The Story of a soldier

The year 1808 was a troubled time in Europe. In the beginning of the year, the King of France, Napoleon, was at war with both Sweden and England. The Swedish King, Gustaf IV Adolf, had with his foreign politics developed deep commercial connections with England. This favoured England most in the war with France. Later in the Spring Napoleon and the Russian Tsar, Alexander I, became allied. Now they demanded Sweden to stop its commercial connections with England. But the Swedish King didn't think it was the connections with England that made Europe so conflict-ridden. He thought that Napoleon's politics were the cause of the wars. As an answer to that, Russia attacked Finland, without a declaration of war. Finland at the time belonged to Sweden. Sweden was now at war with Russia in the East and France in the South. The Swedish army, consisting of 60.000 soldiers, was now unable to handle a two-front war.

To strengthen the army, Gustav IV Adolf in March 14, 1808, ordered that he wanted 30.000 more soldiers. The soldiers should be selected among unmarried boys between 18 - 25 years.

In the same year, 1808, Eric Wahlstrom worked as a farmhand for the tenent farmer Erik Matson on his farm Tomta in Rasbo parish. At that time Erik Matson had three farmhands at work on his farm.

I enlighet med kungens order, så upptecknades den 28 mars 1808, en sk. Anteckningsrulla i Rasbo socken. Rullan skulle sedermera ligga till grund för uttagningen av lantvärnet. I rullan antecknades alla ogifta män mellan 18-25 år som bodde eller befann sig i socknen. Uppgifterna togs huvudsakligen direkt från kyrkobokföringen. Anteckningsrullor upptecknades nu sockenvis i hela landet.

According to the order of the King, on March 28, 1808, a roll was written in Rasbo parish containing all unmarried men between 18 - 25 years. It contained all men that lived or stayed in the parish. The information was mostly taken from the churchbooks. Rolls were now made all over the country.

The roll from Rasbo parish contained 108 men. Among them, there were two farmhands from Tomta; Eric Wahlström, 23 years old, and Erik Mattson, 22 years old. Both were said to have good bodily structure and a good reputation.

On March 29, a roll was written choosing the men that were to be soldiers. Among them was Eric Wahlström, but not the other farmhand from Tomta. The roll was read in Rasbo church on Sunday the first of May. Together with the names of the choosen soldiers it was also said that all of the soldiers must be ready to gather when ordered to do so. By the next Sunday the order arrived.

On May 1, there was one more roll written containing the names of the men who were chosen to be soldiers. This roll was read in Rasbo church on May 8, and said that they must appear in Enköping on the 12th of this month.

Eric, like the other soldiers, now had to go to Enköping. He arrived there and was on May 17 enrolled as the soldier no 9 of the Ist Battalion, 2nd Company of Uplands Royal Infantry Brigade. Baron A U Wrangel became his commander in chief. The roll of date May 3 was later completed with his soldier's number.

According to an additional roll, Eric was, on May 18, once again,.enrolled at Uplands Royal Infantry Brigade, lst Battalion, 2nd Company. The reason for this is not known.

According to an Orderjournal for the Ist Battalion, the soldiers got their first salary on March 31, 1808 at 0700 in the evening. There was no note on how much they got.

On May 31, a March Order for the first and second Battalions was written in the castle at Uppsala by Erik of Wetterstedt. The March Order arrived, according to the Orderjournal, in Enköping and came to the commander in chief of the first Battalion on June 1. The March Order contained the marchingway from Enköping via Grisslehamn to Eckerö on Åland.

On June 2, the first Battalion, consisting of one commander in chief, 12 company officers, 3 in the staff, 20 non-commissioned officers and about 480 soldiers, marched from Enköping. On the first day they marched to the farm Lörsta and other farms in Näs parish. On June 3 they continued, via Uppsala, to Marma farm in Lagga parish. In Marma they gtayed to the 5th to take a day of rest. The two first days started at 05.00 . On June 5 they continued to the village Rimbo and on June 6 via Kragsta parish and Svanberga parish to the small village Stabby. In Stabby they stayed for the night and also had a second day of rest. On June 8, the company reached, via a ferry in Trästa, to Grisslehamn, where they stayed for the night. On the next day they were shipped across the sea to Eckerö on the island Åland.

On Åland, the Battalion stayed for only a few days. They were then shipped across the sea to Finland. On the morning of June 21 they landed near Åbo in Finland, and ran into Russian troops. Now they had to fight their first battle. The Russian soldiers were believed to be so many that the Battalion didn't have any chanse to reach the castle in Åbo. Instead, Eric and his Battalion had to retreat and sail back to Åland. In the battle, only one man was killed and one was hurt in his company.

On July 1, they once again landed on Åland, at the village Färsund. Then they marched about 20 kilometers to Hammarlanda parish and Nafsby farm. At Nafsby they piced a camp. Eric told about the battle near Åbo and about the return to Åland in the first letter that he wrote to his parents from Åland in July 5, 1808.

To be able to survey the casualties from the battle, a roll was written on July 12, 1808, on order from the King, containing officers and soldiers in the first Battalion, 2nd Company. In the roll, soldier number 9 was noted: "Eric Brun, 5 foot and 8 1/2 tum (169 centimeters), born 1785, unmarried". He is now, for the first time, named by his soldiersname: Brun (Brown).

The things that happened to Eric and his Company during the rest of the year are not known. It is possible that more battles were fought against the Russians, especially when the Russians invaded Åland. In February 1809, there must have been battles. A message from the Battalion at the end of February told that the commander in chief, Baron A U Wrangel, had died on Frebruary 24, 1809.

On March 7, 1809 a roll was written once again, probably to be able to survey the casualties from the latest battles. In the roll, no 9 Brun is noted as present in the first Company. This removal from the 2nd Company to the lst was the result of the reorganization that was done autumn of 1808.

In Eric's second letter to his parents, dated in Norrtälje in June 14, 1809, he tells that all his friends are on the cannon launches and that there are only sick soldiers left. He also mentions that he has been a guard over the sick soldiers and as soon as he leaves "from here" he will also be on a cannon launch. This might indicate that Eric was also hurt and when he recovered was ordered to be a sickguard. Among the soldiers that were selected from Rasbo, he writes that, besides himself, only one is left in the Company. To his brother he writes that Frans Flink was taken as a prisoner on Åland during the winter.

After the peace with Russia on September 17, 1809, most of the selected soldiers left the army and returned to their homes. Eric also returned home, not to Erik Matson at Tomta in Rasbo parish, but to his parents in Åknarby in Dannemora parish. He remained as a soldier until January 2, 1810, when he, according to the roll dated March 7, 1809, "got his announcement" to leave the army.

In the churchbooks in Dannemora parish, 1812 - 1818, it is written about Eric: "was a soldier, but remained in fine condition and health".

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Copyright © Håkan Bergström, Latest update 2000-02-07