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Battle of Bov - 9th of April 1848
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by Jesper Stenild
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Historical background
This was the first encounter in the 3 year secessional war between Denmark on one side and Schleswig-Holstein supported by Prussia, Austria and the German Federation on the other. Besides being King of Denmark, the Danish King Frederik the 7th, was duke of the minor German duchy, Schleswig-Holstein, which the Danes considered a part of the Danish kingdom.

In 1848 Schleswig-Holstein declared secession, intending to join the German Federation (which was a much looser organisation than the German Federation of today). The result was war. It was not a continuous war, but a kind of stop-and-go war, with several truces implemented (forced by major powers such as Russia and Great Britain). The main pattern was a spring and summer campaign, followed by truce in the winter.

The battle at Bov was hardly a battle, but rather a large skirmish, ending very badly for the Schleswig-Holstein forces. The battle at Bov was the "first Bull run" battle of the Danish / Schleswig-Holstein conflict, at a time where Schleswig-Holstein still was still waiting for the supporting forces from Prussia and the German federation.

Even though the promised help from Prussia and the German federation had not yet reached Rendsburg, the government of Schleswig-Holstein ordered the army to move forward and occupy Flensburg - Let us beat the Danes where we find them, before foreign troops take the honour.

Scene from the retreat of the Schleswig-Holstein army.

Scene from the retreat of the Schleswig-Holstein army.

On the 31st of March the army of Schleswig-Holstein moved forward and occupied Flensborg with 7000 troops under General Krohn. The Danes reacted promptly and moved forward, and landed troops on the peninsula ‘Holdnaes’ east of Flensburg. In fear of being surrounded, Gen. Krohn asked for permission to fall back. He got it, and prepared for a withdrawal on the 9th of April 1848. But the Danish attack came in the morning between 8.00 and 9.00 am on the 9th of April.

The Danish plan was to make a diversion on the left flank, while the right flank and the cavalry would sweep forward and left and surround the Schleswig-Holstein forces. The attack was supported by a small Danish naval squadron in Flensburg Fjord. The Schleswig-Holstein forces were placed, where they easily could get on the march, but they were ill-prepared to put up any co-ordinated resistance.

Kort over kampen ved Bov
Battle of Bov (art: Gert Laursen)

Two untried forces met. The Schleswig-Holstein army was outnumbered and more prepared for withdrawal than for fighting. The forces were badly co-ordinated and isolated, and the superior commander (the Prince of Noer) arrived on the battlefield 2 hours after the fighting started. The result was a confused battle and an easy Danish victory.

The casualties were:

Dead: 5 officers, 30 men
Wounded: 3 officers, 135 men
Unwounded captured: 13 officers, 910 men
Total: 21 officers, 1075 men

Dead: 3 officers, 13 men
Wounded: 5 officers, 61 men
Unwounded captured: none
Total: 8 officers, 74 men

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