The Battle of Öland, (1 June 1676)September 3, 2010 1 Comment
Oil painting by Claus Møinichen showing how Kronan founders and explodes while Svärdet is surrounded by the allied admirals.
The main naval engagement of the Northern War of 1675–1679. Following the 25–26 May 1676 Battle of Jasmund, the Swedish fleet retired toward Stockholm, closely pursued by the combined Danish-Dutch fleet under Cornelis Tromp. The Swedes had 26 line of battleships, 12 frigates, and 17 other vessels, against 25, 10, and 12, respectively, for the Danes and Dutch.
At 8:00 a.m. on 1 June the Swedes reached the southern end of Öland, keeping close inshore, and the combined fleet gained the wind, which was westerly. Swedish admiral Lorenz Creutz then gave a disastrous signal to tack, misunderstanding a signal gun fired in Admiral Clas Uggla’s van squadron. But with his ships carrying all sail, Creutz omitted ordering the lower gun ports closed. His flagship, the 126-gun Krona, immediately began to heel hard over. The already strong wind got up to a squall, and she was already doomed before a fire reached the magazine and blew up the starboard side of the ship. Only 41 men survived out of a ship’s company of 842. (Krona’s wreck site has subsequently become a major source for marine archaeologists, and many artifacts and sections from the ship are displayed at Kalmar.)
The loss of the Krona, and the fact that to avoid the wreckage the van squadron had gone on to a different tack to the rest of the fleet, threw the Swedish fleet into total confusion. Tromp saw his chance to attack, coming up alongside Uggla’s Svärd. The remaining ships were soon engaged. After two hours, Uggla finally struck to Tromp, but a Dutch fireship that failed to recognize the surrender attacked the Svärd, which blew up with the loss of all but 51 of her crew of 670.
This second disaster effectively routed the Swedish fleet; many of the ships simply ran, and those that had been supporting the flagship surrendered. In all, the Swedes lost their three largest warships, as well as a 44-gun frigate and three smaller craft; three other ships went aground, but were later recovered.
As well as the loss of ships and men, the outcome of the battle was a strategic disaster for Sweden, for it permitted the Danes to launch an invasion of Scania and their allies to attack Sweden’s remaining German possessions. The battle revealed that the Swedish navy’s maneuvering in large fleets was suspect, to say the least, and that her senior officers were less competent than their Danish and—especially—their veteran Dutch opponents.
Anderson, R. C. Naval Wars in the Baltic, 1522–1830. London: C. Gilbert-Wood, 1910. Reprint, London: Francis Edwards, 1969.
Rystad, Goran, Klaus-R. Böhme, and Wilhelm M. Carlgren, eds. In Quest of Trade and Security: The Baltic in Power Politics, 1500–1990. Vol. 1. Lund, Sweden: Lund University Press, 1994.