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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Scandinavian Wars.

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Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 31st, 2015, 5:40 pm

It is more often termed Dano-Swedish wars, an unfair title, as Norway, then a sort of quasi dependency of Denmark was also a part of it, but I suppose without a clear motive it would be silly to call it the Dano-Norwegian Swedish Wars. Though the Scandinavian Wars would equally fit the bill. That out of the way I was hoping some knowledgable people, who are hopefully bibliophiles could point me in the direction of books about these conflicts. As a warning I don't speak, nor can I read Norwegian, Swedish or Danish so English language stuff would be great.

My take thus far is as follows. Set in motion by the contending factors of the Continental System and the British Blockade the Scandinavian nations, Sweden having once been a dominant military power until the defeat by Russia in 1709, first attempted to remain neutral but were eventually sucked into the struggle between Britain and France, and forced to chose up sides. Threatened by France Sweden seems to have generally resisted Napoleon from 1805-1810 then entered into a politically meaningless alliance with the French empire after Europe fell under French domination but resumed their hostility to Napoleon in 1813-14, while Denmark and Norway, threatened by Britain and Sweden and isolated from any sort of diplomatic relationship with Britain after Copenhagen in 1807, allied with Napoleon though unlike Poland and stayed a distant and rather self serving ally until 1814.

The result of all this was basically that Denmark had to cede control of Norway to Sweden and having sacrificed this pawn kept its head out of water during the carve up of Europe after the wars ended. Norway would be a satelite state for another 100 years while Sweden gained some valuable territory.

The interesting thing I find about this series of wars is how distant they are from the main theatres, even that of Russia, far from fighting for Napoleon or even to bring him down the Scandinavian nations, Finland and Russia essentially ended up fighting their own private war on the fringe. The only big connection to the main course of events being the Danish struggle with Britain and the occupation of Denmark by France (which was in preparation for an invasion of Sweden and to protect Denmark).

Not only this but the Nordic theatre as we might call it highlights some interesting challenges faced by commanders in snowy, forested uplands and coastlines serrated by fjords. Danish-Norwegian Gunboats proved an effective harassment to the RN after the loss of the fleet after the fall of Copenhagen, and Norwegian Ski companies, specialist light infantry armed with rifles and uniformed in green which proved quite effective in the early part of the war. I'd love to find out what manner of training and drill they adhered to and what rifles they used. There was a reenactment group that specialised in an interpretation of them but I can't access the site.
http://www.elverumske.no
I think it's because I'm using a tablet, and I shall try with the PC later but it may just be defunct since January of last year?

There is some good stuff on the Napoleon Series but it doesn't give sources and I fear they'd all be in a language I can't read anyway.
http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/battles/c_viciouswar1808.html
http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/battles/c_norway1814.html
http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/battles/c_finnish.html

Wikipedia also has pages on the British campaigns against Denmark, the Dano-Swedish War, the Russian invasion of Finland and the Swedish invasion of Norway and so on most of which all give foreign language sources.

Josh.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby jf42 » December 31st, 2015, 8:50 pm

Josh, you might want to check out the links I posted on my recent posts to the 'Curricle guns' thread, which took an unexpected turn northwards just before Christmas. I'm afraid they are all in Danske/ Norske/ Svenske but G translations work pretty well.

I was strangely charmed to read that the Norwegian incursion into Swedish territory in 1808 was named the Lingenberry war.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Senarmont198 » December 31st, 2015, 10:17 pm

Denmark was 'a not-quite-equal' part of Denmark. The Danes had become allies of France because of England's invasion and terror-bombardment of Copenhagen and the subsequent loss of her fleet to Great Britain. In 1813 Denmark wanted to sue for peace, but was told that Norway would be ceded to Sweden when she surrendered. Denmark fought and supplied Davout with a 12,000-man auxiliary force in his unyielding defense of Hamburg. Bernadotte demanded Norway as his price for throwing in with the allies in 1813 and the allies agreed.

The Norwegians had defeated a Swedish invasion in 1809-1809 and when the Swedish 'would-be' army of occupation arrived in 1814 after Napoleon's first abdication, the Norwegians fought, waging an 'effective delaying action' against Bernadotte and his Swedes. In so doing they forced Bernadotte to recognize the Norwegians' constitution-only then would they recognize him as their sovereign.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 1st, 2016, 3:05 pm

jf42 wrote:Josh, you might want to check out the links I posted on my recent posts to the 'Curricle guns' thread, which took an unexpected turn northwards just before Christmas. I'm afraid they are all in Danske/ Norske/ Svenske but G translations work pretty well.

I was strangely charmed to read that the Norwegian incursion into Swedish territory in 1808 was named the Lingenberry war.


Thanks JF I will, I have realised I will have to rely on translator engines, as almost nothing contemporary in English was written after the Copenhagen campaign. There is something vaguely charming about the uniforms of the ski troops as well.

Senarmont198 wrote:Denmark was 'a not-quite-equal' part of Denmark. The Danes had become allies of France because of England's invasion and terror-bombardment of Copenhagen and the subsequent loss of her fleet to Great Britain. In 1813 Denmark wanted to sue for peace, but was told that Norway would be ceded to Sweden when she surrendered. Denmark fought and supplied Davout with a 12,000-man auxiliary force in his unyielding defense of Hamburg. Bernadotte demanded Norway as his price for throwing in with the allies in 1813 and the allies agreed.

The Norwegians had defeated a Swedish invasion in 1809-1809 and when the Swedish 'would-be' army of occupation arrived in 1814 after Napoleon's first abdication, the Norwegians fought, waging an 'effective delaying action' against Bernadotte and his Swedes. In so doing they forced Bernadotte to recognize the Norwegians' constitution-only then would they recognize him as their sovereign.


Thank you Sen, might I hazard that you meant to say Norway was 'a not quite equal part of Denmark'? I agree the Danish had no cause to ally with Britain after the Battles at Copenhagen, though I blanche at usuing the word "Terror" in any way when connected to a pre late 20th century event, the Infamous shelling of the civilians in Copenhagen was a sad business. Nevertheless it cannot be a terrorist action, the modern comparison to almost any civilian hardship in a military or paramilitary campaign can hardly be applied to the fairly commonplace deprivations accorded to civilians during sieges in the 18th and 19th century and before.
Clever fellow that Bernadotte, I must confess to being somewhat lost in the 1813-14 part of the story, so that does make sense.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby TheBibliophile » January 1st, 2016, 6:17 pm

"Terror bombardment" :roll:
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Senarmont198 » January 1st, 2016, 7:18 pm

That's the term used by the author of Defying Napoleon: How Britain Bombarded Copenhagen and seized the Danish Fleet in 1807 by Thomas Munch-Peterson.

The British deliberately targeted Copenhagen's civilian population in order to force the Danes to surrender. While mounting a siege of Copenhagen, the British did not have a competent engineer arm in siege tactics and techniques and instead of launching infantry assaults after making a breach in the walls, the British commander decided on targeting the civilian population. Wellington, it is noteworthy, was against it.

General Cathcart, the land commander, agreed to the plan that LtCol George Murray, the deputy quartermaster-general of the expedition supported-that of executing a bombardment of the city and inflicting the bombardment on the civilian population:

'If it is found by experience that the destruction of the [Danish] fleet is actually not within the power of the mortar batteries, we must then of necessity resort to the harsh measure of forcing the town into our terms, by the sufferings of the inhabitants themselves. but to give this mode of attack its fullest effect, it is necessary to completely invest the place, and oblige by that means, all persons of whatever description, to undergo the same hardships and dangers.'-Munch-Peterson, 195.

On pages 196 and 197 Munch-Peterson describes the British bombardment as including 'the idea of a terror bombardment of the city.' and he describes Cathcare as accepting 'Murray's argument than an indiscriminate bombardment of the city might be the most effective way forward.'

The British would resort to the same tactic against Flushing in 1809.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 1st, 2016, 9:17 pm

Now that we have a little context I can see what the author had in mind, nevertheless it is not a phrase I would use for the 19th century. Mr. Peterson no doubt with a kindly intention only wished to draw on a familiar term, or else I am sure wished to try and give readers a familair coat hanger for what is a broadly correct identification, nevertheless the terminology it irks me a little. Terrorists are not usually identified as soldiers.

General Cathcart was indeed cold blooded in his intention, especially after nullifying the fleet, and it is a shame it had to be repeated at Flushing especially when these campaigns gave no lasting advantage ashore. A cruel but effective strategy to reduce a town, except perhaps in Spain where the French encountered remarkable opposition from man woman and child. Wellington was indeed against the usage of bombarding civilians, and was able to prevent it in all his sieges except for San Sabastian where he was not present. Sadly it was the aftermath of his sieges that he had the problem with.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Senarmont198 » January 2nd, 2016, 11:59 am

You don't have to be a 'terrorist' (in the modern sense of the term) to conduct a terror campaign or a terror bombardment. I would submit that the term is not all-inclusive and should be used in context, which I believe Munch-Peterson has done.

The question that has to be asked is 'What was the British objective in targeting the civilian populations in Copenhagen and Flushing?' If it was to force the surrender of both places, which undoubtedly it was, then what? Was the object to kill as many civilians as possible? I don't think so. Was it to use the bombardment to force the surrender of the city? Yes, it was. And what was the result in Copenhagen? The result was the surrender because of the bombardment against the civilians, who were obviously scared to death, or 'terrorized.' Many of them tried to leave, some hid in the cellars where they died and the city's churches were used as aiming points. Seems to me the citizens of Copenhagen were terrified (perhaps that is a better use of the term).

Does that mean that the British were terrorists? No, it does not. They were given a mission and the best way they came up with to do it was a bombardment against the city and its citizens. Wellington didn't like it and did not do it in any of his sieges in the Peninsula.

And one of the reasons that the British chose this method both at Copenhagen and Flushing is that the Royal Engineers were not capable of conducting a proper siege. They were not trained in siege operations and there were no engineer troops (Royal Sappers and Miners) until 1813 and that is very well-documented. Consequently, Wellington was forced to employ infantry assaults against French-held fortresses and that didn't always work, and even when it did the infantry suffered very heavy casualties.

The British record of sieges in Portugal and Spain was not a good one, failing more times than they succeeded and a major factor in that, one that was present at every siege, was an engineer arm that was just not good enough.
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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 2nd, 2016, 3:48 pm

It is not so much the meaning behind the usage of the word terror or terrorist that sits ill with me, as I said I perfectly understand why Peterson used the term, and with the context it makes sense, but I have never heard the usage in the terms he used it in contemporary language and therefore the label will not do.

The record of British sieges in Spain and Portugal is indeed checkered, nevertheless given the problems you have already highlighted, it is amazing what they managed to achieve, and usually resulted in rush jobs and costly assaults but one cannot argue with the results. I would also just raise the idea that the Royal Engineers were not so much bad at what they did but in too few numbers with insufficient military or skilled labour to undertake scientific sieges, the Lines of Torres Vedras speak for themselves, but then again they had a year or more to built them and in Wellington's sieges it was a matter of months sometimes in winter.

You usually have good book ideas; I don't suppose you've ran across anything pertaining to the Scandinavian Wars? Lingonberry or otherwise :)

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Re: Scandinavian Wars.

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 2nd, 2016, 6:35 pm

Some info on the Ski troops.

The Ski Corps of Norway had been formed in 1747, though warfare on ski's had been common along the Arctic circle for centuries. Two, 3 company regiments were formed at Sønden and at Nordenfjaeldsk, each with an additional volunteer company each probably a wartime exigency. The Sønden regiment was composed of the Elverumske, Hofske and Åmotske Companies and the Nordenfjaeldsk of the Holtålske Snåsenske and the Merårkerske companies. In 1768 a further four companies were raised and doubtless apportioned two each to the standing regiments. By 1769 the ski Corps had been attached to other regiments. Sønden regiment was attached to the Oplandske and the Nordenfjaeldsk to the Trondhjemsk Regiments.
In 1801 the Ski Corps or Skiløberkorps were re-designated as Jaegers and presumably armed with rifles and uniformed in green.

This equipment eventually took the form, principally, of the 22 lødig (caliber?) M1807 Khyl Lock Jaeger Rifle and Hirschfanger Sword Bayonet. Black cartridge box, white cross and waist belts (pre 1812), hanger, and hide haversack. Enlisted men wore black round caps like the British light infantry in America, with a gold Norwegian lion on the front, pre 1812 and black bell topped shakos thereafter. The uniform after 1812 also changed to a less fussy design.
In summer they often acted as infantry Jaegers or sometimes light cavalry. Their mobility and small numbers made them useful for outposts and scouting. They were made up of 9 year conscripts and after training were required to report for 12 days' service each year or in an emergency, in which they could be speedily mobilised. After the breakup of Norway-Denmark and the Union of Norway-Sweden in 1814 the new military establishment took a poor view of their usefulness and they were disbanded between 1818 and 1826.

A closer look into recruitment and clothing gives the following information.
Except for weapons much of their uniform was manufactured locally.
The regional conscription system allowed for 3-5 five farms to outfit one soldier.
Being something of an elite, all purportedly expert marksmen, able to hit targets at 2-300 yards service in the corps was attractive. Therefore men of good character were often found in their ranks, and not fobbed off with local troublemakers the farmers wanted rid of.
In addition to their green uniform, long white buttoned trousers, white piping, faced black, with plastron lapels, pre 1812, they had a cream/white overcoat for use in heavy snow or open areas. Norwegian Line troops aped somewhat their Dutch allies and wore red.
Each man had a ski pole, and one long and one short pair of wooden ski's, sometimes layered with fur on the bottom.

Officers wore similar to their men. In the pre 1812 uniform they had a distinctive brimmed round hat much like that worn by the Royal Marines or British troops on foreign service in tropical countries. All ranks wore a tall white plume, tipped green, which seems to have been detachable. Yellow or gold trim for officers hats and possibly lace, a yellow sash with red pinstripes. A species of boots seem to also have been used over the trousers of all ranks which would protect their legs getting soaked in heavy snow.

I wonder how they moved guns in the snow? Light guns.

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