Poltava, Battle of 1709
Poltava, Battle of (1709)
a decisive battle between Russian and Swedish troops fought on June 27 (July 8) during the Northern War of 1700–21.
In April 1709, Charles XII’s Swedish troops, which had invaded Russia in 1708, began laying siege to Poltava. The city’s garrison of 4,200 soliders and 2,500 armed burghers, commanded by Colonel A. S. Kelin, successfully repulsed several assaults. In late May the main forces of the Russian Army, under the command of Peter I, reached the Poltava region. At a war council held on June 16 (27) it was decided to wage a decisive battle. On June 25 (July 6), the Russian Army, with 42,000 men and 72 guns, took up positions in a fortified camp it had set up 5 km north of Poltava. On June 26 (July 7), the army created an advance position of ten redoubts held by two battalions. Behind them, 17 cavalry regiments under the command of A. D. Menshikov took up positions.
Charles XII decided to attack the Russian troops, hoping to win a victory and thus induce Turkey to take action against Russia. He assigned for the attack about 20,000 men and four guns. (In the supply train there were 28 more guns without ammunition.) The remaining troops of up to 10,000 men, including some Zaporozh’e and Ukrainian cossacks deceived by the traitorous hetman I. S. Mazepa, were near Poltava in reserve or guarding the communication lines. Charles XII, wounded while on reconnaissance on June 17 (28), turned the command over to Field Marshal K: G. Rehnschiôld.
At 2 A.M. on June 27 (July 8), the Swedish infantry moved against the Russian redoubts in four columns, followed by six cavalry columns. After a fierce two-hour battle, the Swedes were able to capture only two advance redoubts. They began to regroup to the left in order to turn the transverse line of the redoubts from the north. During the maneuver, six right-flank Swedish battalions and several squadrons of Generals Ross and Schlippenbach lost contact with the main forces and retreated into a forest north of Poltava. They were followed by Men-shikov’s cavalry, which routed them and forced them to surrender.
The rest of the Russian cavalry, under the command of General R. Kh. Bour, began withdrawing to the camp by order of Peter I. The Swedes broke through between the redoubts but came under flank artillery and rifle fire from the camp and retreated in disorder to the Budishchi forest. At about 6 A.M., Peter I led the army out of the camp and deployed it in two lines, with B. P. Sheremetev’s infantry in the center and Menshikov’s and Bour’s cavalry on the flanks. A reserve of nine battalions was left in the camp. The main Swedish forces lined up opposite the Russian troops.
At 9 A.M. hand-to-hand combat began, and the Russian cavalry began enveloping the flanks of the enemy. The Swedes undertook a withdrawal, which turned into a disorderly flight by 11 A.M. The Russian cavalry pursued them as far as Perevo-lochna, where the remnants of the Swedish Army surrendered and were taken prisoner. Charles XII and Mazepa escaped with a small detachment to the Ottoman Empire.
The Swedes lost more than 9,000 men in killed, more than 18,000 men in prisoners, all their guns, and their supply train. The Russians lost 1,345 men in killed and 3,290 men in wounded. The battle of Poltava undermined Sweden’s military might and marked a turning point in the war in Russia’s favor.
REFERENCESPoltava: K 250-letiiu Poltavskogo srazheniia: Sb. st. Moscow, 1959.
Diadychenko, V. A. Poltavs’ka bytva. Kiev, 1962.
Tel’pukhovskii, B. S. Severnaia voina 1700–1721 gg. Moscow, 1946.
Borisov, V. E., A. A. Baltiiskii, and A. A. Noskov. Poltavskaia bitva, 1709–27 iiunia 1909: Sb. st. St. Petersburg, 1909.