After the death of the swedish king Gustaf II Adolf at Luetzen 6th of November 1632 the war entered a stalemate much like how two exhausted boxers lean on eachother in a clinch trying to regain strength enough to resume the exchange of blows. The loss of the king was decicive. It was his energy, ambition, strong will, unquestioned authority and mythical status in Germany that had held the ambivalent protestant princes in the alliance and united the swedes behind the decision to enter a new war immidietly after having defeated the poles in a ten year long war. His only child, Kristina, was only six years old and couldnt replace her father. No single person could. The responsibility was divided onto a number of persons. The most important without a doubt was Axel Oxenstierna, the chansellor. He had been the kings right hand for many years. A better suited person was impossible to find (although danes, germans and czech may disagree since he was the man that was blamed for the scores of atrocities commited in the rest of the war that devastated Germany and later Denmark as well). He now led the interim governement that was appointed until the crownprincess came of age.

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Axel Oxenstierna


Axel Oxenstierna was 49 years old and with a small grey beard, cool, calm, devoid of humor, arrogant but with a razor sharp intellect coupled to ambition and a fantastical memory, inexhaustable energy and a astounding talent for organization he had been the man that made many of the kings wild plans realizable. He had ambitions for himself but was statesman enough to put his own interests as well as those of his class (higher nobility) to the side when the affairs of the state demanded it. He was not the only of his kind in Europe. In Spain Gaspard de Guzman , count de Olivares, was the real ruler behind the spanish king. A round workoholic that took care of Spains affairs for 22 years with his pockets bristling with papers, some even tucked into his hat. In France the man in power actually was Armand-Jean du Plessis, cardinal de Richelieu. A dark, frail and thin but commanding man as skilled at intrigue, diplomacy, administration and author of theological works. The three all lived by acting in the shadows of their monarchs using their wide nets of agents and their energy to the best of their nations. All three equally skilled even if the successor to Richeliue, Mazarin, stated that if Europe was a ship the swedish chansellor was the best to steer it.


Axel Oxenstierna needed all his strength in the situation at hand. Many people on both sides saw the situation suitable for peace now that both sides were equally strong and a lengthy war of attrition seemed likely. . The warweariness that had dominated populace in Germany has started to spread to their princes as they realized that their countries were being destroyed by foreign and domestic armies alike. Some fanatics still saw it as a religoius war like the into theology plunged emperor. The winter was full of clandestine contacts discussing peace and settlements. Peace would certainly be a blessing for Gemany and its people, but a disappointment to the foreign nations that had intervened. For Sweden it would be a clear cut disaster. The armies would have to be disbanded and in that process paid what the state owed them. It would leave Sweden totally bankrupt with huge wardebts. The only acceptable peace included that Sweden got satsifaction for its efforts. After a few years it became more and more clear that a strange selfplaying piano had been set to work. Swedish armies marched and fought in order to be paid for marching and fighting.


In the spring of 1633 Axel Oxenstierna gathered the rulers of the countries in Schwaben, Franken Ober- and Niedersachsen in the town Heilbronn, north of Stuttgart. After wasting much time squabbling over issues of rank and etiquette Oxenstierna simply had all chairs and tables removed so that alll had to stand while negotiating. The result was that all agreed to continue by the side of Sweden in the war in the so called Heilbronn-union. A beautiful political front couldnt hide that the economical base was rotten to the core. Oxenstierna only managed to aquire contibutions of 200 000 riksdaler/year when the actual cost amounted to 900 000. Since many of the units had several years pay yet to recieve the budget was even worse. That had been possible when the army moved through enemy territory and could demand contributions and taxate the populace as well as pure loot and plunder to satisfy its needs. Oxenstierna was a diplomat of epic proportions but a military amateur. He envisioned that the shark stopped were it was to defend the already won. That meant that the suppies the armies needed had to be aquired from friendly territory and the chanse of loot was gone. How could the army sustain itself on those conditions?


The answer came rapidly. It couldnt. Instead it rebelled in April 1633. Or rather its higher commanders rebelled. A terrifying mathematical zero-sum game had developed since the armament race had grown the armies so large that they taxated the populace beyond what was possible. Only one army could sustain itself satisfyingly in a certain area (if the area was previously untouched from war, otherwise not even one army could survive). On the rare occasion when the soldiers were controlled with fierce discipline they died like dogs from starvation and dressed in rags if at all. More common was that they were not controlled and turned to plundering farms and villages, often under command of an officer. The number of murders, rape and thievery had increased dramatically the last period of time and it would become symptomatical of the war. The regimental commanders were often   entrepeneurs and did service from a strict economical and commercial basis. They aquired a letter of recruitment from an army commander and recruited a certain type of unit by offering a fixed pay and the chance of loot. The loose handed handing out of recruitment letters started a speculationfrenzy that can only be compared to the railwayaffairs of the 1800:s, the stockbubble of the 1920:s and the bankcrashes of the late 1980:s. If the army didnt pay its regimental commanders/entrepeneurs on time and no loot was available the regimental commander had to pay his soldiers from his own pocket. It was these economically vulnarable commanders that rebelled. (This was a major reason that the national swedish-finnish units were preferred since they required little pay and were much more loyal than the hired mercenaries. Thus they were mostly used as garrisontroops since they were less likely to surrender to a besieging enemy who offered pay.) The officers refused to take one step unless paid what they were owed. No, if they werent paid they would remain where they were and simply keep the country as pawn.


The men in Heilbronn got seriously scared when confronted with an army that was on strike. Their obedient tool controlled them instead. It was appararent that the commander of the army, the duke Bernard of Weimar was part of it. Being a mercenary himself he had the same motivations as his officers. This was a direct consequense from that the new way of fighting required well disciplined and well trained men. Only proffessionals could do the job. The swedish-finnish soldiers was something of an exception however. The mercenary proffessional had the advantage that he never got homesick or got tired of the war, that could be a disadvantage as well since decisive victories was not what he wanted. The main problem with the mercenaries was of course that there are no bonds of loyalty that keeps them in times of defeat or failure. If they arnt paid in some way they can very well leave. Thus the rulers were confronted by the fact that the mercenary armies were considerable factors of power. The men in Heilbronn could do nothing but pay and try to appear happy. Over 5 000 000 riksdaler were spent on the army. Mostly in the shape of landdonations to the commanders. Bernard was given two bishophoods. This solved the immidiate crisis but didnt mean that the armys loyalty was bought forever.


The economical transactions took until August to complete. Until then the commanders sat idling with their swords in the scabbards. So there was not much of war in 1633. In line with his ideas of how the war was to be waged Oxenstierna had divided the army into smaller ones that operated in different directions. Since no overall commander was appointed it became a series of uncoordinated minor campaigns were the commanders often refused to help eachother and sometimes acted against the given orders to benefit themselves. One commander even started an entirely fictous campaign in order not to be forced to send reinforcements to another army. In this way little was achieved.


1633 was the year when the different conflict in Europe melted into one gigantic war. In a minor battle the national swedish-finnish units from the Luetzen army decisively defeated an imperial superior force at Oldendorf. When they counted the captured colors and found them to be no less than 74 they were given the order to move to the northwest were they found themselves fighting with the slowly maneuvering dutch in their war against the spanish in the spanish netherlands (todays Belgium). Thus Sweden was in war with Spain as well. French and swedish (fighting different wars) cut the spanish road (going from the Hapsburgers land in Spain, northern Italy and along the Rhine up to the spanish netherlands. This affected Spain gravely since that was their only mean to reinforce the spanish Netherlands with troops from Spain. The dutch controlled the sea entirely. A spanish army under the duke Feria was mustered to eject any intruders that cut the spanish road. After having relieved two towns threatened by the swedish, Konstanz amd Breilach, and thus clearing Alcace the army continued to Lorraine that the french had entered. It had become late in the year however and Ferias arm hadnt any logistical support nor artillery and was forced to withdraw in a terrible state of starvation and disease. By the end of winter Feria himself and the majority of his men had died. Spain was now in war with France.


A most important event was that finally the emperor decided that Wallensteins martial abilities did not justify his intriguing. Wallensteins goal seems to have been to makle himself king of Bohemia. It was too much for the emperor who in a dark winter night had Wallenstein assassinated.




The armies of Gustav Horn and Bernard of Weimar united to conduct a campaign. The commanders could not get along however and none was appointed as the overall commander. After a succesful deep thrust into Bavaria while the saxons reached the walls of Prague enemy moves slowed and eventually halted the advance. The imperial main army under king Ferdinand of Hungary (later emperor Ferdinand III) started to besiege the protestant town of Nördlingen north of Donau (the danube) after having taken Regensburg (that surrendered on the 16th of July after a brave fight) and Donauwörth (surrendered on the 6th of August) that the swedes failed in preventing. The combined army of Horn and Bernard moved towards Nördlingen.  On the 23rd of August the army reached Bopfingen village and Bernard called to a staffmeeting. He wanted to attack the entrenched enemy in order to relieve the town that had large political significance due to the ongoing Heilbronn convention in Frankfurt. Horn and several other officers opposed the idea since an attack was impossible from the present location due to terrainobstacles. Bernard folded and a probe by 250 musketeers proved Horn right. An attack was doomed from the start. On the 2nd of September a spanish army reinforced the imperials and leaugers outside Nördlingen and on the 3rd Horn called yet another staffmeeting, Bernard again advocating an attack to relieve the desperate town. Since the enemy had been reinforced by the spanish force and counted 34 000 and their own reinforcements ( general Crantz and the rhinecount Otto Ludwig) had not yet arrived the staff and Horn wanted to wait for Crantz that was close but not for Otto Ludwig that had far to go. The army of only 23 000 was to marsch on the enemy on the 4th when Crantz was to have arrived. Since Crantz was delayed the advance was postponed to the 5th. It is of utmost importance that Horn still didnt want to attack the enemy in his strong position. He wanted to relieve the town simply by moving closer.

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Gustav Horn


The marsch on Nördlingen led to that the advanceguard came in contact with the enemy however. They had considerable initial success. The hills of Himmelreich, Ländle and Lachberg were taken. At Haselberg stiffer recistance was encountered. To the right of Haselberg lay the high hill of Allbuch that without vegetation was the dominating terrainfeature. The victory depended on the taking of Allbuch. Horn volunteered to take it with his forces. The battle had started by itself against Horns wishes and with Bernards forces engaged frontally defending against possible imperial attacks trying to cut Horns only possible route of withdrawal a flanking move taking Allbuch was a good plan in itself. Sofar Horn has acted as the good commander he was. His caution earlier was well justified and his plan to fight the unwanted battle was also a good one.


The enemy entrenched on Allbuch consisted of strong spanish units under Cerbellon. Three breastworks in the shape of a clover were dug and the infantry supported by five imperial cavalryregiments. All the units on the left flank were spanish and imperial while the right flank facing Bernard was exclusively leaugerled and made up of leugerunits. The overall commander was the imperial general Gallas.


The formations under Horn started their attack up the hill and with initial success one of the breastworks is taken (the one in the middle). In the powdersmoke and dust the two swedish brigades charging it from different directions accidently starts to fight eachother and it takes time to separate them. At that time the strong imperial cavalry formations counterattack together with spanish and italian imperial infantry. The defense of the taken breastwork collapses when a huge gunpowderexplosion in it shatters the defenders. The swedish units are in desperate need of cavalryassistance but it never comes as the commanders cant see what is happening on the hill in the dust and white banks of powdersmoke. Thus the cavalry remained in tranquil meditation below the hill. The breastwork is recaptured. Had it not been it is likely that the battle had ended with a huge swedish victory despite the enemys superiority.

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The battle of Nördlingen 1634.


Horn is determined to take the hill again and orders another attack. It is now that the difference between being a good commander and a great commander surfaces. Horn was thorough, cautious and competent. He also lacked imagination. That trait dominates him for the rest of the battle as he continues to send his men up hill against the numerically superior and entrenched enemy. Time after time the lines of men under fluttering banners roll up the hill only to meet a murderous fire from muskets and cannons. Time after time they roll back down covered in black from the powder some and red blood from torn comrades, decimated they reform their ranks and again roll up the hill over dead and dying soldiers. The frightful losses weakening the lines in each attack while the spanish defenders recieved reinforcements. Horn evidently believing that success was only one attack away continued. The enemy counted fifteen charges up the hillside into the meatgrinder.


At last even Horn realizes that the opportunity of victory has passed and orders a retreat. His own accounts tell of an orderly retreat with an arriere garde covering the withdrawal. A most difficult maneuver in the face of a determined enemy. At that moment the imperial right wing attacks Bernards forces and breaks them. The routing masses flee right into Horns retreating units and chaos ensues. At that time the enemy on Allbuch joins in the attack and the massacre starts. Imperial sources tell a slightly different story. The retreat Horn ordered broke into a rout from the start and the attacks from the imperial right and left flanks were more or less simoultanous. The result is undisputed. An army trying to run away from a pursuing enemy is more or less helpless and the entire protestant army was detroyed in the slaughter. Horn was captured. A spanish soldier named Estebanillo Gonzales had panicked at the start of the battle and feigned dead along a killed horse. Now he sprang to his feet with a cutlass to "gut some swedes". He was one of the men roaming the battlefield killing the moaning bloodstained wounded and plundering them of clothing and other valuables.


Horns army lost 6000 men killed or wounded and an equal number captured, 130 colors and about 70 guns captured along with the 4000 wagons of the armys train. The spanish soldiers on Allbuch threw their hats in the air and cheered to the Hapsburgs. The result was a disaster to many. Not least to the protestants of the area that now were at the mercy of the enemy. Horn had at least maintained some discipline since it was a friendly territory. Even if not a single national swedish-finnish unit participated in the battle, it being completely a mercenary army, it was a disaster to the swedish interests. The swedish intervention was never popular among many of the german princes and the wide support that had been enjoyed in the protestant  populace was diminishing as the swedish army degenerated into a poorly disciplined wild and unruly rabble of mercenaries led by generals that profitted from the war themselves and cared little for the civilians. The swedish position in Germany rested entirely on drawn rapiers and sharpened pikes and when the main army was destroyed in southern Germany Oxenstierna and the rulers found themselves sitting in thin air. The swedish garrisons in southern Germany were rapidly evacuated and the Heilbronn union fell apart. Disaster was imminent. Immidietly imminent.