Battle of Trangen
|Battle of Trangen|
|Part of the Dano-Swedish War of 1808-1809|
Captain Nicolay Peter Drejer on the stump during the battle
|Commanders and leaders|
|Carl Pontus Gahn (POW)||Bernhard Ditlef von Staffeldt|
|520 men||750 men|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Trangen took place on 25 April 1808 at Trangen in Flisa, Hedemarkens Amt, between Swedish and Norwegian troops, as a part of the Dano-Swedish War of 1808-1809. The invading Swedish troops, led by Colonel Carl Pontus Gahn, were surrounded and forced to surrender by the Norwegian troops under the command of Bernhard Ditlef von Staffeldt. Gahn and around 450 of his troops were captured.
After the Swedish setback at Skabukilen on 13 April, they were victorious at Lier on 18 April, when they drove the Norwegians back to Kongsvinger. General Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, now headquartered at Lier, hoped to take the strategically important fortress of Kongsvinger through a pincer movement with the help of Gahn's "Flying Corps". The plan was that Gahn should advance with his troops across the border from Midtskogen and on to Åsnes, and from there march south along the river Glomma to Kongsvinger.
The Swedish advance
On the evening of 24 April Gahn crossed the Swedish-Norwegian border and moved his entire battalion westwards along the southern side of Flisa River. He chose to march at night to surprise the Norwegian outposts. At dawn, the battalion was near the Flisa River, where it faced the first Norwegian outposts, who immediately opened fire and sent out reports about the Swedish advance.
The Norwegian defenders
The defending troops, commanded by Colonel Bernhard Ditlef von Staffeldt, had begun establishing a defense in the area in early April 1808. Staffeldt's brigade consisted of a grenadier battalion of the 2nd Trondheim Infantry Regiment (2. Throndhjemske Infanteriregiments grenaderbataljon) commanded by Major Johan Georg Ræder, the Southern Norwegian Ski Battalion (Den søndenfjeldske Skiløberbataljon) commanded by Major Frederik Wilhelm Stabell, the Lærdal Light Infantry Company (Lærdalske lette infanterikompani) commanded by Captain Wilhelm Jürgensen, and some troops from Oppland Dragon Regiment (Oplandske Dragonregiment). The Norwegian troops were divided on three defensive positions; the main force was at Nyen, another across from the Swedish advance, and a Skier Company from Elverum to the east, towards Nyen. Some troops were also ordered to cross the ice, and thereby arrived behind the Swedish lines.
Staffeldt, unsure the Swedish plans, hesitated to give the order to attack. He found it highly unusual that the Swedes marched into Trangen, a narrow pass between the cliffs of Kjelsås and Buttenås, without sending troops forward along the main road on the north side of the river, and therefore feared that it was a trap.
When the vanguard of Colonel Gahn's column reached Captain Elias Nægler's companies in the Trangen pass they immediately attacked, and the attack was so heavy that Nægler had to call for reinforcements. But after about an hour of fighting it still looked as if the Swedish troops were about to break through the Norwegian defensive lines at the Trangen pass. Staffeldt then decided to send patrols in the direction of the border to check if more Swedish troops were on their way. Major Stabell and Ræder tried to persuade him to immediately attack the Swedes from the rear, claiming that if he did not do this, the battle would be lost. But it was not until reconnaissance showed that no more Swedish troops were on the way, that Staffeldt was persuaded to attack.
The attack was carried out by 500 men under the command of Major Ræder, consisting of two Grenadier companies who attacked in the center of the road, while the sharpshooters and a skier company attacked the wings. The advancing Norwegians quickly drove the Swedish rearguard at Gamleseteren against the main force, and Gahn realized that there was a large force attacking the column from the rear, threatening to encircle them. He therefore chose to turn the whole battalion around to face the attackers, and ordered the forces about to break through Captain Nægler's lines to fall back in order to regroup with the rest of the battalion.
The Swedish counter-attack was carried out with tremendous force. It was during this phase of the battle that the Norwegian Captain Nicolay Peter Drejer distinguished himself when he climbed up on a pine stump and commanded his troops while shooting at the Swedes. He was able to fire almost continuously against the enemy since two grenadiers helped him reload his weapons, and the heroic act helped to increase the morale among the Norwegian soldiers. But on the stump, Captain Drejer was an easy target for the Swedish soldiers and after being shot 7 times, he collapsed, badly wounded.
Gahn's troops, after repeated attempts, managed to drive the Norwegian troops back, but they failed to break through, and thus had no opportunity to retreat along the same path that they had arrived. The situation also worsened for the Swedes when they were attacked from the other side by Captain Næglers two companies; since Gahn now had to form a front against the two sides.
The encircled Swedish troops surrendered when most of their ammunition was spent, and the whole force was captured (with the exception of a few soldiers, who escaped through the woods). When the outcome of the battle at Trangen was clear, Staffeldt sent troops under the command of Captain Nægler towards Midtskogen in Sweden. There the remaining Swedish troops, a detachment led by Major Söderhjelm, were captured.
After the battle, the captured officers, including Colonel Carl Pontus Gahn, were taken to Bjørneby where the Norwegian field hospital was located. This field hospital was also quickly filled up by several wounded Swedish and Norwegian soldiers. The remaining Swedish prisoners who were not wounded were marched to Åsnes church, before they later were sent on to Drammen and Lier in Buskeruds Amt. The severely injured Captain Nicolay Peter Drejer was brought to Sønsterud Farm in Gjesåsen after the battle. There he died four days later from the injuries.
Colonel Gahn's thrust against Kongsvinger Fortress came to be the last offensive maneuver the Swedes carried out south in Hedmark until they withdrew back to Sweden in late May. So, although the battle of Trangen posed no decisive factor for the war itself, the battle would stabilize the situation in the front north and south-west of Kongsvinger. Gahn's surrender had removed the threat of a Swedish pincer movement against Kongsvinger from the north, as well as the Norwegian victory now allowed Colonel von Staffeldt to concentrate his forces against General Armfeldt's forces south-east of the fortress.
The battle of Trangen has been a source of legendary stories, and a national symbol in Norway. In retrospect, and especially during the Norwegian romantic nationalism in the late 19th century, emphasis was placed on Nicolay Peter Drejer's courageous efforts and he was given much of the credit for the victory at Trangen. The stump Captain Drejer used during the battle was later named after him (Norwegian: Drejerstubben), and the remains of the stump is still visible today.
A memorial of the battle is raised at the site, and a memorial of the fallen Swedish and Norwegian soldiers is raised at Åsnes Church.
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