GUSTAVUS II. ADOLPHUS is the greatest figure of Swedish history, revered and beloved as one of the noblest of heroes, a genius in whom the qualities of the great statesman and warrior were blended with the faith of a man ready to sacrifice his life for the loftiest of causesreligious liberty. Gustavus Adolphus was, by his own triumphant deeds and through his school of discipline, which turned out men worthy to follow up his work, destined to bring his country up to the fulfilment of its mission in the history of human progress, and to open for it an era of glory and political grandeur which its limited resources made it impossible to preserve, but which was fruitful of results for its later cultural evolution.
The secret of Sweden’s success in solving the stupendous conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism, between reaction and progress, rested in the fact that this little country was eminently ready to wage a war for religious liberty. It had been more perfectly rejuvenated by the spirit of Protestantism than had, at the time, any other country. The medieval state, completed later in Sweden than on the continent, also gave way there sooner and more completely than elsewhere. The yeomanry, never fully suppressed, had preserved its old spirit of independence, fostered and guided by patriotic leaders of the nobility, with or without a crown. The population was suffering, hungering, bleeding, but free, indomitable, and devoted to its once more hereditary kings of Swedish birth and to their new faith, which had made strong in them their old individuality of views and life.
When Gustavus Adolphus ascended the throne, the country was in the greatest peril and distress, and had many a lesson to learn before entering the universal conflict of the Thirty Years’ War.
Gustavus Adolphus was born, Dec. 9, 1594, at the castle of Stockholm. When six years old, he followed his father to devastated Finland, returning through Norrland, for the settlement and future of which territory great plans were made. At ten, he was ordered to be present at the deliberations of the state council; at thirteen, he received petitions and complaints, rectifying wrongs and soothing suffering. His father said of him, in speaking of the fulfilment of great works, placing his hand on the curly blond head : “Ille faciet.” The prince received a severe and carefully supervised education, led by Johan Skytte. He acquired knowledge of a considerable number of languages, probably all in a mechanical way, except the Swedish and German, with both of which he was made equally and thoroughly familiar, speaking and writing the latter language with greater ease and perfection than the emperor Ferdinand, or Maximilian of Bavaria. In the sciences of economics and war he was well read, himself inaugurating novel theories in both. In him the best traits of the Vasa dynasty were admirably blended and enlarged. He possessed an acute intellect, far-reaching views of almost prophetic discernment, a mastery and patience in detail, and an indomitable strength of will. To the ceaseless and pains-taking care of the welfare of his subjects, characteristic of his father and grandfather, were in him added a harmony of endowment and a gentleness of disposition which made him their superior. In him the turbulent blood of the Vasas was held in noble self-restraint. After his rare outbursts of passion, he made good his faults in a most royal manner. His youth was not without the temptations which beset all richly endowed natures, but they were vanquished as he grew up to the importance of his grand mission. He stood in the paternal attitude to his people so becoming to his grandfather, but lacked the fiery democratic tendencies and the sympathy for the untitled, unpretentious and lowly, so strong in his stern father. To his relatives he was as gentle as to his subjects, treating his resolute and ambitious mother, Christine of Holstein-Gottorp, with love and respect; on her demand -sacrificing the love of his youth and intended bride, Ebba Brahe, who became the consort of victorious Jacob de la Gardie. Also to his brother Charles Philip he stood in an exemplary relation; but firmly refused to grant him privileges for his duchy of Vermland which could be injurious to the country at large.
Gustavus Adolphus was a man of commanding presence, tall and of a heavy frame. The color of his face was clear and light, his eyes blue, his hair and beard blond. Foreign contemporary authors called him “the golden king of the North.” He carried his head high, and his open, frank eye, and the clear voice of manly resonance, gave added charm to his noble appearance. Gustavus Adolphus possessed a majestic dignity of bearing coupled with the unfeigned kindness of a noble heart.
Charles IX. had left his son the Danish war as an inheritance. It was carried on in the provinces of the frontiers, and consisted chiefly in small conflicts, which caused fatigue and detriment without being decisive. The Danes entered the interior of Smaland during the first days of the year 1612. Gustavus Adolphus, in his turn, moved from the fort of Ryssby into the province of Scania, destroying by fire the town of V e and several castles belonging to the wealthy nobility. During a smaller conflict which then took place, Gustavus Adolphus was in imminent danger of his life.
The Swedes had made a camp for themselves at the cemetery of Vittsj, when suddenly surprised by a force of Danish cavalry. The Swedes fought with determination, but found it necessary to leave their camp. They took a firm stand on the frozen waters of the adjoining lake, but were forced to leave that position also. A tumult en-sued, during which the ice gave way on the spot where the king found himself, for the moment, alone and without an escort. Per Banér, a son of Gustavus Banér, who was executed at Linkoping at the command of Charles IX., perceived the king in the moment of greatest danger, and hastened with Thomas Larsson, a trooper from Upland, to rescue him. When in safety, the king at once unbuckled his silver belt, and, handing it to the trooper, said : “I shall remember thee with a piece of bread, which neither thou nor thy children shall ever find lacking.” Thomas Larsson received in the following year a farm in the province of Westmanland, which has remained in the possession of his descendants to this very day. Per Banér received in fief the estates which had been in the possession of his uncle, Sten Banér, also executed at Linkping, and rose to the dignity of a state councillor during the minority of Queen Christine.
It was the ambition of Christian IV. of Denmark to cut Sweden off from any communication with the North Sea. As Bohuslæn and Halland both were parts of the Danish do-minion, there was only the small strip of territory surrounding the mouth of the Gotha River to conquer. The island of Rising constituted the larger part of it, and was the site of the new town of Gothenburg, which was defended by the fortress of Elfsborg. The town of New Ldse was situated on the opposite shore, some few miles up the river, defended by the fort of Gullberg. The Danish king approached Gullberg from Bohus, having with him a smaller force, which he considered sufficient in numbers. Gullberg was only a poor little nest, but it was valiantly defended by Morten Krakow and his wife, the stanch Lady Emerentia Pauli. One day the Danes made a violent attack. The ladders which they placed against the walls were crushed by heavy beams which the Swedes let fall down on them. In spite of this, the Danes succeeded in forcing the gates of the place. The position was a critical one for the Swedes. The commander had met with an accident and was unable to lead the defence. But Lady Emerentia resolved to take the command. She gave orders to the wives of the soldiers to fill up the vaulted passage of the gates with barrels, washtubs, timber, etc. When the Danes stormed on in a compact body, they were received by a downfall of scalding-hot lye, which the women kept pouring down on them from behind their barricade. The daughter of Lady Emerentia thus graphically describes the effect: “They lay in the vault and around the gates like scalded hogs.” Lady Emerentia had placed two pieces of artillery on the top of a small building fronting the gates. They were loaded with broken horseshoes and the like and sent out a disastrous fire. The few surviving Danes fled hurriedly for their lives, leaving Lady Emerentia in proud possession of the fort. A second attack which was made later on proved as futile as the first. King Christian then gave command to abandon the plan of taking the fort. The Danish army collected in a field in front of Gullberg. But Lady Emerentia was vigilant. From the walls of the fort she espied a man of prepossessing appearance who rode a white horse. “Shoot that man!” was her immediate command to the nearest soldier. The shot took effect, killing the white horse, whose brains and blood spattered the king. For the man on horseback was King Christian. “That devilish crow does never sleep!” exclaimed the king, refer-ring to the commander.
King Christian turned on New Ldse, killing without mercy all the male inhabitants of the town. West Goth-land was invaded, the province appearing to be an easy prey because the Swedish army, commanded by Duke John, had just left it to march into Halland. But the bailiff of Hjentorp called on the peasants to rise, which caused the Danes to recede. The Danes next made an attack on the fortress of Elfsborg, commanded by Olof Strole. Elfsborg was defended with heroism, but when fire threatened to destroy the towers, Olof Strole at last surrendered. On account of their valiant conduct the commander and his men, who were reduced to 200, were granted free passage with their music and banners. The able Morten Krakow of Gullberg had been promoted to the fortress of Vaxholm. His successor surrendered Gullberg to the Danes shortly after the fall of Elfsborg. King Christian planned a series of invasions in the year 1612, but, thanks to the vigilance of Gustavus Adolphus, he failed to accomplish the desired effect.
Gustavus Adolphus wanted peace with Denmark, and such was made at Knerd in 1613, after a war of mutual invasions and without any decisive battles or conquests of territory. The frontiers were to remain the same as before the war; the Danish king was allowed to keep the emblem of three crowns, but had to resign his claims upon the Swedish crown. The fortress of Elfsborg remained in the hands of the Danes for six years, until $1,000,000, an exorbitant sum in those days, was paid for it. It cost the people of Sweden very dear to pay this sum, sacrifices being made by the king and his friends to contribute to it. But Elfsborg, the only approach to the North Sea, was indispensable. It was returned in a miserable condition, and Gothenburg, on the opposite side of Gotha River, destroyed. Gustavus Adolphus ordered Gothenburg to be moved to its present site, on the mainland, and endowed it with extensive commercial privileges, encouraging Dutch merchants to settle there.
The war with Russia began once more in 1614. Gustavus Adolphus not having been found willing to accept the crown for his brother Charles Philip, the negotiations were dropped. Count de la Gardie resumed control of the movements, although the king was present in person. The Swedes won a great victory at Bronitz and captured the fortress of Augdof. An attempt to take Pskof was unsuccessful, Evert Horn, the hero of a hundred battles, losing his life; but the Russians were willing to make peace. Through the honorable peace of Stolbova, in February, 1617, Russia gave up all claims on Esthonia and Livonia, and ceded to Sweden Ingermanland and Kexholm. This cut off the Russians from the Baltic, fixed the Swedish frontier on the lakes Ladoga and Peipus, and left Sweden in peace with the mightiest of her enemies during almost a century. The armistice with Poland ended in 1616, but after two years of insignificant movements it was continued up to 1620.
Gustavus II. Adolphus with untiring energy continued the work of building up the new state founded by Gustavus I. At the death of his father, the royal youth had won everybody by his gentleness and generosity. His first act was perhaps the wisest of all, in selecting among the councillors the young, highly talented Axel Oxenstierna as his chancellor. This couple have no peers in history, being united by the firmest of friendships and rising simultaneously to the highest ability of statesmanship, the gifts of the one wonderfully supplementing those of the other. The chancellor was cooler and slower than his royal friend. He placed supreme the duties to his country, but was of very aristocratic tendencies, through his influence leading the king still further away from the democratic principles of his father. To the nobility were granted the old privileges, with others in addition, which became menacing to the ancient freedom of the peasantry. The management of internal affairs and all branches of the administration were placed under various departments. They were presided over by the high functionaries and their offices chiefly filled by noblemen. A permanent supreme court was established in Stockholm, with the Drotsete as president, in 1614. In 1623, a supreme court for Finland was established and a governor-general for that grandduchy appointed, who was also to be president of the court. In 1630, a supreme court for the Baltic provinces was established at Dorpat. The Riksdag, governed by the new rules of 1617, was to convene yearly, and to consist of the four Estates of the kingdom : the nobility, clergy, bourgeoisie and yeomanry, each divided into various classes. These latter were as yet not quite distinct or organized, except those of the nobility, who, in 1625, formed a knightly chapter, the Riddarhus, which kept a register of the legitimate noble families of Sweden and Finland and watched over the interests of its members. The Estate of the nobility was divided in three classes, lords, knights and squires. To the first belonged the holders of counties and baronies, to the second those whose ancestors held the rank of state councillors, and to the third the rest of the nobility. As each class had one vote in the Riksdag, the supremacy of lords and knights, called the “higher nobility,” was secure, when standing united, over the more numerous third class, the “lower nobility.” The king appointed the speaker of the nobility, the landtmarskalk, who also was the president of their chapter. The Swedish church had its greatest epoch during the period of political grandeur, being characterized by a remarkable strength of faith and by a praiseworthy energy and earnestness. The clergy, high and low, set beautiful examples of piety, learning and patriotism. It was beloved by the people and spoke in their behalf with authority and courage. Not able to win Gustavus Adolphus over to more democratic views, it won his admiration, and he surnamed the ministers “tribunes of the people.” The burghers, touched by the patriotic spirit, developed great energy during this period, trade and commerce having a devoted patron in the king, who, besides the new Gothenburg, founded twelve other towns in Sweden and Finland. The miners occupied of old an uncertain position between burghers and yeomen. They were strengthened and encouraged by the personal interest which the king took in the mining industry. He visited the mines repeatedly, descending into the bowels of the earth to inspect the ore and the new methods introduced from abroad by foreign miners. Among the latter the immigrated Dutchman, Louis de Geer, exerted a beneficial influence upon that industry. The factories producing clothing and weapons for the army were. also encouraged. The yeomen occupied a difficult, almost desperate position between the increasing privileges of the nobility and the in-creasing taxes of the crown. Their burdens were doubled and their rights reduced ; yet sustained by the church, and believing in the lofty ideals of the king, they persevered, fulfilling their duties with a high degree of patriotism.
No Swedish king has done so much for education as Gustavus Adolphus. To the University of Upsala he donated 300 of his hereditary estates, founding its library, improving its courses, banishing misrule, and appointing his old teacher, John Skytte, its chancellor. He created the German University of Dorpat in Esthonia, in 1632; later for some time moved to Pernau. Colleges were established in the larger towns. The king was, through his thorough studies of Swedish laws and conditions, in a position to take an active part in the reforms which he promulgated, never resting long in one place, but travel-ling from one point to another, where his presence was most necessary; shaping plans and reforms by his own judgment, to have them indorsed by the next Riksdag, and then enforcing them himself. Especially the army passed through an evolution, thanks to new methods, devised by the king, who was to win his victories through the introduction of improved tactics and divisions, by means of which the troops were easier to move and the cooperation between the various weapons increased.
In 1618 the “Thirty Years’ War” began. The dethroned Frederic of the Palatinate turned, among others, to Gustavus Adolphus for support, which the latter was not able to give in a direct way. But he promised to at-tack Poland as soon as the armistice was at an end, thereby making it impossible for Sigismund to support Emperor Ferdinand with troops. In 1621, Gustavus Adolphus commenced operations against Poland, taking the command himself. Riga and Mitau were captured, the former important commercial centre regaining its privileges, but sending representatives to the Swedish Riksdag and accepting a Swedish governor. After having conquered Livonia, Gustavus Adolphus entered Courland the following year, when an armistice was agreed to. Gustavus followed the events in Germany with increasing interest, forming the plan of an alliance between the Protestant powers. Learning that the emperor was willing to support Sigismund, Gustavus Adolphus offered to invade Silesia. But as Christian IV. of Denmark was anxious to lead the Protestant forces, Gustavus Adolphus quietly withdrew, resuming action against Poland. After a victory at Wallhof, he entered Polish Prussia, where he was dangerously wounded at Dirschau. The Poles were reinforced by imperial troops, but suffered a defeat at Gurzo; the Swedish general, Her-man Wrangel, winning the day. When the considerable reinforcements of 10,000 men joined the Poles, the Swedes receded in good order. A smaller conflict occurred at Stuhm, famous because Gustavus Adolphus was twice in danger of his life during the struggle, which otherwise was of no importance. An imperial trooper caught him by the belt and tried to drag the king with him. According to the report of Axel Oxenstierna, the king loosened the belt and let it go. In so doing, he also lost his hat, which was carried to Vienna and preserved as a token of the “great victory.” Another trooper, shortly afterward, caught the king by the arm, aiming at the head with his sword. In the critical moment, Eric Soop, the colonel of a Swedish cavalry regiment, appeared, killing the trooper with a pistol-shot. Gustavus Adolphus referred to this struggle as the “hottest bath” that he was ever in.
In September, 1629, an armistice was agreed to, at Altmark, to last for six years, during which period Sweden was to keep Livonia and the Russian towns of Elbing, Braunsberg, Pillau and Memel. The new acquisition of territory was small, but the revenue from these commercial towns, and from Dantzic, Libau and Windau, was considerable, and went to pay for the army expenses of the German campaign. The new temporary possessions in Prussia were formed into a Swedish governmental section, over which Axel Oxenstierna was appointed governor-general.
What follows belongs to one of the most noted chapters of universal history. The unbroken chain of Swedish victories, the noble character of the king and the severe discipline upheld among his men, who commenced and ended their battles with prayers and hymns, astounded the world. The exalted nobility of Gustavus Adolphus appears to us all the more striking, contrasted with the faithlessness, vanity and cowardice of the contemporary reigning princes of Germany and Denmark. His victories appear all the more remarkable because the greatest warriors of the ageTilly, Wallenstein and Pappenheimwere his adversaries.
He was received by the people of Germany as a liberator, and his memory is blessed by every thinking German, who admits that the Swedes, Gustavus Adolphus and Axel Oxenstierna, completed the work which the Germans, Luther and Melanchthon, created. The loftiness of the ideals which inspired Gustavus Adolphus have been doubted, but not with justice. He was brought up in a severely Christian home and the sincerity of his piety is unmistakable. His father’s clairvoyant views upon the coming religious conflict were familiar to him since his early youth, while he was, through his mother, related in blood to the majority of Protestant princes. Thus apparently predestined, as the greatest statesman and warrior of his age, to take up the cause of his persecuted brethren, he did not do so before the ambitious Christian IV. had utterly failed in his attempts and with contumely been forced to retire. It is not probable that Gustavus Adolphus ever thought of placing the crown of the Roman empire upon his head, but plausible to suppose that he had in view the formation of a strong union of the Protestant countries of Northern Europe.
Before leaving Sweden, Gustavus II. convoked the representatives of his people, holding on his arm his little daughter Christine, four years old, for whom he asked their pledge of allegiance. His farewell speech was touching in its simplicity and the premonition of his tragic end. Not for worldly glory, but to save his country from peril and his brethren from distress, he undertook this risky war. “Generally,” he said, “it happens thus that the vessel hauls water until it goes to pieces. With me likewise, that I, who in so many perils for the weal of my country have shed my blood, and yet until this day have been spared through the grace of God, now at last must lose my life. For that reason I will this time commend you, the collected Estates of the realm, to the hand of God, the Supreme One, wishing that we, after this our miserable and burdensome life, according to the will of God, may meet again, to dwell in the celestial and infinite.” These words do not resemble the terse, striking speeches of his grandfather, but they bear the stamp of sincerity, and by them Gustavus Adolphus, his work and his purpose, are judged by the Swedish people.
Midsummer Day, 1630, Gustavus Adolphus landed with his troops at the island of Ruden, on the coast of Pomerania. Two days later he proceeded to the larger island of Usedom. His troops consisted of 13,000 men. ,Gustavus Adolphus was himself the first to land. He knelt on the shore and prayed to God in a loud voice; his prayer moved those surrounding him to tears. When the king noticed it he said: “Do not cry, but pray to God with fervor. The more of prayer, the more of victory; the best Christian is the best soldier.” Then he took hold of a spade and commenced to assist personally in the work of building a camp. When it grew dark, the heavens were illuminated by the fire of burning villages, giving evidence of the manner in which the enemy conducted his warfare.
The supercilious Wallenstein had been dismissed by the emperor at the time when Gustavus Adolphus landed in Germany, but his wild hordes were pillaging Pomerania. Yet Gustavus Adolphus had great difficulty in persuading the old duke of Pomerania to accept the alliance he offered him. But when this was done, it took the Swedes only a short time to clear the duchy of its enemies. The young landgrave of Hesse and the free city of Magdeburg were glad to accept an alliance with Gustavus Adolphus. A treaty was made with France, which country promised to pay subsidies to Sweden as long as the German war lasted. Tilly, who was in command of the imperial troops, approached Magdeburg. Gustavus Adolphus sent proper provisions to Magdeburg with an experienced commander, as he could not go himself, because the elector of Saxony refused to let him pass with his army through Saxon territory. Magdeburg was captured by Tilly, who sacked and destroyed it by fire in a most barbarous way.
The discipline and moderation of the Swedish troops formed a great contrast to the reckless behavior of the imperial army. The Swedes left the peaceful inhabitants in undisturbed possession of their lives and property; the strictest order was maintained within the army; each regiment held morning and evening prayers in the open air; gambling, carousing and plundering were sternly prohibited. For these reasons the Swedish king and his army were received by the poor downtrodden people as saviors and liberators. Gustavus Adolphus deeply mourned the fall of Magdeburg, whose fate it had not been in his power to prevent. He took a fortified position at Werben, where the river Havel is joined by the Ube. Tilly entered Saxony with a hostile demeanor, not satisfied with the lukewarm friendship of the elector. Burning villages marked the way of his army. The poor elector, not knowing what to do, in his despair turned to Gustavus Adolphus, whom he had treated so coldly and begged him for help. The king at once was ready to forget past differences, and, joining forces with the elector, he marched toward Leipsic.
Tilly, with 35,000 men, occupied an advantageous position near the village of Breitenfeld, not far from Leipsic, at the summit of a long ridge of sandy hills. The infantry and the greater part of the cavalry were grouped in heavy divisions, forming one single line of battle with artillery behind at the very top of the hills. Tilly himself commanded the centre, while his able and fiery sub-commander, Pappenheim, had the command of the left wing, being in hopes to encounter the Swedish king personally. The Swedish army consisted of 22,000 men, who were joined by 11,000 Saxons.
Early in the morning of September 7, 1631, the Swedes started toward Breitenfeld. Tilly turned pale, it is said, when he saw the order and firmness with which the Swedes marched up to take their positions on the narrow slips of ground between the Lober brook and the reach of the imperial cannon. The Swedes were arranged in a double line of battle, infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings. Between the squadrons of cavalry divisions of musketeers were placed. The regimental artillery was distributed over a number of places. The king commanded the right wing in person, with John Banér as sub-commander. Teuffel led the centre and Gustavus Horn the left wing. The king had no confidence in the Saxons, for which reason he had arranged them by themselves at some distance to the left of the Swedish army. When everything was arranged, the king rode to the front. With his head uncovered, and his sword pointing to the ground, he prayed : “Almighty God, thou who holdest victory and defeat in the hollow of thy hand, turn thine eyes unto us, thy servants, who have come hither from distant dwellings to fight for liberty and truth, for thy holy Gospel. Give victory unto us for the glory of thy hallowed name ! Amen!” The prayer of the king could be heard by almost every man of the army, and all were touched and strengthened by his pious trust in a righteous cause. The Swedes of the right wing were soon at-tacked by Pappenheim and his cavalry. But the horses of the imperialists were frightened by the flashing fire of the musketeers, and the attack failed to have an effect. It was ended as quickly as it was begun. Pappenheim concluded to make an attempt to surprise the Swedes from the left side. But the king divined his plan. He ordered John Banér with the second line to make a movement by which to turn at an angle with the first and face the attack from the side. Pappenheim was surprised to find a new line facing him. A bloody struggle ensued. Seven times his men made an inroad on the Swedish line and were seven times repulsed, badly damaged by the fire of the musketeers. The Swedes, in their turn, made an attack which scattered Pappenheim’s forces from the field in wild flight.
Tilly had with his light cavalry attacked the left wing of the Swedes. His men were mostly made up of Croats and other semi-barbarous people. When repulsed by the Swedes they concentrated their forces to crush the Saxons. These withstood the first assault, but the second routed them completely. The imperialists then made a second attack upon the left Swedish wing, made up of only 2,500 men. Gustavus Horn acted with coolness and great presence of mind. He let the first line close in on the second till it was able to take a firm stand against the heavy force of the attacking enemy. The Swedes never for a moment lost their position, in spite of the frightful onslaught. The king arrived and remained for some time with the left wing. He ordered the Scotch brigade of hired troops to support him. The Scotch had cannon hidden behind their lines. These had a telling effect upon the attacking imperialists, who were thrown back, suffering great losses. Everywhere the battle was fought with frenzy, the clouds of dust and smoke changing the day into night.
The king made sure that the left wing of the enemy’s army was engaged in continued flight. Then he commenced an attack with his own right wing upon the imperial artillery, which had kept up a steady fire against the Swedish centre. Tilly’s cannon were captured at the first attempt and turned on the imperial troops, causing consternation. Horn opened an attack on his side and the king hastened to support him with his troops. Tilly tried in vain to lead his troops into the battle. Pappenheim had returned and gave brilliant proofs of personal courage. The defeat of the imperial army was unavoidable; it scattered in helpless confusion. Tilly lost his horse and was near being captured himself. Four of his best infantry regiments took a stand and tried to resist the conquering foe. These imperial soldiers, who never had suffered a defeat, preferred death to surrender. Tilly fled at last, followed by only 600 men. After five hours of fighting the Swedes had won a glorious victory. They finished the day with prayer and remained on the battlefield over night, arranged in order of battle. The following morning they entered the deserted camp of the enemy where a rich booty awaited them.
The progress of Gustavus Adolphus along the shores of the river Main to the towns of Frankfort and Mayence was a march of triumph. In capturing Mayence, the Swedes fought the Spanish allies of the emperor. The towns surrendered to violence or by their own consent. Gustavus Adolphus made their inhabitants pledge their fidelity to him and strengthened his power with the rich resources of the Frankish country. Then he turned against Maximilian of Bavaria. Tilly, who was to defend Bavaria, was again encountered and defeated at Lech. He was carried from the battle mortally wounded and died soon after-ward. Gustavus Adolphus made his triumphal entry into Munich, with Frederic of the Palatinate at his side. The danger to the crown lands of the emperor was imminent.
Wallenstein was the most famous of German generals. Reticent and secretive, he appeared to be unable to feel mercy. He was devoted to the secret doctrines of astrology, which in him had taken the place of religion. He cared naught for the cause of religious liberty or the fall of the German empire, looking only for occasions to satisfy his own ambition and the means of obtaining power and wealth. He had served the emperor, who had raised him to the dignity of a duke of Mecklenburg, but had been dismissed and deprived of his dignities at the time of the arrival of Gustavus Adolphus on Gorman soil. His down-fall was caused by complaints of his insolence and recklessness, made by Maximilian of Bavaria and other German princes. Wallenstein retired to Prague, at the castle of which town he surrounded himself with princely luxury and comfort, scheming for revenge. His plan was to join the enemies of the emperor. He approached Gustavus Adolphus for such purpose, before the battle of Breitenfeld, and was delighted to hear of the defeat of Tilly. Gustavus Adolphus seemed at first inclined to take up relations with Wallenstein, but at the point where an agreement was to be made he suddenly changed his attitude. The king probably hesitated to accept the services of a man who had no other aim than to satisfy his own ambition. The emperor was placed in a bad predicament, at the second defeat of Tilly, for want of an army to defend his lands and a commander to lead it. There was only one way out of the difficulty, and that was to pacify the mortally offended Wallenstein, and to persuade him to re-enter the service of the emperor. The emperor resigned himself to accept this humiliating condition, and Wallenstein agreed to resume command, but only at a high price. The name of Wallenstein was enough to bring thousands of warriors under the imperial banners, and Wallenstein was soon at the head of an army of sufficient proportions. His doctrine was that “the war should support itself,” according to which his soldiers were allowed to sack and plunder at will the countries through which they were passing. He cared naught for the recklessness of his subordinates, if they only showed blind obedience to him.
Wallenstein expelled the Saxons who had invaded Bohemia. But he showed disinclination to assist the elector of Bavaria, who was compelled to leave his country. At Eger, Wallenstein was reinforced and marched on Nuremberg with an army of 60,000, prepared to meet Gustavus Adolphus. He was confident of his superior force. “Within four days,” he said, “it shall become evident whether I or the Swedish king is the master of Germany.” Gustavus Adolphus hastened to relieve Nuremberg, taking his position in the immediate neighborhood of said town. He had only 18,000 men with him, but he surrounded this army with solid fortifications, and Wallenstein dared not risk an attack, in spite of his superior force. Wallenstein took his position at the summit of three steep hills, surrounded by trenches and ramparts. His intention was to cut off the Swedes from all sources of supplies and force them to surrender by starvation. “I shall teach the Swedish king,” he said, “a new method of warfare.”
For nine weeks the two armies were facing each other. The suffering became great in both camps. The Swedes suffered most, although the inhabitants of Nuremberg tried their utmost to supply them with food. When the provisions were diminishing, the bonds of discipline were loosened. Especially the Germans of the Swedish army made them-selves conspicuous by licentiousness and plunder. Gustavus Adolphus decided to try an attack on Wallenstein’s camp, in order to put an end to the critical state of things. He was so much more anxious to risk it, as his army had been considerably reinforced and was almost equal to Wallenstein’s in numbers. At noon, August 24, 1632, the Swedish army made ready for battle. The attack was first made on Burgstall, the most important one of the three hills occupied by the enemy. The battle was a fierce and bloody one, the whole mountain being clothed in fire and smoke. Several of the most distinguished of the Swedish officers were killed or captured. A bullet passed through the boot of the king; an officer was killed at his side. The Swedes were thrown back on one hand, while on the other, Duke Bernhard of Weimar, one of the German commanders of the king, succeeded in capturing one of the forts built on the Burgstall. But as the day was over and the army exhausted, the Swedes were not able to profit by their success. A heavy rain commenced, continuing through the night. This made it impossible to haul any cannon up to the captured fort, which was then abandoned. The Swedish army returned to the camp. This unsuccessful attack cost the Swedes almost 2,000 men. Gustavus Adolphus wrote in regard to it : “It was too much to be considered a page’s trick, but too small to be of real earnest.” Wallenstein wrote of it. “Never in my life have I seen a more desperate fire, but I hope that the Swedes have lost their horns in this conflict.”
The king broke camp a fortnight later, arranging his army into a line of battle. For four hours he waited for Wallenstein to come forward, but the latter did not risk an attack. Gustavus Adolphus intended to enter Swabia, to complete the conquest of Southwestern Germany. But Wallenstein, who soon afterward also broke camp, invaded Saxony. This caused the king to change his plans. He was obliged to follow Wallenstein in order to protect his ally and to avoid the danger of being cut off from the connections with his own empire. Wallenstein marked his way by cruel devastation, and the appeals of the unhappy population persuaded the king to take an early decision.
The people of Saxony received Gustavus Adolphus with great enthusiasm, of which they gave evidence in the most exultant manner. People were seen kneeling everywhere on his way, imploringly stretching their hands toward him. The king was not content with their exaggerated devotion. “I fear that God is offended by their vain demonstrations of joy and soon shall show them that the one whom they adore as a god is naught but a weak and mortal man.”
Wallenstein was in the neighborhood of Leipsic, at the little town of Lutzen. He had sent away Pappenheim, his best sub-commander, to Halle with a considerable force. Gustavus Adolphus found this circumstance favorable and decided on an attack.
It was the 6th of November, 1632. A heavy mist covered the spacious fields around Leipsic. Wallenstein was, with the right wing of his army, close on Lutzen, the little town being set on fire, in order not to shield a clandestine attack. The flame of the conflagration appeared dull but magnified through the mists of the early morning. In front of the imperial army was the highway. Musketeers were stationed in and above the ditches, which were made deeper and provided with ramparts. The musketeers were so arranged that higher lines could shoot over the heads of the lower ones. Behind them was another chain of musketeers. The artillery was placed partly behind the musketeers, partly on the sides of a hill where some windmills were situated. The cavalry was placed on the wings, the infantry in the centre, both arranged in great square divisions. A courier had been sent to recall Pappenheim, as the army without his force counted only 18,000 men. The Swedish army was 20,000 strong and was arranged according to a plan similar to the one followed at Breitenfeld. It was arranged in two lines. Musketeers were interspersed among the cavalry. The regimental artillery was placed before the front. The king commanded the right wing, Nils Brahe the centre, Kniephausen the second line of the centre, and Duke Bernhard the left wing.
The king, who for the time being had none of his best officers around him, spent the night in a wagon, together with Duke Bernhard and Kniephausen. He rose in the morning, dressed, without armor, in a blouse and a gray coat, and mounted his usual white charger, without having tasted food. He conducted in person the morning prayers of the army, when Luther’s psalm, “Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott,” was sung. After the song had ceased, the king made a short speech in Swedish, which he repeated in German. He said : “There you have the enemy. He is not now at the top of the hill or behind intrenchments, but in the open field. You know well how eagerly he has sought to avoid a conflict and that he is forced to fight because he cannot escape us. Fight, then, my dear country-men and friends, for God, your country and your king. I will reward you all. But if you flinch, you know well that not a man of you will ever see his country again.” Then the psalm, “Versage nicht du Hnuflein klein,” the words of which were written in German by Gustavus Adolphus himself, was sung. The king gave the sign of attack by waving his sword over his head and cried : “Forward in God’s name; Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, help us today to strive to the honor of thy holy name!”
It was eleven o’clock, and the mists had, to a great extent, scattered. The Swedish centre, with the battery behind, marched toward the highway. The left wing made an attempt to penetrate between the burning Lutzen and the batteries below the windmills. A terrible fire from muskets and cannon met the attacking Swedes. Whole lines of infantry were killed. The left wing suffered in particular. But when the Swedes reached their destination, the centre moved on with great force, cleaning the ditches of musketeers, capturing seven pieces of artillery and making two of the great squares of imperial infantry retire from their position. While fighting the third, the Swedes were surprised by the reserve and cavalry forces of the enemy, and had to abandon what they had taken, retiring into the open field.
The king had, in the meantime, with the cavalry of the right wing, forced the ditches. When notified of the danger in which the centre was placed, he hurried to assist his infantry. At the head of his Smaland cavalry he moved on so quickly that he was separated from the rest of his forces. The king was near-sighted and the mist once more thickening. For these reasons he happened to ride close up to the lines of the imperial cuirassiers. His horse was wounded, and the king himself received a pistol shot in the arm. He turned to one of his companions, Duke Frantz Albrecht, of Sachsen-Lauenburg, with a request to be escorted out of the battle, but was at that instant wounded in the back, immediately falling off his horse. Duke Frantz Albrecht, only thinking of saving his own life, fled from the spot. But a German page, eighteen years of age, who accompanied the king, jumped from his horse and tried to assist the king in mounting it. Some imperial cavalrymen passed by. They inquired for the name of the wounded lord. The page tried to hide his identity, but Gustavus Adolphus answered : “I was once the king of Sweden.” One of the imperialists attempted to drag the king with him, but seeing some Swedish soldiers approaching, he sent in leaving a bullet through the wounded hero’s brain.
The Swedes had been thrown back from the highway all over the line. The white horse of the king, with empty saddle and stained with blood, was seen galloping before the front. The message of mourning spread with lightning rapidity through the army, causing universal sorrow and anger. The ambition to avenge the death of the beloved king was kindled in every breast. Duke Bernhard at once assumed supreme command when notified of the catastrophe. The sagacious Kniephausen thought the battle lost and considered it best to retire in good order. The duke answered : “Here is not the question of retreat, but of revenge in victory or death.” The Swedish line of battle soon moved forward once more and with redoubled strength. The right wing, commanded by the valiant Stolhandske, threw back the imperial troops who had caused the fall of the king. Nils Brahe once more carried the troops of the centre across the highway and captured for a second time the seven pieces of artillery. The left wing, commanded by Duke Bernhard, also moved forward victoriously, capturing the batteries at the windmill and pointing the can-non toward the enemy. When simultaneously some wagons loaded with powder for the imperial artillery exploded with a tremendous roar, the whole army of Wallenstein was thrown into a state of confusion. It was thought that the Swedes had made an attack from the rear. The cavalry fled in great numbers with the cries : “We know the king of Sweden! He is worst toward the end of the day.”
But now another cry was heard : “Pappenheim is coming! Pappenheim is coming!” And so it was. Pappenheim arrived with his valiant cavalry at this important juncture. “Where is the king of Sweden to be found?” was his first question. When told that Gustavus Adolphus had been seen leading the right wing, he hurried thither, not knowing the fate that had befallen his royal enemy, and desirous of fighting him face to face. The imperialists recommenced the battle with renewed vigor. The scattered forces of cavalry and infantry were collected once more and were joined by the fresh troops of Pappenheim. The at-tacking Swedes met a stanch resistance. The latter were almost tired out, but preserved their courage. A contemporary writer says that a battle was never fought in a better way by troops who had for such a long stretch been in the fire. The Swedish losses were exceedingly heavy. The royal standard and several other banners were taken. The able Nils Brahe was killed, and the division of which he was the head fell to the ‘very last man.. But Pappenheim, who rushed forward blindly, in his eagerness to meet the king of Sweden, was also killed, according to tradition, by a bullet from Stolhandske. “Pappenheim has fallen! All is lost!” shouted his men, and drew back discouraged. Wallenstein still thought there was a chance to hold the field against the exhausted enemy.
Kniephausen had preserved the second line of battle in good order, resolved to cover the retreat he thought unavoidable. He had sent away smaller divisions to support the first line, but not in numbers enough to disturb the order of his own troops. Now he commanded his men to the front, to fill all the gaps of the first lines. When this was done, the Swedes made a third attack. The evening sun pierced through the mists for a moment, and Wallenstein in this light saw the Swedish army approach in a mighty solid line as at the opening of the battle. He was greatly surprised. This time the Swedes were resolved to conquer or die. Soldiers were heard to promise each other to stand by that resolution. For a third time the Swedes passed the highway and recaptured, after a bloody struggle, the disputed cannon. The wings of Wallenstein’s army were both in a state of dissolution. But his centre pre-served two divisions which offered a stubborn resistance until sunset, when they were ordered to retreat. The Swedes had won the day, but were too tired to pursue the enemy. Following their custom, they rested over the night on the battlefield they had bought by their blood.
The loss of troops had been heavy on either side, amounting to about 6,000 men altogether, or about one-third of the whole number of men engaged in the battle. The excitement was so great on both sides that no prisoners were made. The corpse of Gustavus Adolphus, bruised and mangled, was found during the night under a heap of dead soldiers. A large monumental stone, with inscription, now marks the spot where the hero king lost his life. The Gustavus Adolphus Society of Germany is a living monument to his memory.