In 1714 a Norwegian captain fought an English-flagged frigate and ran out of ammunition. What happened next?
The nationalities and identities involved here are complicated. The Norwegian was born Peter Jansen Wessel in 1690 to a wealthy merchant family in Trondheim. Later in life he became known by the pseudonym “Tordenskjold” (“Thunder Shield”). At the time Norway was politically united with Denmark: Dano-Norwegian ships frequently had clashes with Swedish ships. The Englishman had a Germanic name: Captain Bactmann (first name unknown).
The English captain was in command of an English-flagged frigate; but the ship was Swedish: it had been refitted in England and Bactmann was delivering it to Gothenburg. The Dano-Norwegian ship was flying the Dutch flag (for reasons unknown) when on 26-27 July 1714 Wessel’s ship had a chance encounter with the English-flagged Swedish ship off the coast of Norway. Captain Wessel (the Norwegian) raised the Danish flag and Captain Bactmann (the Englishman) immediately opened fire. There ensued a naval duel that lasted more than 14 hours.
Eventually, after taking much damage, Wessel ran out of ammunition and messaged his situation to Bactmann. He thanked him for a fine duel and boldly requested the Englishman for more ammunition so that the fight could continue. Bactmann declined but the two ships came together and both crews cheered and drank to each other’s health (pictured). The captains then agreed to sail away in opposite directions. Wessel was later court-martialled for this gentlemanly fight but was acquitted and then promoted to Captain.