Torstenson War


Torstenson War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict= Torstenson War
partof= Thirty Years' War


caption=
casus=Swedish attempt to break strategic encirclement
date= 1643 - 1645
place= Denmark, Norway, Sweden
territory=Jämtland, Härjedalen, Gotland, parts of Älvdalen Municipality, Saaremaa and Halland (on 30 years) become Swedish territories
result= Swedish victory
combatant1=
combatant2=
commander1=
commander2=
strength1= 24,600
strength2= 32,000
casualties1=
casualties2=
notes=

The Torstenson war, Hannibal controversy or Hannibal War ( _no. Hannibalsfeiden) was a short period of conflict between Sweden and Denmark-Norway which occurred in 1643 to 1645 during the waning days of the Thirty Years' War. The names refer to Swedish general Lennart Torstenson and Norwegian governor-general Hannibal Sehested.

The cause

Sweden had been highly successful in the Thirty Years' War, having defeated Danish armies in Germany and seen substantial victories under Gustavus Adolphus and, after this death, under the leadership of Count Axel Oxenstierna, Lord High Chancellor of Sweden. At the same time, Sweden was continually threatened by Denmark-Norway, which almost completely encircled Sweden from the south (Blekinge, Skåne, and Halland), the west (Bohuslän) and the northwest (Jämtland). The Danish Sound Dues were also a continuing source of irritation and a contributing factor to the war. In the spring of 1643 the Swedish Privy Council determined that their military strength made territorial gains at the expense of Denmark likely. The Count drew up the plan for war and directed a surprise multiple-front attack on Denmark in May.

The beginning

Swedish Field Marshal Lennart Torstensson was ordered to march against Denmark. Proceeding from Moravia, his forces entered Danish territory at Holstein on December 12th and by the end of January 1644 the Jutland peninsula was in his possession. In February of 1644 the Swedish General Gustav Horn occupied much of the Danish provinces of Skåne and Halland, except for the Danish fortress town of Malmø, with an army of 11,000 men.

The Danish response

This attack caught Denmark unaware and poorly prepared, but Christian IV retained his presence of mind. He placed his confidence in the fleet to protect the home islands and on the forces of Norway to relieve the pressures on Danish provinces in Skåne by attacking Sweden along the Norwegian-Swedish border.

The Norwegian response

Norway, which was then governed by Christian's son-in-law, Statholder (royal governor) Hannibal Sehested, was a reluctant participant. The Norwegian populace opposed an attack on Sweden, correctly suspecting that an attack on Sweden would only leave them open to counterattack. Their opposition to Statholder Sehested’s direction grew bitter, and the war was lampooned as the "Hannibal war." Understandably, the Danes cared little for Norwegian public sentiment when Denmark itself was seriously threatened. Hence Jacob Ulfeld initiated an attack into Sweden from Norwegian Jemtland. He was driven back out of Sweden and Swedish troops temporarily occupied Jemtland as well as advancing into the Norwegian Østerdal before being driven back.

Sehested had made preparations to advance with his own army and a similar army under Henrik Bjelke into Swedish Värmland, but was ordered to relieve the King in the Danish attack on Göteborg. Upon the arrival of Sehested the King joined his fleet and performed heroically, even though wounded, preventing Torstensson’s army from moving onto the Danish islands.

On the Norwegian front, Sehested attacked the newly founded Swedish city of Vänersborg and destroyed it. He also sent Norwegian troops under the command of George von Reichwein across the border from Vinger and Eidskog as well as troops under Henrik Bjelke into Swedish Dalsland.

Denouement

Christian’s Danish forces were so exhausted that he was forced to accept the mediation of France and the United Provinces in suing for peace; and to sign the Peace of Brömsebro on August 13 1645, a humiliating disaster to Denmark-Norway. The Swedes had achieved much from their surprise attack on Denmark. They were exempted from the “Sound dues” (a toll for passing through Danish territory into the Baltic Sea). Denmark-Norway ceded to Sweden the Norwegian provinces of Jemtland, Herjedalen and Idre & Serna and the strategically located Danish islands of Gotland in the center of the Baltic and Øsel in the Baltic Sea. Further, Sweden occupied the Danish province of Halland as well as other territories for 30 years as a guarantee of these provisions.

Long-term consequences

The defeat of Denmark reversed the historic balance of power in the Baltic. Sweden now virtually controlled the Baltic, had unrestricted access to the North Sea and no longer was encircled by Denmark-Norway.

As importantly, the successful surprise attack assured that Denmark-Norway now looked for an opportunity to recoup their losses, while Sweden looked for opportunities to expand further, setting the stage for continued conflict on the Baltic over the next century.

References

*"History of the Norwegian People", by Knut Gjerset, The MacMillan Company, 1915, Volume II
*"Nordens Historie", ved Hiels Bache, Forslagsbureauet i Kjøbenhavn, 1884.
*"Sweden and the Baltic, 1523 - 1721", by Andrina Stiles, Hodder & Stoughton, 1992 ISBN 0-340-54644-1
*"The Struggle for Supremacy in the Baltic: 1600-1725", by Jill Lisk; Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1967
*"The Northern Wars", 1558-1721 by Robert I. Frost; Longman, Harlow, England; 2000 ISBN 0-582-06429-5


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