Previous Page Search Again Next Page

in 1804 he received the title that has remained his : Father of Finnish History.?

Outside Finland, meanwhile, frontiers had begun to crumble and nations to be wiped off the map as Napoleon conquered more and more of the continent. And so war threatened Sweden-Finland too, now from the south, now from the east, and there was reason to fear some sudden alignment which would bring Sweden and Russia face to face once more, with Finland again the pawn.

The fate of small nations is often to be a pawn in the struggles between larger nations, with the larger and the stronger deciding on their own advantages without consulting the desires of the weaker. Thus two of the world's great men, Russia's Czar Alexander I and French Emperor Napoleon I met at Tilsit in 1807, uniting in league against England. Since Sweden-Finland refused to comply with the demands made on it by this league, Russia was to demand compliance by force. The attack against Finland in 1808 was, in the beginning, a matter of military necessity: after the war, the occupied territories were supposed to be relinquished. 8

The Russian forces crossed the frontier on February 21, without a declaration of war. The Finnish outposts, making no resistance, began to retreat. Buxhoevden, the Russian commander-in-chief, who assumed the Finns would retreat toward Helsinki, marched in that direction, with the Finns continuing to retreat rapidly before the superior forces. The Swedish general, of Klercker, had decided to join battle farther north, in the vicinity of Hämeenlinna, but before he could do so the commander-in-chief, General Klingspor, accompanied by his chief of staff, Colonel Löwenhjelm, having driven in a sleigh around the Gulf of Bothnia, arrived at headquarters. At the staff meeting which followed, everyone was in favor of battle - except Klingspor, who was in favor of retreat, fearing that an enemy pushing across Finland to the Gulf of Bothnia could cut off his retreat. The order to withdraw was given without delay, and as if to confirm his judgment, moments later word was received from the commander of the Savo brigade that the limited Finnish forces there, too, were retreating from the Russians who had crossed the border opposite them.

Having taken Hämeenlinna, Buxhoevden decided to pursue Klingspor but at the same time to take areas along the coast in southern Finland, in order to have them firmly under control before the ice melted to permit the Swedes, with the help of the English, to attempt landing parties. The Russian force advancing

7. op. cit. Eino Jutikkala, "Kustavialainen aika", I, pp. 590-688. 8. op. cit. Erkki K. Osmonsalo, "Tilsitin politiikka," I, pp. 689-699.


Previous Page Search Again Next Page