When you enter the world of archives you sometimes find things that you were not really looking for, but which nevertheless carry exciting stories. That happened when I recently searched for military drawings of Kristianstad’s fortifications from before the great redevelopments of 1748. That is, the fortress town surrounded by moat and earthen walls which were fortified with ten bastions, created on the initiative of the Danish king Christian IV in 1614. It was important to obtain these drawings as good supporting material for the GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) mapping that would soon be undertaken in the northern part of the city. We knew from previous excavations that there were extensive remains of the Swedish defences preserved underground but now the main question was what could possibly lie deeper down? Where were we to look for the walls and ramparts from Danish times?
One of the best maps (accession number K0032395, fig. 1) was dated to 1673, this being at the beginning of the Swedish era which started when the province of Skåne (Scania) changed ownership after the Roskilde Peace Treaty in 1658. Today, the original map is stored in the War Archives in Stockholm together with almost 1500 other documents concerning Kristianstad. In the past, this important source material has been rather inaccessible. The catalogues were available on the archive’s website, but with the maps only in low resolution. It was possible to see what the drawings represented and read the headlines but reading the explanatory texts for each document was not possible. It was therefore necessary to either visit the War Archives yourself, or order expensive copies from there. But now, in 2020, everything has changed – the treasures of the War Archives are widely available in high resolution!
The map from 1673 was found to contain much more information than just a careful image of the Danish era fortifications. The black ink doodles on the map carried important implications which became obvious when the box with text now was legible. We got a clear picture of the state of the (now Swedish) fortress just before the outbreak of the Scanian War and the Danish Declaration of War in September 1675! The headline reads in translation “A List of how many Pieces of Artillery Christianstad Fortress have for Flanking Fire and Defence“. It is a sober account of the resources the fortress possessed in the form of artillery for its defence in the event of a Danish attack. The placement of the guns on the ramparts is carefully indicated, as is the calibre of each cannon. The letter in the table indicates the location on the map, the first number on each row indicates the calibre, while the second notes the number of guns in each location. As far as we can see, there were not much at their disposal. The long sides of the fortress are empty; what was available of artillery was concentrated on the exposed north and south sides where the two city gates were located.
Why had the Swedish forces ended up in this unfavourable situation, even though the times were so uncertain and a Danish attack was imminent? First, it is reasonable to assume that the Danish garrison, who departed from Kristianstad after the Roskilde Peace Treaty, tried to remove what they could of war material from the fortress in 1658. Who would have wanted to hand over good cannons to the Swedes? Secondly, on the Swedish side, artillery pieces had been transferred from what were now fortresses inland to tactically important positions along the coastline that had just been conquered from the Danes. Many Swedish gun emplacements and casemates were now empty because the guns had been moved to hastily erected sconces at ports, inlets and exposed coastal areas. So quite paradoxically, there was a shortage of artillery pieces within the country, even though Sweden in the latter part of the 17th century was the world’s leading producer of iron cannons!
The 1673 map of Kristianstad makes a distinction between iron cannons and pieces cast in bronze which have been designated “metal”. Only two can be described as heavy guns: a 26-pound bronze cannon placed on the tip of the bastion Svea Rike in the southeast and a 24-pound on the bastion The Queen in the northwest. The latter, supplemented with a 16-pound bronze cannon, would provide flanking fire on enemy soldiers approaching the ramparts from the Helge Å River. Here was a weak point in the fortifications, namely the bastion Uppland. It lay west of the Church of the Holy Trinity and inside its rampart lay a part of the cemetery reserved for the burial of soldiers from the garrison.
The majority of the artillery was constituted of 12-pound iron cannons and some lighter guns. Among the latter is a small 2.5-pound bronze cannon placed in defence of the Norreport city gate. It can be assumed that these smaller pieces would have been loaded with scrap metal or grapeshot to inflict as much damage as possible on attacking soldiers in the process of storming the fortress. Nonetheless, a successful attack took place in the summer of 1676 (fig. 2). The hot and dry weather that year had caused the moats around Kristianstad to be emptied and the surrounding wetlands had largely dried out. On the night of August 15th, Danish soldiers successfully stormed and climbed the ramparts, entering the fortified city that had been in Swedish hands for eighteen years. Three hours of free looting took place and Kristianstad was now in Danish hands again. However, the fortunes of war changed in the terrible battle of Lund on December 4th, 1676 and at Landskrona on July 14th the following year. The Danish garrison at Kristianstad then found themselves surrounded and had to endure a year-long siege before finally surrendering honourably with free departure from Kristianstad on August 4th, 1678.
The map of 1673 gives us a vivid picture of these days of confusion, insecurity and finally war. It shows with all desirable clarity what treasures are hidden in Swedish archives – authentic source material that can easily bring us several centuries back in time!
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Claes B. Pettersson is an archaeologist, specialized in the Early Modern Period. He holds a BA in Historic Archaeology from the University of Lund, Sweden. Since 2017, Claes has been working as Historical Archaeologist at Sydsvensk Arkeologi in Southern Sweden. His recent research has dealt with the conditions that made the rapid development of the Swedish state and its rise as a military power possible in the early 17th century. Excavations led by Claes includes both the Royal Manufactures (guns and cloth) and the castle, Jönköpings slott, in this once strategically important fortified town. Another project of his is the Getaryggen 1567 battlefield and the Danish campaign led by Daniel Rantzau. Here, excavations and extensive surveys have focused on Scandinavian warfare in the transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, its methods and consequences. Claes has published a wide range of articles based on his research and frequently participates in conferences and scientific networks focused on different aspects of conflict archaeology.