Siege of Fredriksten

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Siege of Fredriksten
Part of Great Northern War
Fredriksten fortress Norway seen from Halden harbor.jpg
Fredriksten fortress as seen from the harbor.
Date November 30, 1718
Location Fredriksten, Halden, Norway
Result Danish-Norwegian victory
Belligerents
Sweden Swedish Empire Denmark Denmark–Norway
Commanders and leaders
Charles XII of Sweden 
Carl Gustaf Armfeldt
Frederick IV of Norway
Strength
6,000 1,800
Casualties and losses
200 inclusive Charles 9 dead, 10 wounded, 19 captives, 22 died of sickness, 41 escaped, 478 got sick.

The Siege of Fredriksten was a siege of the Norwegian fortress of Fredriksten in the city of Halden by Charles XII of Sweden. While inspecting his troops' lines, Charles XII was killed by a projectile that shot into the left side of his head and out of the right. The Swedes broke the siege off, and the Norwegians kept the fortress.

Background[edit]

King Charles XII of Sweden made several campaigns into the city during the Great Northern War during his campaign to capture Denmark–Norway. At the close of the Great Northern War, the Norwegian Army had been weakened in early 1716 by withdrawal of 5000 of the best troops to Denmark. When rumors reached Christiania that Charles XII was preparing to invade, all remaining troops in Østerdal and Gudbrandsdal were ordered to the border at Halden and Fredrikstad. The Norwegians expected the Swedes to invade at Kongsvinger, Basmo and/or Halden. It was at Basmo where Charles XII struck, crossing the border March 8, 1716. The Norwegian scorched earth policy and guerrilla raid interdiction of supply chains by the residents of Bohuslen deprived Charles of supplies, while the fortresses still held by the Norwegians behind his lines threatened his supply chain and his retreat if seriously weakened in combat. Charles took Christiania (now Oslo), but without heavy siege artillery, was unable to take Akershus.

After a brief occupation, Charles retraced his steps to the Norwegian fortresses in southeastern Norway with the objective of capturing Frederiksten. This would remove the threat at his back, and the fortifications could serve as the base for a renewed offensive later that year. Capturing the harbours at the mouth of the Glomma river would also allow him to land the necessary provisions for a successful siege of Akershus.

Charles' troops attempted to take Frederiksten by storm on July 4. His troops took the town after fierce fighting, but the citizens set fire to their own houses, forcing Charles, unable to take the fortress, to retreat and await the arrival of heavy siege guns. Unfortunately for the invading army the entire Swedish transport fleet was captured or destroyed by the Norwegian naval hero Tordenskjold at the Battle of Dynekilen in Bohuslen. Running low on supplies, Charles retreated hastily across the Svinesund and burned the bridges behind him. By July 12, 1716 all Swedish troops had been withdrawn from the area around Fredriksten.

Siege of 1718[edit]

Charles came again to besiege the fortress in autumn of 1718 with 40,000 men. He did this intending to first capture Halden to be able to sustain a siege of Akershus. By first taking the border areas, Charles wished to avoid a repeat of the fiasco he had suffered two years before. The 1,400 strong garrison of Frederiksten fought ferociously to hold back the invasion, but suffered a severe setback when, on December 8 the forward fortification Fort Gyldenløve fell. Encouraged by their very hard-fought success the Swedish army intensified their efforts against the main fort. The Swedish trenches had almost reached the main fortification walls when on the evening of December 11 (Swedish calendar: November 30), 1718, a projectile struck and killed Charles XII while he inspected the work. The death of the king effectively ended the attack on Fredriksten and the invasion was called off, leading to the conclusion of the war. A memorial is located in the park named in his memory where the Swedish king fell, just in front of the fortress.

Expedition by Carl Gustaf Armfeldt[edit]

Carl Gustaf Armfeldt tried to take the city of Trondheim via Fredriksten while the siege was still going on. Poorly equipped, Armfelt pulled out after the king fell at Fredriksten. The ensuing disaster that struck his army is known as the Carolean Death March. On New Year's Eve 1718 he arrived at Norwegian Tydal, with 80 kilometers to the closest Swedish village in Jämtland. When the troops had marched 10 kilometers from Tydalen, a severe blizzard struck from the northwest. The bitter cold killed the guide on the very first day, and the army scatted blindly in the mountains (Sylan mountain range). On the following nights hundreds more perished. Of the over 5,000 men who left Tydalen, only 870 were found alive on arrival at Duved, mostly hardened Finnish veterans.

Aftermath[edit]

Charles XII of Sweden's coat after he died.

The siege in 1718 was the last invasion of Norway in the Great Northern War. The war ended on the end of the siege of Fredricksten and the death of Charles XII.

References[edit]

Coordinates: 59°07′11″N 11°23′47″E / 59.1198°N 11.3963°E / 59.1198; 11.3963