Nils Dacke and his peasants were dissatisfied with the policies of the king Gustav Vasa. In his effort to modernize Sweden and gain more power, the king had instituted a more efficient system for tax collection. The heavy burden of the taxes angered many peasants.
Gustav Vasa had also broken relations with Rome and promoted lutheranism instead of Catholicism, to be able to confiscate the properties of the church. In 1541 the kings men had confiscated many of the belongings of the churches in Smland, such as the church silver and even the church bells, to finance the army. Dacke criticised the new church order and promoted the old faith. He was also supported by many local priests.
The rebellion was one of many rebellions during the rule of Gustav Vasa. In contrast with other contemporary rebellions in Sweden, this one was led by peasants, and not supported by the local nobility.
The uprising began in the summer of 1542 when the king's bailiffs were attacked and killed when they came to collect taxes. Gustav Vasa responded by sending a military force led by his own brother-in-law Gustav Olovsson Stenbock. His attempt to crush the rebellion failed, and he was defeated by Dacke's constantly growing army of peasants. Other attempts to defeat Dacke militarily also failed.
Instead all supplies of provision and other necessities to the region were stopped. This weakened the rebellions considerably. Defaming propaganda about Dacke was also spread, labelling him a traitor and a heretic.
In March 1543 Gustav Vasa ordered his army of Swedish recruits and German landsknecht mercenaries to attack Smland. This time bigger forces were deployed, and Dacke's forces were attacked from two directions - from stergtland and Vstergtland. The uprising was crushed, and Dacke was wounded but managed to flee.
The king's revenge on the instigators of the rebellion was hard. The leaders that were caught were executed together with the priests who had supported Dacke. Peasants who had supported the rebellion were deported to Finland, where they had to serve in the army, and the counties where the rebellion had taken place had to pay a big fine to the king.
Dacke himself was caught and killed in August 1543 when trying to escape the country. According to legend, his body was taken to Kalmar, where his head was publicly displayed wearing a crown of copper, as a warning to others.
The rebellion had been the most serious threat to the rule of Gustav Vasa, but after having defeated it he managed to consolidate his power, concentrating more and more power at the hands of the monarch.
In common language, an event that has not occurred in a reasonable time is often referred to something that "hasn't happened since the Dacke War". This expression is especially common in the southern parts of Sweden but is also used elsewhere.
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