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Det andra slaget vid Hällaskogen 1464: Om krigföring och taktik i det senmedeltida Sverige.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of History.
2015 (Swedish)In: Collegium Medievale, ISSN 0801-9282, E-ISSN 2387-6700, Vol. 28, p. 105-144Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The second battle of Hälla forest 1464. Late medieval Swedish war-fare and tactics

 

In this article I have considered some military aspects of king Christian I’s wintercampaign of 1464 and the second battle of Hälla forest. Previous research has beenrefuted concerning the actual location of the battle. The late medieval sources allspeak of an ambush in Hälla Forest, but this location cannot be identified in maps of today. Through an examination of 17 the and 18 the century maps I’ve been able to establish what area actually constituted Hälla forest in late medieval times. Additionally, a mapfrom 1652 also indicate a “winter road” stretching westward through the forest andnorth across the lakes in the direction of Dalecarlia. This road was accessible only during winter conditions, and would ease the logistic strains on any army movingnorth. The forest road also proved a perfect spot for an ambush. This is the explana-tion of why this place became a battlefield both during the Puke feud in 1437 and in1464 – both times during winter conditions. The indication of the winter road andthe fact that the old Hälla forest was a rather small area makes it possible to actually pinpoint the place where the ambush was set and the battle commenced. At this very place the map drawn in 1652 also indicates a stone formation named ‘The Puke Stone’ with reference to the battle in 1437.The insurgents’ army in 1464 was led by the Linköping bishop Kettil Karlsson(Vasa) with support from the family, friends and allies of him and his cousin the de-posed archbishop Jöns Bengtsson (Oxenstierna) and their retinues. The main body of the insurgents’ army consisted of peasant militia from the areas around and to thenorth of Lake Mälaren including the renowned Dalecarlia peasants from the miningdistrict. Additionally some of the towns around Lake Mälaren and in Östergötlandseem to have joined the uprising. Thus this was no pure ‘peasant army’, but an army  which composed of different strata of Swedish society, and was led by several mem-bers of the council of the realm. It likely consisted of 4000–4500 men. King Chris-tian’s army consisted of noble retinues from Denmark and Holstein, a large proportion of soldiers from the Danish towns, the larger part of the nobility fromsouthern Sweden (Götaland) and likely also a contingent from Stockholm. The num-ber is estimated to around 4000 men in total. Thus the clashing armies were of afairly equal size. The Danish army also consisted of a fair amount of Swedes, em-phasizing the civil war character of the conflict.The route chosen by the king was dictated by the movements of the insurgentarmy. Once the king had relieved the besieged Stockholm the bishop made a feignedretreat to Västerås and thereafter headed north. He anticipated that the king wouldchose the winter road through Hälla forest and prepared an ambush there, with wellconcealed wooden defences armed with crossbows and cannons – a practise commonin the late medieval Swedish style of warfare. The three concealed defences seem tohave been arranged in the shapes of concessive funnels gradually narrowing the roadpassage. The king’s forces entered the forest on the winter road and were suddenly surprized by cannon fire and volleys of arrows. They suffered losses before they man-aged to back up unto open ground again. The insurgent’s army poured out of its for-est positions and pitched battle commenced lasting for two hours, including a clashof elements of cavalry from both sides. The king’s army was likely too shaken to fighteffectively and eventually broke and ran. Several Danish and Swedish noblemen alike were slain or captured, and the royal army lost approximately 1000 dead or capturedmen. The retreating army was pursued but eventually managed to reach safety behindthe walls of Stockholm. The royal army mainly including professional soldiers wasdefeated by an army mainly comprising peasant militia. This is a fact that indicatesthat this was not a bunch of pitchfork wielding yokels but a corps of commoners with an approving military and tactical ability.The defeat at Hälla forest diminished Christian I’s political power in Sweden andbefore the end of the year he had lost the Swedish throne. This allowed for the returnfrom Prussia of the former Swedish king Karl Knutsson (Bonde). Yet turmoil andcivil war prevailed until 1471 when Christian I was finally defeated at the battle of Brunkeberg while trying to regain the throne. At that time the remnants of the po-litical party that had faced him at the battle of Hälla forest fought by his side and joined him in defeat.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oslo, 2015. Vol. 28, p. 105-144
National Category
History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-138576OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-138576DiVA, id: diva2:1067786
Available from: 2017-01-23 Created: 2017-01-23 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved

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