GUSTAV POLVIANDER (1788-1876)
Carl Gustav Polviander was born on
5.3.1788 in Mouhijärvi. His father was a pastor already in the third
generation and the family tradition assumed that the eldest son would
continue his father's work. The father enrolled him in Turku Academy
Pastors' School. The boy was clever but at the same time quite wild and
unruly like his fellow student Jaakko Henrik von Zidén, who in The tales
of Ensign Stool is known as the valiant Lieutenant von Zidén. Together
these two comrades played such practical jokes in Turku that the teachers
in the Academy could not put up with them. The boys were expelled from the
Academy as unfit for a spiritual position.
Books were exchanged for swords and
at the turn of the year 1803-1804 the friends joined the Finnish army in
the Royal Pori Regiment. Polviander's military abilities were noticed
straightaway and on 26.4.1804 he was named as a billeter to the Ruovesi
company. At the same time he received for his administration the Hainari
military office house in Kuru.
Polviander was a tall and handsome man, a real military type, well over 3 ells tall (ell = 60cm), over 180
cm tall - an imposing man who had grey eyes, fair hair and a moustache.
Even in his old age he retained his military bearing, always walking erect
with springy steps. It was said that Polviander had a very gentle and
playful disposition and as a good storyteller he was always ready to
narrate his war reminiscences.
The soldier hero
Polviander received his baptism of fire by taking part with his regiment
in the war of Sweden against Napoleon in Pommer in 1807. He was in the
fiery Krüpersfront battle in front of Stralsund where the Pori Regiment,
led by the brave Captain Ek, achieved fame. In this battle Polviander
received a bullet in his calf which troubled him until his death.
As they started to hear disturbing
news from their homeland, the Regiment was transferred back home where
fiery battles were waiting for them. In Finland Polviander took part with
his regiment in eight bigger battles in the War of Finland in 1808-09: in
Kuuskoski, Siikajoki, Uusi Kaarlepyy, Lapua, Kauhajoki, Lapväärti,
Juutas and Oravainen.
In the battles Polviander was
wounded twice, worst in Kauhajoki, where a bullet hit his knee fairly
badly. The ache caused by it added to his other troubles for the rest of
his life. Otherwise he endured the wartime troubles and hardships quite
well. He was also with his regiment at the wretched time of surrender in
Sievi. Polviander had decided in himself to tear the illustrious standard
of the Pori Regiment into shreds and bash the flagpole into pieces on a
stone rather than give them to the enemy. At the last moment he gave up
this decision when he saw how other standard-bearers passed their flags
undamaged to the victors.
In work for peace
At the end of the war Polviander returned to Kuru and settled down to live
in his old office house in Hainari and which he could keep still out of
grace. Of this Runeberg mentions in his poem Ensign Stool, "Stool, he
only ate bread of grace". At the end of the war Polviander was only
22 years old.
Polviander lived a happy family life
surrounded by numerous children and honoured by all the villagers as their
"Hainari Ensign". Known for his calm and jovial disposition,
Polviander was respected and enjoyed great popularity with peasants as
well as persons of social position. Life was simple and modest but it was
said that the Ensign was just as happy and jovial whether they experienced
good or bad days.
Hainari Ensign and young Runeberg
Polviander was fishing and hunting with people from upper social
positions, especially with Captain of Enehjelm who lived in Ritoniemi in
Ruovesi. On these trips he got in touch with Runeberg and a close
friendship developed between them. Runeberg was a frequent guest at Kuru
Hainari and thus he heard a lot of tales of war, etc. From these Runeberg
collected material for The tales of Ensign Stool, Elk-skiers and many
other poems. In Kuru Runeberg made many wide hunting trips with Polviander
and so he got in close touch with the life of common people that
interested him a great deal.
Honoured old man of war
On the day of Kalle a delegation of old war heroes came to greet
Polviander under the leadership of his old friend and war comrade Almi.
They were wearing their old Pori uniforms and they honoured their former
well-liked standard-bearer with hurrah cheers and rifle shots. In the
veterans' annual circuit this was perhaps the most anticipated event.
On the 50th anniversary celebration
of the War of Finland in Tampere in 1858 the then already over 70 year old
Polviander was the guest of honour. The war veteran presented himself in
his full wartime uniform though afterwards he felt upset about its shabby
state. With his upright stance, the white-bearded veteran was still
admired by all and it was said that at the veterans' dances he was the
favourite with the ladies so that he was continuously asked to dance the
The Ensign died in his office house
in Hainari on 28 September 1876 and was buried on 15 October in the old
cemetery of Kuru. His funeral became an impressive patriotic mourning
occasion, for the Ensign at his death was the last veteran of the War of
Finland. Before the Ensign's death he had directed a stone slab to be
taken from the hill at Ämmänsilta but it should not be cut. That should
be put on his grave as a simple tombstone. That was done.
Photographs on the site - Carl Gustav Polviander