Hamilton, Gustaf David

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Gustaf David Count Hamilton

Major-General (1747-1755), Lieutenant-General (1755-1757), General of Infantry (1757-1765), Field Marshal (1765-1788)

Commander-in-chief of the Swedish field army in Pomerania (July to December 1758)

born February 8, 1699, Forstena (Sweden)

died December 29, 1788, Barsebäck Castle, Skåne (Sweden)


Gustaf David Hamilton was the estate owner of Barsebäck. His father was the famous Swedish General Hugo Hamilton who was governor of Västernorrland (north of Sweden).

By 1713, Hamilton had already started his military career, being cornet in the Royal Horseguards.

In 1715, Hamilton entered into the French service. He would serve with the French army for the next twenty years.

During the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1735), Hamilton took part in a couple of campaigns on the Rhine and on the Moselle. In 1734, as captain in the grenadiers, he participated in the successful sieges of Trarbach (April to May) and Philipsburg (May to July).

Around 1735, Hamilton returned to Sweden where he got the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

On June 12 1740, Hamilton married Jakobina Henrietta Hildebrand.

In 1741, Hamilton became colonel of his own värvat infantry regiment: Hamiltonska Infantry.

In 1745, King Adolf Fredrik covered the expense to send Hamilton, as volunteer, to study warfare with Frederick II of Prussia. The latter was very busy fighting the Second Silesian war (a part of the larger War of the Austrian Succession). Hamilton visited the Prussian king as he was campaigning in Bohemia.

In 1747, Hamilton was promoted to major-general of the infantry.

On November 21 1751, Hamilton was named count of Barsebäck.

In 1755, Hamilton became lieutenant-general.

In 1757, Hamilton temporarily assumed command, as substitute of the Swedish army operating in Pomerania.

On July 4, 1758, Hamilton assumed overall command of the Swedish army operating in Pomerania, thus succeeding to von Rosen. A large part of his army (more than 5,000 men already suffered from food poisoning after eating over salted pork. Fortunately, Hamilton received important reinforcements from Sweden. This allowed him to plan an offensive towards Berlin. On July 24, he was promoted to general of infantry. During the following campaign in Pomerania, his army made steady progress towards Berlin but it had insufficient light troops to protect its lines of communication and was finally forced to retire towards Stralsund. On December 19, after his unsuccessful offensive, Hamilton was relieved from his command by the Swedish Rådet.

Hamilton was the complete opposite of von Rosen. He seems to have always kept his surrounding in a good mood, always joking and often with clever commentaries. He did not care to keep any respect for his person. He considered that he may not have been completely fit for the charge of commander-in-chief of the Swedish field army in Pomerania. Anyhow, he always wanted to attack the enemy. To his defence, one can say that he never received any clear instructions concerning the operations of his army and about the intended cooperation with the Russian army in East Pomerania (Hinterpommern). He often had to make hard decisions, often relying on the advice of his generals: Lantingshausen, Fersen and Ehrensvärd. He also relied on advices from his aides-de-camp Colonel Karl Adlerfelt and Arvid Niklas von Höpken, a brother of Anders Johan von Höpken, the highest ranking man in the Rådet (Council).

In 1759, Hamilton returned to his estate in Barsebäck in Skåne (Southern Sweden). Later all mishaps were forgotten.

In 1765, Hamilton was promoted to field-marshal and received the highest Swedish distinction: the Serafimer Order.

In 1778, Gustaf III, the son of Adolf Fredrik, made him one of the leaders of Sweden.

Hamilton died at almost 90 years of age in 1788.


Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 8 Zorndorf und Hochkirch, Berlin, 1910, Anhang 15

Roskilde Historie

Säve, Teofron; Sveriges deltagande i Sjuåriga Kriget Åren 1757-1762, Beijers Bokförlagsaktiebolag, Stockholm, 1915

Engilsh Wikipedia - Gustav David Hamilton


Gunnar W. Bergman for the initial version of this article