Gustavus broke from his quarters, and marched across the Long Wood into Westmanland.
Continuing Sweden Liberated,
our selection from History of the Swedes down to Charles X by Eric Gustave Geijer published in 1845. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Sweden Liberated.
Gustavus had himself dealt with the inhabitants of Helsingland and Gestricland, in order to insure himself against leaving foes in the rear, and, after his return to the Dales, he prepared for an expedition into the lower country. He assembled his troops at Hedemora, and sought to inure them to habits of order and obedience by military exercises. The dale peasant had no fire-arms and knew little of discipline; his weapons were the axe, the bow, the pike, and the sling, the latter sometimes throwing pieces of red-hot iron. Gustavus instructed his men to fashion their arrows in a more effective shape, and increased the length of the spear by four or five feet, with a view to repel the attacks of cavalry. He caused monetary tokens to be struck–an expedient which seems to have been not uncommon in Sweden, since, from a remote period, even leather money is mentioned. The coins now struck at Hedemora were of copper, with a small admixture of silver, similar to those introduced by the King, and called “Christian’s klippings;” on one side was the impress of an armed man; on the other, arrows laid crosswise, with three crowns.
Gustavus broke from his quarters, and marched across the Long Wood into Westmanland. His course lay through districts which bore traces yet fresh of the enemy’s passage. The peasantry rose as he advanced. On St. George’s Day, April 23d, he mustered his army at the church of Romfertuna. The number is stated by the chronicles at from fifteen to twenty thousand men, yet on the correctness of this little reliance can be placed, even if we did not absolutely class this account with those which compare the multitude of Dalesmen in the fight of Brunneback to the sands of the sea-shore and the leaves of the forest, and their arrows to the hail of the storm-cloud. The liberation of Sweden by Gustavus Vasa is a history written by the people, and they counted neither themselves nor their foes. The army was now divided under two generals, Lawrence Olaveson and Lawrence Ericson, both practiced warriors. Gustavus next issued his declaration of war against Christian, and marched to Westeras. He expected here to be met by the peasants of the western mining district from Lindesberg and Nora, who had already taken the oath of fidelity to him through his deputies; but instead of this he was informed that Peter Ugla, one of those intrusted with the performance of this duty, had allowed himself to be surprised at Koping, and cut to pieces with his whole force. On the other hand, tidings arrived that the peasants on Wermd Isle had revolted, slain a band of Christian’s men in the church itself, and made themselves masters of two of his ships. The letters conveying the news, and magnifying the advantages gained, Gustavus caused to be read aloud to his followers.
Theodore Slagheck, exercising power with barbarous cruelty and outrage, had himself taken the command of the castle of Westeras. He caused all the fences of the neighborhood to be broken down, in order to be able to use his cavalry without impediment against the insurgent peasants, who, on April 29th, approached the town. Both horsemen and foot, with field-pieces, marched against them; and Gustavus, who had interdicted his men from engaging in a contest with the enemy, intending to defer the attack till the following day, was still at Balundsas, half a mile from the town, when news reached him that his young soldiers were already at blows with their adversaries, and he hastened to their assistance. The Dalecarlians opposed their long pikes to the onset of the cavalry with such effect that, more than four hundred horses having perished in the assault, they were driven back on the infantry, who were posted in their rear, and compelled to flee along with them, while Lawrence Ericson pushed into the town by a circuitous road and possessed himself of the enemy’s artillery in the market-place. When the garrison of the castle observed this, they set fire to the houses by shooting their combustibles, and burned the greatest part of the town. The miners and peasants dispersed to extinguish the flames or to plunder, bartered with one another the goods of the traders in the booths, possessed themselves of the stock of wine in the cathedral and the council-house, seated themselves round the vats, drank and sang. The Danes, reinforced from the castle, rallied anew, and the victory would undoubtedly have been changed into an overthrow had not Gustavus sent Lawrence Olaveson, with the followers he had kept about him, again into the town, where, after a renewal of the conflict, the foe was put to an utter rout. Many cast away their arms, and threw themselves, between fire and sword, into the waters. Gustavus caused all the stores of spirituous liquors to be destroyed, and beat in the wine casks with his own hand.
The fight of Westeras, from its influence on public opinion, acquired greater importance than of itself it would have possessed. Little was gained by the conquest of the town, so long as the castle held out; and how unserviceable a force of peasants was for a siege, Gustavus was often subsequently to experience. Wherever the tidings of his victory came, the people revolted, and he was already enabled to divide his power, and to invest the castles of several provinces. Siege was accordingly laid to Stegborg, Nykoping, and Orebro. A division of the Vermelanders, with the peasants of Rekarne, in Sudermania, was employed in beleaguering the castle of Westeras; of whose exploits, however, nothing else is told than that they shot the councillor Canute Bennetson (Sparre), to whom Slagheck transferred the command, so that he tumbled in his wolfskin coat from the wall into the stream. Howbeit, another detachment reduced Horningsholm in Sudermania; Christian’s governors in Vermeland and Dalsland were slain; the people of the former province, under the command of their justiciary, prepared for an attack upon the councillor Thure Jonson, the King’s lieutenant in West-Gothland, and, crossing Lake Vener, entered that district.
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