(Elverumske Skielber Compagnie)
Opposing this modest force were a brigade under command of Colonel
Staffeldt. It consisted of:
The Grenadier Battalion of the Second Trondheim Infantry Regiment
Four ski-companies from the Norwegian Jäger Corps
A sharpshooter company detached from the First and Second Trondheim
A light company from Bergenhus Infantry Regiment.
30 dragoons from the Oplandske Dragoon Regiment
There were four dragoon regiments in Norway but they never mustered
in greater number than this because of a catastrophic lack of fodder.
Colonel Blücher of the Akershus Dragoons served as commander in
Kongsvinger Fortress. Colonel Gahn concentrated his battalion in Medskogen
right at the border and started patrols into Norway on 8 April. The
first patrols observed Norwegian forces but these avoided contact.
On the April, a larger force advanced into Norway. It consisted of
160 men, half of them jägers. Commanding was Lieutenatn Cederström,
detached from the Lifgardet on foot to command the jäger-company
of the II.Dahl Battalion This time they were engaged by 30 grenadiers
on skis, commanded by Lieutenant Timme. The Norwegians were dressed
in white, red and grey, and almost camoflaged. The Norwegians was driven
back without losses to either side and the Swedish reached the houses
of Nyen. There they were attacked by three Norwegian companys under
command of Staffeldt. Cederström correctly deduced enemy strength
from trumpet and bugle-signals and retreated. Cederström reported
that several Norwegians was wounded judging from the screams for help
but Staffeldt only report one wounded. The Norwegians did not inflict
a single casualty. The Norwegians were unable to produce good gun-powder
and this wasn´t the only combat with conspicously inefficient
On 13 April, Cederström returned to Nyen with 180 men. Yet again
Norwegian pickets retreated and after reaching Nyen Cederström
was attacked by Staffeldt. Two ski companys attacked on the flanks and
the sharpshooter company advanced on the road. This time the Swedes
accepted combat and retreated after Cederström was hit in the foot
and a grenadier-company started charging them. Swedish losses were 2
dead and 12 wounded. Cederström had his leg amputated and later
returned to service with a wooden leg. The Norwegians lost 2 dead and
14 wounded. The Swedish force fired no more than 2782 shots and had
also lost two backpacks, a few field-bottles and a bayonet. After this
combat Gahn was disgusted by the circumstances and wrote so in his report:
"oöfvervinnerliga svårigheterna att framgå
i denna djupa snösmörja uti dessa fatala ödemarker,
omöjligen kunnat företaga att bemästra mig en fast
fot i fiendens land, då utom den omöjligheten att knapt
på 2 mans front kunna marschera utan skidor, jag bort kunna
framtränga en fot längre än fienden behagat."
In translation :
"Unsurmountable difficulties to move in this deep snowslurry
in these fatal wastelands, impossible to manage to command a firm
foot in the enemy's land, when with the impossibility in on a barely
2 men front be able to march without skis, I should have been able
to advance a foot more then was the enemys pleasure."
The tortured grammar is faithful to the Swedish original. Gahn also
complained to Armfelt about a severe lack of food. Armfelt answered
in his condescending fashion that if Gahn who was a resourceful man
could not procure rations by himself then Armfelt couldn´t understand
what he was to do. The operation was actually a success because Staffeldt
refused to send reinforcements south and asked for more troops for an
attack on Gahn. On 16 April, 20 Norwegian ski troops attacked a Swedish
14 men outpost at Vermundstorp just inside Norway. The outpost obviously
fled because they lost one wounded and five prisoners. But the planned
attack on Gahn was cancelled when Armfelt advanced on Kongsvinger and
won the battle of Lier. Staffeldt dispatched forces south, but they
were sent back because Armfelt could be stopped without them.
Now Armfelt made the worst command-decision of his military career.
He ordered Gahn to advance to Glomma and advance through the Norwegian
lines down to Armfelt's force. He told Gahn that he faced an inferior
force. Even if Gahn had faced and brushed aside an inferior force he
would have faced superior forces when nearing Armfelt. The distance
was 80 kilometers and the snow and the ice was melting.
Gahn had received some reinforcements, 64 recruits arrived, likely
replacements for soldiers held prisoner by theFrench since the debacle
of Dänholmen in August 1807. Lt.Cederström was replaced as
jäger-commander by the ex-ltieutenat and öfverjägmästaren
von Kothen. For some reason the officers of the II. Dahl Battalion wasn´t
considered competent for that duty. The battalion commader, Captain
Godee, had been a jäger company commander in 1790. Two guns had
also arrived at Medskogen. Two had stopped at Falun.
But the guns was left behind when Gahn moved forward on 25 April. Because
of the melting ice on the Flisa, Gahn was forced to take the summer
path that was narrow and so full of stones that it was almost inpassable
to carts. Eight single-horse sleds accompanied the battalion. They were
loaded with food for just two days and the Colonel himself, who was
unwell and not much else because the troops had but 40 shots for every
gun. According to regulations Swedish officers, subofficers, and muscians
had no guns whatsoever. But the chaplain borrowed Gahn's sword and served
as his aide-de-camp during the ensuing combat.
The fighting force under Gahn consisted of 12 officers, 13 subofficers,
506 rank and file and 3 others. Left behind in Medskogen were about
67 sick, wounded, gunners, guards, the 3-pounders, the battalion colours
and rations that would have lasted the battalion another day and a half.
This force was under the command Major Söderhjelm.
This time the Norwegians did not defend Nyen but held back. Gahn advanced
along the summer-road on the south side of Flisa. When they passed a
spot on the Flisa where the ice was still passable, a force of 40 men
under command of Fältväbel Klingius was left as a guard. Some
way further at a place named Trangen, Gahn meet two grenadier companies.
They had made an abatis through very thick forest between the Flisa
and a high mountain. The Dahl jägercompany was deployed but made
no headway and von Kothen was soon mortally wounded. A further four
platoons were deployed as jägers and the grenadiers started to
give way. However, when Captain von Knorring was ordered into combat
he send orders for Fältväbel Klingius who belonged to his
company, to join him. This was barely done when Staffeldt's main force
that was north of Flisa arrived on the spot Klingius had been guarding.
With little difficulty Staffeldt's force consisting of the Elverum Ski
Company, the Sigholt Sharpshooter Company , two grenadier companies,
and 30 dragoons marched over the thin ice. The Dahl. Battalion was attacked
by superior forces in the rear and a fierce firefight in the thick forest
began. Captain von Knorring, with his force had been flanking the grenadiers
and lost contact with the rest of the battalion. The grenadiers defending
the abatis received reinforcements. The Hofska Ski Company had been
further back and had been ordered by Staffeldt to follow him. But on
hearing the battle the company had skied cross country and attacked
the Swedish in the flank. The Norwegians sent 1050 men into combat and
had a 2-1 superiority.
Norwegian Ski-Troops Attacking at Trangen
The Swedish force was herded towards a cliff-face. The battalion-commander,
Captain Godeé, was badly wounded, when the ammunition began running
out Gahn ordered his musicians to sound the appelle. The Norwegians
did not feel like negotiating with an helpless enemy and stormed, taking
everyone prisoner. There were no massacre and all the horses actually
survived to become booty.
Swedish Troops Surrounded at Trangen
When von Knorring understood that things had gone very badly he started
marching cross country back towards Sweden. He took two ski-soldiers
prisoner, that he had undoubtedly surprised. Walking on foot, cross
country through wet snow is very hard and unpleasant and the march very
slow. After marching through the night Medskogen was reached and they
found that the Norwegians already had been there.
After his victory, Staffeldt returned to his headquarters taking the
cavalry with him. He ordered a force to immediately raid Medskogen but
not to occupy it. Major Söderhjelm had not arranged any defense,
despite having a fighting force of 21 men, and the Norwegians reached
Medskogen unobserved. The Norwegian Lieutenant Vestby, the Swedish Lieutenant
Halldin, and a drummer walked right up to the house there Söderhjelm
was quartered before being challenged. Then the drummer beat the chamade.
The reason for Halldins participation in the parley was that he was
sent to bring luggage belonging to Swedish officers taken prisoner and
most of them wounded. Söderhjelm meekly agreed to surrender. The
Norwegians quickly ransacked the place and left with 51 prisoners, the
guns, and the food. In Medskogen they left behind 12 men wounded on
13 April and the battalion colours that they missed. These von Knorring
brought along when he continued the retreat to Letafors foundry.
The Swedish losses at Trangen was 385 prisoners and 25 killed. Besides
wounded officers, 57 men was hospitalised at Åsnes. The Norwegians
lost 15 dead, 53 wounded, and 2 prisoners. As can be deduced the Norwegian
musketry was less efficient than the Swedish musketry. The Norwegians
outnumbered the Swedes 2-1 and could deliver concentric fire. The Norwegians
reported the following booty: 416 guns. 16 sables, 6 drums. 1 trumpet,
406 bandoleers, 316 copper-bottles. etc.
Von Knorring could muster 97 men in Letafors. Others Dahl-men besides
his command returned to the colours. Seven kept hidden under a rock
for three days before walking back to Sweden. They had only a single
loaf of bread for sustenance during that period.
Six years later, Gahn commanded another force invading Norway and was
yet again surrounded. Thats another story.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2005
Index | Battles
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