Military Wiki
Torstenson War
Part of the Thirty Years' War
LocationDenmark, Norway, Sweden
Result Swedish victory
Jämtland, Härjedalen, Gotland, parts of Älvdalen Municipality, Saaremaa and Halland (on 30 years) become Swedish territories
Sweden Sweden
 Dutch Republic
Denmark Denmark–Norway
 Holy Roman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Sweden Gustav Horn
Sweden Carl Gustaf Wrangel
Sweden Lennart Torstenson
Dutch Republic Maerten Thijssen
Denmark Christian IV of Denmark
Denmark Hannibal Sehested
Denmark Anders Bille
Denmark Ebbe Ulfeldt
Holy Roman Empire Matthias Gallas
24,600 Swedes 26,000 Danes
6,000 Germans

The Torstenson war, Hannibal controversy or Hannibal War (Norwegian language: Hannibalsfeiden) was a short period of conflict between Sweden and Denmark–Norway which occurred in 1643 to 1645 during the waning days of the Thirty Years' War. The names refer to Swedish general Lennart Torstenson and Norwegian governor-general Hannibal Sehested.

Denmark, who had already withdrawn from the Thirty Years' War by the Treaty of Lübeck in 1629, suffered a major defeat. In the Second Treaty of Brömsebro (1645), which concluded the war, Denmark had to make huge territorial concessions and exempt Sweden from the Sound Dues, de facto acknowledging the end of the Danish dominium maris baltici. Danish efforts to reverse this result in the Second Northern, Scanian and Great Northern wars were unsuccessful.


Sweden had been highly successful in the Thirty Years' War, having defeated Imperial armies in Germany and seen substantial victories under Gustavus Adolphus and, after his death, under the leadership of Count Axel Oxenstierna, Lord High Chancellor of Sweden. At the same time, Sweden was continually threatened by Denmark–Norway, which almost completely encircled Sweden from the south (Blekinge, Scania, and Halland), the west (Bohuslän) and the northwest (Jämtland). The Danish Sound Dues were also a continuing source of irritation and a contributing factor to the war.

In the spring of 1643 the Swedish Privy Council determined that their military strength made territorial gains at the expense of Denmark likely. The Count drew up the plan for war and directed a surprise multiple-front attack on Denmark in May.


Swedish Field Marshal Lennart Torstensson was ordered to march against Denmark. Proceeding from Moravia, his forces entered Danish territory at Holstein on 12 December and by the end of January 1644 the Jutland peninsula was in his possession. In February 1644 the Swedish General Gustav Horn occupied much of the then Danish provinces of Halland and Scania, except for the Danish fortress town of Malmø, with an army of 11,000 men.



This attack caught Denmark unaware and poorly prepared, but King Christian IV retained his presence of mind. He placed his confidence in the fleet to protect the home islands, just winning the Battle of Colberger Heide on 1 July 1644 but suffering a decisive defeat in the Battle of Fehmarn on 13 October 1644 against a Dutch–Swedish fleet.

He also counted on the forces of Norway to relieve the pressures on Danish provinces in Scania by attacking Sweden along the Norwegian-Swedish border.


Norway, which was then governed by Christian's son-in-law, Governor-General Hannibal Sehested, was a reluctant participant. The Norwegian populace opposed an attack on Sweden, correctly suspecting that an attack on Sweden would only leave them open to counterattack. Their opposition to Statholder Sehested’s direction grew bitter, and the war was lampooned as the "Hannibal war." The Danes cared little for Norwegian public sentiment when Denmark itself was seriously threatened, and Jacob Ulfeld initiated an attack into Sweden from Norwegian Jemtland. He was driven back out of Sweden and Swedish troops temporarily occupied Jemtland as well as advancing into the Norwegian Østerdal before being driven back.

Sehested had made preparations to advance with his own army and a similar army under Henrik Bjelke into Swedish Värmland, but was ordered to relieve the King in the Danish attack on Gothenburg. Upon the arrival of Sehested the King joined his fleet and performed heroically, even though wounded, preventing Torstensson’s army from moving onto the Danish islands.

On the Norwegian front, Sehested attacked the newly founded Swedish city of Vänersborg and destroyed it. He also sent Norwegian troops under the command of George von Reichwein across the border from Vinger and Eidskog as well as troops under Henrik Bjelke into Swedish Dalsland.


The Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645. Brown: Denmark–Norway; Green: Sweden; Yellow: the provinces of Jämtland, Härjedalen, Idre & Särna and the Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel, which were ceded to Sweden; Red: the province of Halland, ceded for 30 years

Christian’s Danish forces were so exhausted that he was forced to accept the mediation of France and the United Provinces in suing for peace; and to sign the Peace of Brömsebro on 13 August 1645, a humiliating disaster to Denmark–Norway. The Swedes had achieved much from their surprise attack on Denmark. They were exempted from the Sound Dues, the toll for passing through Danish territory into the Baltic Sea. Denmark–Norway ceded to Sweden the Norwegian provinces of Jemtland, Herjedalen and Idre & Serna and the strategically located Danish islands of Gotland in the center of the Baltic and Øsel in the Baltic Sea. Further, Sweden occupied the Danish province of Halland as well as other territories for 30 years as a guarantee of these provisions. The Peace also included the Danish heir to the throne, Frederick II, Administrator of the Prince-Bishopric of Verden (1634–1645) and of the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen (1635–1645), who had to resign, with the two prince-bishoprics being occupied by the Swedes. According to the Peace of Westphalia both prince-bishoprics became a fief of the Holy Roman Empire to the Swedish crown in 1648.

Long-term consequences

The defeat of Denmark reversed the historic balance of power in the Baltic. Sweden now virtually controlled the Baltic, had unrestricted access to the North Sea and was no longer encircled by Denmark–Norway.

As importantly, the successful surprise attack assured that Denmark–Norway now looked for an opportunity to recoup their losses, while Sweden looked for opportunities to expand further, setting the stage for continued conflict on the Baltic over the next century.


  • History of the Norwegian People, by Knut Gjerset, The MacMillan Company, 1915, Volume II
  • Nordens Historie, by Hiels Bache, Forslagsbureauet, Kjøbenhavn, 1884.
  • Sweden and the Baltic, 1523–1721, by Andrina Stiles, Hodder & Stoughton, 1992 ISBN 0-340-54644-1
  • The Struggle for Supremacy in the Baltic: 1600–1725, by Jill Lisk; Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1967
  • The Northern Wars, 1558–1721 by Robert I. Frost; Longman, Harlow, England; 2000 ISBN 0-582-06429-5

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