In the 1780's, Gustav III of Sweden wasn't happy. His ancestors were great warrior kings and he wanted to be one too, but the geopolitical position of Sweden did not offer any good opportunities for a would-be lion of the North. The days of Sweden being a European great power had been numbered since Poltava. He needed a good war but Swedish law did not allow the king to declare an offensive war by himself. His cousin, Catherine the Great of Russia was busy fighting a war against the Turks. Maaaybe there would be a chance to capitalize on that. He just needed a casus belli. A great lover of the theater, Gustav hatched a plan..
It is not conclusively proven that the incident at Vuolteensalmi strait near Puumala was staged, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest it was. In the spring of 1788, the King was already making plans for an offensive war and making secret preparations. He had also commissioned some Russian uniforms to be made and held talks with the commander of the Savolax Brigade. In June, there were reports of Russian troops violating the border near Vuolteensalmi and some men of the Savonian infantry regiment were sent to investigate. At Vuolteensalmi strait they encountered what seemed to be a Russian force, and a firefight at a distance ensued. After an hour or so, the encounter ended. The Savonians reported having shot only twice and the Russians had failed to kill or wound anyone. Enraged, the king declared war on the aggressors and he had a legal right to do so as this was obviously a defensive war!
The summer cabin of my wifes' family is in Puumala, only ten kilometers from Vuolteensalmi so I took my family there today under the pretense of picking some mushrooms in the forest.
|The strait on a period map. The strait is narrow and shallow and there was a small bridge across.|
|The bridge is long gone and the road hasn't been used for a long time.|
|The foundations of the road can still be seen. The Savonian infantry took cover in the woods on this side from the "Russians" firing at them from the other side.|
|The strait would have been easily fordable this time of year.|
|No monuments or plaques for this historical event.|
Also, we found some mushrooms on the site, too!