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When his father Karl IX died, the 17-year old Gustaf quickly went south to take command of the army and surprise the danish. The problem was that he was the only one ready for battle. The army certainly wasnt.

The war had entered a cease-fire on the fall of 1611. It was the last medieval war in Sweden where battles were very rare but sieges and pillaging of towns and villages the order of the day. It was also the last war were Denmark was stronger than Sweden. Gustafs relative, Kristian IV was 18 years older and much wealthier. Denmark included Skåne, Halland, Blekinge, Gotland and Bohuslän as well Norway, Iceland and Greenland. The most fertile parts of todays Sweden had been danish since time began (except for some years ca 1350 when Valdemar Atterdag sold them to Sweden but later retook them 1361.) His army and navy was stronger, bigger and had many more mercenaries. Denmark could mobilize twice the manpower of Sweden. When winter came and the frozen roads permitted campaigning both armies moved. The danish into Småland burning 90 villages and continued plundering to Kronoberg castle that was put to the torch. Gustaf went on a revengeraid into Skåne. Burning Vä as had his father the year before. The swedes killed all men, women and children they saw and only the smoke from the fires was left behind. Gustaf himself writes that he "had pillaged, looted, burned and killed after his own will." He hadnt seen an enemy soldier.

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Danish musketeer 1612

In the winter of 1612 the retreating Swedish army halted at Vittsjö. In a skirmish the king with his rearguard was almost killed when his horse broke through the ice but he was saved by Per Banér. Banérs father was one of the noblemen who had sided with Sigismund against Karl IX and had been executed for it at Linköpings bloodbath. None of the executed mens sons ever showed any disloyalty to the new king. The danish got the kings gloves, his sadle, sword and a number of colors.

Shortly afterward the fieldmarshal Cruus and the duke Johan broke into Halland to pillage. Sofar we cant see the great commander and military genious in Gustaf II Adolf. Only his offensive spirit shows as he is the constant dare-devil. He tried to incite to a revolt in Norway but achieved nothing that way except that angered norwegians pillaged into Sweden.

Kristian now tried to seize Gullbergs and Älvsborg fortresses as they guarded the only harbour Sweden had to the west, Lödöse as Gothenburg was named then. A large mercenary army besieged Gullberg fortress that was defended by Mårten Krakou and his wife Emerantia. After bloody failures storming the fortress the danes withdrew, but killed all male inhabitants in Lödöse as revenge for their failure at Gullberg. Instead they continued pillaging into Västergötland were 3000 farms were burned as well as three towns and two castles. In a danish report you can read that they devastated an area as large as the danish island Själland.

When Kristain withdrew back into Halland he encountered Cruus force outside Halmstad at Kölleryds moor. The battle has gone to history because so many of the danish nobility were killed. Kristian himself was close to being slain when his horse bogged down. The nobleman Christian Barnekow, famous middle east and north african traveller, saved the danish king by giving him his horse but was cut down himself by the swedes. The danish army was beaten and withdrew but the battle was without any bigger importance.

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Gustaf II Adolf


In april 1612 the danish tried again. New german, dutch and english mercenaries had been hired and with 20000 men it was the largest army Denmark had ever raised against Sweden. The plan was to quonquer Småland and Västergötland and it certainly was probable to succeed. Large parts of the swedish army was engaged in the russian war and the best commanders were there. Jakob de la Gardie who had recently been released from captivity and the finn Evert Horn were there. 10000 danes surrounded and besieged Älvsborg with all the new technology that could be mustered. 600 swedes under Olof Stråle defended the fortress.

After a bitter defence with huge losses Stråle surrendered, himself wounded. The 300 survivors (including wounded and sick) were allowed to depart with colors and weapons as a sign of respect for their brave defence. The danes took 48 guns. Gullberg fortress fell a couple of days later. Krakou was no longer in command. The danes took another 120 guns and 1500 muskets. Sweden was now cut of to the west which meant that it was totally cut off since the straits in Öresund were danish on both sides.

In Sweden an enourmus effort was made and all ablebodied men were drafted. The danish advanced on Lidköping and another column seized Öland again. The weak swedish forces couldnt do anything more than take to guerilla warfare. Ambushes and the odd raid was all that was possible. The danish advanced slowly but with inceasing problems with the foreign mercenaries. There was little food and loot for them. Towns were deserted and burned by the swedish. The eastern column almost faced mutiny and turned back. Kristian IV in Västergötland had reached Jönköping at the border of Småland but failed to take the castle since the heavy siegeguns were impossible to bring in the difficult terrain. After three days of hesitation Kristian IV heard of the eastern columns retreat and that a large Swedish force under Gustaf II Adolf was approaching. He was forced to turn back as well.

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The danish burned Skara in 1611.

This was a huge success due to the terrain and the will of the people in Sweden. It was the last time a danish army would trample the heartland of Sweden. Kristian IV hadnt abandoned his goal however. He still had his navy and he loved the sea. Half of the seamen had died from epidemics but more were mustered. In september thirty danish ships with 80 guns soon sailed up the swedish coast. The swedish navy didnt stand a chance to this flexing of maritime muscle. It simply didnt show up for battle. Kristian continued up to Vaxholm fortress outside Stockholm that was defended by none other than Mårten Krakou. The weather was poor however and Kristian feared that if he landed the troops they would have to be left behind if storms appeared. The money was about to run out as well. The merceneries complained loudly and the risk for desertion or defection was great. On the 10th of september he left for Denmark again having caused panic in Stockholm. The war thus ended in practice.

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Sweden being marked in yellow is almost enveloped by Denmark in brown in 1594. This was to remain largely until the wars of Karl X in 1650.s.The different parts of Sweden and of Denmark that are Swedish today has been marked to simplify the reading.

England and Holland lost a lot of money on the disrupted traderoutes through the straits through Öresund. Neither was it in their interest that Denmark grew to powerful. They pressured for peace between Sweden and Denmark. The danish mercenaries costed more than they tasted and Kristian was out of money. Both sides wanted peace. Borderskirmishes continued while a peace was negotiated. The danish demanded the right to keep the three crowns of Sweden in their regal coat of arms, control over Lappland and the right to demand toll of all shipping in the Öresund straits. Gustaf Adolf accepted. But the danes immidietly added more demands. Kalmar, Älvsborg, Gullberg, Lödöse and Öland  was to remain danish as well. Gustaf Adolf then attacked Älvsborg during the negotiations and the english forced a new deal. The danish were to keep the crowns in their coat of arms, control Lappland (thus crushing the swedish dream to get control over the lucrative trade to Russia that way) and get to trade with Riga that had been blocked by Sweden. Sweden was to return Jämtland and Härjedalen but was to get Kalmar and  Öland back. Sweden was also to pay 1 million silverriksdaler to Denmark as war reparations in four payments over six years. As a pawn Denmark was to keep Älvsborg and Lödöse as well as seven countys in Västergötland until all payment had been recieved.

Thus the for Sweden terribly dangerous war had ended. It could have ended very badly. The danish will return again but never again will the very existance of Sweden be threatened by Denmark. Soon serious danish setbacks in other theatres will set the stage for a change in leaderroles in Scandinavia.

The sum of money to be paid was enourmus for its time. It represented the entire harvest for four years but it was to be paid in silver. It was a hard time for Swedens populace. Taxes were extreme for all. The king payed 32% of his income which was outrageous for the time. Still money for the the fourth payment couldnt be found. The crown then bought copper with borrowed money from the miners in Bergslagen in the middle of Sweden, sold it with 30% profit in Holland and repaid the loans. The taxmoney thus never really left Sweden and the mineindustry experienced a boom. Thus all could be payed which the danish never had expected and they were forced to return the pawns. Sweden got its harbour to the west.

The wars in the east continued...