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Portrait of Gustav Wachtmeister
|Nickname(s)||The King's Right Arm|
|Died||1826 (aged 68–69)|
|Years of service||1770–1809|
Gustav Wachtmeister (1757–1826) was a Swedish Army officer made famous at the Battle of Valkeala in Finland in 1789 against Russia where he was wounded by a musket shot to his arm, which had to be amputated. He was made the hero of the hour by King Gustav III of Sweden who was in desperate need of publicity as he tried to silence domestic opposition with a crushing victory over Russia.
He was born into an aristocratic Swedish family in 1757 and as was common for sons of Swedish noble families, embarked on military life at a young age, receiving a commission as an ensign in 1772. In 1778 he went abroad to gain experience on campaign, joining the Prussian Army fighting Austria in the War of Bavarian Succession from 1778–79.
Returning to Sweden, Wachtmeister's career flourished and by 1780 he had a posting as a lieutenant-colonel commanding a battalion in the provincial Dalecarlia regiment. He went on to fight against Russia at the Battle of Valkeala and in numerous others until the war ended in 1790 without any real gain for either country.
His later conquests were mainly fought against Napoleon at Pomerania and against Russia who in 1809 invaded Sweden after a military coup overthrew the current King Gustav IV. The new King Karl XIII ordered Wachtmeister to attack the Russians behind enemy lines which he did at the Battle of Ratan and Sävar.
After the Battle of Ratan and Sävar during which he retreated his men back to the coast, where they were sheltered by Naval guns, he was considered to have not acted with sufficient boldness by his superiors, and was given the option to retire voluntarily to his estates. He died in 1826, at age of 79 years.
- David, Saul War From Ancient Egypt to Iraq, Dorling Kindersley, 2009.
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