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 Post subject: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:18 pm 
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Legend of elite - one good source, couple that mention Finns separately.
Legend of ruhtlessness - Polish officer in Livonian war of 1620s asking that Finns would no kill all their
prisoners rightaway since Poles are Christians too...


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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:37 pm 
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Fältherren
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I've made new topic from it, so we can have discussion without affecting the other topic :)
I. Regarding the elite Finns. We would have to first think how we describe 'elite'? Through 1620s Finns usually suffer due to lack of equipment, their companies and squadrons have also many very poor performances - Kropenhof in 1621 or Honigfelde in 1629 to mentioned the best examples. Of course they also sometimes could have some good job done - they even managed to stop Lithuanian hussars at Wenden/Drobbusch in December 1626 - but in overall their were not 'elite' troops. During Gustav II Adolf's campaigns in Germany Stålhandske's squadron valiantly fought at Breitenfeld and Lutzen but not any way better then native Swedish cavalry regiments. Unfortunately myth of (quoting Wiki) the Hakkapeliitta were well-trained Finnish light cavalrymen who excelled in sudden and savage attacks, raiding and reconnaissance does not surviving when comparing with sources from period. They were not light cavalry after all, and not sure what is the source of that 'excellence' in small war-type actions - they didn't show up that in 1620's against Poles ;)
II. Is that story quoted from primary or secondary source? The reason I ask is that I do not recollect any attrocities against prisoners (on both sides) during 1621-1629 wars between Commonwealth and Sweden. Fair enough, some 'let' loose your tongue' tortures like Lithuanian putting Swedish prisoners' legs into fire or Stålhandske giving prisoners his famous hand shake but no killing prisoners outrigth (like it happened in 1600-1611 war). After all prisoners were far too precious, especially officers, as they could be ransom or exchanged (which was done both in Livonia as in Prussia) and of course used to reinforced the army that captured them (like Poles done with Swedish troops after Hammerstein in 1627).

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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:23 pm 
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I only know that Gustav II Adolf had to give the Finns new clothes as they arrived in Germany because they where THAT ragged looking :D
Which is no wonder because back then Finland was a very poor part of the Swedish Kingdom.

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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:35 pm 
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Both native and mercenary cavalry received issue of cloth in 1630, Finns were not an exception. We do have though eye-witness account of Charles Ogier, who in 1635 seen newly raised Finn squadron of major Johan Prins (Printz) in Prussia. He wrote: I was looking where are their nobles, as those that I see mounted I thought are servants, so poorly their clothes are.

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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 8:15 pm 
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Good call to split this one.

We probably agree on the main thing - Hakkapeliitta have inflated reputation and material difference between a trooper from Finland and
say Småland was negliglible.

Now to adress points
1. Finns were overepresented in the Swedish national cavalry since less land in Finland was owned by noble estates. The national cavalry being furnished by free peasants against tax-breaks. And they scored some notable victories as unit: against Sapieha in Wallhof 1626, at Demmin and Burgstall in 1631 ( small affairs, but big in contemporay Swedish propaganda), Breitenfeldt, Lech and Lützen - and even in defeat of Alte Veste the cavalry did well.
Not light cavalry that is true. Upto the early parts of thirty years war parts of the troopers were armed as cuirassiers - when possible. More mobile than imperial fully armored cavalrymen perhaps and allegedly mounted on horses with less mass but better stamina and agility. And after lessons of Polish war less reliant on shooting pistols and more inclined to charge home - but this ofocurse holds for all of Swedish cavalry.

2. allegedly letter sent to marshal Herman Wrangel winter of 1626-1627. Not cruelty to prisoners as such, but failure to take any. Probably also connected with the Stålhandske independent command in Silesia, Moravia and Bohemia from 1639 onwards consisting mainly of mutual looting and pillaging.


The nationalistic myth has been created first in Sweden and than in Finland and relies mainly on three primary sources: The Swedish Intelligencer ( written in English) giving us the name Hackapells, Theatrum Europaeum and works of Chemnitz. Furthermore some opponents (Pappenheim included ) have complained of Finnish and Lappish witchcraft as reason of their own misfortunes.

Local and contemporary experience - where documented seems to have been that Finns - and Swedes as garrison troops atleast behaved relatively disciplinedly and were not that bad.

For this I rely heavily on Lappalainen: Sadan vuoden sotatie 2001. Good bibliography but not specific notations so I can't point to specific primary source in case Of Wrangels letter :-(


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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:45 pm 
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It's not exactly clear for me if the battles You mentioned are to be representation of great involvment of Finnish only or all native (Swedish and Finnish) cavalry? Finnish involvement in Lech was very small after all (there were only 4 weak companies of them) and there were probably no Finns at Burgstall at all. Wallhof is very interesting example though, although we don't know much about this battle. Clearly though Finnish and Swedish native cavalry was stationed there in first line, so if any Lithuania cavalry get involved in hand-to-hand combat it had to be against them.
So if Finns were able to defeat Lithuanians in such combat would indicate that in just few years they managed to improve a lot - after all Finnish companies were massacred at Kropenhof in 1621.
I think part of their 'legend' was due to fact that soldiers spoke different language, unknown in Germany and it 'helped' to portrait them as strange foreigners, alongside - already mentioned by You - magicians from Lappland :)
Did Lappalainen mentioned name of the Polish officer that wrote to Wrangel? After all in 1626-1627 Wrangel already served in Prussia, and there were barely any Finnish cavalry there: in summer 1627 only 4 companies of Finnish reiters were stationed in Prussia, with the rest of them serving under De la Gardie and Horn in Livonia.

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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:23 pm 
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A long answer eaten by time out 8-|
Lappalainen did not mention the Poles in question. The incident refers to Prussia - and has been related by Wrangel himself to his superiors. Korhonen, Arvi: Hakkapeliittain historia II, 1943 refers to Wrangels letter published in Axel Oxenstiernas papers in Sweden 1988 - so still secondary source (even in original) but the primary source in question can be tracked down if needed. However Korhonen uses it to illustrate they heightened attacking spirit of whole Finnish and Swedish troops in Prussia after being able to meet and Beat Poles in small scale skirmishes through winter of 1626. Of this he also quotes reports of Oxenstierna and commander of Finnish cavalry in Prussia Åke Tott - these witness of improving performance of both Swedish and Finnish cavalry and in case of Oxenstierna of the high value Finns troopers gave themselves :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 8:35 pm 
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... and to avoid repetition of that earlier mishap.
Finnish cavalry is specifically mentioned in Theatrum Europeanum - a contemporary source as going over the Lech first. ( Troops taking the island midstream were also Finnish but not technically Hakkapeliitas even though some netsources call them that.) Now it is one of the building blocks of the myth - and useful enough as such. It is kind of illustrative though. I don't know the strength of Finnish cavalry involved on Lech, they had started the war in stregth of 800 men, which had dwindled to 700 by Breitenfeldt - but they managed to get big enogh role to get mentioned as the guys going in first. But even though there are some such mentions there should be many more if they had been the invincible gallopers of the myth.


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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:40 am 
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Kroppenhof 1621
8 companies of Polish cavalry led by Gonsiewski - including three of hussars.
6 companies of Swedish cavalry and some merchants led by colonel Cobron
Polish night attack on quartered cavalry convoy that had omitted to post sentries. I blame the commander :-)
3 Finnish companies involved - of these 2 took a very hard beating, third escaped with 5 dead. 2 Swedish companies were decimated and the livonian company escaped with less losses.

(as recounted by Korhonen Hakkapeliittojen historia I 1939 Account based on reports both by Swedish and Polish commander and rolls of Finnish companies after the battle. The Swedish casualties are naturally much higher in the Polish accounts :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Legends and myths about Finnish cavalry
PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:07 am 
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I will answer in parts as well :)
Colbron had 7 or 8 companies: 2x cuirassiers, 3 xFinns, 1 x Landsåtar (part) (+ probably Yxkull's enlisted company as well) and 1 company of dragoons. Gosiewski's force was indeed composed of 8 banners of cavalry (3x hussars, 2x reiters, 3x cossack style cavalry) + 3 weak banners of infantry. But numbers seems to favour Swedes, as their companies were much more up to strength then the Lithuanian ones, also some Gosiewskis units didn't manage to take part in the fight. Lithuanians didn't really managed to surprise Swedes, as some foraging Swedes noticed Lithuanian infantry, giving them enough time to get ready to fight, get on horses and set up their ranks, that's why cuirassiers managed to give such good fight. Heavy losses of Finns were much 'thanks' to retreat of De la Barre's dragoons (who can blame him after all? He didn't want to be capture by Lithuanians, that's for sure), which leave them exposed to Lithuanian charge. Lithuanians managed to capture 7 standards (two of them were heavy damaged though) so it seems that only fleeing dragoons managed to save theirs.
Regarding Finns in that battle - Grothusen's company seems to have fast horses ;) as they only lost 5 killed (+ 5 wounded) as You mentioned but Dufv's and Kurck's companies were practically annihilated. It clearly shows that at that point, without support of infantry, Swedish cavalry couldn't stand against Lithuanian hussars.

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