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Carl XII. had ordered the fortification of the harbour of Stromstad, nine miles south of the mouth of the Ide Fjord, which formed the boundary between Sweden and Norway. His object, of course, was to obtain a good base for operations against Norway, and it therefore became necessary for the Danes to try and prevent this. Tordenskjold decided to attack, and if possible to destroy the incomplete fortifications. On July 4th he left Frederikstad with the following force :
Battleships, Laaland 50, Fyen 50, Gotteborg 42;
Prams, Hjaelper 46, Ark Noa 34;
Galleys, Fredericus IV. fra Arendal 7, Fredericus IV. 7, Sophia 7, Charlotte Amalia 7, Prinds Carl 7, Prinds Christian 7, Louisa fra Arendal 7;
Half galleys, Achilles 5, Pollux 5.
As in the case of the Gothenburg attack the idea of surprise fell through. The weather proved unfavourable, and the prams and galleys were forced to anchor some fifteen miles from their destination. Tordenskjold, however, went on with the battleships and anchored on July 15th outside Stromstad, thus, of course, giving the alarm. Why he did this is difficult to understand. He explained later that this was the only safe anchorage for his battleships, but he almost certainly could have put back towards Frederikstad or gone on out to sea, and either course would have been better than appearing off Stromstad and giving the alarm before he was ready to strike. Further, the wind now fell altogether, and the current was so strong that the galleys with the two prams in tow made hardly any progress. The interval was utilised by the Swedes in perfecting their defences, which consisted of three batteries. On the island Lalholm, in the middle of the harbour, just in front of the town, they had built the Carolus battery of fourteen 18-pounders, while north and south of the town were two others of three 18-pounders each, so situated as to deliver a converging fire.
|Ships of the Line, |
Peter Jansen Wessel TordenskjoldDanish
At last, in the evening of the 18th, the Ark Noa and four galleys arrived, and hearing that the Hjaelper and the other galleys were only a short distance behind Tordenskjold resolved to attack at once. About midnight the ships began to warp into the harbour, and at one o'clock the Ark Noa 34 opened fire from her position between the Carolus and southern batteries. For a long time she was unsupported, and was at last obliged to leave her station and take refuge behind a small island. Meanwhile, the battleships, with Tordenskjold in the Laaland 50 leading, were slowly warping in and suffer- ing considerably without being able to reply, but by 4.30 a.m. they were in position opposite the Carolus battery, and in full action. Before this the Ark Noa, with her casualties filled up from the galleys, had returned to her place, and opened fire again, but was unable to sustain the tremendous fire to which she was exposed. The galleys supporting her were driven out of action, her captain Grib was severely wounded, and finally, leaking badly from waterline shots, she had to retire a second time, and was only saved from sinking by being given a list to the uninjured side. The battleships were more successful. Twice they silenced the guns of the Carolus battery, but each time fresh men were sent from the mainland by the bridge, which, now that the Ark Noa had withdrawn, was again safe to cross. Still, soon after six the fort's magazine blew up, and though the works were not seriously hurt, fire had to be suspended until the arrival of more powder. At the same moment the Hjaelper and the other five galleys appeared at the harbour mouth. Tordenskjold decided to try and storm the Carolus battery, and with 300 soldiers in his four galleys he advanced, leading the attack in the Sophia. The Fredericus IV. and Fredericus IV. fra Arendal went aground before getting into close range, but the Sophia and Prinds Carl pressed on. Running in close to the island, they were just about to land their troops when a battalion of Swedish troops, previously hidden, opened fire on them. The slaughter was tremendous. Torkenskjold, himself wounded twice, was taken unconscious back to the Laaland, and the two galleys were left where they were, with such of their crews as survived 184 NAVAL WARS IN THE BALTIC. taking refuge below. It was now about eight o'clock. After a short period of unconsciousness, Tordenskjold came to his senses, and at once began to see about the rescue of the two galleys. Woodroff, a cadet, with two sailors in a dinghy, succeeded, in spite of the heavy fire, in taking a tow-rope to the Sophia, but the saving of the Prinds Carl was a more difficult business. Of her entire crew only her captain, Helmieh, and one sailor were left unhurt, and they had been driven below. A Swedish sailor waded out with a rope to secure her, but was shot by Helmieh, and at the same time the Danish sailor running aloft cut the lashings of one of her sails. This proved enough to move her just clear of the shore, and, though she was still within close range, Wulff, captain of the Pollux 5 managed to get close enough to pass a line, and she was towed into safety. This was the end of the action. The Danes withdraw with a loss of ninety-six killed and 246 wounded, patched up their damages, and sailed next morning for Frederikstad. The Swedish loss was twenty killed and 100 wounded.