Peter Wessel wanted to take command of his new vessel as soon as possible, but unfortunately it would be another month before he could exercise his new rank of Captain - Lieutenant on a Danish / Norwegian Navy ship. The one thing that Peter could do was to supervise the final construction of his new ship. Peter looked over his unfinished ship with a fine tooth comb, even going so far as to visit the foundry where the canons were being forged to inspect them for defects.
On the morning of May 31st, Lovendals Galei was finally ready to sail. Peter decided to risk a trial cruise of about 110 miles all the way down to Skagen ( Personally I wonder if he wasn't looking for a little trouble. ). We can only imagine the exhilaration Peter must have felt as he gave his first commands, and his beautiful new 18 gun frigate left port for the first time. As the master builder Pedersen had promised, Peter's new ship was fast, and had what was known in those days as a quick rudder, and he was well pleased with its performance.
The next day a lookout saw a ship in the distance setting sail. Worse yet it started heading straight for them ! Peter thought to himself that it must be a neutral nation ship, or possibly a Swedish privateer. On closer inspection it was found to be a snau, and it obviously had not yet noticed that it was heading straight for a much larger 18 gun frigate. Peter ordered all guns loaded with grape shot and wheeled into their batteries. When the snau came within about 2 1/2 miles of Lovendals Galei it realized what it was actually up against and turned about heading down wind. Peter had all sails hoisted, and the chase was on. Peter reminded his men that their would be prize money for the capture of a warship.
It took hours to overtake the smaller vessel and when they drew close enough Peter commanded, " Sound the battle quarters ." The gunners made everything ready, and awaited the order to fire. Peter took one last lap around the deck to make sure that all was ready, ( He was a hands on Captain ). Peter then raised the Dutch flag, a ruse he used quite often, and almost at once the snau raised the Swedish flag. Peter brought his ship to within hailing distance and called over to the Swedish captain to ask what ship his was. The Swedish captain replied that he was Captain Nils Knabe, and that his ship was called the " Swedish Weapon". Peter could not believe his luck, and could not help but smile. This ship had a history of capturing Danish and Norwegian ships, and was a wonderful prize indeed. Especially to be gotten on his first sail in his new ship.
Captain - Lieutenant Peter Wessel ordered the Dutch colors lowered and the Danish flag raised. He then shouted to open the gun ports, run out the guns, and fire three shots at the Swedish ship. Literally seconds later Captain Knabe had his colors lowered, which was a sign of surrender of course. Just to be sure there would be no tricks, Peter had 50 of his men with muskets in hand on deck, and all were pointed at the sailors on board the Swedish snau. After some pleasantries between the two captains, their was still chivalry in those days, both ships sailed back to Stavern, dropping anchor there on June 3rd. Peter Wessel was congratulated by all, and was even sent a letter of commendation by the Army head General Hausmann.
After a season of routine patrolling, and convoy escort, Peter was assigned to the Baltic Fleet and ordered to report to General - Admiral Gyldenlove. At his meeting with the Admiral - General, Peter was told that a large battle was brewing in the Baltic. Peter was itching for some action, after months of escort service. At first, however, Peter was disappointed with his new situation. Admiral Gyldenlove ordered him only to do reconnaissance work, and warned him against engaging the enemy. This would not last long of course in a war zone, especially with a born fighter like Peter Wessel.
Using Peter's scouting reports, Gyldenlove jumped into action. When the Danish / Norwegian fleet finally met the Swedish fleet they had somehow managed to get into a position where the Swedish transports were caught in between the two fleets. In the afternoon Admiral Gyldenlove sent four frigates, including Peter' s Lovendals Galei, to fire bomb them. The Swedish admiral had nothing but contempt for the Danish / Norwegian Navy, and their small frigates, and sent 2 lowly Spanish cargo frigates to stop them. Peter's ship was closest to the Spanish ships and immediately attacked. In a brilliant bit of manuevering by Peter he was able to rake both ships with grape shot that tore through the Spanish cabins, gun rooms etc.. Before he could do much more a heavy frigate, with 30 12 pounder guns, came sailing straight towards the Lovendals Galei. The Swedish frigate, "The White Eagle ", fired first with her heavier guns but did little damage. When the White Eagle came in range of Peter's 6 pounder guns they fired, as did the White Eagle again. Now Peter was in serious trouble ! Outgunned by the White Eagle, the Spanish ships had also rejoined the battle, and a lighter frigate was bearing down on him as well. Peter had but one choice and that was to run for it and use his superior speed to out manuever his opponents. Firing as he went the Lovendals Galei slowly pulled away from the White Eagle and the other ships. Eventually the chase was called off when a Swedish Man - Of - War fired a recall shot, and the ships turned and went back.
Because he had engaged the enemy instead of just burning the transports, Peter was brought up on a charge of insubordination at a court martial. Gyldenlove, however, became an admirer of the young and brash captain - lieutenant, and dismissed the charges, and he even included another commendation for Peter for his bravery.
Next: The Audacious Captain Wessel
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !