Thursday, March 28, 2013

And the winner is...

Thanks for all the god guesses about my next project, some of you was spot on, +20 points in history to The Wilde Goose and also to Thomas Nissvik, Engel and Jonas M, but as they all are Swedish it might have been to easy for them... ;)

The Finnish War 1808-1809


The Finnish War 1808-09, i.e. the war between Sweden and the Russian Empire was fought from february 1808 to september 1809. As a result of the war Sweden lost about a third of its territorie and a quarter of its population...

My first goal for this project are to preper terrain (much of my 15th centery terrain will be re-used) and paint 10-15 minis for each side to be able to play out some small skirmish games during the Swedish retreat in april and may 1808 , and then we will see...

I´ll give you a short historical background today and more about minis and rulesa in the following posts.



Background
After the Russian Emperor Alexander I concluded the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit with Napoleon, he suggested in his letter on 24 September 1807 that the Swedish King Gustav IV Adolf should join the Continental System. The king, who viewed Napoleon as the Antichrist and Britain as his ally against Napoleon's France was apprehensive of the system's ruinous consequences for Sweden's maritime commerce. He instead entered into negotiations with Britain in order to prepare a joint attack against Denmark, whose Norwegian possessions he coveted.

On 30 December 1807 Russia announced that should Sweden not give a clear reply Russia would be forced to act. Although most Swedish officers were skeptical about their chances in fighting the larger and more experienced Russian army, Gustav Adolf had an unrealistic view of Sweden's ability to defend itself against Russia.

The situation was problematic for Sweden, since it once again faced both Denmark and Russia as potential enemies requiring Swedes to split their forces. The king had thought it impossible to defend Finland should the enemy attack during the winter and chose largely to ignore the repeated warnings of Russian threat he received in early 1808. Most of the Swedish plans assumed that warfare would be impossible during winter, disregarding the lessons from recent wars. The Swedish plan was mostly based on passively defending and on holding to the critical fortifications in the southern Finland and then counterattacking with naval support in the spring and retaking the lost areas.


On February 21, 1808, 24,000 Russian troops under Friedrich Wilhelm von Buxhoevden crossed the border. Since the Swedish Commander in chief General Wilhelm Mauritz Klingspor had not arrived Lieutenant General Karl Nathanael af Klercker acted as Swedish commander in Finland. He was notified of the Russian invasion already on 21 February and since it was impossible to hold the predefined defense lines as the army had not yet fully assembled he ordered army to assemble at Tavastehus. 

Before the engagement started Klingspor finally arrived on 2 March and assumed command. Instead of facing the Russians at Tavastehus he ordered the army to withdraw. In Savolax Russian also forced the Swedes to withdraw. The king was quite unprepared for the attack, especially as war was not declared until April. About 21,000 Swedish troops were stationed in various fortresses of Finland, while the rest of his army was unable to leave southern Sweden for fear of Danish attack. 

Russian advance was swift. On the first day of the war they had captured the town of Lovisa and besieged the Swedish seafortress of Svartholm. Borgå was captured on 24 February and Helsingfors on 2 March. Abandoned Swedish fortifications Hangö Peninsula were taken and manned on 21 March and on 21 March Russian army took Åbo while a small detachment was sent to Åland. Before the end of March 1808 even Vasa was taken. In Savolax Russians also advanced rapidly and took Kuopio already on 16 March. Swedish forces had mostly just withdrawn before the advancing Russian often destroying usable materials. For example the Swedish archipelago fleets ships that been docked in Åbo (nearly 50 gun sloops) were torched to prevent their capture. 

The Swedish fortress of Svartholm under command of Major Carl Magnus Gripenberg was ill-prepared for a war. While the garrison was 700 men strong only third of the men had actually functional weapons while most of the fortress' guns had no carriages. The fortress had fallen into disrepair and lacked both adequate food and ammunition stores. Even the wells were found to be unusable. After starting the siege on 21 February Russians issued surrender demand for the fort which was refused. Demand was repeated on 2 March but without success. After meager Russian bombardment Gripenberg agreed to negotiations on 10 March. The fortress surrendered to Russians on 18 March after a siege that had lasted roughly a month with just one man having been wounded in action. 

Sveaborg under Admiral Carl Olof Cronstedt had been well prepared for the war with garrison of 6 000 men and having over 700 cannons, and enough stores to last until summer of 1808. Defenses were strong enough to prevent Russians from trying to storm the fortress by surprise. Instead Russians laid siege against Sveaborg. Fortress surrendered on 6 May 1808 after prolonged negotiations with the Russians as the commanding officer Carl Olof Cronstedt and his council thought that resistance was futile.. Russians gained main body of the Swedish archipelago fleet intact as well as large stores of supplies and munitions.

Russians had advanced considerably but they had also gained the long and vulnerable coastline with it. After sea would be cleared of ice there would nothing to prevent Swedish forces from landing troops to the shore. With the Royal Navy supporting the Swedish battle fleet there was little the Russian battle fleet could accomplish. Capture of the main body of the Swedish archipelago fleet had been a real boon to the Russians since it allowed them to gain superiority in the narrow waters of Finnish archipelago where large ships of the line could not operate. Even the powerful explosion at Sveaborg which destroyed several of the captured ships did little to chance Russian superiority in Finnish archipelago. Russians utilized the guns from the burned ships, and of those which burned during the winter, and constructed several fortifications to the coast, both to Hangö as well as to narrow passages leading to Åbo.

Under Colonel Carl Johan Adlercreutz the Swedish army counter-attacked at Siikajoki and started halting the Russian offensive. Soon after at Battle of Revolax Swedish army under Colonel Johan Adam Cronstedt started the Swedish advance towards south. These successes yielded promotion to Field Marshal to Wilhelm Mauritz Klingspor. Swedish advance very slowly however as operations were mostly halted due to the thaw, exception was brigade under Colonel Johan August Sandels which swiftly advanced towards Kuopio. Nikolay Tuchkov, a Russian general who was dispatched to the north of Finland, left garrisons in every fort on his way, thus reducing his unit to 4,000 troops, which proved insufficient to pacify the hostile country. The Finns rose up in guerrilla fighting as far as Hamina (in Russian "Old Finland").

In May, the Russians suffered further setbacks when they were driven from Gotland and Åland, where a Swedish flotilla, supported by the local population, compelled the small Russian force left on the main island of Åland to surrender and then invaded the island of Kumlinge where bulk of the Russian garrison of Åland had been based. After two hour long fight the local militia together with Swedish landing force overcame and Colonel Vuich together with the garrison was compelled to surrender. On May 26, a British fleet carrying 14,000 troops under Sir John Moore entered the port of Gothenburg but, due to various disagreements with the king, never landed and proceeded to fight the French in Spain after leaving 16 battleships and 20 other ships at Sweden's disposal.

So that was a short recap of the historical situation during the spring of 1808.

36 comments:

  1. Sounds like a plan, I'll follow with interest.

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    1. Glad you will Ray !

      best regards Michael

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  2. I was wrong!
    I look forward with interest to seeing this develop...

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    1. Pleas don´t take it to hard Allan;)

      The Scanian war and Battle at Lund are on my to do list to:)

      Best regards Michael

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  3. Definitely sounds interesting sir.

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    1. I hope so Fran :)

      best regards Michael

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  4. Woho! 20 additional points in History would make a welcome addition to my previous ones (i.e. nil).

    I will of course follow this project with great interest.

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    1. Not only follow I hope Jonas, you most welcome to partisipate in the gaming to...or should I say MUST participate;)

      best regards Michael

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    2. Well, that goes without saying my friend. I'm looking forward to it! :)

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  5. This will be so much fun to follow. As you are well aware the 1808-1809 is perfectly suited for small scale actions.

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    1. I blame it on you Mattias as you got me over the edge on the converssion part... :)

      best regards Michael

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  6. Glad I got something right for a change. I thought the Brigade Games reference was a dead giveaway (as they are the only company with a full range of 28mm 1808 Russians that I know of, though Elite miniatures have some units as well). Really interested to see how the Swedish conversions turn out.

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    1. Congratulations Wilde Goose !!! Very good work !!!

      I didn´t realize that it was so obvious just by the brigade game referense, you must have a good knowledge about theri minis and the Swedish history !

      Never seen the Elite miniatures, not much pictures on their web site, how are they compared to the brigade games one?

      Best regards Michael

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    2. I know the minis as we're getting them for a large Austerlitz game we're planning in the Czech Republic in August this year(hopefully at a venue near the battlefield). They look nice, but a friend who ordered some recently said the casting quality is now very bad. Who knows. I've only seen pictures of the Elite miniatures figures as well, but they are definitely "Old School" sculpts. There really is a gap in the market for good quality 1805-1809 Russians in 28mm.

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    3. ...and Swedes to;)

      Best regards Michael

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    4. Of course Swedes :-). Swedes for 1813-14 campaigns in Germany would be interesting as well, but would have a real rag-bag appearance (apparently the uniform supply started to run out)

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    5. Might have been that supplys started to run out, but the story I been told are that the uniform the Swedes used was out of fashion, especialy the Swedish hat... so apparently the Sweish troops was teased for their outdated uniforms, so they started to change... suppouse it probably was a bit of both.

      My friend Mattias at Norther Wargaming are working on some Swedish 1813 minis: http://northern-wargaming.blogspot.se/2013/01/swedish-troops-in-1813.html

      Best regards Michael

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  7. Great plan :) i happen to live outside sävar where the last battle 1809 took Place
    during 2009 we had a big reenactment and even the Swedish king was here.

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    1. Thanks !

      I got the chanse to see parts of the show then they was here in Stockholm.

      Best regards Michael

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  8. I've been wanting to do the Finnish War for years! But there were never any miniatures nor was I interested in converting. (I have even been thinking about starting my own line of miniatures just so I can play this period...turns out you need a lot of money for that though...)
    So I'm really looking forward to this project, and with your talent I'm sure it's going to be great!

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    1. I hope I will do the match. My gola are to get "god enough" Swedish converssions, hope I dont will dissapoint you ;)

      Best regards Michael

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  9. Thanks for sahring, I love this obscure (for foreigners of coruse) historical episodes

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    1. Obscure.... ;)

      I hope to learn you all some more about Swedish history:)

      Best regards Michael

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  10. Sweet! Looking forward too see the conversions. Saw one of your fellow bloggers had started a similar project. Got me really tempted as well!

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    1. Me to;)

      Yes Mattias at Nothern wargaming and I have talked much about this and he are making Swedes for the 1813 campaign, unfortunally the Swedish uniforms had changed a bit during the 5 years, but he to will use perry minis as a base, Austrians I think and then the same heasds as I, as they still wore the same hat.

      Best regards Michael

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  11. Very interesting, I knew nothing of this conflict.

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    1. Be prepeared to learn Sean;) It was a conflict that had a greate impact on Sweden and it was a real trauma to loos a third of the land and a fourth of the population.

      Best regards Michael

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  12. Another Finnish War? What a complex History you have!!! Very interesting project, Michael.

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    1. One more? which was the first one Juan? Or do you refere to the Finnish Winter War in 1939?

      I hope this Finnish War will be as interesting for your as it will be for me:)

      Best regards Michael

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  13. Great idea Michael and well presented.
    Cheers,
    Pat.

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  14. Very interesting Michael. Looking forward to reading more.

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  15. Will be nice to see this project come to life and all the converting of miniatures I come to expect from you. Best of luck with this new project of yours Michael.
    Cheers/ Jonas

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  16. Fascinating, I know nothing about this one so I'm looking forward to your great painting and a history lesson!

    I'm curious to see the rule you'll be using as well. Good luck, sir!

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  17. Great work Michael. Luckily the Danish fleet was a shadow of its former self following the attention of your allies ;-)

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  18. Hi Micahel. Very interested in this.

    I've been thinking about gaming the 1808-09 War for a couple of years - in 6mm to capitalise on the masses of fir trees I've made for other Napoleonic and SYW games. It's easier to find figures that look like Swedish troops at this scale. Just need to find a good way to make authentic looking lakes!

    Over the last decade I've visited a number of the places mentioned in your account of the war. My missus hails from Loviisa where there's still an 18th century bastion and Svartholm lies just off shore of course.

    I didn't realise Loviisa fell to the Russkies on Day One!

    Svartholm had an unhappy history - it was partially blown up the Royal Navy in the Crimean War.

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