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In 1708, King Charles XII of Sweden invaded Russia with the goal of bringing the Great Northern War to an end.

Turned away at Smolensk, he moved into the Ukraine for the winter.

As his troops endured the frigid weather, Charles sought allies for his cause.

Charles' position was further weakened by the need to leave an army corps in Poland to aid King Stanislaus I Leszczyñski.

As the campaigning season approached, Charles' generals advised him to fall back to Volhynia as the Russians were beginning to surround their position.

Unwilling to retreat, Charles planned an ambitious campaign to capture Moscow by crossing the Vorskla River and moving via Kharkov and Kursk.

Advancing with 24,000 men, but only 4 guns, Charles first invested the city of Poltava along the banks of the Vorskla.

Defended by 6,900 Russian and Ukrainian troops, Poltava held out against Charles' attack, while waiting for Tsar Peter the Great to arrive with reinforcements.

Marching south with 42,500 men and 102 guns, Peter sought to relieve the city and inflict a damaging blow on Charles.

Over the previous few years Peter had rebuilt his army along modern European lines after suffered multiple defeats at the hands of the Swedes.

Arriving near Poltava, his army went into camp and erected defenses against a possible Swedish attack.

Across the lines, field command of the Swedish army had devolved to Field Marshal Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld and General Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt after Charles had been wounded in the foot on June 17.

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