Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Battle of Narva

Today, 311 years ago, an 18 year old monarch led his troops into his first battle against the might of Russia. His name was Charles XII, and he was King of Sweden.
Sweden was a formidable power on the Baltic Sea when Charles XII came to the throne. But he was young, and Peter the Great of Russia and Augustus II of Poland combined to take Swedish territory, thinking that Charles would not resist. However, Charles XII would not let this happen, and the Great Northern War began.
The Russians formed a mighty army of 30,000 soldiers and besieged the fortress of Narva. Charles XII came to the rescue with less than 10,000 Caroliners (the term for troops of Charles XII).
Charles determined to attack , even though there was a violent snowstorm blowing in the faces of the Russians. “With the storm, they won’t see how few we are!” he told his generals. The Swedish army fearlessly stormed the Russian entrenchments, splitting the Russian army in two. Many Russians tried to retreat across the Narva River via the bridge, but it collapsed and many drowned. Darkness fell, and the Swedes were in the enemy camp, but with two large groups of the Russians on either flank. In the morning, the two armies, amounting to perhaps 20,000 Russians, surrendered to Charles XII. 18,000 more had been killed or drowned, while the Swedish loss was less than 2,000 men. Charles XII had taken more prisoners than were soldiers in his entire army, in addition to 171 flags and 145 cannons. The Battle of Narva was a complete victory for the Caroliners.
Charles XII demonstrated considerable maturity. To be able to plan for battle, to attack, to be void of fear, and then to be blessed with victory—this is indeed something which many men aged 18 years have lost today. However, with God’s help, we can recover the maturity that Charles XII demonstrated at his first and most glorious victory.
Note: The orders of battle of both Russians and Swedes at Narva can be found at

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