Winter in the fort of Laiuse

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18. December 1700

After the victory at Narva, Charles XII stayed with his forces in an old fort of the Order at Laiuse, in Tartumaa, which had not been ravaged by the Russian forces.

The Swedish forces made it there on December 18, 1700. The State Chancellery was housed in the nearby estate of Kivijärve. Parts of the infantry and artillery were stationed near Tartu and the cavalry further south at Otepää, Sangaste and Aluliina (Alūksne). And thus Sweden was governed from these lands for nearly half a year.
During the winter, a few minor campaigns were made across the ice of lake Peipsi to Oudova (Gdov) and Petseri.

The campaigns had no decicive results. However, in the beginning of March, the Swedish held a military exercise of defending and attacking a snow-fort on the field of the estate of Jõgeva. The fort, with bastions and redoubtes, had been poured over with water to make it icy and slippery. Cardboard cartridges filled with gunpowder were used for ammo. The war game concluded with a feast for all those involved.

Various events were held at Laiuse to pass the time. Thatch was brought into the castle at Christmas, as per old customs. On January 27 (28) a celebration was held in honor of Charles XII's name day. For this even an opera was composed where ten Estonian girls took part, dressed as brides, it also had two bagpipe players and an overseer who preformed a song in Estonian. The king attended many weddings of the peasants, one of which was even held in the castle. And of course, bear and deer hunts were held.

The presence of the Swedish military did cause some problems for the local peasantry: soldiers had to be fed, housed and needed transportation and supplies. Still, the relationship between the Swedes and locals remained friendly: in many cases officers and soldiers became godparents to some peasant children. The winter of 1701 was long: only in the end of My did the 9000 man reinforcements arrive and the last platoons along with the king started moving towards Courland at the end of May. Charles XII's forces now had 24,000 men, only a small portion of whom were left in defense of Livonia.

Source: Eesti ajalugu. IV, Põhjasõjast pärisorjuse kaotamiseni. Tartu: Ilmamaa. 2003
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.                                                                                                     

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