I THE LENGHTY ROAD OF THE MARSALKKA (MARSHAL)
A seemingly endless line of soldiers strode along the snowy cart-track northwards. A German Colonel led his steaming horse halfway in the line. After him came a wagon carrying his belongings and another two thousand men.
The Colonel knew some Russian. The rank and file droned on about what soldiers always talk about: food, rest and warmth. The route went over frozen lakes and between beautifully sweeping hills. The Colonel suspected he was the only soldier on the march to enjoy the scenery and the crisp winter air.
Few of the treading soldiers knew that Russian's position in North Europe was at stake now. Far off in the southern plains of Poltava, Tsar Peter I had crushed the army of King Charles XII. It had been over seven years since the great victory of Peter, but the fight against the unyielding Sweden was still going on.
Now the column was headed towards the little village of Kajane. Locals called the poor town Kajjaani. The town and above all the waterway to Lake Oulujärvi were protected by a stone castle built on an island. Sheltered by the castle the small garrison had been able to fight off all the Russians' attacks.
But no more. Major General Tsekin's troops consisted of 4000 men and had three batteries of cannons. The castle will be beaten in a week, Tsekin boasted to his officers. The enlisted German Colonel was not as confident. In the battlefields of Europe he had learnt to respect the Finns fighting in the Swedish army, whose home ground they were on now. The fast cavalrymen, in particular, were able to bring cold sweat on the brow of any general who was unfortunate enough to appoint his troops against the elite cavalry.
* * * * *
The German Colonel was correct. The besiegement of Kajaani castle was progressing on its second month, already. The Marshal had time to tour around the surrounding areas of Kajaani. The war had emptied the houses of men. The Marshal received hospitality from the peasants, although a representative of the enemy at war. In the village of Sotkamo the soldier made the acquaintance of a local burgher family. Part of his pay stayed in their store, his heart stayed with their sweet daughter.
Cossack general Tsekin had been forced to humiliate himself by requesting more cannons and men for the besiegement. The general boasted that he would cut heads off of the entire garrison, as soon as the castle would be overran.
However, the situation in the castle was severe, as well. Firewood, ammunition and food were scarce. Captain Johan Henrik Fieandt, the commander of the castle, complied with the civilians' evacuated into the castle, as they begged him to suggest Tsekin an honourable capitulation treaty. The German Colonel took part in drawing the treaty. As customary in those days, the capitulation treaty guaranteed the burghers, the gentry and other civilians of Kajaani, as well as the soldiers, free exit from the castle. The treaty was confirmed with oaths and signatures.
The following development of events changed the German Colonel's life. Against the treaty, Tsekin commanded the civilians and soldiers to be put under arrest. The unfortunate people of Kajaani were robbed. The General ordered his men to draw their sabres and cut the heads off the prisoners.
The execution of the order was interrupted, as the German Colonel came forward and stepped between the prisoners and the executors. He advised Tsekin to reconsider, as the execution was against all rules of war. "I will give up my position and my sword, if these courageous soldiers and unfortunate civilians are to be executed", the Colonel announced. The general laughed and told the Colonel to keep his sword. The prisoners were chained and walked to Russia to be slaves.
* * * * *
The freezing February morning Anno Domini 1716 haunted the German Colonel's mind for the rest of his life. After his assignment in the Russian army the Colonel was commissioned as general by the King of Prussia. Frederick William I was an autocrat who threw money at the military. The general had learned from his experience in the Russian army and did everything in his power to infuse military discipline into his soldiers. The training was hard. Foreign visitors came to watch the general's work. Throughout Europe messengers carried letters telling about the strengthened Prussia and the new Prussian military discipline.
The German mercenary retired from the Prussian army as a Marshal after a full term of service. He toured Europe but could not settle anywhere. His homeland Prussia felt as strange to him as any other place, although the familiar military had spread into civil administration. In Prussia the Marshal enjoyed greater respect than the ministers of the government.
This may well have been the reason for a privy councillor of the court to invite the Marshal to dine with him. The privy councillor discoursed on Russia and Sweden at length with the Marshal. Crown prince Frederick, the successor of Frederick William I wanted to raise Prussia to be the Great Power of Europe and snatch the wealthy Silesia from Austria. The crown prince wanted to make sure Russia and Sweden kept out of the new partitioning of Europe.
Where the privy councillor and the crown prince saw nothing but thus far unfulfilled possibilities and a new Great Power, the Marshal saw burned towns, crying children and injured soldiers. The new elite ruling power of Prussia had never experienced war and to them it was merely an extension of politics.
The next morning the Marshal ordered his staff to pack his bags. The Preussian army he had trained was ready, but he felt the Silesian war was not for him. He decided to travel to the magnificent scenery near Kajaani. That was where his world had still been intact and just.