Peter the Great’s Disastrous Defeat – The Swedish Victory at Narva, 1700

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The Battle of Narva, in which Charles XII of Sweden defeated Peter the Great of Russia, occurred during the Great Northern War. Peter the Great’s Disastrous Defeat describes the campaign, presents new research on the battle, details the opposing Swedish and Russian armies, and explains the continued development of the Swedish army.

Swedish military might and regional power had expanded immensely during the seventeenth century. A series of successful conquests had transformed the little northern kingdom of Sweden into a regional great power centred on the Baltic Sea. By the end of the century, the accession to the Swedish throne of Charles XII, a mere youngster without known military experience, convinced the neighbouring monarchs that it finally was payback time. In 1699, King Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway, King Augustus II of Saxony and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Tsar Peter I of Russia formed a triple alliance against Sweden. The three monarchs wanted to reconquer lands lost to Sweden during its expansion. King Frederick wished to regain the lost Scanian provinces and Holstein-Gottorp. King Augustus coveted Swedish Livonia, while Tsar Peter desired the ports on the eastern Baltic shore. Soon, Tsar Peter of Russia declared war and attacked Swedish Ingria in the Gulf of Finland. A large Russian army laid siege to the vital port of Narva in modern-day Estonia.

Having already successfully invaded Denmark and forced King Frederick of Denmark and Norway to withdraw from the war, King Charles turned his attention to the eastern front and Russia. After a long and arduous march, the Swedish army arrived on the outskirts of Narva in late November 1700. The Swedish King ordered his men immediately to attack the Russian fortified defence lines. With the help of a blizzard and with the wind at their back, the Swedes attacked and broke through the Russian defences. Panicking, the Russians fled and ultimately surrendered to King Charles. It was a crushing defeat. Tsar Peter lost the entire army, including most senior commanders who fell into captivity, too. The battle had the immediate effect of the Russians evacuating the whole of Ingria.

In Peter the Great’s Disastrous Defeat, Michael Fredholm von Essen describes the events and tactics that led up to and resulted in the Swedish victory at Narva, presents new research on both the siege and battle and explains the continued development of the Swedish army under King Charles XII.

Praise for Michael Fredholm von Essen’s previous books:

The Lion from the North: “…An excellent read and a valuable reference.” IPMS/USA

Charles XI’s War: “…lucid, concise, informative comprehensive and readable.” Battlefield Magazine

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