Battle of Jasmund (1864)

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Battle of Jasmund
Part of the Second Schleswig War
Seegefecht bei Jasmund.jpg
The Sjælland (right) engaging with the paddlewheel steamer Loreley and the Corvette Nymphe. Painting by Alex Kircher.
Date 17 March 1864
Location Rügen, Bay of Pomerania
Result Tactical Danish victory
Belligerents
Preußische Kriegsflagge ab 1850.svg Prussia  Denmark
Commanders and leaders
Eduard Jachmann C.E. van Dockum
Strength
1900-ton steam corvette Arcona
1100-ton steam corvette Nymphe
430-ton paddle-steamer Loreley
6 gunboats
84-gun battleship Skjold
2 frigates
Casualties and losses
Nymphe damaged
13 casualties, 7 dead
3 dead

The naval Battle of Jasmund (also known as the Battle of Rügen) took place between elements of the Danish and Prussian navies on 17 March 1864 east of the Jasmund peninsula on the Prussian island of Rügen. It was part of the Second Schleswig War. It was the first sea battle in which the Prussian Navy was engaged since its formation in 1848. The Prussian attempt to weaken the Danish blockade forces off the Prussian coast failed both as a result of materiel inferiority as well as navigation errors.

Strategic situation[edit]

Danish and Prussian warships battling off Swinemünde

On 15 March 1864 Denmark announced its blockade of the Prussian coast. On 17 March elements of the Danish Baltic Sea squadron appeared off Rügen in order, especially, to blockade the harbour at Swinemünde.

On 14 March 1864, King William I ordered the commander of the Prussian naval squadron off Swinemünde, Captain Eduard von Jachmann, to drive off the Danish blockade forces, or at least determine whether the blockade threatened by Denmark on 15 March 1864 existed at all. In case of bad weather or heavy Danish supremacy, Jachmann was to avoid an engagement.

Breaking the blockade was actually impossible for strategic reasons. Even in the event of a major tactical defeat of the blockading forces, the sea route to the North Sea, and thus the world's oceans, would not have been opened, because the Danish Navy controlled the Øresund. In this respect, Prussia's naval situation in 1864 was similar to that of the German Empire in the First World War as a result of the British blockade of the North Sea.

Opposing forces[edit]

At the outbreak of war the Danish fleet had 31 steamships with 387 cannon, of which 26 ships and 363 cannon were ready for action.[1] In addition they had 10 sailing ships. A further 50 sail-powered gunboats were only intended for coastal defence. The Danish Navy had a strength of 3,757 men.[2]

Against that, the Prussian fleet had 23 boats with cannon and 1,636 sailors.[3] The Prussians did not have any of the modern, rifled 24-pounders.

Moreover, the Danish side had four ironclad warships or ironclad gunboats: the Rolf Krake, Danebrog, Esbern Snare and Absolon. The turret ship Rolf Krake had been initially purchased in 1863 in Britain and, in its day, was one of the most modern warships in the world. By contrast, the first Prussian ironclad, SMS Arminius, did not enter service until 1865.

Danish units[edit]

  • The ship of the line Skjold, armament: 8 rifled and 56 smoothbore cannon.
  • The frigate Sjaelland, flagship, armament: 12 rifled, 30 smoothbore cannon.
  • The corvette Hejmdal. armament: 2 rifled, 14 smoothbore cannon.
  • The corvette Thor. armament: 2 rifled, 10 smoothbore cannon.

Commanding admiral: Rear Admiral Carl Edvard van Dockum (1804-1893).

Prussian units[edit]

Squadron commander (Commodore): Captain Eduard Jachmann.

Jachmann envisaged the gunboat division for the operation, consisting of:

  • Gunboat 1st class SMS Comet. Armament: 1 rifled 24-pounder (15 cm), 2 rifled 12-pounders (12 cm).
  • Gunboat 2nd class SMS Hay.
  • Gunboat 2nd class SMS Hyäne.
  • Gunboat 2nd class SMS Pfeil.
  • Gunboat 2nd class SMS Scorpion.
  • Gunboat 2nd class SMS Wespe.
    • Armament: each had 1 rifled 24-pounder (15 cm), 2 rifled 12-pounders (12 cm).

Course of the battle[edit]

Von Jachmann was aware that his three units were both numerically and qualitatively far inferior to the Danish blockade forces. However, he had taken the use of the No. I Flotilla Division of steam-powered gunboats into consideration and planned to move to draw the Danish units onto his gunboats that lay in front of the island of Greifswalder Oie in readiness.

Von Jachmann steamed towards the blockade forces at midday on 17 March 1864 with the Arcona, Nymphe and Loreley, and opened fire at 14.30 hrs. After a two-hour battle, he had to withdraw to the south. Due to the higher speed of his units von Jachmann was able to disengage himself from the Danish ships. His plan to draw, the Danish ships onto the gunboats stationed in the south failed, however, because his ships manoeuvred themselves wrongly for reasons unknown. So whilst the Loreley returned to the gunboats, Arcona and Nymphe headed for Swinemünde.

Von Jachmann's battle report[edit]

Von Jachmann's battle report in the New Prussian Gazette (Neue Preußische Zeitung aka the Kreuz-Zeitung) of 19 March 1864 on page 1, reproduced below:

Captain Von Jachmann reports from Swinemünde on the 17th at 7 in the evening: HRH's ships "Arcona", "Nymphe" went today from Swinemünde to the Divenow and thence to Arcona, without meeting Danish cruisers. At half past twelve I saw 7 Danish vessels northwest of Arcona, and Captain Kuhn, who met me with the "Loreley" from Thiessow, informed me that these ships were frigates. Gave the order for the gunboats to withdraw to the shore, and with "Arcona", "Nymphe" and "Loreley" in open order attacked the enemy, who had now assembled and formed into two columns. As I approached the enemy, it was discovered that the enemy opposing us had a ship of the line, two frigates, two corvettes and an ironclad schooner. All were screw-driven ships. At 2 o'clock our ships opened fire and were quickly answered by the Danes, a running battle continuing until 5 o'clock; the Danes following "Arcona" and "Nymphe" back to the vicinity of Swinemünde. Our losses were 5 killed and 8 wounded, including the first officer of HM Corvette, Lieut. Berger, who was seriously wounded, having been hit next to me at the beginning of the battle. Your Royal Highness it gives me special honour to report that the officers and men behaved bravely and calmly during this engagement. From the "Loreley" I have received no message, she went back to Thiessow. The First Division of Gunboats was only able to play a very distant part in the battle and would have suffered no losses. The Danish squadron was superior in every way to ours, but may have suffered similar losses.

Reports in the Prussian press[edit]

The Royal Privileged Berlin Newspaper for State and Academic Matters (later the Vossische Zeitung) reported, in its issue of 20 March 1864 on page 3, initially on the promotion of Jachmann to rear admiral:

- (St = A.) According to reports, His Majesty the King has telegraphed Captain Von Jachmann expressing the very highest recognition for the courage on the part of the navy in the face of great enemy superiority and to deigning to promote the said officer to [the rank of] rear admiral.

On pages 3 and 4 there are several accounts of the battle:

- Furthermore, the Ost-Zeitung ["Eastern Newspaper"] received a communication from Stralsund on the 18th based on accounts of one of the sailors involved in the fighting. According to him, two large Danish ships, which came from Arcona, were sighted early on the 17th by the gunboat division under Captain Kuhn. Captain Kuhn advanced to reconnoitre them with the "Loreley". Meanwhile, the corvettes "Arcona" and "Nymphe" from Swinemünde also came into view, and united with the gunboats in the [bay of] Prorer Wiek. The Danes did not follow them, but sought to cut them off. Our ships and three gunboats, like the "Loreley", therefore went back out to sea again and opened the battle. The gunboats fired at 3,000 paces. The "Loreley" was supposed to close within 500 paces of the enemy and cruise around the Danish ships at that distance, firing. The gunboats returned to the Ruden undamaged, and no member of the crews were injured, however, the Thissow pilot, Brand, who stood next to Captain Kuhn, was very badly wounded. He had his hand in his pocket, and both that and his genitals were torn away. (He died in Stralsund in the hospital on the 18th, morning) Surgeon Wenzel rendered him first aid. The lieutenant must have a big family and it would be appropriate to do something for them. From Stralsund on the 17th, bandages and similar material were sent to Dänholm in anticipation of injuries. The Third Division (6) gunboats, Lieutenant Commander Arendt, departed from there on the evening of the 16th for Swinemünde.

- From Stralsund, 18 March, the Ost-Zeitung reported: "It is said that the Danish frigate "Jylland" is lying in the Prorer Wyk [i.e. Prorer Wiek] in a heavily damaged state. (?)"

- Thiessow, where, according to the official report, the "Loreley" returned following the naval battle on the 17th, is the main base for Prussian pilots, and is near to the southeastern tip of Rügen, the now bare promontory of the Mönchgut peninsula, Thiessower Höwt. The island of Moen, to where the Danish fleet initially repaired on the 18th of this month, lies between Zealand and Laaland, at the southeastern tip of Zealand.

Non-Prussian reports[edit]

The Oldenburg News (Oldenburger Nachrichten) in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg reported on the battle in its issue of 20 March 1864:

Stralsund, 18 March. The "Stralsund Zeitung" writes about the naval battle that took place yesterday: the Prussians broke off, as the Danes increased [their numbers] to seven ships. The gunboats came in to Ruhden, both corvettes fortunately made it to Swinemünde, they were hotly pursued. The "Nymphe" had two killed, the "Arcona" three killed; nine men were wounded overall, Lieutenant Berger seriously. Great enthusiasm reigns within the navy. This morning, the Danish fleet headed for Mön.

Outcome[edit]

Danish losses were three killed and 19 wounded, all on the frigate Sjaelland. On the Arcona five crew members fell; on the Nymphe, two. On both ships there were several wounded. The Arcona received five hits, the Nymphe 19 to its hull and a good 50 to its rigging.

The battle had no effect on the blockade, however, it may be viewed as a tactical Danish success since Prussian side had to withdraw and Von Jachmann's intent of damaging the blockading ships through the use of gunboats, failed. Despite that, Von Jachmann was promoted after the battle to the rank rear admiral.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Helmert/Usczek (1988), pp. 53 & 80.
  2. ^ Busch/Ramlow (1942), p. 322-335.
  3. ^ Busch/Ramslow (1942), p. 322-335.

Literature[edit]

  • Preußische Korvetten gegen dänische Linienschiffe. Das Gefecht gegen das dänische Blockadegeschwader bei Jasmund (17. März 1864), In: Fritz Otto Busch/Gerhard Ramlow: Deutsche Seekriegsgeschichte. Fahrten und Taten in zwei Jahrtausenden, 3rd ed., Gütersloh, 1942.
  • Hans Auerbach: Preußens Weg zur See. Pommern, die Wiege der Königlich-Preußischen Marine, Berlin 1993, pp. 80–84.
  • Heinz Helmert;Hansjürgen Usczek: Preussischdeutsche Kriege von 1864 bis 1871, 6th ed., Berlin-Ost, 1988.
  • Neue Preußische Zeitung (Kreuz-Zeitung) dated 19 March 1864, p. 1
  • Wolfgang Petter: Deutsche Flottenrüstung von Wallenstein bis Tirpitz, in: Deutsche Militärgeschichte in sechs Bänden 1648-1939, München 1983, Vol. V, pp. 13–262, here p. 79
  • Albert Röhr: Handbuch der deutschen Marinegeschichte, Oldenburg/Hamburg 1963, pp. 50ff.
  • Stichwort: Dänisch-Deutscher Krieg 1864, in: Wörterbuch zur deutschen Militärgeschichte, 2 Bde., Berlin-Ost 1985, Vol. 1, pp. 125–128