In 1706, the international authority of Charles XII was undeniable. The papal nuncio, who reproached Joseph I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, that he at the request of Charles in 1707 gave guarantees of religious freedom to the Protestants of Silesia, heard surprising words:
"You must be very happy that the Swedish king did not offer me to accept Lutheranism, for if he wanted to ... I don’t know what I would do."
It should be said that this emperor, like many other monarchs, was a true "master of his word": he took his promise of religious freedom immediately after receiving news of the defeat of Charles XII near Poltava.
Joseph I of Habsburg, King of Hungary since 1687, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation since 1705
Karl’s self-confidence reached the point where on September 6th he drove alone to Dresden, where he appeared to his mortal enemy Augustus the Strong, forcing him to show him the fortifications. Even the Elector's lover Countess Kozel demanded to arrest the Swedish king, but Augustus did not dare, and Karl safely returned to his retinue.
“I relied on my happy fate,” he explained his behavior a few days later.
On September 13 (24), 1706, the Swedish king forced the Saxon Elector Augustus to sign the Altranstedt Peace Treaty, according to which, in addition to surrendering Krakow and some other fortresses and paying a huge indemnity, he agreed to place Swedish garrisons in Saxon cities, and also renounced the Polish crown.
Lunch after the signing of the peace treaty in Altranstadt on December 7, 1706. Medieval copper engraving
Karl appointed Stanislav Leszczynski as the new king of Poland.
During one of the conversations with his henchman, Charles called Peter I “the unjust king” and declared the need to remove him from the throne.
In the army of Karl himself at that time there were 44 thousand people, and 25 thousand of them were dragoons, who, if necessary, could fight on foot. The army was in excellent condition, the regiments were fully equipped, the soldiers had time to rest, and, it seemed, nothing portended trouble.
Soldiers of the army of Charles XII
In September 1707, the Swedish king set out on a campaign called Russian historians. It was expected that the Kurland army of the Swedes, commanded by General Levengaupt, would join him on the way.
David von Krafft. Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt, count, general
The beginning of the Russian campaign of Charles XII
At a military council in Zhovkva (near Lviv), the Russians made the decision “not to give battles in Poland”, but “to weaken the enemy by fencing food and forage”.
This tactic almost immediately began to bear fruit: the campaign of the Swedish army was difficult, and the autumn slaughter, due to which Karl was forced to linger in war-ravaged Poland, exacerbated the situation. In addition, the Swedes walked to the north of Poland - wooded and marshy Masuria, where they had to cut logs in the forests and pave roads, and local peasants did not want to share their already scarce supplies. Karl had to send foragers around the neighborhood who did not stand on ceremony with the Poles: demanding to indicate food caches, they tortured men and women, and tortured children in front of their parents.
On January 27, 1708, the Swedes reached Neman and Karl, having learned that Peter I was in Grodno, without hesitation, with only 800 cavalrymen, burst onto the bridge, which, contrary to orders, did not destroy the Brigadier Mühlenfeld who went over to the side of the Swedes. On this bridge, Charles XII personally fought with the Russians and killed two officers. Following their plan of the "Scythian war", the Russians retreated: the last Russian units left Grodno through the northern gate at the moment when the first units of the Swedish army entered the city through the south.
The mercenaries of the Russians, captains Saks and Fok, who sided with the Swedes, offered to capture Peter I, who was often unguarded, but Karl himself nearly died when the Russian cavalrymen, having destroyed Swedish posts, broke into the city that night. The king, of course, could not deny himself the pleasure of fighting in the streets of the city, and only the misfire of the musket aimed at him saved him then.
In early February, the army of Charles reached Smorgon and stopped there for a month to rest. In mid-March, the Swedes resumed their movement, and reached the Radoshkovichi, where they remained for three months, ruining all the surrounding villages and towns. By that time, the Swedes had learned to find peasant hiding places: the method turned out to be simple and effective - they simply dug up places with thawed spots.
On June 6, Karl again moved his army east. “Now we are following the road to Moscow, and if we continue, we will of course reach,” he said.
To his “pocket” king Stanislav, he left 8 thousand recruits to protect Poland, whom he appointed to command General Crassau - because the crown hetman of Senyavsky sided with Russia, only having defeated him, Leshchinsky could leave Poland and come to the aid of Charles XII.
Before the breakup, the Swedish king asked Stanislav’s opinion about Prince Jakub Ludwik Sobesski (the son of the Polish king Jan III, a contender for the Polish throne, who was held captive by Augustus the Strong from 1704 to 1706), which, in his opinion, could become “excellent Tsar of Russia. " So Carl XII was very serious.
In June 1708, the army of Charles XII crossed the Berezina, and on July 3, under Golovchin, the Swedes for the last time won the battle against the Russians. At the same time, they had some superiority in power: 30 thousand Swedes under the command of Karl himself versus 28 thousand, which were controlled by Sheremetev and Menshikov.
The battle of Golovchin
The Swedish attack on the left flank of the Russians led to the flight of Repnin’s division, which was demoted for it and was forced to reimburse the cost of the abandoned guns (after the battle of Forest Repnin they were restored to their ranks).
The loss of sides in this battle turned out to be approximately equal, which should have alerted Karl, but the Swedish king stubbornly did not notice obvious things, continuing to consider the Russian army as weak as in the memorable battle near Narva.
In this battle, Karl nearly died again, but not from a Russian saber or bullet - he almost drowned in a swamp. But fate kept the king for Poltava shame and "circus performances" in the Ottoman Empire (which are described in the article "Vikings" against the Janissaries. The incredible adventures of Charles XII in the Ottoman Empire).
The next battle between Russian and Swedish troops was the battle near the village of Dobry, which took place on August 29, 1708. Here the vanguard units of General Roos were defeated by a detachment of Prince Golitsyn. The loss ratio for the Swedes was simply depressing: they lost about 3000 people, while the Russians lost only 375. About this battle, Peter I wrote:
"Like I regained service, I did not hear and did not see such fire and decent action from our soldiers ... And the King of Sweden didn’t see such a thing from anyone else in this war."
Finally, on September 10, 1708, the Swedish Ostgotland Cavalry Regiment entered into battle with a detachment of Russian dragoons near the village of Raevka. This battle is notable for the fact that both Charles XII and Peter I took part in it, who said that he could make out the face of the Swedish king.
Chemesov E.P. Portrait of Peter I (engraving with original Nantier), 1717
A horse was killed near Karl, and next to him at the decisive moment there were only 5 drabants, but the fresh cavalry units of the Swedes managed to rescue their king.
Meanwhile, difficulties in supplying the Swedish army only increased. The French charge d'affaires of Poland under Stanislaw Leszczynski de Besanval reported to Versailles, referring to his informant in the army of Charles XII, that the Swedes use saltpeter instead of salt, have no wine even for communing the dying, and the wounded say that they have only three medicines: water , garlic and death.
Swedish soldier of the Great Northern War. Painted tin figurine
The Levengaupt corps at that time was only 5 transitions from the main army, but the famine forced Charles XII to turn his troops south - this decision was another and very big mistake of the king.
On the night of September 15, the first detachment of General Lagerkrona (2000 foot soldiers and 1000 cavalrymen with four guns) moved south to the city of Mglin, but the Swedes got lost and went to Starodub. But even this city the bureaucrat general refused to take, saying that he had no order from the king. And only the cavalry of General Koskul came to Mglin - without guns and without infantry. And on October 1, news came to Karl about the battle, which, indeed, became fatal for the Swedes, and had a huge impact on the course of their military campaign in Russia.
Battle of the Forest
In September 1708, near Lesnoy (a village in the modern Mogilev region), the corps of General Levengaupt was defeated by the Russians.
"The image of the battle at the village of Forest September on 28 day 1708." Colorized engraving by N. Larmessen (based on a drawing by P. D. Martin the Younger). First quarter of the XNUMXth century
This battle Peter I called the “mother” of Poltava “Victoria” (from September 28, 1708 to July 27, 1709 - exactly 9 months) and until the end of his life he celebrated the anniversary of this battle. Its significance for the Russian and Swedish armies was so great that Charles XII refused to believe the news of him.
Levengaupt, who was going to join the main army, was to bring along a convoy with food and ammunition, the amount of which was calculated for three months. Other commanders of the Swedish corps were generals Schlippenbach and Stackelberg, who would be captured during the battle at Poltava (Levengaupt himself would surrender at Perevolnaya). At the disposal of Levengaupt was 16 thousand of the best soldiers in Europe - the "natural" Swedes, and 16 artillery pieces. Peter I was mistaken in believing that they were half as many, perhaps because of this the Russians (of whom there were about 18 thousand people, but 12 thousand took part in the battle) acted so boldly and decisively. Initially, the Swedes attacked the vanguard units, numbering only 4 thousand people. They were repulsed, but the next attack, which involved 12 infantry battalions and 12 cavalry squadrons, which were later joined by the dragoons of Lieutenant General R. Bour, forced Levengaupt to retreat, leaving half the wagon train. The next day, the Swedes were overtaken at Propoisk by a detachment of General German Flough and fled without listening to the orders of the commanders. Levengaupt, having ordered to drown the guns and set fire to the carts, retreated, bringing only 6700 tired and morally depressed soldiers to his king.
Jean-Marc Nattier. "The Battle of the Forest"
The defeat of the Swedes was unprecedented: about 6000 people were killed or wounded, 2673 soldiers and 703 officers were captured. In addition, they managed to extinguish and save most of the wagons with food and equipment: in total 5000 out of 8000 wagons became Russian trophies.
Russian losses amounted to 1100 people killed and 2856 wounded.
In this battle, Lieutenant General R. Bour was seriously wounded, his right side was paralyzed, but by the summer of 1709 he recovered and took part in the Battle of Poltava.
Lieutenant General from the cavalry Rudolph (Rodion) Bour. The captain of the Swedish army, who on September 30, 1700, after a duel, fled from Narva to the location of the Russian army. His name is mentioned in the poem by A. S. Pushkin "Poltava":
“These are the chicks of Petrov’s nest -
In the changing lot of the earth
In the works of power and war
His comrades, his sons:
And Sheremetev noble,
And Bruce, and Bour, and Repnin. "
V. Savenkov. “The entry of Russian troops into Smolensk after the defeat of the Swedes at Lesnaya”
The captured Swedish generals after Poltava informed Peter about the warning of Levengaupt, who had appeared to Karl after the battle at Lesnaya: "Russia has the best army before everyone."
But, according to them, neither they nor the king then believed him, continuing to believe that the Russian army was no better than the one that they knew from the battle of Narva.
Karl XII declared this obvious defeat to everyone a victory, sending to Stockholm a ballot saying that Levengaupt "successfully repelled the attacks of 40 thousand Muscovites." But the quartermaster general of the Swedish army Axel Gillenkrok (Yullenkruk) wrote that the king in vain "tried to hide his grief that all his plans were destroyed."
The Swedish army was starving, the Seversky land was devastated in front of it, the Menshikov corps was operating in the rear, and Karl was forced to continue moving south, hoping to get food and fodder from hetman Ivan Mazepa.
Ivan Stepanovich Mazepa-Kolensky was not at all happy with the visit of the “ally”. According to the then concepts, he was already a deep old man (born in 1639, he became a hetman even under Princess Sophia), and he had only about a year to live. And old people are usually not inclined to take risks, betting “a tit in their hands” against a “crane in the sky”.
In his youth, Mazepa was in the service of the Polish king Jan II Casimir. In 1818, Byron wrote a poem “Mazeppa” about this period of his life, in which he recounted the legend of Voltaire’s pen about how the young “Cossack”, the page of the Polish king Jan II Casimir, was tied to a horse for shameful communication with his wife Palatine Falbowski, who released into the wild field. But the horse turned out to be "Ukrainian", and therefore brought him to his native steppes.
Louis Boulanger. The painting "Le Supplice de Mazeppa", illustrating George Byron's poem "Mazeppa"
Theodore Chasserio. "Cossack finds Mazepa"
In Ukraine, Mazepa served the hetmans of Doroshenko and Samoilovich, and in 1687 he himself received the hetman's mace. In one of his letters, Mazepa reports that during the 12 years of his hetmanism he made 11 summer and 12 winter campaigns in the interests of Russia. In Ukraine, Mazepa was not very popular precisely because of suspicions that he was “doing everything according to the will of Moscow,” and therefore, not relying too much on the loyalty of his environment and the Cossacks, the hetman was forced to keep as many as three regiments of serdyukov (mercenaries , whose salary was paid from the hetman's treasury).
Serdyuki in the picture of an unknown Polish artist of the late XVII century
He had an excellent relationship with Peter I, who gave him the city of Yanpol. In 1705, Mazepa rejected the proposals of Stanislav Leshchinsky, but later he nevertheless entered into correspondence, promising not to harm Stanislav and the Swedish troops in any way. He refused the Polish "protection" because of "natural antipathy" to the Poles of the entire population of Ukraine.
But in 1706, at a feast, the hoppy Menshikov in the presence of Cossack colonels, pointing to them, started a conversation with Mazepa about the need to eradicate the "internal" sedition. Peter I besieged him, but the impression of Menshikov’s words made the most unfavorable on everyone. In addition, rumors appeared that Alexander Danilych himself wanted to become a hetman - and Mazepa himself didn’t like it very much.
In addition, the hetman and Cossack foremen knew that Peter I was negotiating with Augustus and was ready to pay for the participation of Poland in the war against Karl by Ukrainian lands. Nobody in Ukraine wanted to be ruled by Poles Catholics and become second-class people again, and rich elders quite justifiably feared the redistribution of the lands they had already obtained. And there was a muffled murmur that the Russian tsar "gives the Poles not what he took ... they didn’t take us with a saber."
The Cossacks (people who would not feel like strangers and superfluous in either Port Royal or Tortug) were also worried: they were unhappy that the Moscow authorities were restricting their freedom to “follow zipuns”, and these “knights” work on land, unlike the Cossacks of the Don army, considered below their dignity.
Mazepa was not at all averse to becoming the "independent" ruler of Ukraine, but he led a double game, hoping that everything would be possible without his participation. Poland was already weakened and ravaged by the war, Russia, in case of defeat, would also not be up to it, and Sweden would be far away from King Charles and could bargain about the crown of the vassal king. And in the event of Peter's victory, he, in essence, does not lose anything: loyally will congratulate him on the success and join the winner. Therefore, having learned that Charles XII turned to Ukraine, Mazepa could not hide his fear:
“The devil brings him here! “I’ll turn all my interests around, the Great Russian forces will bring to Ukraine its last ruin and our destruction”.
Now Mazepa faced a difficult choice: he should either remain faithful to Russia and Peter, or finally take the path of direct and obvious treason, with all the ensuing consequences.
The military authority of the Swedish king was still high, and therefore Mazepa chose treason: he sent a letter to Charles XII in which he asked below “to protect himself, the Zaporizhzhya Army and all the people of liberation from the heavy yoke of Moscow”. But he shied away from active actions, pretending to be sick (even taking communion) and taking nothing more.
However, on October 23, Colonel Voinarovsky, who had fled from Menshikov, came to him and gave him some rumors (“one German officer spoke to another”) that Alexander Danilych was aware of the betrayal of the hetman and, tomorrow, he (Mazepa) “would be in shackles ". Here the hetman’s nerves could not stand it: he fled to Baturin, and from there - further, beyond the Desna. On October 29, Mazepa met with Charles XII. Only 4 thousand Cossacks followed (out of the promised 20 thousand), the rest were extremely hostile to the Swedes. Which, incidentally, was greatly facilitated by the Swedes themselves, with contempt for both the allied Untermens and the local population, who, as a rule, paid for food as follows: when they stopped in a village or town, they bought food, but when they left - the paid money was taken away, threatening to burn the house and even kill its inhabitants. Ukrainians did not like this behavior of “liberators from the Moscow yoke”.
Menshikov was then informed:
"Cherkasy (that is, Cossacks) gathered themselves together, go around and beat the Swedes eternally, and cut roads in the forests."
Gustav Adlerfeld, chamberlain of Charles XII, left such entries in his diary:
“On December 10, Colonel Funk, with 500 cavalry, was sent to punish and reason the peasants, who were uniting in detachments in various places. Funk killed more than a thousand people in the small town of Terey (Tereyskaya Sloboda) and burned this town, also burned Drygalov (Nedrygailovo). He also incinerated several hostile Cossack villages and ordered to kill everyone who met in order to inspire terror in others. "
“We were constantly in a fight with the inhabitants, which greatly upset the old Mazepa.”
“We were constantly in a fight with the inhabitants, which greatly upset the old Mazepa.”
On November 2, Baturin was captured by Menshikov’s troops, and, together with its walls, Karl’s hopes of seizing the warehouses located in this city collapsed. Mazepa, learning about the fall of his capital, said:
“I know now that God did not bless my intention.”
And when Colonel Burlyai surrendered the White Church with the Hetman treasury to D.M. Golitsyn without a fight, Mazepa finally fell into despair, cursing the Swedish king, too, and his decision to join him.
The attitude to Mazepa of the Cossacks who followed him is characterized by the following fact: in November 1708 Peter I received a letter from the Mirgorod colonel D. Apostol, who proposed to deliver the hetman to the king. He never received a response from Peter, but later left Mazepa and received forgiveness.
Unknown artist. Portrait of the Hetman of the Army of Zaporizhzhya Daniel the Apostle (second half of the 1th century). Hetman Daniel Apostle was chosen on October 1727, XNUMX
Colonel Apostle brought Mazepa's letter, which, in turn, turned to Peter with a proposal to extradite King Charles and his generals. These are the allies who met the Swedish king in Ukraine - the best for him were not found.
Mazepa’s proposal was very tempting, and Peter agreed to forgive him, but the hetman continued to play a double game: he also wrote a letter to Stanislav Leshchinsky, in which he urged him to come to Ukraine, calling it the "fatherland" (hereditary possession) of the Polish kings. He no longer thought of his comrades-in-arms, nor of the Cossacks, nor of the common people of Little Russia, the only thing he asked for was the preservation of property and the post of hetman. The Russian dragoons intercepted this letter from Mazepa, and Peter refused further negotiations with him.
Way to Poltava
Now the Russians and Swedes moved south in parallel courses. The Cossacks and Kalmyks who remained loyal to Russia in the steppes of Ukraine felt so confident that by November 16, 1708, Charles XII was left without adjutant generals: five were killed, one was captured. In one of the clashes with the Cossacks, "brother arms"Karla -" The Little Prince "Maximilian (it was described in the article Karl XII and his army).
On November 17, the Swedes occupied the town of Romny, and this unexpectedly caused gossip in the royal troops. The fact is that in the army of Charles XII, the prophecy that came from nowhere, that the king and his army would be invincible until they conquered Rome, had long been spread. The consonance of the names of the “Eternal City” and the insignificant Little Russian fortress made an unpleasant impression on the Swedish soldiers.
Winter that year throughout Europe was unusually severe (the Rhone and the canals of Venice froze), but the frost hit the Russians no less than their opponents: the Swedes themselves report that on the road to Lebedin they counted more than 2 thousand corpses of frozen Russians soldier. At the same time, Peter I, as they said, "saved people less than horses," and Charles XII - "did not save either one or the other." They say that in the city of Gadyach, only 28 Swedes froze overnight on December 4. In total, according to Swedish data, in December, a quarter to a third of soldiers received frostbite in their army. Hungry Caroliners demanded that Karl "bread or death."
In early January 1709, Karl led his army to the small fortress Veprik fortified only with a rampart, the garrison of which totaled about 1100 people.
Shakhovtsov A. “Fight of the Cossacks of the Kharkov regiment with the Swedes Veprikom”
The Swedish king, not expecting artillery approach, threw 4 regiments to storm, losing 1200 soldiers. Field Marshal Ronschild was then injured, from the consequences of which he did not fully recover. Reflecting 3 attacks, the garrison of the fortress left it.
Karl wrote to his sister Ulrike Eleanor:
“Everything is going very well here in the army, although the soldiers have to endure the difficulties always associated with the proximity of the enemy. In addition, winter was very cold; it seemed almost unusual, so many of the enemy’s and we froze or lost our legs, arms and noses ... But, to our pleasure, from time to time some entertainment fell to our lot, since the Swedish troops had small skirmishes with the enemy and inflicted blows to him. "
This "youth" had its price: at the beginning of the campaign, Charles XII had a 35-strong army, which was joined by the remains of the Levengaupt corps. Only 41 thousand people. In April 1709, he brought to Poltava only 30 thousand.
The siege of Poltava and the great battle of this city will be described in the next article.