Battle of Lyngør

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Battle of Lyngør
Part of Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Lyngør.jpg
Artist's rendition of the Battle of Lyngør
Date 6 July 1812
Location Lyngør
Result British victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom United Kingdom Denmark Denmark–Norway
Commanders and leaders
Captain James Pattison Steward Captain Hans Peter Holm
Strength
1 ship of the line,
3 brigs
1 frigate,
3 brigs
Casualties and losses
9 killed,
26 wounded,
and 2 missing
1 frigate lost,
133 killed,
88 wounded

The Battle of Lyngør was a naval battle fought between Denmark-Norway and Britain in 1812 on the southern coast of Norway, effectively concluding the Gunboat War in Britain's favour and putting Denmark-Norway out of the war.

Background[edit]

Denmark-Norway’s attempt to remain neutral in the struggle between France and England and their respective allies early in the 19th century came to an end after England’s preemptive naval actions of 1807, in which the entire Danish fleet was taken. The British imposed a blockade on supply lines between Norway and Denmark in the Skagerrak sound, except for Norwegian ships transporting lumber to Britain. The resulting blockade isolated Norway from both Denmark and from the market and was a catastrophe for Norway. Most exports were stopped, as well as grain imports from Denmark. The consequences were economic crisis, with hunger and severe famine due to the blockade.

The Norwegians preferred to limit military operations to coastal defence. Nevertheless, what was left of the Dano-Norwegian fleet after the Battle of Copenhagen (1807) fleet was committed to breaking the blockade. After years of skirmishes, the Dano-Norwegian fleet was reduced to one major ship, the frigate Najaden, which they had finished in 1811 with materiel salvaged from a ship-of-the-line destroyed in earlier battles. Najaden was under the command of Danish naval officer Hans Peter Holm.[1] Three brigs – Kiel (under the command of Otto Frederick Rasch),[2] Lolland, and Samsøe – accompanied Najaden.

The British saw an opportunity to enforce the blockade and break the back of Dano-Norwegian seapower. They therefore sent the 64-gun Third Rate ship-of-the-line Dictator and three brigs, the 18-gun Cruizer class brig-sloop Calypso, 14-gun brig-sloop Podargus and the 14-gun gun-brig Flamer to seek out the Danes.

Battle plans[edit]

Captain Steward's plan was to chase down Najaden and destroy it, thereby giving Britain supremacy over the trade routes across the Skagerrak between Norway and Denmark, and effectively ending Danish involvement in the Napoleonic Wars. In a pitched battle, his ship-of-the-line would easily defeat the frigate. As a consequence, Steward, a Scotsman known in the Royal Navy as "Mad Jim", was simply looking for a confrontation.

Captain Holm never intended to engage the British ships. He relied on his superior knowledge of the local waters to evade Steward's pursuit. The group of Danish-Norwegian naval forces based in Norway was utilizing a sheltered but weakly defended anchorage on the coast of Norway as a base of operations. If attacked by a superior naval force, the Danish-Norwegian warships would basically be caught, cornered in a geographic death trap in the skerries from which there was no apparent escape, except through the one entrance, which was inadequately protected by coastal batteries. [3]

Battle[edit]

Najaden had anchored near the island of Sandøya near Tvedestrand, where the captain felt secure. His premise was that no British ship would risk running ashore in the unfamiliar and craggy archipelago. He accepted an invitation to dine with the captain of the Samsøe and even went ashore on the island after his meal. From the hills above, he saw that the British ships were inside the archipelago and headed in his direction.

Rushing back to his ships, he ordered the ships along an inner route northeast, toward Lyngør. Podargus was in the van of the British squadron, apparently with a pilot on board who was familiar with the waters. Still, she ran aground at Buskjærsteinen and Steward ordered Flamer to stay behind and assist.[4] Several smaller Danish and Norwegian boats immediately attacked Podargus and Flamer. Among them were Lieutenant Parnemann with the armed launch Kiøge Bugt and gunboat No.3 under the command of Lieutenant Ring. Four additional gunboats from the Arendal Division, commanded by Captain-Lieutenant Dietrichson, subsequently reinforced them. Lastly, the battery at Digernes (on the seaward side of Borøya island, which is three miles southwest of Lyngør), also fired on the two British brigs. Although Podargus and Flamer sustained considerable damage, they were eventually able to rejoin Dictator after the main battle was over.[4]

Najaden went into the narrow sound of Lyngør where she anchored between Holmen and Odden, detaching most of her supporting vessels to fight Podargus and Flamer. Captain Holm assumed that the Dictator could not follow down the narrow sound, and assumed that the attack would come from smaller vessels and over Holmen, and deliberately set his broadside towards Holmen.[5] However, Steward sailed into the sound, dropped an anchor behind him, and deliberately ran ashore with his broadside perpendicular to the sound.[4] Using his anchor line for leverage, he positioned Dictator to set its broadside against Najaden at a range of 35–40 meters. Unable to turn, Najaden had its broadside pointing away from the opposing ship and was dead in the water.

At about 9:30 pm, Dictator unleashed a 15-minute barrage against Najaden that amounted to four tons of ordnance. The barrage broke her main mast almost immediately and caused a fire on the ship and the Danish brigs anchored nearby. Within 45 minutes, Najaden had sunk, having suffered 133 dead and 82 wounded. Captain Holm survived, only to drown in an accident a few months later.

The battle resumed as the Norwegian gunboats found their way into Lyngør. At 2 a.m. on 7 July, Dictator pulled herself off and departed, harried out of Norwegian waters by the gunboats.[4]

The British took Laaland and Kiel as prizes but had to abandon them after the two vessels grounded. The British did not set fire to either as they still had their crews and wounded aboard.[4]

The action cost Dictator five killed and 24 wounded, Calypso three killed, one wounded and two missing, and Flamer one killed and one wounded.[4] Overall, the Danes acknowledged losing 300 men killed or wounded. Commander Weir of Calypso was immediately, and Commander Robilliard of Podargus in the ensuing December, promoted to post-captain; Dictator's first lieutenant, William Buchanan, was made a commander. In 1847 the surviving British participants were authorized to apply for the clasp "Off Mardoe 6 July 1812" to the Naval General Service Medal.[6]

Consequences[edit]

The Battle of Lyngør effectively ended Denmark's involvement in the Napoleonic Wars. In the Treaty of Kiel, Denmark ceded dominion over Norway, setting the stage for Norway's independence movement, which finally achieved its aims in 1905. The battle also freed up British naval resources to fight France's navy in the Napoleonic Wars.

Bicentenial[edit]

For the 200th anniversary of the battle in 2012, a replica gunboat named Øster Riisøer III was made.[7] A cannon, possibly from Najaden, was recovered from the harbour in 1995.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hans Peter Holm ( Steinar Sandvold. Store norske leksikon)
  2. ^ Translated from the Danish website [1].
  3. ^ Hans Peter Holm, Captain of the Frigate Najaden at the Battle of Lyngor (Danish Military Historie)
  4. ^ a b c d e f The London Gazette: no. 16623. pp. 1361–1364. 14 July 1812.
  5. ^ Heidem, Knut. Slaget i Lyngør 1812. Bokbyen forlag. 2012
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20939. p. 244. 26 Jan 1849.
  7. ^ Per Lunden: Kanonjolla - et viktig stykke kysthistorie Aust-Agder kulturhistoriske senter, retrieved 16 December 2012
  8. ^ Hans Petter Madsen: Kanonen fra Lyngør havn Maritimt.net, retrieved 16 December 2012

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 58°38′N 9°08′E / 58.633°N 9.133°E / 58.633; 9.133