Paracelsus prediction had been dire...

"Germany would be torn by fire and sword, brought to near destruction until there would arise from a distant northern land, a golden beast who would save them."

The war for minds and souls had been raging for ten destructive years when the vaunted, virtually undefeated imperial army of the Hapsburg emperor and his allies looked across  the gentle valley of Breitenfeld directly into the blinding rays of the dawn of modern warfare. By the end of the day Tillys lumbering army lay smashed beyond redemption, the victim of rapid firing artillery, fastmoving infantry and hardcharging cavalry.


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An imperial color with the insignia of the emperor. captured by the swedish during the battle of Breitenfeldt. Now in the royal collection of war trophees.


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Gustaf II Adolf


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Imperial or leauguer Kurrassier heavy cavalryman



Gustaf had developed a new army. With the ideas of Moritz of Orania (actually Erik XIV was the first to think in this way) as a base he had developed new tactics and new weaponry that produced the most effective army of its time. While Moritz only started the development and used in ineffectively, only being succesful in sieges, Gustaf perfected it and became one of the most influental and successful comanders of all time. The pikemen recieved shorter and lighter pikes. 3 meters compared to the older 6 meters used by the enemies. They were stripped of their armor except a light harness and a helmet. The enemy wore leg and armarmor as well as a shield. All in metal. The muskets were made 2 kg lighter ( 5 kg compared to 7 kg) and were possible to reload and fire without a fork. The effective rate of fire as three times that of the enemy. An attempt at a standard calibre was made. The enemys muskets were so heavy that they had to be rested on large forks and the reloadprocedure was made up of eighty counts. The swedish muskets were considered revolutionary. They could be fired four times an hour! Accuracy was about 10% at 200 meters. The imperials later encountered in the 1630:s had many cavalryunits known as currassiers. They were still clad in iron armor as the knights of the late dark ages and the renaiccance. Their armor weighed about 70 kg. The swedish cavalry had a harness, at the most! The artillery had been dominated by very heavy guns often at 1500 kg that once depoyed before the battle were static. Thus often falling into the enemys hands if the battle was lost. The swedish army supplemented these heavy guns with lighter pieces (150 kg) regimental guns that were (for its time) mobile and could follow the advancing infantry it was designed to support. Loaded with cannister, ball or grapeshot they had horredous potential, achieving much higher rate of fire than the musketereers.

The tactical formation were altered as well. The Tercios of the spanish tactical school were abolished. The tercio was a huge square formation with the pikemen in the core and the musketers forming an outer brim of the square. Containing several thousand men ( 1580 a tercio numbered 3000 men while in 1630 it had only 1200 men) it was a slow lumbering giant with low firepower since only 25% of the musketers faced the enemy at a given opportunity. The strength was in the pure offensive weight in a melee situation. Of course a single tercio cant be outflanked as well. The pikemen were passive targets whatever happened except for that they sometimes lowered their pikes to form a fence around the musketeers.

Tactic also made little use of the melee, drawn out firefights were the pikemen were a waste was the common method. The tercio was very vulnarable to artillery firing ball since it was packed so very deep giving the bouncing cannon ball a huge target and the opportunity to maim scores of men standing in the deep squareformation. Gustafs infantry instead used linear formations. These were much more mobile by the quick change from line to column by ordering right or left face. The offensive firepower was greater since 100% of the musketers could fire at the same target. The drawback was the possibility of being flanked and the lack of sufficient men in a melee situation since the stretched line lacked weight at the point of contact with the tercio. The swedsih musketeers were also taught to fire in salvos. All at the same time rather than individually. While the enemys musketers kept a steady stream of fire the swedish unleashed sudden storms of fire at the enemy greatly magnifying the psychological effect. Coupled to the higher rate of fire this was decisive. The crushing effect was used by charging with the pikemen after the salvo with their shorter more maneuvrable pikes and swords. Coupled to the regimental guns it was a good example of cooperatíon between the different functions to achieve maximum effect. It brought back the offensive element to the infantry that the tercios lacked. Since the late dark ages warfare in western europe had been dominated by sieges and battleshad been shunned to the extreme end of it. This was due to the tactic used and the lack of offensive action with the tercios. While the enemys cavalry (except the polish) used the caracolle, the swedish cavalry favored the shock effect of the charge. The caracolle centered on the pistol. In formation of several lines the cavalry rode up to the enemy within effective range of the pistol (about 10 meters) and fired their pistols. After that they rode to the side and back to the rear of the formation reloading their pistols while the next line repeated the maneuver. The name caracolle has a resamblence to carousel for that very reason. This was highly inneffective since the lethality of the pistol was low. The swedes instead advanced on the trot firing their pistols and then charged at full speed with drawn swords into the caracolling enemy disrupting all of their finely tuned timing. The cavalry was supported by units of musketeers making them much stronger defensively since the caracolling enemy came into the effective range of muskets firing salvos followed by a fierce charge by the cavalry. The supporting musketeer units lowered the tactical speed of the cavalry however.

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Imperial or leauguer Kurrassier heavy cavalryman

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Jean Czercleas Tilly

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The blue forces are the imperials. To the left Pappenheims attack to the swedish right can be seen as well as his failed atempts to outflank the swedes. To the right the advance on the saxons and the rout of these is visible as well. The forces to the left of the saxons are the two lines of Horn and in the center of the swedish line the two lines are visible. The second of these later wheels to the right to reinforce Horn when he faces the imperials on the swedish left. 

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A regimental gun fires on the advancing imperials and leauguers.

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The imperials start to rout.

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A swedish pikeman and a swedish musketeer.

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Swedish musketeer

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Color of the Tilly life regiment. The jesuits insignia IHS on white. Captured during the battle.