A SHORT VERSION OF THE BATTLE OF NAPUE
THE YEAR BEFORE THE BATTLE
The so called “Great Northern War” between Sweden and Russia began in 1700.
By the end of the year 1713 the Russian army had taken over almost all the Southern part of Finland.
No aid - military or material - was delivered from the Swedish mainland and authorities - even though there had been some manpower to send.
General Armfelt was appointed to replace the incompetent Lybecker, unfortunately far too late.
After the battle of Pälkäne in October, Swedish troops were forced to flee towards Ostrobothnia. The state of the army was poor, even the clothing was fit only for summer conditions. Boots were in an awful state, if there were any!
Soon after Pälkäne governor Clerck had mobilized all local reserves to Isokyrö, but Armfelt did not put much weight on them, and demobilized the troops, until they had to be called back after the knowledge of Golitzin’s departure northward from their winter camp in Pori.
Tzar Peter the Great had decided to remove the northern threat by ordering his army to destroy Ostrobothnia so completely that it could not support Swedish actions of war by any means.
THE RUSSIAN ARMY ARRIVES AT OSTROBOTHNIA
Golitzin’s army, consisting of 11 000 men, arrived at Ilmajoki in the middle of February. Armfelt decided to locate the battle to Isokyro, for some pressure was applied by the Swedish regime, aided by the honour of a military officer.
Most of his officers were against this decision, but Armfelt remained assured by local reserves that did not want to hand their homes and families over to Russian terror.
Only six of the nearest communes or villages had time enough to send reinforcements.
Armfelt had altogether 5 500 men which he at first located on both sides across from the river, in three brigades each consisting of four lines.
THE BATTLE IS AT SIGHT
After gaining the knowledge that Golitzin’s main troops had a few kilometers earlier departed to the right and were coming from the north, Armfelt relocated his troops so that the brigades of Von Freidenfelt, Von Essen, Maidell and Yxkull were on the northern side of the river.
A small group with two guns occupied the hill of Napue. De La Barre’s cavalry of 1 000 men, plus a group of 300 men under Ziesing, were ordered southwest from Napue to prevent Tsekin’s free drive along the river.
Golitzin’s main forces consisted of 6 500, Tsekin’s regiments of about 1 800 men.
Before the battle Golitzin ordered three regiments of his northern troops with cossacks to veer west, aiming to amass behind the Finnish mainforces. Tsekin as well separated one regiment to veer Finnish troops from the south.
All was ready for the battle soon after one o’clock in the afternoon.
Russian troops appeared out of the eastern and northeastern woods and were arranged in two steps, the first containing five battalions the second three.
THE BEGINNING OF THE BATTLE
The Finnish troops took the first step and started the fight with two guns on their left wing, getting an answer from the Russian artillery on their right. The Russians burnt the nearest house of Turppala, and the Finnish artillery used all the 64 shells that they had left and after one joint shooting, the infantry rushed fiercely against the Russians.
The battle at close quarters was carried out with swords, bayonets and spears, and soon there were so many killed and wounded men that is was difficult to get over them and carry on the attack.
The Finnish troops, especially the brigades of Maidell and Yxkull near the house of Turppala were very lucky and pushed the Russians backwards so that Armfelt thought that the battle could end up in victory.
A CHANGE OF LUCK
But at this stage the over 2 000 Russians that were sent to veer the Finns from the west appeared at the back of the Finns, who had no reserves to call for help.
It was three o’clock in the afternoon. Only a half of Freidenfelt’s and Essen’s men were left, 1 300 Finns were fighting for their lives against 3 000 Russians.
Ziesing’s small group in the south was beaten as well as Taube’s group at Napue.
It is more than likely that General De La Barre’s 1 000 men fled without taking real part in the battle. That is also the opinion of the local vicar Nils Aejmelaeus who was viewing the battle at a close distance - maybe on the so called Rock of Kaam near the monument, on the other side of the road. As Aejmelaeus himself arrived to Vöyri, De La Barres cavalry was already there.
Now there was a clear way for Tsekin’s troops to attack at the rear of the rest of Finns. Soon almost all the Finns were surrounded, and Armfelt commanded Maidell and Yxkull to withdraw, which in that state was more easily said than done.
Almost all the commanders were killed. Von Essen fought with his sword up to his end having 32 wounds in his body. 82 per cent of his regiment was lost.
The battle field was filled with dead and wounded men. The rest were trying to flee to the rocky hill behind the present monument, and from there towards Laihia.
Very few of the local reserves were lucky enough to survive. Armfelt himself had to fight his way towards Laihia.
THE SAD END OF THE BATTLE
This bloody battle had lasted a little over two hours. Concrete signs of it were seen on the field for over two hundred years. At Napue, on an area of about four hectares there were 17 graves in the middle of the 18th century. And in the beginning of the 20th century there were still open piles of human bones.
The Finnish army lost over 3 000 men, 2 645 of which were killed. Only 512 were taken prisoner, but most of them were killed on the way to the Russian ships or died in the terrible conditions in Pietari.
The Russians lost, according to their own announcement, about 1478 men, according to a Russian scholar, Aradir the figure was over 2 000.
Isokyrö lost 45 percent, Laihia 60 percent, and Vähäkyrö 70 percent of their male population. The figures from Ylistaro are not known exactly, but must have been about 50 percent.
THE TERRIBLE SUFFERINGS OF THE CIVIL POPULATION
The human losses did not end at this, for after the battle the situation turned to hell for the civil population.
The Russian soldiers were allowed to ”do whatever they wanted to”. Almost all the women were raped, people were killed and tortured for no reason, houses were burnt, and robbing of possessions and cattle was widespread.
Furthermore, a huge number of young children were captured and taken as slaves to Russia. Just a few percent of them managed to come back home.
People fled to distant cottages or saunas that were earlier built for tar burner workers. At least fifteen stone bases are still to be found in the woods of Isokyrö.
So it is no wonder that people in this area have for a long time had some doubts and mistrust concerning Russians. The saying: “A Russian is a Russian even if fried in butter”, was based on these terrible collective memories.
A contemporary historian, Jonas Nordin from the University of Stockholm stated, the Finnish part of the kingdom was not properly defended. Many of the Swedish authorities considered, as crown prince Adolf Fredrik in 1746, Finland as their storeroom and wall against Russia.