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politics

TORDENSKJOLD BLUFFING

Written by Paul Smith,
Author and journalist
Master of Arts (History and Philosophy)
 

In 1719 the Norwegian sea-captain Tordenskjold conquered the Swedish fortress Karlsten near the town of Marstrand after pulling off a major bluff. Norway was part of Denmark at the time. The commandant of the fortress refused to surrender to begin with and Tordenskjold invited him to lunch guaranteeing his safety so they could “talk about it”. 

 
Tordenskjold made sure that the commandant got plenty of schnapps while at the same time bragging about the great amount of soldiers he had at his service. When the commandant was well drunk, Tordenskjold offered to show him all his soldiers. Tordenskjold's sailors were lined up in one of the narrow streets of Marstrand. However, the Swedish commandant was not too impressed. Tordenskjold then said “I have plenty more” and helped the drunken commandant around the corner and on to the next parallel street where the same group of sailors in the mean time had formed a new line. They had rushed there simply by running around the opposite corner.
 
The same manoeuvre repeated itself several times and in the end the commandant thought he was facing a large Danish-Norwegian army and not just 30-40 armed sailors. Amazed by the supposed strength of his opponent, he finally decided to surrender the fortress.
 
Due to this incident a saying “Tordenskjold's soldiers” emerged in Denmark and Norway. It refers to a small group of people that pretends to be a large crowd.