Fredericia: From siege to honor and celebration (Taste the history)
May and June 1849 were hard for Fredericia's soldiers. A fortress was under siege and outside the ramparts lay over 14,000 Schleswig-Holstein forces.
Day by day the enemy expanded their defensive positions, so that a possible escape from the fortress became more and more difficult. Occasionally the Schleswig-Holsteins bombarded the city. Supplies were small. And the daily ration was monotonous. Hear for yourself:
The daily ration of the private soldier
“Every day we got 1 ½ pounds* of bread or 1 pound of dry ice skates. ½ pound of salted or smoked meat or pork or 20 lots** of beef. 2/3 pægl*** boiled peas or ¾ pægl barley groats. 1 ½ loads of salt. And then ½ pint of brandy. ½ peg It is barely enough for a hollow tooth”.
*1 pound = 500 g.
**1 lot = 15.63 g.
***1 peg = 0.24 l
In addition to these in kind, the soldiers also received 10 shillings in ready money per day. He could use them to sweeten life by buying additional food and drink from the itinerant marketers who accompanied the army around. If he wanted some cheese for his bread, it cost 5-8 shillings a pound. If more brandy was needed, it was within reach. A pot of brandy (0.966 l) cost between 8-13 shillings*
*Poul Thestrup: Mark and shilling, kroner and øre Monetary units, prices and wages in Denmark for 350 years (1640-1989)
But on July 6, 1849, something happened.
At night damp and cold
The military logic calculated that you, as the attacking party, should use three times as many soldiers as the opponent had to defend with. And although in the nights up to 6 July it was possible to transfer large troop strength from Funen to Fredericia under cover of darkness, the Danish generals could only muster approx. 19,000 men – approx. half of what was expected would be needed. The generals had to think twice. So they did. They attacked at night.
The outcome started at 1 am. It was unheard of. War was going on in those days. But led by General Rye, the first troops crept north in the middle of the night. And soon it swarmed forward with Danish troops against the surprised Schleswig-Holstein soldiers. The battle took approx. 3 hours. The Danes won. And the significance of the victory was great. Both for the Danes, who after the battle felt invincible. But also for the opponents, as the battle caused Prussia to withdraw from the war.
The victory reverberated throughout Europe. Neither in Germany nor in England did they believe the story to be true. They believed that no one could get that many troops across the strait at that speed without the other side really discovering anything.
We have been celebrating the day ever since.
The soldiers came back to warm beer and sweet soup
When the soldiers came back to Fredericia after the battle, the city was on the other end. Aage Bremerholm tells about the return home in a memoir:
"The women were made to cook in large quantities, and the smell of oat soup and sweet soup, of hot beer and coffee wafted through the hallways and corridors and let one know that something special was afoot.
With the big merchants - Ahlmann, Brøchner, Hassing, Kragh, Seidelin etc. - at the top they were so ready to receive our soldiers with all kinds of good, who were all suffering from a violent hunger, which further increased the pain and fatigue.
Brandy and steaming beer were poured out of the large buckets which had been arranged with foresight along the streets above the Prince's Gate, and the groat and oat soup, together with mountains of buttered bread, disappeared with astonishing speed through the insatiable mouths."
The 6th of July celebrations
Already the year after the outcome, the first 6 July celebration was held. Flowers were placed on the still fresh warrior graves. In 1851, a celebration of honor was organized in Fuglsangskoven, as well as processions and ceremonies in the churches, at the graves and in the town. It is the starting shot for the 5th-6th July celebrations, which were held throughout the country for the next 50 years, and which Fredericia still holds with great traditions and cannon fire. On July 6th 1858, the statue of The Brave Country Soldier was unveiled. And it has since become a natural focal point in the events.
Which rum general are you?
When you come to Fredericia, you can get a very special rum in your basket, so you can taste the history when you get home.