Friday, July 17, 2015

Russo-Swedish War 1808-1809 in 6mm

In 1808 the Kingdom of Sweden felt the echoes of the Treaty of Tilsit. Gustav IV Adolf, the Swedish monarch, was still unwilling to join the Continental System against England. To force the Swedes to join in, Russia invades Finland, then still a part of the Swedish realm. This would have major repercussions as Sweden would be forced to cede Finland to Russia, the inept Gustav would be deposed in a military coup and this in turn would make way for the Bernadotte family to gain the throne later on. A throne they still hold today.

From a Swedish/Finnish perspective the war was very much a failure. The army was in a state of stagnation and during the war the king, fancying himself a general, kept interfering with the real military leaders of the army. Opposing them was a veteran army which had experienced the War of the Third Coalition and was led by the likes of Buxhoevden, De Tolly and Bagration. Still, the war interests me greatly even if there isn't much in the way of "lost cause" sympathy. 

Politically, it pushed Finland from the bosom of Sweden where she had been since the medieval times into an uncertain place where she had to consider her identity. This, combined with it's autonomous position granted by the enlightened Alexander I would lead to Finnish independence more than a century later.  For Sweden, it was the end of an era where it could consider itself a major player on the world stage (let's see if I anger some Swedes by saying that ;)

Strategically the war contains plenty of interesting what-if's. What if the formidable and modern fortress of Sveaborg hadn't surrendered and had continued to resist until relief could have been sent by sea after the melting of the ice? What if the Swedish amphibious landings were not such a military blunder or those troops put to better use? What if the Swedish army hadn't been so slow to react to the Russian invasion? There is plenty we can consider in hindsight which might have influenced the course of the war, perhaps giving Sweden better terms on the negotiation table. 

Tactically, the war differs from your typical Napoleonic age battle.Firstly, the scale is much smaller. The engagement might involve a couple of battalions per side, perhaps a small brigade. The ground in Finland is so broken by woods, lakes and rocky ground that large forces cannot be brought to bear and typical line formation tactics are difficult to use. Therefore most of the engagements in the Finnish war as we'll call it, included extensive use of open order formations and skirmishing. Jaegers were very important and both sides used them a lot.

A map and a description of a delay action fought in the Jynkkä bay near Kuopio.

Finally, the war interests me because I live right on top of some of these battles and skirmishes. The first battle we will report will the battle of Leppävirta, fought just 20 kilometers from my house. A Swedish ambush on a Russian supply column took place just two kilometers from my home. The city of Kuopio where I work is also the site of several engagements. The site of the battle of Virta bro as the Swedes call it, (Koljonvirran taistelu in Finnish), which might be the most famous battle of the war, is just an hour and a half's drive away. The graves of the soldiers who fought in the war are found in local cemeteries. Naturally this makes the war more personal to me than say, the American Civil War which I also enjoy wargaming. 

Ok, this was just a prologue to start off this project. I started painting some of the models a good while ago but only started working on it properly a few weeks ago. Next week we'll play our first battle and after that I will tell you more about the models, basing and rules we will be using. Right now I have a brigade to finish!


  1. It will be nice to see how this progresses! What size of units are you going to use? Individual companies or even smaller?