Four Actions in Finland during the Russian-Swedish War of 1808-09
By Stefan Spett
During the combat, Baggovut ordered that the Lemo
farms that were occupied by the Swedes should set on fire by the artillery
The landing force did not inspire much confidence.
It was the part of the Uppland Landwehr without the guard.
The force consisted of 966 landwehr, 74 men from the Tyska
Regiment and 36 men Finnish vargering.
They had no cavalry, but 6 artillery-pieces. The guns were very hard
to unload and the commander, Colonel Palén delayed the advance until
all guns were ashore and the battle of Sandöström was lost. Buwhoewden
had sat down to a victory-dinner at Västankärr mansion when the Swedish
force appeared. The landwehr advanced somewhat hesitantly and Buxhoewden
was able to gallop away. The soldiers plundered the table and Buxhoewden’s
baggage, finding all his orders and medals among it.
The first counterattack came quickly, when two companies of Villmanstrands Regiment,
which was guarding a battery of three heavy pieces brought them to
Västankärr. This attack failed and the heavy guns
quickly ran out of ammunition and had to be taken away. More forces
released by the victorious fight at Sandöström came streaming in.
Jägers having taken Sandö, waded back to Kimito. More jägers on the
mainland was quickly shipped over and infantry on the gun-sloops were
landed. The landwehr had to make a fighting withdrawal that degenerated
on the beach. The two ships loaded with the guns collided and was
taken with all 6 guns. Many were taken prisoner and others must have
scattered in the woods because the Russians reported fewer prisoner then Swedes claimed
were missing. Besides the guns the Swedes lost 25 dead,
50 wounded and 144 missing. Russian losses are not reported separately
from the battle of Sandöström.
The mainforce was intended to land at Helsinge and 300 men of Västmanland
would land at Järvenperä to flank the local defences. Lantinghausen
changed his mind when he received a pessimistic report from the inshore
fleet about to be attacked by the Russians. Major Stjernstam with
the Västmanland force had already closed on the Russians at Järvenperä when he received orders to
embark again and decided to fight. This worked out well, as the Russian
local defences were weak. The obligatory cossack were often ambushed
and a company of the Neva Regiment provided support. It had 132 men
including officers and plus a falconet ( this gun was likely a 2-pounder
taken in Nystad) close by. Three pickets occupied Helsinge, Järvenperä,
and Lokalax. A reserve was in Vinkkilä. Stjernstam drove off the picket
in Järvenperä and cut of the picket in Helsinge. The reserve and the
picket from Vinkkilä counterattacked but despite the use of combined
arms the Russians were beaten. The Swedes lost 1 dead and 2 wounded.
The Russians lost 42
men including an officer killed, 31 unwounded and 3 wounded prisoners.
During the night the other 2 companies of the Pernau Battalion arrived with one gun. The weakened Neva company, with its falconet and General Major von Aderkas also arrived. In the morning the Russians attacked. The guns advanced on the road with two supporting companies in close formation. Two companies deployed as skirmishers and the Neva Company, with the falconet, moved toward the Swedish south flank. Lantinghausen deployed most of his forces, but despite only having two guns, stopped the attack. Then nothing, not much skirmishing seems to have taken place because the Guard Jägers had no one killed and merely 4 wounded in the operation. Sometime during the day a squadronn. of the Grodno Hussars moved up in support of the Neva Company.
In the afternoon, Bagration arrived bringing General Sasonoff, 3 Pernau Companies and 2 guns. One company was left in Vinkkilä. The attack was renewed and a company was sent to turn the Swedish north flank. The entire force must have been less than 1200 men. Lantingshausen then ordered a retreat! This retreat was not orderly, the rearguard consisting of a Kronoberg Battalion made a stand at the churchyard but were defeated and lost its backpacks stacked in the churchyard. The guns were nearly lost at the church. The Swedish cavalry had been standing behind the church but when the combat reached the church they obviously had moved somewhere safer. They suffer no loses all day.
The Russian pursuit was understandably weary and
the evacuation was easy because the very inferior Russians had
marched and fought so long. During or just after the evacuation
a ship loaded with musket-ammunition arrived, along with ships carrying
another infantry battalion. Swedish losses at Lokalax are 140 men.
The Kronoberg lost 83 out of this, including 16 of 20 prisoners.
The Russian losses are reported to be 200, but the Russians lost only 1 dead and 2 wounded officers. All those generals
were unhurt. Likely the "about" included stragglers.
Lagerbring wrote to the king that victory in the operation was beyond human reach. The King answered:
Sounds better in the original language.
On the 27th, the Swedes advanced north and immediately met the Russians, who during the night had been reinforced by a battalion from the Nevski Regiment and Baggovut took command.
The Swedish advance guard was a Uppland jäger company and a 3-pounder and they had to fight hard to push back the Russian outposts. Baggovut had orders to delay the Swedes and accepted battle at the Viais mansion. Most of the troops on both sides fought as usual with skirmishers supported by close columns. Three platoons from the Kronoberg Regiment deployed in line and when the deployed Swedish forces attacked in force, the Russians were driven off, losing 40 prisoners. Despite that the Swedish guard-cavalry were as invisible as at Lokalax. The Russians in Lokalax harassed the Swedish flank-guard and Lagerbring seized the opportunity to stop pursuit and spend the night at the Viais area. During the same night superior Russian forces and Bagration marched flat out to reach Baggovut.
The Russian reinforcements consisted of :
Swedish losses during the action on 27 September
were 3 prisoners, 12 dead, and 71 wounded, 6 of the wounded were officers.
Further west a Swedish and a Russian column met in a thick forest. They both deployed skirmisher chains and units in close order made charges on both sides. As the Russians were much superior in numbers the Swedish forces had to give way and a general Swedish retreat followed. The Swedish forces had more reserves than the Russians and they were closer at hand. A Kronoberg Battalion was close behind the battlefield, the guard-cavalry with 120 horses was also somewhere. The only thing they did was to send out some patrols. One was cornered and had save themselves by boarding coastal fleet units. The Västmanlands vargerings Battalion was on work-detail in Helsinge. Furthermore Lagerbring was behind the Russians and could perhaps need some help. But the retreat was ordered and the Kronobergs Battalion was deployed as the rearguard supported by two 6-pounders. Most of the Guards retreated through them. At Viais, the Finska Guard was a bit slow and 46 were taken prisoner when dragoons charged the mansion. proving that cavalry could be used. The Kronoberg Battalion fought well, fighting hour after hour and retreating only when superior forces outflanked it. But on the beach in Helsinge the situation was deplorable. The loading was slow and inefficient and it seems obvious that the sailors did not do their utmost. Lieutenant Thersmer in charge of the loading failed. When the Kronoberg Battalion retreated into Helsinge village and barricaded it, many guns and troops was still on the beach. The Russians who earlier had not been able to deploy all of their guns could do so now and a battery bombarded Helsinge, forcing the Swedes out. Later these guns commenced firing on the boats. The Russian batteries would have been easy pickings for the Swedish gun-sloops. but none of them were present ! All war-vessels had concentrated further south and only the transports were present at Helsinge.
Bagration's aide-de-camp, Captain Ofrosimoff, took
command of some cossacks and charged the Swedish guns abandoned on
the beach. Besides prisoners, they also took two guns, three howitzers
etc. Major Hederstierna, commanding the Kronoberg. Battalion, ripped
the battalion's colour from the staff, wrapped it around a stone,
and sank it. But he and a large part of his battalion managed to escape
on some small boats. Into this scene of panic and defeat, enveloped
in smoke from the burning village sailed the king, surprised and not
at all amused.
The king decided that punishments were necessary.
He did not hang any of the deserving officers, but instead dispersed
the Svenska Gardet and demoted the other two guard regiments, even
removing their colours. The new regiments were renamed Fleetwoods
and Paléns Regiments. They were most unhappy units and plans were
made to kill the king.
But they were all small detachments that totaled only 1800 men.
The battle of Virta Bro on 27 October 1808 started with a artillery-duel. The Russians deployed strong field artillery and a Swedish 6-pounder was dismounted. The Swedes retreated and three Russian battalions followed across the bridge. They stormed the fortifications at Linna and were hit by a sudden counterattack. The Russians streamed back to the still unrepaired bridge meeting more troops crossing it. The Swedes brought artillery and a brutal slaughter took place at the bridge, General Dolgorukij was killed by a cannonball at the Russian end of the bridge. The last Swedish battalions arrived with colours flying and the bands playing. They engaged in a heavy musket contest with strong Russian forces across the Virta. General Tutschkoff was lightly wounded.
Combat ended with a new armistice for battlefield
cleaning. Swedish losses: 34 killed and 282 wounded. Total 316 men.
Russian losses: 221 killed, 479 wounded and 73 prisoners. Total 773
Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2005