Frantz Christopher Henrik Hohlenberg – Alas, Denmark, Where is Hohlenberg Buried?

The career of F.C.H. Hohlenberg, the Danish navy’s gifted and internationally acclaimed naval architect, is profiled, as is his untimely, ignominious death in the Danish West Indies, where the exact location of Holenberg’s grave site is currently unknown.

af Eric Nielsen

Has Denmark ever raised a monument to honor Denmark’s greatest, and internationally-recognized, naval architect? Has Denmark ever issued a postage stamp to commemorate Frantz Christopher Henrich Hohlenberg (1765-1804)? What has Denmark ever done to publicly recognize and memorialize F.C.H. Hohlenberg’s unique merit, international stature, and distinguished creative achievements in naval architecture and warship design on behalf of the Danish-Norwegian navy?

Does Denmark even know where Hohlenberg’s exact grave site is located?

Unfortunately, the current answer to the last of the foregoing questions is that the present location of F.C.H. Hohlenberg’s burial site in the U.S. Virgin Islands – the former Danish West Indies – is unknown. Hohlenberg, like the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, ignominiously lies buried in an unknown and unmarked grave.

Aside from being buried in an unmarked and unknown grave, Hohlenberg, in contrast to Mozart’s international standing, seems to be largely forgotten in Denmark and, in this regard, “buried” thus becomes something of a metaphor for the current, widespread lack of knowledge of Hohlenberg’s service life and the nature of his creative accomplishments on behalf of the Danish-Norwegian navy.

Hohlenberg’s fate seems tragic. Therefore, Hohlenberg seems like a tragic figure, which makes the current ignorance of the exact location of Hohlenberg’s grave site even more vexing and regrettable.

F.C.H Hohlenberg
F.C.H Hohlenberg

Hohlenberg as Fabrikmester

Hohlenberg was the Danish-Norwegian navy’s Fabrikmester, or Master Builder, for the relatively brief period from 1796 to 1803, or just seven years. Hohlenberg was only 31 years old when he was appointed Fabrikmester for the Danish navy, and only 38 years old when he left office.

Despite his significant creative achievements during his tenure in office, and considering his relatively young age while he was in office, it is highly improbable that Hohlenberg’s talents as a naval architect ever reached full flower – that is, before the full measure of Holenberg’s creative gifts reached full maturity and expression.

Therefore, Hohlenberg’s premature departure from office as the Danish navy’s Fabrikmester deprived posterity of the benefit of the full evolution of the design work Hohlenberg could have produced had he remained at his post, with the result that Denmark’s, and the world’s, maritime heritages are poorer.

Although Hohlenberg’s official title in the Danish-Norwegian navy – Fabrikmester, or Master Builder – suggests that Hohlenberg’s official duties only pertained to supervising the construction of Danish warships, Hohlenberg actually acted as the Danish-Norwegian navy’s naval architect as well, performing all of the Danish navy’s design work during his tenure as Fabrikmester. In fact, it is for his work in ship design as the Danish navy’s naval architect that Hohlenberg is principally, if not exclusively, known – not only within Denmark, but also internationally.

During Hohlenberg’s seven years in office as the Danish-Norwegian navy’s Fabrikmester, Hohlenberg produced design plans to which the Danish-Norwegian navy built the following warships, up to and including the year 1807, i.e., the year when the British bombarded and sacked Copenhagen, seized the Danish fleet, and plundered Denmark’s chief naval base at Holmen, in Copenhagen:

  • 4 ships-of-the-line;
  • 13 frigates;
  • 3 brigs;
  • 4 schooners;
  • 1 royal yacht;
  • 7 artillery prams; and
  • 1 mortar vessel.

In addition to the foregoing, three Danish ships-of-the-line, which were building on the stocks at Denmark’s main naval base at Holmen in Copenhagen at the time the British sacked Copenhagen in 1807, and which British forces destroyed before they vacated Holmen to return to Britain with their considerable Danish plunder and spoil, were also presumably being built to Hohlenberg’s design plans.

Following the termination of Hohlenberg’s tenure as the Danish-Norwegian navy’s Fabrikmester, and the partition of the dual kingdom of Denmark-Norway in 1814, there was no officially appointed naval architect to perform the Danish navy’s design work until Jens Jøgen Pihl (1770-1835) assumed the post of the Danish navy’s Konstruktør in 1810, a post Pihl held until 1832. However, during his tenure in office as Konstruktør, Pihl only designed small naval vessels, including five brigs, one mortar shallop, a schooner, and two other vessels.

During Pihl’s 1810-1832 term in office, the Danish navy actually continued to utilize Hohlenberg’s existing design plans for ships-of-the-line, frigates, and artillery prams, rather than any plans by Pihl, to build the Danish navy’s larger warships both during and immediately following the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars. During this period, the following Danish warships were built to Hohlenberg’s designs:

  • 1 ship-of-the-line
  • 6 frigates
  • 4 artillery prams

Thus, the grand total of Danish warships built to Hohlenberg’s designs included 5 ships-of-the-line, 19 frigates, 3 brigs, 4 schooners, 1 royal yacht, 11 artillery prams, and 1 mortar vessel.

In the warship categories of ship-of-the-line, frigates, and schooners, several different Hohlenberg designs were included in each category, making for a multiplicity of designs in Hohlenberg’s overall design output.

Hohlenberg as a Gifted Naval Architect

Was Hohlenberg a genius? Genius suggests extraordinary and exceptional inborn intellectual power and creative ability. However, Hohlenberg, although possessing compelling inborn creative ability and intellectual originality, was presumably not performing on this extremely rarified level.

Was Hohlenberg gifted? “Gifted” is probably a more appropriate way to describe Hohlenberg’s attributes and the nature of his accomplishments as a naval architect.

Gifted implies being endowed with a special ability or attribute, such as the attribute of a natural attraction to and proclivity for a certain activity and the likelihood of achieving success in pursuing it. Hohlenberg demonstrated these qualities in his special interest in naval architecture and his unique accomplishments in warship design on behalf of the Danish-Norwegian navy.

Part of a Danish Mortar vessel (photo: Gert Laursen)
Part of a Danish Mortar vessel (photo: Gert Laursen)

Although Hohlenberg was gifted, progressive, innovative, and, sometimes, even visionary, Hohlenberg was neither extreme in his ideas about naval architecture, nor given to wild and radical experimentation in the warship designs he actually produced for the Danish navy.

In connection with Hohlenberg’s progressive and innovative work in warship design, and his occasionally visionary concepts and proposals regarding Denmark’s suggested naval construction policy for the Danish navy – which, in turn, were premised on Hohlenberg’s advanced ideas about naval architecture – Danes as whole are known for their sober-mindedness.

Hohlenberg’s highly principled and conceptualized design work in naval architecture seemingly conformed to the image of the sober-minded Dane, because Hohlenberg was serious, thoughtful, and sober-minded in his professional thinking about both warship design and in his somewhat visionary – but neither unsound nor necessarily impracticable – proposals regarding Denmark’s warship construction policies.

Just because Hohlenberg’s gifted and innovative professional thinking may not have accorded with outmoded and invalid conventions of thought in Danish navy administrative circles, held by conservative or rigid Danish navy administrators or active naval officers who were untrained and incompetent in naval architecture, did not make Hohlenberg’s progressive and innovative solutions either unsound, radical in nature, or invalid in practice.

Hohlenberg Lacked Sea Experience!

Although Holenberg was a gifted, progressive, farsighted and highly innovative naval architect, Hohlenberg and his design work had detractors.

One of the criticisms apparently leveled at Hohlenberg and his design work, by contemporary Danish critics (e.g., Danish bureaucrats and sea officers), was that Hohlenberg lacked the necessary sea experience to have the proper seaman’s perspective to design effective warships for the Danish navy, and that Hohlenberg’s warship designs in fact suffered from this lack of sea experience and corresponding practical perspective.

The supposed validity of this apparent criticism of Holenberg’s design work as being defective, because Hohlenberg lacked practical sea experience, has been thoroughly demolished by the collective opinion of British naval officers who acquired lengthy experience in serving upon ex-Danish warships which Hohlenberg designed, which Britain had seized in its sack of Copenhagen in 1807, and which the British navy had subsequently employed in active wartime operations – often under the most demanding sea conditions. Therefore, these particular British naval offers were thoroughly familiar with the qualities, performance, abilities and attributes of ex-Danish warships designed by Hohlenberg.

British naval officers who saw active sea service on Hohlenberg-designed, ex-Danish warships, belonged to the naval officer corps which had the widest and most comprehensive sea experience of naval officers of any nation in the world – including Denmark – under every conceivable mode of the most demanding operational and sea conditions, were the greatest admirers of Hohlenberg’s design work, as exemplified in ex-Danish warships designed and built by Hohlenberg on which these British naval officers served. Some of these British naval officers even recommended that the British navy construct its own warships, in British shipyards, to Hohlenberg’s designs, which the British Admiralty did.

Highly pertinent to criticisms leveled at Hohlenberg’s design work, on the basis of Hohlenberg’s lack of practical sea experience, are the published opinions of Howard I. Chapelle, U.S. historian of U.S. naval architecture during the age of sail. What deeply and thoroughly irritated Chapelle – himself a naval architect and avid yachtsman, thus having practical sea experience under sail – was the unsound meddling, with the design work and professional opinions of the U.S. navy’s naval architects, of “experienced” U.S. naval officers.

As Chapelle repeatedly emphasizes, these meddling U.S. naval officers, with their sea experience, never-the-less lacked professional knowledge and, therefore, competence, in the principles of naval architecture.

In Howard I. Chapelle’s professional opinion as a naval architect, the incompetent and unsound interference of “practical” sea officers, in the design and configuration of U.S. warships during the age of sail, was invariably to the detriment to the hull integrity, sailing qualities, fighting ability, and longevity of U.S. navy warships during the age of sail. Chapelle’s persuasive professional opinion carries great force in examining criticisms leveled at Hohlenberg’s design work for the Danish-Norwegian navy, particularly because a relatively uniform range of opinion by British naval officers about the qualities of Hohlenberg-designed warships seemingly confirms Chapelle’s judgment.

In his book entitled THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN SAILING NAVY: THE SHIPS AND THEIR DEVELOPMENT, Chapelle constantly rails against U.S. naval officers, with their “practical sea experience,” who were endlessly either making or demanding alterations to their warships’ hulls, construction details, and sail plans, against the sound and considered professional advice and opinions of the naval architects of the U.S. navy. These alterations, as Chapelle chronicles, were invariably to the detriment of the hull integrity and longevity, and sailing qualities, of the warships these naval officers commanded, and unsoundly demanded to be altered.

Howard I. Chapelle’s points on this issue of meddlesome and presumptious naval officers with their “practical sea experience” – an issue seemingly generic and endemic to all navies during the age of sail – is valid, compelling, and exceedingly well taken, and seems to apply with equal force to similar problems or complaints by either Danish sea officers or Danish naval bureaucrats, with which Hohlenberg was apparently personally confronted in his capacity as the Danish navy’s Fabrikmester.

Did Danish Naval Bureaucrats Suffocate Hohlenberg?

A gifted, knowledgeable, accomplished, and intellectually-assured person like Hohlenberg – himself professionally-trained as a naval architect – often provokes envy and jealousy, if not outright resentment and hostility, in others, particularly in people who are neither gifted nor as knowledgeable, accomplished or intellecutally-assured as the person who is the object of their envy, resentment and hostility.

Gifted and knowledgeable people are also, understandably, sometimes misunderstood – particularly when, as in the case of Hohlenberg, the gifted person is a skilled and knowledgeable professional with special expertise, which others do not have and to not have the necessary qualifications to understand. Was this Hohlenberg’s unfortunate fate, and perhaps a tragic fate, when Hohlenberg was acting as Fabrikmester for the Danish navy?

One wonders how the young and gifted Fabrikmester Hohlenberg, who was professionally trained and personally skilled in the art of ship design and shipbuilding and possessed of the latest, cutting edge, theoretical knowledge in naval architecture, fared and coped psychologicly with what for Hohlenberg must at times have been a frustrating, intransigent and obstructive – if not psychologically exacerbating and suffocating – Danish naval bureaucracy, staffed with possibly mediocre civil servants whose minds were shaped in the bureaucratic mold.

One imagines that the young and professionally-trained Hohlenberg must have, at times, realized he was dealing with a bureaucrat or bureaucrats who were not of his intellectual caliber and were not either functioning or thinking at his level of competence. One also imagines that mediocre or self-important Danish bureaucrats may, on occasion, have driven Hohlenberg to employ the expedient of expressing himself in strongly opinionated terms, in a sincere and conscientious effort to convey his message to uncomprehending bureaucrats who may have been his intellectual inferiors.

Regarding the foregoing, it is presumed that whatever professional problems Hohlenberg may have had were seriously compounded because, as the Danish navy’s Fabrikmester, Hohlenberg occupied a completely subordinate position within the Danish naval bureaucracy, and that Denmark’s naval administration had complete ultimate control over Hohlenberg’s professional creative endeavors and activities as naval architect and Master Builder for the Danish-Norwegian navy. This may have been a psychologically untenable position for a gifted person like Hohlenberg.

Relevant to the possible nature of Hohlenberg’s own experience with Denmark’s naval administration, Howard I. Chapelle’s book entitled THE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN SAILING NAVY: THE SHIPS AND THEIR DEVELOPMENT chronicles the U.S. sail navy’s own experience with over-aged, ossified, pompous and highly-conservative naval bureaucrats, often hold-overs from an earlier era, who often unimaginatively administered the U.S. sail navy’s design and construction of U.S. warships, and the negative effect these type of men had on the state of naval design and the corresponding effectiveness of the U.S. sail navy’s warships.

In reading Chapelle’s account of the types of men administering the U.S. sail navy’s bureaucracy, one’s thoughts are sometimes directed to Hohlenberg, the nature of the bureaucratic conditions Hohlenberg must have faced, and the cumulative – and possibly adverse – psychological effects these bureaucratic conditions may have had on the young and gifted Hohlenberg.

Hohlenberg’s Untimely, Ignominious End

For reasons or motives the substance and details of which are not known to the author of this article, Hohlenberg apparently applied on June 11, 1803, to be relieved of his post as Fabrikmester with the Danish-Norwegian navy. What motivated or compelled Hohlenberg to apply to be relieved? However, as a result of his application, Hohlenberg was soon thereafter relieved of his post as Fabrikmester, when he was only 38 years old.

After he was relieved from his office as Fabrikmester, Hohlenberg apparently secured the post of harbor master and chief pilot at Christiansted, on the island of St. Croix, in the Danish West Indies, now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Whatever compelled Hohlenberg to take this seemingly drastic step and undertake a potentially thoroughgoing transformation of his life, by abandoning his Danish homeland and traveling a half a world away to a remote Danish colonial outpost, seemingly a sort of self-imposed personal exile to distance himself from Denmark?

Was Hohlenberg’s departure from his office from Fabrikmester and from Denmark an extreme, but possibly valid, reaction to the Danish naval bureaucracy with which Hohlenberg had to deal in his previous capacity as the Danish-Norwegian navy’s Fabrikmester? Was it also a personal quest for some form of personal evolvement or self-realization, if not personal fulfillment?

Despite its possible exotic allure to Hohlenberg, in contrast to the bureaucratic oppressiveness of the Danish naval administration in Copenhagen, Hohlenberg could hardly have known the realities of what he was getting himself into by transferring to the colonial backwater of the remote Danish colonial outpost in the Danish West Indies, with its tropical diseases and infirmaties.

On October 14, 1803, Hohlenberg embarked on the voyage to his his new colonial post in the Danish West Indies, by taking passage on board a moderate-sized Danish naval frigate of his own design and built in 1800 under his direction, the FREDERIKSSTEEN of 24 guns, on her outward passage of a round-trip voyage to the Danish West Indies and then back home to Denmark.

Hohlenberg arrived in Christiansted, St. Croix on January 1, 1804, but the New Year’s Day of 1804 held no promising prospects for Hohlenberg, as Hohlenberg tragically died just nine days after his arrival at his new post. The cause and circumstances of Hohlenberg’s untimely death are not known to the author of this article.

Hohlenberg seems to have been in economic difficulties prior to the time he departed from Denmark, on passage to the Danish West Indies. However, the author of this article does not know what Hohlenberg’s economic circumstances were when Hohlenberg died in Christensted, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, or if Hohlenberg had any close personal friends in the Danish West Indies who could have looked after Hohlenberg’s interests and his funeral and burial arrangements, or whether Hohlenberg’s estate had sufficient funds to pay for Hohlenberg’s funeral and, in particular, Hohlenberg’s burial and a possible tombstone to mark his gravesite.

It seems likely that Hohlenberg had no friends in the Danish West Indies, that Hohleberg was short of funds when he died, and that Hohlenberg’s funeral and burial were therefore handled as frugally as possible and, if these suppositions are true, they may explain why the exact location of Hohlenberg’s burial site in the Danish West Indies, which may not have had a durable grave stone to mark the site, came to be forgotten and lost to posterity.

The Current State of Knowledge Re Hohlenberg’s Burial Site

The current state of the knowledge of the exact whereabouts of Hohlenberg’s grave site is provided in the following answer to an inquiry which the author of this article directed to the Dansk Vestindisk Selskab (Danish West Indian Society):

Through the editor of the Danish West Indian Society’s newsletter, Mr. Ole Bidstrup, I have received your question concerning the grave of naval architect F.C.H. Hohlenberg.

From my visits to the so-called Danish section of the large cemetery in Christiansted, St. Croix, I have no knowledge of where Hohlenberg’s grave would have been. Nor has the list of graves in the homepage of the Danish consulate in St. Thomas, USVI [U.S. Virgin Islands] any information about Hohlenberg.

There could be a slight chance that the grave exists in other sections of the Christainsted cemetery, but I can not suggest a person who would know. As far as I know no one has registered the graves outside the Danish section (except for myself concerning small parts).

It is the Danish custom to reuse a lot in a cemetery so I would not be surprised if that has happened in this case, or if the marking of the grave simply just has disappeared over the years. I’m not aware if a plate to commemorate Hohlenberg has been set up anywhere in Copenhagen, but that is possible.

I’m sorry this is all the help we can give.

Most sincerely,
Per Nielsen

It is at least gratifying that a Dane associated with the Dansk Vestindisk Selskab has actually looked into this matter, and has provided historians with some constructive orientation and useful bearings regarding problems which must be confronted in any quest to determine the exact location of Hohlenberg’s grave site.

A similar inquiry to the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington, D.C., endeavoring to deterimine the exact whereabouts of Hohlenberg’s grave site, generated a reply stating that Mr. Per Nielsen (see the correspondence quoted above) of the University of Copenhagen is well informed about the history of the Danish West Indies; that inasmuch as Hohlenberg’s grave is located somewhere in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), one would have to contact the U.S. authorities in the USVI for further information; and that aside from the foregoing observations the Royal Danish Embassy could be of no further help.

Judging from the foregoing, and from the circumstances of Hohlenberg’s early and untimely death and presumed burial in the Danish West Indies just days after his arrival in Christiansted, St. Croix, it seems that the exact whereabouts of Hohlenberg’s grave site in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been long forgotten and is presently unknown, but may be discoverable through further research.


The mystery of the details of the cause and circumstances of Hohlenberg’s untimely death, and of the exact whereabouts of Hohlenberg’s grave site, including details of how the location of Hohlenberg’s grave site came to be forgotten and lost, appears to be poignantly symbolic of the nature of Hohlenberg’s career in the service of the Danish navy and of Hohlenberg’s ultimate, lonely demise at a remote Danish colonial outpost on a distant shore, far from Denmark.

Hohlenberg’s sad and ignominious – and possibly tragic – demise, death and burial in Christiansted, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, brings to mind a compelling artistic portrayal of the somewhat similar ignominious burial of another, somewhat similarly circumstanced, man, a man of genius, the great musical composer Mozart.

In the concluding portion of the 1984 award-winning U.S. film entitled AMADEUS, about the life of Mozart, there is a segment which portrays his death and funeral services in a church, after which Mozart’s corpse was placed aboard a carriage and transported alone, unaccompanied by either relatives or friends, to large open pit outside of the city where paupers were buried in a common, unmarked mass grave, and how Mozart’s corpse, wrapped in a blanket, was unceremoniously dumped into the large open pit, filled with other corpses. No one now knows the exact location of Mozart’s final resting place.

One wonders how the accomplished Hohlenberg was interred and forgotten, and how Hohlenberg’s grave site came to be lost, in Denmark’s colonial outpost in the Danish West Indies.

Is Hohlenberg a Tragic Figure?

Tragedy involves regrettable, disastrous or lamentable consequences, typically of persons of some significance who are undone by either some personal flaw or by, e.g., an unsuccessful personal struggle against circumstances or environmental conditions, typically hostile or indifferent ones. Thus, tragic figures are people whose lives provide compelling, edifying examples which are capable of engaging our attention and beckon our understanding.

Was Hohlenberg’s life a tragic life, beckoning us to understand Hohlenberg and explain what happened to him and why? The author of this article postulates that Hohelnberg’s life may indeed have been tragic, calling for our examination and explanation.

Hohlenberg was a person of significance, a young and gifted naval architect of originality, unique accomplishment, and enormous promise. However, Hohlenberg’s great promise remained unfulfilled by his untimely departure from his office as Fabrikmester of the Danish navy and by his seemingly premature death, robbing posterity of the full harvest of Hohlenberg’s mature creative potential and a the products of a full lifetime of his creativity as a gifted designer of ships.

In Hohlenberg’s untimely and ignominious demise, the question arises: What have we lost, when Hohlenberg was lost? The answer to this question can be qualified as well as, in approximate terms, quantified.

Hohlenberg died in seemingly tragic circumstances, which were an unfortunate and regrettable conclusion of his young and promising life. But did Hohlenberg have a “tragic flaw,” a defect in his character or error of belief or action that caused his downfall or ultimate ruin? This author postulates that Hohlenberg had no tragic flaw, and that his downfall was due to adverse or even hostile circumstances, e.g., probably the environmental circumstances in which Hohlenberg had to work in Denmark’s naval bureaucracy, and which may have driven Hohlenberg into a self-imposed exile in the Danish West Indies, where he quickly died.

Regarding Hohlenberg’s seemingly tragic fate, the introduction to this article postulates that “burial” may be a fitting metaphor for Hohlenberg’s life and work on behalf of the Danish navy, and that the loss of Hohlenberg’s grave site is a fitting symbol of that life.

Regarding Hohlenberg’s untimely departure from office and his equally untimely death, Hohlenberg was only 31 years old when he assumed office as the Danish-Norwegian navy’s Fabrikmester, served only seven years in this position, before his tenure in office was prematurely ended, and he shortly thereafter died an ignominious death in the Danish West Indies.

This article has frequently referred to Hohlenberg’s death as “untimely.” Therefore, let us examine Hohlenberg’s immediate predecessors in office as the Danish navy’s principal naval architect, to see if their lives are instructive on the issue of how full Hohlenberg’s career as a naval architect could have been.

Hohlenberg’s immediate predecessor as the Danish-Norwegian navy’s naval architect and chief designer of warships, Ernst Wilhelm Stibolt, only served as the Danish navy’s Fabrikmester for eight years, before Stibolt committed suicide at the age of 55, while still in office. As Stibolt, who was relatively and comparatively old when he died, and presumably died when his greatest creative years as a naval architect may have been behind him, and died by his own hand, Stibolt’s life does not appear to be instructive on the issue of Hohlenberg’s considerable career and creative potential.

Stibolt’s predecessor as naval architect for the Danish navy was the highly-regarded, influential, and phenomenally prolific Henrik Gerner, who began serving as Fabrikmester when he was thirty years old and he continued in office for 15 years before dying in office at the relatively young age of forty-five years. Despite his relatively early death, Henrik Gerner served as naval architect for the Danish navy for over twice the length of time than did Hohlenberg.

Henrik Gerner’s predecessor, Friderich Michael Krabbe, began serving as Fabrikmester when he was 33 years old, and continued in office for 14 years, twice the length of time that Hohleberg served in the capacity as naval architect for the Danish navy.

The examples of Henrik Gerner and Friderich Michael Krabbe, who both began their careers by serving in the capacity of, inter alia, the chief naval architect for the Danish-Norwegian navy, at roughly the same young age as Hohlenberg did when Hohlenberg became Fabrikmester to the Danish-Norwegian navy, but both of whom served at least twice as long in the role of naval architect as did Holenberg, indicates that Hohlenberg was probably relieved of his post as Fabrikmester when Hohlenberg still had at least half, and probably the most creative and fruitful, part of his career as a naval architect still left in him. That this was so senselessly and uselessly lost to Denmark, and the to the world at large, by Holenberg’s premature and useless departure from his post as Fabrikmester, is tragic.

Inductive Reasoning

In attempting to form a mental picture of Hohlenberg and in seeking to understand the nature of Holenberg’s his creative achievement and output – particularly for an English-speaking person for whom Danish-language sources on Hohlenberg are inaccessible – one may, logically, be compelled to take recourse to inductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning is defined as reasoning by inference, from the particular to the general.

In Hohlenberg’s case, the most prominent and compelling “particular” from which to make inferences about Hohlenberg himself and his creative achievement, are Hohlenberg’s design plans of Danish warships. In other words, from Hohlenberg’s design plans, one can work backwards, by making general psychological deductions about Hohlenberg from the particular nature of his creative work, that is, Hohlenberg’s intellectual output and achievement.

Regarding inductive reasoning, very little information, primarily consisting of some design plans of Danish warships designed by Hohlenberg that have recently been published in Great Britain – note: they were not published in Denmark! – and some cursory contemporary British commentary on these design plans, has been published in English about Hohlenberg and his work.

From the occasional scraps of information that become available in English about Hohlenberg, one has to proceed inductively and make whatever reasonable inferences one can, and proffer reasonable propositions, about Hohlenberg and his work. Often, these reasonable inferences and propositions are no more than reasonable suppositions.

Denmark: Coming to Terms With Hohlenberg

Denmark does not seem, as yet, to have ever come to terms with Hohlenberg, the nature of Hohlenberg as a person, or with a proper assessment of the nature of Hohlenberg’s achievement in naval architecture and the caliber of Hohlenberg’s warship designs on behalf of the Danish navy, or, indeed, with the vexing and uncomfortable problem of Hohlenberg’s seemingly tragic and undeserved fate.

To the foregoing regrettable circumstances we must now add the issue of the current lack of knowledge of the exact whereabouts of Hohlenberg’s grave site.

To assist Denmark in coming to terms with Hohlenberg, is it necessary that foreign (i.e., non-Danish) experts in naval architecture during the age of sail – say, from Great Britain – take the initiative (as they have already done so, to a limited extent), to advance initial assessments of Hohlenberg’s design work and, thereby, to advise Denmark, albeit indirectly, exactly what Denmark had in Hohlenberg? Or can Denmark undertake and properly discharge this worthwhile and long-overdue task herself?

Denmark, deliverance may be at hand!

The serious deficiency of published scholarship on Hohlenberg and his design work in naval architecture for the Danish navy may currently be in the process of being remedied, in Denmark, by the Marinehistorisk Selskab, which has reportedly undertaken to publish a scholarly manuscript on Hohlenberg and his design work. The Danish author of this manuscript is Jeppe Høj, formerly of the Orlogsmuseet. As of the summer of 2002, the Marinehistorisk Selskab is supposedly in the final stages of editing Jeppe Høj’s work for publication.

If Jeppe Høj’s manuscript on Hohlenberg is in fact published by the Marinehistorisk Selskab, let us hope that the Marinehistorisk Selskab can also find sufficient funds to publish a much needed English-language edition of Jeppe Høj’s work.

Even if Jeppe Høj’s scholarly study of Hohlenberg is in fact published, there remains the vexing problem of the exact location of Hohlenberg’s grave site in the former Danish West Indies, and whether Hohlenberg’s grave site may be located through further investigative efforts. A seemingly important step in Denmark’s coming to terms with Hohlenberg and his tragic fate would be for Denmark to locate and commemorate Hohlenberg’s grave site.

Alas, Denmark, where is Hohlenberg buried?

Further reading:

Hans Christian Bjerg and John Erichsen, Danske Orlogsskibe 1690-1860, Vol. I (1980)
H. G. Garde, Den Dansk-Norske Sømagts Historie, 1700-1814 (1852)
P. Ramshart, Efterretning om det bekiendte af den danske Flaades Tieneste (1808)
Howard I. Chapelle, The History of the American Sailing Navy: The Ships and their Development (1949)
David Lyon, The Sailing Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy – Built, Purchased and Captured – 1688-1860 (1993)