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Dybbøl is a small town with a population of 2,495 (1 January 2014) in the southeastern corner of South Jutland, Denmark. It is around 6 km (3.7 mi) west of Sønderborg. It is mainly known for being the site of a famous last stand battle in 1864.
During the Second Schleswig War in 1864, the Danish Army withdrew from the traditional fortified defence line, the Dannevirke (after waters and marshes which supported its flanks froze solid in a hard winter), and marched for Dybbøl to find a more defensible position. Although much artillery was abandoned and the evacuation was executed through a snow-laden north gale in winter, the army arrived almost intact. It entrenched itself at the Dybbøl Trenches, which became the scene of the siege and subsequent Battle of Dybbøl (7 April – 18 April 1864). This battle resulted in a Prussian-Austrian victory over Denmark.
In the following peace settlement, Denmark surrendered Schleswig. Following World War I, Denmark recovered the northern part of Schleswig as a result of the Schleswig Plebiscites as described in the Treaty of Versailles.
The Dybbøl Mill is considered a Danish national symbol.
Dybbøl is also the birthplace of American landscape architect Jens Jensen.
Dybbøl has gone under a myriad of names throughout history, but it is theorized to have started as Dyttis Bol; after the founder Dytti, with Bol being an old Danish word for a single farm. The name would later evolve into its first written form, Duttebul, as recorded in a Schleswig tax registry from 1352. This name would be used for many years, until the T's started to get dropped, leading to the words eventual change to Dyppell in, for example, Johannes Mejer's atlas. The name would continue to evolve in this trend, eventually changing out Bol/Bel in favour of the newer word Bøl, to finally produce Dybbøl.
The town of Dybbøl started as part of a larger wave of expansionism during the Viking Age in Denmark, where hundreds of new land areas were settled, both in geographic Denmark as well as its many settlements abroad in, for example, England. The first traces of human settlement in Dybbøl go back to around 4.500 BC, and the town itself is estimated to have been founded around 800 AD.
The town was, during the pre-war times, quite typical of the area. Its oldest building, from around 1100 AD, is a part of the local church structure, and the local peasants were serfs tied to Sandbjerg Castle. The ownership of the castle changed hands to the Reventlow Family, which meant that the serfs in the area got to benefit from being some of the first serfs able to buy their land and become independent when Conrad Georg Reventlow started to sell his property after the Stavnsbånd was lifted. Conrad Georg was one of the first lords to do this, which makes Dybbøl home of some of the very first self-bought free peasants in Denmark.
The First Schleswig War
During the First Schleswig War, Dybbøl was used as a flanking position for the Danish army in case of an attack from the south. The first battle of Dybbøl was fought on the 5. July 1848, when Prussian troops were driven back from Dybbøl by the Danish troops garrisoned there. During the month of April, there were regular skirmishes in and around the Dybbøl area, leading to the famous Dybbøl Mill being burnt down, resulting in it being out of commission for 4 years.
During later years between the two Schleswig Wars, namely in 1861, Danish engineers began construction of Dybbøl's trench system, which was finished in 1862. The system consisted of 10 redoubts in a 3 km long half-circle that stretched from Vemmingbund to the Als Sound. The redoubts were small earthen constructions with large powder stashes of concrete, as well as wooden blockhouses for soldiers.
The Second Schleswig War
As part of the Second Schleswig War, Danish forces retreating from the Danevirke arrived in Dybbøl on the 5. February. The massive influx of soldiers and officers meant that the Dybbøl Mill became a temporary military headquarter, a role that the owners of the mill (a married couple) were famously happy to fulfil, to the point of them being honoured by veterans of the later battle at their wedding anniversary a century later.
On the 15. March the Prussian forces arrived to Dybbøl as part of their larger advance up Jutland. They began a month-long bombardment of the position, something they could do with impunity as they had rifled cannons, something the Danish army did not. During the bombardment, the Prussian army worked to dig their own trenches towards the Danish ones as part of their assault preparations.
On the 18. April 1864, at 10:00, the Prussian army assaulted the Danish trench system. This was after 6 hours of continual bombardment, with more than 8.000 shells falling on the Danish trenches.
The assault was successful, and the Danish forces had to fall back to Als.
After the war
After the Danish defeat in the Second Schleswig War, the resulting Treaty of Vienna meant that Dybbøl was now German territory as part of Prussia's conquest of the Duchy of Schleswig.
After the Unification of Germany, the German Empire erected a large monument called the Düppel Denkmal, which became a tourist attraction for Germans all the way up to the First World War. The monument was later destroyed in 1945 by Danish rebels during the Nazi-German occupation of Denmark. The mill in Dybbøl became a monument for the Danish-speaking part of Dybbøl however, which was the majority at that time as well, going so far as becoming the subject of several poems by Danish poet Holger Drachmann.
The German Empire also rebuilt the trench system in Dybbøl, making it much bigger and more expansive. These additional reinforcements never got to be used however, as Denmark did not participate in World War I. These newer fortifications are still visible at the Dybbøl Museum to this day.
In 1914, right before the advent of WW1, the German Empire celebrated the anniversary of their victory at Als. The celebrations were held at the newly constructed trench system at Dybbøl, where about 2.000 war veterans from both Germany and Austria-Hungary attended, along with the Emperor's brother, Prince Heinrich. This would be the last German celebration in Dybbøl, as WW1 would break out shortly after.
After the end of World War I, populations in the former Duchy of Schleswig were given the opportunity through the Versailles Treaty to vote for which country they would rather be part of; Germany (now the Weimar Republic) or Denmark. The votes resulted in the borders as they are to this day.
The reunification resulted in celebration in Dybbøl, culminating in a visit by King Christian X on the 11. July 1920. A massive party was held while the king visited in the 10th redoubt in the newer German trenches. This redoubt would later become known as Kongeskansen (The Royal Redoubt). Around 50.000 people were present for the celebrations, along with the King and the entire royal Danish family. The climax of the celebrations were the handing over of an old Dannebrog to the king by a veteran of the Battle of Dybbøl.
Dybbøl continues to be a symbol of pride in Denmark, with it often being associated with a heroic last, similar to the Alamo in American conscience. Because of this, the entire town and most of the surrounding area has gradually become protected area, with it being illegal to disturb the trenches, mill and surrounding area.
The most notable institution in the town today is the museum, which is a popular school trip destination.
National Park status
The site is a national memorial and museum of the Battle of Dybbøl and was therefore included in the 'National Park Dybbøl Skanser,' inaugurated in 1924. This park is not included in the Danish National Park laws of 2007, but it can still use the name National Park. The area is today administered as a 'Historiecenter Dybbøl Banke' (Dybbøl Banke Museum and History Centre).
- "BEF44: Population 1st January, by urban areas" database from Statistics Denmark
- Knudsen, Bo Nissen (1 April 2014). "Dybbøl". navn.ku.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Dybbøl Banke Historie". naturstyrelsen.dk. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Møllens historie – Historiecenter Dybbøl Banke". 1864.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Dybbøl | Gyldendal - Den Store Danske". denstoredanske.dk (in Danish). Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- What is a Danish National Park? Archived 3 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine Danish Nature Agency ‹See Tfd›(in Danish)
- Dybbøl Banke Museum and History Centre ‹See Tfd›(in Danish)
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