General Rye’s fortification

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At the eastern end of Jutland you will find a little peninsula called Helgenæs the peninsula is only connected to the mainland of Jutland by a very narrow piece of land of only 220 meters which has made this very spot an important military area for around a thousand years.

The narrow access to the peninsula with water on both sides

It is thought the Vikings drew their ships over land at this very spot so they could save the longer sail around the peninsula – an experiment has been done in recent years and apparently it is possible to drag a replica Viking ship across the peninsula at this very spot in just half an hour.

View from the fortification

A couple of hundred years after the Vikings pulled their ships at this spot the whole peninsula became the property of Marsk Stig who was the second most powerful man in Denmark second only to the king. His title of marsk meant supreme commander of the army and is an early version of the title field marshal.

View from the top of the old fortification

Marsk Stig built a wall across Helgenæs where it was so narrow so he had a stronghold to protect himself in case of trouble. He did indeed run into trouble because he fell out with the king. He ended up being put on trial for the murder of a king – he and several other noble men were forced to leave Denmark or be killed. They fled and Marsk Stig didn’t return to his estate at Helgenæs to test the fortification in practice.

In 1848 war broke out because some people in Schleswig and Holstein rose in rebellion against the Danish king demanding independence. This wasn’t granted and the rebels were helped by Prussia and Austria – after a while they had occupied most of Jutland but a few parts were protected by strongholds. One of these strongholds was the fortification at Helgenæs where General Rye had taken his troops during the retreat and made some fairly strong fortifications which could easily control the access to the peninsula.

Stone on top of the fortification

The general did control the area and the rebel army never attempted to attack the strong position. But the general decided it was about time to leave. Rye and his men embarked on the Danish navy ships and sailed to Fyn from where they later continued to another stronghold along the east coast of Jutland in Fredericia. Here Rye joined other parts of the Danish army and when they had joined their forced they made an attack from the city of Fredericia to win an important victory outside the city. This is commemorated with the statue of the foot soldier just next to the fortification of Fredericia.

The narrow land access to Helgenæs

Today you can visit the old fortification Rye left behind – there has been no urban development at the area so the only creatures which called the old place their home is the local sheep’s. We walk through the area which is a nice little walk and get to the top of the fortification where they have put a stone. From here there is a pretty good view and it is fairly easy to see why it was so difficult for an attacking army to overrun the opposition here even if the attacker had superior numbers.

Memorial stone

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