The Finnish War 1808-1809
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.
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.
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.