Sergey Shamenkov, Charles XII’s Karoliners (Helion, 2022)
This is the first volume in what promises to be another outstanding series from Helion & Company. The subject is the Swedish Infantry & Artillery of the Great Northern War 1700-1721, which is a useful place to start when digging into that pivotal 18th Century conflict.
Shamenkov breaks down his survey into seven chapters. The first explains the battle formations and tactics of Charles XII’s infantry, which provides much of the context for Shamenkov’s description of the Swedish king’s army in the field. The soldiers’ weapons and accoutrements follow with photographs of museum pieces, including drums and belts. Then Shamenkov considers uniforms, beginning with the many caps and hats the Swedish soldiers wore, then coats and overcoats as he works his way through their development over the course of the war. He pauses to describe briefly Estonian and Livonian uniforms before moving onto the coat adornments of NCOs, uniforms for musicians, waistcoats, gloves, breeches, cloaks, and footwear. The variations in officers’ uniforms deserve their own chapter, including the surprisingly simple uniform worn by Charles XII. Some officers also wore gorgets and cuirasses, though the latter were for ceremonial purposes. Officers’ weapons receive not much more than a mention, which is curious given the variety of other accoutrements they wore. Shamenkov moves on to the artillery, guiding readers through their uniforms in much the same way he did with the infantry; though here he defers to a classic work on Charles XII’s army by Lars-Eric Höglund, so doesn’t dive into great detail on the subject.
Charles XII’s Karoliners is more than a handy guide to the Swedish army. The text is clean and serviceable, but it is the artwork that lifts this book out of the ordinary. You know those uniform guidebooks that offer a couple of colour plates in the middle and can be frustrating when you need a wee bit more? This book isn’t that. It is full of colour plates of soldiers, each furnished with a suitable description. Photographs of museum pieces and contemporary painting supplement the original artwork, and Shamenkov’s useful bibliography points the way for further research. For wargamers or figure collectors interested in the Swedish army of the Great Northern War, Shamenkov’s book is an excellent starting place and highly recommended.