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The Battle of Gadebusch was Swedenmarker's final great victory in the Great Northern War. It was fought by the Swedes to prevent the loss of the city of Stralsundmarker to Danishmarker and Saxonmarker forces.

Prelude

During 1712, all of Sweden's dominions south of the Baltic Seamarker, apart from forts, had been conquered by the allies Denmark, Saxony, and Russiamarker. In the Baltic the Danish admiral Gyldenløve patrolled with a squadron to disrupt Swedish supply lines to the Continent. It was vital for Sweden not to lose Stralsund, as it was the gateway to campaigns in Polandmarker.

While a Danish army moved in the region of Hamburgmarker, a large Russian-Saxon force stood south of Stralsund. Stenbock could hardly attack this force with a frontal assault, but hoped that by moving west towards Mecklenburg it could be encircled or scattered. Such a movement would also prevent the joining of the two allied forces. The Danish army under Frederick IV of Denmark was led by general Jobst von Scholten closer to the Russian-Saxon army, and on December 3 the Danish forces reached the little town of Gadebuschmarker, southwest of Wismarmarker. Fortunately for Stenbock the allied movements were slowed due to disagreements among the allied commanders. On December 8 he marched the Swedish army to Gross Brütz less than ten kilometers east of Gadebuschmarker. Now the Russian infantry was too far away to assist the Danes, but the Saxon cavalry under Jacob Heinrich von Flemming was approaching quickly.

That night the Danish forces broke camp and moved to a better position around the village of Wakenstädt, three kilometers south of Gadebuschmarker. Scholten expected the Swedish attack to come from the south to avoid the marshy Radegastmarker river. At four in the morning of December 9 the Danish army was arrayed in defensive formation, with cavalry wings flanking the infantry in the center. As hours passed, snowfall turned to rain. Finally, the Saxon cavalry under Flemming arrived at Wakenstädt at mid-morning.

Swedish reconnaissance made it clear that the only Swedish option was a frontal assault. Stenbock judged that although the passable terrain was narrow and his men somewhat outnumbered, the thirty Swedish field guns would provide an advantage over the Danish thirteen.

Battle

The Swedish onslaught from the east began around 11 a.m.. Swedish artillery opened fire on the tightly grouped Danish battalions and provided cover for the deploying cavalry and infantry. At 1 p.m. the order to attack was given. While the artillery kept firing, the infantry marched towards the Danes, not firing until reaching a distance of twelve paces. During this time, the Danish opponent remained relatively passive. A Danish cavalry counterattack was broken by the infantry, supported by the constant artillery fire.

To the north, the Swedish cavalry made a flanking movement and surprised the Danish cavalry on the left wing. The subsequent retreat into Wakenstädt caused confusion in the Danish ranks, which was exploited by the infantry on the Swedish right wing. Meanwhile, heavy fighting was taking place on the Swedish left wing, but despite their numerical superiority, attacks by the Saxon cavalry were repelled.

The battle wound down by dusk: Danish and Saxon forces withdrew more or less orderly to a position several kilometers west of Gadebusch to regroup. All of the Danish artillery had been abandoned.

Aftermath

After the battle Stenbock was promoted to Field Marshal by an approving King Charles. The battle was won by efficient use of artillery, and it gave the hard-pressed Swedish forces some well needed breathing room. Strategically, however, there was little impact, and the allies would surround and defeat Stenbock's forces the next year.

References

  • Svenska Slagfält, 2003, (Walhlström & Widstrand) ISBN 91-46-21087-3



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