Saturday, 25 April 2015

Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld

Field Marshal Rehnskiöld personally lead 
decisive cavalry charges in many of Charles XII's battles.

Our local wargaming club, Little Wars Stockholm, is participating in this year’s Lincon gaming convention in Linköping. We’re hosting a participation table with scenarios from the Battle of Holowczyn 1708 – one of the Swedish army’s finest victories, and one of the more interesting battles from The Great Northern War.

Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld.
1651 - 1722.

Holowczyn was fought between the Royal Swedish Army and the Tsar’s Russian Army under leadership of Prince Repnin, and was part of the Swedish ”march on Moscow”, that ended with a detour into Ukraine and the fateful defeat of the Swedish army at Poltava about a year after Holowczyn. 

But in 1708, things were still looking bright, and the young Charles XII was the dashing warrior king, admired by the courts of Europe and who’s courage was praised by Voltaire in his great work on the Swedish king. But, to become a successful warrior king, you need some good generals.

The Swedish victory at Narva 1700.

One of Sweden’s finest cavalry officers was Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld, who started his career under Charles XII’s father back in the 1670ies, during the Scanian War. Rehnskiöld was born into a noble family coming from Swedish Pomerania, and by the time of the Scanian War and the Battle of Lund in 1676, he held an officer’s rank with the Dowager Queen’s Cavalry Regiment.

I've used a cavalry officer from 
Warfare Miniatures range to depict the gallant Rehnskiöld.

The young Rehnskiöld showed great promise, leading several cavalry charges that broke the Danish formations. After Lund Rehnskiöld was endorsed for further promotion by Charles XI. In 1697 Charles XI died. Three years later in 1700, the Swedish Empire, now ruled by his son the only 18 years old King Charles XII, would find itself encircled by an alliance of Denmark, Russia and Poland-Saxony, bent on attacking and dividing the Swedish territories, now that the country was run by a young and weak king – or so they thought. 

Swedish cavalry and infantry resting while on their 
non-stop campaigns from 1700 - 1721.
Painting by Cederström.

War was declared and time had come for the great struggle for power in the North. The Swedish army, arguably one of Europe’s finest at that time, faced the united forces of Russia, Denmark and Poland-Saxony. At his side Charles XII had the now experienced Rehnskiöld, who would become the king’s favored general, and in many ways his teacher in the art of war.

With Rehnskiöld often leading charges in person, 
this miniature had the look and animation I was searching for.

Rehnskiöld would prove a rock of determination and experience in battles such as, Narva, Fraustadt and Holowczyn. In the latter battle, Rehnskiöld –now almost 60 years old, would personally lead the Swedish cavalry in a dashing charge through the Russian camp, to fight off arriving Russian reinforcements. This timely action by Rehnskiöld and the valiant King’s cavalry guard – Drabanterna – could be credited for the happy outcome at Holowczyn. 

Tracing the long campaign of Charles XII 
from Narva to his ominous defeat at Poltava.

However, the old and experienced Rehnskiöld would finally succumb to pressure during the battle of Poltava, where he –with the King wounded – had effective overall command. In the pre-battle march-up things got tangled. Confusion and unclear orders resulted in losing the advantage of surprise, which would prove too costly during the ensuing battle. 

Charles XII fought in the front line, and was wounded on more than one occasion.
At Poltava he would be carried around the battlefield on a stretcher by guardsmen.

With the historically almost invincible Swedish army beaten at Poltava, and the dark blue “karoliners” broken and in full retreat, Rehnskiöld turned his horse around and rode back into the thick of the fight. Perhaps the old warrior was seeking a honorable death in this time of epic defeat. The result was captivity in Russia, where he was held from 1709 until 1718.

Example of a Swedish cavalryman of the Karoliner period.
The breast plate was unusual and only found in a few elite units.

Returning to Sweden in 1718, he loyally followed Charles XII on his last and fateful campaign against Danish ruled Norway. Rehnskiöld eventually died in 1722, 70 years old.

Thank you very much for reading!

21 comments:

  1. Great looking character, Soren. You captured his appearance very well. These cavalry charges must've been quite spectacular.

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    1. Cheers Dean - yeah, the Swedish cavalry doctrine was somewhat of a 18th century Blitzkrieg in its own right. Units riding small but muscular horses would form echelons and simply plow into enemy formation. That tended to have a disheartening effect on the moral of most enemy units:0)

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  2. As usual in your complete and excellent posts, a great history lesson (you could not do less with a 70 years intense life...) , love your illustration choices, the historical background and the miniature of course!

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    1. Thank you very kindly Phil - and yes, this man had quite a career participating in both the Scanian and Great Northern War. Happy you liked the accompanying artwork - that period painter Cederström is really amazing. Much of his work can be found here in Stockholm in the Nation Museum. You could call him the "Detaille" of Sweden :0)

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    1. Thank you very much Tony, glad you enjoyed the little write up! More GNW to come

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  4. Another fine history lesson, Soren!

    You nailed the color of the FM's buffcoat precisely to the portrait. What color(s) did you use to render the buffcoat?

    As always, excellent brushwork!

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    1. Cheers Jonathan, your kind words are appreciated as always. The coat is based with Vallejo 913 Yellow Ocre, which is then washed down with GW Gryphonne Sepia (which works very well on yellow, gold or brass - a bit more orange than brown compared to the standard mid-tone washes). Highlighting is done with a light tan color mixed with a bit of the 913.

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  5. Looking great! I have finished my first 6 miniatures for the Lifeguard Battalion. The miniatures are very good and easy to paint. I am happy with the way they are coming out. I will prep the next six which will also be primarily musketeers. Next week, probably on May Day I will start on the center stand with at least 5 pike men! I have ordered the bases from Warbases and I am just waiting to get them in to start basing the figures I have done. Do you have a figure for the King yet?

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    1. Thanks Mark - I'm working on the Russians now so we can get some valiant opponents to all the Swedes spawned at the club right now. Looking forward to seeing your Guards unit with colors flying and drummer playing. Gå På! From What I've heard there will be a version of Charles XII in the Warfare range, but for Lincon Jesper is cooking up a nice C-in-C stand customized for the front line attack the king performed at Holowzcyn.

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    1. Thanks - It great fun to finally dive into the period of quintessential Swedish military history. Having read so many books on these characters, it was a little bit daunting to actually sit down and try to portray one in a miniature. Happy you liked the outcome!

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  7. Stunning painting and more exellent swedish history!

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    1. Cheers buddy, thanks for dropping by though I know you guys are probably busy at Salute. I hope you had a great show, with a deservedly high number of guests at your amazing Medieval Stockholm table!

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  8. Fantastic eye candy from your talented brushes again! Well done on the horse in particular.

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    1. Thanks M, appreciate the comment! Well, horses are fast becoming a life style here, as my 4 year old daughter is seriously trying to brainwash me with My Little Pony cartoons looping on the screen at home. Soon I'm taking on Fall Blau and Wintersturm in 15mm, so the horses will be exchanged for some Panzers, which will be a welcome shift:0)

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  9. Superb painting and background info yet again!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks fro dropping by for a read and a comment, Christopher. Really appreciate it!

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  10. Suitably impressive painting for this gentleman I believe. :)

    Top-notch work!

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    1. Thanks Jonas, appreciate it! I've got Repnin's grenadiers on the painting desk now, so the GNW project is broadening. We've got some good games with familiar names like Narva, Fraustadt and Poltava in front of us!

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  11. Not only do I adore your brushwork, your historical background has me looking around for a deeper dive on this. So, thanks for that!

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