Fatal duel in Lockerud forest
Did you know that a duel to the death took place in Vänersborg? In May 1816, Captain Gustaf von Köhler was the last person in Sweden to die in an officer's duel. It took place in Lockerud forest, Blåsut.
When the 24-year-old baron, Captain Gustaf von Köhler, arrived in Vänersborg on 27 May 1816, he had only two days remaining to live. At this time Vänersborg was a regimental town and Gustaf von Köhler had been appointed to captain of the Västgöta-Dals regiment.
Last in – first out?
There was a lot of competition for higher positions, and the promotion path had been changed so that officers who had served for a long time in the regiment could be passed over for younger officers who came in from other regiments. This often caused a great deal of anger among the other officers. There was a special method of scaring off officers who came hunting for vacancies as an officer: they were challenged to a duel if they refused to resign voluntarily. Within the short time of one day, dissension had escalated to such a degree that von Köhler was challenged to a duel by Captain Zacharias Sabelfeldt.
Pistols taken out
On the morning of 29 May 1816, Gustaf von Köhler and his footman, Carl Hall, Lars Sundén (von Köhler's second officer), Zacharias Sabelfelt, Lilliestjerna (Sabelfelt's second officer) and the field doctor Jacob Rudolphi met by a cottage at the western end of Dalbo bridge. They were on their way to a glade in Lockerud forest where the duel was to take place. After the pistols had been taken out, the duellers stood at twelve steps' distance from each other. Since Gustaf had been challenged, he was allowed to shoot first. Two shots were fired in close succession without any injuries, but in the second duel von Köhler was hit in the chest and was taken into town, where he died just over eight hours later. At the same time captain Sabelfeldt was on his way out of the country.
The two duelling pistols were manufactured in the Jönköping small arms factory by Jean Hultman in the 1750s. They are on show in the Vänersborg museum. At the time of the duel they were fitted with flintlocks, which were later replaced by hammer bolts. In memory of this tragic event there are two roads in Blåsut called Duellvägen and Sekundantvägen.