Sunday, June 22, 2014

Battle of Porrassalmi 1789 225th anniversary re-enactment footage

I went to a re-enactment a week ago. It was the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Porrassalmi, an obscure engagement in an obscure war but it happened in my home province so of course I'm interested. I have a whole book on the battle in my bookcase!

Anyway, I've never done any video editing and I had a bunch of footage and pictures I took with my camera so I thought this would be a good opportunity to train myself and educate you people at the same time. Let me know how I did!

The Embed is really small, watch it straight from youtube or in fullscreen mode to get a bigger picture:

The lay of the land.

Savo jägers taking a break

The commander of the Savonian brigade and a veteran of the war of American independence, Curt Von Stedingk arrives to oversee the defenses.

The defenders had two guns behind log breastworks.

Russian grenadiers.
Karelian dragoons having a break.

The defenders' forwars skirmishers.

Savonian jägers waiting for the fighting to start.
The Russian advance force engages the jägers.

 The video has all my material on the attack of the grenadiers at his point.

After being repulsed from the breastworks, the grenadiers retreat back across the strait.
The victorious defenders.

The after battle crowd at the strait was closer to the real attack in scale.
After the re-enactment there was a honorary ceremony at a monumant erected on site.
A Swedish court chaplain and a living relative of Georg Carl Von Döbeln, Erland Ros played the role of his ancestor
After being shot in the head, Von Döbeln, confident he was going to die anyway, insisted on writing his after action report before surgery. His blood is spilled on this original document currently on display in Mikkeli.

There's some nice additional footage here while the link exists:

Also, if you wish to know more, here's a couple of links on the subject matter:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Some backyard archaeology

We're enjoying some hot summer weather up here in the north, and that means that I spend more time doing yardwork than painting miniatures. There is an old, small sand quarry on our property which gives out very fine sand, perfect for 6mm models. In the quarry there are remains of an old tar burning pit, which we discovered when we moved here in the early 90's. The pit has been badly mauled by tractors getting sand, so the form of the pit was never apparent. We only recognized the pit from a pipe running out of a mound in the sand and the bits of burnt wood scattered about.

The tar pipe sticking out of the ground. Back in the day the pipe would have been made of wood. I guess this tar pit is from the first half of the 20th century.
Finns have historically had an abundance of pine forests and tar was the area's main export for centuries as long as the world's navies depended on the stuff. Britain was a big buyer of Finnish tar and there's a story that during the Crimean war when Finland, being part of Russia and also at war with Britain, was attacked by the British navy. The British ships sailed to Oulu, the tar capital of Finland and made landfall. There was a big tar magazine there and the Finnish people explained to the British that all this tar was already bought and paid for by the British navy and it was just waiting for the war to be over to be shipped to England. The Brits, believing this to be a ruse burned down the magazines, burning down their own tar.

To make tar, first you dig a funnel shaped pit in sandy ground with a pipe in the bottom to let the accumulating tar out. Then you pile pieces of suitable tar pine to make a mound on top of the sand funnel. The mound is then covered with earth to keep air out.

A tar pit in the old days. The one I was digging must have been much smaller than this.
The process is to burn the mound slowly from the sides, heating up the mound but not allowing it to burst into flames. When heat builds up in the low oxygen environment, the pine does not start burning but rather starts to slowly sweat tar. This tar then seeps to the bottom of the pit and is drained from the pipe. The wood itself is reduced into charcoal in the process and can then be used by blacksmiths or people barbecuing.

Anyway, decades ago I spotted a fragment of smooth rock at the pit, which looked like it had been worked on with human hands. Turns out it was a piece of an old millstone which has broken down. Having no use for a broken millstone, I left it there and forgot about it. Fast forward to this spring, I finally thought I'd dig up the stone to use it as decoration in my yard, as a millstone like that can easily be a hundred years old or more. To my disappointment I only found a couple of parts of the stone which I hauled back home with me.

Fast forward again to yesterday morning. May was a very rainy month and we had taken some additional sand from the quarry as well, so I was curious to go and see if I could find new pieces of the millstone. After all, it's unlikely that there would only be a couple of pieces of it there instead of the whole thing. Sure enough, I spotted a fresh piece several meters from the location I found the others on, and deeper in the ground. The rain had brought it up at a spot where sand had been dug out a couple of months ago. My nephew was visiting my parents living close by, so I enlisted him to help and we set out to look for pieces to the millstone puzzle together. After some poking around and shoveling, we actually managed to find most of the missing parts!
Score! It's a big one too! The diameter must be over a meter. I think I have about a quarter already hauled home, so there isn't much left missing.

Looks like he's really enjoying himself, doesn't he? When I was his age, if my uncle would have asked me to help him dig up long buried antiquities, I would have pissed myself with excitement! The kids today obviously need to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Not only that, but we discovered the stone was somehow connected with the tar burning process. On one of the fragments there was this big lump of solidified tar, which came off after a couple of knocks with a shovel. I'm not sure what the role of the old millstone has been in the tar making process, but I think it might have been set at the base of the tar funnel to guide the tar or something. Anyway, it should make a nice decoration with a story mostly unknown to us.

The tar was still damp and a wonderful tar smell filled the air when it came off the millstone fragment. I'd say it's been in the ground for more than 50 years at least.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Battlefield visit: Prague 1648

Charles bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
A work trip to Prague this time, so I had a chance to visit the site of the last battle of the 30 years war. The Battle of Prague took place in 1648, after the Swedish, sensing that the war was about to end, rushed to plunder what was still out there to grab. As it happened, Bohemia hadn't been quite picked clean yet and the Swedish forces (with many of my Finnish countrymen with them) attacked the city of Prague.

The Battle painted on a wall near the bridge

They captured the western bank of the city and plundered Prague castle. Getting the army across the Vltava river was not quite so straightforward. The army had to cross Charles Bridge to get to the old town of Prague, but the locals weren't willing to let them pass.

The excellent display painting of the battle by the Liebscher brothers (1891)

Detail of the painting
Fighting took place several times, but the defenders held. Peace was declared before the Swedish could force their way through so they had to settle for only a partial prize.

Over 350 years later, the bridge still stands and looks the same. A lot of the old town buildings also predate the 30 years war so it's easy to get an idea what the city looked like back then.

Detail of the painting.

These days the bridge cannot hold against the charge of foreign invaders, but the tourists leave money in exchange for their plunder.