Sweden emerged from the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) as the mightiest military power in Northern Europe. However, this position was challenged by Prussia and Denmark in the Scanian war of 1675-1679. At the battle of Fehrbellin in Brandenburg on June 18 (or 28) 1675 the Swedish Army suffered its first defeat after the Thirty Years War against the army of the young Prussian state, which had increased from 8,000 to 23,000 men. The war ended, at the will of Louis XIV the Sun King (Sweden's main ally), with the Sweden still in possession of its German and Baltic territories gained in the first half of XVIIth century, the so-called "Swedish Empire".
Following the Scanian war the king Charles XI (1655-1697) reformed the Army by introducing in 1682 the Indelta system. By this system each of the lands of Sweden were to have 1,200 soldiers at the ready, at all times, and two farms were to provide accommodations for one soldier. Also the Swedish navy was improved with the creation of a naval base at Karlskrona in 1680 which became the main base of future operations.
His son Charles XII (1682-1718) inherited a well-trained, powerful and yet untested army just in time to defend Sweden from the concentric attack of Denmark, Saxony-Poland and Russia in what is know as the Great Northern War (1700-1721). After a favorable start which eliminated first Denmark (via the Peace of Travendal, 1700) and then Saxony (via the Treaty of Altranstadt, 1706), the ensuing campaign against Russia of 1708-1709 ended with the disaster of Poltava and the surrender of the main army's remainder at Perevolochna (1709). Denmark and Saxony re-entered in the war in the late 1709, followed by Prussia (1715) and Hanover (1717). The Baltic and German fortresses felled one by one in the hands of the enemies, from Riga in (1710) in the hands of Russians, to Wismar, the last possession in Germany, which surrender to a Prusso-Danish-Hanoverian army in 1716. The death of the King during the siege of the fortress of Frederickstadt in Norway (1718) precipitated the end of the war. With the Treaty of Nystadt (1721), the former Swedish Empire was reduced to Sweden proper, Finland, and the German enclave of Swedish Pomerania around Stralsund. Sweden, exhausted both in terms of manpower and resources, reverted to the role of a second-stage power, its place taken by Russia to the east and Prussia to the south.
The following Russian-Swedish war of 1741-43 was an attempt to redress the Swedish power in the Baltic area, politically driven by the aristocratic "Hats Party" and supported by the French diplomacy: however it ended in a new swedish defeat with the further loss of part of southern Finland (Treaty of Åbo, 1743).
It is not surprising that, after two wars lost in succession, at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1756 the Swedish economy was not in a very good shape. The Army was not very well equipped and, during the war of 1741-43, had proven to be in a very bad condition. Furthermore, there was widespread corruption among the leading politicians of the "Hats Party" who equipped the cavalry with useless rifles and bad swords made from brittle steel that often broke in the middle of a fight. But maybe worst was the unusable bridge material that jeopardized General Gustaf David Hamilton's offensive against Berlin during the campaign of 1758. Finally, the Swedish Army started the war without a single light troop unit. Measures were taken in December 1757 to raise a small unit of hussars. Gradually, the Swedes were able to field a light brigade which proved to be very effective against the Prussians.
Another factor who impeded the effectiveness of the Swedish Army was the pseudo-democratic "seniority system" which remained in effect until General Augustin Ehrensvärd, the best and last commander of the Swedish field army, took command. Ehrensvärd promptly broke with the seniority system. He chose young and elite officers for the newly formed light brigade and put it under the command of a brilliant young officer of Swedish-Finnish descent: Major Jacob Magnus Sprengtporten.
Kunglig Majestäts Livgardet till häst (aka Upplands Liv Regiment)
The "Indelta" Regiments (allotted regiments) were a part of the standing army and did service one or two months every year in peacetime. During wartime they served for as long as required. For their part, the "Varvade" Regiments were permanent units of the Swedish Army used mainly for garrison duties.
Swedish Provincial "Indelta" Regiments
Finnish Provincial "Indelta" Regiments
Permanent "Varvade" Regiments
- Bain, R. Nisbet. Charles XII and the collapse of the Swedish Empire, 1682-1719, G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York, London, 1902
- ETAT general. Des Troupes, de sa Majesté le Roy de Suede, comme elles trouvent effectivement l'an 1759. Jacques Andre Frederic, Augsbourg
- Großer Generalstab, Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II (Publisher). Die Kriege Friedrichs des Großen. Dritter Teil: Der Siebenjährige Krieg 1756–1763. Vol. 6 Leuthen, Berlin 1904,
- chapter C: Das königlich Schwedische Heer, page 92-107
- appendix: supplement 4, Das Königlich Schwedische Heer 1757 bis 1762, page 11-16
- Högman, Hans; Svenska regementen under indelningsverkets dagar
- Höglund, Lars-Eric and Sallnäs, Ake, The Great Northern War 1700-1721, Colours and Uniforms, Acedia Press, Karlstadt, 2000
- Pengel, R.D.; Hurt, G.R.: Swedish Army in Pomerania 1757-1763, Birmingham 1983
- Schirmer, Friedrich: Die Heere der kriegführenden Staaten 1756-1763, hrsg. von der KLIO-Landesgruppe Baden-Württemberg, überarb. u. aktual. Neuauflage 1989
- Thümmler, L.-H.; Preußische Militärgeschichte
Gunnar W. Bergman for the initial version of the introduction
Thomas Roth, senior curator at the Swedish Army Museum, for additional information on this army