General Count Carl Johan Adlercreutz (1757-1815)

Carl Johan Adlercreutz was born in 1757 in Borgå, Finland, on the family estates. As a thirteen-year old he was signed onto the army at the Finnish light cavalrybrigade. Adlercreutz was present when king Gustav III made his coup and seized total power in Sweden. Adlercruetz climbed in the military ranks and he then commenced military studies in Stockholm, thereafter, in 1777, he joined the Savolax Brigade, which was formed to protect the Finnish border in case of Russian attack. In the war against Russia in 1788-90, Adlercreutz served with good grades and he saw his first action. He steadily rose in the ranks and after the war he was made major in 1791, and Squadron Commander in 1792. In the mutiny of the Anjala-conspiracy (which was an alliance of officers that wanted to declare an independent Finland and end the war with Russia. The war of 1788-90 was never the success the Swedish king Gustav III wanted and anger rose against him in the military ranks. The only great Swedish victory came at sea, at the seabattle of Svensksund 1790, where the entire Russian coastal fleet was annihilated.) Adlercreutz remained faithful to the king and took part in the trials against the conspirators after the war.

Adlercreutz took command of the Nyland Dragoon Corps after the war and remained its commander until 1804. He married two times during this period. In 1804 he was made commander of a newly formed regiment, the Adlercreutz Regiment, but although it carried his name, he was not to command it in the coming war. Instead he was made commander of the second brigade of the Swedish army during the first phases of the war of 1808-09, and was later made second in command under the high commander Mauritz Klingspor.

For your information, the Russian invasion of Finland in february 1808, was built up in the following manner. Left flank: 17th division, ca 8000 men, under lt. gen. Gortschakoff. Centre: 21st division, ca 8700 men, under lt. gen. Peter Ivanovitsch Bagration. Right flank: 5th division, ca 7000 men, under lt. gen. Nikolai Alexejvitsch Tutschkoff. The commander of the russian army: Fredrik Wilhelm von Buxhoevden, total strength: 24.000 men. The Swedish-Finnish army had 17.323 troops at its disposal, and while the commander of the army, Mauritz Klingspor was away in Sweden, general Klercker collected the troops to Hämeenlinna, from where Klingspor later begun the planned retreat (In short, the Swedish plan of war was to retreat north, while relying on the fortifications of Sveaborg to keep the dagger in the back of the Russians, the Swedish army would then go over on the offensive as reinforcements were expected from Sweden itself. This was where the plan failed - Sveaborg surrendered without delivering battle, and insufficient reinforcements arrived from Sweden.).

At the battle of Siikajoki, on April 18 1808, Adlercreutz turned a defeat into victory as he gave the order of attack, despite the high commander Klingspor's disliking. The retreat of the Swedish ended and they instead went over in attack. During the summer campaign of 1808, Adlercreutz came to the test time upon time and he showed his worth on the field of battle. On June 24, he attempted to surprise the Russian troops in Nykarleby by surrounding them in the town, the Russians retreated before a full encirclement could be made though.

The battle that can possibly be considered Adlercreutz' greatest victory came at Lappo on July 14. The Russian general Rayevskij stood with 4000 troops against Adlercreutz, who had 4.700 at his disposal. Rayevksij had chosen bad positions for defence though, and Adlercreutz was prepared to try to cut the retreat for the Russians, but while this failed the Swedish could show up an important victory. One interesting passage from the battle was the Swedish storming of the village of Lappo, where Russian troops were entrenched; Russian skirmishers lay in the fields outside the village and within it, formations of infantry stood waiting. Georg Carl von Döbeln and his Björneborg regiment attacked without thinking twice, and under this great and legendary commander, the Swedes were able to clear the village from all Russians. In august Adlercreutz won another victory at Alavo, where a daring attack saved the day.

Due to Russian reinforcements and the fact that the victories at Lappo and Alavo were never used to the full, the Swedes retreated back north after the summer offensive. The decisive battle of the war came at Oravais, on september 14 1808, where Adlercreutz planned to fight only a delaying engagement against the following Russians under Kamenskij. Adlercreutz committed much of his troops, draining his reserves as he did not follow the initial plan. The Swedish main army was severely defeated and this ended the summer offensive. Adlercreutz retreated back north, eventually leaving Finland to the Russian occupants in the winter of 1808. Diseases and bad equipment finally defeated the army of Finland and scrapped it totally.

Adlercreutz now moved on to Stockholm where the political climate was boiling. The generals were very displeased with how the sick king Gustav IV Adolf (he actually thought Napoleon was the beast in the book of revelation) had run the war and the northern army, under Adlersparre, was on its march to Stockholm from the vicinities of the Norwegian border, and he openly proclaimed that he was going to throw over the king. Civil war threatened in Sweden. At this time a military "Junta", led by Adlercreutz took its chance. "Then Adlercreutz seized the opportunity, as the political tension had kept him in Stockholm. For the second time in his life he heightened himself to decisive and great action. This time it was just as needed as tragic. He had earlier refused to stand in the front of the conspiracy [against the king], but now the further existense of the kingdom was at stake", Eirik Hornborg tells us in his book "När riket sprängdes" ("When the kingdom was cut up", the title freely translated). And certainly. The Coup d'Etat was just as tragic as it was humourous. On march 13 1809 - in the midst of war against Russia - the officers-junta approached the king in his castle and told him that he was under arrest. In a never before seen display of bravery, the weak king reached for a sword and escaped out through a secret passage in the castle, screaming "treason!". The king knew the castle like the back of his hand and escaped unseen out in the yard, where he tried to stick his sword in one of the conspirators as he was finally detected. And the king received help from a woodcutter who aggressively swung a piece of wood against one of the coupists. Finally, after all this fighting, the king was arrested and the junta seized the control of Sweden.

After the coup, Adlercreutz continued his intriguing at the court in Stockholm. On the question of who should become the new king, Adlercreutz first supported the idea of making Gustav IV Adolfs son king, then he raised the idea of himself taking the throne! This was not to be though, and after the death of Karl XIII, Bernadotte was finally made crown prince. Adlercreutz was made count and participated in the government. During Napoleons attack on Russia in 1812, the count supported Russia and worked very hard to better the relations between Russia and Sweden. He also participated in the campaign in Germany 1813 and in Norway 1814, as chief of the general staff.

Carl Johan Adlercreutz died in august 1815.

In "Fänrik Ståls sägner", a book of poems that deal with the war of 1808-09, Runeberg tells about the bravery and heroism of Adlercreutz and this image has stuck. Although the generals actions during the war can be discussed, the image of the heroic general has stayed in Finnish and Swedish hearts for a hundred years. Fänrik Ståls Sägner was written in the 1840's and was such an important and nationalistic book that the beginning words of the book have become the words of the national anthem of Finland. It is full of great stories, often unreliable and of no historical worth, but interesting nonetheless. This is some of the things it says about Carl Johan Adlercreutz (and I once again translate from Swedish freely), following are the first and final verses of the poem "Adlercreutz".

"Who is that high man there on the river banks,
who is looking out over the waters and the fields?
His appearance, his costume, his lips and the fire in his eyes
And the sword, shiny in his manly hand,
everything gives the picture of the hero and the warrior.
He stands alone, noone is him near,
every minute they see soldiers coming to him with messages;
but in front of him army stands against army,
with blood and death, threatening each other...

...But if in the land of heroes, in the years of the future,
his work fades away for larger and happier memories,
if by his name a heart does not beat with fire,
and alone, unvisited, with faded runes stand,
the grave in which he dwells, the faithful finn;
then has his praise and honour not yet died,
then shall his spirit rest over the seas
with pride to the land that gave him birth:
here he shall not be forgotten, here where he bled,
here he shall live, although he is buried."

Although my translation may be bad, it still gives the flavour of the texts that were written by Runeberg. They are very nationalistic and blown up to the utmost. These texts were before read in both Swedish and Finnish schools as standard, but this was removed. Maybe they are politically incorrect.

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