GUSTAF II ADOLF
THE THIRTY YEAR WAR
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1632,
THE CONQUEST OF WURZBURG AND MARIENBERG AND THE CROSSING OF THE LECH
In the battle of Breitenfeldt Tilly had lost seven thousand killed and six thousand
wounded. Of those who escaped five thousand were killed by the saxon peasants in ambushes
when they tried to get away in small groups. The swedes lost 2100 in killed and wounded
while the saxons lost 2000. The swedes captured the entire artillery as well as the
wartreasury and over 120 colors, among them the command standard of Tilly.
The battle was over. The enemy destroyed and the emperors dreams of a catholic state
from the mediterrainian to the baltic are crushed. From constant victory to utter defeat.
Had god turned lutheran?
The 36 year old king had in one blow achieved all that he set out to accomplish. He
could sue for peace, send his soldiers home to their farms to breed children and
grandchildren for whom they could tell the story of the glorious adventure thay had had
with the king. The hired regiments could be disbanded and he could have gone home for the
biggest victory celebration in swedish history. Mecklenburg and Pommerania would certainly
have become swedish as well as important coastal towns. The historians would have written
hundreds of books over the centurys debating the big question: what if Gustaf hadnt
settled? What if he had gone for the big win? Wasnt a grand opportunity lost?
It didnt happen. The children and grandchildren would never be born and the soldiers
would end either on the dirty field with glassy eyes and their intestines out in the open
or in a plagueinfested dirty garrison coughing their lungs out waiting for certain fevery
death. The war would drag on for yet 17 horrible years dragging Germany into utter
disaster and taxing Swedens recources to the utmost.
Instead of well needed peace a new even more dramatic era in swedish and european
history commences. Why?
Gustaf II Adolf
THE REASONS FOR CONTINUED WAR
It is easy to say that the war should have ended
then and there after Breitenfeldt with hundreds of years of hindsight and the consequenses
of the decisions taken in your books. But how did the situation look like to Gustaf and
his staff of warhorses? Today the battle would have been broadcasted live with immidiate
comments from both Stockholm and Vienna. But the survivors with aching limbs and thirsty
throats saw nothing but carnage and death. They had no strategic perspective at that time.
No grasp of the political repercussuions since the news of the battle spread only slowly.
The main battle was followed by smaller actions were fleeing troops clashed with the enemy
desperatly avoiding contact with larger formations of their own side. It would take weeks
until the counsil in Stockholm knew of the battle and days before the emperor did. In the
mean time Gustaf had to assess the situation the best he could and make a decision.
Should he marsch on Vienna and personally dictate
the terms of peace to the emperor or should he pursue the fleeing Tilly and destroy the
remnants of his army? He decided to go after Tilly. The reasons were that by occupying
Vienna he would accomplish little in itself since the emperors power rested on his armies
and the recources that the armies needed. By challenging the emperor as a foreign king he
must defeat the emperors military recources first, then he could gather the nations to new
alliances. Add to that that the fall was coming. After that the winter and good
winterquarters were needed. Tilly had gone south and for the above mentioned reasons so
did Gustaf. Since the army must aquire what it needs from the surrounding civilian society
the war couldnt be allowed to end yet.
THE MARSCH OF TRIUMPH TO SOUTHERN GERMANY
Gustaf entered the town of Erfurt that had to pledge allegience to the
swedish and accept a swedish garrison. On the 29th of September the swedish reached
Königshofen fortress that surrendered immidietly. On the 4th of October they reached
Wurzburg that was a strategically important town in southern Germany due to its position
on the Main river. By the town lies the fortress Marienberg. It was a very strong
fortification indeed. The town had locked its gates but the king opened the gate by
blowing it with a petard rather than asking for the key. The population asked for
a days respite to discuss how to act and it was given. The next day the swedes entered
Wurzburg without a fight. But since the gun of the fortress covered the entite town Gustaf
had to take Marienberg as well, and the fortress wasnt keen on surrendering. Gustaf had 17
regiments and 8000 cavalrymen with him while the fortress was defended by about 1000 men.
The fortress was situated on a steep rock with plenty of supplies. The defenders were so
confident that they considered the kings attack to be ridicolous. The bridge over to the
fortess had been destroyed and all the boats had been taken to the fortress side of the
Main. The king sent a young scotsman, lieutenant Robert Ramsay who spoke excellent german,
over to the other side by negotiating the bridge in order to tahe a boat with him back. He
managed to get a boat across but was spotted and arrested. Using the boat to get more men
across to get more boats the kings plan was working. On the other side the enemy commander
Keller, a fanatical anti-protestant, waited with his men to prevent more boats from being
stolen. The fist melee occured. The scots under sir James Ramsay and sir Hamilton threw
the defenders back to an entrenchment and actually managed to gain a foothold on the far
side. They immidietly started to entrench themselves. The following night and two fays the
defenders gun bombarded the scots. When they had finished their entrenchments and had dug
close the the enemys halfmoon shaped fortification the king ordered an attack by the
Irish soldiers with thir large bonets in dark wool.
The defenders fought desperatly to throw the scots back but failed.
Ramsay was shot in the arm and many of his men killed but the enemy was forced to
withdraw. On the following day, the 8th of October, a major assault was mounted.
Lieutenant af Leifland with only seven men managed to get up on the drawbridge to the
maingate in the dark. They were spotted by the 200 defenders of the gate that asked who
they were. When af Leifland replied -swedes! the enemy tried to pull the bridge up. The 8
swedes jumped on to the bridge and with their weight managed to keep it down. The
defenders believing that the entire swedish army was coming fled into the castle. The king
offered the defenders to surrender but they refused. After more bombardment by the gun the
swedes managed to assault and take the gun. They immidietly turned it on the main gate
that was blown open. Hamiltons men charged through and the defenders finally asked for
mercy. But they got the answer that the only mercy they were to recieve was the
Magdeburger mercy. The killing started. Almost all the defenders were killed and a huge
price was taken. 34 brass guns and plenty of supplies, both food and amunition, wrere
taken. 10000 books and other valuables were packed and sent to the cultutrally starved and
backwards Sweden. Among the killed defenders were a number of armed priests that had had
their tonsurs shaved with swords by the swedes before being killed. It was called
"ultimam tonsuram, the last tonsur". The only anoittment allowed before being
killed was their own blood. The atrocities were later blamed on the foreign mercenaries
and it was claimed that the king tried to stop it. Only 200 swedes were killed.
Imperial colors captured in late 1631. The left shows the imperial
eagle striking down the ejected winterking. The left shows the eagle and sports the
emperors namechiffer F II, Fredrik II. It was taken from Colloredos kuerrassiers.
On the 14th of October Tillys army united with that of the catholic
duke of Lothringen. Tilly now had 40 000 men at his disposal. While the saxons marsched on
Bohemia Gustaf continued to the south. There was always a new rich weakly defended town or
castle around the corner to tempt him to go just a little bit further. The pricless
cultural treasures such as paintings and books that were taken were shipped home to Sweden
were they still are to be seen in many of the castles and mansions that the leaders built
from the money taken as warbooty in Europe. While Tilly settled for winterquarters in
Oberpfalz Gustaf stayed in Mainz over the new year. Wallenstein had been taken into favor
again and the imperials enlisted men to create a new army.
Historians have speculated if Gustaf didnt want to become emperor
himself. After the campaign of 1631 it was not an impossible goal. A scandinavian empire
surrounding the Baltic with possessions in northern Germany. Sigismund was close to death
and Gustaf entered himself as a candidate to the polish throne. Religion wasnt any
problem. He promised freedom of belief to the poles. But the ambassadors sent to Poland
were outmaneuvered in the complicated matter and Sigismunds son Vladislav was elected
king. The swedish grand plans worried the emperor of course. But Denmark, Poland and the
Netherlands , fearing trade competition, were conserned as well. And France. Richelieu
paid Gustaf to keep the emperor at bay, not to become one himself. The winter was filled
with diplomatic discussions were all tried to thwart the swedish plans.
But Gustaf couldnt accomplish anything without military muscle. A plan
more fantastic than any before in Europe emerged. Gustaf had 100 000 men (only 20 000 from
Sweden and Finland) in all. The plan called for 200 000 in seven armies that already
existed but needed to grow. They were all to penetrate deep into Bavaria and the emperors
lands. Gustaf commanded the main army, Gustav Horn commanded the frank army that operated
succesfully on the Rhine on the french border. Johan Banér had a third army that occupied
Magdeburg. The finn Ĺke Tott commanded the Niedersaxon army that seized Wismar and the
entire imperial navy in port. The count of Hessen had his own army while the dukes Bernard
and Wilhem of Weimar had one. The seventh was the saxon army.
On the 16th of March Gustaf left Mainz with 20 000 men and on the 21st
he was welcomed into Nurnberg that allied with him and promised monthly contributions.
Tilly had taken Bamberg but Horn managed to contain further offensives from the catholic
commander. Gustaf took Donauwörth and then crossed the Donau (Danube) to unite with Horn
and Banér. Tilly had been to late to effect Gustafs movements but at last he had managed
to position his army on the eastern side of the Lech between Rain and Augsburg to prevent
the swedes from crossing the river.
THE CROSSING OF THE LECH
Tilly had destroyed the bridges over the Lech and
entrenched on the only possible crossing point. At that time of year the Lech is a fierce,
rapid river overflowing from molten snow. With Tilly were Maximilian of Bavaria and Johann
von Aldringen. The imperials are entrenched 800 meters from the river on a ridge. The
crossing of the Lech has become historic due to the audacity and bravery of the king and
his men, especially the finns. Gustaf had reconnoitered the steep and boggy riverbank
himself and on the 3rd of April the plan was ready.
Tilly spots the enemy in battleformation
approaching the river. He opens fire with his guns but the enemy continues and quickly
entrenches on the river bank. 72 guns are brought forward to the entrenchments and return
fire. As dark settles Tillys scouts spot bridging equipment being brough forward. The
swedes are going to cross!
Jean Czercleas Tilly
But it is all a huge feint, the real crossing is
taking place 3 kilometers away. At that spot there is a small island in the river and from
that you can cross on foot to the far side. Wood is taken from the peasants houses and
boats are brought from miles away and hidden close to the island. On the next day Tilly
can see how the swedes prepare for battle across his position. They will cross at any
moment. The artillery duel intensifies. Lennart Torstensson had deployed some guns at the
flanks and these are now defilading the enemy. The catholics now realizes that something
is happening further down the river, but they cant see what since Gustaf has ordered his
men to ignite wet strawbundles and the thick smoke effectively screens the activity.
Behind this screen 300 handpicked finnish infantrymen from the Savolax regiment under the
estonian major Jurgen Wrangel to embark on the boats and cross to the island while at the
same time placing carefully made wooden supports made for the specific depth in the water.
While Gustaf orders the artillery to intensify into a bombardment of sofar unequalled
scale, the king firing 60 rounds himself, the finns places the supports and connects them
with boards. Working under fire and in the smoke the finns and Wrangel have the bridge
completed at 5 o oclock in the afternoon.
Swdish musketeers at the crossing of the Lech
At that time Tilly, Maximilian and von Aldringen
are on their way down the river to see what is happening. Maximilian writes an urgent
request for reinforcements from Wallenstein when von Aldringen is hit in the head and
falls of his horse fatally wounded. A minute later Tilly is struck by a cannonball in his
right thigh that crushes his leg. The king and 3 brigades run over the bridge and gets a
foothold on the other side. At the same time Stĺlhandskes finnish cavalry has found
another place to cross together with swedish cavalry. They clashed with catholic cavalry.
Darkness is falling and maximilian orders a retreat towards Bavarias strongest
fortification, Ingolstadt. Tilly is brought to Ingolstadt severly wounded. The swedes had
lost about 2000 while the imperials lost 3000 men.
The swedish army stands in Bavaria. A country
untouched by war. German propaganda tells of an army of necromantic lapps, scots in skirts
and other fantastic creatures such as mooseriders. All heretics and heathens. The fierce
discipline is now relaxed as a tool of terror to scare the enemy into submission. The
swedes act as in the Kalmar war with Denmark twenty years earlier. The villages are burned
and plundered. The villagers killed and raped. The bavarian peasants strike back
with guerilla style ambushes against patrols and show equal brutality. A group of soldiers
get their feet and hands cut off and are left lying with eyes pierced and ears cut off.
The response it immidiate. 200 villages are erased. Even into this century the fear and
hatred of the swedish can be traced in the legends, childrens songs and stories in
southern Germany and Austria. Since the rest of the war, 16 years, is charachterized
by this brutality and terror it is not hard to understand that a long lasting impression
Der Schwede ist kommen
hat alles genommen
har fenster einschagen
hat bley daraus g´nommen
har kugeln draus g´gossen
hat bauren ersshossen
The Swede came yesterday
has taken everything away
the windows he broke last
from them he took the lead
and bullets he has cast
and shot the farmers in the head
Gustaf now marsched the 150 km on Ingolstadt where Tilly lay in great pains. The
imperials sent an urgent dispatch for a surgeon to help Tilly but he was intercepted by
the swedes. Gustaf let him on his way however due to respect for his old opponent. The
first reconaiccance of Ingolstadt was violent. The king was close to capture and the hero
from Lech, Jurgen Wrangel, was killed. The king was back the next day and it could have
ended very badly. An imperial gunner saw the obviously important man on the grey horse and
aimed his gun with the words - that one I will shoot clear off. He fired his gun that was
named "the fig" and hit the horse that was killed. Gustaf was covered with blood
but rose with the words -the apple isnt ripe yet. The fig was fired again and the ball
killed the young count of Baden. At the same time Tilly died at the hands of the only
surgeon that could be found, a nervous barber. Gustafs horse was recovered by the
defenders of Ingolstadt that stuffed it and it can still be seen at the Ingolstadt war
But the king realized that he couldnt take Ingolstadt. It was his first failure to
take a town. Instead he marched on Bavarias capital, Munich, with 30 000 men. The
population trembled. They expected to suffer as Magdeburg had since the swedish army
pillaged horribly as it went. The king wrote to Axel Oxenstierna that if the protestants
couldnt take advantage of Bavaria, neither would the emperor. Either the bavarians
cooperated or they were destroyed. In the churches the frightened population prayed that
god would protect them against the "archenemy the swedish devil." The trembling
population of Munich paid 300 000 riksdaler as tax to save their town and the king entered
as a victor in triumph. Only deserted houses were to be looted. With Gustaf rode the
"winterking" Fredrik that Maximilian of Bavaria had helped eject. He must have
been satisfied to walk into Maximilians abandoned palace. The booty taken was as usual
huge. Art and artifacts were numerous as were valuable librarys but only 19 guns were
found. Then a hidden storage under Maximilians palace was found containing 119 guns and
uniforms for thousands of soldiers.
But disturbing news reached the king. Wallenstein was back with an army of 30 000 -
40 000 men he had raised himself. He paid for it all but his demands were high. He wanted
Mecklenburg as well as Glogau and he wanted a carte blanche how to wage war
against the swedish. The emperor had agreed. The enemy was only 100 km from the border to
Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein
|Wallenstein was immensly wealthy and lived in a palace in Prague. It is
said that his 300 horses ate from cribs of marble. He employed the best astrologers of his
time to help him plan his diplomatic moves.After his dismissal in 1630 he had even
contacted Gustaf and offered to oppose Vienna. In to the end his complicated diplomatic
initiatives continued in which he often did the opposite of what the emperor wanted. He
was dangerous and once had a servant executed by his personal hangman since he had be
wakened at the wrong time. He had the unusual weakness for military commanders that he
couldnt stand loud noices such as dogs barking. He had people kill stray dogs wherever he
went. He was 48 yeras old by now and suffered from reumatism so that he hardly could ride
but had to be carried in a chair. A very talented military he was the operational equal of
Gustaf II Adolf but lacked his tactical genious.
Wallensteins army mopps up in Bohemia and drives the saxons away. He then unites
with the bavarians and marsches on Nurnberg. Gustaf has to change his plans. He abort the
move into Austria and turns north with 28 000 men infantry, 17 000 men cavalry and 175
guns to save Nurnberg. It is the largest army he has ever commanded and even if the staff
is swedish only 10% of the soldiers are swedish or finnish. The swedes and finns were
mostly used for garrisons as they were more reliable than the mercenaries. The swedes
reach Nurnberg first and the towns defenses are improved. The army is encamped in what has
been described as a masterpiece of fortification. But when Wallenstein arives with his
slightly smaller army he encamps it a few kilometers away in an old castle ruin called
Alte Feste and manages to cut of the swedes and Nurnbergs supply. Gustaf answers by
calling for reinforrcements from three directions that cut of Wallensteins armys suppy. It
Both sides try to outstarve the enemy. The surrounding landscape turns into a
logistical desert where foraging units clash in skirmishes. A month passes and the
difficult situation turns into a disaster. Desertions become common and the army literally
sinks into the ground. Disease spread. Two months pass. As many as 10 000 men can have
turned to desertion to escape death by starvation.
Gustaf looses his nerve first. Cleverly spread rumors make the king believe that
only a small force remains at Alte Feste and that the main part of Wallensteins army has
withdrawn. Gustaf orders an attack up the mountain. But when the enemy opens fire it is
detected that the entire army is still at Alte Feste. Handpicked units attempt to take the
hill but not even Stĺlhandskes finns succeed. The king shows his talent by skillfully
coordinating different battlegroups in the difficult terrain but it doesnt help. The enemy
is too strong and the terrain too difficult. It didnt allow the mutual support of th
regimental guns and the cooperation of the musketeers and pikemen that the tactic built
on. Over 1000 swedes are killed and many important officers killed or wounded such as
Johan Banér. Lennart Torstensson is captured.
The swedish army is still stronger than the enemy but the prestigeloss is
considerable. Gustaf abandons Nurnberg and marches south where a protestant rebellion in
Bavaria needs assistance. He decides to invade Austria but news of Wallenstein again
forces him to change his plans. Wallenstein has marsched to the north and loots in Saxony.
The prince of Saxony, Johann Georg, threatens to dissolve the alliance with Gustaf and
Wallenstein threatens Mecklenburg and thus Gustafs line of communication with Sweden. A
forced marsch to the north is ordered on the 8th of October. An army normally moved only
4-5 kilometers a day on the bad muddy roads since it was a huge organisation of wagons,
horses and oxen. The army was accompanied by an equal number of merchants, thiefs, whores
and relatives to the officers. Now the army moved 40 kilometers a day. News arrive that
Wallenstein has already taken Leipzig and Halle. In the end of October the swedes close in
with Wallenstein who expects an attack any day.
The campaign of 1631-1632
The political situation is to Gustafs advantage. His forces total 150 000 men and he
controls greater parts of Germany. The imperials have 100 000 men. The situation is
reversed from the year before at Breitenfeldt. Still the king has two reasons to meet
Wallenstein. One political. He must retain the initiative and keep the rich Saxony in the
alliance. The other reason was strategic. He controlled more territory but the
communications were poor and if the opportunity to strike presented itself one must seize
it. And it did present itself. Wallenstein had waited for an attack for two weeks and had
decided that Gustaf had gone into winterquarters and now did the same. It was the first
really decisive mistake that Wallenstein committed and also his last. Gustaf heard of
Wallensteins forces going into winterquarters and immidietly decided to attack. 4 o clock
in the morning on the 5th of nvember the army moved towards Lutzen in battleformation.