restricted access Augustin Ehrensvärd 1710-1772 by Oscar Nikula (review)
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Reviewed by
Oscar Nikula. 2010. Augustin Ehrensvärd 1710-1772. Helsingfors: SLF. Pp. 579.

Nikula's book about the designer of the fortress-complex in the sea-approaches to Helsingfors, Sveaborg (Viapori, since 1921 Suomenlinna), is reprinted here in half-century memory of its original publication. His first magnum opus had been a three-volume history of Åbo (he was professor of history at Åbo Akademi from 1951 to 1974), and, following Ehrensvärd, he wrote the biography of Gustav III's shifty favorite, Adolf Fredrik Munck, reviewed in Scandinavian Studies 65.4 (1993).

Ehrensvärd is one of a few names in the art of fortification remembered today, in the wake of Albrecht Dürer and Etliche Underricht [End Page 103] zur Befestigung der Stett, Schloss und Flecken (1507; Some Instructions Concerning the Fortification of Cities, Castles, and Villages), Daniel Specklin (1536-1589), who fortified the cities of his native Alsace and wrote Arkitektura von Vestungen (1589; Architecture of Fortresses), and Sébastien Le Prestre Vauban, Maréchal de France (1631-1707), who, at Louis XIV's behest, transformed the town of Luxemburg into, eventually, a major tourist attraction. Otherwise, fortresses are distinguished by their sometime inmates: Austria's Dürnstein (see Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and Franz Schubert's "Romanze des Richard Löwenherz"), the Chateau d'If (see Edmond Dantès in the senior Dumas's Le Comte de Monte-Cristo), the Spielberg at Brünn by Silvio Pellico (see Le mie prigioni), Silberberg by Fritz Reuter (see Ut mine Festungstid), Spandau by Gottfried Kinkel (see "Kinkels Befreiung" in Carl Schurz's Mein Leben), and by Rudolf Hess.

Born in Västmanland, but central to Finland's history, Augustin Scheffer came from a military family; his father, Jakob Johan Scheffer, was an artillerist under Charles XII at Poltava in 1709. Taken prisoner, he had the singular good fortune of being directly exchanged and the same year married Anna Margareta Mannerheim in Stockholm. (Her mother, nota bene, was a Cronstedt, a fateful name to come in Sveaborg's history!) Augustin was born shortly thereafter. Scheffer became chief of artillery in Charles's next disastrous adventure in Norway; by this time ennobled as Ehrensvärd, he was with the king at Fredrikshald, a coincidence of which Nikula, not inclined to melodrama, makes very little. Augustin spent his childhood in the fortress of Karlsten (Bohuslän), at sixteen entered the army as a volunteer, and, gifted in mathematics, was allowed to study at Uppsala: his Cronstedt relatives got him into the workshop of the inventor Kristoffer Polheim at Stjärnsund.

Fortune continued to smile (chapters 1-2): he was sent on an educational tour to Denmark, France, and London, as he readied himself to publish his manual, Anledning til skiuta och kasta bomber, i Almenhet, och i synnerhet vid en belägring (1741; Guide to Shooting and Throwing Bombs, in General and Especially at a Siege). During Sweden's next unhappy war with Russia (1741-1742, chapter 3), he escaped from Helsingfors, where a Swedish army was bottled up, to Stockholm, there to explain the hopelessness of the situation; from then on, the necessity of a proper defense for Finland was "a constant [End Page 104] theme in his explanations, memoranda, and letters." In 1745, he was dispatched as an observer (chapter 4) to the army of the young Frederick of Prussia ("the Great" to be), in the latter's "First Silesian War" (1740-1748). Nikula includes drawings made by the gifted Ehrensvärd.

His next external commission (chapter 5) was an inspection trip through Finland in the company of Count H.H. von Lieven (with whom he had slipped out of Helsingfors not so long before), plus an expert on fortifications, A.M. von Strussenfelt, already a veteran, in French service, of numerous sieges in the Low Countries. (Ehrensvärd must have learned a good deal from Strussenfelt, about whom Nikula tells too little.) Ehrenvärd's diary, well illustrated, was published as Anteckningar under en resa i Finland (Notes During a Journey in Finland) in 1882 and (in facsimile) in 1938; a Finnish translation appeared at the Finnish Literary Society in 2008. Seconded by von...