Battle of Kringen

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Battle of Kringen
Part of the Kalmar War
Battle of Kringen.jpg
Detail of Battle of Kringen, a nineteenth century national romantic depiction of the battle by Georg Nielsen Strømdal (1856-1914)[1]
Date 26 August 1612
Location Otta, Norway
Result Norwegian victory
Belligerents
Scottish mercenaries, under Swedish allegiance Royal Standard of Norway.svg Norway
Commanders and leaders
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ramsay

George Sinclair  

Lars Gunnarson Hågå
Strength
Over 300 soldiers and conscripts Around 500 militia
Casualties and losses
about 280[clarification needed] 6 killed
12 wounded

The Battle of Kringen (Norwegian: Slaget i Kringom) involved an ambush by Norwegian peasant militia of Scottish mercenary soldiers who were on their way to enlist in the Swedish army for the Kalmar War.[2]

The battle has since become a part of folklore in Norway, giving names to local places in the Otta region. A longstanding misconception was that George Sinclair, a nephew of the George Sinclair, 5th Earl of Caithness was the commander of the forces; in fact, he was subordinate to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ramsay.[3]

Background[edit]

The Scottish forces (Skottetoget) were partly recruited, partly pressed into service by Sir James Spens, apparently against the preferences of James VI, who favored the Danish side in the war. Two ships sailed from Dundee and Caithness in early August, met up on the Orkney Islands and sailed for Norway.

Because sea routes had been blocked by Danish forces in the Kalmar War, the Scottish forces decided to follow a land route to Sweden that other Scottish and Dutch forces had successfully used. On 20 August the ships landed in Isjforden in Romsdal, though the pilot apparently put the forces on shore in rough terrain. The soldiers proceeded to march up Romsdal Valley and down the valley of Gudbrandsdalen.

Having been warned of the incursion, and probably inflamed by a massacre of Norwegian conscripts at Nya Lödöse and the events of Mönnichhoven’s march (Mönnichhoven-marsjen) earlier in July, the farmers and peasants of the Vågå, Lesja, Dovre, Fron, and Ringebu mobilized to meet the enemy. Legend has it that the sheriff of the area, Lars Gunnarson Hågå (b. approx. 1570, d. approx. 1650), came into the church in Dovre with a battle axe, struck it on the floor and shouted "Let it be known - the enemy has come to our land!" (Gjev ljod - fienden har kome til landet!).[4]

Order of battle[edit]

As the Scottish forces progressed southward, they were reportedly followed by Norwegian scouts. Scottish forces included two companies on foot, commanded by George Sinclair and Ramsay. In recent years it has been argued that the Scots were lightly armed but this is not probable and the bodies were looted afterwards for weapons and belongings. The Norwegians were armed with swords, spears, axes, a few muskets and some crossbows.[5]

According to folklore, the force of the Scottish troops was between 900 and 1,100 or more, but historians generally discount the estimate, placing the probable strength as low as 300. The strength of the Norwegian militia troops is estimated to have been about 500.[6]

Combat operations[edit]

Landing of Scottish Forces at Isfjorden
Adolph Tidemand

There are few entirely credible accounts of the battle, but the oral history has two Norwegians on horseback following the Scottish troops, possibly on the other side of the valley. One was a woman by the name of Guri, known as Prillar-Guri to posterity; the other was an unnamed man. The man rode his horse facing backward, providing a distraction for the marching troops. When the Scots reached the narrowest section of the valley - Kringen - Guri blew her horn, signaling the ambush.[7] The chosen place of assault is fairly steep, and the river runs close to what would be considered the only passable road at the time. Thus, the Scots would be trapped between the river and the mountain side, which they could not possibly scale.

According to folklore, the Norwegian troops let loose logs and rocks down the valley, crushing the marching soldiers, but this is not confirmed. It is known, however, that they shot at the soldiers with crossbows and muskets. Among the first to fall was George Sinclair, apparently shot by Berdon Sejelstad. It is his name that is most commonly associated with the battle. Sinclair was a nephew of the Earl of Caithness and a historical figure in the Clan Sinclair.[8]

Close combat ensued, the militiamen fighting with axes, scythes, and presumably other improvised weapons. Most of the Scots were killed during the battle. Some may have escaped, but others were captured. All but 14 were summarily executed at Kvam in what is now Nord-Fron, the survivors then sent to Christiania for imprisonment. Those killed were thrown into a mass grave at the local cemetery, north of the Scottish barn (Skottelåven), in which captured soldiers had been held; this was later called Skottehaugen (Scottish barrow). Among the survivors were the officers Alexander Ramsay, Sir Henry Bruce, James Moneypenny, and James Scott. These were eventually repatriated.

Aftermath and legacy[edit]

Monument in Otta over the battle site
Scottish barn Skottelåven
at Klomstad, Kvam in Oppland county, Norway

It is considered that this battle constituted a defense of Norwegian sovereignty, and it was historically interpreted that way when the patriotic movement arose about 160 years later.[citation needed] The peak where Prillar-Guri allegedly stood, bears her name to this day, and a local broadcasting antenna is symbolically set on the top.

A number of places were named after the Scottish incursion, notably along the route. The barn was destroyed by artillery fire during the intense British-German hostilities at Kvam in 1940.

Captured Scottish weapons, including a pistol, a Lochaber axe, a broadsword and several basket hilt claymores, were put on display at the Gudbrandsdal War Museum at Kvam (Gudbrandsdal Krigsminnesamling i Kvam) to commemorate the battle. The display also includes a model of one of the Caithness Scots.[9]

There is some evidence that Scots settled in Norway, and farm names may confirm that. There is also a "Sinclair's Club" in Otta, and there are regular re-enactments of the battle. Sinclair's grave is now a local landmark though the Norwegians at the time sought to desecrate his memory by burying him outside the church walls.

Part of the bunad design for this area—known as rutaliv—is reminiscent of the Sinclair red tartan.

In literature and music[edit]

Norwegian poet Edvard Storm wrote a poem that tells the story of the battle, Zinklarvisa ("Sinclair's Song"). Henrik Wergeland wrote an historical tragedy called Sinklars død (The Death of Sinclair). The plotline concerns Sinclair and his lady, telling of the fatal choices that led to the tragic deaths at Kringen.

The Norwegian folk-rock band Folque's song "Sinclairvise" makes use of Storm's poem.

The Faroese metal group Týr included a version of this song on their 2008 album Land, called "Sinklars Vísa".

In 2009, the Norwegian rock band Street Legal released an instrumental song called "The Battle of Kringen" on their album titled Bite the Bullet.

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

This article is based in part upon accounts first published in 1838 which had been gathered in Gudbrandsdalen by Hans Petter Schnitler Krag, pastor of the parish of Vågå.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]