This series has five easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Gustavus Elected Leader of the Revolt.
Denmark conquered Sweden in 1520. After taking Stockholm the king of Denmark massacred the Swedish nobility. A very young Gustavas Vasa (also known as “Gustavas Erickson”), a noble descended from the Vasa royal line of Sweden had been a hostage in Denmark. He had escaped and was at large in the Swedish countryside. When the massacre took place, outrage filled the land, and Gustavus made his move
This selection is from History of the Swedes down to Charles X by Eric Gustave Geijer published in 1845.
Eric Gustave Geijer, the famous Swedish historian, writer, composer, and advocate of Swedish culture takes up the story from here.
Place: Somewhere in Sweden
The most influential yeomen of all the parishes in the eastern and western dales elected Gustavus to be “lord and chieftain over them and the commons of the realm of Sweden.” Some scholars who had arrived from Westeras brought with them new accounts of the tyranny of Christian. Gustavus placed them amid a ring of peasants to tell their story and answer the questions of the crowd. Old men represented it as a comfortable sign for the people, that as often as Gustavus discoursed to them the north wind always blew, “which was an old token to them that God would grant them good success.” Sixteen active peasants were appointed to be his bodyguard; and two hundred more youths who joined him were called his foot-goers. The chronicles reckon his reign from this small beginning; while the Danes and their abettors in Stockholm long continued to speak of him and his party as a band of robbers in the woods.
Thus the Dalesmen swore fidelity to Gustavus — the inhabitants, namely, of the upper parishes on both arms of the Dal-elf, where a numerous people, living amid wild yet grand natural scenery and hardened by privations, is still known by that name. Gustavus came to the Kopparberg with several hundred men in the early part of February, 1521, there took prisoner his enemy Christopher Olson, the powerful warden of the mines, made himself master of the money collected for the crown dues, and of the wares of the Danish traders on the spot, distributed both the money and goods among his men–who made their first standard from the silk stuffs there taken–and then returned to the Dales. Not long afterward, on a Sunday, when the people of the Kopparberg were at church, Gustavus again appeared at the head of fifteen hundred Dalesmen. He spoke to the people after divine service, and now the miners likewise swore fidelity to his cause. Thereupon the commonalty of the mining districts and the Dalesmen wrote to the commons of Helsingland, requesting that the Helsingers might bear themselves like true Swedish men against the overbearing violence and tyranny of the Danes. Those cruelties which King Christian had already exercised on the best in the land, they said, would soon reach every man’s door and fill all the houses of Sweden with the tears and shrieks of widows and orphans; if they would take up arms and show themselves to be stout-hearted men, there was now good hope for victory and triumph under a praiseworthy captain, the lord Gustavus Ericson, whom God had preserved “as a drop of the knightly blood of Sweden”; wherefore they begged them to give their help for the sake of the brotherly league by which, since early times, the commonalty of both countries had been united.
Ten years afterward, the Dalecarlians recall the fact that they had received a friendly answer to the request which their accredited messengers had preferred on that occasion, and that their neighbors the Helsingers had promised to stand by them as one man, “whatever evils might befall them from the oppression of foreign or native masters.” When Gustavus had begun the siege of Stockholm, every third man of the Helsingers in fact marched thither to strengthen his army. Yet at first they hesitated to embrace the cause, although Gustavus himself went among them, and spoke to the assembled people from the barrow on the royal domain of Norrala. Thence he proceeded to Gestricland, where fugitives from Stockholm had already prepared men’s minds. The burghers of Gefle, and commissioners from several parishes, swore fidelity to him in the name of the whole province. Here the rumor reached him that the Dalecarlians had already suffered a defeat; he hastened back, and soon received an account of the first victory of his followers.
Letters of the magistracy of Stockholm, which were sent over the whole kingdom, warned the people to avoid all participation in the revolt. Relief was supplicated from the King; additions were made to the fortifications of the capital, sloops and barks were equipped, in order, as it was said, to deprive “Gustavus Ericson and his company of malefactors of all opportunity of quitting the country,” but really to keep the approaches on the side of the sea open, which were obstructed by the fishers and peasants of the islets, who had begun to take arms for Gustavus. Special admonitory letters were despatched to Helsingland and Dalecarlia, signed by Gustavus Trolle, his father Eric Trolle, and Canute Bennetson (Sparre) of Engsoe, styling themselves the council of the realm of Sweden, by which, however, say the chronicles, the royal cause was rather damaged than strengthened. “For when the Dalesmen and miners heard the letter, they said it was manifest to them that the council at this time was but small and thin, since it consisted of only three men, and these of little weight.” Gustavus Trolle, the Danish bishops, Canute Bennetson, above named, and Henry of Mellen, the King’s lieutenant at Westeras–where they had recently been assembled with commissioners from the magistracy of Stockholm by Bishop Otho–now marched with six thousand men of horse and foot toward the Dal River, and encamped at the ferry of Brunback. On the other side the Dalecarlians guarded this frontier of their country, under the command of Peter Swenson of Viderboda, a powerful miner, whom Gustavus had appointed their captain in his absence. When those in the Danish camp observed how the Dalesmen shot their arrows across the stream, Bishop Beldenacke is said to have inquired of the Swedish lords present–to use the words of the chronicles–“how great a force the tract above the Long Wood (the forest on the boundary between Westmanland and Dalecarlia) could furnish at the utmost?” Answer was made to him, full twenty thousand men. Yet further he asked where so many mouths might obtain sustenance? To this it was replied that the people were not used to dainty meats; they drunk for the most part nothing but water, and, if need were, could be satisfied with bark-bread. Then Beldenacke declared: “Men who eat wood and drink water the devil himself could not overcome, much less anyone else. Brethren, let us leave this place!” The story makes the Danes hereupon prepare for breaking up their encampment. However this may be, it is certain that Peter Swenson, with the Dalesmen, crossed the Dal secretly, by a circuit, at Utsund’s Ferry, surprised the camp, and put the foe to rout.
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