Siege of Älvsborg, to 4 September 1563

The siege of Älvsborg was the first fighting in the Nordic Seven Years War (1563-1570) between Sweden and Denmark-Norway. In 1564 Älvsborg was Sweden’s only outlet onto the North Sea – the southern and western coastlines of modern Sweden were still Danish provinces. Frederick II of Denmark had hoped to launch a twin pronged attack on Sweden in 1563, attacking Älvsborg and Kalmar at the same time. He had raised a large enough army to achieve this – Denmark was ideally located to recruit mercenaries in Germany, and Frederick had raised an army 25-28,000 strong, but he did not have enough artillery to attempt two widely separated sieges at the same time. The Danish army sailed from Copenhagen on 5 August, protected by a fleet of 27 warships.

Älvsborg was protected by recently updated fortifications, 148 guns and a garrison 700 strong with two months of supplies. The garrison was perhaps strong enough to defeat an assault on intact fortifications, but a three day long Danish bombardment blew a hole in the walls wide enough to allow the city to be stormed. Faced with the prospect of a hopeless battle in the breach, on 4 September the Swedish garrison surrendered.

Despite attempts by Erik XIV of Sweden to recapture Älvsborg, the town remained in Danish hands until the end of the war, when it was returned to Sweden in return for a ransom of 150,000 riksdalers. The loss of Älvsborg completed the isolation of Sweden from the North Sea and the southern Baltic. Even if Älvsborg had been retained by Sweden, it would probably not have been a valuable source of supplies – it would still have been surrounded by Danish territory, and the route between Älvsborg and the heart of Sweden around Stockholm was long and vulnerable to Danish attack. Nevertheless the capture of Älvsborg would remain a Danish priority in wars with Sweden until the loss of the Danish provinces across the sound reduced its importance.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 July 2007), Siege of Älvsborg, to 4 September 1563, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_alvsborg1563.html

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