In late October, early November 2015 we decided to reenact some up in the Jämtland mountains where the Carolean army staged the campaign of 1718 into Norway. One of our group has a little cabin in those mountains and we decided to use this as a base. The weather can be rather unpredictable up there so we had no idea if we would expect snow or blistering heat. We decided that the cabin would be our base and we would make day tours. This was also because it gets dark fairly early in that time of year and it isn’t really much fun with 12 hours darktime out in the field. It just gets boring. November was a good time. The actual date we choose was the date the Army left Sweden and entered Norway.
There where two ways into Norway. One was over Duved and one was over Långå. These roads had redoubts build already in 17:th century. The Duved redoubt was now the forward operations base. this is where the logistic command under Frisenheilm was located. The Frösö redoubt was important as this is where the army bakery was located. A bakery might seem like a small ting, but in this campaign it was a key point. Norway is scarcely populated and there was no way that the local farms there could support the Swedish troops. The King had put a lot of effort into developing a special bread ‘Succariebröd’, that would last long and would be the basis of the food for the whole army.
This bread was baked at Frösön.
Our area was located in between these places and we thought that we would have been placed as counter insurgent. Norwegian spies was very much an issue and it was not helped by the fact that the people of Jämtland often saw them selves as having more in common with the Norwegians then the swedes.
We had gotten hold of a good example of the field map of 1685 of the area. judging by the folding that had been done to the map, still visible on our facsimile, it was the same that was used by the army. if you fold it after the folds… the staging area of the army comes neatly into view.
The map was of course on a to large scale to be of much use for us as a navigation map.. but it was never the less a fun item for reference.
We also made Succariebread, as per the kings orders, and some ‘pocketsoup’. We where thinking that the kind of troops we are, that is Footdragons, we would tax the locals for fresh food and just keep the succariebread for emergency. This is also what happened.
The first day we decided we would patrol the valley. The stops would be the fäbod and the falls. Fäbod, a place where the animals was sent for grazing during summer with some farmgirls keeping watch. They made cheese of the milk which was later sold. Our thinking was that this place surely would have food, and that it was also a vital part of the army logistics. All soldiers need cheese.
The fäbod was just a short walk from our base. And it would make a good first stop to check if there had been any suspicious activity in the area. The weather was quite nice this day. I opted for a sleeved waistcoat over a unsleeved one and a wool shirt under that. I carried a coat and a cape if it would get chillier during breaks. The temperature was around 3 and moving up to 7 Celsius (44 f) if I remember correctly. The ground was covered in frost
When we arrived we quickly convinced the milkmaids to cooperate. Reminding them about their duty to King Charles XII and God . We enrolled them into local guides and gained information about the area and its byways. They where most cooperative and possibly even on our side to begin with.
Onwards, we are heading for a fall.
Still day one.
Now a longer trek along the river started. Some of it was on modern roads, but mostly we could keep to smaller roads and paths. When we entered the woods the terrain became quite difficult. Boulders and roots made the walking harder and it was easy to trip. The long and constant ascent sapped our strength. Somewhere around here my first claypipe broke. It was being transported in the hat, and when the hat fell on the trail… the pipe broke in three.
It also took longer then expected even if we took very few breaks. When we reached the falls it was already getting darker. To get down the the actual falls we needed to descend some quite steep slippery wooden steps. As the Falls was our goal we hid most of our packs and started our way down.
It was slippery as all hell with the leather soled shoes we had. I slipped and hit the butt of the gun in the rock, but it seems that it had survived for 300 years because it was well made. And so it held.
The ascend from the falls was a bit more troublesome. Boudica, the 55 kilo wolfhound, could not make her way up since it was difficult the last 50 meters and steep rocks prevented her from going outside the stairs. I had to carry her on my shoulders and that was a bit exhausting after we came up.
We where now starting to lose daylight faster than we had counted on. Seeing hos the trail up was, we didn’t much relished the thought of traversing that in dusk and dark. We decided that we did not have time to cook a hot meal over a fire. So we ate some apples and sausages we had left, spat on the ground and started walking back home.
Apart from one of the milkmaids trying some kind of fishy activity, we got home but the dark had fallen before we got to the cabin again. We where rather tired, but happy with our first day of scouting. After all, there was no signs of the evil Norwegians.
Day two, The west mountain.
On day two the temperature had dropped somewhat and the fog was over the mountains. or if it was the clouds lying low, probably a bit of both. Västfjället is around 1000 meters over the sea where we where heading. As we didn’t quite feel like expending all our strength on getting UP on the mountain walking on asphalt
roads, we took the car up to a start point. From there we gingerly took of into the barren mountainside. This is above where trees comfortably grow and so we had to carry the firewood we needed with us. We could not expect to find it on the mountain.
This day we did not have a clear goal. We had a diffuse goal to get to a cabin up on the mountain, but mostly we just wanted to get around a bit and have a look-see. The patrol took of through the fog and the underbrush. Seeing only reindeers and fog. The wind was chilly as there was nothing there to stop it. It howled in our waterbottles when we uncorked them. The few hidingplaces was meticulously searched by the unflappable patrol.
We soon gave up the idea of reaching the cottage. Mostly because it looked like others where heading for it and we would rather be alone. When this decision was made we headed for a depression in the mountain to get out of the wind. Then we made lunch.
The firewood we had lugged along came to good use, we started by frying up pork and onions in some lard. After this crushed barley and water was added. We also used the ‘pocketsoup’ now. Pocketsoup is beefbroth cooked almost dry and then left to harden. it resembles some kind of rubber or leather and when put into water dissolves and become broth again. Barely is a very good fieldfood and it keeps you full for a long time. The pork adds, but if you don’t like meat it is not necessary really. some onions and maybe garlic will do the seasoning well. After the meal we also took out the pot and made ourselves a nice cup of coffe.
Dennis even got his fiddle out and we enjoyed some music on our break.
Onward, secure that mountain!
Day three was saved for the ascent of Drommen. The famous Drommen cleft where it was rumoured the Carolean warfund chest was hidden all those years ago.
It became clear from the beginning that not all could go. Boudica, the wolfhound, had a slight limp on one of the paws. This can go away after she starts using it as it is often some stiffness from the day before. But it was not a good thing to chance upon as it would be hard to go back once we started up. The terrain, it would show would also be abit difficult for such a large dog. Frida also had some mischievous legproblem from before and was willing to give the climb a miss to nurse the dog and make us waffles for our triumphant return.
The first part was a nice little walk to the actual cleft. The sun was out, and it promised to be a very nice climb. At the bottom of it was our last chance to refill the water that would take us to the top. Up on top there was mountain lakes that we hoped would not be frozen solid and therefore give us water again.
After filling up our canteens to the brim we set out up through the cleft.
It soon became obvious that it was perilous ground. The rocks was mortared together with sand and dirt, and looked like they would give gave no pause about just letting go if they wanted to. The sides was steep and resting was mostly done by leaning a bit and not quite standing. I found that my cut down naval boardingaxe was a good help in digging in and getting grips in the dirt.
Soon we where sweating healthily and the humour was at the top. That we had to lug up firewood once again did not bother us much I skipped the coat and cape this time though, as I was sure I would keep warm anyway. I did not use it on the day before, and this day the weather was fairer. Halfway up there was a rather strange arch. Naturally formed in the mountainside. It felt like a good halfway landmark. The climb was not as arduous as one might believe. We moved steadily upwards and kept a good pace. When we could see the top we where starting to feel oddly sad about leaving the cleft that had been our home for the day. Happily enough we found a flat rock and took our chance to pull out the booze and cards. After all; when the field is your home, the Drommen cleft is your livingroom!
our spirits lifted by vices, we started up the last bit. Once again it had become later then expected (and it was not the booze and cards fault!). Our canteens had now been drained and we where hoping for those lakes up top.
The last stretch of the cleft was negotiated and we where finally at the top. The lakes where close by, but so was the impeding dark. We did not
cherish the thought of going down the cleft in the dark, but there was an alternative route over the hillside that would be easier and also brighter longer. We had to, once again, face the fact that we did not have time to make a fire and cook warm food. We even had a small debate if we would have time to go to the lakes. But our thirst could not
be ignored so we set of to the lakes.
We where in luck and the lakes only had a sheet of ice on them. It could easily be hacked with the boardingaxe and the canteens refilled for the passage downwards. As the dusk was setting in we descended Drommen mountain. Chewing on the lonely sausage and some apples we had left. Someone I believe, produced a cheese also. In this area cheese where more common than other food due to the Fäbodsystem, and dairy was common even into modern times as a base in food. Growing cereals is hard at that altitude.
The wind was blowing hard enough for me to have to take my hat off and tuck it in behind me bandolier. This was when I noticed that even my second pipe was lost somewhere in the ravine. Well, that is the way of pipes. The desecnt was faster and part of it was in a skislope. Even if this was rather flat, the steep angle made the feet hurt in the shoes. As the dark had fallen a seemingly flat surface turned out to be a half-frozen bog that sucked me in to the knee. But, thanks to my trusty reindeer gaiters, that was hardly a problem. That the straps of my backpack came of in the commotion added a bit to the fun. In any case I was able to steer the others away from that area as they saw my problems.
Soon we where back safely at home. Our backs and our legs where a bit sore after three days of climbing around, but we where happy with our adventures.
The waffles were indeed waiting for us when we got back, and we also got ourself a hot meal after long last.
What about that special bread you where on about?
Ah yes… that bread…
That bread was so hard it could not be eaten. I mean it literally could not. We could not even cut it with our knives. We had heard that it was to be soaked in something to be edible. But as we tried on the night it was soaked for over an hour, and it was still rock hard in the middle. Later trials have shown that it softens up better when boiled. but as it was now, we just did not have time enough in the field to get those buggers edible. No wonders it would not go bad and could be stored for a long time. So can stone.
We have not given up on the Succriebread yet though and will keep trying to use it in our rations. There will be an article about it here, with a recipe, as you seem so interested in it, oh theoretical questioner.
Some kind of wrap-up
It was a very nice excursion into the history. We got to feel a bit how it was for the footdragons and regulars that operated in that campaign. There is a thought these days that when you are going up in the mountains you need to minimize your pack. I was never much a follower of that. I pack what I might need and then I lug it. They most certainly brought a gun, so there would be no point in leaving it behind even if it was never to be used. To get that feel, you need to carry what they did. then you might get the same chafing they did. you might feel the same discomforts they felt. and that.. is when you are getting close to feeling their history.
If you like more pictures from the trip you can find them here, on Facebook.