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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Scandinavian Wars.

For all discussions relating to the War between Britain and others (including France, Spain, Holland, Denmark etc.) of 1803-1814. Please see below for the Peninsular War.

Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 30th, 2016, 5:09 pm

Here's a post I have written for a FB project that myself and some other (more) knowledgable people have started. It's about Sir John Moore and the King of Sweden in 1808.

https://m.facebook.com/BritanniaMagazine/posts/810589569053090

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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby janner » January 30th, 2016, 5:44 pm

Fascinating 8-)
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Skarpskytten » January 30th, 2016, 9:23 pm



For those of us who boycott Facebook, is there an alternative way to enjoy your work?
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 30th, 2016, 11:54 pm

Skarpskytten wrote:


For those of us who boycott Facebook, is there an alternative way to enjoy your work?


I can either post the text here or I can email it to you? Whichever you would like.

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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby jf42 » January 31st, 2016, 12:32 am

Share! Share! Share! (appropriate emoticon)
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 31st, 2016, 12:36 am

Hope you fellows like it.

Sir John Moore and the King of Sweden.

Otherwise known as the Curious Affair of Sir John Moore and the King of Sweden. Or how Britain nearly started the Peninsular War in Scandinavia.

Lt General Sir John Moore left the Duke of York's Office one day in April 1808 with much on his mind. He had just been in a meeting with the Commander in Chief and the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies Lord Castlereigh. As Moore, a strong, fair haired, dark eyed Scot, crossed Horse Guards Parade he must have realised that he had been given a singular opportunity to distinguish himself. He was to go to Deal, there to assume command of the army lately engaged in Denmark and sail as soon as practical to Sweden to assist King Gustav IV to defeat the Russians and the French.

This is a little known corridor of Britain's Napoleonic story. The years between Austerlitz and the Dos de Mayo revolt were dark ones for Britain, the single positive chink of light being the destruction of the Franco Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, just before Napoleon crushed the Russians and Austrians in open battle on land. In 1807 the outlook was grim, the Prussians had been broken at Jena the year before and the Russians, despite holding their own at Eylau, had made peace with Napoleon.

Indeed Tsar Alexander was now fulfilling his promises made during the peace of Tilst, to pressure the Swedes into adopting the Continental System, meanwhile Portugal was under similar pressure from France and Spain to do likewise, which would essentially see Britain cut off from every country in Europe. Portugal and Sweden were the last nations on the continent still allied with Britain. Therefore, Prime Minister George Canning, felt obliged to send aid.

Troops would soon be diverted from a possible descent on South America, for an attempt to relive Portugal. However this would not be considered until August, and in the meantime Canning was determined to keep Sweden in the war. Therefore had this story gone differently the Peninsular War might well have occurred in the Scandinavian Peninsula rather than the Iberian one.

Canning had known that king Gustav coveted territory in Norway, Holland and Denmark and had tempted him with promises of possible annexation if he kept on fighting. Gustav mistrusted the British after Copenhagen, but hated Napoleon and wanted to expand his holdings in Scandinavia. Unable to make up his mind, on 22 February 1808 the Russians had made it up for him by invading Finland. Shortly thereafter the Danes too, declared war and Napoleon ordered Marshal Bernadotte to lead a Franco Spanish force into Denmark preparatory to an invasion of Sweden.

The British fleet arrived at Göteborg later in April 1808, under command of Admiral Sir James Saumarez. It is doubtful either the Admiral or Moore was expecting any trouble this early in the game. Moore's orders from York and Castlereigh implied that he would find nothing but cooperation, but had specified that he was not to put himself under the command of the King of Sweden, nor to engage in operations far from the coast, yet he was given leeway to decide upon a plan for himself when he arrived.

Things got off to an ominous start when the British were refused permission to disembark. Colonel George Murray (later Wellington's Quartermaster General) arrived from Stockholm, four days after anchoring. He brought with him despatches and an accurate appraisal of the situation in Sweden. To be brief Sir John Moore was alarmed to hear that Gustav IV was likely mad, and something of a despot. That his senior army officers so disliked him and that his army was thinly stretched. Already Ålund and Gotland had been lost to the Russians, and the supposedly impregnable fortress of Svaeborg had surrendered without a shot.

Then Murray handed Moore a letter from Gustav which caused everything to grind to a halt. Essentially the King objected to everything stipulated by the British government regarding the deployment of their troops. Moore responded by writing that he would acquaint the government with his sentiments and remained his Obt Svt etc. There then followed a period of waiting while Murray, took the letter back to London to obtain instructions. In the meantime the cramped troops took turns to exercise and drill on a small island in the harbour, but they had a long wait ahead. Moore spent his time looking into the Swedish government and army, unimpressed he wrote to Castlereigh's brother Sir Charles Stuart that disaster could only follow an entanglement in Scandinavia.

Castlereigh wrote of his extreme dissatisfaction with the actions of the Swedish, but acquiesced to Gustav's demands, nevertheless forbidding any invasion of Zealand and privately instructing Moore that if he encountered any further trouble disembarking to withdraw the army. He sent a similar letter to the British envoy Mr. Thornton ordering him to inform the King that if he did not allow the troops to land he would similarly remove the army.

After receiving the letters from Murray, Sir John decided that he would have to travel to Stockholm to see Gustav or else cause more delays and run the poor Colonel ragged. They accordingly travelled hence and after observing the usual formalities arranged a private audience with the King on the 17th of June. Gawky, with large eyes, a small moustache, prominent nose and the suggestion of a weak jaw, the King of Sweden was forced to command the room by rank as opposed to personality or mystique.

Moore read out his instructions which the King ignored he then struck off on his own, suggesting they target Norway, but quickly dismissed it, then suggested on an offensive campaign and an attack on Zealand or Finland, the former defended by 28,000 men. On the Finnish matter Moore prevaricated, with no less resolve but much more equanimity, and attempted to broach the problem of disembarkation instead. "I cannot consent to you landing in Sweden" the King said "I never asked for troops to be sent to Sweden... I applied for a corps of troops to act on the coast of Norway" Gustav, having contradicted himself asked again if Moore would invade Finland, Moore replied evasively to which the King announced "I am not satisfied with your answer, I do not see how I can hold supreme command unless I am implicitly obeyed", he continued in this vein through the entire meeting. Moore wrote afterwards that nothing save a direct order would induce him to hand over his corps to Gustav.

In the next audience the King pressed the Finnish Scheme once more, this time with a map, Moore asked wearily for time to consider the matter with Adjutant General Tibell, who visited Moore with the proposal the next day. The weary air in which Tibell presented the King's wish that the British should divert Russian pressure by going to Wyborg and threatening St Petersburg, revealed that he knew what the answer would be before he asked the question. He then advised that Moore write to the King with an explanation. The king responded by summoning Moore for a long interview that did little to calm tensions.

Gustav once more refused to listen, used to getting his way, Moore's obstinate attitude brought him to frustration "Of what use are you if you won't act?" He asked angrily, the King's attitude has won him few friends amongst the British historians, especially Moore's brother, Sir John Fortescue even called him a "poor lunatic".

"I never wanted troops except for offensive operations." He raged "Your corps is not wanted in Sweden. I have more troops than enough; and I will never consent to your landing" eventually he said "I suppose if I were to ask you to go to Norway, you would refuse also?"
Moore replied that he was surprised that the King, who had hitherto made strong objections to an attack on Norway, should suggest this, also pointing out that the King had still not allowed him to disembark his men. The King swept the somewhat waspish observation aside by denying that this was strictly true and demanded to know if Moore had been forbidden to act against Norway. Sir John said he had not and that if the King wished to proceed in that direction a plan could be made.

That night Moore was dining with Mr. Thornton, when General Tibell arrived. He told him that the King had instructed him to draw up a plan for attacking Norway. Tibell said that the King was at that moment fixated on the eastern border, but he would strive to bring him round to focusing on the western coast so Moore could keep in contact with the fleet and would return the next day. After so much delay already, and the troops still cooped up aboard ship, Moore doubtless looked forward to Tibell's visit with great hope. The General's visage when he called the next evening must have dashed these hopes before he even spoke.

Tibell indeed seemed almost ashamed of the plan he presented Moore. Calmly he explained that this was the King's plan, and that he was to explain it, but not discuss it. He then laid out a map and began to outline an assault against the frontier fortresses, which indeed was a staple of Swedish strategy thus far. However as he went on, the obvious difficulties he had to brush quickly over mounted, and Tibell began to break into embarrassed bouts of laughter as he watched Moore and Murray respond to his words.

When he had finished Sir John looked over the map and said "I think we have all acted our parts exceedingly well and long enough. Let us now lay aside our gravity, and talk of something else."
General Tibell, who had served in the French army for 6 years, was visibly relieved "Oh! With all my heart," he replied tidying away the map "For certainly we have done all due honour to this plan."

Another impasse. One that was not made better by the Swedish General's obvious dissatisfaction with his monarch and Moore's strict orders. Sir John met Mr. Thornton the next day to update him on the Norwegian scheme, in the discussion they both came to the same conclusion. Therefore Moore put in writing that he would accept a plan to invade Norway, but as the King had previously refused such a notion and had promised never to let the British land in Sweden, that he must follow his orders regarding obstructions to disembarkation and return to England.

Thornton enclosed this letter and one from himself to Baron Ehrenheim of the Chancery, warning that Moore was being left with no choice but to take his troops away. When Gustav was made aware he immediately summoned Moore to an audience, which Sir John had wished for in order to take his leave. One the 23rd of June he presented himself. Also there were General Tibell and Colonel Murray. Gustav made it clear that he had wanted witnesses lest Moore represent him falsely later on.

Moore's blood began to boil at the unwarranted slur on his honour, but apparently stayed silent, controlling his indignation. Though Fortescue says there was an outburst which the King ignored. The opportunity to leave gracefully came when the King asked if it was his "intention to return to England?"
"I shall wait for new orders in Gottenburgh [sic]" Moore replied, adding coldly "Should your majesty wish it" and stormed out of what he described one of the most painful interviews of his life. After returning to his lodging he worried that his orders forbade him to promise to wait in Sweden. He was forced to ask Tibell and Thornton the next day to explain this to the King.

At 12 the next night a knock came at the door and a member of the court was let in to inform Moore that he was not to leave Stockholm without the King's permission. Moore read this as an open arrest and informed Thornton, who furiously wrote to Baron Ehrenheim, asking him to remonstrate. Murray visited Gustav twice but the King was intractable. As in the case of the disembarkation, having made his decision publicly he was unable to back away from it, and the arrest, or whatever it was, stood.

Moore and Thornton agreed on the 27th that he needed to leave the city before guards were placed at his door. In effect this meant he would need to escape from Stockholm without telling the King. Thornton duly sent around the secretary of the legation in a curricle. Moore and he then drove out as if for an airing. They stopped at the first stage until a courier arrived taking dispatches from Mr. Thornton, the courier and Moore, now possibly disguised, then got into the carriage and drove to Göteborg.

Moore joined Saumarez and his second in command, Sir John Hope on the quarterback of HMS Victory on the 29th of June. Dressed apparently as a peasant, he appeared during a ball given for the ladies of Göteborg. Murray joined him on the 30th, by which time the troops had been cooped up for over 2 months. They duly sailed with the transports on the 3rd of July and arrived in the Downs 12 days later were Castlereigh assured him that he had done the right thing, though the public and other ministers, especially those who saw Moore as Whiggish, were not so understanding. Both Moore and Gustav would shortly meet with disaster. By the end of 1809 one would be dead in northern Spain and the other deposed and in exile. Sweden would be under the sway of Napoleon, Russia would soon be veering away from France, Spain, once Britain's enemy replaced Sweden as her ally with Portugal becoming the start of the famed Spanish, or rather "Iberian" Ulcer that slowly bled Napoleon's resources away for the next 6 years.

Sources.
The Life of Lt General Sir John Moore, K.B. By his brother James Carrick Moore. Vol. II.
A History of the British Army - Vol. VI - 1807-1809. Sir John Fortescue.
Napoleon's Wars: An international History, 1803-1815. Charles Esdaile.

First posted on Britannia Magazine FB page. See link above.

Josh.
Last edited by Josh&Historyland on January 31st, 2016, 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Skarpskytten » January 31st, 2016, 12:06 pm

Thank you , Josh.

You say:
Moore spent his time looking into the Swedish government and army, unimpressed he wrote to Castlereigh's brother Sir Charles Stuart that disaster could only follow an entanglement in Scandinavia.


What is the source? I would like to read his assement in more detail, especially his assesment of the army.

Many years ago I found an article on Sir Moore's corps which I copied. I add it here. Look at the regiments, I think most of them ended up in the Peninsula.

The British

The British contingent that was sent to Sweden in 1808 consisted of the following units. In overall command was Sir John Moore and arrived outside Gothenburg on May 17th 1808. Unfortunately the Swedish King never allowed these troops to disembark. 
The sources I have differ only in the numbers of men present and then only a little. They perhaps reflect the strength at different times during the campaign. I have given two strengths for the units, the first perhaps being the original strength and the second a later strength.
 
 
Force Commander: Lt. Gen. Sir John Moore
 
1st Division: Lieutenant General Alexander Mackenzie Fraser
 
Clinton's Brigade: Brigadier General Henry Clinton
1st Battalion / 4th Kings’ Own Regiment (971 / 889)
1st Battalion / 28th North Gloucestershire Regt. (1020 / 926)
 
Highland Brigade: Colonel Alan Cameron
1st Battalion / 79th Cameron Highlander Regiment (995 / 932)
1st Battalion / 92nd Gordon Highlander Regiment (934 / 912)
 
2nd Division: Major General John Murray (Division has a total of 3585 men or as below)
 
Langwerth's Brigade: Colonel Ernest Baron Langwerth
1st K.G.L. Line Battalion (725)
2nd K.G.L. Line Battalion (761)
 
Drieberg's Brigade: Colonel George de Drieberg
5th K.G.L. Line Battalion (753)
7th K.G.L. Line Battalion (679)
 
3rd Division or Reserve: Major General Edward Paget
 
1st Battalion /52nd Oxfordshire Light Regiment (951 / 862)
3 companies of 1st Battalion / 95th Rifle Regiment (300 approx)
 
Alten's Brigade: Colonel Charles Baron von Alten
1st K.G.L. Light Battalion (907 / 871)
2nd K.G.L. Light Battalion (903 / 880)
3rd K.G.L. Light Dragoon Regiment (570 / 643)
K.G.L. Garrison Company (48)
 
Artillery: Lieutenant Colonel George Wood
Drummond's and Wilmot’s Companies, 3rd Battalion
Major Julius Hartmann KGL (829 men)
1st Company [Gesenius's]
4th Company [Heise's]

The artillery consisted of four medium 12 pounders, five heavy or long 6 pounders, sixteen light 6 pounders, two 8 inch howitzers, three 5½ inch heavy howitzers, four 5½ inch light howitzers, four 3 pounder mountain guns with two 10 inch iron mortars and six 5½ inch brass mortars on beds.

There were only limbers for five heavy or long 6 pounders, five light 6 pounders, one 5½ inch heavy howitzer and one 5½ inch light howitzer. Whether it was planned that Swedish sources would provide the others needed is unknown.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby TheBibliophile » January 31st, 2016, 12:33 pm

Just one error Admiral Sir John Saumarez. Should read... Sir James Saumarez. :D
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 31st, 2016, 1:33 pm

Hi Bib.

Thanks for the heads up re the admiral, I had a nagging feeling I had forgotten to doubke check the spelling but in fact I have written his first name wrong! Facepalm!

The source for the "investigation" comes from Fortescue Vol 6 of the History of the British army. I was in two minds about including it as it implies Moore went travelling around and he didn't elaborate much. I assume he means that he read reports and met with people while he awaited Murray's return. He had to do something in the meantime after all.

Because I didn't want to be overlong with the post I left out some of the more uncharitable things the British said about the Swedish troops, not without finding out their veracity by comparing them with Swedish sources. But broadly they said the usual things they used to say about everyone bar the Prussians, basically that they were poorly organised and badly lead and were being walked over by the Russians. The truth is not so much that they had no fighting spirit or were poor soldiers, far from it, rather the opposition party to King Gustav, which included much of the nobility and army, saw the Russian invasion as an excuse to oust him, therefore there are hints that they didn't put their heart into the defence of Finland as much as they might a decade earlier. Likewise most of their best troops I believe were already fighting in Norway.

Thanks for the Orbat as well, Fortescue gives the army as being made up of 12,000 men, rather than the 10 I put (but the number varies depending on the source) and consisting of

1st battalions of the 4th, 52nd, 28th, 92nd, 79th and 3 companies of the 95th, with KGL contingent consisting of the 3rd LD, 1st and 2nd Light infantry batallions, 2nd, 5th 7th Line Battalions

I think that is an exact match, pretty much. And I do believe the did all end up in Spain at one point or another.

His source for the "investigation" of the government and the army is not really given, he cites several letters between Moore and the Secretary of State, therefore I presume his source are Sir John Moore's Papers, the particulars of which might be found in the "Life and Letters of Sir John Moore by Beatrice Brownrigg. Colonel Murray's papers might also hold information about the Swedish army, as he seems to have had more of an opportunity of gathering deeper intelligence and I suspect that it is from his reports that Moore drew his conclusions.

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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Skarpskytten » January 31st, 2016, 6:50 pm

"Life and Letters of Sir John Moore"


Thank you, I may have to take a look at that. One of my unfinished projects is an analysis of how visitors from abroad saw the Swedish army during our period. I did start on it, a long time ago, and perhaps I will one day finish it.

But broadly they said the usual things they used to say about everyone bar the Prussians, basically that they were poorly organised and badly lead and were being walked over by the Russians. The truth is not so much that they had no fighting spirit or were poor soldiers, far from it, rather the opposition party to King Gustav, which included much of the nobility and army, saw the Russian invasion as an excuse to oust him, therefore there are hints that they didn't put their heart into the defence of Finland as much as they might a decade earlier. Likewise most of their best troops I believe were already fighting in Norway.


I would say that the best troops in the Swedish army - apart from the Mörner hussars and the artillery (which was excellent) - were the units of 3rd or Savolax-brigaden, which was very much fighting in Finland. The Guards did rather poorly, but then again, they were misused.

It is also my contention that whatever flaws and weaknesses of the Swedish army, the failure to protect Finland was not a failure on the battlefield. If you look at the major "battles" in Finland, it is clear that the russians did not win a single one of them with a numerical inferiority. The swedes won two battles - Rouna and Virta bro - despite heavy odds. All other major engagements was wo by the side with the most troops. In short, the armies were evenly matched on the battlefield. Given that the russians had been improving since thier last scrap with the French and had a lot of veterans and experienced commanders (who later did great things), I think that does the Swedish army credit.

Of course, Sweden was poor and led by an idiot. Strategy during the War of 1808-09 was a disaster. Only one officer - Sandels - showed any real flair for the operational level of war. At least two, Adlercreutz and Sandels, were excellent tacticans. Döbel might qualify there too, but I think he is overrated.
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