging point for the amphibious assaults of the Swedish army against the Finnish mainland during mid-1808 and was therefore called to raise both a lantvärn and a lantstorm. The first was mobilized in late May 1808, the latter in August 1808. The lantvärn was one battalion strong, the lantstorm three; in both cases this organization meant little as both corps were used in small detachments, performing guard duties and manual labour. Together the two corps were about 3,000 strong, though many of the men were on leave at any given time. The whole organization fell to pieces when the Russian occupied Åland in mid-May 1809.[19]

The war also saw a bewildering number of small volunteer units raised in “proper” Finland. Ignoring the most ephemeral of these and those which saw little if any active service the more important and well known were: Gyllenbögells fribataljon (“Gyllenbögels Free Battalion”; four companies strong), Skarpskyttebataljonen (“Sharpshooter Battalion”; two, later three companies strong), Malaks lanvärnsbataljon (“Malaks Lantvärns Battalion”; two companies strong), Närpes lantvärnsbatalajon (“Närpes Lantvärns Battalion”; two companies strong), Sahlsteins frivillga kompani (“Sahlsteins Volunteer Company”) and Heintzi frivilliga kompani (“Heintzi Volunteer Company”). Most of these units were raised in the spring or summer of 1808 and disbanded during the autumn or winter the same year. They had negligible combat value and served as garrisons and lines-of-communication troops. Many of the men in these units were incorporated into the regular units of the Finnish army when their old units were disbanded. It’s far from clear how many Finns served in them, but in total its likely to have been at least 1,500 men, possibly more.

There was also the so called Garnisonsbataljonen (“Garrison Battalion”) in Uleåborg, the Finnish army’s main depot until Finland was evacuated in the autumn of 1808. It was made up of convalescences from the regular Finnish army units.[20] 

As mentioned above two värvade border guard companies were raised from the remnants of the Finnish army in the late 1809. These were called Norra finska gränskompaniet and Södra finska gränskompaniet respectively (”Northern” and ”Southern Finnish Border Company”). For administrative purposes they belonged to Västerbottens and Uplands regiments respectively. Exact official strength it uncertain, but by 1811 both numbered 132 privates and a couple of corporals, plus officers and NCO’s, so presumably this was their number strength. [21]    

The defence of the island of Gotland has always been a problem in Swedish strategy: its far enough from mainland Sweden to be difficult to defend and large enough to be worth protecting. Gotland did not  support any regular army units by the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars, but when the lantvärn was raised in 1808 the people of Gotland actually volunteered to support one instead of two battalions of lantvärn. In the light of this enthusiasm, it was decided that the people of Gotland was to protect the island themselves: so Kungliga Gotlands National-Beväring (approximately “Royal Gotland National Conscription”) was created in December 1810. Henceforth, all male Gotlanders could be called to defend the island from their 15th to their 60th year of age. Officers were elected by the men, arms supplied by the crown. Training was minimal, and the men couldn’t be ordered to fight outside the island.

The organization was rather complex. The citizens of Visby, the only city on the island, supported three artillery companies (two field artillery, one depot) with 90 men each. All other men on the island between 15 and 30 years old belonged to 16 companies of jägare; those between 30 and 45 years old belonged to 20 companies of infantry; those between 45 and 50 years old belonged to seven pike armed reserve companies; all companies being 150 men strong. The men between the ages of 50 to 60 years old were to perform manual labour. The strength of the whole Kungliga Gotlands National-Beväring was about 7,500 men, including the oldest category and the artillery. The corps never saw any service during the Napoleonic Wars.[22]

 When the French abandoned Pomerania in the spring of 1813, the returning Swedes were hailed as liberators, and the youth of Pomeranian flocked to fight Napoleon, in much the same way as the youth of Prussia did at the same time. It was decided to form these young volunteers into their own units and thus the Cavalry Corps of the Royal Swedish Pomeranian Legion (13 April 1813; Kongl. Svenska Pommerska Legionens Cavallerie Corps) and the Infantry Corps of the Royal Swedish Pomeranian Legion (25 April 1813; Kongl. Svenska Pommerska Legionens Infanterie Corps) were born. It was soon found that the original enthusiasm did not last and thus these two units only reached squadron and company strength respectively. Both units, the cavalry about 50 to 60 men strong and the infantry about 90 to 100 men strong, served in the Swedish corps in various headquarter functions throughout the campaign against France in 1813 and 1814. They were disbanded in June 1814.[23]

On 19 May 1813 the men of the allmänna beväringen of the county of Halland, which did not  support any regular army troops to use as cadre for the conscripts, were formed into an all beväring’s battalion called Hallands infanteri bataljon (“Hallands Infantry Battalion”) under the command of regular army officers. The battalion participated in the campaign in Norway in 1814.[24]

 

Notes:

[13]  Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 1, pp.165-166.

[14]  Samuelsson, G., Lantvärnet 1808 -1809, Uppsala 1949, p.105; Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 1, pp.129-130.

[15]  Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 1, appendix  9c.

[16]  Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 1 pp.168-169; Wennerström, T., Stockholm stads borgargarde genom tiderna, Stockholm 1937, pp.109-134.

[17]  Björlin, G., Sveriges krig i Tyskland åren 1805-1807, Stockholm 1882, pp.116-117, 230; Lehfeldt, R., Geschichte des Füsilier-Regiments Graf von Roon (Ostpreußischen) Nr. 33, Berlin 1901, pp.96 and 100.

[18]  Philström, A., Kungl. Dalregementets historia, vol. 5-6, Stockholm 1911, pp.207-225 and 228.

[19]  Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 5, pp.6 and 13, appendices 2, 7 and 8a, vol. 8, p.312, appendices 19-20.

[20]  Hornborg, E., När riket sprängdes. Fälttågen i Finland och Västerbotten 1808-1809, Helsingfors 1955, pp.218-224; Sveriges krig åren 1808 och 1809, vol. 3-9 passim.

[21]  Bergström, O., Bidrag till Kongl. Uplands regementes historia, Stockholm 1882, pp.296-297; Bergenstråhle, G., Kungl. Västerbottens regementes krigshistoria, Stockholm 1917, p.516.

[22] Mankell, J., Anteckningar rörande svenska regementernas historia, Örebro 1866, pp.383-384. 23>

[23]  Schreiber, M., ”Kongl. Svenska Pommerska Legionen 1813-1814. Några anteckningar.”, Föreningen armémusei vänner, meddelande 36, Stockholm 1976, pp.89-121.

[24] Mankell, J., Anteckningar rörande svenska regementernas historia, Örebro 1866, p.386.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2008

 

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