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decided to retreat home. Armfelt decided in early January 1719 to take the shortest route—over Norway’s rugged Tydal Mountains. It would be a decision he and his men would regret. On the afternoon of January 12 (New Year’s Day in Sweden), a violent blizzard rolled in from the northwest, bringing with it a strong wind that swirled the snow. The temperature plummeted, forcing the Swedes to set up camp on a mountain by Lake Essand. As the blizzard raged and the temperature dropped, the Swedish soldiers did everything possible to keep warm, including setting fire to their muskets and sleds. Around 200 soldiers froze to death on the first night. The storm continued the next day, turning the Swedish retreat into chaos. Soldiers got lost in the hills. Of the 8,000 Swedes who had started out on the retreat, over 3,500 died, either on the mountain or shortly after getting home. “Whole companies lay stiff upon each other, having burned gun stocks and . . . anything else that would burn to keep out the cold.” The death toll remains the second largest ever recorded for a blizzard.
Dangerous Blizzards and Ice Storms
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