Our first Carolean: Lieutenant Colonel JOACHIM VON WACHENFELT

Joachim Fredrik von Wachenfelt was the first child of Barbara Kistmacher and ColonelDavid Friedrich von Wachenfelt. He was born in 1680, in his maternal grandparents’ home in Güstrow. He was named for Barbara’s father, Joachim Kistmacher, a doctor of law, who was also the mayor of Güstrow.

It seems that the von Wachenfelt family lived in Güstrow during the better part of the 1680s. Barbara had four more children, two boys, and two girls. The fact that all of them lived to adulthood, past the crucial first five years, is a testament to that they lived well and were very healthy.

David Friedrich knighted

The biggest family event during that decade, apart from the arrival of the children, was that King Charles XI of Sweden knighted David von Wachenfeldt in 1788. Pomerania, where they lived, was a part of Sweden at the time.

Barbara dies

We do not know much about their lives during this period of relative peace. There is a cryptic note that Barbara von Wachenfeldt died “before 1691”. There is no other mention of her. It is easy to deduce that her successor, Anna Hedwig von Bülow, became David’s wife quite soon after her death. Joachim was 11 years old when he lost his mother.

Joachim a cadet

Three years later, in 1694, he became a cadet in the service of the Prince Elector of Brandenburg. He was 14 at the time.

It is likely that the family settled at David’s property Klein-Bresen after he re-married. Hedwig gave birth to a little girl, Elsa Dorotea, in 1693, and was expecting another child when Joachim left home.

He got his basic training with the Brandenburg army and went through the ranks, becoming a volunteer at the Swedish Governor’s Regiment in Wismar in 1697. Two years later, at age 17, he was promoted to sergeant major. General Hans Heinrich von Liewen who headed the Dala Regiment was governor of Wismar at the time. Wismar was an important port on the Baltic and had been so since Hanseatic days. In the latter half of the 17th century, it was a Swedish possession.

The family in Wismar

In 1695, Hedwig von Wachenfeldt had another daughter, Margareta, who was sickly and died before she was a year old. Her last child, Paul Fredrik was born in 1700. At that time, David sold the country place and purchased a house in Wismar. The old Colonel was not well physically, but he was pleased with the progress of his eldest son.

The records fail us here, partly because so much was going on and partly due to David’s ill health. There was an infant in the house and several young children. Times were very uncertain.

King Charles had won a major battle against a large coalition Russian-Polish-Saxon- Lithuanian army at Narva in Estonia. General von Liewen’s regiment was ordered to join the King in Latvia in 1701. At that time, Joachim had been promoted to second cavalry ensign. He was about to see serious battle for the first time.

Battle of Düna bridge

For 21-year old Joachim von Wachenfelt it was a special thrill to have such a young commander-in-chief. King Charles was actually a couple of years younger than Joachim. Liewen’s regiment reached the King’s core army at Riga, Latvia in June 1701. Even with the Dala regiment from Wismar, the Swedish army was badly outnumbered.

With King Charles were the seasoned battle commander, the young king’s mentor, field marshal Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld, as well as Joachim’s own mentor, general Hans Heinrich von Liewen. The actual battle took place at Düna Bridge near Riga. Imagine the excitement when Poles, Saxons, and Russians scattered and fled in disarray before the Swedes!

David Friedrich dies

Fighting in the war, Joachim had little time to mourn his father’s passing around this time. His stepmother and the youngest children were planning to move to Sweden as soon as possible.

Battle of Klissow

Joachim was promoted to first cavalry ensign on January 1, 1702. The battle of Klissow was fought on June 19 that year, and it was another major victory for the Swedes. In 1703 Joachim was promoted to lieutenant.

That same year he participated in the short siege of Thorn in Poland between the end of May and October. His younger brother David Fredrik also took part.

Battle of Fraustadt

The next important battle was at Fraustadt in 1706, one of the greatest Swedish victories of the entire war. They faced a Saxon-Russian coalition army almost twice as numerous as their own, but led by field marshal Rehnskiöld, the enemy was almost annihilated. Some 400 Swedes died while the enemy losses exceeded 7,000.

Before the end of 1706, both Poland and Saxony sued for peace.  

In 1708, on March 10, we find Joachim von Wachenfeldt promoted to captain in the Bremen Dragoons. During a period of almost five years, there is no word of him. He was the eldest son and as such he was now the head of the family.

Head of the family – move to Sweden

He must have spent those years – he was now a tenured captain at the Österbotten regiment – making arrangements for the family’s move to Sweden.

It seems likely that Joachim was the mysterious “captain von Wachenfelt” who, according to German sources, “married in Wismar and had a daughter”. Considering the times, records were not consistently kept; his wife and daughter may have died, and in the cold light of genealogy, they vanished.

We know that Hedwig von Wachenfeldt and the youngest children moved to Tittersta, a manor in Northern Värmland. This must also have been the time that Joachim bought his own place, Sellerås, in Västergötland.

Defeat at Poltava – younger brother a POW

King Charles XII and the main Swedish army lost the battle of Poltava in Russia in 1709. Joachim’s brother David Fredrik was taken prisoner there and sent to Siberia.

Denmark saw an opportunity to try to win back what they had lost. General Magnus Stenbock fought hard and drove the Danes from southern Sweden at the battle of Helsingborg. From there he had orders to join the King and his main army, which was now allied with Turkish forces.

On the march through Pomerania, enemy forces attacked Stenbock at every turn. His army suffered supply shortages and since it was numerically inferior Stenbock did not really want to do battle with a Danish army at Gadebusch in Mecklenburg on December 29, 1712. Joachim reappears on active duty.

Siege of Tönningen

General Stenbock won a great victory at Gadebusch, but the benefit of it was short-lived as he continued to march eastward. Eventually, he and his army were trapped at the Tönningen fortress by a coalition of Danes, Saxons, and Russians. Joachim and his brother David Fredrik were there. On May 16, 1713, Stenbock surrendered.

The Swedish army was captured and the POWs split between the victors. Stenbock and the two von Wachenfelt brothers were among those taken prisoner by the Danes.

POWs escape – disaster in Norway

In 1714, Joachim and David Fredrik escaped to Sweden. David was promoted to lieutenant in the Bremen Dragoons and Joachim was promoted to major –  just in time to participate in King Charles’ ill-fated march on Norway, February 22 – June 1716. The campaign was a complete failure.

That, however, did not dissuade the King from attempting another attack on Norway at the end of October 1718. On the last day of November, King Charles XII was shot dead while inspecting the battlements at the fortress in Fredrikshald. For the Swedes, the Great Northern War was over.

The Swedish army in Norway split into two groups: one accompanied the king’s body to Stockholm, and the remainder were left to their own devices about getting back to Sweden.

It was winter, and the cold took its toll. Short on supplies, some starved to death, some froze to death, and of those who made it across the border, many were permanently crippled by injuries sustained from starvation and exposure.

The war is finally over

When Joachim returned, he settled down at his manor, Sällerås, in western Sweden. He was 48 years old and had been a soldier for 34 years of his life.

Carl Fredrik escaped from Saranski in Siberia in 1718.

Our three Caroleans met in Stockholm at the House of Nobles in 1723 and were formally introduced as # 1743. Our coat of arms is affixed in the Great Hall. Valor was written all over them – Carl Fredrik had lost his arm, but he escaped from Russia on his own. Statistics say only one-fourth of the Russian POWs survived. All three brothers survived the war. What a blessing!

Sällerås – the family

Joachim made Sällerås an entailed estate, to be inherited by the eldest living son of the main branch of the family. He never married and had no children of his own. His younger brothers married were widowed and married again. There was a shortage of eligible men in Sweden after the war.

The returning Caroleans

Today, 48 is not a vast age. In 1718, a returning Carolean was far older than his chronological age both in mind and body. Many had been child soldiers and fought bravely under a boy king, whose bravado was tempered only by some of the greatest Swedish generals of the Great Northern War.

Such a man had survived defeats as well as victories. He had endured imprisonment under conditions so dismal that one of the greatest generals, Magnus Stenbock, died there. And the the finale, the anticlimax to the heady victories of his early youth, those doomed campaigns on Norway. The despair of that ignominious march home across the mountains. Once proud Caroleans freezing and starving and dying.

Wounded in body and soul

There were no ticker-tape parades for the returning Caroleans. Most of them tried to pick up lives that were frightening in their very “normalcy”. They tried to hide the fact that they were soldiers, not farmers. Most of them attempted to cover up the panic attacks, the flashbacks, and the recurring nightmares that were part of the post-traumatic stress disorders most of them suffered from – a condition that would not have a name for another 300 years!

A true hero

Joachim spent the rest of his life dutifully working to establish his family in their new country. When he died, his two younger brothers had already passed on. Joachim had accomplished a great deal: he had fought valiantly for his new country; he had taken care of his siblilngs and their families as best as he could; the family was introduced at the House of Nobles; he had established a hereditary estate, and during his life, he was able to provide a home for his younger brother and his children.

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