Pastor Krag's Account of the Battle of Kringen,
26th August 1612
Massacre of the Scots at Kringen, 26th August
1612, based on accounts gathered in the Gudbrandsdalen
Valley by Hans Petter Schnitler Krag, Pastor of the Parish
of Vågå, 1820-1845
above account, first published in 1838, has just been
revised and re-published in Norwegian and an English
translation by Per A Holst.
This important work, based on the oral traditions
in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley contains many new details of
the events which led up to the ambush at Kringen, and its
with the more popular accounts which possibly sanitises
details to make them sit more comfortably with modern
values, the 1838 collection is uncompromising, and a
little uncomfortable to read at times.
Yet it is resonant of contemporary conflicts in its
brutality, such as in the Balkans, and when it comes to
the aftermath of battle, one can think of the events of
our own Flodden in 1513, Glencoe in 1692, and much later
Culloden in 1746 where great savagery was meted out by
regular soldiers, in contrast to the untrained but
provoked farmers of Gudbrandsdalen who were on their home
are some quite important differences of detail from the
modern accounts. The
first is the nature of the participation of Peder Klungnes,
in this account Peder Klognæs, who heads out to the Scots
ships when they arrive in the Romsdalfjord, thinking they
are merchants. He
is seized by the Scots and forced to pilot them against
his will and then guide them through to Gudbrandsdalen.
It is Klognæs who contrives to conceal and then
send a “budstikke”, or message of alarm, which allows
the farmers to protect themselves and organise a defence.
Colonel (actually Captain, but always Colonel in
the local accounts)
Sinclair is said to have threatened to
re-cast the Norwegian Lion into a mole that will never
again leave its mole-hill, and that as soon as the country
has been conquered his soldiers will be given the best
farms and the most beautiful maidens, and that Hedmark
will be their Land of Canaan.
The soldiers are said to have ravaged and stolen,
mutilated their victims and left them to die and cut the
legs off a dog tied to a gate at one farm to warn of their
Storm’s melodramatic poem this is summarised as:
with him fourteen hundred men;
On mischief all that band was bent;
They spared nor young nor aged then,
But slew and burnt as on they went.
child they killed at the mother’s breast,
Nor cared how sweet so’er its smile;
Of widows’ tears they made a jest;
Sorrow’ loud cry arose the while.
we also see a difference in the number of the Scots.
The total number of mercenaries raised in Scotland
in 1612 was 2,200 or 2,300.
Of these some 1,400 were in the first force to
land, lead by the Swedish Colonel Munkhaven.
This would leave Ramsay’s force as 800 or 900, so not the 1,400 detailed
here or the 600 subsequently related by Slange.
There is also some speculation that Ramsay’s
force divided before the Battle of Kringen.
is a note of human frailty on the farmers, led by Laurits
Hage, the sheriff of Dovre,
as they gather at Nord Sel to plan their ambush.
Finding an ample supply of home brewed beer they
start to drink heavily late into the night, until the more
sensible hammer in the spigots and cut them off flush with
the staves to curtail their enjoyment.
Had they not done so the Scots would have found
them less than alert and events could have turned out
is in this account that we find the now discounted detail
of the logs and rocks used in the ambush.
They picked the ambush site well.
Kringen, in older language “Kringlen” and in
local dialect “Kringom” or “Høg Kringom”, was
well suited for an ambush, as the slope where the farmers
positioned themselves above the old King’s road is about
the steepest in the valley. The farmers are said to have constructed “tømmervelter”,
great sleighs of rocks and logs, held in place with ropes
and wooden stakes, and the farmers concealed the sleighs
and themselves behind cut branches of birch and evergreen.
North and south of the ambush smaller groups formed
cut-offs with spiked logs ready to roll down to contain
the front and rear of the Scots column once the ambush was
Skjenna from Sel was sent out to see if the Scots were
coming and on sighting them rode back and one of the Scots
called out “Look at that boor, he runs away on a
farmers also needed to know how the Scots were advancing,
and to distract them from the ambush preparations.
One of the farmers went out to the islet of Storoy,
out of range of the Scots, in the Lågen River on his
horse and kept pace with the column.
Tradition has it that he sat backwards on his
horse, as represented by the badge of Sinclair’s Club.
A small group of farmers were sent to the other
side of the river to feign an attack as a further
final piece was the village girl, Guri, later known as
Pillarguri, who was set on top of the Seljordskampen hill,
where she could observe the progress of the column and
signal when they were in optimum position for the ambush.
Pastor Krag’s notes suggest that she used a cow
horn rather than the “lur” or wooden trumpet now
favoured by the Gudbrandsdalers as her probable
in his account is the music to “Prillarguri's Song” as
well as the “Sinclair March”. These tunes were popular in the valley when Krag put them to
paper, but have long since passed from use, and are an
important feature rediscovered here.
It is significant that the melody of
“Pillarguri’s Song” contains half-tones in a minor
key which are not playable on a lur, which only allows
natural tones and harmonics.
advance party were allowed to pass, and, as the main force
reached the ambush, Guri played her horn.
She was answered by the pipes.
She played again and the farmers on the far side
feigned their attack.
At this point, with the Scots looking in quite the
wrong direction, the sleighs were released and Berdon
Sejelstad fired his ancient arquebus directly at George Sinclair, killing him outright.
Hundreds were killed by the avalanche of logs and
rocks which struck seconds later.
The farmers then fell on the dazed and disoriented
survivors with their axes, and “Those who were not shot
jumped into the river and many there were drowned.”
Those who got across were killed by the farmers on
the other side. Sinclair’s wife, Ellen, was shot after attacking one of
the farmers who was trying to save her child, and the
child was also killed.
advance party was then pursued and initially laid down
their arms. Then seeing that the farmers were fewer than they supposed
they attacked them, but were quickly over come.
Peder Klognæs was among them and called out in
Norwegian “I am Peder Klognæs, I am Peder Klognæs, I
am one of you!” and was spared.
farmers numbered between 400 and 500 and lost six men and
a few wounded. Of
the Scots 134 survived and were led off to a barn at Klomstad in Kvam, with the intention that they be taken to
the Akershus fortress at Oslo.
But the next day, in an action that was regretted
shortly thereafter and to this day, they were brought out
one by one and executed, until 18 remained.
These included Alexander Ramsay, commander of the
force, Jacob Mannepenge (James
Monneypenney), his second-in-command and
Henry Bruce, all officers.
account also gives details of other survivors of the
battle, reflecting the broader composition of the Scots
tend to think of this as a Sinclair battle, because of the
prominent and romantic role of George Sinclair of Stirkoke. One
is named as Matheson.
A work colleague of mine from Oslo, Arne Matheson,
believes he is descended from this survivor.
course, oral tradition is subject to the vagaries of time.
There is still a sadness in the valley that so many
lives were lost that grim day in 1612.
Sinclair has been built up into a
formidable symbol of the vanquished foe.
His gravestone at Kvam is literally monumental.
It has to be remembered that this is the first sign
of the militant rediscovery of nationhood after unpopular
Swedish rule and the Danish period, and so it may have
suited to emphasise the villainy of the formidable and
unwelcome invader and the valour and skill of the local
farmers, but in all this there must remain a substantial
element of sound historical detail.
Krag’s summary of local oral tradition is accompanied by
contemporary reports confirming details of the events
leading up to the 26th August, the battle and
the aftermath. These
include “The Report to the Danish Chancellor about the
Battle of Kringen from the Norwegian Vice Regent (Stadtholder),
Enwold Kruse and others, dated 17th September,
1612”; Christian IV’s Letters-Patent Gift to Laurits
Hage; Christian IV’s Letters-Patent Gift to Peder
Randklev and Christian IV’s Letters-Patent Gift to
of Per Holst’s booklets are available from
in Otta, Gudbrandsdalen.
There is now a
Kindle edition on Amazon.
The reviewer explain amongs others the origins of Guri's
prefix "Pillar" and "Prillar" etc.