von Essen’s infantry regiment in 1626-1628

Story continues from previous post about the battle of Weichselmünde 1628. Now we take closer look at the Finnish infantry present at that battle. The sources are the same, Hakkapeliittain Historia II by Arvi Korhonen (1942) and Pohjan Prikaatin Historia by Stig Roudasmaa (1984).

Alexander von Essen’s infantry regiment was formed in 1626 as a result of king’s military reforms: in Finland, three large landsregements were divided into smaller, more numerous regiments, themselves organized after new Dutch model. The new länsregements were clearly provincial in character, even though during Gustavus Adolphus’s time they were not yet officially named after their provinces but after their colonel. The von Essen’s regiment was reqruited from Ostrobothnian province and later came to be called the Ostrobothnian Infantry Regiment, with province’s coat of arms in its flag.

Ostrobothnia province (Pohjanmaa in Finnish, Österbotten in Swedish) is in northwestern part of Finland, the eastern shore of the Bothnian Gulf: coastline of fishermen’s villages on the islands and small towns trading furs and tar, and flat inland part with wealthy and rebellious peasantry.

Botnia Orientalis in Olaus Magnus’s Carta Marina from 1539. ”They build ships here” written near Närpes.

During 17th century, not much unlike today, the coastal villages of Pohjanmaa were predominantly Swedish-speaking and the inland Finnish-speaking. So also the von Essen’s regiment was bilingual with some companies, like Colonel’s and Major’s, drawn entirely from coastal villages and thus Swedish-speaking in character, while von Falkenberg’s (later Hume’s) company was made of men from the Finnish-speaking areas like Ilmajoki and Laihia. Lichton’s regiment was drawn from extreme north part of the province, Kemi and Ii areast that reached far into the wilderness that is modern Lapland.

And to add to two native languages, there were the multinational officers, with names like Suther, Lichton and Hume (Scots) and Schultz and von Falkenberg (Germans). There were also several native Swedish officers and some Finns too. The commander of the regiment, Alexander von Essen, was himself a Baltic German from Estonia. Before becoming commander of the Ostrobothnian regiment at the age of 31 years, he had already served in Prince of Orange’s lifeguard and in Venetian, Spanish and Polish armies.

Link to colonel von Essen’s biography

The regiment was first gathered in one place at 27.7.1626 in the city of Turku, Finland. There were 1123 men waiting for ships to take them to Prussia and to war. Equipment was lacking, most of the men were dressed in their own clothes, in Finnish peasant style that was not suitable for parades. Many were unarmed. In the last minute the regiment received a shipment of hundreds of muskets and pikes and several hundred meters of cloth for new uniforms. Also new flags were received, 24 infantry flags for two regiments (the other was Horn’s regiment). Too bad we don’t know what those flags looked like!

Folk Costume of a Peasant from Österbotten. Anonymous watercolour, end of 17th c. Nationalmuseum Sweden.

We can assume that the clothing situation improved during the war and by 1628 the regiment was mostly dressed in military fashion instead of peasant clothes. At least the hardware was fine: from the beginning of August 1627 we have list or regiments weaponry.

The whole regiment had 485 muskets and bandoliers. Most companies had full 72 musketeers but two companies had only 42. Every company had full 54 pikes, 432 in total. Every pikeneer had an armour (steel harness) and a helmet, also about one quarter of the musketeers had a helmet too. There was a sword virtually for every man, 1024 in total. On the summer of 1627 the regiment had around 1050 men, but at least 150 of them were ill at any given time.

For almost the whole duration of king’s Prussian war the von Essen’s regiment was part of the field army while the other Finnish regiments were garrisoning Livonian castles and cities. So amongst Finnish infantry units the von Essen’s unit was the one that saw the most action in the campaign – a similar role the Hastfehr’s Savolax infantry has later in the German campaign.

The field army in Prussia, beginning of June of 1628, Dirschau (now Tczew, Poland)


Cavalry, foreign (mercenary) 16 companies
Cavalry, Swedish 23 companies
Cavalry, Finnish 7 companies
Cavalry total 46 companies 3769 men


Infantry, foreign (mercenary) 33 companies
Infantry, Swedish 32 companies
Infantry, Finnish 8 companies
Infantry total 76 companies 7641 men

Only Finnish infantry unit in the field army was von Essen’s regiment. Even though the foreign infantry regiments were probably more presentable than the Finnish regiment, it was still seen strong enough to be the main body of king’s daring secret attack on Polish and Danzig fleets in the end of June (look at the previous post in the blog).

This is the list of von Essen’s eight companies, their officers and strengths before the battle of Weichselmünde at the end of June 1628:

von Essen’s eight companies, June 1628

Company commander Lieutenant Fähnrich Marching strenght (incl. officers) Sick Original area of recruitment
Col. Alexander von Essen Hindrich Ledebur Fromholt von Rosen 122 6 Nykarleby, Jakobstad
Maj. Nils Larsson Hindrich von Stammer Johan Plöger 116 12 Malax, Närpes
Capt. Anders Persson Jöns Elofsson Joachim Höfring 96 18 Kalajoki, Pyhäjoki
Capt. Joachim Schultz Peter Brieger Gert von Schrowe 99 4 Vörå, Lapua
Lt.Col. Casper Koskull Wadsten Jönsson Bengt Hindersson 111 22 Kronoby, Karleby
Capt. Patrick Hume Hans Nilsson Thomas Hume 104 13 Ilmajoki, Isokyrö, Laihia
Capt. Norman Suther Grels Thomasson Hans von Horn 98 42 Kemi, Ii
Capt. John Lichton Wadsten Meier William Lichton 96 36 Oulu, Hailuoto


Every summer a new conscription run was made in the homeland and the regiment was reinforced with 437 new recruits in the summer of 1627 and 304 men in 1628. They were shipped to Prussia in small groups, some boats sailing from as far as Oulu (Uleåborg). The boats were not warships but small, locally-made one or two-masted cargo ships called kuutti/kreijari or skute/krejare and leased from the burghers of coastal towns. It took at least a month to sail from Oulu to Pillau and it was probably not a pleasant experience for new soldiers. Apparently all ships and most of the new soldiers made their way to Prussia safely. After the sea journey they were free to start dying from diseases.

More information about the Ostrobothnian shipbuilding and period’s shipping from these websites (in Swedish mostly):



In the first two years of the regiment lost 254 men, around 20% of its original strength, most of them to diseases. This does not include the new recruits that also of course also died in droves. The actual fighting killed less than 100 men.

Mämmiä ja äkseerausta Turussa / Some mämmi and drill in Turku

GARS kävi esiintymässä Turun linnalla maaliskuun ensimmäisenä sunnuntaina. Pikenööripäivään sisältyi kaksi äkseerausnäytöstä linnan pihalla, tutustuminen linnaan ja erityisesti Valtapeliä – Reformaatio Suomessa -näyttelyyn, sekä kylmä lounas 1600-luvun sotilashengessä.

On the first sunday of March, GARS made a trip to Turku Castle. We had two pike drill shows, visited the castle and especially their exhibition on reformation in Finland, and had a cold lunch in 17th century military style.

Turun linnan pihalla / At Turku Castle courtyard (c) GARS 2017

Noin tunnin äksiisin jälkeen nälkä alkoi olla jo aikamoinen. Nautimme lounaan linnan renessanssisalissa lähes autenttisessa 1600-luvun ympäristössä. Tosin sotilaat eivät olisi näin hienoihin tiloihin päässeet, vaan ruoka olisi tarjoiltu linnantuvassa.

After one hour drill we started to get hungry. We had our lunch in the renaissance hall of the castle in an authentic 17th century surroundings. Although back then, soldiers would have eaten in the common dining hall.

Keihäät kulkevat hyvin myös kapeassa portaikossa / Pikemen can go also in narrow staircases (c) GARS 2017

Koska käytössämme ei ollut keittiötä, valmistimme ruoat etukäteen. Tarjolla oli perinteisen ruisleivän, juuston, lihan, kananmunien ja kalapiirakan lisäksi länsisuomalaista erikoisuutta, mämmiä. Mämmi tunnetaan jo katolisen ajan paasto- ja eväsruokana, ja myöhemmin siitä tuli suosittu pitoruoka. Mämmiä syödään nykyisinkin koko Suomessa pääsiäisen tienoilla, joten katolisesta tavasta ei suinkaan ole kyse!

We didn’t have kitchen, so lunch was prepared beforehand. We had rye bread, cheese, ham, boiled eggs, salmon pie, and local Western Finland speciality, mämmi. There are mentions of mämmi in the Middle Ages during Lent and as food for travel, and later it became a festive dish. Mämmi is still popular in Finland during Easter holidays, so it’s in no way a catholic tradition!

Lohipiirakkaa, mämmiä ja muita tarjottavia / Salmon pie, mämmi and other dishes. (c) GARS 2017

Mämmi valmistetaan ohramaltaista ja ruisjauhoista imeltämällä.  Imeltämisessä maltaiden ja rukiin tärkkelys pilkkoutuu sokeriksi. Tärkeintä prosessissa on lämpötilan pitäminen tasaisena, jotta imeltyminen onnistuu. Sokeri on ollut harvinainen yläluokan herkku aina 1800-luvulle asti, ja jos hunajaankaan ei ollut varaa, oli imeltäminen ainoa keino valmistaa makeita ruokia. Ohje on sovellettu Marttojen ohjeesta.

Mämmi is made from malt and rye flour by a special technique called imeltäminen. It’s what happens when starches in malt and rye are modified into sugar in certain warm temperatures. It is important to keep the temperature steady for the whole process. Imeltäminen creates a sweet taste, which was hard to achieve before sugar came into wider use in the 19th century. Honey was also expensive, so imeltäminen was the only way to make sweet dishes.

Mämmi 1600-luvun tapaan / Mämmi in 17th century style

1. vaihe / stage
1 l vettä / water
200 g mämmi- tai kaljamaltaita / malt
400 g ruisjauhoja / rye flour

2. vaihe / stage
1,5 l vettä / water
150 g mämmi- tai kaljamaltaita / malt
300 g ruisjauhoja / rye flour

1. vaihe. Kuumenna vesi poreilevaksi (n. 70 astetta) isossa kattilassa. Sekoita veteen maltaat ja ruisjauhot. Ripottele pinnalle hieman ruisjauhoja. Peitä kattila kannella. Anna imeltyä 1½-2 tuntia lämpimässä paikassa, esimerkiksi uunissa 50 asteen lämmössä. Imeltyminen tapahtuu 50-75 asteessa, joten lämpötilaa ei saa ylittää eikä alittaa. Onnistunut imeltyminen tekee seoksesta juoksevampaa.

1. stage. Warm the water to ca. 70 degrees Celsius in a large kettle. Add malt and rye flour and mix together. Sprinkle some flour on top and cover the kettle with a lid. Put the kettle to an oven in ca. 50 C for 1½-2 hours. The modification of starch into sugar happens in 50-75 C, so that should be the temperature for the whole process.  If imeltäminen is done correctly, the mix should be a bit more runny than when it was put to the oven.

(c) GARS 2017

2. vaihe. Kuumenna vesi poreilevaksi ja lisää kattilaan. Sekoita joukkoon maltaat ja jauhot. Jatka kuten edellä ja anna imeltyä taas pari tuntia lämpimässä uunissa.

2. stage. Warm the water to 70 C and add to the kettle. Add more malt and flour to the mix and let it stay in the oven as in stage 1 for a couple of more hours.

(c) GARS 2017

3. Tässä vaiheessa mämmin tulee olla löysän puuron vahvuista. Lisää tarvittaessa jauhoja. Keitä seosta 10 minuuttia koko ajan hämmentäen varoen pohjaan palamista. Jaa mämmi tuokkosiin, leivinpaperilla vuorattuun uunivuokaan tai foliovuokiin. Jätä kuohumisvaraa noin 1/3 vuoan korkeudesta. Astian on hyvä olla laakea, ja mämmiä noin 5 cm paksuinen kerros, jotta nestettä haihtuu riittävästi.

3. Now the mix should resemble thin porridge. Add flour if it’s too runny. Boil for 10 minutes, stirr constantly and be careful that the mix doesn’t burn. Pour it into traditional bowls made of birch bark, disposable folio dishes or oven dishes covered with baking paper. Fill the dishes 2/3 full. Mämmi should not be more than 5 cm thick, so the moist evaporates more effectively.

(c) GARS 2017

4. Paista uunin alatasossa 170 asteen lämmössä 2½-3 tuntia. Mämmi on parhaimmillaan muutaman päivän kuluttua. Tarjoa kylmänä.

4. Bake in 170 C for 2½-3 hours. Mämmi is best after a couple of days in the fridge. Serve cold.

(c) GARS 2017

Nykyään mämmi syödään useimmin kerman ja sokerin kera. Kermaa ei kuitenkaan olisi ollut 1600-luvulla tarjolla tähän aikaan vuodesta, koska lehmät olivat talven ja kevään ummessa. Lypsy onnistui vain kesäisin ja syksyisin, kun lehmillä oli tuoretta ruokaa. Lisäksi suurin osa kermasta käytettiin voin valmistamiseen, eikä ruoanlaittoon. Ja kuten mainittu, sokeria ei ollut aikakautena yleisesti saatavilla.

Nowadays mämmi is usually eaten with cream and sugar. But in the 17th century there would not have been cream available during winter and spring, only in summer and autumn, when there would be fresh food for cows. Most of the cream was also used to make butter, not in cooking. And as mentioned before, sugar was not widely available in the early modern period.

Zum bier! (c) GARS 2017

Kuvia tapahtumasta / More pictures here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/128865949@N07/sets/72157677587267174






During Thirty Years’ War thousands of silken flags were produced for Swedish army, but just a few of them survive: most of the surviving ones are those which enemy took in battle and brought home as trophies, to be shown in churches and palaces. Later, some of them ended up in museums. Researching flags of this period is based largely on paintings and written descriptions. We know for sure that swedish army didn’t have any single flag standard, as the flags were usually made in the regiments according to the tastes of the commanding officers and of which materials were available. Native Swedish regiments might have had slightly simpler flags than the continental mercenary regiments. There are no evidence of flag colours being systematically coordinated with the uniform colours or the provincial colours even though there might have been that kind of efforts or plans.

German monk Reginbaldus Möhner painted dozens of water-colour portraits of flags, belonging to Swedish regiments occupying and passing through Augsburg in 1634, for his chronicle. Amongst these paintings there are four flags of Kaspar Ermes’s Finnish (Savolax) infantry, which are company flags in all propability. Every one of the four flags have been reduced to mere rags hanging from a flagpole, with no hint of the pattern of the flag. Silken flags truly were not very durable in the battlefield and on the other hand new flags were often not issued until the regiment was reorganized: so in the long campaigns, many units were marching under tattered flags.

GARS uses blue and black flag with golden wreath painted on both sides and on the middle the Savolax coat of arms on the other and the king’s monogram on the other side. This is a speculative reconstruction made after Möhner’s paintings, general flag fashion of the period, other Swedish infantry flags and later period flags of Savolax infantry regiment.

Savolax infantry regiment

Savolax (Savo in modern finnish) is a province in southeastern Finland. Out of all Finnish infantry units the men of Savolax infantry regiment were most actively present in the key events of Swedish king’s German campaign. After the military reform of 1626 there was seven Finnish infantry regiments in Swedish army, all named after the province whose population they were drawn from. Not all these regiments were used in the German campaign (or at least it’s most active early phase) and many units served mostly as garrisons in Northern Germany, Prussia and Livonia. When Swedish field army marched far south to Bavaria and fought the big decisive battles, Finnish infantry was mainly represented by Savolax infantry who also are the ones being most often mentioned in contemporary sources. Men of Savolax regiment performed well especially in the battle of Rain (crossing the Lech river).

Five out of the eight companies in Savolax regiment were sent to Germany with the king. These companies were formed into a regiment under the command of colonel Klas Hastfer even though the Savolax regiment itself was still commanded by general Gustav Horn (who himself was acting as a Field Marshal of the Swedish army). Later the Hastfehr’s regiment was commanded by Lt.Col. Kaspar Ermes who was a veteran captain from Savolax regiment. Even though Swedish conscription system worked on a regional basis and every conscript regiment had a provincial identity, name and insignia, on field of war the regimets were still named after their leader: so Savolax regiment in Germany was usually called “Hastfer’s Finnish regiment” and later “Ermes’s Finnish Regiment”. Last men of Savolax reximent left Germany in 1649, after the peace treaty. Many of those who survived were then transferred to new wars against Poland and Denmark.

It is safe to assume that Savolax was equipped as other native Swedish infantry units. Savolax regiment is the only Finnish infantry unit from the period that we have a reasonably trustworthy, even though only partial, source for a flag. German monk Reginbaldus Möhner painted flags of Swedish forces occupying Augsburg in 1634 and amongst these paintings there are four flags -shown as mere rags- of Kaspar Ermes’s Finnish infantry.

Finnish infantry and 30 Years War

Thirty Years’ War was fought in Central Europe from year 1618 to 1648. Sweden joined the war properly in 1630 and Swedish forces remained in Germany to the end of the war. The whole reign of Gustavus Adolphus, from 1611, had been time of almost constant war: Sweden fought against Russia in Ingria (1611-1617), against Poland in Livonia (1617-1618 and 1621-1626) and in Prussia (1626-1629) and several times against Denmark. After the death of Gustavus Adolphus and towards the end of the German war, wars against old enemies Poland and Denmark started again. State of war was effectively the normal state of things, short periods of peace were spent getting ready for the next war.

Whole area of modern Finland belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden during the 17th century and Finnish troops were well represented in Swedish military. Finnish cavalry (“Hackapelites”) and their exploits in German War are well known especially amongst Finns, and have a somewhat mythical reputation thanks to 19th and 20th century writers. In reality, much bigger number of Finns fought in infantry. While cavalrymen were volunteers (drawn mostly among the sons and servants of welthier farmers, with tax exemption and freedom from feared conscription as motive of volunteering) native Swedish and Finnish infantry were conscripts, drawn from the peasant class.

During the early-17th century wars against Poland and Russia a very large proportion of Swedish army had been Finnish in origin, but in Thirty Years War the Swedish field army was actually mostly comprised of foreign (German, Scots, etc.) mercenaries: native Swedes and Finns were a minority. Often concripted troops were also given tasks in guarding and garrisoning the North-German towns and castles and saw less action in battlefield than mercenaries. Nevertheless, a small number of Finnish infantrymen were present in most of the famous battles of Thirty Years War, like Breitenfeld and Lützen.

GARS mainly re-enacts Finnish infantry from Savolax infantry regiment during the German campaign of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630-1632) but our equipment can mostly be used also in a larger timeframe from the beginning of the Livonian war in 1621 to the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648.