Caroleans (Swedish: karoliner) were the soldiers of the Swedish kings Charles XI and Charles XII.
To compensate for the lack of manpower and resources Sweden strove for innovative ways to make an effective army. The successful path of innovative military ideas was in fact the only way Sweden managed to achieve a great power status. However, having to rely on this to maintain power status was uncertain. The Carolean soldiers were effective soldiers, as shown by the their efforts in the Great Northern War, with battles such as Narva, Düna, Klissow, Pultusk, Jakobstadt, Gemauerthof, Warsaw, Fraustadt, Holowczyn, Helsingborg and Gadebusch. Thanks to their achievements during this war, they are regarded to have been perhaps the most effective military troops of that day. The Carolean army was small and because of the sparse number of soldiers it needed a continuance of victories, as a heavy defeat could be irreparable. It was defeated after a long and fateful march into the Russian interior, where they were exposed to scorched earth tactics, small frequent raids and the cold Russian climate. The Swedish soldiers who reached the battle of Poltava were exhausted and hungry. During this long march an estimated 35,000 Swedish soldiers - 70 percent of the army - died of famine, disease and exhaustion. The battle ended in a decisive Russian victory which resulted in the decline of the Swedish Empire.
Strict discipline was necessary in the Carolean army to allow its very offensive tactics, which among other things exposed soldiers to a medium-distance enemy fire before being allowed to respond. This tactic was intended to get the soldiers close enough to the enemy so that it was almost impossible to miss a shot. The steadfast courage shown from the Swedish troops would also affect enemy morale, at several occasions this would frighten the enemies into retreat.
To attain this steadfast discipline, the army had very strict rules. Even a soldier’s private life was strained down by very strict rules, as they were supervised at their soldiers cabin as well as in the field. Religion was used as a tool for keeping the morale high amongst the troops. Not only within the army religion was used for military purposes, but regular priests also preached about the virtues of serving the crown and being a soldier in order for young men to join the army. Within the military, priests often participated in battles to raise morale amongst troops.
In order for soldiers from different regions and provinces of the kingdom to feel companionship and loyalty with fellow soldiers, soldiers from the same region or province were made stay with each other. The church also helped creating a feeling of solidarity between soldiers from different parts of the kingdom by showing that the soldiers fought for the same beliefs of the Swedish Lutheran church when facing an enemy army. This was also a reminder to the soldiers that God was protective and helped them in battle, as had been said since Sweden fought in the Thirty Years War as the continental leader of Protestantism. After the battle of Narva many soldiers believed that God had sent them the blizzard that helped them to victory. It was commonly thought that the defeat at Poltava was God’s punishment for the soldiers’ hubris and sins.