Swedish–Norwegian War (1814)

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The Swedish–Norwegian War of 1814
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
Eidsvoll riksraad 1814.jpeg
The constituent assembly at Eidsvoll in 1814
Date26 July – 14 August 1814
(2 weeks and 5 days)

Swedish victory


Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
8 field
7 brigs
150 gunboats
4 field batteries
4 ships of the line
5 frigates
24 smaller ships
60 gunboats
War of the Sixth Coalition:
Swedish–Norwegian War (1814)

The Swedish–Norwegian War, also known as the Campaign against Norway (Swedish: Fälttåget mot Norge), War with Sweden 1814 (Norwegian: Krigen med Sverige 1814), or the Norwegian War of Independence, was a war fought between Sweden and Norway in the summer of 1814. The war resulted in a compromise, with Norway being forced into the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, a union with Sweden under the Swedish king Charles XIII, but with Norway having its own constitution and parliament. The war marked the last time Sweden participated in an armed conflict with another nation, and its conclusion signalled the beginning of the country's long period of military neutrality.


Treaty of Kiel[edit]

As early as in 1812, prior to the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, the Swedish Crown Prince Charles John (Karl Johan) - formerly Marshal of France Jean Baptiste Bernadotte - had entered into an agreement with Tsar Alexander I that Russia would support a Swedish attack on Norway in order to force Denmark-Norway to cede its northern part to Sweden.[1] The Swedish attack against Norway was postponed, however, due to the fluid state of the conflict between Napoleon and the Sixth Coalition. The Swedish army and, incidentally, Karl Johan's skills as a general, were urgently needed against France in Central Europe. On 18 May 1813 Swedish troops re-occupied Swedish Pomerania and deployed against Napoleon's forces as a result of treaties between Karl Johan (on behalf of Sweden), Great Britain and Prussia, which ceded Norway to Sweden for its participation in the war, becoming effective after France and its allies (including Denmark-Norway) were defeated.[2][3]

In early December Karl Johan led an invasion of Denmark with his Allied Army of the North that included Swedes, Russians and North Germans. The Danes were outnumbered and were unable to mount a coherent defense against Karl Johan's battle-hardened army. Within a few days the Danes were forced out of Holstein and into Jutland proper. By December 14 Bernadotte agreed to an armistice and peace talks began in Kiel on the basis of ceding Norway to Sweden in return for Swedish Pomerania, additional territory in North Germany, specifics to be decided at the general peace conference following the cessation of hostilities between the Sixth Coalition and Imperial France, as well as 1,000,000 Riksdalers. The Danish position was hopeless and by early January 1814, King Frederik VI of Denmark-Norway reconciled himself to the necessity of losing Norway.[4][5]

By the Treaty of Kiel, signed on 13 January, King Frederik VI had to cede the Kingdom of Norway to the King of Sweden. However, this treaty was not accepted by the Norwegian people, who refused to be simply a bargaining chip. Elements of the Danish government also covertly supported Norway's determination not to be incorporated into Sweden.[6] Ultimately, Denmark would pay a catastrophic price for the Treaty, as Karl Johan viewed this support, no matter how covert, as betrayal and a violation of the Treaty, and this would later be reflected in the final peace settlement at the Congress of Vienna, which voided Kiel's promise to compensate Denmark for its loss of Norway with Swedish Pomerania, various additional Northern German territory, and 1,000,000 Riksdalers.[7]

Norwegian Constituent Assembly[edit]

An insurrection broke out, led by Prince Kristian Frederik of Denmark, heir presumptive to the thrones of Denmark and Norway and Governor-general of Norway (and later King Kristian VIII of Denmark). He gathered a constitutional assembly which adopted the liberal constitution of 17 May, with that constitution also electing Christian Frederick as king of an independent Norway.

As the head of the new state, Kristian Frederik desperately tried to gain support from the United Kingdom, or any of the other major powers within the Sixth Coalition, in order to maintain Norway's independence. However, the foreign diplomats refused to promise any outside support to the Norwegians.


The Norwegian Army mustered 30,000 men, and it had taken up positions away from the border with Sweden, in the fear of being outflanked. The Norwegian navy had few vessels, and most of them were stationed at the islands of Hvaler, close to Sweden.

The Swedish Army consisted of 45,000 men, experienced and well-equipped soldiers. The Swedish Navy had a number of large vessels and a capacity for moving and landing troops as well as assistance from the British Royal Navy.[8]

Major commanders[edit]


The hostilities opened on 26 July with a swift Swedish naval attack against the Norwegian gunboats at Hvaler. The Norwegian army was evacuated and the vessels managed to escape, but they did not take part in the rest of the war. The main Swedish offensive came across the border at Halden, bypassing and surrounding the fortress of Fredriksten, and then continuing north, while a second force of 6,000 soldiers landed at Kråkerøy outside of Fredrikstad. This town surrendered the next day. This was the start of a pincer movement around the main part of the Norwegian army at Rakkestad.

On the front towards Kongsvinger the forces were more evenly matched, and the Norwegian army eventually stopped the Swedish advance at Lier on 2 August, and won another victory at Matrand on 5 August. On 3 August, King Christian Frederick reached the front at Østfold and was persuaded to change his strategy and use the 6,000 men stationed at Rakkestad in a counterattack against the Swedes. The order to counterattack was given on the 5th of August, but the order was recalled a few hours later. The Norwegian forces therefore withdrew over the Glomma river at Langnes in Askim.[9] The last major battle of the war was fought on 9 August at the bridgehead at Langnes, where the Swedish forces once more were driven back.[10]

Sweden then attempted to outflank the Norwegian line, and successfully did so during the battle of Kjølberg Bridge on the 14th of August. The Swedes then had a clear path to Kristiania, the Norwegian capital. In addition, the British blockade of Norway cut off trade and military supplies, which combined with the proximity of Swedish armies eventually made the Norwegians' military situation unsustainable.[10]

Although the Norwegian Army had won at Langnes, it was nevertheless clear to both the Norwegian and Swedish military authorities that a defeat was inevitable.[10] Even as they had managed to deliver several minor offensive blows to the Swedes, it was considered impossible to try to stop the Swedes in the long run.[10] The Swedish offer of negotiations was therefore accepted as the war had put a heavy strain on the Norwegian finances. Every day of delay in securing Norway by the Swedes brought uncertainty to them regarding the outcome, so both parties were interested in a quick end to the war.

To the ordinary Norwegian soldier the war had seemed ill-prepared and ill-fought.[10] The defeat was blamed on Christian Frederick and the Norwegian general Haxthausen; the latter was accused of treason. For the Norwegian government it had probably[citation needed] been more of a matter of getting the best possible bargaining position, as without the support of major powers Norway's independence was impossible to secure, whereas by agreeing to talks following the victory at Langnes Norway was in a situation where it could avoid an unconditional surrender.


On 10 August, Karl Johan presented a proposal for a cease-fire. The proposal included a major concession—Karl Johan, on behalf of the Swedish government as Regent for his ill adopted father, accepted the Eidsvoll constitution. In doing so, he tacitly gave up any claims that Norway would be merely a Swedish province. Negotiations started in Moss, Norway on 10 August, and after a few days of hard negotiations, a cease fire agreement, called the Convention of Moss, was signed on 14 August. Kristian Frederik was forced to abdicate as King of Norway, but Norway remained nominally independent within a personal union with Sweden, under the Swedish king. Its Constitution was upheld with only such amendments as were required to allow it to enter into the union, and the two united kingdoms retained separate institutions, except for the king and the foreign service and policy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Angell, Henrik (1914). Syv-aars-krigen for 17. mai 1807-1814. Kristiania: Aschehoug. p. 219
  2. ^ Angell, p. 220
  3. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar Plunket. (1925) Bernadotte Prince and King. P. 68. John Murray, London.
  4. ^ Scott, Franklin D. (1935) Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon. Pp. 119-148. Harvard University Press, Boston.
  5. ^ Barton, Sir Dunbar Plunket. (1925) Bernadotte Prince and King. Pp. 111-116. John Murray, London.
  6. ^ Ibid. 135
  7. ^ Ibid. 138.
  8. ^ Scott, Franklin D. (1935) Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon. Pp. 119-130. John Murray, London
  9. ^ Dyrvik, Ståle; Feldbæk, Ole (1996). Aschehoughs Norgeshistorie - Mellom brødre - 1780-1830. 7. Oslo: H. Aschehough & Co. p. 159
  10. ^ a b c d e Syv-aars-krigen for 17de mai 1807-1814 (1914) by Henrik Angell (1995), ISBN 82-90520-23-9