Narva, Battle of 1700

Narva, Battle of (1700)


the first major battle of the Northern War of 1700–21; fought between the Russian Army of Peter I and the Swedish Army of Charles XII on November 19 (30) near the city of Narva.

On Sept. 16, 1700, Russian troops laid siege to Narva and Ivangorod, where there was a Swedish garrison of 1,900 men and 400 guns. By November 19 (30), some 35,000 men were concentrated near Narva, including 27,000 infantrymen, 15,00 dragoons, and 6,500 cavalrymen of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry); this force had 173 guns. The siege was unsuccessful because of the poor condition of the artillery and shortages of ammunition. Charles XII took advantage of the inactivity of Russia’s ally, the Polish king Augustus II, to land a 32,000-man army at Pernov (pärnu) and advanced on Narva; he arrived outside the city on November 18 (29).

The dvorianstvo cavalry under B. P. Sheremetev, which was providing cover for the troops besieging Narva, went to the city and gave exaggeratedly low estimates of the enemy forces. On November 18 (29), Peter I left for Novgorod to hasten the movement of reinforcements and supply wagons; he transferred command to his field marshal, the duke C. de Croy. On the morning of November 19 (30), Charles XII learned from a deserter precise information about the location of the Russian Army. Under cover of fog and snow, he advanced toward the Russian positions and dealt an unexpected blow, breaking through to the center. Duke de Croy and other foreign officers fled to the Swedes. The poorly trained and only recently formed regiments retreated over the crossings on the Narva River, while the dvorianstvo cavalry jumped into the river in disorder and started swimming. Only the Preobrazhenskii and Semenovskii regiments offered stubborn resistance and covered the right flank of those retreating, and General A. A. Verde’s division covered the left flank. The lack of a unified command and the isolation of the northern and southern groups made it impossible to organize resistance against the enemy, and the Russian generals capitulated on the condition that they could keep their banners and weapons. However, when the guard units and A. I. Golovin’s division crossed the Narva River on November 20 (December 1), the Swedes violated these terms and disarmed Veide’s and I. Iu. Trubets-koi’s divisions.

The Swedes lost almost 3,000 men in the battle of Narva, and the Russians about 8,000 men and 145 guns. However, Charles XII’s success was only a temporary tactical victory. As F. Engels wrote, “Narva was the first serious defeat of a rising nation whose resolute spirit learned to be victorious even in defeat” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 10, p. 565).