Carl Gustaf Påhlman (1679 – 1757)

The Lionhearted Soldier

From surviving grave battle injuries to being exiled in Siberia for 14 years, Carl Gustaf Påhlman beat all the odds to eventually become a proud family man.

Carl Gustaf Påhlman was born at the manor Ugglansryd in Kronoberg, Sweden on 25 January 1679 to parents Johan Påhlman and Margareta Silfversparre. Though he grew up during the largely peaceful reign of King Karl XI that followed the signing of the peace treaty of 1679, the military was in Carl Gustaf’s blood. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather Jöran the Younger, he volunteered in the Kronoberg regiment at the age of 16. 

Painting of Carl Gustaf Påhlman
Carl Gustaf Påhlman – Kulturparken Småland, 1743, Unidentified painter, CC BY 4.0, via DigitaltMuseum

Carl Gustaf was taken prisoner in Perevolochna during the fateful Battle of Poltava, a decisive battle with Russia which Sweden lost, and with it much of its power in Europe. Only a few, including Karl XII, managed to escape.

Karl XII came to the throne in 1697, and his tenure was riddled with battles. Carl Gustaf’s positions changed rapidly – he was a corporal in 1698, a driver in 1699, sergeant in 1700, field sergeant in 1701, ensign in 1703, second lieutenant in 1704, and premier captain in 1708. During these years, he participated in several battles, including attacks on Rensbek, Holstein (1700), Vladislava, Poland (1703), the Saxons on Petrovien (1704), and against the Russians in Ukraine. He was gravely injured during the battle of Fraustadt in 1706, hit by two lethal shots from which he later recovered; and again in Veprik in 1709.1“Påhlman nr 501”, Adelsvapen-Wiki,åhlman_nr_501, accessed: 17 March 2022 Oskar Sjöström wrote in his 2008 book Fraustadt 1706: Ett fält färgat rött:2Oskar Sjöström, Fraustadt 1706: Ett Fält Färgat Rött (Lund: Historiska Media, 2009), 180

Battle of Fraustadt
Battle of Fraustadt, Marchand, Johann Christian (Stecher), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“For the soldiers, much was at stake. A minute or two longer under fire could have disastrous consequences. The risk of being hit and being either killed or maimed increased the longer the enemy took. Many also had sons, brothers and fathers somewhere in the army to worry about. […] Among the crown guards were the brothers Göran and Carl Gustaf Påhlman, captain and lieutenant respectively.”

Oskar Sjöström, 2008

Later in 1709, Carl Gustaf was taken prisoner in Perevolochna during the fateful Battle of Poltava, a decisive battle with Russia which Sweden lost, and with it much of its power in Europe. Only a few, including Karl XII, managed to escape. Carl Gustaf, along with the majority of the Swedish army – including his elder brother, Göran – was banished to Tobolsk in Siberia. Over the next several years, many Swedish prisoners of war there were employed in construction, especially of the Kremlin built of stone. 

Voltaire, in his History of Charles XII, King of Sweden (1908), wrote:3Voltaire, Voltaire’s History of Charles XII King of Sweden, translated by Winifred Todhunter (London: JM Dent & Sons Ltd., 1908), 178-79,

“These poor wretches were dispersed throughout the Czar’s dominions, and particularly in Siberia […] In this barbarous country, where the use of bread was unknown, the Swedes, ingenious through necessity, exercised the trades and arts they had formerly been brought up to. All the distinctions which fortune makes between men were then banished, the officer who had no handicraft was forced to cut and carry wood for the soldier, who had now turned tailor, draper, joiner, mason, or smith, and got a livelihood by his labor. Some officers became painters and some architects, some taught languages and mathematics; they even went so far as to erect public schools, which gradually became so useful and famous that they sent children there from Moscow.”

Voltaire and Winifred Todhunter, 1925
Battle of Poltava
Battle of Poltava, Pierre-Denis Martin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Carl Gustaf returned to Stockholm only in 1723, two years after the end of the Great Northern War, now a Major.4Göran returned in 1722, a Lt. Col. He died at Ugglansryd two years later. He resigned from the military in 1727. Another chapter of his life began in 1730 – at the age of 51, he married his young bride Christina Elisabet Renner (daughter of Anders Otto Renner and Maria Stråle, No. 87), who was only 18 years old. A decade later, he received the title of Lieutenant Colonel. 

Carl Gustaf probably spent the rest of his life at the manor Ugglansryd in Sweden, which witnessed the birth of his ten children – Margareta Christina (1731-1758), Maria Magdalena (1733-1808), Johan Georg (1734-1734), Catharina Elisabet (1736-1789), Carl Gustaf (1738-1811), Hedvig Ulrika (1739-1801), Anders Otto (1740-1815), Johan Magnus (1741-1797), Adolf Fredrik (1743-1825), and Lovisa Ulrika (1745-1749) – as well as the weddings of his three eldest daughters.5Margareta Christina married in 1749, and Maria Magdalena and Catharina Elisabeth had a double wedding in 1755 

Carl Gustaf died of a stroke at the manor on March 4, 1757, aged 78 years, and was buried in the family grave at Ryssby.