I have written previously about the Brodd family coming to America and how my great-great-grandfather Anders Gustaf Brodd, abruptly quit the Swedish Army. I now have some new documentation that fills in some of the gaps on the timeline.
Let’s start with some background on how military service used to work in Sweden1.
Out in the countryside, every parish was divided into “rote” (wards) with the farmers in each rote being collectively responsible for housing and provisioning one soldier. The provisioning consisted of a small cottage on an acreage, an annual supply of hay and seed, an annual stipend, and a uniform. The government provided the soldier’s weaponry. When the soldier was not training or at war, he worked his own acreage and also had to help the farmers in his rote with their farms too. Soldiers might be called upon to help with the public projects, such as the construction of the Göta Canal between 1810 and 1832. The enlistment was more or less permanent – soldiers typically served for 30 years or more. Discharge was usually only allowed for old age or for physical ailments.
This was actually a very effective means of maintaining a well-trained standing army in a small rural country. As a result, Sweden was a major military power throughout the 1600’s and 1700’s.
For men without prospects of inheriting land, enlisting as a soldier was a way to obtain respectable social standing and a some level of financial security. By 1867, when Anders Gustaf Brodd (I’ll refer to him as A.G. for the rest of this post) enlisted, it had been more than 50 years since Sweden had been at war, so the job wasn’t as dangerous as it once was (and indeed, Sweden never went to war again after 1814). A.G. had two older brothers, so staying at home on the farm had very limited prospects. Soldiering was probably a responsible choice for him.
The rotes in the Hornborga parish were responsible for four soldiers in the First Company of the Skaraborgs Infantry Regiment and for five soldiers in the Seventh Company of the Vestgöta Cavalry Regiment. Each of these soldier “slots” had an assigned number. A.G. Brodd had the position of Soldier No. 46 in Skaraborgs Regiment. The First Company in the Skaraborgs Regiment was called a “Life Company” (lifkompani) and was responsible for the protection of the regiment commander.
When men became soldiers, they were required to take on a soldier’s surname, otherwise there would be too many Johanssons, Anderssons, Peterssons, etc. in each company. It was helpful to have one-syllable distinctive names (maybe so drill sergeants could yell at them!) and was typically related to a piece of military equipment. Often, the soldier name was passed on to the next man who had the same soldier number or who lived in the same soldier’s cottage, even though they weren’t related. We see this with both of the No. 46 soldiers before and after A.G. – they both had the surname “Lans” which translates as “Lance”. For whatever reason, A.G. took the name Brodd. We’ve been told that this was in honor of the nearby parish of “Broddetorp” – which may be true – but the word brodd itself also has a military meaning. We don’t have a precise word for it in English, but I’m told it refers to clamped-on ice cleats or studded chains attached to shoes, used by both soldiers and horses in winter conditions. Don’t believe me? Check it out.
A.G. Brodd and his family lived in the No. 46 soldier’s cottage called “Herr Lagesgården”. We saw the farmstead location when we were in Sweden in 2013. The soldier’s cottage is probably gone, but the farmstead sits on a hill overlooking Lake Hornborga and is absolutely beautiful.
Every three to five years, there was an official mustering of each Regiment, and information for each soldier was entered into a Muster Roll. The first time we see A.G. in a muster roll is on June 22, 1872.
46, Herr Lagesgården in Hornborga parish in Skaraborg County. Anders Gustaf Brodd, earlier named A.G. Johansson, born in Segerstad parish in Skaraborg County on March 16, 1848. Accepted for service on January 11, 1867. Current age 24 years, 3 months. Length of service to date 5 years, 5 months. Height 5 feet, 7.8 inches tall. Married. Approved personally and accessories [i.e., he passed inspection]
(You were supposed to be at least 5 feet 8 inches tall to get in the military, so they seemed to have overlooked his 0.2-inch deficit.)
An enlistment date of January, 1867 means that he was a single man when he first enlisted; he and Gustafva were not married until 1869. By the time of this 1872 mustering, he and Gustafva had two children at home, Anna and Johan August.
The family story is that it was Gustafva who wanted to come to America. Her brother J.W. Johnson was doing very well in Wyoming, and was willing to help pay for their travel. A.G. didn’t really want to come – and I suspect it was because of his binding commitment to serve in the military. He couldn’t just resign. The only way to get out of it would be as a deserter. The penalty for desertion was prison time, so this wasn’t something to be taken lightly.
They decided to make their move in May of 1875. By then, baby Augusta Charlotta had been added to the family.
I have in the files a letter from Johannah Hallberg, Gustafva’s niece, written many years later in 1930. In it, she says “You wondered if I was the girl that stayed with you when you left Sweden. Yes, I am the one.” This sounds like there had been some advance planning – having a teenage niece come to help with the kids while they packed and planned their get-away.
Their get-away plan had to take into account:
- It was 10 miles from Hornborga to Falköping, the nearest train station. With three children age 5 and under and their travel trunks, they probably needed an accomplice to help get them to Falköping. Perhaps it was Johannah’s parents (Gustafva’s older sister Cajsa and her husband Gunnar).
- It was two hours by train from Falköping to Gothenburg. They probably wanted to time it so they didn’t arrive too early at the train station and attract attention.
- The immigrant “shuttle” boats left from Gothenburg for England every Friday
To ensure that he didn’t get caught, the best plan would be to leave on a Thursday, get all the way to Gothenburg, and be on the boat when it left Friday morning.
That’s exactly what they did.
Here’s the Muster Roll from June 21, 1875 – just a few weeks after his desertion2.
This entry is a duplicate of the previous entry in all respects, except for the last sentence: “illegal deserter on 6 May 1875”.
May 6 was a Thursday – and someone must have turned them in on the day they left.
Then we find the family on the passenger list leaving Gothenburg on Friday, May 7. A.G. gives his surname as “Andersson”, avoiding both the soldier name of Brodd and his given name of Johansson. They give their town as “Håkantorp” (where A.G. grew up) instead of Hornborga. It correctly states “Hustrum Gustafva” [wife Gustafva] and the names of the two older kids, but the youngest was August Charlotta, not Lina. Some of the ages aren’t quite right.
My genealogical society mentor agrees that this isn’t just clerical error – there is some active deception going on here.
As proof of the seriousness of desertion, we found this very unusual record in the Public Announcements for Skaraborg County dated May 24, 1875. Announcements such as these were probably read from the pulpits of local churches.
General Wanted Announcements. On request by the Management of the Royal Skaraborg’s Regiment. The soldier at the Life Company No. 46 Brodd, who illegally deserted from the Rote on the 6th this month. Brodd is 27 3/12 years old, 5 feet 7.8 inches tall, has light hair, light eyebrows, light mustache and skinny, freckled face and was wearing civil clothes at the time of the desertion.
There were two other Hornborga soldiers that also deserted to America that summer – Soldier No. 45 in A.G.’s regiment, and also Soldier No. 37 in the Cavalry regiment. Soldier No. 45, Johan Gothard, was present at the June 21st mustering, so he must have left later in the summer. He was single. The Cavalry regiment didn’t muster that year, so I’m not certain about the timing of the departure of Soldier No. 37, August Ekman and his family. I haven’t been able to track this family; they may have used fake names for their departure from Gothenburg like the Brodd family did.
The family story is that the Atlantic crossing was very rough, and the family was sick for much of the time. Poor A.G., I don’t know if he was throwing up because of seasickness or out of guilt.
By the time the Public Announcement was read, they had arrived in America and were probably on the train on their way to Wyoming. I wonder what A.G. thought when they stepped off the train into the desolate landscape of Carbon County, Wyoming. Ha! He probably threw up again. (Read more about Carbon here.)
1Much of this background material was taken from Hans Högman’s excellent website.
2For those with ArkivDigital subscriptions, here are link ID’s for the documents that are referenced in this post:
- June 22, 1872 Muster Roll: v60289.b99
- June 21, 1875 Muster Roll: v60290.b112
- May 7 Passenger List: v479733.b500.s97
- 1875 Moving-Out Record from Hornborga: v23480.b105.s101
- May 24, 1975 Public Announcement: v839599.b550