Field marshal Wilhelm Mauritz Klingspor (1744-1814)

As it was in the days of the enlightened despotism during the happy 1700's, Wilhelm Mauritz Klingspor was born into a life in the military. He was born at Fluxerum in Sweden in 1744. At the age of seven, Klingspor was drafted into the army of Sweden and at an early age took part in the French army fighting in the the Seven Years' War. At the age of 13, he had already advanced to the rank of lieutenant and had even seen his first battle by then. After the war he had different stations at the royal court of Sweden and came into contact with king Gustav III. Klingspor served in the 1788-90 war with Russia as well. After this war, the real test of his life began.

Klingspor held the position as Commanding General in Finland on and off to 1808 but also did other work for the Swedish state, among other things he worked in diplomatic assignments in Russia.

At the age of sixty-three Klingspor saw the outbreak of war between Russia and Sweden. Russia attacked Sweden without declaring war and Klingspor immediately had to return from Sweden, to the army in Finland, to take command. The army had already been mobilized and was ready for war with the approaching Russians. All according to plans, Klingspor instead retreated north, to leave southern Finland to be defended by Sveaborg, while the main army could await additional supplies and reinforcements from Sweden. Although the retreat went well, Klingspor made no attempts to engage or try to delay the attacking Russian armies that were constantly following him. Klingspor retreated all the way to Oulu in northern Finland.

But the men in the Swedish army were anxious to fight, and after initial successes at Siikajoki and Revolax, Klingspor was appointed the rank of Field Marshal. He was unable to follow up on important victories gained in the spring and summer of 1808 though and soon found himself on the defensive foot again. The battle of Oravais finally shattered all Swedish plans of executing a successful war.

Klingspor was relieved of command in September 1808 but regained the command of the Northern Army in northern Sweden in January 1809. He never returned to the army though, and stayed in Stockholm, where he helped overthrow the weak king instead. In 1810, after the scandals surrounding the death of the adventurer Axel von Fersen, Klingspor was finally forced to resign and in november of that year, he was fired from the army, but remained with the rank of Field Marshal. Wilhelm Mauritz Klingspor died in May 1814.

Klingspor the coward. That is the judgement of history on him. During the retreat, he was very careful not to come into contact with the enemy, at the battles of Siikajoki and Revolax he hesitated to make the decisions and had to be persuaded that attack was the only logical thing. And after these battles, he hesitated once more to go to attack, although the Russian armies had retreated further sout and he had a force of near double the size of the Russian army. The Swedes waited until summer, and gave the Russian forces excellent opportunities to restrengthen. At the attack of Nykarleby, some of the officers approached Klingspor and told him that he had a great chance of winning the Great Cross of the Order of the Sword, which only could be won by displaying courage in the field of battle. Klingspor left over the command to Adlercreutz and left for Jakobstad, 20 kilometres north instead.

Say what you want about this man, but he certainly was the right man in the wrong position. The Swedish war effort would have been a lot more effective with a younger, more daring leader. Klingspor was a desk-general who did everything by the book and according to regulations. Although he can be critizised for leaving large parts of the country to the enemy without proper resistance, his retreat north was totally according to plan, the plan which was shattered when Sveaborg surrendered without resistance. But that was not Klingspor's fault.

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