ARMFELDT'S DEATH MARCH

 

The Karoliner's Death March

In The Tydal Mountains

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Translated From Norwegian By:
Olaf Kringhaug
Vernon, BC, Canada

Map of Armfeldt's Route

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Preface

Sylene is a picturesque mountain area which offers many possibilities for recreation,- not the least when it comes to mountain hiking. On both sides of the border there are marked trails and modern tourist facilities.

The mountains here offer both lovely and dramatic nature adventures.

What many perhaps do not know, is that the area also houses drama  of  another sort.  At New Year's in 1718 - 19 an army went over the mountain on their way home to Sweden. The memory of this march still lives in the communities along the border, and many a story can still be told about "svenskevinteren" (the Swedish winter).

Introduction

In the fall of 1718 the Jemtland army gathered in the region around Duved in western Jemtland. The Commander-in-Chief was Lieutenant- General Carl Gustaf Armfeldt. His task was to take Trondheim and Trøndelag within six weeks after their departure on the 4th August.

Sweden's king at this time was Karl XII and his aim was to recreate Sweden as a great power. After the Swedish army's defeat at Poltava in 1709 Sweden had lost, not only the eastern provinces, but also much of  its political significance in Europe. The Swedish king wished to change this situation. 

By attacking Norway he expected he could force Dano-Norwegian king, king Fredrik IV, into great concessions in the subsequent peace treaty  negotiations.

What was hoped to return Sweden back to the status of a great power, would instead put a definite stop to such plans. With Karl XII`s death outside Fredriksten fortress the 30th November, so died the dream of Sweden's return as a great power.

A month later, about the change of year 1718 -1719, a terrible drama  was played out i the Swedish - Norwegian mountains. It was when the Jemtland army on its march back to Sweden was struck by a violent snowstorm.

It is about this Karoliner's death march the following page deals with.

Carl Gustav Armfeldt

Armfeldt was born the 9th November 1666 in Ingermanland in Finland. His father was Lieutenant Colonel Gustav Armfeldt and his mother was Elisabeth Brakel. The family was originally from Jemtland, where the first known member  was farmer Lars Eriksson from Frøsøn.

Armfeldt began his military trade as a corporal 16 år old with the Nyland - Tavastehus Cavalry. Afterwards followed 12 years in French service before he returned to the fatherland. Back in Finland he took part in the campaign against Russia, and from 1713 he was the commandant of the Finnish army. The army  was however forced to retreat, and the winter of 1717 they lay in bivouac in the  region around Gevle.

In 1718 Armfeldt took command of the Jemtland army, and moved west. He survived the campaign, and was able to return to Finland later.

The 24th October 1736 he died on the Liljendal farm at Pernå, just east of Borgå.

Wincentz Budde

Wincentz Budde was born New Year's Eve 1660 in Fredrikstad. His father was  Colonel Fredrik Otto Budde and his mother, Sophie Bildt. When he was 23  years old, he was appointed a Lieutenant with Løvendal's Dragoon Regiment, and five years later was advanced to Captain. As with many others in the military, there followed now a number of years on the continent, where he took part in many conflicts. Budde came back to his homeland in 1703, and in 1710 he was promoted to Colonel and chief of the Trondhjem Regiment.  Colonel Budde and his troops took part in many campaigns against Sweden,  and he advanced quickly to Major-General and commandant in Fredrikstad.

Newly married and newly appointed as commanding General in the Northern army, Budde came to Trondheim the 15th June 1718. For his military  accomplishments he was on the 16th April 1721 made a Knight of the  Dannebrog. He kept his position, with responsibility for the defence of Trondheim, until his death the 13th April 1729.

 

Wincentz Budde 

Soldiers and Troopers

Swedish Karoliner

Armfeldts Troop Strength
 

Cavalry:


Åbo Regiment to horse

750 men

Nyland Regiment to horse

740 men

Karelian Regiment to horse

610 men

Jemtland Cavalry Company to horse

170 men


Infantry:

Åbo Infantry Regiment

470 men

Bjørneborg Infantry Regiment

255 men

Tavastehus Infantry Regiment

640 men

Nyland Infantry Regiment

400 men

Østerbotten Infantry Regiment

910 men

Viborg Infantry Regiment

110 men

Savolax Infantry Regiment

450 men

Finnish Enlisted Battalion

140 men

Helsinge Battalion

650 men

Jemtland Regiment

1285 men

Captain Långstrøm's Free Company

70 men


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In addition to the troops there was the army staff and artillery  together with 727 carters with 2928 horses.

Altogether at the start the army consisted of the following resources:

10,073 men

  6,721 horses

  2,500 cattle

Soldier's equipment:

The Swedish Karoliner's outfit was as follows:

Hat or karpus (knitted cap), Blue coat,  Leather pants,. Yellow stockings,
1 pair shoes with buckles, 2 scarves,  2 pair shirts,  1 pair gloves. 1 packsack..

Norwegian dragoon

Northern Army
The 21st June 1718

Søndre Trondhjem Regiment

2052 men

Nordre Trondhjem Regiment

2047 men

Land Dragoons

1926 men

Enlisted Company

180 men

Artillery in Trondheim

40 men

Free Company in Trondheim

120 men

2.Citizen Companies in Trondheim

200 men


In the course of the fall there were reinforcements from South - Norway:


The Oppland Regiment

720 men

The Akershus Regiment

200 men

Colonel Kruse's Dragoon Regiment

160 men

The 1st November 1718

Ordinary Infantry

6200 men

2.Citizen Companies

200 men

Land Dragoons

720 men

Northern Dragoon's Regiment

1014 men

Artillery

40 men

Total in Trondheim

8174 men


In the defence of the city as well, the warships 'Sydermanland',  'Søridderen' and 'Landsort'


Cannon ball and a Karoliner's rifle barrel
converted to a grindstone crank.

Articles found in Tydal  Community Museum.



     

The Attack Begins

Duved redoubt was the starting point for the whole campaign.

The winter had been long and difficult. As late as the middle of  May the snow lay deep in the forest. The crops grew slowly, and it was said that even in July the grain was not a hand high in the fertile Storsjø community. Everything  pointed to another year of poor crops and hunger. 

Under these conditions a 10,000 man-strong army gathered in Jemtland for a military action against Norway. Provisions were a big problem. Another was the poor roads that never seemed to dry up. The advance toward Trondheim was therefore delayed, but the 9th August  the first troops could finally leave Duved redoubt.

In Trondheim the defence led by Major General Wincentz Budde. He was not unaware of the Swedish plans, but was uncertain  where the attack would come. The Norwegian intelligence service functioned well however, and as soon as the Jemtland army began to move, they knew where one could expect to meet the enemy.

Against Stene redoubt

The march route went over Skalstugan, which was reached after considerable improvement of the roads.The way between Skalstugan and Stene redoubt was  blocked by Norwegian soldiers. To evade these and still get to Stene, which was the key to Trøndelag, they chose to go through rugged terrain toward Feren lake. In this manner the  attack on the redoubt could occur from the "wrong" side The. maneuver succeeded, and on the 1st September the redoubt was taken with minimal losses. With this win, the road was  open to Skåne redoubt. There was such a small number soldiers there that they had to give up without a fight.

At Stjørdal

The road to Stjørdal was difficult and dangerous. The crossing at  Langstein was described by Armfeldt as "a sum  of bad roads". Small groups of Norwegian troops attacked Armfeldts troops the whole time.. Now too, the weather had turned against the Swedes. Cold, rain and lack of provisions began to be tangible problems. The Stjørdal River ran rapid from all the rain, and the first attempt to cross it failed. With the Norwegians strongly fortified at Gevingåsen on the other side, Armfeldt chose to sit back and wait out the situation.

The Army Turns North

Orders were sent to Duved, but the roads were now in such a state that the provision wagons could not get to Norway and the army turned, and went back to Verdal to look for provisions in that prosperous community. People here had not had their food reserves taken.

There was good discipline in the army. Karl XII`s Karoliners  were known to be strict, and plundering was often  punished  with death. Since they expected to be in Trøndelag for a longer time, they had good reason to keep on the good side the public. Now, however, the food began to run short for the soldiers. To buy food was not possible, the population  was, naturally enough, not willing to sell food to the  enemy, and tried as best they could to keep away when the Swedes came if there was no one home when the soldiers came, they just  took what they needed of livestock and grain. If anyone tried any opposition they risked losing both life and farm. On the  18th October a courier came to Armfeldt with orders from Karl XII. The orders was to attack Trondheim immediately. The king was very dissatisfied with how things had developed in Trøndelag.



Weaponry

Infantrymen had flintlock rifles with bayonet and short knife.
A third of the Helsinge regiment and battalion  was  equipped with lances.
To each rifle, according to   regulations there was to be 48 rounds.
Cavalrymen had blunderbusses, flintlock rifles, as well as the Karoliner sabers.

Provisions etc

According to regulations each soldier was to be  provided every month with the following:
2 lispund (17kg) dry bread or 1/4 cask grain,
2 kanner (5,2 liter) peas,
1/2 mark (20 gram) salt,
1/4 mark (10 g.) tobacco,
1 lispund (8,5kg) meat and 1 daler and 8 øre in silver coin.
The meat could be exchanged for butter, dried fish or herring.


 

Against Trondheim

Right after Armfeldt had the king's orders, he prepared the army for departure. This time he chose to go east over Markabygda and Forradal in order to avoid the difficult road at Langstein. At the same time a rumour was put out that they were going back to Sweden. The priest in Verdal, Thomas Jensen Collin, was well aware of the Swedish plans and told Budde, who quickly moved his troops to Trondheim

The Siege Of Trondheim

The march to Trondheim took only 7 days. Of the events in Trondheim, the crossing of the Nid River deserves mentioin. This was achieved by preparing a floating bridge, ca 200 meters long. The bridge was swung out over the river with the help of the stream. In ten minutes the bridge was secured. Two battalions under the leadership of Armfeldt defeated the Norwegian forces defending the other bank.

General de la Barre led 350 cavalrymen on a hunt for Colonel Motzfeldt and the Norwegian cavalry. The dramatic chase  was not discontinued before they came south to Dovre. There the Swedes gave up the pursuit.

It now showed that Armfeldts hesitation in Stjørdal - whether he should attack Trondheim directly or not - had given Budde the time he needed to strengthen his defence. Over 8000 men were now gathered in Trondheim, making the city well defended. Had Armfeldt attacked Trondheim directly, it is  possible that the campaign would have ended differently. Without any sort of heavy artillery, it looked dark for the  Swedes' chances to take Trondheim which was now so well defended. Again there followed a period of waiting. The  Swedes made some advances and troop movements, but the attack was delayed.



Both sides now began to suffer lack of provisions and disease. not the least in the besieged Trondheim where  disease began to claim victims. The city's citizens began to complain. They felt that General Budde should lead the Norwegian forces in an attack on the Swedes to get an end to the siege. The General, however never considered such  an uncertain project. He showed that it was he alone that had the trumph in his hand, as long as he held Trondheim. For help he had as well his own dragoons, Kristiansten fortress, as well as two ships with full artillery in the harbour.

Peter Långstrøm's Death
 
At the end of November Armfeldt sent the Finnish war hero Peter Långstrøm to Sweden with mail. Possibly, he also had the task of reconnoitering for possible retreat routes.

Långstrøm was admired by his own soldiers, but feared by his enemies. It was also his fame that led to his death. The night  of the 24th November he was resting with his troop at the Fordal farm in Stjørdal. There he was recognized,  and  the farmers of the area were able to gather to set up up a plan. Early next morning when he began the ride to Stene redoubt, Långstrøm was shot. His troop escaped without injury, but
Långstrøm himself died a couple of hours later at  the Lerfald farm, where the Norwegian farmers had taken him. East of Fordal there was raised a monument in memory of the  Finnish hero's death the 24th November 1718.

Karl XII's Death

By December there still had been no attack. The winter had  however made its appearance with a cold spell, unusually  cold for that time of year.

Rumours had begun to spread that the Swedish king was dead. Tradition tells further that these rumours had been discussed during a meeting in the Swedish headquarters at Nyhus in Flå parish the 17th December.

The day after people in Trondheim received confirmation that Karl XII truly was dead, shot at Fredriksten fortress, three  weeks earlier. The next day salutes were fired over the whole city to celebrate the Swedish king's death, and that victory was won. Still Armfeldt does not seem to have had proof of the death, but decided nevertheless to start southward toward Støren and further up toward Gauldalen.

Christmas In Haltdalen

Haltdalen Church
before it was moved
to Sverresborg in Trondheim

The vanguard, among them the Jemtland regiment,  reached Haltdalen in the days before Christmas. Legend has it that on Christmas Eve they gathered  around the little stave church and held evensong.  Around the church and on the river ice, great bonfires burned.  Among other things that night they burned up the wood bridge that crossed the Holta river.  On the morning of Christmas they held matins in the starry darkness.  They concluded with singing a psalm. For many this would be their last service.

The cold had already begun to reap its victims from the poorly clad soldiers. In the course of Christmas, 14 men were buried from the Jemtland regiment alone.

The day after Christmas Armfeldt and most of the forces  arrived in Haltdalen. The General himself stayed at the  priest's farm with the priests's wife and her 13 children. The Priest had been taken away and imprisoned, since he was suspected of having worked against the Swedes. 

There was now an acute lack of food. In the fierce cold  the soldiers became more and more desperate. Almost every farm was plundered for food, or clothing that the  soldiers needed as protection against the winter cold.  For wood, they took at first hay drying racks, but when  they were gone, they obtained firewood by tearing up the flooring on the farms, or they burned up whole outbuildings. Farmers who tried to protect their property were in many cases shot. The damage survey of 1719 shows that the community was totally plundered.

Over Bukkhammeren

By this time the main army had shrunk to only 5800 men, It  was now decided that they should leave Norway as quickly as possible. The route they chose went over Bukkhammeren to Tydalen, from where they would go further east and over the mountains to Handøl. Of their last camps before departure was right at Nordpå Fjellstue in the Aune area. The 29th of. December they broke camp and set off on the 25 kilometers to Tydal. When they had gotten up the mountain they were hit by bad weather with a drifting snowstorm. Shelter was found in the protective forest in Tydal, but before they had reached there at least 200 men had perished. In scattered flocks the troops arrived at Floren, Hilmo og Græsli.

Grave in Hilmo

One of the many community tales from Armfeldt's time is about  two young Karoliners that met their fate at Hilmo in Tydal. Both came to the area before the main group, and sought out the first and best farm to warm themselves and perhaps get something to eat. The farmer's wife was home alone, and felt  sorry for the frozen and hungry soldiers. She led them to the fireplace and gave them some warm milk to drink. They also each got a pair of mittens for their frozen hands. She was a bit anxious that her husband would come home and see who had come for a visit. He could not tolerate Swedes, so they did their best to get on their way as quickly as possible. The man of the house, hopwever, came home and was furious, Swedish  Karoliners in his own house. they shall die!, and afterwards he would collect the reward that General Budde had promised for every Karoliner that was shot. The soldiers tried to explain that they that they had no blame in the war, they just wanted to get home to Karelia. The wife also begged for their lives. When the man refused to listen, the two young boys gave  back the mittens they had been given, on his orders. Then they were  immediately killed. In memory of this event, there is a lone cross just west of Hilmo. The cross stands at the place where it is said that both were buried.

The Action At Hilmo Bridge


Early in the morning of the 21st December the Finnish Major J.H. Fieandt came from Duved and made an attempt to reach  Armfeldt outside Trondheim. He had a troop of 57 men, 20 horses with provision sleds an a mailbag. The route he chose went from Handøl through Tydalen.

At the same time Major Johan Henrich Emahusen with 100 men from the Northern Ski Trooper Company was in Tydal.  When they became aware that a Swedish troop was approaching, they made a fortification at Hilmo bridge,  and waited for the  enemy there.

The skirmish occurred on Christmas Eve itself, and an intense  exchange of shots broke out. Fieandt had to withdraw with one dead and three wounded. The Swedes had to abandon at least three sleds in their enemy's hands. It is told about the skirmish  that the horse bearing the mail bag took a bullet in its muzzle,  and that it then set off in full gallop. At Græsli, however, a farm woman managed to get hold of the mail sack. She was able to hide it from the Swedes by throwing it into a well from which it was later fished out.

The place which was later pointed out as the site of the action  itself, lies about 100 meter above the present bridge, on the  north side of the river.

Up From Floren

In Floren each and every farm was ravaged. In order to survive.  the soldiers absolutely had to have heat, food and clothing Already by this time there were many who had frostbite and it was still a long way to home. It is said that Armfeldt himself stayed at the Hegset farm.

The advance troops immediately continued up toward Hilmo. Major Emahusen and the Norwegian Ski Troop Company had already been there and helped themselves, and what they left  was now hidden away. It is told that the Swedes barely found a sheep at Hilmo.

Emahausen hid out of the way in the woods while the Swedes passed by. He understood that he would be of more use on the mountain, where their skis would show their worth. Because of this nor did he intervene when the Swedes burned their temporary fortification at Hilmo bridge.

Another troop went down toward Selbu, but got no further than   Rolseth. There the Norwegians had dug in at Rønsberget, and hung out red clothing and red cloth in the woods. At distance it looked like red clad Norwegian soldiers, so the Swedes  turned back to Tydal again.

Græsli In Tydal 


The Græsli pin,
a bird figure in gilt silver,
that was found with the great coin find in 1878.

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On his way east Armfeldt passed Græsli. The local people in Græsli had believed that the army would  go west and down toward Selbu. They were therefore surprised, and were not able to get their livestock away. Now they had to accept the fact that their farms would be plundered by the passing army.

An example is Jensgården, which had the following loss: 12 barrels oats, 171/2 loads hay, 1 horse, 6 cows, 6 sheep  and  tools worth 3 daler. In Tydalen it seems that there were few  buildings that were burned. An occasional out building and  barn was burned, but few or no residences went up in smoke.


 

Storaunstuggu at Aune

Storaunstuggu is one of the few houses remaining from that time. It was built in 1666 by Peder Jonsen Effni. It consisted of  a simple house with one large room and sleeping quarters above. It was in this house that Armfeldt rested. The farm was well managed. This we understand, among other things, in that the farm had to deliver twice as much as any other farm: 14 barrels oats, 40 loads hay, 2 horses, 6 cows, 24 sheep,  bedding and clothing as well as various tools. It was a hard  blow for the family, but they were able later to rebuild the farm's prosperity.


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Stor-Tomas Famous Skiing Deed

At Storaunstuggu the so-called 'Tomasstaven' was preserved right until the 1800. It was a ski pole that is believed to have belonged to Tomas Olsen, called Stor-Tomas (Big Tomas), from Aune. He used the stave in 1719 when he executed a skiing deed that has gone down in history. Right after Armfeldt's Karoliners had gone over the mountain toward  Handøl, Tomas was given the task by Major Emahusen to spy on Swedes.

Tomas skied to Handøl. When he had obtained the information he was after he turned homeward and arrived in the evening of  the same day. This means that he went 120 km in one and the  same day. The day after he skied to Trondheim to give his report. When he had done that, he returned home again. 

When he unbuckled his skis at home, he had put over 300 km behind him in three days, He had done this in an area where it was far between farms and in a mountainous terrain. Most of the time he had run in the wilderness. The stave has long since disappeared, but the memory of Stor-Tomas` deed still lives.



Ås and Østby

The last stop before the mountains on the way home to Sweden, was at Ås and Østby, furthest east in Tydal. From here it is ca 55 kilometer to the nearest  settlement in Sweden, which is Handøl. With favourable weather one can manage the winter route in 8 - 10 hours. The Karoliners lacked skis and
winter clothing, they had expected that the campaign would have been completed by September. The  conditions  however, would show to be the most unfavourable. What in nice weather can be a fine trip, would for these men come to be a desperate march to death.

At Østby there were only four farms at that time, Gammelgården, Haugen, Bersvendsgården and Sjursgården. Most of the farmers had gone to their seters to get away from the Swedish soldiers. Those who remained were the elderly and the sick. At Haugen the farmer's wife, Ingeborg was home. She had just given birth to twins and for that reason allowed to stay home.

The main troops reached Ås and Østby on New Year's Eve. Armfeldt stayed at Gammelgården. The room Armfeldt slept in was the furthest east, on the second floor of the residence. The troops had to look after themselves as best they could.  They gathered around a big bonfire at the edge of the woods, out on the ground and right by the farm.


Even though the bonfire gave off warmth, it was difficult to keep the cold out. Many had only their worn jackets right on their bodies, and  their boots were totally worn out after the long march. It got steadily colder, and that night was one of the coldest in memory. Those who were there said that the cold was so fierce that branches cracked in the woods. "The Swedish Winter" was an expression that people long spoke of.


 

The Guides

With the fierce cold there were many who left the seters, which were very high up, and returned to their farms. One of them was the 59 year old farmer Lars Bersvendsen from Bersvendsgården. When he came back to his farm, the soldiers were in the process of slaughtering his livestock. He waited a while, then moved away from the soldiers. The legend is that Armfeldt himself was there and noticed the well clad mountain farmer.

"Are you the man of the place?" asked the General. Lars could not deny this, and on Armfeldt's question about the possibility of getting over to Handøl, he answered. "If you have skis and know the way, it will go well." 

"Do you know the way and can you show us?" asked the General. "Yes, I know it, but I am old and cannot go out in this hard winter time, but here one can always find someone to be a guide," said Lars and wished to leave. He understood now what direction this conversation had taken.  "No, stop!" called Armfeldt, "you are the  right man and you won't get away."
Lars was placed under guard and could do nothing else but curse his misfortune, that he had come down to the farm just then. 

An other guide was Lars Jonsen Østby, who unwillingly was forced to take Armfeldt  in on his farm. As security that the guides would do the job right, the soldiers  took  along some civilians as hostages. Ingeborg of Haugen who had just given birth to twins, Brynhild Tuset from Floren and Lars Jonsen's sister Anne, were all forced to go on the march.



Gammelgården at Østby in Tydal.

Night lodging for Armfeldt
and the home of Lars Jonsen Østby,
guide on the march over the mountain.


Old Staffa

An old man of swedish origin lived at Østby, who had married a woman from Haugen. During the evening he went around and asked if there were any Jemter from Åre or Undersåker among the soldiers. Finally someone answered that they  came from that area. "Do you know Per Jonson Tunga?" asked Staffa. "Yes,  replied a young soldier, "I am his son's son. Do you know him?" "Yes, he is my mother's brother." "If you are the son of old aunt Lisbet, then you are grandfather's cousin." "Yes, I am that, and if you get home greet your grandfather from me, I  believe he still knows me." "In the morning we are going over the mountain, how do you it will go old fellow?" continued the Jemt.. And Staffa who knew the mountain like his own pocket, answered, "Well, if you have skis and are dressed for the mountain, it should go well." He looked around at the soldiers who stood and listened to him, and after a while he added,  "But God help many of you. You do not  seem to be dressed for the mountain.

Truly, they were not either. Damaged and worn soldier's coats, and worn-out boots on which some repair had been attempted with bits of cloth. Fur coats,  mittens and caps were not to be seen.  The Karoliner's tricorn was little protection in the biting cold.Not even the 'karpus', the knitted cap, could keep the cold out.

The conversation between Staffa and his young relative continued a while longer. In this Staffa gave the Jemt advice about how to make it on the mountain. He should above all avoid the bare mountain and rather keep to the protective birch forest along the Enan River. The river went right to Ånnsjøen lake where der Handøl lay.

The following summer Staffa got a greeting from Per in Tunga (Tångbøle). The nephew had gotten over the mountain, uninjured.



"The Death March" The First Day

At Øyfjellet mountain in Tydal
the storm struck  Armfeldt's army on their return trip to Handøl


Early on New Year's Eve, when the moon rose, the journey to Sweden began. The lead troops consisted of Jemtlandings, Bjørneborgere, and possibly Åbolendinger. Armfeldt went first with the guide Lars Bersvendsen. Five captured Norwegian dragoons, as well as the women, Ingeborg from Haugen and Brynhild from Floren, were along as hostages. Anne Haugen followed with her brother Lars Jonsen. He was the guide for the western wing, which was the next troop to march.

In the morning there was a very quiet and clear air. The cold was intense. That this quiet would be replaced by a mighty storm was not yet known. When the lead troops rested on their way up the mountain, Lars Bersvendsen asked Armfeldt to send the women back the community. But the Swedish  commander would have none of it. "I fear that you in that case would lead us on the wrong track. But it is doubtful that you will do that if the women are with us." "Oh no," replied Lars, "our women can look after themselves, just as good as you, but I fear that things will go badly anyway, with one thing or another." It has been speculated that the guide had chosen another route than that which was usual, the route they followed went further south than was customary. In this way they avoided passing close to the seters where people and livestock were hidden from the Swedes. About noon it began to blow from the distant mountain tops. A wind came from the  expected storm, and it quickly rose to a roar in the mountain passes. At 2:30 in the afternoon the blizzard hit in full strength down on the troops. They had now reached the treeless mountainside of Øyfjellet.
In this fierce blizzard of snow and ice Armfeldt must have understood that the success of the mountain trip was highly doubtful. The female hostages were now released and sent home, while there still was time. On their way back to Tydalen they saw dead and dying men all along the trail. It is said that a couple of soldiers in the last troop seized their mittens with the orders, "these we need more than you".  The womencame safely home.
The rearguard didn't leave until toward evening. They were the only ones who could turn back in time. They waited out the storm in comfortable conditions at Østby.


Darkness Falls

Darkness falls quickly in the winter. To make camp in a snowstorm on a dark night on the  mountain, is not an impossibility for well-trained and well-equipped men  But for these starving and exhausted Karoliners it was almost a superhuman task. Shelter from the wind could not be found anywhere. Wood for fires was almost impossible to find. Birch and heather flamed up for a short time, but gave no lasting warmth. In their desperation the soldiers began to burn up their rifle butts, saddles and sleds. Men lay and froze to death in the dark by the hundreds. Small groups lay stiff and unmoving in the morning, as they had bedded down around their fires in the evening. Others died where they stood, gathered in knots to get shelter from the wind and a little warmth from each other. In the morning they were like frozen statues, that fell like bowling pins to the grouns when they were touched.

Svenskhaugene (Swedish Mounds)

Armfeldt made camp at the north end of Essandsjøen (Essand Lake). The name  Svenskhaugene (Swedish mounds) commemorates today that terrible night the 1st January 1719. Along the shore of the lake and down toward Øyfjellet, considerable numbers of Karoliners found their last resting place. One of the many who died that night was the guide Lars Jonsen Østby. Today the campsite and many of the graves are under water, because of the damming of Essandsjøen.

Svenskleiren And Hærtjønna (The Swedish Camp And Army Tarn)

Major General Yökull and his 2000 men got no further than 10 km the first day. His  campsite is today called Svenskleiren (The Swedish camp), and lies on Øyfjellet's west side. From this place Major Emahusen and the Tydal farmers could later recover masses of rifles and swords. The Røros Berg Corps got 400 rifles in compensation for what the Swedes had taken.

West of Øyfjellet lies Hærtjønna (Army tarn). According to a legend the soldiers had made a huge bonfire the ice of this tarn. When all of them tried to get as close as possible to the fire, a row broke out. There was an officer at the fire who tried to keep order amongst the frozen soldiers. Finally he ordered them all to get away from the fire. That he should not have done, the men were frozen, tired and in a bad mood. The officer was shoved so he fell into the fire. Each time he tried to get away from the fire he was shoved back in. Finally he died, burned to death in the flames.  Another legend tells of an unpopular officer who is supposed to have drowned  when his own soldiers pressed him down through a hole in the ice.

The Second Day

The blizzard still showed no sign of diminishing. The retreat continued in a steadily disorderly fashion.

Funeral Procession

Those who lost contact with their comrades and ended up off the route, were in most cases doomed. Poorly equipped and without any possibility of orientating themselves, they could only wait. For many death came as deliverance. The advance troops with Armfeldt and the guide Lars Bersvendsen, still followed the trail, but the tracks that should have led the following troops, were soon erased by the wind. The scattered troops, in many cases, had to find their way by themsleves.

Despite this they moved forward. They made camp at Bustvalen, and in smaller groups along the Enan River at Søndre Engbågen.

Probably the lead troops had  met the farmer Lars Hanson from Lien in Åre. He  was sent out from Duved in the hope of making contact with the army and to lead them on the rigfht course.


Karoliner Monument at Bustvalen

The Third Day

On the morning of the third day there were still more who would never again arise from their sleep. Those who were still alive, now took every possibility that arose to increase their chances of survival. Many a dead Karoliner lost his clothes to someone who needed them more.

They followed several different routes to Handøl. Some followed the Enan River the whole way. It is told that they broke holes in the ice to see which way the water ran.  They knew that Handøl lay lower, and could thereby decide their direction of march.  Others took a shortcut over the north ridge of Blåhammarfjellet and Snåsahøgdene. Even others chose to go straight to Storulvån from south Engbågen to get to go that way to Handøl.

Besides those who followed the known routes, there were many scattered groups  got lost on Blåhammaren and Snåsahøgdene. Some strayed south toward Sylene,  and had to spend even more nights on the mountain.

Those who followed the valley of the Enan, got some shelter from the wind, but paid for it by having to struggle through meter-deep snow. Even though they tried to lighten their load by throwing rifles and equipment away, there were many who had to give up the fight here.


Jervbackvollen
A place where it is said that the Karoliners still haunt today.

During the afternoon the weather began to improve a little. By evening the lead troops could finally glimpse small lights in the distance. The lights came from the hamlet Handøl.That the hope of rescue was within reach began to dawn on the exhausted soldiers.

Arrival at Handøl

Handøl Hamlet
The Karoliner Monument
is to the left of the bridge


In the evening the 3rd of January 1719 the first troop arrived in Handøl. Amomg them was Armfeldt. He had made the march over the mountain with minor frostbite. The first they reached was a little gray house. Through the window shone a weak candlelight into the dark night.

Without hesitation, people were sent out to light bonfires that would lead the remaining troops in the right direction. People were also sent out with horse and sled to rescue the equipment that had been abandoned. Word was sent to Duved redoubt that immediate help with food and transport was needed.


No Shelter To Be Found

On the 4th and 5th of January a steady stream of survivors came down from the mountain. They came to what they believed would be shelter from the cold. But in Handøl there was no great help. The hamlet at that time consisted of only three farms. This could hardly help all those who stood and stomped outside the buildings and wanted in. The few buildings were soon overfilled. It is said that all those who rushed into the warm rooms died like flies. Large bonfires were lit out in the fields and the men had to spend further nights outdoors.

How many died outdoors in Handøl on these nights is difficult to assess, but it must be in the hundreds. In the summer of 1889 farmer Henrik Olausson found a grave stone in a field in Handøl on which there was inscribed: Anno 1719 the 20 January there were buried here 600 people

After a few weeks the stream of soldiers diminished, but as late as the 30th of  January two corporals from the Østerbotten regiment came down from the mountain.


Frostbite

The majority of those who survived had frostbite to some degree or other. For those who were worst afflicted there was no hope. All that could be done was to amputate. It is reported that they made a temporary hospital in one of the outbuildings in Handøl, where the sick were treated. Field surgeon Per Hagstrøm of the Jemtland Regiment filled barrel after barrel with frozen hands and feet that had to be cut off. Even those who survived such an operation, later faced a bleak destiny. Without the possibility of looking after themselves, many a formerly proud Karoliner faced a future as a cripple and beggar.

Grave monument in Vallan, Ånn

The Catastrophe Is Complete

By examining the provision receipts one can calculate the full extent of the catastrophe.. These show that about 2800 men arrived at Handøl.

When the army departed from Tydal, it consisted of 5800 men, this means that 3000 Karoliners died on the mountains between Tydal and Handøl. This total of dead rises to about 3700 when one includes those who died of frostbite after their  return to Sweden.

A further 451 soldiers were discharged after the campaign. Frostbite had made them unfit for continued military service

The pulpit in Handøl church
formerly stood in Frøsø church,
and is the same as where Idman held his sermon
in 1719. On the wall to the right,
is the gravstone that was found in Handøl in 1889


Epilogue

On the 7th of January the Norwegian Major Emahusen set off up the mountain on the trail of the Swedish army. He saw dead Karoliners everywhere. Horses that were still alive, ran around without riders. Others lay collapsed with fully loaded sleds, where the driver, with a glazed expression still held the reins in a frozen grip.

Norwegians took a great deal of booty that winter. They found masses of swords and rifles. Six smaller cannons were found abandoned on the mountain.

Similarly, people went to Bukkhammaren to plunder the dead of boots, coats, valuables and weapons. There was always something to be found that could be used or sold.

Rifle barrels could be used for hardware in fireplaces or for axles in grindstones. 


After the people were finished, came the beasts of prey. Wolves, wolverines and foxes discovered an abundance they had never before experienced. It is told that these mountain tracts were for many years one of the best hunting areas for fur-bearing animals. 

The greatest natural catastrophe in the north has come to an end. The war was finished for this time.

In Tydal every other year in January there is held an open air theatre
at Brekka Bygdetun showing "Armfeldtspelet"

For further about times
check with the Tydal Turistkontor.
Other interesting things and information
can be found at Tydal Museum.




Tydal Museum

photo by Ola Græsli


Armfeldt's Campaign in 1718

A drama from reality in Trøndelag

3700 Karoliners froze to death
and thousands of civilians died of
hunger, impoverishment, disease  and cold.
The greatest tragedy in Norway after the Black death.


 

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