Contenders for the Baltic
For several centuries, Denmark and Sweden fought for supremacy of the Baltic. One of the major wars was the Nordic Seven-Years War of 1563?1570. It is a little unclear who started it and perhaps it does not really matter, because both sovereigns are thought to have relished the opportunity to go to war. Erik XIV had raised his own army, while the Danish king relied on mercenaries.
Returning home with the spoils
By autumn 1565, the Danish army was returning southwards to its winter quarters after the usual plundering, massacres and destruction on Swedish territory. The Swedes employed the same methods, so neither side deserves more sympathy than the other. It was a wet autumn and crossing the watercourses was a difficult business. Near Högvadsån, they were overtaken by Swedish troops under the command of Jakob Hästesko. The Swedish army comprised 12,000 men and the Danish army 8,000. Since the Danes were numerically inferior, they took up a defensive position.
Canons and horses made the difference
At dawn on 20 October 1565, the forces met. Bloody battles ensued throughout the day. It seems that artillery was used extensively. The Danish mercenaries had a lot of cavalry, which is thought to have been decisive in forcing the Swedes to retreat. The Danes remained on the battlefield for a whole week collecting the weapons and equipment they could reuse.
Senseless but worth commemorating
The battle was without major significance to the outcome of the war. The Danish king was ruined by his mercenaries and the Swedish king died of mental derangement. Not much is left visible to show that a great battle took place at Axtorna in 1565, but many finds have been made at archaeological digs. A memorial stone has been set up. Major plans are underway, including a museum, several archaeological studies and re-enactments with live role-play. Battlefield tourism is a growing industry.
Axtorna is located approximately 17 km NNE of Falkenberg in the county of Halland.
Blom, K.A. & Moen, J.: Slagfält i Skåneland ("Battlefields of Scania"), pages 41-43. 1986. ISBN 91-38-61535-5.