A different Finnish War

finska_kriget_karta.jpg

Sweden, Finland and Russia, with borders and places of importance.

1808-02-21
Prodded by Napoleon, Czar Alexander I of Russia invades the Swedish province of Finland with 24 000 men in 3 divisions under command of Lieutenant General Fredrik Vilhelm von Buxhoevden. There has been no declaration of war and the Swedes are taken by surprise. However, the snow still lies deep all over Finland and the Russian advance is slow. The Russian invasion is half-hearted and happens mostly because Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden is the last regent of continental Europe to reject the continental system and Napoleon demands that Alexander do something about it.

As in OTL.

1808-02-28
Field Marshal Mauritz Klingspor, on his was to take command of the Swedish forces in Finland, slips and breaks is leg when making quarters in Torneå. There are complications, and a mere three weeks later the gangrene has killed him.

In the absence of the Field Marshal, Lieutenant General Karl Nathanael af Klercker, despite his advanced age (he is 73 years old at this time), reatins command of the Swedish forces in Finland. From his sickbed, Klingspor orders that his pre-war planned retreat must be executed. From diplomatic channels in Stockholm he has intelligence that the Russians have commited at last 60 000 men, somthing the Swedish forces cannot hope to face in open combat before summer, when the ice of the Baltic is gone and the main army can be transported to Finland. In a romantic deed, the General Adjutant Gustaf Löwenhielm stay at Klingspor's side as he fades away from this world.

Thus, there is no-one present in Finland to ensure that Klingspor's orders are followed. Indeed, af Klercker has his own ideas. He agrees that the meagre Swedish forces in Finland cannot face the Russians head on, but in hisplan the retreat is shorter - to Åbo and Tavastehus, rather than Uleåborg as in Klingspor's plan.

In OTL, Klingspor took command and ordered the retreat. Here he is out of the picture.

1808-03-02
With small units of light forces, af Klercker harrases and delays the Russian advance. This also provides him with intelligence through recoinnasance that the Russian forces are between 20 000 and 30 000 men strong, not 60 000 as Klingspor assumed. With this knowledge, af Klercker decides to interpret Klingspor's orders bit different than the Field Marshal intended.

The Savolax Brigade, mostly made up of light forces with a core of Finnish Jägers, armed with rifled muskets and under command of Colonel Johan Adam Cronstedt, maintains contact with the Russian forces, harrasing them constantly as it slowly retreats nortward towards Tavastehus, drawing a sizable Russian force under General Michail Bulatov away from the main Russain forces, in pursuit.

The Swedish main force under Lieutenant General Carl Johan Adlercreutz retreats towards Åbo to await reinforcements, while af Klercker himself leads a minor detachment of Jägers (roughly 200 men) to Sveaborg to place himself at the natural arrival point of reinforcements and the starting point of a counter-offensive as soon as the ice has loosened its grip on the Baltic Sea.

The idea is to have three separate forces capable of at least limited operations to distract the Russians until spring.

In Sveaborg, af Klercker is soon surrounded by the Russian main force. However, Sveaborg is one of the largest fortresses of the world even though it is not entirely finished yet. Placed on six islands in the bay just outside Helsingfors, the fortress dominates the sealane and houses 6 200 men equipped with more than 700 guns, althought some of the guns are placed on the 200 ships of the main part of the Swedish archipelago navy that is frozen in the ice at Sveaborg. The Russians lack siege artillery and conduct no immediate attacks, despite the ice giving free access to Sveaborg by foot.

sveaborg.png

The Fortress of Sveaborg just outside Helsingfors.

In OTL, Klingspor's retreat was carried through and af Klercker's plan rejected. Also, no reinforcements or anyone of higher command were sent to Sveaborg.
 
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Oddball

Monthly Donor
Looking good!

Oh, this looks interresting! :)
Im going to watch out for this thread :cool:

Please just dont turn it into a Swedish Wank... :(

And dont forget the "Russian allies" in the west :p;):D
 
Oddball: Not a wank, but it will certainly go better. The most interesting part will be the butterflies. The western enemies did very, very little. Despite having almost 30 000 men in Norway, the Danes seemed to not have the heart in the war. Of course, they cannot be ignored either.

Mattep74: Very few comments at Skalman, I am expanding and translating the story here.
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
The most interesting part will be the butterflies. The western enemies did very, very little. Despite having almost 30 000 men in Norway, the Danes seemed to not have the heart in the war. Of course, they cannot be ignored either.

And I presume you know why? ;):)

For those who does not know, the reason that Denmark was reluctant to activly support Russia's attack on Sweden in 1808:

She feared a Russian annexation of Finland would render her position as Russia's allied void. And that was excatley what happened. At the treaty signing were Finland became Russian, it was promptly pointed at Norway as a compansation for Sweden's loss... And so ended the Eternal Alliance.

Btw: Even tough the Norwegian army at full deployment perhaps could munster 30 000 men in 1808, the Swedes deployed at the border outnumbered them. In addition you should not forget that Norway at the time was blocaded, and hunger was widespread in the civil population. An attack on Sweden was oviousley not a "good idea", :D and thus a defensive attitude was visely chosen.
 
Attacking Sweden from Norway is hard.
Norway was pretty much an island country. Moving a force across the mountains and forests into Sweden would be a major undertaking. Its why controlling the sea was always so important in Scandinavian wars despite maps showing this big obvious land border.


I don't think this would be a wank. I wonder which way he will take it though- a major Scandinavian front in the Napoleonic Wars against Russia? And the implications from that....
What happens to Sweden becomes quite irrelevant.


Where did those maps come from?
 
1808-03-20
The arrival of larger Russian forces have been slightly delayed by af Klercker's fighting retreat, but by now they have surrounded the fortress of Svartholm and have been shelling it sporadically, without causing any major damage.

The fortress is under command of Major Carl Magnus Gripenberg, who worries about the unfinished state of some of the bastions, especiallly towards the south. Defeatism is running rampant among the officers of the fortress - they do not believe they can hold the fortress and neither do they believe that Sweden can win this war. On the 20th of March, they decide to surrender, almost without a fight. The Russians take 680 men prisoner along with 200 guns.

Gripenberg will be branded as a traitor in Sweden and will enter Russian service rather quickly, furthering the speculations of bribery.

When af Klercker is reached by the news of the surrender of Svartholm he is absolutely mortified. This is not a sentiment that is eased when he tries to discuss strategy with Vice Admiral Carl Olof Cronstedt, the commander of the Army's Navy - also known as the archipelago navy, a squadron of shallow draft frigates (that can be rowed), galleys, gunboats, mortar boats and other vessels intended for combat in the shallow waters of the archipelagos of the Baltic Sea. Cronstedt shows defeatist tendencies, but af Clercker reminds him of his victory at Svenskskund 1790 and that the Russians do not have nearly enough men to take on Sveaborg if they decide to fight.

As the senior commander in Sveaborg, af Klercker dismisses von Buxhoevden's invitations to negotiations as the Russians start arriving outside Helsingfors. The officers' wives are also evacuated from Helsingfors, despite some protests against the much more primitive living quarters on Sveaborg. Initially, Cronstedt was wavering and inclined to at least listen to what von Buxhoevden had to say, but the fighting spirit of the much older ad Klercker actually rubs off a bit. The small detachement that af Klercker brought with him to Sveaborg have been fighting the Russians in delaying action and can attest that the Russian line infantry consists of mortals that die of bullets.

While the morale of Sveaborg is not superb, it is far better than it was at Svartholm when larger Russian forces arrive.

svartholm.png

The Fortress of Svartholm on the island of Svartholm, close to the border at Kymmene Älv.

In OTL, Svartholm surrendered 1808-03-18, but the fighting withdrawal of af Klercker delays it two days. Historically, there was almost as much defeatism in Sveaborg as in Svartholm and Cronstedt entered negotiations with von Buxhoevden.
 
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Valdemar II: There'll be no Swedish forces in S:t Petersburg, if that is enough to not have it being a wank. :)

Oddball: Yes, Norway certainly did not benefit from being attached to Denmark at this time. I am toying with the idea of Sweden invading Norway as part of the later part of the Napoleonic war, and perhaps be given it as Prussia is given Swedish Pommerania (or what is left of it, anyway), but I am not at all sure that woudl be feasible. We'll see, I guess.

Tyr: It is possible to go the land route from Jämtland into Tröndelag, as was done 1718, and from Bohuslän to Christiania (Oslo) as was also done 1718 and numerous times before that (mostly the other way though), but the infrastructure and the land will not support armies large enough for any kind of rapid conquest. The maps are mostly from Wikipedia, I get them by googling the Finnish and Swedish names of the places and battles.
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
I am toying with the idea of Sweden invading Norway as part of the later part of the Napoleonic war, and perhaps be given it as Prussia is given Swedish Pommerania (or what is left of it, anyway), but I am not at all sure that woudl be feasible. We'll see, I guess.

Find a way to incorporate Charles August in your timeline, and you can plausibly bag Norway at the ATL Vienna Conference. :D
 
1808-03-22
Russian forces have now reached Åbo, where they meet the main force of the Swedish army in Finland, under command of Colonel Carl Johan Adlercreutz. Adlercreutz is the senior Colonel and in command of 2:a Brigaden (2nd Brigade). Döbelns Brigad (Döbeln's Brigade) is under command of Colonel Georg Carl von Döbeln. Döbelns Brigad was earlier Gripenbergs Brigad (Gripenberg's Brigade), but for obvious reasons, the brigade was renamed. All in all, Adlercreutz has 7 000 men and 18 guns. The Russian forces have about 8 000 men. The Swedes are superior in artillery, but have no cavalry at all, while the Russians have a detachment of 500 Cossacks.

The Russians have about 8 000 men besieging Sveaborg and more forces are marching from Svartholm and about 6 000 are trying to force Savolaxbrigaden (the Savolax Brigade) into a pitted battle.

The winter and the long march have taken its toll on the Russian forces, despite reinfocements arriving continuously. Sizable reinforcements are on their way from the motherland, but it will take time for them to arrive.

Adlercreutz wants to hold Åbo, but he also wants to keep a possible route of retreat open northwards and chooses to meet the Russians east of Åbo. In order to lengthen his lines to meet the numerically superior Russians, Adlercreutz is forced to hold only one small reserve and keep a rather thin line in the centre. He hopes that his superior artillery will make up for the lack of infantry firepower in the centre.

Major General Nikolaj Nikolajevitj Rajevskij is in command of the Russian forces. He believes he has caught the Swedish forces as they were retreating and that they are only delivering battle because they are afraid of his cavalry going after their rear if they continue to retreat. He is not out for a decisive battle or destroying the Swedish force, as he belives his tired men could come short in such a battle, especially as the Swedes might retreat into Åbo and cause him to be locked down in a time-consuming siege. Rajevskij is a cavalry general that prefers room to manouvre to set-piece battles. Also, capturing Åbo, which is the capitol of Finland would be a nice achievement to have under his belt.

Both armies line up in a north-south line, with the Russians to the east. The Swedes keep a small reserve bahind their centre and concentrate their artillery there as well. The Russians line up with their cavalry in the north and their reserve in the south. What few guns they have are also deployed in the south.

Rajevskij's plan is thus to feign a cavalry attack around the Swedish left flank, in the north, hopefully causing the Swedes to commit their reserves to keep the line of retreat open. His main force will then hit the Swedish right flank in the south, avoiding the artillery in the centre and hopefully force the Swedes from their position and into a headlong retreat north.

However, Rajevskij is unaware that during the night two companies of Västerbottens Regemente (the Västerbotten Regiment) have arrived after skiing from Wasa, They are currently resting slightly north of the Swedish left flank.

The battle is joined as a strong morning sun from the east is glittering in the still thick layer of snow on the ground. The temperature is a few degrees over freezing though, and the snow is wet and heavy.

Rajevskij's plan comes undone rather quickly. His Cossacks advance slowly in the thick and wet snow. However, the strong light makes it impossible for Adlercreutz and his staff to see the cavalry advancing, and indeed most of the Russian army, so the Swedish reserve remains uncommited as the Swedish right flank and the Russian left flank starts to exchange volleys of musket fire.

The men from Västerbotten, however, are much closer to the Russian cavalry and benefit from their position further north - they need not to stare straight into the sun. They start firing at the Russian cavalry, aiming for the horses, knowing that the thick snow makes the cavalrymen almost useless without their horses. The Russians try to charge the Swedish infantry but are unable to pick up enough speed, as in the snow, the men from Västerbotten are faster on their skis than the Cossacks. Soon the Russian cavalry is engaged in a slow and losing musket duel against the skiing Swedes. By now, Adlercreutz has been made aware of the Russian cavalry, but also that the men from Västerbotten is holding them.

About at the same time, the Russians commit their reserves in an attempt to force the Swedish right flank. The Russians try to charge with bayonets, but strong fire from the Swedish ranks drive them back several times with hight casualties. As their reserves engage, they drive the Swedes of 2:a Brigaden back. However, the reserve under personal command of von Döbeln engage and drive the Russians back.

After this, the Russians are spent and Rajevskij realises that he has lost the battle. He disengages and retreats. The Swedes are exhausted as well and with no cavalry, they opt to not pursue. The Russian force is beaten and ragged, but still in the field.

The Swedes have lost about 600 men, while the Russians have lost roughly 1 000. Among the wounded are von Döbeln, a musket bullet has grazed his head, causing him to wear a black ribbon to protect the wound.

dobeln.jpg

The reserve is lead into combat by von Döbeln at Åbo.

In OTL, Adlercreutz met Rajevskij at Lappo (much further north) 1808-07-14 and defeated him. Rajevskij was later replaced as he lost several battles, so for him to be defeated at Åbo is not ASB.
 
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Oddball: Nope, I will keep Gustav IV Adolf and Crown Prince Gustav in Sweden. In this TL, Sweden will accept the British help. Sweden will be much more in Britain's camp post-war, which would make Swedish and Norwegian interests more aligned and relations much better. Under such circumstances, a union might even survive. :)
 
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Valdemar II

Banned
Valdemar II: There'll be no Swedish forces in S:t Petersburg, if that is enough to not have it being a wank. :)

To some point, but it's also a good idea of avoiding a Swidish Estonia.

But I could see a Swedish takeover of Norway*, but it's unlikely to be conquered, and more likely to be a part of deal.

Of course you should also think about how a continued Gottorp dynasty and keeping Finland will affect Sweden political, I imagine that the Swedish takeover of Norway will end with it being more integrated into the state with the stronger monarch.

*I find it quite likely, it had been a major part of Swedish foreign policy for decades to gain Norway.
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
Oddball: Nope, I will keep Gustav IV Adolf and Crown Prince Gustav in Sweden. In this TL, Sweden will accept the British help. Sweden will be much more in Britain's camp post-war, which would make Swedish and Norwegian interests more aligned and relations much better. Under such circumstances, a union might even survive. :)

Very interesting! I have never tought of that possibility :eek:

Looking forward to this! :)
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
..., I imagine that the Swedish takeover of Norway will end with it being more integrated into the state with the stronger monarch.

To do so successfully, IMHO you need to avoid the interrim separate Norwegian King of 1814 and the acompanying constitution.
 
Valdermar II: No, no Swedish Estonia either. At least not the mainland. But I am getting ahead of myself here. First the Finnish war and the gains there, then the Conference at Vienna, then the Crimean War. We'll see. :)
 

Valdemar II

Banned
To do so successfully, IMHO you need to avoid the interrim separate Norwegian King of 1814 and the acompanying constitution.

With a more absolut regime in Sweden and maybe a bigger army*, the Swedes may be able to ignore the Norwegian wishes, while that may alienate the Norwegians, it may also unite them with the more liberal forces in Sweden, and make Norway a more integrated part of Swedens political system.

*With a continued ownership of Finland, Sweden has a better recruitment base and a bigger incentiment to keep the army big.
 
1808-04-01
Along the Swedish-Norwegian border, Lieutenant General Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt commands 14 000 men. In Scania, Field Marshal Johan Christopher Toll commands about 7 000 men. Colonel Johan Bergenstråhle also commands 2 000 men in Norrland. In Denmark, there's roughly 45 000 men, mostly Spaniards, but French, Dutch and Danes are also part of the army which is under command of Field Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte.

The Danish navy is almost non-existant since the British attack on Copenhagen ealier in the war and thus only a surprise strike can transport the large multi-ethnic army over the Sound.

Armfelt advances into Norway and defeats a Dano-Norwegian army detachement of about 5 000 men under Major Bernt Peter Kreutz at Lier. The Swedes lose 151 dead, wounded and prisoners while the Dano-Norwegians lose 156 men. Armfelt advances and captures Glommen, but soon retreats across the border. Even though lack of arms and training reduce the effectiveness, along with the lack of food due to the British blockade, the Dano-Norwegain forces in Norway still have 30 000 men and Armfelt do not think he can advance far into Norway with such numerical disadvantage.

armfelt.jpg

Lieutenant General Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt.

As in OTL.
 
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Oddball: Quite possible, if the Swedish army is in control of Norway, how that will happen, I do not know. We'll see, I guess.

Valdemar II: I imagine absolutism will be kept until 1848 or so.
 
1808-04-22
The ice is now breaking up in the southern and central parts of the Baltic. In the Bay of Finland and most of the smaller bays, it is still thick enough to walk and ride on though.

The Russians are stuck outside Åbo, around Sveaborg and south of Tavastehus. The intended quick campaign has turned into a grinding series of sieges or seemingly hopeless chasing after elusive enemies. The Russians realise that their current forces will not be enough to defeat the Swedes and a further three divisions of some 25 000 men are given marching orders towards Sveaborg. It will take quite some time before they are in place though. Another two divisions of 16 000 men are raised in case they are needed. The Napoleonic lighting strike that was supposed to restore the glory of the Russian arms after the humiliating defeat of Austerlitz three years earlier have come to naught.

The Russians plan two operations to disrupt the Swedish reinforcements for Finland while they await reinforcements. From Riga, Admiral Nikolaus Bodisco will sail with the full force of the Russian Baltic Navy - nine ships of the line and seven frigates and land a force to capture Gotland.

At the same time, Rajevskij will send a detachement to walk over the ice and destroy the optical telegraph that links Åbo with Stockholm over Åland.

Both plans should force the Swedes to send reinforcements to Gotland and Åland instead of to Åbo or Sveaborg.

Most of the Swedish navy is still frozen in when Bodisco lands 1 600 men on Gotland. The Swedes are caught by complete surprise and have almost no forces at all on the island. The Russians quickly secure all of Gotland in a text-book example of an invasion.

However, Rajevskij's detachement get lost among the many islands and islets of the Åboland and Åland archipelagos. A small Swedish detachement, reinforced by angry and eager Åland peasants meet the Russian force at Kymlinge and defeat them in detail. The Russians retreat out on the ice, where many go through as they are unaware of the currents and winds that make ice thinner in places. The remaining 300 men surrender.

gotland1808.jpg

The Imperial Russian navy land troops at Gotland.

In OTL, the Russians took both Åland and Gotland.
 
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