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Författare Ämne: Soldier went AWOL and came to America  (läst 703 gånger)

2012-02-19, 20:44
läst 703 gånger

Utloggad Kyla Sandberg

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My great-grandfather, John Sandberg, was a soldier in Sweden. He became a hussar (member of the Swedish calvary) in 1879. In Feb. 1882, John was removed from the general muster rolls for rymning (running away). John was last in the Gumlösa, Kristianstad area. The household record lists him under missing persons. The next time he was found in any record is for his marriage in Oct. 1884 in Maine, U.S.A.  
I am wondering how John might have left Sweden. I can not find him on any passenger list. I imagine he would have faced a severe punishment if he had been caught. There is a mention in the household records that John had a job at the railway station. I wonder if he used the railroad in an escape plan? A story in our family tells of men being forced to serve in the Swedish military and gong over the mountains into Norway to escape. I wonder if this is what he did?

2012-02-20, 01:20
Svar #1

Utloggad Ingela Martenius

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You must differentiate between career soldiers and conscripts.
Hussars were either enlisted soldiers or allotment soldiers. Which is to say that it was a career choice. No one in Sweden was ever forced to join the military forces as a job. However, just as today, a soldier signed up for a number of years and the easiest way of getting out of the contract was to run away. There was no great hue and cry after soldiers gone AWOL but they were of course listed with the police as wanted men.
Conscription started to replace primarily alloted soldiers already in the first decades of the 1800's. Conscription was extremely impopular; after all the allotment system had been instituted to do away with conscription and was still very much in place (until 1901). Conscripts were forced to do their military service, in principle right up until conscription was abolished the other year (but increasingly rarely enforced these last ten years or so). During the first half of the 19th century the time of service was just a couple of months, and you could - if you had the means - quite legally pay someone else to do your service. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century the conscription service time was lengthened and you had to do service yourself.  
Men of conscription age who had passed muster (many didn't meet the requirements) had to have a special permission to emigrate. Many American families are still very proud of the fact that their ancestor had Royal Permission to emigrate - in fact it was a routine matter handled by the county administration but the paper was issued by Royal decree. The King of course had nothing to do with it (to the point where he probably had no idea even how many permits were issued).
Leaving by way of Norway wasn't a very good idea for a fugitive. Sweden and Norway was at the time in union, and if you were wanted for a crime in Sweden you were also wanted in Norway (and vice versa of course). Living in the south of Sweden it would be a much, much better idea to go by way of Denmark or Germany. Just like today thousands of people crossed between Skåne and Denmark every day. Most officially but quite a few without documents; the straits at Elsinore are so narrow they can be crossed in a rowing boat (used during WW II by escaping Danes, mainly Jews). And no one can keep tabs on all the fishing vessels etc.
Once in Denmark or Germany it wouldn't be difficult to give another name and get on a ship for the States. I don't think the agents were too fussy about correct documentation and Danish or German police would take very little interest in an escaped Swedish soldier.
Also, many of us can find no trace of quite legal emigrants. The registers are - to say the least - very incomplete. And it was of course a national hobby in Sweden to change your last name (still is of course).

2012-02-20, 06:22
Svar #2

Utloggad Kyla Sandberg

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Thank you Ingela! That was a wonderful reponse to my post. I appreciate it very much. Sometimes family stories turn out not to be true. Sandberg was John's soldier name. When John left Sweden, he took his Bible with him and I have that.
Kyla Sandberg




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