In the previous article ("Charles XII and his army") we talked about the events that preceded the Battle of Poltava: the movement of the Swedish troops to Poltava, the betrayal of the hetman Mazepa and the state of the Swedish army on the eve of the battle. Now it's time to talk about the siege of Poltava and the battle itself, which forever changed history Sweden and our country.
Siege by the Swedes of Poltava
We remember that the losses of the Swedish army by that time were already so great that the king sent letters to Poland with orders to General Krassau and Stanislav Leschinsky to lead his troops to Ukraine. At the disposal of Poltava, Charles XII had about 30 thousand people. The Swedes settled as follows: the king, his headquarters, the Drabants and the guard occupied the Yakovetsky Monastery (east of Poltava). To the west of the city was infantry. The cavalry units that did not take part in the siege and assault were located even to the west - about 4 versts. And south of Poltava, a convoy was located, which was guarded by two dragoon regiments.
In the garrison of Poltava, headed by A. S. Kelin, there were 4182 soldiers, artillerymen with 28 guns and 2600 militias from the townspeople.
Map of Poltava at the beginning of the XNUMXth century
Poltava, a monument to the defenders of the city and the commandant of the fortress A. S. Kelin, was opened in 1909.
There wasn’t much sense in the siege of this town, but Karl said that “when the Russians see that we seriously want to attack, they will surrender at the first shot at the city”.
Even the generals of Karl did not believe that the Russians would be so kind. Renscheld then said: "The king wants, until the Poles come, to have fun."
The further course of events was determined by the famous stubbornness of Karl, who did not want to leave Poltava until he took it.
Batov A. Swedes storming Poltava, modern illustration
The Russians also insulted the Swedish king when a dead cat thrown by someone from the townspeople fell into his shoulder. Now Karl was tightly “attached” to such a disrespectful city.
“If even the Lord God sent his angel from heaven with a command to retreat from Poltava, I would still stay here”
- said the king to the head of his field office, Karl Pieper.
Karl Pieper. Copy of D. Kokk from a picture of D. K. Ehrenstral
Defenders of Poltava, in turn, killed a man who offered to surrender the city.
The exasperation of the Swedes came to the point that they, in front of the defenders of the city, alive burned two captured Russian soldiers.
The defeat of the Chertomlytsky Sich and the subsequent fate of the Cossacks
Meanwhile, in May 1709, a detachment of Colonel Yakovlev, in order to avenge the Cossacks for treason, captured and ruined the Chertomlytskaya Sich (at the confluence of the right tributary Chertomlyk into the Dnieper).
Zaporizhzhya Sich in different years, map
This "pirate republic" rose like a phoenix from the ashes at the mouth of the Kamenka river (Kherson region), and was again defeated in 1711. However, the Cossacks survived until June 1775, when the last, eighth in a row, Pidpilnyanskaya Sich was liquidated by order of Catherine II.
The Cossacks were divided into two parts. Outcasts incapable of peaceful labor and scumbags went to the territory of the Ottoman Empire, establishing the Trans-Danube Sich. Under an agreement with the Sultan, they sent 5 Cossacks to his army, who calmly and without the slightest remorse fought against the Orthodox - Russians, Ukrainians and Greeks. After 53 years, some of the Transdanubian Cossacks returned to Russia, received forgiveness and settled in the historical region of Novorossia near Mariupol, forming the Azov Cossack army. Of the remaining, the “Slavic Legion” was organized, which the sultans did not use in the wars against Russia, fearing that these Cossacks would go over to the Russians.
And the most adequate Cossacks in 1787 entered the sovereign service as part of the Black Sea Cossack army.
On June 30, 1792 he was granted “for eternal possession ... in the region of Taurida, the island of Fanagoria with all the land lying on the right side of the Kuban river from its mouth to the Ust-Labinsk redoubt - so that on one side the Kuban river, on the other, the Sea of Azov to Yeisk town served as the border of the military land. "
Land of the Kuban (formerly Black Sea) Cossacks
In addition to the “real” Cossack-Sechoviks, immigrants from Little Russia, “zholnera” who left the Polish service, “treasury departments”, people of the “peasant rank” from different Russian provinces and people of “unknown rank” came to Kuban with them. (apparently runaway and deserters). There were also a number of Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, Greeks, Lithuanians, Tatars, and even Germans. The adopted son of one of the Kuban Cossacks, Pole P. Burnos, wrote:
“Vasil Korneevich Burnos is a Pole, I am a Circassian, Starovelichkovsky Burnos is a Jew.”
And all of them were now Kuban Cossacks. And in Ukraine since then, the Cossacks remained only in songs and fairy tales.
Charles XII Wound
For the Swedes, the situation in 1709 worsened every day.
At that moment, Gabriel Golovkin came to Karl as ambassador to Peter, who brought a peace offer in exchange for recognizing the Russian conquests in the Baltic states and refusing to intervene in Polish affairs. The king refused. And on the night of June 16-17, he received his famous heel wound.
According to one version, the king went to inspect the Russian camp, and, seeing two Cossacks sitting by the fire, shot one of them, receiving a bullet from the second.
“To blame the Cossack today / And exchange a wound for a wound,” - says Mazepa in the poem by A. Pushkin “Poltava” about this incident.
According to another version, when he saw a Russian detachment crossing the river, he assembled the first soldiers he came across and entered the battle, forcing the enemy to retreat, but was wounded when he was about to leave.
It is unclear why, he did not allow the doctor to immediately remove the bullet - at first he went around to check the Swedish guards. As a result, the wound inflamed and the leg swelled so that they could not remove the boots from it - had to be cut.
Figurine “Dressing the legs of Karl XII after being wounded”. In fact, Karl was injured in his left leg.
Peter I at Poltava
What did Peter do at that time?
Henri Frederic Schopin. Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia
At the beginning of the campaign, Peter I had at his disposal an army of more than 100 thousand people. Its main part of 83 thousand people was under the command of Field Marshal Sheremetev. In Ingermanland there was the corps of General Bour - 24 thousand people. In addition, in Poland, the Russian ally was the crown hetman Senyavsky, whose army was about 15 thousand cavalrymen.
The tsar arrived in Poltava on April 26 and, having settled down on the opposite bank of the Vorskla (north of the Yakovetsky Monastery), until June 20 he collected regiments gradually approaching the site of the future great battle. As a result, the Swedish army was surrounded: in the south was the heroic Poltava, in the north - the camp of Peter I, in which 42 combat soldiers and officers were before the battle, Russian cavalry generals Bour and Genskin acted in the east and west.
Military Council of Charles XII
But why did he stand at Poltava without engaging in battle with the Russians Karl? He, in turn, was expecting the Krassau corps, which was in Poland, the army of Leshchinsky and the Crimean Tatars, negotiations with which were conducted through the mediation of Mazepa. In a hurry to get rid of the rebellious city, on the eve of the general battle, he again sent his troops to storm: twice the Swedes tried to take Poltava on June 21, and on the 22nd they managed to climb the walls, but this time they were thrown off them.
On June 26, a military council gathered at Karl, at which the commander of the Dalekarli regiment, Sigroth, declared that his soldiers were in a state of depression. For two days now they have not received bread, and horses have been fed leaves from trees. Due to the lack of ammunition, bullets have to be poured from re-molded officer services or Russian cores are used for these purposes. And the Cossacks are ready to rebel at any moment. Field Marshal Ronschild supported him, saying that the army was decaying in front of his eyes, and that there were only one big battle for cores, bullets and gunpowder.
Karl, who didn’t understand why he was delaying the battle with the Russians, although time was clearly not on his side, finally gave the order “to attack the Russians tomorrow”, reassuring his generals with the words: “we will find everything we need in the reserves of the Muscovites”.
We add, perhaps, that Charles XII still could not walk due to a wound to the heel, and inflammation due to untimely treatment of the wound caused fever. Field Marshal Karl Gustav Rönschild, who was to be commander in chief of the upcoming battle, could not heal the wound received during the storming of the town of Veprik. And General Levengaupt, appointed to command the infantry, suffered from diarrhea. After the meeting, this “invalid team” began to prepare its army for a general battle.
Swedish army on the eve of the battle
At that time, about 24 thousand people were ready for battle in the Swedish army - not counting the Cossacks, whom the Swedes did not trust, and who did not rely on too much.
"Cossack". Illustration from the book of Sementovsky N. Starin Little Russian, Zaporozhye and Don. SPb., 1846
Further events showed that they appreciated the Cossacks and their desire to fight correctly. The Swedish lieutenant Veye described their participation in the Battle of Poltava as follows:
“As for the Cossacks of the hetman Mazepa, I don’t think that more than three of them died during the whole battle, because while we were fighting, they were in the rear, and when they happened to run away, they were far ahead.”
There were 2250 people injured and sick in the Swedish army. In addition, the army consisted of about 1100 officials of the chancellery, about 4000 grooms, orderlies and workers, as well as 1700 strangers in general — wives and children of soldiers and officers.
And the number of combatant Russian troops at that time reached 42 thousand people.
Nevertheless, the Swedes were supposed to advance in the upcoming battle, because, as was shown in the previous article, their army was rapidly weakening and degraded, and it was already impossible to delay the battle.
They had to step along the field between the Budishchensky and Yakovetsky forests (two to three miles wide), on which, according to the order of Peter I, 10 redoubts were built: these were quadrangular defensive fortifications with ramparts and ditches surrounded by slingshots, the length of one redoubt face was from 50 to 70 meters.
Thus, the battle inevitably fell into two parts: a breakthrough through the redoubts, and a battle before the redoubts (or an assault on the Russian camp, if the Russians did not accept an open battle and hide in it).
The layout depicting the battlefield of Poltava. Poltava, Museum of the Battle of Poltava
Poltava Battle Field, restored redoubt
On the morning of June 26, the non-commissioned officer of the Semyonovsky regiment Schulz fled to the Swedes, so it was decided to dress the soldiers of the exemplary Novgorod regiment in the uniforms of recruits.
At 27 a.m. on June 8200, 4 Swedish infantrymen, assembled in 4 columns, began to take up their positions. They were given only 28 guns, while 109 guns with a sufficient number of charges remained in the train. 7800 cavalry squadrons and drabants (with a total number of 3 men) advanced even earlier. They were supposed to support 8 thousand Cossacks. Other Cossacks, along with Mazepa, remained with the wagon train. And on the Russian side, in the battle of Poltava, XNUMX Cossacks fought.
Karl, lying on a stretcher made for him, was on the right flank of his troops.
Charles XII before the Battle of Poltava
It was brought by the Drabant and guards, allocated for protection, here the stretcher was fixed between the two horses, officers of the retinue stood nearby.
A fragment of an engraving depicting a stretcher of Charles XII
Battle of Poltava
At sunrise, the Swedish infantry moved forward - and came under the artillery strike of the guns of Russian redoubts (a total of 102 guns were installed on them). The power of Russian artillery fire was such that the cores reached the place where the Swedish king was, one of them killed three drabants and several guards of Charles XII, as well as a horse carrying the king’s stretcher, and the second broke the drawbar of this stretcher.
The Swedish commanders did not understand the carelessly composed disposition. Some battalions marched in battle order and stormed the redoubts, others marched in marching order, and going around them, they moved on. The commanders of the columns could not find the companies that had gone ahead, and did not understand where they were disappearing.
Cavalry units followed the infantry.
Nerke-Vermanland Regiment near Poltava, book illustration
The first redoubt was captured by the Swedes almost immediately, the second - with difficulty and with heavy losses, and then confusion began.
Poltava field, battle at the redoubts, layout
The soldiers of the Dalekarli regiment, who were delayed by storming the second Russian redoubt, lost sight of other Swedish units. The commander of the column, Major General Karl Gustav Roos and the colonel of this regiment Sigroth led him forward at random and stumbled upon a third redoubt, where they met with the battalions of Nerke, Jonkoping and the two battalions of the Westerbotten regiment that had unsuccessfully attacked him. Having united, the Swedes again went on the assault, but since they did not have stairs and other necessary equipment, they suffered terrible losses (1100 people were killed, including 17 captains out of 21, Colonel Sigroth was wounded), and were forced to retreat to the outskirts of Yakovetsky forests, finally losing touch with the rest of the Swedish army.
Fight at the redoubt. Reconstruction of the Poltava battle
Roos sent scouts in all directions, who were supposed to find the "missing" Swedish army, and far ahead, Field Marshal Rönschild unsuccessfully searched for these formations.
And the Swedes who had advanced ahead were met by the Menshikov cavalrymen.
Yu. Kashtanov. Cavalry Commander Alexander Menshikov
Swedish dragoons and drabants rushed to the aid of their infantry, but because of the tightness they could not line up in a battle line and were repelled. Inspired by the success, Menshikov ignored the two orders of Peter I, urging him to leave the line of redoubts, and when he nevertheless began to retreat, the Swedish cavalrymen who were rebuilding, drove his detachment north - past the Russian camp, under the protection of which he did not manage to bring his subordinates. And they drove the Russian cavalry directly into the ravine, in which all of it was supposed to die - if Ronchild did not order his cavalry to turn back. Firstly, he simply did not know about this ravine, very terrible for the Russians, and secondly, he was afraid of the environment of his infantry units, which were now between the redoubts and the Russian camp. Moreover, Rönschild forbade Levengaupt immediately attack the Russian camp, ordering him to move to the Budischensky forest - to join with the cavalry units.
Löwenhaupt later claimed that the battalions of the Uppland and Ostergetland regiments each took a redoubt in the transverse line, the Russians were already starting to withdraw and point the pontoons through Vorskla, and Rönschild, by his order, deprived the Swedes of their only chance of victory. But Russian sources deny the capture of these redoubts by the Swedes. Peter not only did not want to retreat, but, on the contrary, was very afraid of the Swedes' retreat, and therefore, in order not to frighten the enemy with the size of his army, he decided to leave 6 regiments, Cossacks of Skoropadsky and Kalmyks of Ayuka, in the camp, three more battalions were sent to them Poltava.
One way or another, the battle died down for about three hours. Hiding from the Russian artillery in a hollow near the Budishchensky forest, Rönschild waited for his cavalry to return to the infantry units, and tried to find out the fate of the “lost” battalions of the Roos column, Peter put the cavalry in order and prepared his regiments for a general battle.
Charles XII was also brought to the parts of Ronschild. Accepting congratulations on the successful completion of the first stage of the battle, the king asked the field marshal if the Russians went beyond the boundaries of his camp for the battle, to which the field marshal replied:
“Russians cannot be so impudent.”
At this moment, the commander of the Cossack regiment, who was fighting on the side of the Russians, having decided that the battle was lost, turned to the "Little Prince" Maximilian with a proposal to switch to the Swedish side. The Württemberg Duke replied that he could not make a decision on his own, and that he had no opportunity to contact the king - and thereby saved both this fool and coward, and his subordinates.
And Rönschild finally discovered the missing Dalekarli regiment and sent General Sparre to help him. But the Russian regiments, led by Renzel, were ahead of him, who, on the way, stumbled on Schlippenbach's stray detachment and captured this general. Then they defeated the battalions of Roos, which broke with a part of the soldiers to the so-called "guard trench" on the banks of the Vorskla, but when he saw Russian guns in front of him, he was forced to surrender.
Sparre told Rönschild that “there is no need to think more about Roos,” because if he “cannot protect himself from the Russians with his six battalions, then let him go to hell and do what he wants.”
And at the same time, Rönschild received a message that the “impudence” of the Russians exceeded all his expectations - they were leaving their camp. It was 9 a.m., and the battle, as it turned out, was just beginning. Russian troops were commanded by Field Marshal Sheremetev, Peter I took over one of the divisions of the second line.
Portrait of Count B.P. Sheremetev, engraving by an unknown German master, circa 1710
Peter the Great. Engraving
The Russian infantry was built in two lines, the first of which was 24 battalions, the second - 18, total - 22 thousand people.
Viskovatov V.V. Pikiner of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, from 1700 to 1720
In between the infantry units, 55 cannons were deployed.
The Swedes could now oppose the Russians with only 10 battalions (4 thousand people) and 4 guns. Two more battalions sent to help Roos did not have time to return.
Bour's cavalrymen (45 squadrons) stood on the right flank of the Russian army, and Menshikov, who returned, was located at the head of 12 squadrons.
Viskovatov V.V. Fuselier of the Dragoon Regiment, from 1700 to 1720
But the Swedish cavalry did not have enough space to stand on the flanks: it was located behind the infantry battalions.
Lowenhaupt recalled that from the picture he had seen, "his heart sank, as if from a stab":
“These, so to speak, foolish and unfortunate rams going to slaughter, I had to lead against all enemy infantry ... It was beyond human imagination to imagine that even one soul out of all our unprotected infantry would come out,”He wrote later.
And even civilian Piper said then:
"The Lord must work a miracle so that we can get out this time too."
Sometimes you hear: the Russians were very lucky that Charles XII could not command his army in the Battle of Poltava due to wounds. I hope you now understand that if anyone was lucky that day, it was Charles XII. Being healthy, the king would certainly climb forward with his drabants, be surrounded and either die or be captivated by some brave seedling or preobrazhenets - like Renschild, the “Little Prince” Maximilian of Württemberg, Karl Pieper and others. And the Northern War would end much earlier.
Back to the battlefield. The weak and small Swedish battalions, having already suffered heavy losses, moved to the strong positions of the Russians almost without artillery support. The soldiers, accustomed to obeying their commanders, did what they were taught. And many of their commanders no longer believed in success, two people kept their coolness and inexplicable calm - Rönschild and Karl, who this time completely relied on his field marshal. Even in this difficult situation, they did not begin to invent anything new, the tactics were ordinary: it was decided to crush the Russians with a bayonet strike.
The bayonets were relatively new at the time. weapons: they replaced baguettes (bayonets), which first appeared on the arsenal of the French army in 1647 (and in the Russian army only in 1694). The bayonets differed from baguettes in that they were mounted on the barrel (rather than inserted into the barrel of a musket) without interfering with firing, and the French also began to use them first - in 1689 the Swedish guard received bayonets (about 50 cm long) in 1696. - even before the accession to the throne of Charles XII. The soldiers of the rest of the army, they appeared in 1700. And Russian troops began to switch from baguette to bayonet in 1702.
So, according to the recollections of the participants in the battle, the Swedes moved against the superior forces of the Russians and attacked with an “unprecedented fury”. The Russians responded with volleys of cannons, firing 1471 shots (a third with buckshot).
A. Semenov and A. Sokolov. "Artillery in the Battle of Poltava"
The losses of the attackers were huge, but, following their traditional tactics, they went forward. As soon as they came close to the Russian ranks, the Swedes fired a volley of muskets, but the gunpowder became damp, and the sound of these shots was compared by a pair of gloves to the weak clap of his palm.
The bayonet strike of the caroliners on the right flank nearly knocked over the Novgorod regiment, which had lost 15 guns. The first battalion of this regiment was almost completely destroyed, in order to restore the broken line, Peter I had to personally lead the second battalion, it was at this time that the Swedish bullet pierced his hat, and the other hit the saddle of his beloved Lysette horse.
Louis Caravac. Peter I in the Battle of Poltava
The battalions of the Moscow, Kazan, Pskov, Siberian and Butyr regiments also moved back. For the Swedes, this was the only, albeit small, chance of victory, and the moment could be decisive in the whole battle, but the Russian battalions of the second line resisted and did not run.
A fragment of the drama “Poltava battle” (Performed by artists of the studio named after N. Grekov)
Battle of Poltava, frame from the film "Servant of the Sovereigns"
Now, according to the military regulations of the Swedes, the cavalry had to deliver a massive blow to the retreating units of the enemy, overturning them and taking to flight, but she was late. When Kreutz’s squadrons nevertheless approached, the Russians, lined up in a square, repulsed their attack, and then they were pushed back by Menshikov’s dragoons. And at that time the Swedes did not even have time to engage in battle on the left flank, and a gap now formed between the flanks, into which, at any moment, the Russian units could wedge. Here stood the regiments of the guards brigade: Semenovsky, Preobrazhensky, Ingermanlandsky and Astrakhan. It was their blow that became decisive in this battle: they overthrew the battalions of the left flank and the cavalrymen of General Hamilton (who was captured). Soon the right-flank Swedish battalions faltered and rolled back. The retreating Swedes were caught between the Russian units attacking them from the north and east, the Budishchensky forest in the west and their own cavalry units, which were in the south. The official Russian report says that the Swedes were beaten "like cattle." The losses of the Swedish army were horrific: in the Upland regiment of 700 people survived 14, in the Scaraborg battalion - 40 out of 500.
The scheme of the Poltava battle
"Battle of Poltava", German engraving of the XVIII century
Charles XII was not captured only by a miracle: the Russians did not know that the king himself was part of one of the units, and therefore, having received a rebuff, they lost interest in him - they retreated, choosing lighter prey, which was plentiful around. But the cannonball smashed the king's stretcher, killing the front horse and several people from his retinue. Karl was mounted on the horse of one of the guards - and almost immediately another nucleus tore off the stallion's leg. The king was found a new horse, and the bullets continued to literally mow down the people standing around him. At that moment 20 drabants, about 80 guardsmen of the North-Skonsky regiment, one of the doctors and several courtiers of Karl, including his chamberlain and historian Gustaf Adlerfelt, died.
“Charles XII on the Battle of Poltava”, a drawing by an unknown artist
In the second hour of the afternoon, Karl and his retinue made it to the convoy of his army, which was defended by three cavalry and four dragoon regiments, there was almost all artillery (only 4 guns were used in the Battle of Poltava!) And a large number of Cossacks. These Cossacks "participated" in the battle, giving two volleys of muskets for the detachment of Charles XII, which they mistook for the advancing Russian troops.
Chaplain Agrell later claimed that if the Russians had then struck the wagon train, not a single Swede “would have been able to carry away his legs.” But Peter had already begun to celebrate the victory, and did not give orders to pursue the enemy. The prisoners Rönschild, Schlippenbach, Stackelberg, Roos, Hamilton and Maximilian Württemberg at that time handed him their swords. Peter I said cheerfully:
“Yesterday, my brother, King Karl, asked you to sit in my tents for lunch, and you, as promised, arrived in my tents, and my brother Karl didn’t grant me a tent with you, which he didn’t keep his password in. I very much expected him and sincerely wished for him to dine in my tents, but when His Majesty did not deign to visit me for dinner, I ask you to have dinner in my tents. ”
Then he returned the weapons to them.
Peter I after the Poltava victory returns swords to captured Swedish generals
And shots still sounded on the battlefield, and the Swedes continued to fight at the besieged Poltava. Unaffected by the general panic, they held out until they received orders from Charles XII, who ordered them to join the wagon train, connecting with 200 guards located three miles to the south.
This mistake of Peter, apparently, was explained by the euphoria that engulfed him. The result, indeed, exceeded all expectations, the victory was decisive and unprecedented, all the Swedish guns participating in the battle (in the amount of 4 pieces), 137 banners, the royal archive and 2 million golden Saxon thalers were captured.
Eugene Lansere. Peter I inspects trophies of Russian troops taken during the Poltava battle from the Swedes
Medal "For the Poltava battle"
The Swedes lost 6900 people killed (including 300 officers), 2800 soldiers and officers were captured, one field marshal and 4 generals. The number of injured, various researchers estimate from 1500 to 2800 people. The total losses of the Swedish army (killed and captured) reached 57%.
Monument to the Swedes who fell in the Battle of Poltava from compatriots
In addition, several hundred Cossacks, who were executed for treason, were captured. Two defectors, Mühlenfeld and Schulz, were also captured: they were put on a stake.
Swedish prisoners were led between the Cossacks and Kalmyks from those who did not take part in the battle. The Swedes were especially impressed by the Kalmyks, who in every possible way demonstrated their ferocity: they gnashed their teeth and gnawed at their fingers. There were even rumors that the Russians brought some kind of Asian cannibal tribe with them, and many then probably regretted that they had ended up in Russia, but were glad that they had not met the "cannibals" on the battlefield.
Jean-Baptiste Le Prince. Kalmyk, engraving of the XVIII century
And in Moscow, the captured Swedes were carried out through the streets for three days.
The Russians lost 1345 people killed (almost 5 times less than the Swedes) and 3920 wounded.
Monument on the mass grave of Russian soldiers. Poltava
Monument to Peter I in Poltava
The following articles will describe the surrender of the Swedish army at Perevolnaya, the fate of the captured Swedes and the further course of the Northern War.