Narva, Battles of

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The first battle of Narva on November 30, 1700, was Peter the Great's first major defeat in the Great Northern War. Immediately after the Russian declaration of war in August 1700, Peter marched his army into Swedish territory to try to capture the port town of Narva in northeastern Estonia, and on September 16 laid siege to the city with some 34,000 men. Meanwhile Charles XII, the King of Sweden, defeated Peter's ally Denmark and brought his army to Estonia to relieve the siege. By November 27 the Russians heard that the Swedes were approaching, and the next day Peter left the army to join the approaching Russian reinforcements. The Russian army deployed in a curved line running from south to northwest of Narva under the command of the recently arrived Belgian officer Duke Eugene de Croy. The traditional Russian gentry cavalry under the boyar Boris Sheremetev held the left (southern) flank near the Narova river. Generals Adam Weyde (a Dutchman) and prince Ivan Trubetskoy held the center, and general Avtomon Golovin the right with the guards regiments, also by the river. After approaching the Russian line in a blinding snowstorm, Charles attacked the Russian center about one o'clock in the afternoon, his right under general Welling smashing Weyde's troops and the Swedish left under General Carl Gustaf Rehnsköld overrunning Trubetskoy. Only some of Golovin's and Sheremetev's men were able to escape, with Russian losses at least eight thousand killed. Peter's army, only recently created along European lines, was smashed. The battle established the eighteen-year-old king of Sweden's military reputation.

Peter returned to Novgorod with the remains of his army, which he rebuilt in the ensuing years while Charles was preoccupied in Poland. In July 1704 the Russian army returned to besiege Narva, held by a small Swedish garrison under general Horn. On August 20, 1704, Narva fell to Peter's generals, Sheremetev, now field marshal, and the Austro-Scottish general Baron Georg Ogilvy. This victory strengthened Russia's hold on the Baltic provinces and further weakened Sweden in its struggle with Peter.

See also: great northern war; peter i; sweden, relations with

Paul A. Bushkovitch