Charles XII's army was not homogeneous due to its practicing two different ways of recruiting in Sweden: communal draft according to the so called indelningsverket and enlistment of mercenaries.
Unlike other armies in Western Europe, which in the main consisted of mercenaries, the largest and best part of the Swedish army, including almost all infantry, was regular Indelta units, that gave the army its national specific flavor.
The Indelningsverket system was introduced gradually. It originated as early as the 16th century in Gustavus I Vasa's reign (1523-1550), when the first drafts of Royal army recruits from a number of the country's provinces (län) took place. The major role in the formation of the regular Swedish army was played by a great army leader of the Thirty Years War, King Gustavus II Adolphus, (1611-1632). At the time of his successor Queen Christina (1632-1654) in 1634 a special state law was issued instituting permanent infantry regiments, 20 of them in Sweden and 7 in Finland. They were recruited from strictly defined läns that gave them their names.
The Indelningsverket was finally settled at the time of Charles XI (1660-1697) who carried out in 1680-1696 a military reform called Young Indelningsverket.
The core of Charles XI's military reform was to replace periodical recruit drafts with permanent duty of peasants to support the personnel of the Royal army. All cultivated lands in the state were divided between communities called indeltas. The peasant households making up such an indelta had to present one soldier. The indelta provided him with a land plot (torp), a house, uniform as well as additional provisions. Arms and ammunition was issued to a soldier by the state. An indelta uniting peasant households that had to put forward and maintain one infantryman was called rote or rotehåll, and the peasants who made it up were called rotehållarna. The salary of non-commissioned officers and officers was also paid by a number of households assigned to that function. Those NCOs and officers also lived in the same locality in farmsteads assigned to them, where a standard house (boställe) appropriate to the rank had been built.
A regiment was named after the lan in which it was recruited and lodged, e.g. Västmanland Infantry Regiment from the Västmanland län etc.; inside a regiment soldiers were divided between companies (kompaniet) that formed battalions. Once a year soldiers were summoned to a muster in order to maintain their combat efficiency. In case a soldier went to war the indelta provided another one who was a sort of replacement for that serving at the regular regiment. If that soldier also went to war the indelta could put forward a new recruit; such recruits could form, when needs arose in the wartime, so called third line regiments (tremanningsregementen) that were used to get their name after their chief (e.g. Uppland Third Line Infantry Regiment that was in 1700-1712 commanded by Count A. L. Lewenhaupt was called simply Lewenhaupt's Regiment). The fourth line of recruits was sent to reinforce the regular regiment (in place of dead or missing soldiers of the second line), and the fifth line recruits could also make up, as a last resort, provisional regiments those of the fifth line (femmänningsregimenten). Due to the Indelningsverket, Sweden thus acquired instead of a small mercenary army a numerous mono-national army with the settlement organization.
In 1709 at Poltava selected Indelta Regiments made the main force of Charles XII's head army (huvudarmen); all these were infantry regiments with the exception of the Life Guard. Along with the Indelta troops and estate units, the Swedish army preserved enlisted or hired troops. They also were divided into two differing parts regular (that were maintained by the state also during peace time) and provisional (that were enlisted only for war, and then dismissed). In Sweden proper only the Life Guard Foot Regiment (Lifgardet till fot) was formed that consisted of selected men recruited from all the parts of the country and generously paid from the Royal Treasury. This permanent unit was at the same time a kind of a school for personnel, as many of its privates and NCOs became later officers in the Line regiments. During Charles XII's reign up to 40% of all the Swedish army officers came from the Life Guard Regiment.(1) All other mercenary units were recruited in Finland, Livonia, Estonia, Ingria and Swedish Pomerania as well as in various parts of Germany.
Mercenary units with the exception of the Life Guard Regiment were, as a rule, inferior in their combat qualities to the Indelta forces. The mercenaries showed themselves in battles less steadfast than Swedish and Finnish settlement soldiers. Among the mercenary forces German and Finnish troops slightly excelled those from the Littorial Coast, among which the weakest were Livonian, Estonian, and Ingrian regiments.
It is noteworthy that in General Count A. L. Lewenhaupt's corps, which joined Charles XII's main force in October of 1708 after the unsuccessful battle at Lesnaya (September, 28, 1708),(2), there were many mercenary and provisional units. Due to the fact that Lewenhaupt's corps suffered many casualties and shrank from 12,950 to 6,503 men, after Charles XII's order of October 16th, 1708 all the infantry units of the corps were disbanded and their personnel (with banners and officers) was assigned to the main force regiments.
Thus it is evident that to the battle of Poltava Charles XII's infantry beside selected Swedish soldiers had a number of Finnish and Littorial soldiers who had come with Lewenhaupt. It should be also mentioned that the main force included from the very beginning of the Russian company of 1708-1709 six German mercenary Dragoon Regiments.
National heterogeneity(3) was sure to produce a negative effect on the combat qualities of Charles XII's army, but this factor should not be overestimated, as all the units of the army, even the least reliable ones (Littorial) had gained by 1709 much combat experience and had been hardened in difficult campaigns.
The Swedish Army at Poltava included 12 Infantry Regiments with 9,270 men in the service, not counting the officers. The Indelta Infantry Regiments had a uniform organization. Each regiment had 8 companies. A company usually included: a captain, 1-2 lieutenants, 1-2 ensigns (fänriker), that made a total of 3-5 officers, and 5 NCOs: a sergeant major (fältväbel), 1 sergeant, 1 quarter-master sergeant (rustmästare), 1 fourrier (furir), and 1 junior ensign (förare). T/O company strength was 150 men with 6 corporals (korporaler) and 144 privates (meniga). Besides that a company usually had 3 musicians, among them 1 or 2 drummers as well as a flutist, oboist or trumpeter. Each company was divided into 6 sections, each comprising 24 privates with a corporal at their head; two of those sections were armed with pikes, and other four - with muskets. Each musketeer section comprised 22 musketeer privates and 2 grenadiers. Each section was divided into 4 rows (rotar), each consisting of 6 privates. A company thus included, according to T/O, 12 grenadiers, 84 musketeers, and 48 pikemen.
Four companies formed a 600 men strong battalion, two battalions constituted a regiment with T/O strength of 1,200 men (corporals and privates).
Regimental Staff was a colonel (överste), a lieutenant colonel (överste-löjtnant) and a major who at the same time were considered commanders (instead of captains) of the first 3 companies of the regiment, called thus Life Company, Company of Lieutenant Colonel and Company of Major. Due to the fact that the Colonel performed the duties of regimental commander and the commander of the first battalion (so called Life Battalion), Lieutenant Colonel commanded the 2nd battalion and Major used to substitute Colonel as commander of the 1st battalion, in companies their job was being done by lieutenants (in the Life Company its Colonel might be substituted for a lieutenant captain).
In addition to the above mentioned ranks a regiment had a regimental quarter-master, 3 chaplains (including regimental chaplain for the service of solely officers), a regimental clerk, a regimental barber, a provost marshal of regiment, 3 provosts and 4 musicians (flutists and oboists) as well as 137 officers' servants and 72 company transport drivers.
Companies in an Indelta Regiment (except the first three) were named after those regions or towns where their soldiers had lived and came from, e.g. Örebrö company, Karlstad company, but at the same time they were called after the names and grades of the captains commanding them (e.g. Company of 1st Captain, Company of 2nd Captain, Company of 3rd Captain etc.). The 1st or Life Battalion included the Life Company, Company of Major and even companies of 2nd and 4th Captains, and the 2nd Battalion included the Company of Lieutenant Colonel and odd Companies of 1st, 3rd and 5th Captains. The companies of staff officers and of the 1st captain were best in efficiency as they consisted of the most experienced and battle-hardened soldiers.
The Life-Guard Foot Regiment, unlike Indelta Infantry Regiments, consisted since 1703 of four battalions, 6 companies each. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions were made up of musketeers and pikemen, and the 4th Battalion included only grenadiers. In total the Life-Guard Regiment comprised 24 companies; besides that, one more company was staying all the time in Stockholm guarding the Royal Palace.
The Guard companies were according to T/O fewer in number than those of the Line: they consisted of 3 officers, 6 NCOs, 108 privates and 3 musicians. A company included 6 sections, 18 privates each, among which there were 2 pikemen sections (36 men) and 4 musketeer sections (72 men). The Grenadier Company consisted of 6 grenadier sections of the above strength.
In total the Life-Guard Regiment numbered at the beginning of the Russian campaign 2,592 privates in the service (648 men at each battalion). The grand total of the Regiment, including officers, NCOs, musicians and non-combatant servicemen, amounted 3,000 men.
It should be mentioned that by the battle at Poltava the Swedish regiments of Charles XII's main body force had been already depleted as a result of casualties in and out of battle. Although they were reinforced in October 1708 with the infantry of Lewenhaupt's Corps, their number had by June 1709 been reduced to such an extent that the need arose to convert Skaraborg, Kalmar, Jönköping, Södermanland, Kronoberg and Östergötland two-battalion regiments into one-battalion regiments. The strength of the Life-Guard Regiment was reduced to 1,800, the Uppland Regiment - to 690, the Västerbotten Regiment - to 600 men.
Charles XII's infantry consisted of soldiers of three kinds differing in their arms. The greater part of infantrymen were soldiers armed with guns - musketeers and grenadiers. The latter besides guns had grenades that were either thrown with hands or shot out of a small caliber mortar. One third of each infantry company's strength in Charles XII's army was made up of pikemen soldiers whose main weapon were long pikes.
The Swedish gun (musket) had a flint-lock and weighed 4.7-5 kg. Its caliber was 20.04 mm, shooting range was as small as 225 m. Such gun (flintlåsgevär) was introduced in the Swedish army as early as in 1692, but it was only in 1704-1708 that it became wide-spread, as before that most guns in the infantry had a wick-lock or a flint-lock of obsolete design.(4)
At Poltava all of the Swedish infantry musketeers already had guns of 1692 or 1704 design.
The flint-lock gun of a Swedish musketeer had a long up to 50 cm bayonet with a tube for putting it onto the barrel. Such a bayonet was first introduced in 1696 in the Life Guard and then gradually spread in the Line Regiments. Since 1704 the old fashioned bayonet that hindered shooting was replaced by a new one which was more elaborated and fastened to the tube with a special journal.(5) It considerably facilitated shooting as well as loading of a gun with fixed bayonet.
Shooting was being conducted with paper cartridges carried in a special pouch of blackened leather. The cover of a pouch was usually decorated with a copper plate shaped as Charles XII's royal monogram. The pouch was worn at the right side on a leather belt slung over the left shoulder.(6) Every Swedish musketeer had 25 ready-made rounds of ammunition.
Besides the gun with a bayonet, the Swedish infantryman was armed with a sword having a long blade (90-93 cm) and iron hilt in a blackened leather scabbard at the sword belt. That belt was actually a leather strip fastened to a waist belt, and the scabbord was stuck through a cut in that strip hanging at the left side; the bayonet was attached in a similar way.
The grenadiers, as it has been mentioned, were armed with hand grenades carried in special grenade pouches. In order to light a grenade a grenadier used wicks stored in a special wick tube that was worn at his breast being attached to the belt of a grenade pouch. Except grenades, a grenadier was armed with a flint-lock gun introduced in these units in 1701, and with a short sword. To prevent the gun hindering him when throwing grenades it had a shoulder belt that enabled him to carry it behind the back over the right shoulder.
A pikeman, like all the other infantrymen, was armed with a sword and a pike 5.2-5.8 m long. The pikes in the Swedish infantry were on the average 1-1.5 m shorter than in other European armies (including the Russian army). According to Charles XII's order, in case of loss or breaking of pikes pikemen were armed with muskets and thus became the reinforcement of musketeers. It is possible that the number of pikemen in the Swedish infantry at Poltava was small, since the detailed list of trophies captured by the Russian troops at Perevolochna from the surrendered army of Lewenhaupt does not contain any mention of pikes, though other belongings, including picks, axes and crow-bars, are listed exhaustively. It could be possible that the Swedes chopped their pikes as firewood in the winter of 1708/1709 or used them to build rafts for crossing the Dnieper after the Poltava battle.
The officers and NCOs of the Swedish infantry were armed with swords, the former having swords with gilded hilts and knots, and the latter with those silvered. In addition an officer was issued a semi-pike (sponton), and a non-commissioned officer a special halbard or a spear with a cross-like tip, so called partisan. Fourriers instead of a halbard or partisan had a semi-pike with a small pennant sewn to the pole the so called fourrier badge. The length of the bardisan's pole reached 2 m or more.
The uniform of the Swedish infantry was unvarying enough. As early as in Charles XI's time, in 1687-1696, the uniform coat of dark blue cloth was introduced that became the salient feature of the Swedish army apparel in the Great Northern War. That fact suggested to Pushkin the image of the blue rows of Charles XII's bellicose cohorts in his poem Poltava.
The coat was single-breasted, with a small turn-down collar and incised cuffs. The skirt usually got tucked up and was buttoned up at the edges, exposing the lining. There were two pockets at the sides below the waist. Pocket flaps had a shape typical for the Swedish army with seven buttons. Shoulder loops were of the coat color and had edging of the fitting color. The infantrymen had tin buttons. The common European cut of the coat was changed during the war: in 1706-1707 it became fitted at the waist and lost its buttons on the lower part of the coat-breast.
The fitting color (i.e. the color of lining, cuffs, trimming on the coat, and shoulder strip edging) in most Swedish infantry units was yellow. Out of the regiments comprising Charles XII's army at Poltava only three regiments had a different edging color: in the Västerbotten Regiment it was white, and in the Närke Värmland and Jönköping Regiments - red.
During the cold season, a Swedish infantryman wore over his coat a short overcoat, reaching only his knees, made of blue cloth with a turn-down collar and lining of the fitting color.
A vest was worn under the coat, made in infantry of buckskin and in the Life Guard of yellow cloth, which was the same cut as the coat, but shorter, narrower, and sleeveless. The vest buttons were smaller in size and usually made of tin or bone. A white undershirt of homespun linen was worn under the vest. The pants were sewn of buckskin. The stockings of the Swedish infantry reached above the knees and were fastened with garters; in the Life Guard they were sewn of yellow fabric, in the Närke Värmland and Jönköping Regiments - of red, in the Västerbotten Regiment - of white fabric, and in other units - of buckskin. The shoes in all the infantry were standard, of black dubbed leather, with a tongue and copper clasps. The infantryman's uniform included also buckskin gauntlet gloves.
The infantrymen wore cravats with a bow of the shape typical of the late 17th - early 18th century. In most regiments the cravats were made of white linen (trip), but in the Jönköping Regiment they were red, and in the Västerbotten Regiment besides a solid white one a white cravat with blue lengthwise stripes and black bow was encountered; in the Dalsland Regiment the white cravat had a bow with two blue (at edges) and one yellow (in the middle) lengthwise stripes. As an option dark blue and black cravats were encountered in all regiments.
The headgear in the infantry was a standard three-cornered hat of black thick felt, though it could be woolen or downy as well. Along the edge of turned up brims there was white woolen braid, and on the crown a tin button was sewn to its left side for buttoning brims.
Along with the tricorn in the Swedish infantry a special hat was widely spread called a karpus. The karpuses could be different in shape; most often encountered were cloth ones with a blue crown and yellow edging. Edging was actually a brim sewn to crown from beneath and folded up; at its sides it usually had incisions. Buttons were sometimes sewn over the round crown of the karpus. In the Västerbotten Regiment karpuses had white edging, in the Närke Värmland Regiment a black karpus was encountered having red edging and black forehead piece trimmed at its edge with white galloon, and in the Västmanland Regiment there were karpuses with blue crown and light blue edging or with black crown, light blue edging and yellow lining (from inside of the edging).
The Line Grenadiers wore the same uniform as musketeers, and those of the Guard probably had on their coats yellow breast lapels with nine buttons on each. The salient feature of those infantrymen's uniform was a special pointed grenadier cap. There was a number of types of those caps, but most widespread were mitre-shaped cloth caps with a pompon of yellow worsted yarn. At its front such a cap had a copper or gilded forehead piece decorated with representations of the royal monogram, blazing grenades, arms, and various armorial bearings; at its back there was a copper plate on the crown representing blazing grenades.
Musicians wore blue coats of the same cut as private infantrymen, but their skirts were usually not tucked up. Seams, breasts, and pocket flaps of the musicians' coats were as a rule decorated with a yellow or white galloon, the same trimming covered the sleeves. The drums usually were trimmed in the combination of the blue or light blue and the regimental fitting colors.
Corporals in the Swedish infantry were armed and uniformed like private infantrymen, but on their hats they had a narrow golden lace sewn over white braid.
NCOs had uniform similar to that of privates. The difference was the following: coat collar and cuffs were the same color as coat (i.e. blue), their trousers, lining, and trimming of loops on their coat and stockings were blue; the hat had silver lace on it, and buttons were silvered. In the Life Guard Regiment NCOs had silver lacing not only on the hat but also on the coat: over collar, cuffs, pocket flaps, and seams as well as on coat breast. The coat lining of the Guard NCOs was of special nodulated fabric. Their overcoats were lined with the same fabric, and they also had silver lace along the edge of blue collar, whereas privates and corporals had yellow collars with white trimming and silver clasps.
The Swedish Life Guard officers wore standard blue coats and vests embroidered with golden lace like those of the Guard NCOs. The buttons were gilded. Golden lace covered the hat, which could be decorated with a white plume. Like NCOs, officers had blue collars, blue cuffs of the coat and trousers, also blue lining of coat and stockings. Officers had golden loops trimming, whereas that of NCOs was blue. Officers' gloves were trimmed along the edges of their bells with golden lace and bullion. Officers' cravats were made of thinner white cloth and might be laced. The waist belt had a gilded clasp and golden edging. The overcoat of a Guard officer had blue lining and gilded clasps, its blue collar, breasts and back cut were trimmed with golden lace.
The uniform of the Line officers was more modest, with golden lace covering only the hat, the other details being the same as in the Life Guard. Staff officers and generals often wore instead of regular tunic coat a blue coat of the French cut being then in fashion so called just au corps, all embroidered with golden lace. Besides, they, as a rule, wore long curled wigs of the so called à longe style, while other ranks in the Swedish army did not wear wigs.
Officer ranks were distinguished by gorgets special metallic breast badges worn on a light blue ribbon around neck. The gorgets were decorated with a representation of Charles XII's royal monogram, and, besides that, staff officers had branches of laurels on their gorgets. According to accessible information we know one of the ways of distinguishing officers' ranks was by their gorgets. In 1717 all the officers had gilded field of the gorget, against which representations different materials were laid depending on the rank. Colonel had all those representations (monogram and branches) gilded, lieutenant colonel and major had those made of light blue enamel, captain and lieutenant captain had them of the same material (but without branches), lieutenant had enamel letters and gilded crown, and ensign had all his monogram gilded. Other ways of distinguishing ranks by their gorgets might also have been used, e.g. staff officers might have had silver gorgets with gilded border edging, branches on gorgets might have been replaced by arms etc.
It is known that at Poltava the infantry regiments of the main force comprised soldiers and officers of Lewenhaupt corps included to those regiments in October of 1708. Among them only members of the Helsingfors (Swedish) Indelta Regiment had the customary blue-and-yellow uniform. The others belonged to the Åbo, Björnenborg, Nyland, and Österbotten (Finnish) Indelta Regiments, the Swedish third line regiments of Lewenhaupt, Banér, Staël, the Finnish third line regiment of Wrangel as well as to Livonian enlisted units: the Regiment of Count De la Gardie and the Battalion of Osten-Sacken. All the named units had gray coats instead of blue ones, which were made of undyed coarse, heavy cloth, usually with light blue fitting. Vests, trousers and stockings in these units were made of buckskin (elk or deer) or goatskin, buttons of tin. In most Finnish, Littorial, and provisional Swedish regiments cravats were made of black trip and hats might not have white trimming of the edges. Inclusion at Poltava of soldiers of the named units into older selected Indelta regiments effected a heterogeneity of uniforms and broke the consistency of the combination of blue and yellow typical of the main force of Charles XII.
Each company in the Swedish infantry regiments had its banner. The banner of the Life Company was called Life Banner (lifvanan); that was a white rectangle, in the middle of which there was gold-trimmed a big state emblem of Sweden, and in the left upper or in all the corners there was a small representation of the emblem of the län where the regiment had been recruited. Other company banners had backgrounds of the län color and a big emblem of the län in the middle. For instance, a company banner of the Södermanland Regiment had a yellow background, against which a black griffon was represented in a green wreath of laurels; in the Dalsland Regiment the background of a company banner was blue, and there were two golden crossed arrows beneath the crown in the middle with a silver wreath of laurels around them; in the Jönköping Regiment the banner was divided into alternating three red and three yellow lengthwise stripes, and in the middle there was a white three-towered castle on the black hill in the green wreath of laurels; a company banner of the Uppland Regiment had a golden orb in a golden wreath of laurels against the red background etc.
In the Life Guard Regiment all company banners were white, on the Life Company banner there was a golden representation of the state emblem of Sweden, and on the others - Charles XII's royal monogram. In all infantry the banners were of standard dimensions: 170 cm high and 212 cm long.
The order of battle of Charles XII's Swedish Infantry was rather traditional. It was developed as early as in the middle of the 17th century and persisted with no substantial alternations until the Great Northern War of 1700-1721.
The Swedish Infantry was usually formed for a battle in two battalion lines, most often being regimental formation, in which both battalions of each Regiment were positioned next to each other. So the first line was formed of a number of regiments, and the second line was formed of other regiments keeping in file behind. That system was convenient for maneuvers by the second line, e.g. for envelopment of an enemy.
Sometimes the Swedes used other formations of the infantry, when regiments positioned one battalion in the first line and the second one in file behind the first, forming the second line. Such formation provided more reliable support of the first line by the second line, as well as closer liaison between the lines. The drawback to that order of battle was failure of the regimental organization in case the second line was employed not for the support of the first line, but for a maneuver on the battle field.
When using the order of battle of the first type the Life Battalion of Colonel was positioned from the right side, and the Battalion of the Lieutenant Colonel from the left side. In battalions companies were formed in such a way that better (senior) companies occupied the flanks; thus in the First Battalion from right to left there were formed: Life Company, Companies of the 2nd and 4th Captains and the Company of Major, and in the Second Battalion - the Company of Lieutenant Colonel, the Companies of the 3rd, 5th and 2nd Captains. Using the order of battle of the second type the Life Battalion was always positioned at the first line, formations of companies within battalions being the same.
The tactical formation of each battalion presupposed the separation of all the pikemen sections and their positioning in the middle of the battalion order of battle, while musketeer sections of all companies made the wings of order; grenadiers were positioned on the farthest flanks. The companies that acted separately were formed in the line of sections in the same way, i.e. two musketeer sections at flanks and two pikemen sections forming the core of the order of battle in the middle.
Battalions and companies were most often formed in six ranks (by rows - 'rotar'), although four-rank or three-rank formation was also employed. When forming a battalion in six ranks, 192 pikemen occupied the middle (making thus a front of 32 men), twice 168 musketeers were at both flanks (28 men front at each flank) and twice 24 grenadiers at both farthest flanks (4 men front at each flank). The battalion consisting of 576 privates had thus 96 men along its front. In the four rank formation the battalion had 144 men at its front, and in the three rank formation - 192 men. Officers and NCOs were positioned in part at the flanks of the order of battle and in part behind it. Company banners with their escorts (1 ensign and 1 junior ensign per a banner) were located during fights in the middle of formation.
Each infantry soldier was alloted the frontage of slightly more than 1 meter, so that the frontage of a battalion in six rank formation might be about 100 m, in four rank formation - about 150 m, and in three rank formation - about 200 m. The depth of the formation was equal, respectively, 10 m, 6.5 and 5 m.
In the battle of Poltava the battalions of Charles XII's army appear to have been formed either in 6 ranks, or in 4 ranks, depending on the strength of each battalion, the intervals between them being increased.(7) According to certain sources, each of the 10 Swedish battalions formed in one line at the time of the general Poltava battle had the frontage of 100 m, and the intervals between them amounted 50 m.(8)
According to what has been said in the previous section, the Swedish infantry at Poltava had only a small number of pikes, so that many pikemen armed with guns instead of pikes acted in combat as musketeers.
When conducting offensive activities and that was the case for the Swedes in the battle at Poltava Charles XII's infantry had, according to royal regulations, to avoid prolonged fire combat and to try after one or two salvoes to launch an attack with side-arms.(9)
Fires were usually conducted by three ranks of infantrymen, the first rank shooting from the knee, the second rank - from the standing position, and the third rank shooting in intervals between the soldiers of the second rank. The 600-men-strong battalion armed by two thirds with guns and by one third with pikes being formed into six ranks could thus shoot a salvo of only 200 guns simultaneously, and being formed into four ranks of 300 guns.(10) Assuming practical rate of fire to be equal to 1 shot per 2 minutes would give 100 (in six- rank formation) or 150 (in four-rank formation) shots per minute per 100 m of battalion frontage. In case the larger part of the battalion pikemen were issued guns instead of pikes, its fire power increased two or three times.
Conducting prolonged fire combat (as, e.g. in the battle at Lesnaya in 1708) the Swedish infantry could conduct fire by the method of caracoling, in ranks (rotar).(11) Following this method, on shooting a salvo the soldiers of the first rank stepped aback and stood behind the soldiers of the last rank where they could re-load their guns, while the fires were conducted by the soldiers of the second rank who later repeated the movement etc., until the turn was again of the soldiers of the first rank.
Charles XII's infantry was perfectly trained and mastered all the ßurrent combat activities. It re-formed and maneuvered with outstanding swiftness and skill. The Swedish king, being an adherent of active and decisive combat operations, required from his soldiers rapid and bold attacks without regard to an enemy's superiority in manpower. Due to the dominance of linear tactics, the Swedish infantry (though, like any other one at that time) was not trained to act on a cross-country terrain, and in such conditions their combat capacity sharply worsened, but on the level, open terrain its superiority was evident. This can be supported by the fact that at Poltava the Swedes whose infantry was four times less in strength than the Russian infantry (12 battalions vs. 42) yet were the attacking party that managed to be about beating all the left wing of Peter the Great's army. The final outcome of the battle was determined by the vulnerability of the flanks of the Swedish infantry that got enveloped by the longer line of Russian battalions.
1) Grenadier cap of the Dalsland Infantry Regiment. The Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering Troops, and Signals (further referred as MHMAETS)
2) An officer's gorget of the Swedish infantry regiments. MHMAETS.
1) Victory of the Swedes over the Polish and Lithuanian troops on
March 19, 1703, at the town of Birzh. Swedish print of the early 18th century.
MHMAETS.2) The siege of the town of Thorn by Charles XII's troops. Swedish
print of the early 18th century. MHMAETS.
1) Banner of a company of the Life Guard Foot Regiment.
2) Banner of a company of the Uppland Regiment.
3) The banner of the Kronoberg Regiment.
4) Banner of a company of the Västmanland Regiment.
The battle at Narva on November 19, 1700. Painted by Kotsebu. The middle of the 19th century. The artist reproduced on the canvas details of arms and uniform of the Swedish army of the early 18th century with maximum accuracy. In the foreground to the right from the middle there is a group of Dalsland Infantry Regiment grenadiers wearing blue uniforms with red fitting. Of special interest is their headgear - beautiful grenadier cloth caps, to represent which Kotsebu used one an original from the collection of the Artillery Historical Museum (now - MHMAETS).
The Swedes. The Guard Infantry. Grenadier. Non-commissioned officer. Drummer. Officer.
The Line Infantry. Musketeer of the Jönköping Regiment. Drummer of the Kalmar Regiment. Officer of the Närke-Värmlands Regiment.
Also add: Aberg, Alf, Goransson, Gote. Karoliner, Yugoslavia, 1989.
(1) Peter the Great, following the Swedish example, applied the same
system in the newly founded Russian Guard, where the Preobrazhensky and
Semyonovsky Regiments were also officer regiments.
(2) All the dates are given according to the Julian calendar adopted in Russia since January 1, 1700.
(3) The irregular troops of Charles XII's army also should not be neglected, that included Valachians, Poles, the Ukrainian and Zaporizzha Cossacks.
(4) In 1704 a modification of the flint-lock gun of 1692 appeared but in its technical data it didn't differ from the predecessor.
(5) The journalled bayonet was invented in 1699 and became widespread in the armies of Western Europe in early 1700s.
(6) All the ammunition of a Swedish soldier was made of buckskin (elk or deer) or goatskin, but most often of that of elk.
(7) The fact should be taken into account that at Poltava the strength of some battalions of the Swedish infantry was slightly lower than their T/O strength, and they numbered 300-400 men.
(8) Russian battalions formed for the general battle had frontages of 80-90 m and intervals as small as 10 m. Thus against 10 Swedish battalions with a total frontage of 1,450 m 24 Russian battalions of the first line acted on the frontage of 2,150 m.
(9) Despite such evident advantage of the four rank formation in firepower the Swedes still did not reject six rank formation as the latter was characterized with more stability in an immediate engagement with an enemy in a hand-to-hand fight.
(10) It is noteworthy that bayonet techniques were not yet mastered. The statute required from a Swedish musketeer to attack holding his musket in his left hand and his naked sword in his right hand. Stabbing with bayonet thus became inconvenient.
(11) The caracoling method (from Italian 'caracole'- snail) was first used as early as in the 16th century and then was consequently developing through entire 17th century.