Napoleonics on skis?

By Rob Morgan

I have been reading “Napoleon’s Wars” by Charles Esdaile — a Penguin paperback, it was originally published in 2007. A hefty volume too, at over 600 pages. For my own part, I’m no Bonapartist. The pretty uniforms of made-up states and the massed ranks of elegant cavalry just sound like too much painting to me! Ships and the sea, that’s the thing!

Anyway, coming back to dry land, Esdaile deals with the complexities of the Napoleonic Wars in the Baltic and the Scandinavian lands. There was a proposal for Sweden, aided by the British, to invade and “free” Danish-controlled Norway, but apart from the Battles off Copenhagen I’m not familiar with this aspect of the wars. Esdaile gives an all too brief description of them, and provides (without provenance) a colour plate of:

“A Swedish column being pounced on by Norwegian ski troops in an action
of the Baltic conflict 1808-1809 …”

There it is, very visibly ski-equipped troops swooping down through a pine
forest in the depths of Winter against a surprised column on a track.

I have no knowledge at all of ski troops being used in this period, but
wondered if any other reader might? A most unusual aspect to the war, normally of huge battalions and massed ranks advancing with the bayonet. A ski force would provide a very useful, and speedy, group of men in a solo scenario.

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2 Responses to Napoleonics on skis?

  1. George Falco de Mats says:

    Skis were used by Swedo-Finish troops in the war in Finland 1808 & by Norwegians against Swedish troops. The Norwegian museum in Kongsvinger shows a comtemporaneous pair of skis among other evidence. I think that either the armemuseet or livruskamera in Stockholm has skis far down from Gustav Vasa. I have pictures of all those at home. Armemuseet has publications with museum paintings of troop in skis and Moscow army museum shows Russian peasant harassing French straggler on skis. Earlier skis were not two alike (one was heavier) and used with only one stick

    • George Arnold says:

      ((Rob Morgan submits the following.)

      I wonder if the respondent who mentioned the ski troops in Finland and Scandinavia would be able to provide the blog with a couple of his photos?

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