Cudgel War

Last updated
Cudgel War
Part of the War against Sigismund
Poltettu kyla.jpg
Burned Village (1879) by Albert Edelfelt.
Date25 November 1596 – 24 February 1597 [1]
Finland (part of the Kingdom of Sweden)

Nobility victory

  • Suppression of revolt and execution of the rebellion's leaders
Peasants and army Nobility and army
Commanders and leaders
Jaakko Ilkka   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Pentti Pouttu   (POW)
Hannu Krankka
Yrjö Kontsas   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Israel Larsson
Enemies of Fleming among the nobility
Sweden-Flag-1562.svg Duke Charles
Sweden-Flag-1562.svg Clas Fleming
Sweden-Flag-1562.svg Gödik Fincke
Sweden-Flag-1562.svg Ivar Tavast
Sweden-Flag-1562.svg Abraham Melkiorsson   Skull and Crossbones.svg
Sweden-Flag-1562.svg Axel Kurck
1,000–4,000+ 1,500–3,300+
Casualties and losses

>2,550 dead

>500 P.O.W.
The strength varied in different engagements and from some of them there are approximations

The Cudgel War (also Club War, Finnish: Nuijasota, Swedish: Klubbekriget) was a 1596/97 peasant uprising in Finland (then part of the Kingdom of Sweden). The name of the uprising derives from the fact that the peasants armed themselves with various blunt weapons, such as cudgels, flails, and maces, as they were seen as the most efficient weapons against their heavily armoured enemies. The yeomen also had swords, some firearms, and two cannons at their disposal. Their opponents, the troops of Clas Eriksson Fleming, were professional, heavily armed and armoured men-at-arms. [2]


Modern Finnish historiography sees the uprising in the context of the conflict between Duke Charles and Sigismund, King of Sweden and Poland (War against Sigismund). Charles agitated the peasants to revolt against the nobility of Finland, who supported Sigismund in the conflict.


The 25-year war between Swedish Kingdom and Russian Tsardom had increased the tax burden, the most hated of which was the "castle camp", i.e. the accommodation, subsistence and payment of wages at the expense of the peasants. The peasants found it intolerable, in particular, that noble and inferior squires who equipped cavalry soldiers for the army were allowed to collect castle camp dues even when the soldiers were not at war, and that Klaus Fleming kept the army in the castle camp for many years after the war to use it. There were also a lot of abuses and illegalities in the recovery of the castle camp. Other key explanations for the outbreak of gavel warfare in historical research have included “the burdens of wartime and severe years of disappearance,[ clarification needed ] the dissolution of dissatisfaction caused by war fatigue, political provocation, and the exploitation of peasants by a nobility who grew in number and wealth”. [3]


A memorial plaque dedicated to the fallen peasants Nuijakivi.JPG
A memorial plaque dedicated to the fallen peasants

An uprising began on Christmas Eve 1595 and was initially successful, but shortly thereafter was crushed by cavalry. [4] Officially, the Cudgel War began in Ostrobothnia with an attack by peasants on Isokyrö's church on November 25, 1596. [1] [5] The peasants won a number of encounters with infantry. [5] Klaus Fleming began negotiating a truce that required the surrender of peasant leader Jaakko Ilkka. Ilkka fled to avoid being handed over and the peasant army scattered, pursued by the soldiers. At least 1500 were killed within the next two months. [5] Along with Ilkka, five other rebellion leaders were executed on January 27, 1597. [6]

Final part of the rebellion

A Cudgel War memorial Nuijasodan muistomerkki.JPG
A Cudgel War memorial

Israel Larsson was named as the new governor of central and northern Ostrobothnia, and planned to support the rebellion. However, he fled rather than face Fleming. Leaderless, the peasants opened battle with Fleming on February 24, 1597; the last battle was fought on the Santavuori Hill in Ilmajoki. [1] Over 1000 were killed and 500 captured. [5]

The insurgents were mostly Finnish peasants from Ostrobothnia, Northern Tavastia, and Savo. The events can also be seen as a part of a larger power struggle between King Sigismund and Duke Charles. [2] [7]


In his work Nuijasota, sen syyt ja tapaukset (1857–1859) (English: Club War, its reasons and causes), historian and fennoman Yrjö Koskinen (né Forsman) saw the peasants as fighting for freedom and justice. Fredrika Runeberg's Sigrid Liljeholm (1862), one of the first historical novels in Finland, depicts women's fates during the war. Albert Edelfelt's painting Burned Village (1879) depicts a woman, a child, and an old man hiding behind a rock as a village burns in the background. [8] The poet Kaarlo Kramsu praised the insurgents and lamented their defeat in patriotic poems such as Ilkka, Hannu Krankka, and Santavuoren tappelu, published in Runoelmia (1887). After the Finnish Civil War, the debate has centered on an interpretation that emphasizes Duke Charles's role in inciting the revolt, as found in Pentti Renvall's Kuninkaanmiehiä ja kapinoitsijoita Vaasa-kauden Suomessa (1949); and an explanation that stresses the roots of the rebellion in social injustice and class conflict, as argued by Heikki Ylikangas in Nuijasota (1977). A historical reenactment of the Cudgel War is conducted yearly in the Kavalahti scout camp. [9] Jaakko Ilkka took the 75th place in the Great Finns TV show. A commemorative silver coin was also minted to mark the occasion. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sigismund III Vasa King of Poland, King of Sweden, Grand Duke of Lithuania and Finland

Sigismund III Vasa was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1587 to 1632 and, as Sigismund, King of Sweden and Grand Duke of Finland from 1592 to 1599. He was the first Polish sovereign from the House of Vasa. A religious zealot, he imposed Roman Catholic doctrine across the vast realm, and his crusades against neighbouring states marked Poland's largest territorial expansion. As an enlightened despot, he presided over an era of prosperity and achievement, further distinguished by the transfer of the country's capital from Kraków to Warsaw.

Battle of Stångebro

The Battle of Stångebro, or the Battle of Linköping, took place at Linköping, Sweden, on 25 September 1598 (O.S.) and effectively ended the personal union between Sweden and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, that had existed since 1592. In the battle, an army of c. 8, 000–12,000 commanded by Duke Charles defeated a mixed force of c. 5,000–8,000 consisting of an invading army of mercenaries in the king's employ and diverse but poorly co-ordinated supporting Swedish noblemen's forces commanded by King of both Sweden and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Sigismund III Vasa, who was acting to maintain and restore his personal union against anti-Catholic forces in Lutheran Sweden. The Swedish king's general Constantin fought at the western bridge.

War against Sigismund 1598-99 conflict of monarchal succession within the Polish-Swedish Union

The war against Sigismund was a war between Duke Charles, later King Charles IX and Sigismund, King of Sweden and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Lasting from 1598 to 1599, it is also called the War of Deposition against Sigismund, since the focus of the conflict was the attempt to depose the latter from the throne of Sweden. The war eventually resulted in the deposition of Sigismund, the dissolution of the Polish-Swedish Union, and the beginning of an eleven-year war.

Ilmajoki Municipality in South Ostrobothnia, Finland

Ilmajoki is a municipality of Finland. Ilmajoki is a town and municipality situated in Finland's South Ostrobothnia region, founded in 1865. Ilmajoki has a population of 12,165 and covers an area of 579.79 km2, of which 2.89 km2 is water. The population density is 20.2 inhabitants per square kilometre. Ilmajoki borders the municipalities of Isokyrö, Kurikka, Laihia and Seinäjoki. The municipality is unilingually Finnish.

Klaus Fleming

Baron Klaus Eriksson Fleming was a Finnish-born member of the Swedish nobility and admiral, who played an important role in Finnish and Swedish history during the rise of Sweden as a Great Power. He was a trustee of kings John III and Sigismund Vasa. His wife was Ebba Stenbock.

Jaakko Ilkka Rebel leader

Jaakko Pentinpoika Ilkka was a wealthy Ostrobothnian landowner and leader of a 16th-century revolt by Finnish peasants against Swedish rule known as the Cudgel War.

<i>Jaakko Ilkka</i> (opera)

Jaakko Ilkka is a folk opera by Finnish composer Jorma Panula composed in 1977-1978 which deals with the eponymous peasant leader of the Cudgel War of 1596. The opera uses material from Finnish folk and fiddle music and premiered at the Ilmajoki Music Festival in 1978. 

Ebba Stenbock

Ebba Gustavsdotter Stenbock was a Swedish noble. She led the defense of the stronghold Turku Castle for the loyalist of Sigismund III Vasa during the Siege by Charles IX of Sweden in succession of her spouse Clas Eriksson Fleming, (1530-1597), governor of Finland. The sister of queen Katarina Stenbock, she married Clas Eriksson Fleming, (1530-1597), governor of Finland, in 1573.

The Åbo Bloodbath of 10 November 1599 was a public execution in the Finnish town of Turku (Åbo), then part of the Kingdom of Sweden, in the context of the War against Sigismund and the Club War. Sweden was by then in the final phase of a civil war, with one faction supporting king Sigismund III Vasa, who also was king and Grand Duke of Poland–Lithuania, and another faction supporting duke Charles of Södermanland, the later Charles IX, Sigismund's paternal uncle. After winning the upper hand in the dispute, Charles crushed the last resistance to his rule, particularly in Finland, while Sigismund had already retreated to Poland.

Arvid Stålarm, actually Arvid Eriksson (Stålarm) till Lindö i Tenala was a Swedish noble and soldier from the Finland-based Stålarm family. He is sometimes called "the Younger" to distinguish him from his grandfather and namesake who died in 1529.

Santavuori is a hill in Ilmajoki municipality, South Ostrobothnia. It rises 145 metres above sea level.

Finland under Swedish rule Period in Finnish history from the 13th century to 1809

In Finnish history, Finland under Swedish rule refers to the historical period when the bulk of the area that later came to constitute Finland was an integral part of Sweden. The starting point of Swedish rule is under a large amount of uncertainty and controversy. Historical evidence of the establishing of Swedish rule in Finland exists from the late 13th century onwards.

Pentti Pouttu

Pentti Pouttu, also known as Bengt Pouttu, died 1597 in Turku, Sweden was a Finnish/Swedish peasant rebellion leader, land owner and merchant with Swedish origin from Gammelgården in Karleby, Ostrobothnia. He was one of the leaders of the 1596/97 peasant uprising, the Cudgel War. Year of Pouttu's birth is unknown.

1596 in Sweden

Events from the year 1596 in Sweden

1597 in Sweden

Events from the year 1597 in Sweden

Events from the year 1599 in Sweden

Gödik Gustafsson Fincke was a Finnish-born member of the Swedish nobility and military officer who served as the stadtholder of Olavinlinna Castle.

Hannu Krankka was one of the leaders of Finnish peasants during the 1596-97 Cudgel War, the largest uprising in what is now the country of Finland when it was under Swedish rule. The peasants, including those in Krankka’s home region of northern Ostrobothnia, rebelled against oppression, including often unbearable borgläger-type taxation.

Hans Larsson was lieutenant in the Cudgel War at the end of 16th century. He was also the head of Klaus Fleming's military unit in Hämeenkyrö, Finland.


Ostrobothnians are a Finnish tribe who live in South, Central and North Ostrobothnia. There are stereotypes that Ostrobothnians are brave, calm and reliable.



  1. 1 2 3 Nuijasota – Ilmajoki (in Finnish)
  2. 1 2 "Finnish peasant history" . Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  3. Kimmo Katajala: Miksi nuijasota syttyi Pohjanmaalla?, Tieteessä Tapahtuu 3/2003, p. 12–17. (in Finnish)
  4. "Jaakko Ilkka's Descendants" . Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Jaakko Ilkka's biography". Archived from the original on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  6. "Battle Map (Finnish)". Archived from the original on 12 August 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  7. "Charles (Finnish)" . Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  8. "Painting". Archived from the original on 13 December 2006. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  9. "Cudgel War Reenactment". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  10. "Coin" . Retrieved 12 July 2014.