“In the year 1536, Norwegian history took a dark turn when the Danish king declared Norway to be a part of the Kingdom of Denmark forever. This marked the beginning of a turbulent period for Norway, as the Danish kings engaged in multiple wars, resulting in significant hardships for the Norwegian people. The Swedes invaded and plundered the country, and the Norwegian soldiers were not allowed to defend themselves. nonetheless, in 1628, the Norwegian army was established and began its transformation from a collection of mercenaries to a formidable fighting force. The training of officers and soldiers was based on mathematics and scientific principles, reflecting the era’s focus on rational philosophy. The soldiers, known as musketeers, were trained in the handling of muskets and the art of warfare. These muskets were heavy and required precise procedures to load and fire. Through rigorous training, the Norwegian soldiers became more proficient in battle, leading to their success in defending their land. This article explores the transformation of the Norwegian army from its darkest point in history to becoming a respected military force.”
The bottom point in Norwegian history was the year 1536.
Then the Danish king Christian 3 declared that “Norway shall henceforth not be or be called a separate kingdom, but part of the Kingdom of Denmark and under the crown of Denmark forever”.
Then the Danish kings threw themselves into eight wars in quick succession, according to norgeshistorie.no.
In the first two, in the south of Europe, Norwegian soldiers were not involved. The king did not want to give the Norwegians weapons.
When the Swedish army occupied Trondheim and marched into Eastern Norway in the 1560s, the Norwegians did not resist. Some hoped that the Swedes would free the country from Danish power.
But the Swedes plundered and ravaged. In the end, they were chased out by forcibly mobilized Westerners and by Oslo people who burned down their own city.
Drank the king’s beer
In the fourth war, the king wanted to mobilize Norwegian farmers to march into Sweden. It did not go so well. Many refused to show up, and those who came drank the king’s beer and went home.
The king took action. He punished peasants who refused military service and executed some of them.
Then, in 1628, the Norwegian army was established.
Sweden had become a military power and took large areas of land from Norway and Denmark. The king needed Norwegian soldiers for both defense and attack.
The king’s son-in-law, Hannibal Sehested, was given the job of building up the Norwegian army.
From mercenaries to farm boys
– To begin with, he imported Dutch and German officers, but eventually we trained our own officers in Norway, says Mads Berg. He is a historian and lecturer at the Defense Museum.
The Norwegian army first consisted of enlisted soldiers.
– They came from various places, including abroad. But they were expensive and it took a long time to recruit them. That is why they were not used in peacetime, but hired when there was war, says Berg.
Then farmers’ sons and farm workers had to become soldiers. The land was divided into areas, where four farms had to provide one soldier and pay for his food and equipment, according to snl.no.
– They had to keep the soldier alive, so that he could attend services and exercises, says Berg.
War based on mathematics
When the soldiers were called up, they went to their local camp. There they met the officers who had been trained in regulations and manuals.
The boys were given muskets and thus became musketeers in the Norwegian army.
They were drilled in the handling of the weapon and in ways of fighting. The faster and safer they were, the better they fared in battle.
– There was a big difference between the noble officers, who were supposed to develop new knowledge and lead the battles, and the soldiers, who were supposed to be pieces in the machinery, says Berg.
Officer training was based on science, especially mathematics.
This was a time of great scientific breakthroughs and rational philosophy. With human reason and logic one should understand and control nature.
The officers became engineers
– The military version of this was that they would literally subjugate the whole world with the help of engineering thinking, says Berg.
Technical development was rapid. They rethought how to use weapons and train officers.
– At Krigsskolen they learned to write, technical drawing and to make maps. They learned to make sketches of harbors and forts. And they received training in building weapons, roads, bridges and buildings, says Berg.
Technical knowledge was required.
– To build a cannon, they had to be engineers. To use it, they had to have positive knowledge of mathematics. In order to manage a department, buy food and pay salaries, they had to be able to count, says Berg.
The military education of engineer and economist came first. It also made it possible for soldiers to climb society, even without a noble or wealthy family. When civil education came later, they were called civil engineer and civil economist.
– The first half of the 19th century was the officers’ heyday, and it was built on knowledge, says Mads Berg.
Handbook for the Musketeers
He draws up one of the very first regulations. He chose this when forskning.no asked him to find a treat from the museum.
The book is called Handling of weapons, arqvebuses, musqvetz, and spears. It was printed in 1608.
– This is a handbook for young and inexperienced musketeers in the use of muskets, explains Berg.2
It was written on behalf of the French king and was translated into several languages.
– Military science was international. They learned from each other and used each other’s methods, says Berg.
The handbook was not translated into Norwegian, but came to Norway in a French edition. The officers learned the procedures and passed on the knowledge in the training of the private soldiers.
Burning matches and dangerous gunpowder
The manual is easy to use. It has drawings for every move the soldier must make with the heavy weapon.
And it is thorough.
– To fire a shot with a musket, they had to go through 43 procedures, says Berg.
He takes out a musket and demonstrates.
With a burning fuse in his left hand, the musketeer arranges the gunpowder with his right hand.
– It was important to keep those things apart. The point of gunpowder is that it is explosive, says Berg.
Gunpowder in a small bottle
The gunpowder hung in a belt across the chest.
– The belt had twelve bottles, called apostles – because Christianity stood strong. Each bottle had enough gunpowder for a shot, says Mads Berg.
Then they poured the gunpowder into the barrel and then inserted a bullet. Both parts were pushed down well with a charging stick.
When the bullet and gunpowder are in place, the musketeer takes another bottle. In it there is a small amount of gunpowder, which is poured into a feng pan, right next to the trigger.
– Then we get orders to put the fuse on. First, we blow away gunpowder residues, then we adjust and lay down, says Berg.
Like a freak ball
The gunpowder in the fengpan is ignited. Flares enter the gunpowder in the barrel and cause an explosion.
– The pressure from the explosion sends the bullet straight ahead or more or less straight ahead, says Berg.
This was before the time of rifles, which have spiral grooves in the barrel that give the bullet a straight trajectory. The musket is not very accurate, and the bullets do not reach far.
– The barrel has smooth walls, which means that the ball went a bit like a windward football, a bit back and forth in the air. But when a hundred soldiers stand closely in line and shoot, then a hundred bullets will hit the enemy, who is also standing in line, often only 70-80 meters away, says Mads.
The entire process of preparing and loading the musketeer takes less than a minute.
– If they spent less time than the enemy soldiers, it went better for them. If they trained and drilled the procedures, there were fewer accidents and more hits, says Berg.
150 years of war
When the shot goes off, a large cloud of smoke comes out of the muzzle.
– This is not smoke-resistant gunpowder, so there was a lot of smoke. That didn’t make it any easier to hit the enemy.
The musketeers participated in wars against Sweden until 1721, when peace was made between the Nordic countries.
– It was 150 years with a lot of war. The Norwegian army made a very positive effort when the Swedes took Trøndelag in the middle of the 17th century, says Berg.
– Norwegian soldiers were eager to fight for Norwegian territory. But they were not as eager to participate abroad.
The manual with 43 steps for firing a bullet is not the only regulation at the Defense Museum.
One rule for everything
In the archive, there are regulations on shelf after shelf. There are also the military journals where the officers discussed rules and practices, and not least which new methods were used in other countries.
– There are rules for who should greet whom in which way. And how many shots you have to fire if a high officer or someone from the royal family comes sailing into your fort, says Berg.
Many rules deal with cutting with a saber: how to cut down the enemy in the best possible way.
The drum and trumpet regulations are extensive. The drummers had to know dozens of different melodies.
Because when the musketeers stood close together and fired, there was a lot of banging. In addition, the canoes made noise. The drums and trumpets told the soldiers what to do.
– We take positive care of these regulations. They are a national treasure, says Mads Berg.
Øystein Rian: Warrior of the Danish King 1537–1660Norgeshistorie.no 2015/2023
Find Erhard Johannessen: The Danish-Norwegian military stateNorgeshistorie.no 2015/2022
Hans Jacob Orning: Norway becomes a kingdom of sound, Norgeshistorie.no 2015/2020
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