A concise history of a cataclysmic European conflict in the 17th century
The Thirty Years’ War was fought between 1618-1648 and is widely recognised as being one of the most destructive wars ever fought. More people lost their lives in this conflict, as a percentage of the total population at the time, than in the conflicts of the twentieth century. Fought principally in central Europe—and mostly over terrain now in modern day Germany—the war involved more than fifteen nation states. Forces were divided broadly on religious grounds, between Protestants and their allies and the Catholics of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain but also with elements of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Self evidently this was a long, bloody conflict the causes of which were many and complex. Dynasties were born in its tumult, great men were brought to the fore and some, like Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, would perish before its conclusion. The campaigns and battles of the Thirty Years’ War have inspired historians across the centuries to the present day to write about them and many highly regarded works concerning the war have been published. This concise book takes a different approach; it sets out to give an understanding of the events and personalities involved and is an ideal overview for both specialists and those new to the subject.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The Battle of Lützen<br><br>
Wallenstein had succeeded at Nüremberg, but he was not to succeed in Saxony. Gustavus was upon him before he had gained the positions he needed. Erfurt was saved from the imperialists. Gustavus entered Naumburg to be adored as a saviour by men flying from Wallenstein’s barbarities. As he passed through the streets the poor fugitives bent down to kiss the hem of his garments. He would have resisted them if he could. He feared lest God should punish him for receiving honour above that which befitted a mortal man.<br>
The Saxon army was at Torgau, and that important post was still guarded. Wallenstein lay at Lützen. Even there, shorn as he was of his expected strength, he threw up entrenchments, and believed himself safe from attack. It was now November, and he fancied that Gustavus, satisfied with his success, would go, after the fashion of the time, into winter quarters.<br>
In Wallenstein’s army, Pappenheim’s dashing bravery made him the idol of the soldiers, and gave him an almost independent position. He begged to be allowed to attempt a diversion on the Rhenish bishoprics. Wallenstein gave the required permission, ordering him to seize Halle on the way.<br>
It was a serious blunder to divide an army under the eyes of Gustavus. Early on the morning of November 16 the Swedish king was in front of Wallenstein’s position at Lützen. He knew well that, if there was to be a battle at all, he must be the assailant. Wallenstein would not stir. Behind ditches and entrenchments, ready armed, his heavy squares lay immovably, waiting for the enemy, like the Russians at the Alma or the English at Waterloo. A fog lay thick upon the ground. The Swedish army gathered early to their morning prayer, summoned by the sounds of Luther’s hymn tune, “God is a strong tower,” floating on the heavy air from the brazen lips of a trumpet. The king himself joined in the morning hymn, “Fear not, little flock.” Then, as if with forebodings of the coming slaughter, others sung of “Jesus the Saviour, who was the conqueror of death.” Gustavus thrust aside the armour which was offered him. Since he had received a wound, not long before, he felt uncomfortable in it. Unprotected, he mounted on his horse, and rode about the ranks encouraging the men.<br>
At eleven the mist cleared away, and the sun shone out. The king gave his last orders to his generals. Then, looking to heaven, “Now,” he said, “in God’s name, Jesus, give us to-day to fight for the honour of thy holy name.” Then, waving his sword over his head, he cried out, “Forwards!” The whole line advanced, Gustavus riding at the head of the cavalry at the right. After a fierce struggle, the enemy’s lines were broken through everywhere. But Wallenstein was not yet mastered. Bringing up his reserves, he drove back the Swedish infantry in the centre. Gustavus, when he heard the news, flew to the rescue. In all other affairs of life he knew better than most men how to temper daring with discretion. In the battle-field he flung prudence to the winds. The horsemen, whom he had ordered to follow him, struggled in vain to keep up with the long strides of their master’s horse. The fog came down thickly once more, and the king, left almost alone in the darkness, dashed unawares into a regiment of the enemy’s cuirassiers. One shot passed through his horse’s neck. A second shattered his left arm. Turning round to ask one of those who still followed him to help him out of the fight, a third shot struck him in the back, and he fell heavily to the ground. A youth of eighteen, who alone was left by his side, strove to lift him up and to bear him off. But the wounded man was too heavy for him. The cuirassiers rode up and asked who was there. “I was the King of Sweden,” murmured the king, as the young man returned no answer, and the horseman shot him through the head, and put an end to his pain.<br>
Bernard of Weimar took up the command. On the other side Pappenheim, having received orders to return, hurried back from Halle. But he brought only his cavalry with him. It would be many hours before his foot could retrace their weary steps. The Swedes, when they heard that their beloved king had fallen, burnt with ardour to revenge him. A terrible struggle ensued. Hour after hour the battle swayed backwards and forwards. In one of the Swedish regiments only one man out of six left the fight unhurt. Pappenheim, the dashing and the brave, whose word was ever for fight, the Blücher of the seventeenth century, was struck down. At the battle of the White Hill he had lain long upon the field senseless from his wounds, and had told those who were around him when he awakened that he had come back from Purgatory. This time there was no awakening for him. The infantry which in his lifetime he had commanded so gallantly, came up as the winter sun was setting. But they came too late to retrieve the fight. Wallenstein, defeated at last, gave orders for retreat. <br>