A Guide to the Armies of the Great Northern War

The aim of this section is to provide a brief guide to the armies of the Great Northern War. This will include their ratings to the 'Volley and Bayonet' rules and some orders of battle.

This page is continually under construction and more details will be added over time.

Contents

General Tactics   

At the time of the Great Northern War (and the contemporary Marlburian War) there were a number of different tactical systems in use. For a brief examination of these systems, and how they may be represented, please click GNW Tactics

Sweden (and Finland)    

To view details of Swedish units serving in the Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf amry, click The Army of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf.

Details of the Swedish contribution to the international force in Holstein, 1700 The Hannoverian, Dutch and Swedish Force in Holstein, 1700 UPDATED

To view the orders of battle for Klezow / Klissow, click Battle of Klezow (1702).

To view the orders of battle for Fraustadt, click Battle of Fraustadt (1706).

To view a scenario and order of battle for Holowczyn, click Battle of Holowczyn (1708).

To view the orders of battle for Helsingborg, click Battle of Helsingborg (1710).

To view the orders of battle for Gadebusch, click Battle of Gadebusch (1712).

To view a scenario and order of battle for Palkane, click Battle of Palkane (1713).

To view a scenario and order of battle for Storkyo, click Battle of Storkyro (1714).

To view the orders of battle for Stresow, click Battle of Stresow (1715).

Schleswig - Holstein - Gottorf   

The small state of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf played a same but not insignificant role in the Great Northern War. It was the dispute about the Duchy that was to precipitate the war and direct bring Denmark into the war. In the initial part of the war, 1699 - 1700, the bulk of the Danish army invaded the Duchy and laid siege to the defending Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf army in it's fortification at Tonning ( or Toenning). The defenders had by this time been joined by two Swedish units, in addition to the 'loaned' one that was with the army before the war started.

I am unsure if all of the defenders retired at this time into the fortress or whether some remained at large. Which ever is true part of the defending Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf / Swedish army is listed later in 1700 as part of the international force that was assembled to relieve the siege. This force, which consisted of Swedish, Luneberg-Celle, Luneberg-Hannover and Dutch troops in additon to part of the defending army, succeeded in lifting the Danish siege. Although not without the Danes being able to register some successes, such as the cature of an entire Swedish battalion. While this was happening though decisive events elsewhere where happening to finish this phase of the war. The Swedes had, under their energetic King Charles XII, landed near Copenhagen and this, in combination with international pressure, forced Denmark out of the war.

The Peace of Traventhal of August 1700 forced the Danes to recognise Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf's sovereignty. It also allowed the army to be 'hired out' to the anti French forces in the ongoing war in the West. Various units of the army where therefore serving as part of the British, Dutch or Imperial armies until the end of the Marlburian wars.

During this period the declining fortunes of Sweden had forced the Swedes to recall their units stationed in Holstein. While the end of the Marburian wars gave the Swedes the chance to hire some units for themselves. Four Holstein units were thus engaged in 1714 and participated in the closing campaigns in Germany. These units were based at Straslund and were lost with the fall of that place in 1715.

To look at more detail, click Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf Organisation and Deployment.

Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf Unifroms by Jan Schlurmann, click Holstein Uniforms

Details of the international force in Holstein, 1700 The Hannoverian, Dutch and Swedish Force in Holstein, 1700 UPDATED

To view the orders of battle for Stresow, click Battle of Stresow (1715). - Contingent fighting with the Swedes

Denmark   

Denmark was a traditional enemy of Sweden and it was the dispute / situation about the Duchy of Holstein - Gottrup that brought them into the conflict. This Duchy was semi independent and partly owned by Denmark, they wished to control the rest. Unfortunately the Duchies independence had been and was supported by the Swedes. They were involved in the war in two stages, the initial campaigns - 1699 to 1700 and following Poltava - 1710 to 1715.

In the initial campaign the bulk of the Danish army invaded the Duchy of Holstein - Gottrup, which was defended by mixed nationality defence force (see Holstein - Gottrup). Unfortunately for them Charles XII of Sweden reacted to this, and with the help of the Maritime powers, by landing near Copenhagen and forcing Denmark's surrender. In the period following this humiliating defeat large parts of the Danish army where hired to the anti French powers and took part honourably in the War of Spanish Succession, often called the Malburian War.

Following the decisive battle of Poltava in1709, Denmark saw it's chance to take revenge for the earlier humiliation and re-entered the war. In 1710 a Danish army invaded Southern Sweden, but was defeated at the Battle of Helsingborg. For the remainder of the war they concentrated their efforts against Sweden's territories in Germany. In this they were generally successful, against limited opposition, although they again suffered defeat in 1712 at Gadebusch. In the later stages of the war units of the Danish army operated in Norway, which was part of the Danish crown. Here the combined forces were able to see off the Swedish invasions during the death throws of the war.

For more information on Danish uniforms and other information see Danish Uniforms.

To look at more detail, click Danish Organisation and Deployment.

To view the orders of battle for Helsingborg, click Battle of Helsingborg (1710).

To view the orders of battle for Gadebusch, click Battle of Gadebusch (1712).

To view the orders of battle for Stresow, click Battle of Stresow (1715). - Contingent only

Hanover, Holland and the International Force in Holstein (1700)   

Units of the Hanoverian and Dutch armies were involved the campaign in Holstein in 1700. They were part of an international force that was sent tp Holstein in 1700 in response to the Danish invasion of the Duchies. This force also consisted of elements of the Swedish army and the army of the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf. Together they lifted the Danish siege of Tonning and contributed to Denmark's withdrawal from the war in late 1700.

The Hanoverian army was to enter the again in 1715 when it declared war on Sweden. The Hanoverian army was then part of the forces that 'mopped up' the remaining North German Swedish possessions. In 1719 Sweden made peace with Hanover ceding Bremen - Verden in return for one million Riksdaler. At present I have no information of the composition of the armies involved in this later campaign, but would be very interested in any information you may have.

To look at more detail, click Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf Organisation and Deployment.

Details of the international force in Holstein, 1700 The Hannoverian, Dutch and Swedish Force in Holstein, 1700 UPDATED

Norway   

At this time Norway was under the Danish crown, but maintained its own armed forces. Its participation in the war therefore was the same as Denmark's. It was at war with Sweden in1700 but was forced out of the war by events in Denmark and Holstein. It re-entered the war, along with Denmark, in late 1709. The main periods of action though were in 1716 and 1718. At both times the Swedes invaded Norway, in 1718 this was in three columns from Dalsland, Varmland and Jamtland. It was during this campaign that Charles XII of Sweden was to die at Fredrikshall. Also during this campaign the northern column under Armfelt suffered 80% casualties in it's 'Death March' back to Sweden.

The Norwegian army was part of the Danish army, but it had no obligation to serve outside Norway and maintained it's own organisation. It consisted of a small number of permanent, "hvervede", units and a larger number of regionally based "national" units.

Since I first wrote this Dan Schorr has updated his site and it now contains a wealth of information. It is at The Norwegian Army and covers organisation, uniforms and flags.

To look at my old page, click Norwegian Organisation and Deployment. I may update this at some point but all the information you need is on the site above.

To view the orders of battle for Stresow, click Battle of Stresow (1715). - Contingent only

Poland - Lithuania   

The participation of Poland- Lithuania in the Great Northern War was not planned or desired by the Poles and Lithuanians. This though did not stop it from being a disaster for them. At this time the country was an elective monarch but the monarch had relatively weak powers. The King in 1700 was Augustus of Saxony and it was this that led to this nations involvement in the war.

Initially when the war started Augustus of Saxony determined to just participate in the war as head of Saxony only. He did not enjoy the support of the Poles and Lithuanians for his war. So during the 1700 the Saxon army was based and operated in neutral Poland in its campaign against the Swedes. Understandably a situation that could cause some problems which indeed it proved so to do. For following the successful elimination of Denmark from the war and the battle of Narva in 1700 the Swedes turned to knocking Saxony out of the war. Unfortunately this meant invading Poland as that was where the Saxon army was.

The Swedish invasion came at a very bad time for the Poles. The army was in disarray and had been reduced as the Poles and Lithuanians had not expected a war. In addition there were many divisions within society, a situation which only increases as some factions turned to the invading Swedes for support. Initially it was hoped that the opposing armies could just be left to fight it out. But of course now they were doing so on Polish and Lithuanian territory! The turning point was Sweden·s decision to replace Augustus as king by their own candidate.

This forced everyone to choose sides and led to what was in effect a civil war in Poland and Lithuania. The first major action the Poles were engaged in was in 1702 at Kliszow. In which the unilateral retirement from the battle led to the allied defeat. The following years saw a Long campaign by the Swedes and their Polish allies to force Saxony out of the war. This they finally managed in 1706 but this did not improve the situation as the civil war continued unabated.

The turning point was in 1708 and 1709. As the main Swedish army moved east to launch there Russian campaign the turned against them. In November 1708 the decisive battle of the civil war happened at Koniecpol. The defeat of the pro Swedish forces at this battle hardened the anti Swedes and convinced many neutrals and wavers that there cause was doomed. In 1709 this was reinforced by the news of the disastrous, for the Swedes, battle of Poltava. There was still plenty of fighting left to be done but the Swedish army left in Poland to support the pro Swedes withdrew and Russian forces moved to support the anti Swedes.

Peace was concluded between Sweden and Poland-Lithuania on December 27th 1719. But it was not with the same nation that had existed before the war. Before the war Poland · Lithuania had been a strong nation but events during the Great Northern War had fatally weakened her. It was to be a long time before the end finally came but after this experience Poland · Lithuania was never the same again.

To view the orders of battle for Klezow / Kliszow, Battle of Klezow (1702).

Dan Schorr has posted up some details on the organization of the Polish army at Klezow / Kliszow. 

To view the organization click on The Polish Crown Army 1702. 

For the OOB at Klezow / Klissow click on The Poles at Klissow 1702

For a brief guide to what Polish troops looked liked click on Poles in the GNW

Prussia   

Prussia entered the Great Northern War in March 1715, prior to this much of the Prussian army had been involved in various theatres of the War of Spanish Succession. Although their direct involvement dates to March 1715 there had been an uneasy peace between Sweden and Prussian since the capture of Stettin in September 1713 by the Russians. Menshikov, one of the Russian commanders, had succeeded in capturing this Swedish fortress. It was then handed over to the Prussians understandably causing many questions in Stockholm. There then followed an uneasy period in Prusso-Swedish relations before war broke out, following the conclusion of the War of Spanish Succession.

Prussia's main aim during the war was to clear Swedish forces from their remaining strongholds in Germany. The Prussians were part of the Allied force which besieged Stralsund between July 1715 and it's surrender in December 1715 and also of Wismar between March and April 1716. During the siege of Stralsund an Allied force, including Prussian troops, invaded the island of Rugen. This was vital to the Swedish war effort as it was the only supply route to besieged Stralsund. This invasion led to the Battle of Stresow in which the Swedes tried unsuccessfully to halt the Allied occupation of Rugen. 

Wismar was the last Swedish possession in Germany. With it's fall Prussia's role in the Great Northern War was over to all intents. Although it took until January 1720 before a formal peace treaty, giving Prussia control of Stettin, was signed between Sweden and Prussia.

To look at more detail, click Prussian Organisation and Deployment.

To view the orders of battle for Stresow and the invasion of the island of Rugen, click Battle of Stresow (1715). - Contingent only

Russia   

Russia was one of the original combatants in the Great Northern War and the last to secure peace. At the start of the Great Northern War the military value of the Russian army to the conflict was expected to be slight. Many people viewed Russia as barely European and its army as an ·Asian mob· rather than a true army. Russia·s disastrous opening battle at Narva in 1700 seemed to confirm this impression. Many people, including significantly the Swedish King, assumed that the Russian army could safely be discounted. Yet this was not to be.

In the years following the battle of Narva the Russian army built up its skills and experience. It fought a successful campaign in the Baltic States, supported their Polish and Saxon allies in Poland and skirmished with the defenders of Finland. All of these served to build up the armies into an effective force. In 1708 and 1709 the big test for the Russian army came with the invasion of the Swedish army. This culminated in the decisive victory at Poltava in 1709 and the surrender of the main Swedish army shortly afterwards.

The battle of Poltava transformed the reputation of the Russian army and virtually won the war, although it would take a long time for the Swedes to admit they were defeated. For the remainder of the war the Russians concentrated on consolidating there gains and trying to force the Swedes to give up the fight. They supported their allies in their campaigns in Poland and Germany while virtually conquering Finland. Yet still the Swedes would not sue for peace. In the final years of the war they conducted a series of raids into Sweden itself. The Russians even got to within sight of Stockholm at one point.

The treaty of Nystadt on September 10th 1721 finally brought the war between Russia and Sweden to an end. Russia gained control of the Baltic States, Eastern Finland and Ingria. In addition Russia was now a major power, a position they were to build on in the future.

This was a remarkable achievement and the Russian Tsar Peter earned his title of ·Peter the Great·. It must be said that he generally built on developments that had happened earlier in Russia. So he was not solely responsible for the transformation in Russia. Yet it is frequently forgotten that he achieved what he did and also had to cope with other matters as well. During the period of the Great Northern War there were numerous revolts and rebellions, some very serious. In addition following Poltava the Swedes enticed the Turks into action against the Russians. In 1711, for example, the Russian army campaigned against the Turks and suffered a potentially disastrous defeat on the Prut. Despite of these ·distractions· Peter the Great still managed to secure a hard won victory against a tough opponent and transform the status of Russia for ever.

To look at details of Russia's mounted forces click on Russian Cavalry

To view the orders of battle for Fraustadt, click Battle of Fraustadt (1706). - Allied Contingent only

Saxony   

The Saxons proved to be one of the most persistent of Sweden's enemies. They were one of the original members of the anti Swedish coalition. At this time the Elector of Saxony was also the king of Poland, so some of the troops were recruited in Poland, also at times the Polish army operated with the Saxon army. In the first phase of the war, up to 1707 they campaigned mostly in Poland and suffered a string of defeats. In 1707 they were forced out of the war as Charles the 12th of Sweden launched an invasion of Saxony. Following the catastrophic Swedish defeat at Poltava in 1709 they re-entered the war, but with not so much vigour as before. At first they just sent mounted contingents, from 1713 they also committed infantry but not on the previous scale. In addition to this they sent contingents to fight in the Malburian war which was being fought at the same time. Sending contingents to the Imperial army in 1702 - 04 and again 1705 - 07, while a contingent was dispatched to the British / Dutch in 1707 -1713. We are lucky in that a really first class web site already exists for this army, as part of Dan Schorr's 'Northern Wars' site. The part dealing with the Saxons is at Saxon Army WebPages.

To look at more detail, click Saxon Organisation and Deployment.

To view the orders of battle for Klezow / Klissow, click Battle of Klezow (1702).

To view the orders of battle for Fraustadt, click Battle of Fraustadt (1706).

To view a scenario and order of battle for Holowczyn, click Battle of Holowczyn (1708).

To view the orders of battle for Gadebusch, click Battle of Gadebusch (1712).- Allied Contingent only

To view a scenario and order of battle for Palkane, click Battle of Palkane (1713).

To view a scenario and order of battle for Storkyo, click Battle of Storkyro (1714).

To view the orders of battle for Stresow, click Battle of Stresow (1715). - Contingent only

Turkey