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European military history;

baroque military history and historical re-enactment activities in Norway.

The only and best preserved fortified town of the Nordic countries is in Norway. The city of Fredrikstad, founded in1567, is the historical thematic backdrop for the countries "oldest" military platoon. Founded in 1997, the ”Kong Frederik IVs Tambourafdeling” is working with historical re-enactment; civil life, cultural activities as music, handcraft, food and arts as well as the military history.

The Tambourafdeling wears the uniform ordered by the Danish/ Norwegian king, Christian V. This was the first overall design for his Army – made in 1697 and each regiment was dedicated a system of colour combinations for recognition. As in other countries of the time, the colours tell which regiment the platoon belongs to, and King Fredrik IVs Tambourafdeling belongs to ”The Smaalensche Regiment”. The light grey colour of the overcoat is the standard colour of the Army, and the indigo blue is the regimental colour worn on cuffs, camisole, stockings and trousers. The shirt is white linen.

Historically King Frederik IVs Tambourafdeling never existed as normal military group, platoon or otherwise. In that matter this re-enactment  is a fake. But the re-enactment activity as the gathering of military musicians in this manner is not a fake - it is based on real life and military traditions dated early 1700.

Teaching military music in late baroque.  
In 18th century all military signals and music was learned by listening and practice. Writing the down signals and music as notes, bars and rhythmical instruction is about 50 years ahead in time - at least in the Danish/ Norwegian Army. The potential drummer or Pfeiffer of the 18th century Army is also a non literal. All new signals and military music were therefore first instructed to the Regimental Drummer of the Kings Life Guard in Copenhagen, who thought the music to the other Regiments leading drummers throughout the Danish / Norwegian twin monarchy.

The Regimental Drummers of Norway had to travel by boat to Copenhagen to learn. Afterwards they brought the knowledge back with them to their regiment, and taught all signals and marches to the company drummers. The Regimental Pfeiffer made the same voyage to the kings city.
So, what the Tambourafdeling puts on display is historically correct. We stage a situation where all drummers in the nearby companies in the Smaalensche Regiment - from both sides of the Oslo Fjord - are gathered in the depot town of Smaalensche Regiment - Fredrikstad - to learn the signals and music from the Regimental Drummer. Such gatherings are documented on etchings at The Queens Life Guard in Copenhagen.

Re-making the oldest military uniform of Norway.
The King Frederik IVs Tambourafdeling uniform consists of the usual male dress of the period; The Justacord, waistcoat - camisole, shirt, trousers, blouse, hat, long stockings and boots. The main colour of the Norwegian Army was as the kings commanded light grey. The Smaalensche Regiment had indigo blue cuffs, linen, trousers, stockings and camisole. All leathergoods are natural yellow - except for the black boots.

The Tambourafdeling carries special designed buttons made of pewter. The button has the king Fredrik IVs crowned cipher - a design with the capital F and number 4 linked together. The buttons are made as replicas of one button found in a ship-wreck – the "Lossen". The fregatt was built in Fredrikstads naval shipyard in 1687. "Lossen" sunk in a horrible storm sending shock-waves over the whole of Europe, Christmas night 1717 outside Hvaler -  a group of 1000 islands outside Fredrikstad. It is not documented who were onboard that ship.  In the same trunk the button was found 1967, in the first Norwegian marine archaeological investigation, there was found flints and other belongings that could have been those of a soldier or an officer. As long as this ship also was a navy ship, and we know that the sailors onboard naval ships normally got the used equipment from ashore - we choose to assume this was the belongings of an officer or a soldier onboard the "Lossen", perhaps travelling to learn the signals and other music in Copenhagen.

Musketeers and pikes for the platoon.
The weapons used in the platoon are the usual smooth-bored flintlock musket  ”the Brown Bess”, with bayonet and sword (chord). The Ober-Offizier carries sword (chord) and half pike and esponton as symbols of rank, and the Unter-Offizier carries the helliabard.

For a short while, because the Swedish king had success with the use of them, the Danish/ Norwegian Army also brought the full-pike back in action and the Tambourafdeling uses them. The weapon is almost 4 meter long with a sharpened iron end. The regulations for the use of them date back to 1673.
The Tambourafdeling re-enacts a period between the plug bayonet and the more modern bayonet. As we have chosen the Brown Bess, and not matchlock muskets, we also have chosen the more modern variation of bayonet. The drill- and exercise-regulations we use also work with this type of weapon.

The baldrich combines the bayonet and the sword. The sword is to be worn somewhat on the back because of the loading manoeuvres.

Military music as the most important task of re-enactment.
The Platoons activities are devised in two;
·        one for civilians or camp followers, "markententeri",
·        and furthermore one for musketeers and musicians .
Fully equipped the platoon will also have Zimmermen (carpenters), Profoss (Military police) and Grenadiers. The last ones will carry the characteristic high, edged hat with front shield with different design for each branch.

The Tambourafdeling makes an effort in working with quality in all aspects of the re-enactment. For instance the Tambourafdeling has 6 brass drums. These are exact replicas of drums of late 1600
- approx. 16 inches wide - with snares. They are exact with one exemption - we do not use calf hide as drumskin. That would not be possible to use in normal Norwegian summer weather - dusk
rain. The drums are handmade from scratch in Norway by Olsen Brs., in “Hurdalen Instrumentservice”. The rich rumbling sound of such drums carries a long way - and has not been heard in Norway since early 1800 - until our platoon brought it back again.

Military music – the pipes and drums - is an international tradition.
The military music of the infantry in the beginning of the 18th century consists of pipes and drums along with wind-instruments as oboe, serpent and horns. Now the Tambourafdeling only uses pipes and drums, but in the future lies the wish of a full ”Houtboist-group" for entertaining the regiment staff. Our 6 pipes are made of rosewood, bought from Dixie, USA. On assignments, when we have a small number of Pfifes, a normal modern piccolo flute is used to make the sound carry through the ranks.
The regulations of 1740 (the oldest one in the Norwegian defence museum), gives specific instructions for "everything" in the army as well as the artillery. The drummer is allowed to play
the music he wants, but he has to know by heart all signals that are in use - new as well as old. According to this, our drummers have picked up an old Norwegian tradition; the old dance music played on drums as a solo instrument.
In the Norwegian army, the fiddleplayers most certainly were picked as drummers - because they knew rhythm and had a trained musical ear and traditional musical background. So we think these musicians used the drum as they used their fiddle - with the bordune tones of the tremolos as backing and thematic musical marcatos from the tunes on top as they played for dancing – in weddings as well as other festivities.

The Tambourafdeling displays several of these tunes called "slåtter" according to situation and circumstance. Having a Tambour plying at weddings was in use in the western part of Norway until 1900 - of tradition as well as for bringing good luck to the bride and groom. We try to use music that could have been in use in "our" time. But, as noted before, it is a problem to get original music from earlier than 1750, so it is necessary to cheat a little.

As for the military daily work, the signals is essential - from "waking up" and "gathering" the platoon in the morning, delivery of food, marching, and to the "tappenstrek" at night when everybody was supposed to get to bed. Luckily we have come across signals possibly form early 1700 (they are not dated), and we are working with reconstructing the somewhat difficult-to-read notes (approx. 30 pieces).

German is still in use as commanding language.
The platoon is now making an effort in getting close to the original effect - also in command language and directing the troops. We are using the regulation of 1740, written in German as guideline for our activities. The regulations fill 4 books and had to be translated for our use (from gothic printing). We put these commands, directions and baroque military bureaucracy together in a form we can understand, interpret, use and re-enact.  In Norway the tradition in these regulations were broken i 1845 with the union between Sweden and Norway. So what the Tambour-platoon is doing is actually practical studies and scientific practice to establish what really happened – total re-enactment.

The regulations are building their commands and military technique on an underlay of understanding and former practice - well known and used when the books were written. This part is of course not available for us today. Therefore we have to do a lot of research, and practical training to find out what the author of the regulations really meant by the paragraphs.

The commanding language of the 18th century Danish/ Norwegian army was German. All original instructions and paroles, reports, orders of the day and total regulations are written and printed in German. The Tambourafdeling uses the same language, but with a Norwegian twist, as we use Norwegian as instruction language between the commands.

The interesting part of 18th century drill instruction is the philosophy of the 4 lines in attacking formation, and how to keep every man in position whatever happened. The regulations tells that the tallest men was placed in 1st rank, the next in the 4th rank, thereafter was the 2nd. rank was filled up, the 3rd rank got what was left. The uniforms also differed according to the soldiers place in the ranks in amount of buttons. The middle ranks got less buttons because they did not show as well as the one in front and back!

This also tells us that every man had his specific place in the ranks. Once placed, a soldier knew where he belonged, who he was to march in front of, or after. A practical solution and very good to know when the smoke of the muskets and artillery became so thick that it was almost impossible to see more than three men aside or in front.

So, when the platoon, battalion and regiment has gone through the "Rangierung", and everybody is in place according to regulations, the main problem is how to keep the formation in order to get to the battlefield. It was a tidious operation, and it was essential to avoid chaos.

Every platoon leader, battalion commander, or regimental chief had to give clear orders when the group was to march. Should the party break up to the left or the right, every soldier had once more to be placed correctly. The grenadiers could march in front or in the middle, the Zimmermen should normally march first to cut small bushes and make way for the platoon and regiment. The position of the standard-bearer(s) the Fändrik (or as it is put in German - Fahnenträger) was either in the front or in the middle. To get all men in correct position was difficult and the necessity of giving precise instructions had to be taken care of after certain specific ceremonials.

After a long rows of movements every man had to know his place. The main principle is that the company, battalion or regiment is "rangiert" as going to battle every time it is gathered. Even the camp is organised that way - the soldiers literally sleeps in correct position.

But it is difficult to move such a wide group and soldiers. Therefore, when moving from one place to another, the battle formation was broken into Züge or smaller parts in a width practical to advance in on the narrow roads and paths. Normally the platoon formed a width of 4 soldiers. Using this method it will not bring ranks to disorder when arrived at the battlefield, campground, fortress or wherever the regiment was headed. The Army turned and marched into battleorder on full with – four men in depth - as soon as it arrived in place.

Even the camp is structured and the tents are put up according to battle positions of the ranks on the battlefield.

Living in the baroque times - in camp.
There are special chapter in the regulations ordering that greetings and other ceremonial between officers not should be done with an exaggeration of gestures or movements. One can imagine an officer – often a young nobleman - giving orders and greetings to another in higher rank before the regulations and clearly understand the necessity of ordering more simplicity in manners.

The drum-signals were used to weak up the men, gather them (by Vergatherung-signal), and to march them off to the battlefields using flying colours and full music with pipes and drums - at least inside the town and when passing fortresses. Outside, the drums were carried on the back, the muskets turned - at order - upside down "Verkehrt getragen" on the shoulder. The officers servants took over the boring work; they carried the rolled-up standards for the Fändrik. The Ober-Offizier mounted his horse, brought to him by his servant who in return got the officers halfpike and took his position in the regiments marching formation.

Eating in style as an officer should also be something to make a display of in an re-enactment camp. It was not unusual that a regiments commanding officer had 12 - 30 different dishes served in camp! There was also non-written regulations of this - and every officer had to know his position.
A lower rank officer should not have more galloons than the ones of higher rank. But this was not put up as regulations - it was etiquette and understood between them. Galloons was extremely expensive -  in gold or silver, so the king finally put it into a system with the regulations of 1740, where he ordered no-one to put more galloons on his uniform or hat than specifically described and ordered in the regulations without "running the risk to fall in the kings disgrace" - a powerful threat.

All this and even more…
All this is a glimpse of the everyday-life of the baroque soldier the Tambourafdeling want to show off to the audience. And our playground is fantastic!

Fredrikstad - in the focus of the European military architects.
Once Fredrikstad was in focus of the European fortress-building. The Luxembourg General Caspar de Cicignon has planned, drawn and built a fantastic. little fortress called "Kongsten" (The Kings Stone) as a frontline fortress for the depot – the fortified town Fredrikstad. The fortress was almost ready in 1685 - and soon it draw attention from Europe’s architects and fortress builders. Caspar de Cicignon had made this small fortress very strong with a lot of hidden underground "kasemattes" - bomb-safe shelters for the personnel - combined with artillery platforms useful to shoot alongside the outer walls. This combination was new at the time, and so interesting that fortification architects travelled all over Europe - even from Venice – to look at the new combinations and the underground barracks – the kasematts.

The fortress also have in addition to the kasematts – a depot for gunpowder, grain and guns, a well, officers- and private barracks above ground, and the live-in-house of the fortress' commanding officer - normally a lieutenant – with working bakeryoven in the basement. The fortress is still more or less as de Cicignon planned and raised it in 1685. The fortress was in use in WW2. In 1947 the fortress was put under protection and supervision of Fredrikstad museum. For several years it has served as the city’s official banquet hall. Today Kongsten is under reconstruction as a baroque fortress and effective war-machine being put back to the times around 1700 and the playpen for the Tambourafdeling.

Kongsten Fortress - the essence of a baroque military machine.
This small heap of stone covers merely some hundred square meters, but represents most of the Italian fortificatory technique of the time. The altogether 4 buildings on the premises are surrounded by stonewalls and placed on top of a small hill just outside the fortified town. A sheltered road leads from the fortress to the town.

Re-enactment in Norway.
In Norway this is a recently new pastime activity. The Norwegian history could be divided in several clusters. For re-enactors the most popular have been the napoleonic period, mostly because of the freedom war of 1807-1814, and the fact that this is a period when the Norwegian had hope of building a nation and break the ties with Denmark, with which Norway had been united under one king for about 350 years.

The other period to engage in for re-enactors is the period of the Great Nordic War - from the end of 1600 to around 1720. The two kings - King Friedrich IV of Denmark/ Norway and his cousin King Carl XII of Sweden were both responsible for the war as Friedrich started it all in intervening in Holstein Gottorp. King Carl XII, 17 years old and only just after taking command over his army, made a drastic tactical move and attacked Copenhagen. King Friedrich had to make a retreat to save his capital city.

The Swedish king, as many of his ancestors, brought his army around most of Europe from Finland and Russia all the way down to Poland, where he lost almost the whole army in the battle of Poltava. The king and a handful of men fled to Turkey, stayed there for several years, fought himself out of custody at Bender, rode back to Stralsund in Poland, and returned back to Sweden where he put up a new army. He thereafter attacked Norway twice; first in 1716 when he was stopped at Christiania (Oslo) because he did not carry his heavy artillery with him and his line and supply was cut off by the Norwegian admiral Peter Wessel Tordenskiold at the battle of Dynekilen. King Carl XII or Carolus Rex, attacked Norway the 2. time in 1718, tried to conquer Fredriksten Fortress in Halden the key to Norway, but ended his life in a trench a couple of hundred yards outside the fortress with a bullethole through his head.
Thereby he ended the war.

Up to these days it is a intriguing theme whether the Swedish king was killed by a Norwegian kardesk-bullet from Overberget Fortress shot by a cannon, or he was killed by his own - perhaps in a great plot to make the prince Karl of Hessen the new King, and stop the war with the same solution.

The interest for the Great Nordic War comes from the fact that the Swedish king was killed only 35 kilometres from Fredrikstad, and that a group of re-enactors started “Fredriksten Artillery Company” almost 10 years ago, based on these historical events early 1700.

Co-operation between our groups makes it possible to build up bigger groups and show off more interesting elements of the re-enactment as “Smaalensche Regiment”. Also in Sweden there are several groups (20-30) working with the Carolinian period. When the two parties meet, this gives a very good impression on how it was like to be soldier in the great Nordic war - one group of soldiers inside the fortress - the other on in camp - outside.          

The Tambourafdeling is member of a bigger group – The Smaalensche Regiment - as mentioned above. This regiment consist today in addition to Tambourafdelingen of Fredriksten Artillery Company, Halden, Rhyggesche Musketeer Company - from Rygge outside the city of Moss, Blachierische Musket Company, and Skedsmo Dragon Company (mounted infantry) - from outside Oslo. All together these groups counts 80 - 100 members in uniform and about 30-40 members as civilians, children and women. The equipment differ some in time period, from Tambourafdelingen as the oldest at late 1600, till The Skedsmo Dragon Company which uniforms dates back to about 1780.

King Frederik IV Tambour Platoon celebrates the 30th of May.
On this is the day, in 1704, King Friedrich IV of Denmark Norway embarked in Fredrikstad, Norway, on his first visit in his "other" country. We have firsthand descriptions of what happened, and try to make history come alive again on the very spot where it happened, on the date, and doing the same movements that we know could have happened when there was held a "Münsterung" at the edge of the river Glomma in 1704.

In addition to the direct historical copy of the kings visit, we also show off some of the life on campus and fortress of Kongsten and in the fortress town. The Swedes are attacking the Norwegian fortress and show what would have happened in such a small battle all over Europe, when commanders wanted to test out one another without engaging the whole army.

How to make a battle re-enactment without really dying in trying to make it realistic?
The strategic plot is that the Swedish army wants to test out the Danish Norwegian army in reactions and tactics. So the Swedish commander asks himself: "How are the Danish/ Norwegian Army going to act on an attach at Fredrikstad?"

The Swedes follow the old tradition in firing a gun to tell the fortress it is under attack. To declare war. The fortress engages the Swedes with heavy artillery firing, as the commander gets information about where the enemy is, how many they are, what sort of equipment they carry with them and so on. He sends out a mounted infantryman to get the information. As he returns the "Vergatterung" signal sounds to gather the piquet. The inspections are done - first by the Unter-Offizier, then by the lieutenant, then by the adjutant, and then by the colonel himself. After a short speech, the last directions are given, the password is given to the platoon-commander, and then they leave the fortress - with flying colours and full music.

The battle formations are done according to regulations of 1700 - and the battle is one of those where the enemies never actually ever get even a glimpse of one another. The commanders do what they should do - they test each other, and make their conclusions. The Swedes return to camp - and the Danish/ Norwegians shouts out in happiness as they think they have won!

It is a fact that more men died of illness than in battle. What we show off in this manoeuvres, is the training of a1700- army. And in fact we put on display the most effective strategy - the “show-off”. Making the statement of all times: "I am stronger than you are!". Which normally gave the result that one party made a retreat, the other one stayed in the fortress, and life went on.

As a military historian once said – the biggest and most important battles was never fought.