Sweden Vs. Russia The Battle of Poltava

About the Battle of Poltava part of the war between Russia led by Czar Peter the Great and Sweden led by Charles XII in 1709.


Hoping to establish Russia as a great Baltic power, Czar Peter the Great declared war on Sweden in August of 1700. When his soldiers met a crushing defeat at Narva, the Russian leader reorganized his men along the lines of European armies, adopting their warfare tactics, and he began to win.

In 1709, Swedish King Charles XII invaded the Ukraine with 32,000, laying siege to Poltava. He became a casualty almost at once, when a Cossack bullet struck him in the foot. Disabled by the wound, the King was forced to turn over active command to Field Marshal Rehnskold, but he continued to direct the strategy from his litter. The arrangement did not work.

The Swedish attack foundered, fatally handicapped by the immobility of the King. His generals, conditioned by previous campaigns to act as little more than brigade commanders, were unable to function effectively without the King's personal, on-the-spot direction. Quarreling ensued between Rehnskold and Count Lewinhaupt, the infantry commander, and Lewinhaupt may not even have been kept fully informed of the King's orders by Rehnskold, who disliked him personally.

In the final assault, Charles ordered his army forward in the classic pattern of attack, sending 18,000 against 44,000 well-entrenched Russians, with drums beating and bayonets fixed. His contempt for the Czar's new-found fighting ability brought about his defeat quickly as the Russians massacred his advancing troops. He lost almost 7,000 men and, with them, Sweden's domination in the Baltic. The losses of Peter the Great were less than 1,400.

The Duke of Marlborough summed up the King's performance in the battle in one short comment: "Ten years of unbroken success, and 2 hours of mismanagement."

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