History of Fredericia
The History of Fredericia Fortress until 1700
Since the early middle ages there had been defences round the Little Belt to safeguard communications across the narrow strait between the Jutland peninsula and the island of Funen. None of these have been preserved, but along the coasts one may still see notable castle mounds such as Gammelborg and Hindsgavl on Funen, and at the head of Kolding Fjord the castle of Koldinghus still reminds us of a mediaeval fortification here.
Communications between the provinces were of the greatest importance to the realm, and ever since the unification of Denmark in the late Viking age, responsibility for the fortifications was the task of the central power – i.e., the king.
These strongholds reflected mediaeval technology, and were thus rendered obsolete as defences when gunpowder was introduced into warfare at the end of the fifteenth century. Therefore, they were soon dismantled or converted to other purposes, such as local administrative centres with residence for a lord lieutenant. Koldinghus was converted to a residence for the king and his retinue during his stays in Jutland, and remained a royal castle until destroyed by fire in 1808.
As a result of participation in the Thirty Years’ War by the Danish King Christian IV, Jutland was invaded by Imperial troops, who occupied the peninsula during the years from 1627-29. They built a redoubt overlooking the Little Belt, but did not otherwise fortify the region.
After the war, the king and his council seriously considered how to prevent another enemy occupation of Jutland. Several locations along Kolding Fjord were closely examined, and around 1630 interest appears to have been focused on the peninsula of Emmernæs. A plan of project for a fortified town here with a citadel here has been preserved.
Topographically, the site was well suited, but Emmernæs was situated too deep inside the fjord in relation to the island of Funen, which prevented it from protecting the important crossing of the Little Belt. Instead, interest switched to the peninsula of Lyngsodde, situated directly across from the Funen town of Middelfart. Christian IV and his councillors were not in agreement as to the advantages of this site, but the council prevailed and a fortified camp was constructed here around 1640.
This camp secured the possibility of a retreat for the Danish army, when Lennart Torstensson, the Swedish general, suddenly burst into the Jutland peninsula from the south in December 1643. The camp was not strong enough to withstand a prolonged siege, but its existence enabled the Danish army to escape intact to Funen.
Until peace was concluded in July 1645, the Little Belt was a theatre of war, and for this reason the Swedes built a redoubt on the Bersodde peninsula east of Lyngsodde. However, it was conquered by the Danes who extended it from the summer of 1644; to execute thus task, they summoned the otherwise unknown engineer Georg von Voort, either from the Netherlands or from Northern Germany.
After the conclusion of peace, the power of Christian IV was considerably weakened and that of the council strengthened, and the latter took the opportunity, once and for all, to create a coherent plan for the Danish defence fortifications. As early as 1646 Anders Bille, Lord Marshal of the realm, made a recommendation to link the Danish provinces by constructing corresponding fortifications on each side of the Sound, as well as of both the Great Belt and the Little Belt. A commission of councillors was appointed; together with the engineers Georg Hoffmann and Peter Bysser, they undertook the detailed planning of the new fortifications, which in several locations were to be combined with the construction of civil towns. This took place during a journey of inspection in the winter of 1646-47, when the commission was accompanied by the two engineers. Commission and engineers agreed on the expedience of placing a fortified town at Bersodde on the Jutland coast of the Little Belt, supported by a fortified town at Strib or the Strib Point on the Funen side of the Little Belt.
In the autumn of 1649, Georg Hoffmann was asked to go to Bersodde again, to undertake the necessary marking out, and from then on the new fortification was a reality.
Georg Hoffmann was born around 1610 in Lauban in Silesia, and had come to Denmark during the Torstensson War of 1643-45, where he had seen active service as an officer. From 1646 he worked as an engineer in Denmark, and in 1646-47 he designed a new Eastern Rampart in Copenhagen with an associated extension of the capital (New Copenhagen). He seems to have been engaged in many learned studies in the fields of natural sciences and medicine, and is mentioned as the mentor of inter alia Niels Steensen (Nicolaus Steno), the Danish geologist. Hoffmann’s background as an engineer is not known, but he utilised the older Dutch manner of fortification, as elaborated by Adam Freitag; he did, however, make a few corrections to Freitag’s dimensioning of a rampart layout.
In Bersodde, he laid out a fortress and planned a town: taking as his point of departure a spot near the tip of Bersodde, he designed the main rampart as a completely regular quarter circle, consisting of seven whole bastions with two half-bastions at its flanks. Along the coast to the south, a wall was to be constructed, connecting to a new citadel which was to supersede the redoubt from 1644-45 on Bersodde. Towards the east, a similar entrenchment was to be constructed on top of the ridge found there. Thus, the entire town would be encircled by fortifications. A copy of Gottfried Hoffmann’s original map has been preserved in the War Archives in Stockholm.
Within the ramparts Georg Hoffmann conceived a most sophisticated town plan. It took as its starting point two of the three gateways that breached the rampart. From these began the town’s two wide main streets which intersected at right angles in the geographical centre of the fortifications. The other streets were then laid out in parallel with these two streets in irregular fashion, so that the town plan consisted of a large number of blocks in a chequer-board pattern. It was characteristic of Hoffmann’s town planning here as well as in New Copenhagen that the blocks were of different sizes.
Hoffmann’s project was approved by King Frederik III in 1650, when the town was also given its privileges and the name “Frederiksodde” after the King. The planned town on the Funen coast of the Little Belt was to have been called “Sophieodde” after Queen Sophie Amalie.
With the royal assent being given, the work of constructing the fortress could begin, and a start could be made on organising the new town. Labour was provided by soldiers from Ebbe Ulfeldt’s regiment, who were entrusted with the practical work under the direction of lieutenant colonel Valdemar Lykke. Unfortunately, his detailed accounts have not been preserved, but from expense sheets in other accounts of disbursements made to him, it can be determined that the fortress was constructed in the years up to 1656. However, the moat was not as yet filled with water, and the ramparts were probably not covered in turf. Nor had the wall along the southern coast been built.
Engineering services were provided by one Erik Jørgensen who is otherwise quite unknown. Among the resident engineers serving under him, Georg Hoffmann’s younger brother Gottfried Hoffmann appears to have been active in the years from 1650-53.
From preserved accounts and other records it appears that the town slowly came to life: the farmers of three villages, who had held land in and around Frederiksodde, were forced to move into the new town in 1651-52, and these forty-seven families were probably among the first citizens in the new town, but others came as well. From preserved fragments of accounts may it be gleaned that there was a fair number of skilled builders in the new town, and an organised civic life was beginning to develop.
In 1653, a modest start was made on the construction of the fortifications at Sophieodde on the opposite coast of the Little Belt, and everything looked bright for the future of Frederiksodde.
However, during the Charles Gustavus Wars of 1657-60 Frederiksodde was thoroughly destroyed. When in 1657 the army of the Swedish King Charles X Gustavus invaded Jutland from the south in consequence of the Danish declaration of war in June, the existence of the fortress could not prevent the enemy from occupying Jutland. Initially, it did secure a Danish stronghold on the peninsula, which might be used as a starting point for an offensive against the Swedes. Unfortunately, the fortress fell on 24 October 1657, when a Swedish assault succeeded in penetrating three rows of stockades in front of the southern flank of the fortress, thus attacking the defenders from behind. The town was ransacked, but not destroyed and the fortifications remained intact.
During the brief lull after the Peace of Roskilde in February 1658 and until the renewal of the Swedish aggression in August of the same year, Frederiksodde and the entire Jutland peninsula were occupied by the Swedes. When an allied auxiliary army of Brandenburgers, Poles and Imperial troops forced its way into Jutland in the autumn of 1658, the fortress once more became a theatre of war, and by the time the Swedes finally evacuated the fortress in May 1659, both fortifications and town had been thoroughly destroyed.
After the conclusion of peace between Denmark and Sweden in Copenhagen in May 1660, the Danes had to decide what to do with the ruined fortress town. It was not very easy: the war had been a serious economic burden for the nation, and the means for reconstruction of all that had been destroyed were scarce. Added to this was the fact that the loss of the Danish provinces east of the Sound made it of paramount importance to safeguard Copenhagen, now only one and a half hour’s sailing time from the ports now in Southern Sweden. In order to secure the efficient reconstruction of the country, the king was given powers to introduce a new constitution, which resulted in the establishment of the absolute monarchy in Denmark. The governmental reform at once brought about a more efficient state administration by the introduction of collegiate administrative bodies. For the fortresses, the establishment of the War College, headed by the able Hans Schack, became of decisive importance. The War College planned to demolish what had survived the war at Frederiksodde, but in 1661, the Dutch fortification engineer Hendrik Ruse was employed as “chief inspector of the Danish fortresses”, and he warmly advocated the reconstruction of Frederiksodde, which he knew from a brief visit in August 1661. With the support of the king, it was finally decided in 1662 to rebuild Frederiksodde according to a design by Ruse.
By and large Ruse adhered to the concept of Georg Hoffmann’s fortress, with a quarter circular main rampart with a moat in front, but he intended to reshape the ground plan of the bastions according to his own proposals. He intended to protect the water in the moat by two huge dams across the moat, and he wanted to construct ramparts along the coastlines. He thus wanted to replace the planned beach wall on the southern side with a more traditional type of fortification.
Instead of the old redoubt on the tip of Bersodde and Hoffmann’s somewhat vague plans for a new citadel, Ruse wanted to construct a small square citadel surrounded by water-filled moats. The interior of the citadel was rigidly symmetrical in layout with barracks, provision depot and arsenal each occupying one block of the square ground plan. However, Ruse’s vision was too ambitious, and only a few elements of his projects were translated into reality.
At the end of 1661 Georg Hoffmann’s younger brother Gottfried Hoffmann, who had been an engineer in Copenhagen during the Swedish siege of 1658-60, was transferred to Frederiksodde, since it was the intention that Ruse himself should work in the capital. It was not until 1662 that it was possible to begin rebuilding the fortifications, and during the subsequent six summers Hoffmann busied himself by reconstructing his brother’s ten or twelve year old fortress, with those alterations along the coastlines that Ruse had suggested. However, Georg Hoffmann’s ground plan of the bastions was retained.
For a while Gottfried Hoffman had his cousin Christoph Heer as his assistant. Later, Heer became an engineer in Strasbourg. In 1694, he wrote enthusiastically about Frederiksodde, whose position at the entry to the Little Belt he compared to the Dardanelles, and whose ground plan he eulogised.
By 1694 there was little reality behind this comparison, since Gottfried Hoffmann had been forced to interrupt work on the fortifications as early as 1667. At that time the king wished to safeguard Copenhagen by new fortifications, and so the continued building activities on the Danish fortresses in Jutland and on Funen could no longer be afforded; the extension to the fortress of Nyborg on Funen was suddenly halted before it was completed.
At Frederiksodde, which in 1664 had changed its name to Fredericia, work was also halted before the fortress was completed. However, something had been achieved: the main rampart and the moat had been re-established, along the southern coastline a new rampart with a moat and dam in front of it had been built and along the eastern coastline a suitable entrenchment had been constructed on the ridge above the Little Belt.
Still, the deficiencies were all too obvious: no external facilities to the main rampart, in the form of glacis or covered way, had been constructed; nor had vital outworks for the protection of some heights in the south-west been built; and then Hendrik Ruse’s distinctive citadel was missing. All this meant a serious weakening of the fortress. And things were not improved as the fortifications were not maintained during the subsequent decades, and decay spread.
In parallel with the construction of the fortifications from 1662-67, the town was re-founded: it was based on Georg Hoffmann’s town plan of 1650, but was altered in a number of ways. Most importantly, the central part of the former built-up area, where the town hall and several fine houses had stood, was expropriated to form an esplanade for Hendrik Ruse’s citadel, and was thus lost to the town. In other places, the course of streets was altered, and some secondary streets were established by breaking through several of the large blocks of the old town plan. This was probably due to consideration for ordinary people who here could acquire modestly sized building plots on which they could afford to build. The final town plan was prepared by Gottfried Hoffmann, who in 1665 drew two identical maps of Fredericia, showing fortifications, street plan and the individual plots. Very little had been left to chance – or local initiative – and it was decided centrally how large the properties were which various professional groups could dispose of. Further, each building site within the ramparts had a garden allotment on the glacis of the fortress, and many sites also had a share in the town’s arable land and pastures.
Town planning or not: the building map of 1665 outlined the physical framework, but did not regulate the timing of development. The central authorities failed to excavate the planned canals which might have provided a stimulus to commerce and navigation; even a proper harbour was not successfully established until 1808. On top of this, the inhabitants had to endure the billeting of the garrison, since the huts which had been built for that purpose had to be torn down in 1671 because of poor maintenance. For this reason, settlement in the new town was slow. Nor did attempts at attracting Calvinists, Roman Catholics and Jews add significant numbers to the population, and in the 1690s Fredericia still had a mere 300 households with a combined population of 600-800 souls.
Until the 1690s, successive commandants complained of the hopeless conditions. In 1696 Jobst von Scholten, an engineer officer, was ordered to inspect conditions in the fortress, and his report is quite ruthless in its criticism. At the time, the bridge across the moat in front of the Prince’s Gate was in need of renovation, but since such renovation was extremely expensive, he considered whether to demolish the entire fortress. Von Scholten was not averse to suggesting such a drastic step as demolishing the fortress, but when he had calculated the cost involved, he suggested instead that the money be used to refurbish the fortress. This was the starting signal for the large-scale renovations of Fredericia fortress that took place during the early decades of the eighteenth century.
The History of Fredericia Fortress in the Period from 1700-1847
During the Thirty Years’ War Sweden had acquired extensive possessions in Northern Germany, and with the loss of the Danish provinces east of the Sound by the peace treaty of 1660, Denmark was becoming encircled by Sweden. This development was further reinforced when Duke Friedrich IV of Gottorp tried to obtain independence of the Duchy of Schleswig from Denmark, by entering into a close military alliance with Sweden where Charles XII had become king in 1697. The alliance between Sweden and Gottorp was sealed by the marriage of Friedrich to the sister of King Charles. Frederik IV of Denmark and Norway became king in 1699, and like his father was animated by the desire to re-conquer the provinces lost in 1660. He joined forces with August II of Poland-Saxony and Peter the Great of Russia, who had misgivings about the Swedish expansion in the Baltic. In 1700, a brief war with Sweden, provoked by Duke Friedrich, ended with a peace treaty dictated by Britain and the Netherlands, who had no desire to see the existing balance of power upset. However, the peace was not satisfactory for Charles XII, so he instead waged war on Russia, Poland and Saxony.
As mentioned, in 1696 Jobst van Scholten had recommended that Fredericia should be maintained as a fortress, but nothing was done beyond repairing the bridge across the moat in front of the Prince’s Gate, which had been the original reason for his report.
it was not until early 1707 that the fortification engineers Hans Heinrich Scheel and Salomon Pechernaut were sent to Fredericia to prepare plans for a total renovation and completion of the fortress. Their recommendations were ready by 8 March. Apart from repairs to the ramparts and moats and the erection of stockades they proposed to construct a glacis and a covered way, as well as completing the citadel roughly according to the plan prepared by Hendrik Ruse in 1662. Steps were also taken to purchase tools and to procure of provisions and other supplies. However, the entire scheme was cancelled before work was started.
On 8 July 1709 Charles XII was beaten by the Russians at Poltava, and subsequently escaped to Turkey. To Frederik IV this was a welcome opportunity to try to re-conquer the lost provinces. A Danish declaration of war was dispatched, and on 12 November, Danish troops landed on the Swedish coast south of Helsingborg. Hopes for a rapid Danish victory were thwarted by the defeat in the battle at Helsingborg on 10 March 1710. Now, a Swedish invasion of the Jutland peninsula from Northern Germany had to be considered a serious threat, as large, fresh Swedish forces were stationed there.
Orders were issued for the renovation of Fredericia, and here the plans from 1707 proved useful. For about half a year, between 2000 and 3000 soldiers worked continuously on the ramparts which were more or less brought into satisfactory repair. The work of reinforcement and maintenance was continued during the following years of war, albeit with a much smaller workforce. In 1710, the fortress artillery was reinforced with twenty heavy cannons of 18 and 24 pounds, all of which were deployed on the coastal fortifications. Including these, the fortress had a total of more than eighty-two usable cannons at its disposal, although most were of smaller calibres. The fortress still suffered from serious shortcomings, but despite these it was considered that it could withstand even a fairly powerful attack.
A couple of times Fredericia nearly became a theatre of war, but military events mostly took place at sea, and in Northern Germany or Norway. When peace was concluded in 1720, the power of Sweden and the Gottorp dominion had been broken, and so the latent threat to Denmark from the south had been eliminated – at least for the foreseeable future.
Posterity has given the name of “the long peace” to the period from 1720-1801, when Denmark was not involved in serious warlike actions. Still, war frequently seemed imminent, either with Sweden, or with Russia, and each time more or less comprehensive plans were prepared for the reinforcement and completion of the fortress. For instance, in 1722, Hans Heinrich Scheel prepared a scheme for reinforcement along the coast, and in 1746, the fortress engineer Samuel Christoph Gedde prepared plans for a reconstruction of the bastions on the land front, as well as the construction of a glacis. In 1750, this was followed by another fanciful project for the extension of the citadel to a whole garrison town for 4-5000 men, either combined with an extension and reinforcement of the bastions on the land front, or alternatively, with their complete demolition.
A last design from Gedde’s drawing board came in 1762. Actually, it closely followed H.H. Scheel’s scheme from 1707, and was particularly concerned with the construction of a glacis and a covered way, for which the need had been repeatedly emphasised.
None of these projects were carried out, or even begun. Every time the immediate danger of war passed, the large and expensive plans were shelved again. The only major improvement of the fortifications was carried out between 1737-40, when the flanks of the southernmost bastions were reshaped, so that rather than projecting at right angles from the curtain they were slanted, by which measure a better flanking of the faces of the opposing bastions was obtained.
A number of structural improvements were however carried out. Among these the most important was the reconstruction of the Prince’s Gate in brick in 1752-53, according to a design by S.C. Gedde. The adjacent principal guardhouse had been rebuilt in brick in 1735, and in 1745 it was extended with a brick-built prison wing for the fortress convicts. Today, these buildings are among the treasures of Fredericia.
The other fortress guardhouses were also rebuilt in brick, and the large quadrangle of the provision depot in the citadel was reconstructed, although only as a half-timbered building with one wing made into an armoury. Furthermore, new brick-built stables were erected in 1750-52 to replace three stables that had been built in less permanent materials in 1718, when cavalry was first stationed in the Fredericia garrison.
In addition to the cavalry and an artillery company, the garrison consisted mainly of a varying number of infantry companies from alternating regiments. The men were billeted with the citizens of the town. Companies were frequently exchanged, usually with units from the principal fortress of Rendsborg on the border between the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
The plan prepared in 1665 for the development and building of the town, was confirmed in 1728 by King Frederik IV. Without any change, it continued as the basis for urban development until the late nineteenth century. The planned pattern of streets and blocks, open spaces and – not least – the location of the projected canals was adhered to.
During the Seven Years’ War between, on one side, Prussia and Britain, against Austria, Russia and France on the other, Denmark had concluded an alliance with France and had undertaken to keep an armed force of 24,000 men in Holstein. The majority of the garrison from Fredericia participated in this. In its absence, guard duties were undertaken by some companies of the garrison regiment, consisting of old, discharged soldiers, 70-80 years of age or even older, who could no longer perform proper military service.
One consequence of the French connection was that the French general Claude de Saint-Germain was invited to enter Danish service with a view to modernising and reorganising not just the army but the entire military administration. He arrived in Denmark in 1761, and during the next few years well-nigh everything was reorganised. When it came to the fortresses, they were divided into five categories according to their importance. On Christmas Eve 1763, King Frederik V signed a decree which for the next many years relegated Fredericia to a fortress of the fourth category, which in reality meant abolition; although the fortifications were not to be demolished, they were no longer to be maintained either. The cannon were left on the rampart, but mounts and other superfluous equipment were sold off and the gun crews dismissed.
Fredericia did, however, remain the home of a garrison, which included some infantry companies and – until 1788 – some companies of horse. From the final years of the eighteenth century, the garrison consisted of an entire infantry regiment, from 1785 onwards the Jutland Regiment, which in 1790 was renamed the Funen Regiment, and which from then on preserved its connection with Fredericia.
During the frequent wars in Europe and America in the latter part of the eighteenth century, Denmark-Norway profited greatly from its merchant fleet. Under the Danish flag of neutrality, trade on the high seas was carried out with all comers if it was profitable. When Britain wanted to search neutral shipping, an armed neutrality alliance was concluded by Denmark-Norway, Russia, Sweden and Prussia. Britain retaliated in January 1801 by seizing all Danish and Norwegian ships in British ports.
Since it was expected that a coming war would mainly be decided by naval supremacy, no thought was given to putting Fredericia on a complete war footing. It was considered sufficient to establish two coastal batteries, one in the citadel, the other at Oldenburg Bastion. In addition, a battery was established at Strib on the coast of Funen. These batteries were equipped with heavy cannon of 18 and 24 pounds, mounted partly on carriages, partly on revolving slides. The batteries were secured against attacks in the rear (from the land side) by a system of entrenchments with lighter guns. Clearly, the objective was effectively to block passage of the Little Belt, although this channel was very much of secondary importance in comparison to the Sound and the Great Belt.
The war of 1801 ended as suddenly as it had begun, with the battle of Copenhagen on 2 April: a Danish line of defence consisting of dismantled and anchored men o’ war delivered a respectable resistance to a superior British naval squadron under the command of the renowned admiral Horatio Nelson. Some companies of the Funen Infantry Regiment of Fredericia had been dispatched to Copenhagen and participated in the battle as marines on board the warships.
In 1803, war broke out between France and Britain. Napoleon decreed the Continental System, directed against Britain, and the reply came in 1807 when Britain issued a ban on all neutral shipping between the ports of her enemy.
Britain demanded that the Danish navy be handed over as a forfeit for the duration of the war. Since this was totally unacceptable to the Danes, Britain landed 31,000 experienced troops north of Copenhagen on 16 August and laid siege to the city which surrendered after having been subjected to bombardment by grenades, incendiaries and Congreve rockets from 2-5 September. On 21 October, the British sailed away with the pride of the Danish-Norwegian realm: the navy with fifteen ships of the line, fifteen frigates and eight brigs, as well as a considerable number of smaller vessels, after having first destroyed everything of value at the Holmen naval base in Copenhagen.
These events resulted in Denmark joining the Napoleonic side, not because of any inherent desire to do so, but out of desperation.
Already before the war had broken out, construction of two further coastal batteries on the Little Belt had begun: Vejrmose Battery on the coast of Jutland some six kilometres south of Fredericia near the important ferry at Snoghøj, and Vasnæs Battery on the coast of Funen opposite. The batteries were armed with 12 and 18 pound cannon and 36 pound howitzers. Together with the previously constructed coastal batteries at Fredericia and Strib, they could now block the channel effectively. As a matter of fact, not a single attempt was made by the British to pass through the Little Belt during the entire war of 1807-14, nor did they even approach it. In contrast, both the Sound and the Great Belt were the used by large convoys of merchant vessels protected by warships on their voyages to and from the Baltic. These convoys were constantly coming under attack from Danish rowed gunboats and privateers, which frequently captured prizes. A few instances occurred of prizes being taken to Fredericia, where the construction of a modest but serviceable port had commenced in 1808; it was ready for use by 1811.
In Fredericia, a considerable number of soldiers were kept under arms, partly to man the coastal batteries, partly to defend them against attacks from land by landing parties, but they spent these years mostly on wearisome guard duty.
In 1808, Russia exerted pressure on Denmark to declare war against Sweden. Napoleon dispatched a Franco-Spanish army of some 26,000 men to Denmark, under the command of the French marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Together with Danish troops, they were to land in Scania on the Swedish side of the Sound. The foreign troops were already stationed in Northern Germany, and now advanced northwards in contingents of 1500 men and 500 horses, as numbers were restricted by the ferrying capacity across the Little Belt and the Great Belt. Napoleon soon countermanded his orders, the Spanish troops were now to go ahead of the French, but all progress came to a halt when only a couple of Spanish regiments had reached Zealand, while more were on Funen and some still in Jutland. Meanwhile, the French troops assembled in Southern Jutland. The foreign troops were billeted in the towns and the countryside. For instance, on 23 March Fredericia supplied quarters to some 860 French troops in addition to a similar number of Danish troops, as well as a number of servants, wives and children who followed the French contingent. At that time, Fredericia numbered around 400 houses and 2800 civilian inhabitants.
In early August, the news reached Denmark that Napoleon had installed his brother Joseph as king of Spain. When the Spanish troops had to swear an oath of allegiance to their new king, mutiny broke out in several places. By that time, the Spaniards had already been secretly in touch with the British fleet in the Great Belt, and had received a promise that they would be picked up and sailed home to Spain. By cunning and trickery most of the Spaniards, around 9000 men, reached the island of Langeland, where they were picked up by the British ships. A couple of squadrons of the cavalry regiment Algarbe tried to reach Snoghøj ferry on their way to Funen, but they were taken prisoner under dramatic circumstances, during which their commander, captain Antonio Costa, shot himself. Nearly 2000 Spanish soldiers were captured and taken to Snoghøj ferry, where they were handed over to the French. The remaining French troops left Fredericia during October 1808.
Late in 1813, a dangerous situation arose. By now, Denmark was the only ally that Napoleon had left, but the fortunes of war were turning against the French. After the defeat in the so-called Battle of Nations at Leipzig in October, an allied army of Swedish, Russian and German forces headed north. The Danish troops in Holstein attempted to save themselves by retreating north, but were surrounded in the fortress of Rendsborg. In mid-December a cease-fire was concluded, for the period until the beginning of January 1814.
Since the Danes feared an invasion by the enemy from the south, and did not believe that they would be able to counter it, the decision was made to evacuate Fredericia totally and concentrate the available part of the army on Funen along the Little Belt. Here, a number of coastal batteries were hastily constructed, armed inter alia with cannon evacuated from Fredericia and Vejrmose Battery as well as from a couple of batteries situated much further south on the coast of Jutland at Aabenraa and Flensborg. The decision was probably not entirely justified, since the enemy was not as strong as feared, and a military confrontation might have met with some success, had there been any desire for it. Now, there were only a couple of skirmishes with Russian Cossacks south of Kolding, before King Frederik VI had to sign the peace treaty on 14 January 1814, which parted Norway from Denmark.
After the Congress in Vienna, where the new map of Europe was drawn up, and after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo, elements of the Funen Infantry Regiment of Fredericia were among the occupying forces which were sent to France in 1816-18 by the vanquishers of Napoleon.
The events of the war had demonstrated the importance of having a flank fortress in Jutland which could counter a threat from the south, the very reasons that had originally prompted the foundation of Frederiksodde and Fredericia. Several ideas were put forward to restore Fredericia and modernise the fortress according to current principles. For instance, Niels Christian Købke, the engineer officer, prepared a couple of designs in 1840. One of these was based on ideas developed by François Chasseloup-Laubat, the French engineer-general, with lavish use of bricks for casemates and free-standing walls; the other made greater use of the existing earthworks. Ideas were even broached of demolishing the fortress of Copenhagen in favour of an extension of Fredericia, even of making Fredericia a royal residence.
The country was impoverished after the war against Britain, and the difficult times did not allow costly fortification projects; in any case there seemed to be no immediate danger. Fredericia’s fortifications had not been maintained since 1764, except for work that had been done on the coastal batteries, however the one in the citadel had been destroyed by wind and weather a few years after the end of the war. The fortress was still extremely well equipped with artillery: at the conclusion of peace the inventory comprised 159 pieces of artillery, cannon, howitzers and mortars of many different calibres and vintages, the earliest from the middle of the seventeenth century, the latest from around 1800. Many of the older pieces were scrapped in the mid-1840s.
From 1834, the army introduced a new range of artillery, designed by Jacob Scavenius Fibiger, the artillery officer. It consisted of smooth-bore guns for firing solid iron balls, also shell guns and mortars, for use both in fortresses and sieges, and in the field, all cast by the Swedish ironworks of Åker, Finspong and Stafsjö. Heavy guns of the new type were prescribed for the coastal defence of Fredericia, but none of them had actually been delivered by the time another war was imminent in 1848. However, two field batteries of the new type had been stored in Fredericia.
The History of Fredericia Fortress since 1847
The German Confederation under the leadership of Prussia supported the insurrection in Schleswig-Holstein. One of the reasons for this was the desire to divert attention away from domestic problems. Confrontations had occurred between citizens and the military in Berlin and other places, resulting in many being killed and wounded.
Denmark mobilised and the army, including the garrison of Fredericia, was sent to Schleswig, leaving Fredericia under the protection of the civic guard. A number of army units, composed of conscripts from districts in Schleswig and Holstein, defected and joined the insurgents.
After some initial successes, the Danish army suffered defeat in the battle of Schleswig on 23 April 1848 and retreated, partly to the island of Als, partly to Funen.
Fredericia was considered indefensible in its then state of repair, and for that reason artillery and all other usable materiel were hastily evacuated to Funen. Prussian troops occupied Jutland, including Fredericia, as far north as Aarhus.
Only at sea did Denmark maintain superiority. The Danish navy blockaded German ports and captured ships which carried German goods. Naval superiority also meant that troops and supplies could be moved at will between provinces, which to some extent compensated for inferiority in numbers.
On 8 May, the naval steamship Hekla and six gunboats launched an attack on the Citadel of Fredericia, where the German flag was flying. A shell from one of the ships ignited a small abandoned store of gunpowder in the powder magazine which blew up, and the large arsenal and victualling store was burned to the ground.
By way of retaliation the Prussians shelled and set fire to the ferryman’s house in Strib, and later in the same day bombarded Middelfart. Thus, the Danish attack was not an unqualified success, but it helped to maintain spirits at a difficult time.
Yielding to pressure from Britain and Russia, the Prussians withdrew from North Jutland after three weeks, and the remaining military events of 1848 took place at or near Dybbøl, until a cease-fire was concluded at the end of August.
Already at the time of the evacuation of Fredericia, steps had been taken to establish coastal defences on the Funen side of the Little Belt. The old batteries from 1801 and 1807 at Strib and Vasnæs were renovated, and a number of new batteries was constructed in the gap between them. By the middle of June, they were equipped with thirty-four cannons, mainly of heavy calibre.
The picture as it unfolded for the further conduct of the war depended on three flank positions: a southerly one at Dybbøl and Als, one in the middle at the narrowest section of the Little Belt, and a northern one at the peninsula of Helgenæs near Ebeltoft, combined with the Danish naval supremacy.
At the Little Belt, it was originally the intention to establish a major bridgehead either at Snoghøj or on Lyngsodde Point nearby. It was to be used offensively for ferrying troops from Funen in order to attack the flank of the enemy, or defensively to secure the crossing of a retreating army from Jutland to Funen. The initial preference for this location was due to the fact that the crossing here was much shorter and far safer than between Fredericia and Strib, where wind and current often prevented the crossing of sailing vessels for days on end.
It was left to Niels Christian Lunding of the engineer corps to examine conditions more closely. In a recommendation of 22 January 1849, he nevertheless came out in favour of renovating Fredericia, where there were at least considerable earthworks, as opposed to the other sites, which were merely bare fields. The problem of crossing the Belt could be solved by ensuring that sufficient transport capacity was available, together with steamships for towing.
Lunding’s proposals were accepted, and on 9 February orders were issued to begin the necessary work of renovation and fortification. Supervision of this was entrusted to Lunding, who at the same time was appointed as commandant of the fortress.
At the end of March, the work force had been brought up to some 3000 men daily, and by then work had already progressed so far that Lunding considered it possible to resist any attack that was not superior or too persistent. In addition to the renovation of fortifications, damming of a brook created a flooded area which made an assault on the fortress from the western side impossible, and two piers were constructed to secure the communication with Funen. To protect them, the citadel was reinforced to form a strong entrenchment.
After initial clashes with the enemy in April and early May 1849, the part of the army that was not stationed on Als was divided into three sections: the first, comprising some 7000 men under General Olaf Rye, was to retire northwards through Jutland, attempting to lure the German confederate army into following it, but without involving itself in major battle. The second, numbering somewhat less then 7000 men, withdrew into Fredericia, and the third was assembled in billets in north-western Funen. On 8 May, Fredericia was surrounded by the Schleswig-Holstein army of some 14,000 men. By this time, most of Fredericia’s civilian inhabitants had fled to Funen. The Schleswig-Holsteiners at once began constructing batteries, to commence a siege according to Vauban’s time-honoured principles. A proper bombardment began in the morning of 16 May and continued for the next couple of days. Subsequently, larger or smaller artillery duels were fought almost every day. The town was badly damaged, but the fortifications remained intact, and the loss of life and materiel was relatively modest. Every night, a battalion (about 800 men) was relieved by a fresh battalion from Funen.
Fortunately for the defenders, the siege was conducted in a rather haphazard and inconsistent fashion and without much energy; this was due in part to the enemy’s lack of leading artillery and engineer officers and to his shortage of heavy siege artillery and ammunition.
Not until late in the course of events did the enemy realise that the key to the conquest of the fortress was to sever the maritime link with Funen. In order to achieve this he began constructing batteries on the coast north of the fortress, from which ships and the important eastern pier could be shelled.
A minor sortie on 30 June disrupted the work of the enemy, whilst a major sortie was being decided on and prepared. Inconspicuously, the corps of General Olaf Rye was transferred from Helgenæs to Funen. A similarly unobtrusive transfer of troops was made from Als to Funen, from where they were despatched to Fredericia. On the eve of 6 July, 23,000 men were gathered in the fortress, of whom 19,000 were to take part in the sortie which started one hour after midnight. By dawn victory was complete, the siege had been lifted, and the enemy routed, thirty-one cannons and large quantities of materiel had been taken and some 2000 prisoners were captured. But the losses were heavy: 454 killed and 1252 wounded, compared to some 200 enemy troops killed and 1100 wounded.
A cease-fire was concluded on 17 July. Under pressure from Russia, Prussia sued for peace, and when the war recommenced in 1850, the Schleswig-Holsteiners were on their own; they were decisively beaten in the battle of Isted on 25 July 1850.
That day, 6 July 1849, was a bright spot in Danish history. Ever since 1850 its anniversary has been celebrated in Fredericia in a largely unaltered format, apart from a few years when circumstances have conspired to prevent the festival being held. At the celebrations in 1858, the statue of The Danish Soldier by the sculptor H.V. Bissen was unveiled; it is a unique monument, both in a national and an international context. Three years later, the monument was surrounded by six mortars, two of which had been taken in the battle.
Military victory belonged to Denmark, but the war had not solved the fundamental problem: the relationship between Denmark and the Duchies. The road was thus paved for the next war which came in 1864.
Fortification questions were hotly discussed in the inter-war years. In addition to a reinforcement of the maritime defences of Copenhagen, plans aimed at three strongly fortified positions in Jutland: at Dannevirke, at Dybbøl and Als, and at Fredericia. A proposal of 1853 for reinforcing Fredericia included the construction of a number of detached forts outside the main rampart which was to be rebuilt and reinforced with free-standing walls as well as shell-proof barracks etc. None of these large, costly permanent fortification installations were executed; instead, works which had more the character of field fortifications, constructed in 1861-63, had to suffice. In Fredericia, the so-called “fortified camp”, consisting of five redoubts, was built in order to prevent an enemy from constructing batteries that could fire on navigation at sea. In addition, three of the bastions of the main rampart were reconstructed and reinforced. The powder magazines of the redoubts and a new sortie gate were constructed in concrete, then a novel and untested fortification material.
The middle of the nineteenth century saw rapid technological developments: rifle-barrelled artillery with sharp-nosed projectiles gave greater range and accuracy, while breech-loading cannons meant faster and steadier working. The countermoves were to make fortresses more resistant by using stone, concrete and armour. However, so much time was needed to construct the costly, permanent fortifications that there was a considerable risk of their becoming obsolete almost from the outset. This was one of the reasons why a decision on the question of fortification was deferred. Keen attention was paid to the Crimean War, where a Franco-British naval force crushed the modern and expensive Russian fortress of Bomarsund on the Aaland Islands in only five days, whilst the fortress of Sevastopol withstood a siege of almost one year, despite consisting only of earthworks.
When war broke out on 1 February 1864, Niels Christian Lunding, by now 69 years old, was once again appointed commandant of Fredericia and entrusted with putting the fortress on a defensive footing. The situation was dramatically different from 1849. This time, Denmark faced a superior and far better equipped enemy, a Prussian-Austrian army which was armed with rifle-barrelled artillery, partly breech-loading, as well as breech-loading rifles. The Danish fortifications were incomplete, and a winter of hard frosts made further work difficult. To the great consternation of everybody, the Dannevirke position was abandoned only a few days into the war. The army retreated to Dybbøl and Als, leaving most of its artillery behind, and four regiments were sent by sea from Als to Fredericia.
When Fredericia was surrounded by the enemy on 8 March, the fortress had been more or less prepared for defence, and as in 1849 an area outside had been flooded. Sufficient artillery had been placed on the main rampart and in the fortified camp, but only a few of the pieces were of the rifle-barrelled type. On 20 March, the enemy commenced a bombardment with forty-two mostly rifle-barrelled field guns, some of which were breech-loaders. The enemy fire was only returned to a limited extent, since the Danish smooth-bore artillery did not have sufficient range. However, as in 1849 damage to the fortifications was superficial, whereas the town suffered badly, especially from the Austrian incendiary shells. Bombardment terminated on 22 March and the enemy retreated, contenting himself by besieging the fortress from a distance of a few kilometres. Instead, he concentrated on reducing the ten small redoubts at Dybbøl, which put up a gallant and remarkably protracted resistance until they finally fell when the enemy attacked on 18 April.
After the fall of Dybbøl, it was the plan of the enemy to move up heavy siege artillery to commence a regular siege of Fredericia. On 26 April, the Danish secretary of war decided to abandon Fredericia, a decision which was incomprehensible to many. During the days of 26-28 April some 13,500 men were transferred to Funen together with all supplies of importance, including such rifle-barrelled artillery as was found in the fortress. But 241 smooth-bore cannons, mostly of heavy calibre, had to be left behind.
In the morning of 29 April, at the enemy headquarters in Vejle the final touches were put to the plans for the siege of Fredericia, when the rumour spread that the fortress had been abandoned.
Later in the same day, Austrian troops and a Prussian fortress artillery company entered the nearly deserted town. During the following days, the fortifications were rendered unusable by digging away the parapet on the rampart, burning stockades, cannon shelters and blockhouses, and blowing up ammunition magazines in the fortified camp. Almost all artillery was carried away; only a small proportion remained on the rampart, but was now trained on Funen as protection against a possible Danish landing attempt.
After the fall of Dybbøl and the evacuation of Fredericia, Funen might become an important pawn in the continued warfare. For this reason, a comprehensive coastal defence was established with cannon batteries along the Little Belt, together with the deployment of booms and laying of mines to prevent the enemy from attempting to cross.
Matters never got as far as this, as peace was concluded in Vienna on 30 October. On 16 November the Austrian troops who had occupied Fredericia departed.
According to the peace treaty, Denmark had to cede the provinces south of the River Kongeaa, so the new frontier was drawn very close to Fredericia. It was no longer possible to rely on a flank defence as in the Schleswig wars. Moreover, it was realised that the Danish naval superiority would be lost in a few years, since the North German Confederation under the leadership of Prussia was engaged in building a powerful modern navy based at Kiel.
It was still considered essential to have a powerful stronghold at the Little Belt, from which a protracted defence could be conducted until help could arrive from “powerful allies”, by which was meant France in particular. The Franco-German war of 1870-71, where the efficient Prussian war machine overran the French armies in a matter of weeks, did however put a stop to all expectations in this direction. In the years until 1882, several schemes were put forward for fortifications at the Little Belt, but they were all intended to be constructed on the Funen coast, in order to block the Little Belt against transit navigation.
Fredericia remained a fortress in name, with a garrison, but without any artillery apart from the six mortars (obsolete but still on the army inventory) that embellished the surroundings of the statue of The Danish Soldier.
When in 1893 there was talk about decommissioning the fortress, it was nevertheless decided to retain it, since it was believed that the main rampart could still be of some importance for defence: equipped with light armament and field artillery it would be able to protect an evacuation of troops from Jutland to Funen. The citadel alone was abandoned as a fortress within the fortress. It was only by the Army Act of 30 September 1909 that the fortress was finally decommissioned.
In 1914, the main rampart and the surrounding fortress terrain was handed over to Fredericia Borough, with the exception of the southernmost section which had been reserved for harbour and railway development. A scheme was prepared for the conversion of the fortifications to an urban park, where ramparts and moats were to be left intact, except for construction of the necessary footpaths and steps. Avenues of trees had already been planted along the rampart walks in the late 1830s.
With a view to improving the flow of traffic into and out of the town, it was part of the scheme to establish the necessary breaches in the rampart, in the curtain between the bastions of Prince Christian and the Queen, and elsewhere. In order to preserve the rampart parapet intact, the breach was to be in the form of a covered gateway. Doubts were raised as to the construction of this, and consequently as to the long-term intentions of the borough with regard to the fortifications. Subsequently, an emotional campaign was waged, headed by Hugo Matthiessen, the historian and museum curator, who had been born in Fredericia. The campaign was concluded successfully in 1917 when the rampart was listed as a protected monument. Thus, the breach in the rampart received its gateway, the Nørreport or North Gate, constructed in 1922-23, and when the old Prince’s Gate had to be duplicated, this was also done by constructing a gate, the Danmarksport or Denmark’s Gate, in 1925.
In most other places where fortresses have been decommissioned, the fortifications were either demolished and the reclaimed land used for building sites, or – at best – converted to a park beyond recognition. By contrast the fortifications of Fredericia have been allowed to remain – and will continue to remain an impressive and reasonably well-preserved example of the seventeenth century Dutch art of fortification, which left its imprint on numerous European fortresses.
It requires constant and careful maintenance, on which many resources have been spent, not least in recent years. In order to make it possible for the public to experience the fortress as a real fortress, the Princess Bastion has been furnished with artillery as it was in 1849, mostly original although in replica mounts and carriages, and it has been necessary to cast a few reproduction cannon barrels in bronze.
By Bjørn Westerbeek Dahl & Erik Housted
(Translated by Jørgen Peder Clausager, Anders Ditlev Clausager and David Sandison)