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Battle of Lund
Part of the Scanian War
Charles XI, Battle of Lund.jpg
Charles XI at the battle of Lund, by Johan Philip Lemke.
Date December 4, 1676
Location Lund
Result Decisive Swedish victory
Belligerents
Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
Commanders
Charles XI
Simon Grundel-Helmfelt
Christian V
Carl von Arensdorff
Friedrich von Arensdorff
Strength
8000 men Infantry 5,000
Cavalry 6,000
1,300 Dutch marines
Including train troops 14,500 - 15,000 men
Casualties and losses
2500-3000 killed[1 ]
100 - 200 taken prisoner
6000 - 6500 killed
[1 ] At least 2,000 taken prisoner

Total Danish losses: 9000 men [2]

The Battle of Lund was fought on December 4, 1676 in an area north of the city of Lund in Scania in southern Sweden, between the invading Danish army and the army of Charles XI of Sweden. It was part of the Scanian War. The Danish army of about 12,300 was under the personal command of 31-year-old King Christian V of Denmark and aided by General Carl von Arensdorff, and the Swedish army, which numbered about 8,000, was commanded by Field Marshal Simon Grundel-Helmfelt and the 21 year old Swedish king Charles XI .

Contents

Events leading up to the battle

After the Swedish defeat at Fehrbellin and a number of Danish triumphs at sea, the Swedish military was occupied in retaining the tenuous hold on dominions in Brandenburg and Pomerania.

The Danes saw this as an opportunity to regain control over the Scanian lands, which had fallen to Sweden with the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde. The Danes invaded via Helsingborg in late June 1676 with an army of 14,000 men, and found themselves supported by the local peasantry. This made it impossible for the outnumbered Swedish troops to effectively defend the recently gained province. In a month's time only the fortified town of Malmö remained under Swedish control.

In August, Danish troops tried to advance North, but Swedish King Charles XI had prepared a new army in the province of Småland, and the Danish advance was halted at the Battle of Halmstad. The Swedes had gathered 14,000 men by October, of which three-fourths were mounted, and felt confident enough to march south. They slowly fought their way in an attempt to break the siege of Malmö. Swedish supply lines were thin due to frequent interceptions by local peasants under the command of Danish officers.

In early November, the Danish king and his army had taken post at Lund, south of the Kävlinge River. The Danes controlled all the river crossings, and the Swedish army was forced to camp on the North side. For one month this situation endured, but in late November snow arrived and the river surface began to freeze. On the morning of December 3 the Swedish General of Fortifications Erik Dahlberg reported to the king that the ice would carry. The Danes assumed that the Swedes had gone into winter camp and that they would not attack until spring.

Battle

Before daybreak the Swedish army broke camp and made preparations to cross the river under the cover of a moonless night. Between 4:00 and 5:30 in the morning, the entire Swedish force had successfully crossed the river and reached the south bank. The Danes had not been alarmed.

According to the initial plan the Swedes should attack the sleeping Danish camp with cavalry in the south-east, but reconnaissance patrols reported that the ground between the two armies was unsuitable for mounted troops. Charles and his generals gathered to discuss the new situation. Most advisors pointed out that the Danish army possessed much more infantry, and it would be foolish to attack by foot. The long march towards the Danish camps would certainly alarm them and the Swedes would lose the surprise element. The Swedish main strength lay in its cavalry.

The king was eager to attack at once, but was swayed by his advisors. He ordered the troops to advance towards the hills just outside the north wall of Lund, to seize a tactical advantage. It would mean better terrain for the cavalry, and the town itself would cover the Swedish south flank. However, the Danes had woken, and soon recognised the Swedish intentions. The Danes quickly broke camp and started to race the Swedes for control of the hills.

The first skirmish for the hills was between the Swedish right wing and the Danish left wing, and ended in a tie. However, it secured the hills under Swedish control, and pushed the Danes to the east.

It was nine o'clock in the morning and the sun had just risen when the real battle began. The front now stretched one kilometer from North to South, with the Danes to the east and the Swedes to the west. The Danish army was supported by 56 guns of various calibers, while the Swedes only brought eight six-pounders and four three-pounders.

Once the fighting commenced, Charles XI personally led a flanking maneuver to overwhelm the Danish left flank. During the fighting, the Danish commander Carl von Arensdorff was badly wounded, and the entire left wing was forced to retreat the battle at 10:00, severely crippling the Danish army. The Swedish king and the Field Marshal Helmfelt used their cavalry to pursue fleeing Danish infantry, and cut down any who lagged behind. The terrible chase continued eight kilometers, right up to the river. Some officers at the Danish camp attempted to ward off the Swedes, but many Danes were forced onto the ice for safety. However, the ice did not hold, and a great number of the remaining Danish left wing drowned.

However, while the Danish left wing fled, the right wing pushed the Swedes back, and further back, until the Swedish left was also scattered. With the absence of Danish King Christian V and with General Arenstorff wounded, Friedrich von Arensdorff, the general's brother, had assumed command of the Danish army. The Danish front was now facing south and the Swedish forces found themselves under constant attack and with their back against the town wall. As the battle commenced, the situation for the Swedes was getting more and more desperate, and there was no sign of the king, the Household cavalry or the Field Marshal for hours. The Swedes were also greatly outnumbered, as the Danes approximately counted 4,500 infantry and 2,100 cavalry, and the Swedes 1,400 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. Instead of forcing another attack, Friedrich von Arensdorff ordered the army to regroup at noon, halting the battle shortly.

At the river, the Swedish king was contemplating his next move. Available intelligence from the town was scarce, and suggested that the whole Danish army was on the run. Although he was tempted to rout the fleeing Danish cavalry all the way to Landskrona, he instead opted to return to Lund to his army.

The battle at Lund renewed, and the Swedes were forced back once more. However, at sunset (about 15:00) the Swedish king returned from the north with his cavalry, combined with some cavalry units from the scattered Swedish left wing. He decided to try to circle the Danish army to the west to join the remains of the Swedish center. Danish commander Arensdorff made the decision to halt the offensive on the Swedish center and instead tend to the enemy cavalry in the northwest. As chance would have it, the two forces lined up in a similar manner as at the outset of the battle six hours earlier.

Charles XI, two of his generals and three of his guards managed to break through the Danish lines and join the diminished Swedish center. While Arensdorff was still attacking the cavalry in the north, the return of the Swedish king inspired the exhausted troops to attack the Danish forces in the back. Though the Danes still outnumbered the Swedes, by approximately 4,500 to 4,000, Arensdorff had lost the initiative and after just half an hour his army had disintegrated.

Charles XI wanted to clear the field of Danish soldiers. The remaining Danish cavalry quickly disappeared into the night. Although Danish General Bibow bravely protected the infantry retreat, many of the Danish were massacred until Field Marshal Helmfelt ordered that the killing should stop and that Danish and Dutch soldiers that surrendered should be spared. At 17.00 in the evening cease fire was sounded.

Aftermath

Monument commemorating the Battle of Lund, erected in 1876

Although the bodies were counted the next day, the original notes have been lost and the exact death toll is unknown. Contemporary Swedish sources indicate between 8,300 and 9,000 bodies on the battlefield, excluding the Danish that drowned and all the soldiers that died from their wounds the following weeks. One Danish contemporary source talks about a total of 9,300 dead. Considering the size of the armies, these losses are very high on both sides. The Dutch marines were exceptionally unfortunate; according to various sources only several dozens out of the 1,300 survived. The Battle of Lund severely crippled both armies, and is known as one of the bloodiest in the history of Scandinavia.

The Swedish victory is often attributed to the composition of their army, as it contained far fewer mercenaries. The Swedish habit of mixing cavalry and infantry also made it possible for the Swedes to mount swift counter attacks as soon as a friendly infantry unit buckled. The Danish on the other hand, still used the caracole tactic, undermining the speed and agility of their cavalry.

The victory at Lund served as an immense morale boost to the Swedish army. Charles XI was criticized for getting carried away by his success on the right flank, but the battle had nonetheless made him popular with his own troops. The remaining Danish forces were forced to retreat to the fortress of Landskrona. Reinforced by their Austrian and German allies, they would once again meet the Swedish army at the Battle of Landskrona.

References

  1. ^ a b Claes Wahlöö & Göran Larsson, Slaget vid Lund- Ett mord och inte ett fältslag (Lund 1998) p. 83
  2. ^ Claes Wahlöö & Göran Larsson, Slaget vid Lund- Ett mord och inte ett fältslag (Lund 1998) p. 85
  • Björlin, Gustaf. Kriget mot Danmark 1675-1679. Stockholm 1885. [1]
  • Holm, Nils F. (Ed.): Det svenska svärdet. Stockholm 1948.
  • Stevns, Arne. Vor Hær i Krig og Fred. NLB 1943.
  • Wahlöö, Claes. Larsson, Göran. Slaget vid Lund. Lund 1998.
  • Dansk Militærhistore, Slaget ved Lund

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