Battle of Storkyro

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Battle of Storkyro
Part of Great Northern War
Date February 19, 1714 (O.S.)
March 2, 1714 (N.S.)
Location Napo village, Isokyrö (Storkyro), Ostrobothnia, Finland, Swedish Empire
Result Decisive Russian victory
Belligerents
Sweden Swedish Empire Russia Tsardom of Russia
Commanders and leaders
Carl Gustaf Armfeldt Mikhail Golitsyn
Strength
4,500[1] approx. 9,000[1] 9 guns
Casualties and losses
1,600 killed and 900 wounded or captured[1][2] At least 400 killed and about 1,500 wounded[1][2]

The Battle of Storkyro was fought on February 19, 1714 (O.S.) / March 2, 1714 (N.S.) near the village of Napo (Finnish: Napue) in Storkyro parish (Finnish: Isokyrö), Ostrobothnia, Swedish Empire (present day Finland) between a Swedish and a Russian army, as part of the Great Northern War.

The Swedish force, consisting almost entirely[1] of Finnish troops, was destroyed by the numerically superior Russian force. As a result, all of Finland сame under Russian military occupation for the rest of the war, a period of hardship known in Finland as the Greater Wrath.

Prelude[edit]

By 1703 Russian forces had reached the inner parts of the Gulf of Finland, and founded the city of Saint Petersburg. Since the Swedish main army was engaged in Poland and later in Russia, Sweden was hard pressed to defend its Baltic territories. After the battle of Poltava, Russia took all of Livonia, Estonia and Ingria, as well as the counties of Viborg, Savonlinna and Kexholm.

When Charles XII of Sweden refused to enter peace negotiations, Denmark and Russia drew up plans with the purpose to threaten Stockholm. Two attack routes were considered: one through southern Sweden and the other through Finland and the Åland islands. The southern attack was deemed more important, but the attack on Finland was to be carried out in order to tie down as much of the remaining Swedish army as possible there. However, the attack from the south was successfully fended off by Magnus Stenbock's victory at Helsingborg in 1710.

The Russian attack on Finland never developed as planned. Since Peter the Great was engaged in a war against Turkey, the resulting lack of soldiers forced him to postpone the conquest of Åbo. Initial Russian actions in Finland consisted of raids and reconnaissance operations, with the purpose of occupying southeastern Finland and devastating it in order to deny Swedish forces a base of operations against the Russian-controlled areas around Saint Petersburg.

Significant Russian military action in Finland began in 1713, after logistical problems caused the failure of an initial foray the previous year. Already in May, Peter and his galley fleet were seen off Helsingfors, and during the summer all of southern Finland was occupied by Russian troops. The Swedish forces under general Georg Henrik Lybecker retreated inland. Before returning to Russia, Peter commanded Fyodor Apraksin, the commander of the Imperial Navy to attack the Swedish army during the winter.

General Carl Gustaf Armfeldt was given command over the troops in Finland in August 1713. He faced a hopeless task; Lybecker had left him with a neglected, starving, destitute army. Reconnaissance wasn't possible because the cavalry was too worn out to carry out its duties. When the Russian general, Mikhail Golitsyn, marched into Ostrobothnia in the beginning of February 1714, Armfeldt placed his forces in a defensive position by the village of Napo, east of Vasa. A council of war was held on 16 February, where Armfeldt was determined to commit to stay and give battle. A fatalist air hung over the Swedish army - weakened from the ravages of winter, a superior army was approaching, and all hopes of reinforcements were gone.

The battle[edit]

The Russians approached Napo from the east, initially along the frozen Kyrö River. When they were in sight, but out of gunfire reach of the Swedish forces, the right wing of the cavalry and the infantry veered north. Instead of forming up parallel to the Swedish forces, Golitsyn intended to attack the Swedish left flank. Either through promise of payment or force, Goltisyn had a farmer lead the Russian army through the frozen marshy forest north of the river. In this way, the Russian army obtained a very advantageous initial position to attack the Swedish left.

The Russian movements were observed by Armfeldt and his officers. Cossacks and dragoons arrived in the morning, while the main force deployed in the afternoon. As the battle would break out in any moment, Armfeldt rode along the Swedish line and exhorted his soldiers to fight for king and country. How this was received by the doomed troops is unknown, but Armfeldt's own account states that they soldiers "showed incredible bravery, and loyalty unto death, and on their knees and with streaming eyes asked God for help."

Armfelt realized something was amiss when only a small cavalry force continued approaching along the frozen river, while the rest of the enemy force disappeared to the north. Realizing too late the implications of this, he commanded the Swedish line to redeploy northwards to better respond to the threat. He then ordered a pre-emptive attack. The Swedish right wing had initially great successes, mauling the Russian left with grapeshot, while the infantry fired their single volley and then threw themselves at the enemy in a bayonet charge. The Russian left flank hadn't fully arrayed itself and was disordered at the time of the Swedish attack. However, despite the initial Swedish success, the Russian position was stabilized thanks in great part to its numerical superiority.

The Russian right flank was better organized and repelled the Swedish attack. The Swedish cavalry was immobilized, circumvented, and cut down by Russian dragoons and cossacks, and the left flank collapsed slowly in desperate fighting. Armfeldt tried to relieve his encircled left flank but Golitsyn now committed his forces against the Swedish center and right flank, and while the left flank was ground down, the Swedish infantry dissolved in panic.

Aftermath[edit]

The battle ended with the destruction of the Swedish army in Finland, with almost 2,500 casualties. Many of them bled or froze to death in the night following the battle; bodies were left lying in the battlefield for weeks. The Russian casualties were also severe: as many as 2,000 wounded or killed. The majority of the Russian dead were buried in the Storkyro church graveyard.

Strategically, the victory at Storkyro allowed the Russians to control all of Finland the following years; Sweden was too weak to prevent this. The parallel successes of the Russian galley fleet in the Turku archipelago allowed the it fleet to support and supply the army's land operations. This was important, as foraging was insufficient to sustain the Russian army.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Ericson, Lars (ed) (2003). Svenska slagfält (in Swedish). Wahlström & Widstrand. p. 327. ISBN 91-46-21087-3. 
  2. ^ a b Kuvaja, Christer (2008). Karolinska krigare 1660–1721 (in Swedish). Helsingfors: Schildts Förlags AB. p. 220. ISBN 978-951-50-1823-6. 

Coordinates: 63°00′N 22°19′E / 63.000°N 22.317°E / 63.000; 22.317