For many centuries Dithmarschen was an independent and free peasant state,
maintaining political association with the north German bishopric of Bremen. In
1319 Gerhard the Great attempted to subjugate Dithmarschen but lost the battle
of Wöhrden. Also Duke Albrecht died in battle in 1403. His brother, Gerhardt VI
of Schleswig, lost the battle in the Hamme near Heide on August 4, 1404, and was
killed together with many of his knights.
King Johann I and Duke Friedrich demanded the Dithmarschers recognized their
sovereignty and pay an annual contribution of 15,000 Marks. They further
demanded that three strongholds be erected. The Dithmarschers rejected these
demands which led to another war in February, 1500. An army of 15,000 soldiers
consisting of 5,000 members of the Black Guard commanded by Squire Schlentz and
10,000 Schleswig, Holstein and Danish knights invaded Dithmarschen and occupied
Commanded by Wolf Isebrand, the Dithmarschers erected fortifications near
Hemmingstedt. Because of the Spring thaw, only certain roads were passable.
The Dithmarschers opened the sluice gates and flooded the surrounding
With the battle cry "Wahr di Garr de Bur de kumt" = “Look out,
peasant, here comes the Guard!” the attackers stormed the battlements but they
lacked mobility on the narrow roadway and thus the defenders repelled the
attackers. Squire Schlentz and numerous knights died in battle. The Dithmarscher
then launched a counter-attack crying “Look out, Guard, here come the
peasants!” The battle of February 17, 1500 cost the lives of a large part of
Holstein, Schleswig and Danish nobility, and the Danish battle flag, the “Dannebrog”,
was captured by the Dithmarschers.
In 1559 King Frederik II, Duke Adolf and Duke Johann entered into a treaty for
the purpose of subjugating the Dithmarschers. Under the command of Johann
Rantzau they raised an army of 25,000 men which was opposed by a mere 6,000
Dithmarschers. After Rantzau occupied Meldorf, Brunsbüttel was captured as
well, leaving the southern part of Dithmarschen in the hands of the conquerors.
On June 13, 1559, near Heide, the Dithmarschers were defeated with heavy losses
in a decisive battle. Peace was concluded at Lohe on June 20, 1559. This was the
last war fought between Schleswig-Holsteiners, and peace reigned until
On February 17, 1900, a memorial was inaugurated at the
commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Battle of Dithmarschen. At the time
this was believed to be the location of the entrenchment, however, more
recent research has suggested that the entrenchment must have been located
some 4 km further in the direction of Hemmingstedt.
This boulder was moved 12.5 km from the
hamlet of Barlter Kleve to its present location.
This Visitors Information Center was
opened on February 17, 2000.
It contains a diorama of the historic battle.
Coming from the direction of Meldorf (at
left), the Guard encounters the farmers' entrenchment (at right) but cannot
deploy proper battle formations since the road is the only dry area in the
flooded surroundings. Many knights in their heavy armour drown as soon as they
leave the road.
here to access my guest book
Back to the History page
Produced in January 2001 by:
Hans Peter Voss
Genealogical Research Service in SH
An de Marsch 6