The second Carolean: Major Carl Fredrik von Wachenfeldt

Carl Fredrik von Wachenfeldt was born on September 30, 1681, at Güstrow. He was the second son of David Friedrich von Wachenfeldt and his wife Barbara, née Kistmacher.

Carl Fredrik had several younger siblings, but he looked up to his older brother, Joachim, a great deal. The family seem to have lived with his grandparents in Güstrow where his grandfather was the Burgermeister.

There is scant information about the David Friedrich von Wachenfeldt family during these years. Barbara’s youngest son, David Fredrik, is not listed as being born in Güstrow. His birth in 1687 is the last real, if indirect, information we have about Barbara except that she died “before 1691”.


Possibly the Kistmacher grandparents passed away. When his mother died, Carl Fredrik was ten years old.

His father was in his late fifties and we know that he remarried soon after to Anna Hedwig von Bülow.

Around that time, the little boy was sent to be a page in the service of general Hans Heinrich von Liewen. Liewen was the Swedish governor of Wismar and commander of the garrison there.

We know that David Sr. bought a house in Wismar and put up his property at Klein-Bresen for sale. We also know that it was during this transition period that Carl Fredrik’s older brother became a volunteer at von Liewen’s regiment.

For a while, the military careers of the two brothers ran parallel, with only a slight chronological displacement.


Carl Fredrik became a volunteer at the Wismar garrison regiment in 1699 and advanced to corporal and junior sergeant the following year.

He resigned from his regiment in 1701 to become a volunteer at the Uppland Regiment. His older brother was on his way to Estonia with general von Liewen.

In Wismar their father was unwell and they had two new siblings, Elsa Dorotea and Paul.

Although there is no definitive date registered, David Friedrich von Wachenfeldt, the old colonel, died in 1702. Joachim was with the victorious army and took part in the battle at Klissow.


We know that both brothers were in the first siege of Tönningen in 1702. Carl Fredrik had his first opportunity to fight under the command of the famous young King. The Swedes won.

During the next two years, he was promoted first to sergeant and then to sergeant major.

The Swedes started bombarding the town and on January 17 they stormed it.

In 1705 Carl-Fredrik took part in a pitched battle against a Polish-Saxon-Lithuanian army at the Warsaw Bridge in Poland. This time he fought under Carl Nieroth, commander of the Uppland Regiment.


Although this too was a Swedish victory, Carl Fredrik was very seriously injured. He lost his lower right arm to a stray cannonball and spent the following three years recuperating and learning how to use his left arm. During his convalescence, he was promoted to lieutenant.

It seems that this was when the family moved to Sweden. Still, Carl Fredrik must have been considered sufficiently well to return to active duty.

King Charles and his army were now in Ukraine where thousands of men succumbed to the unusually cold winter.


In an effort to put pressure on Tsar Peter, the King laid siege to the town of Veprik. It is at this engagement that we learn that our hero has re-joined the King’s army. The whole operation took place between January 3 – 17 in 1709 and was led by the King and Berndt Otto Stackelberg.

Veprik had a garrison of some 1 500 men and their commandant refused to surrender. The Swedes started bombarding the town and on January 17 they stormed it. After two hours of intense fighting, the King’s army had to pull back. Veprik surrendered the following day.

But Carl Fredrik was one of the 600 Swedes who were wounded at Veprik. He sustained a serious head injury. We do not know where or if he was able to recuperate since the king and his army marched on.


The next battle was at Oposhnya on February 8. The Swedes attacked the Russian army of Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov. He was having dinner and was taken by surprise when the king and a troop of 2 000 cavalrymen attacked.

On April 23, 1709, a Swedish army of some 3 000 cavalry under the command of Carl Gustaf Kruse and 3 500 Cossacks of Kost Gordiyenko and Ivan Mazepa fought a Russian army at Sokolki, not far from the town of Poltava. This battle was considered a draw, with both sides claiming victory in the fog.

There is nothing to confirm that Carl Fredrik participated in these encounters, all of which led to the ill-fated battle of Poltava. It is likely that he did, since the Swedes could ill afford to spare any men at this stage. An exceptionally harsh winter had killed thousands of Swedish troops, but the King marched inexorably toward his next engagement with the Russian Tsar. Towards Poltava, which was going to be the turning point of the war.


The battle of Poltava ended in defeat and surrender at Perevolochna on July 1, 1709. It signified the annihilation of the once formidable Swedish continental army. King Charles XII escaped to Moldavia, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.

Left with the remnant of the Swedish army, general Adam Lewenhaupt knew that he could not defeat the Russians. After voting among the higher officers, the Swedish army capitulated.

The surrender at Perevolochna was the first major step on the road to Russian victory in the Great Northern War. The Swedish continental army was no more. The defense forces that remained in the German theatre of war were outnumbered.

Like most of the Swedes who were still alive at Pervolochna, General Lewenhaupt was taken prisoner and died in Russian captivity in 1719. King Charles blamed him unfairly for the surrender and did nothing to have him released.


Carl Fredrik was among the 23 000 Swedish POWs taken by the Russians. The prisoners were marched to Moscow on foot in the middle of July. Those who tried to escape and were caught were beaten.

Around Christmas-time 1709, Tsar Peter prepared a victory extravaganza in Moscow.  Swedish soldiers and officers were forced to march through the capital, behind their flags, standards, musical instrument, cannon, and handguns that was part of the Russian booty.

Peter’s victory parade went on a whole day and most prisoners did not get to rest until after midnight. They were not fed all day and suffered greatly from the cold. On top of that local Russians were spitting at them and cursing them.


At the beginning of the new year, the Tsar decided to remove the majority of the POWs from Moscow. Count Carl Piper set up a prisoners’ office in the capital to administrate the Swedish POW and seek their interests. Mostly he had to see to it that the officers were paid and that the prisoners were not ill-treated.

A major problem was that the Swedish government could not afford to pay the officers’ upkeep. To manage they had to work as farmhands, chopping wood, making musical instruments and other wooden objects. Others taught fencing, dancing, or general education.

During the spring, 9 000 POWs were sent to southern Russia to work at the wharves in Voronesj or the construction of the city of Ziroda. In 1711, the POW’s administration discovered that out of 5 000 men only 1 800 were still living. Most had died from starvation and hard labor.

Piper demanded better conditions for the prisoners from the Russian senate. The office was active until the end of the war. Piper died in 1716 and Carl Gustaf Rehnskiöld took over until he was exchanged and returned to Sweden. General Lewenhaupt took over for him in 1718 and when he passed away, lieutenant colonel Carl Gustaf Creutz managed the office until the peace treaty was signed in Nystad 1721.


Life as a prisoner varied greatly depending on where the POWs were sent. Those who remained in Moscow had the best conditions  

Carl Fredrik was sent to Saranski in the Mordovia region, where prisoners were forced to do hard labor with blocks around their feet. Initially, the Russian state paid the POW’s, but from 1704 the Swedish crown assumed that responsibility for the officers. Non-commissioned officers and privates were paid by the Russians in exchange for labor on fortifications, in mines or in agriculture.

Conditions in Saranski were bad. Carl Fredrik got paid very little and must have had difficulty doing manual labor, having only one arm. We know nothing much about his years in captivity, only that he married a nameless woman, who died six weeks after the wedding.


Miraculously, he managed to escape from captivity. The distance from Saranski, more than 600 km east of Moscow, to Sweden is daunting, to say the least. He walked home. That march was doubtlessly the longest and most difficult one of his life. It took courage, intelligence, patience, diplomacy, and stamina that is nothing short of amazing. He arrived in Sweden in February of 1719.

When he returned, the King he had served so faithfully was dead, and the country that was to be is new home was crippled with debts, scarcity, even famine. When he reported for duty upon arrival, he was made a tenured captain at the Uppland regiment, which ascertained a steady income.

Carl Fredrik had beaten the odds as a Russian POW – he was one of the 25 % who survived and was able to return home.


His younger brother David was engaged to be married to Hedvig Sofia Kagg. Their wedding took place in October 1719. Maybe that was where he met his future wife, Anna Christina Reuter af Skälboö. She was a widow and quite a bit older than him.

They were married in April 1722 and settled down at her manor Reutersberg. Anna Christina was the oldest daughter of Johan Reuter and his wife Sofia Natt och Dag. Her two brothers were killed in the war and she inherited one of her parents’ estates. A couple of years later  Carl Fredrik transferred to the Älvsborg regiment.


Anna Christina von Wachenfelt died in1634. Carl Fredrik married Christina Regina Lood in Småland at Reutersberg in 1735. They had many children. Their first, Johan Henrik was born in 1736. The youngest, Ulrika, was born in 1750.

Carl Fredrik was attached to the garrison regiment in Malmö in 1745. He resigned as a major two years later.

Carl Fredrik von Wachenfelt died in 1760 at Skogen in Hulared, Västergötland.

Leave A Reply