Battle of Dybbøl
The Battle of Dybbøl was the key battle
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign...

 of the Second War of Schleswig
Second War of Schleswig
The Second Schleswig War was the second military conflict as a result of the Schleswig-Holstein Question. It began on 1 February 1864, when Prussian forces crossed the border into Schleswig.Denmark fought Prussia and Austria...

 and occurred on the morning of 18 April 1864 following a siege lasting from 7 April. Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 suffered a severe defeat against the German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 which decided the war. Dybbøl
Dybbøl is a small town, with a population of 2,457 in the southeastern corner of South Jutland, Denmark. It is located around west of Sønderborg....

 was also a battlefield in the First War of Schleswig
First War of Schleswig
The First Schleswig War or Three Years' War was the first round of military conflict in southern Denmark and northern Germany rooted in the Schleswig-Holstein Question, contesting the issue of who should control the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The war, which lasted from 1848–1851,...



Following the annexation of the Duchy of Schleswig in November 1863 by the Danish king Christian IX (who was also the Duke of Schleswig), Prussian and Austrian troops invaded Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

 in January 1864.

The defending Danish army were equipped with smaller guns and an older type of rifle. The Prussian army used the Dreyse needle-gun, a breech-loading rifle that could be loaded while the user was lying down. Since the Danes had to load their older muzzle-loading rifles while standing, they were better targets for the Prussians.

The Dybbøl fort lies in a short blunt peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

 that defends against access to the fort by land and featured an enclosed pier for the ferry
A ferry is a form of transportation, usually a boat, but sometimes a ship, used to carry primarily passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo as well, across a body of water. Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services...

 across the Alssund
The Alssund is the narrow strait between Als island and the mainland of Jutland, in Denmark....

 to Sønderborg
Sønderborg Municipality , is a municipality in Region of Southern Denmark partially on the Jutland peninsula and partially on the island of Als in south Denmark, at the border with Germany. The municipality covers an area of , and has a total population of 76,236...

 on the island of Als.

The Dybbøl position was ill-prepared due to too much effort spent fortifying the Dannevirke
The Danevirke The Danevirke The Danevirke (modern Danish spelling: Dannevirke; in Old Norse Danavirki ; in German Danewerk ; is a system of Danish fortifications in Schleswig-Holstein (Northern Germany). This important linear defensive earthwork was constructed across the neck of the Cimbrian...

. Dybbøl particularly lacked safe shelters in the forward line, but worse, the technological developments in artillery (particularly long-range rifled guns) had made the geography of the position unsuited for a lengthy defense. The line had too little depth, and across the waters of the southern inlet (forming the southern part of the peninsula) modern guns could subject the main defensive line to raking fire along the length of the line. This meant that not only was the position effectively saturated during the approximately two months of bombardment, but also most of the defending crew had to be withdrawn far behind the line because of attrition by the bombardment and lack of effective shelters, and when the storm assault was finally initiated, the line was consequently undermanned by tired and demoralised troops.

The Danes did have one major advantage in that they had more or less unchallenged command of the sea and so were able to deploy the modern ironclad
Ironclad warship
An ironclad was a steam-propelled warship in the early part of the second half of the 19th century, protected by iron or steel armor plates. The ironclad was developed as a result of the vulnerability of wooden warships to explosive or incendiary shells. The first ironclad battleship, La Gloire,...

 Rolf Krake
Rolf Krake (warship)
Rolf Krake was a Danish ironclad named after Rolf Krake, a hero of Danish saga.The vessel was designed by Cowper Phipps Coles, a pioneering naval architect, and she was the first warship of any navy to carry a turret of the type designed by Coles...

 to the scene to support Danish ground forces at Dybbøl with shore bombardments from its turret mounted 8 inch guns. For much of the siege of Rolf Krake was used as a mobile heavy seaborne artillery platform and the Prussians were almost helpless to counter it since they had no naval forces of their own capable of matching the Danish navy, a fact that sapped Prussian morale. The firepower of the Rolf Krake was not exploited as well as it could have been. It has been pointed out that the vessel could have been employed to more aggressively shell the Prussian siege works which were relatively exposed to naval bombardment but the ship nevertheless rendered invaluable support.


On the morning of 18 April 1864 at Dybbøl, the Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

ns moved into their positions at 02:00 am. At 10 a.m. the Prussian artillery bombardment stopped and the Prussians charged through shelling from the Rolf Krake which did not prove enough to halt them. Thirteen minutes after the charge, the Prussian infantry had already seized control of the first line of defence of the redoubt
A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, though others are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a...

A total massacre of the retreating troops was avoided and the Prussian advance halted by a counterattack by the 8th Brigade, until a Prussian attack threw them back; that attack advanced about 1 km and reached Dybbøl Mill. In that counterattack the 8th Brigade lost about half their men, dead or wounded or captured. This let the remnants of 1st and 3rd Brigades escape to the pier opposite Sønderborg. At 13:30 the last resistance collapsed at the bridgehead in front of Sønderborg
Sønderborg Municipality , is a municipality in Region of Southern Denmark partially on the Jutland peninsula and partially on the island of Als in south Denmark, at the border with Germany. The municipality covers an area of , and has a total population of 76,236...

. After that there was an artillery duel across the Alssund
The Alssund is the narrow strait between Als island and the mainland of Jutland, in Denmark....


During the battle around 3,600 Danes and 1,200 Prussians were either killed, wounded or disappeared. A Danish official army casualty list at the time said: 671 dead; 987 wounded, of which 473 were captured; 3,131 unwounded captured and/or deserters; total casualties 4,789. The 2nd and 22nd Regiments lost the most. Also, the crew of the Danish naval ship Rolf Krake
Rolf Krake (warship)
Rolf Krake was a Danish ironclad named after Rolf Krake, a hero of Danish saga.The vessel was designed by Cowper Phipps Coles, a pioneering naval architect, and she was the first warship of any navy to carry a turret of the type designed by Coles...

 suffered 1 dead, 10 wounded.

The Battle of Dybbøl was the first battle monitored by delegates of the Red Cross: Louis Appia
Louis Appia
Louis Paul Amédée Appia was a Swiss surgeon with special merit in the area of military medicine. In 1863 he became a member of the Geneva "Committee of Five", which was the precursor to the International Committee of the Red Cross...

 and Charles van de Velde.
Following the battle, the Prussians used the fort area as a starting point to attack Als
Battle of Als
The Battle of Als was fought on 29 June 1864 during the Second Schleswig War between Denmark and Prussia. It was the last major engagement of the war, as the Prussians under General Herwarth von Bittenfeld secured Als after a night attack masterminded by the Chief of Staff Leonhard Graf von...

 in June 1864.


While the battle of Dybbøl was a defeat for the Danes the activities of the Rolf Krake along with other Danish naval actions during the conflict served to highlight the naval weakess of Prussia. In an attempt to remedy this the Austro-Prussians dispatched a naval squadron to the Baltic which was intercepted and soundly defeated by the Danish Navy at the Battle of Helgoland. A peace treaty was signed on October 30, 1864 that essentially turned the duchies of Schleswig
Schleswig or South Jutland is a region covering the area about 60 km north and 70 km south of the border between Germany and Denmark; the territory has been divided between the two countries since 1920, with Northern Schleswig in Denmark and Southern Schleswig in Germany...

 and Holstein
Holstein is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany....

 into an "Austro-Prussian condominium
Condominium (international law)
In international law, a condominium is a political territory in or over which two or more sovereign powers formally agree to share equally dominium and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it up into 'national' zones.Although a condominium has always been...

, under the joint sovereignty of the two states." The German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

, had taken one of the first steps toward launching the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 that would dominate Europe until World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...



See also Second Schleswig War - Consequences.

Every year on 18 April a national memorial is held in Dybbøl. Danish soldiers appear in period uniforms. The 140 year anniversary (in 2004) was a special event in Denmark. Sociologists
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 still refer to the Battle of Dybbøl when commenting on the relationship between Danes and Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....


Karl Klinke, a Prussian soldier who is said to have run onto the redoubt carrying explosives and igniting them by the palisades thus killing himself and blowing a hole into the Danish redoubt, was immortalized in a poem written by Theodor Fontane
Theodor Fontane
Theodor Fontane was a German novelist and poet, regarded by many as the most important 19th-century German-language realist writer.-Youth:Fontane was born in Neuruppin into a Huguenot family. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to an apothecary, his father's profession. He became an...

. Johann Gottfried Piefke
Johann Gottfried Piefke
Johann Gottfried Piefke was a German conductor, Kapellmeister and composer of military music....

, a composer of well-known military marches, dedicated the Düppeler Schanzen Sturmmarsch to this battle. (See :de:Karl Klinke (in German).)

On the field of Dybbøl were formerly national symbols of both warring sides: the Danish Dybbøl Mill and the German Düppeldenkmal. Dybbøl Mill still stands, but the German victory monument was blown up in 1945. The perpetrators were never identified, and this monument has never been rebuilt.

External links

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