History of War

POLTAVA

“THE BATTLE OF POLTAVA WOULD DECIDE ONCE AND FOR ALL WHETHER RUSSIA COULD RESIST THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF THE NEARLY INVINCIBLE SWEDISH ARMY”

COSSACK HETMANATE (MODERN-DAY UKRAINE)

27 JUNE 1709

As the first rays of dawn appeared over the Vorskla Valley in the Cossack Hetmanate at 4.00am on 27 June 1709, Russian cannoneers in a south-facing redoubt fired their gun into a blurry mass of Swedish infantry advancing towards them. The shots carried off the heads of a Swedish captain, two grenadiers, and four musketeers in the front rank.

The Russians were soon engulfed in a sea of 7,000 blue-jacketed Swedish infantry moving rapidly north. The Swedish grenadiers and musketeers in the centre column slammed headlong into the first of six redoubts arrayed in a vertical line in the middle of the main road, leading away from Poltava. The left and right columns of the Swedish foot, however, swung wide around the redoubts in a rush to reach the open ground in front of the fortified Russian camp just north of the besieged town of Poltava.

The Swedes used the cold steel of their bayonets to overrun the first and second redoubts. The attackers swept over the low walls of the earthworks and bayoneted the hapless Russians inside. As the sun broke full over the horizon, the Swedish attack seemed to be off to an auspicious start.

Northern Union

The Battle of Poltava would decide once and for all whether Russia could resist the incredible power of the nearly invincible Swedish army that had dominated northeastern Europe in the aftermath of the Thirty Years' War and transformed the Baltic Sea into a ‘Swedish Lake’ by annexing Pomerania, Livonia, and Estonia.

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