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Today is the 310th Anniversary of the Battle of Poltava

Brandon Moseley

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The Battle of Poltava by Denis Martens the Younger (1726) / Public Domain

While not widely popularized today, Czar Peter I’s defeat of King Charles XII at Poltava was a major turning point in the Great Northern War and effectively led to the end of the Swedish Empire and established Russia firmly as one of the elite world powers. A position they have enjoyed to the present.

There had been fighting between the Scandinavian countries, the Poles, the Germans, the Lithuanians, and the Russians periodically really since the eight century. Russia, Poland, and Sweden clashed repeatedly in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1697 Swedish King Charles XI died, propelling Charles XII to the throne at age 14.
Eager to test the boy-king’s ability, Denmark-Norway under King Frederick IV, Poland-Saxony-Lithuania under Augustus II, and Russia under Czar Peter I formed an anti-Sweden alliance and all attacked the Swedish Empire in 1700. Unfortunately for them, they had all underestimated the boy and he turned out to be one of those rare gifted military commanders.

Charles XII took personal command of his armies. While the Danes had invades Schleswig and Holstein to their south, Charles invaded Denmark itself landing his army near the capital of Copenhagen defeating the Danes at the Battle of North Zealand. Copenhagen was caught between the victorious Swedish army and a naval bombarded from the sea by the Swedish, Dutch and English navies.

The Danes were quickly forced to accept peace terms. Charles then transported his army across the Baltic where a massive Russian army was besieging the small Swedish garrison at Narva. Charles destroyed the much larger Russian force, then went to Poland, where he won a major victory over Augustus II at Riga in 1701 and then took Warsaw, the capitol, in 1702. In 1706 he routed the Russians who fled Poland leaving their artillery behind in the retreat. In 1707 Charles XII invaded Saxony and forced Augustus II to accept peace terms with Sweden. Russia now stood alone and was having to deal with a Swedish supported Cossack rebellion in the Ukraine.

By 1707 the Swedish Army had swollen to over 120,000 men and was one of the largest, most battle hardened, and professional armies in the world at the time and it was led by a young military genius who did not drink, did not like court, condemned the decadence of other monarchs, and liked life best when he was campaigning from his horse. Czar Peter I offered very generous peace terms in which he would surrender all of Russia’s Baltic territories to Sweden except for St. Petersburgh. The young warrior-king refused those terms.

In August 1707 Charles XII invaded Russia with 44,000 Swedish troops. Peter had been defeated by the young king’s tactical brilliance before and was not making that mistake again. Instead of engaging in a decisive battle and risk having Sweden dictate terms, Peter began a slow retreat burning or looting everything in the Russian countryside that could be of use to the Swedish invaders. Charles took the city of Grodno in January 1708 Charles kept driving deeper and deeper into Russia; but never was able to force Peter into that decisive winner take all battle. Charles spent much of 1708 driving on towards Moscow.

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On September 28, 1708 Peter intercepted a Swedish column under General Adam Lewenhaupt bringing supplies and re-enforcements that was seeking to join Charles main force. While the battle of Lesnaya was inconclusive most of the Swedish supplies, wagons, over 4,000 men, and all the artillery were lost. On October 28, 1708 the Hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks Ivan Mazepa switched sides from the Russians to the Swedes. Charles XII now turned south to join his new ally. The ruthless Russian General Aleksandr Menshikov arrived there first and sacked the Cossack capitol of Baturyn. Menshikov’s troops killed all the defenders, massacred many civilians, looted or destroyed all of the food and weapons and burned the city before Charles XII and his Swedes arrived. Most of the Cossacks stayed loyal to Peter.

Failing to secure either a decisive battle with Peter or capture the Russian capitol, Charles was forced to winter in Ukraine. The winter of 1708-1709 was the coldest winter in the last 500 years.

The long intense winter kept Charles in camp into late Spring, but by late spring his army was back on the march. Charles decided that his next objective would be the Russian fortress at Poltava. By now the Swedish Army was down to less than 24,000 men, plus 6,000 Cossack and Polish irregulars.  A revolt by the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation meant that Swedish re-enforcements could not be sent.

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Poltava was defended by a garrison of just 4,200 Russians and 2,000 Cossacks; but the hard campaigning of 1708 and the Battle of Lesnaya had left the Swedes with just 34 cannons which meant that the Russians with 28 had almost an equal number.

Peter realized that Charles was besieging Poltava. He then moved his Russian Army, which had swelled to over 52,000 troops plus 26,000 Cossack and Kalmyk irregulars, to relieve Poltava. When Peter arrived, he chose not to attack. Instead he began building a fortified camp, and ten redoubts.

While personally scouting the Russian positions, Charles XII was shot in the foot. The wound was bad and almost killed him. He recovered but could not stand and could not lead his troops in the coming battle. Charles turned over command to Field Marshall Carl Rehnskiold.

The Swedes attacked just before dawn on July 8, 1709. Gen. Carl Roos’ battalions quickly overran two of the Russian redoubts killing every defender inside; but the third one proved difficult. On the right, Lewenhaupt’s battalions bypassed some of the redoubts while others were attacked and taken with the help of the cavalry. The Swedish cavalry and an infantry regiment flanked the redoubts completely and attacked the Russian cavalry, who retreated. Some of the Lewenhaupt’s Swedish infantry had reached the Russian fort itself; but they were ordered to withdraw to the west and the cavalry advance was ordered to halt by Rehnskiold who wanted to wait for Gen. Roos’s troops some of which had joined Lewenhaupt’s units in the confusion of the fighting. They waited for two hours.

Roos with six of his battalions meanwhile were throwing assault after assault at that third redoubt without success. Eventually, the Russians attacked Roos with ten regiments and retook the first two redoubts. Roos’s force was eventually pushed back to the woods where they eventually surrendered. The rest of the Swedes were still waiting on Roos to join them, unaware that he had surrendered.

Peter now led the main Russian infantry force of 42 regiments (22,000 troops) out of the fort backed by almost 87 cannons . The Russians began to advance. Rehnskiold ordered Lewenhaupt and the remaining Swedish infantry to advance on the much larger Russian force.

When the Swedes got within 550 yards the Russians began opening up with all of their cannons. When the Swedes got within 55 yards, four rows of Russian musketeers opened up on the Swedish line in one volley. The Swedes fired a return volley and then charged with their musketmen and pikemen. They broke through the first line of Russians; but lacked the cavalry support for a breakthrough. The Russian line extended well beyond the Swedish line on both the right and left flanks. The Swedish left flank threw down their weapons and fled while the right attacked. Eventually a hole open between the right flank and the Swedish center and Russians poured through the breach. The Russian cavalry under Gen. Menshikov attacked the Swedish flanks and rear. The Swedish cavalry vainly tried to engage the Russian infantry; but they formed up into defensive squares.

Observing the disaster from the rear, Charles XII ordered a retreat. He then ordered the siege on Poltava lifted. He and Mazepa gathered what forces they could including surviving elements of the Swedish cavalry with the baggage train and fled south. About half of the Swedish force was killed or captured on the battlefield that day. Lewenhaupt gathered most of the surviving Swedish infantry and their Cossack allies and they marched south; but the Russians caught up with them at the Dnieper River.

Peter held a banquet for Field Marshall Rehnskiold and the other captured officers. He sent thousands of captured Swedes to Siberia.

Charles XII managed to avoid capture and flee with 1,500 troops all the way to Moldavia which was under control of the Ottoman Empire. He lived in exile for five years until managing to bribe his way out of Turkish custody. The victory had the desired effect and Denmark-Norway, Saxony, and the Polish-Lithuanian confederation rejoined the war. The Ottoman’s joined the side of Sweden for about four years. Peter now took the offensive taking Riga, then the largest city in the Swedish Empire, in 1710. He campaigned extensively in the Baltic countries. In 1715 Prussia and Hanover joined the war on the side of Russia. In 1717 Great Britain did. Charles XII died in 1718 besieging Fredriksten in Norway. Great Britain changed sides again in 1719.

The Great Northern War ended in 1721 after 21 years.

Peter I is remembered as Peter “the Great’ and is widely regarded as the most capable of the Russian Czars.,

(Wikipedia and Britannica were consulted in the writing of this article.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Trump Truck and boat parades this weekend

Brandon Moseley

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Trump boat parade

As Election Day draws near, Alabama Republicans are excited about promoting the re-election of Donald J. Trump as President and the election of Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate. This weekend two pro-President Trump events are happening in the state. There will be a truck parade from Ashland to Phenix City on Saturday sponsored by the Clay County Republican Party, while there will also be a boat parade on Wilson Lake in the Shoals sponsored by the Colbert County Republican Party on Sunday.

The pickup trucks will assemble at the Ashland Industrial Park in Clay County, 8240 Hwy 9, Ashland. There is a pre-departure rally at 10:00 a.m. central standard time. The trucks will depart at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed on a parade route that will take them into the bitterly contested swing state of Georgia. The Trump Pickup Parade will wind through east Alabama and West Georgia traveling through LaGrange and Columbus before concluding near the Alabama/Georgia line in Phenix City, 332 Woodland Drive, Phenix City at approximately 2:00 p.m. central time. Speakers will begin at 3:00. Trump flags will be on sale at the event.

The Phenix Motorsports Park will be hosting what sponsor hope could possibly the world’s largest Pickup Tuck parade in U.S. history that is routing over 50 mile through Georgia in effort to “pickup” President Trump’s numbers in GA.

A number dignitaries have been invited to address the Phenix City rally, including Coach Tuberville. Former State Sen. Shadrack McGill, Trump Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and Paul Wellborn, the President and CEO of the largest Family owned Kitchen Cabinet manufacture in the USA are among the featured speakers who have committed to speak at the event.

Entertainment will be provided by: Charity Bowden, an up and coming country music singer who was the runner up on “The Voice”. Charity will sing ‘I am Proud to be an American’ as well as songs from her Voice performances. The McGill Girls will also perform. The three beautiful and talented sisters will be singing patriotic songs in three part harmony. Geoff Carlisle, a professional DJ will be keeping the crowd pumped with music and entertainment.

Following the speakers and the entertainment there will Trump truck-vs- Joe Bidden truck races down the drag strip for the finale.

The Northwest Alabama boat parade will be on Sunday. The boats will gather at 2:00 p.m. near Turtle Point and then the flotilla will parade around the open waters of Wilson Lake til 3_00 p.m.. There will be a contest for best decorated Trump boats.

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Trump supporters have held a number of large boat parades across the state to show their support for the re-election of Pres. Trump.

Boat parade sponsors say that this parade will be: pro-American, pro-law enforcement, pro-military.

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Health

COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise

Eddie Burkhalter

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COVID-19 Corona Influenza Virus Molecules Image Stock Photo

The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9. 

UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.

“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said. 

Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.

Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.

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Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.

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Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”

Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.

“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”

Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.

“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.

Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.

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News

Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

John H. Glenn

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.

Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”

The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.

Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.

“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”

Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.

“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.

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Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”

Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.

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The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”

Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.

“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”

District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.

“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”

District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” 
Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”

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Elections

Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies

Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

Josh Moon

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C. 

Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.  

But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump. 

“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”

Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”

Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home. 

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“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat. 

“I rest my case.”

You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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