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Old 02-23-2018, 12:43 PM   #5051
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February 23, 1701
Battle of Petschora

After the crushing defeat at Narva by Charles XII of Sweden (see posting), Tsar Peter I of Russia gathered his forces near the Swedish borders at Pskov and Gdov in order to start a new offensive into Swedish Livonia. Charles, who anticipated this move, dispatched troops under the command of Magnus Stenbock and Jacob Spens to cross the Russian border and destroy the two strongpoints of Izborsk and Petschora. Stenbock saw his force heavily outnumbered by the Russian army at Gdov and so, forced to retreat, contented himself with ravaging the Russian lands in the area before recrossing the border.

Spens arrived in late February and sought to meet the Russian army in the open field. The two armies met outside the town of Petschora on February 23. He had 2100 troops and 2000 armed peasants assisting them to face a Russian force of 6000. The Russians launched their attack on the peasants, rupturing the line. However, Spens counterattacked with the Lifeguard of Horse which drove the Russians to seek cover in the town after fierce fighting. The town was too constricted for effective use of cavalry, so Spens pulled them back to allow his infantry to break in. The Russians retreated into strongly-built houses, from which they could not be dislodged (Spens lacked artillery), so the Swedes set the town on fire; many Russian soldiers were burned alive. The Russian main body, however, reached the monastery and again the Swedes could not storm the walls. An attack by Cossacks on the now rallied peasants caused Spens to break off his attacks and he contented himself with burning the nearby villages before returning to Swedish territory. The Swedes had lost 30 men killed and another 60 wounded in the fighting, the Russians lost 500 men killed, excluding those burned in the town.

The tsar assumed this reconnaissance in force to be the prelude to a full scale Swedish invasion and gave orders for no Russians to retreat any further than the Pskov-Gdov line which he reinforced along with Izborsk and Petschora where he built fortresses. However, Charles started a march towards the south, against the Saxons under Augustus II, whom he considered the main threat.
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