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History Lesson: How Invading Russia Doomed the Swedish Empire
Key point: Sweden once was mighty and it nearly defeated Russia. However, Russia engaged in a scorched-earth campaign and managed to outlast and defeat the Swedish invaders.
When most people think of Sweden, they think of IKEA furniture, depressing murder mysteries and a foreign policy of strict neutrality.
Yet 400 years ago, Sweden was a major military power. Indeed, it was even an empire, a fact that must make today's Swedish leftists cringe.
Under young King Gustavus Adolphus, a brilliant and innovative military commander, Sweden in the early 1600s became a sort of Nordic Israel (which must also make Swedish leftists cringe). Sweden was a poor, thinly populated nation that couldn't match the resources of larger rivals such as France and Russia.
So, Gustavus Adolphus had to devise a more flexible, mobile form of warfare. In an age when armies consisted of poorly paid and underfed peasants and mercenaries more likely to loot their own fellow citizens than fight the enemy, Sweden maintained a professional and well-trained standing army. Swedish troops maneuvered tactically in smaller, flexible companies instead of the cumbersome formations of their enemies. While 17th Century armies were transitioning from swords and pikes to muskets and artillery, Gustavus Adolphus increased the number of gunpowder weapons. Most artillery of the era had little battlefield mobility, but the Swedish king equipped his infantry regiments with their own light, mobile field guns that could support the foot soldiers throughout the battle.
During the Thirty Years War of 1618-48, Swedish forces advanced so far south that they almost captured Prague and Vienna deep in Central Europe. Their crowning achievement was the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, when a Protestant army of 23,000 Swedes and 18,000 Saxons nearly wiped out a Catholic Holy Roman Empire force of 35,000 men, and lost just 5,500 men in the process.
Gustavus Adolphus fell at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632 (though his army still won). But in a succession of conflicts with IKEA-like names such as the Torstenson War, Swedish forces performed well against the Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Poles and Russians. Sweden seized large parts of today's eastern Germany and Poland, and became a major Baltic power.
And then Sweden decided to invade Russia in 1708.
Can you guess how this going to end?
The Great Northern War of 1700-1721 pitted a Swedish-led coalition against a Russian-led alliance. The Swedes were commanded by young Charles XII, a clever, energetic ruler dubbed the “Lion of the North” and the “Swedish Meteor.” But Russia was led by the legendary Peter the Great, who eventually turned his large but poor nation into a major European power. At stake was Swedish control of swathes of Eastern and Central Europe, and more important, who would be the dominant power in the Baltic.
Charles XII marched into Russia with just 40,000 men, a small force compared to the 500,000 of Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1812, or the 3 million men of Hitler's Operation Barbarossa. Yet the war began well for the Swedes. It knocked Denmark-Norway and the Polish-Lithuanian Empire out of the war. But as in later conflicts, there was still the Russian colossus to contend with.
Yet waging war with small, hard-hitting armies was a strategy that worked for Sweden before. So why shouldn't it work again? At Narva in today's Estonia in 1700, 12,000 Swedes outnumbered nearly 3 to 1 almost wiped out a 37,000-strong Russian force during a battle fought in a blizzard. In many ways, the struggle resembled World War II, where smaller but proficient German forces defeated larger but clumsier Soviet armies.
Unfortunately for the Swedish Meteor, the Russians also used a strategy that had always worked for them. Their armies withdrew deep into the vastness of Mother Russia, leaving “scorched earth” in their wake and precious little for the Swedish soldiers and horses to eat. Meanwhile, Russian columns ambushed and destroyed Swedish reinforcements that Charles desperately needed to replenish his battered army.
Then came the Great Frost of 1709, the coldest winter that Europe had experienced in the previous 500 years, which of course turned Russia into a vast freezer that could sustain human life under the right conditions. For a Swedish army deprived of shelter and food in a scorched landscape, the conditions were anything but right. More than 2,000 Swedes died from the cold in a single night. Those who have seen the photos of frozen German soldiers at Moscow and Stalingrad can imagine what the boys from Stockholm must have looked like.
The tombstone of the Swedish Empire was carved at the Battle of Poltava in central Ukraine in June 1709. The summer after the Great Frost saw the Swedish army shrink to 20,000 soldiers and 34 cannon. Ever the aggressive monarch, Charles XII laid siege to Poltava. Peter intervened with a relief force of 80,000 men. The Russian troops first resisted a Swedish charge (wounds had forced Charles to relinquish command of his army). The Russians then counterattacked with their superior numbers, enveloping and routing the Swedish forces.
The Swedes suffered about 19,000 casualties, almost their entire force. The Russians also suffered. But as later invaders were to learn, the Russians could replace their losses while the invaders could not.
Charles left Russia with 543 survivors. Sweden lost its Baltic territories, and never regained its vast possessions or military glory. Soon the Swedish Empire was no more.
To be fair to the Lion of the North, Charles XII had no crystal ball to foresee what would happen to Napoleon and Hitler when they invaded Russia. The more interesting question is why Napoleon and Hitler didn't learn from the fate of Charles XII. It is curious that over the course of 250 years, three European kings and dictators fought a campaign in Russia in the dead of winter. None succeeded.
Nonetheless, there is a story that soon after Napoleon invaded Russia in June 1812, the Tsar dispatched General Balashov with a letter urging peace. When Napoleon said he would defeat Russia, Balashov is said to have warned him: “The Russians, like the French, say that all roads lead to Rome. The road to Moscow is a matter of choice. Charles XII went via Poltava.”
Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared in 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest.
Following the disaster of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, a new Coalition formed against him. In response to this, Napoleon hastily assembled an army of just over 200,000 consisting largely of inexperienced, barely trained recruits and severely short of horses (a consequence of the Russian invasion, where most of his veteran troops and horses had perished). He crossed the Rhine into Germany to link up with remnants of his old Grande Armée, and to quickly defeat this new alliance before it became too strong. On April 30 Napoleon crossed the river Saale, advancing on Leipzig in three columns led by an advanced guard. His intention was to work his way into the Coalition's interior lines, dividing their forces and defeating them in detail before they could combine. But due to inexperienced cavalrymen and faulty reconnaissance, he was unaware of 73,000 allied troops under Wittgenstein and Graf (Count) von Blücher concentrating on his right flank to the south. Marshal Ney's corps was surprised and attacked on the road from Lützen to Leipzig. On the eve of the battle, one of Napoleon's marshals, Jean-Baptiste Bessières, was killed by a stray cannonball while reconnoitering near Rippach.
Terrible Price at the Battle of Lutzen
Catholics and Protestants fought he Battle of Lutzen--one of the most crucial in the Thirty Years War-- on this day, November 16, 1632 . The horror of the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century was enough to make anyone shudder. Out of a German population of sixteen million people, only four million survived. Before the war, Augsburg had 80,000 people only 18,000 were left in the city at the war's end.
The armies destroyed 30,000 villages. They hunted down peaceful peasants for sport. Farms lay in such waste that forests sprang up to completely cover them. Crime ran rampant.
The war started in Bohemia. Emperor Ferdinand II, a staunch Roman Catholic, strongly opposed all Protestants. He forbade them to hold meetings, abolished their civil privileges, tore down their churches and schools, and publicly hanged them in villages. The Protestants revolted in Prague and the revolt soon spread across the Austrian empire.
The Protestants were getting the worst of things when help came from King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Curiously enough, Catholic France, playing a clever game under Richelieu, subsidized Adolphus and his Lutherans. Richelieu was trying to undermine the Hapsburg Empire.
But Gustavus, a devout Lutheran, believed God had called him to win religious and political liberty for Europe. As king, he had brought Sweden prosperity, new schools, hospitals, libraries, and just laws. He drew moral strength from his humility and love of God. Before going into battle, his disciplined forces sang hymns. In victory, he was the first to attempt to practice the humane treatment advocated by Hugo Grotius' theories of war and peace.
Gustavus landed on German soil in 1630, and at once went into battle with the Catholic Austrian army. He won a succession of victories in Pomerania, Saxony, the Rhine, and Bavaria which put him in control of much of Germany. Richelieu grew alarmed.
1632 did not develop as well for Gustavus as the previous year had. At last, in November, he thought he had a chance to make a surprise attack on Wallenstein at Lutzen. However, his movements were quickly detected by the Imperial army. As a result, Gustavus was drawn into battle with a larger, well-prepared foe who had reinforcements nearby. Charging bravely but recklessly ahead of his men, Gustavus was hidden from them in a swirl of fog.
On this day November 16, 1632 , Gustavus was surrounded by enemy soldiers. They demanded his name. Gustavus is said to have replied, "I am the King of Sweden! And this day I seal with my blood the liberties and religion of the German nation." Already wounded by gun fire in arm and back, he was immediately run through with a dozen swords.
Thirsty for vengeance, Duke Bernard forced the faltering Swedish army to make several desperate charges. Against all odds, they swept the Imperial army before them, even though Catholic reinforcements had arrived. But the Protestant victory came at a terrible price. 15,000 of their men, and the flower of the Swedish army, died that day.
New: Battle of Lutzen.
I have just finished drawing the Battle of Lutzen from the Thirty Years War on Microsoft Publisher. It was fought on 16 November 1632 in Germany between the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus and Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar and the Imperialists under Albrecht Von Wallenstein and Gottfried Pappenheim.
After his victory at the Battle of Breitenfeld, Gustavus Adolphus embarked on an “all or nothing” strategy against Count Tilly and Albrecht von Wallenstein. After Tilly was mortally wounded at the Battle of Rain on 15 April 1632, Gustavus and Wallenstein conducted a strategy of attrition throughout the summer of 1632. In November, with winter approaching, Wallenstein split his forces into two columns: One column under Gottfried Pappenheim would march to Halle while Wallenstein would march towards Leipzig. Anticipating this move, Gustavus marched his forces from Naumburg to Leipzig to catch Wallenstein’s forces scattered. Wallenstein, however, managed to gather his forces and occupy a strong position next to the town of Lutzen with a canal and marshes protecting his front. On 15 November, Gustavus Adolphus arrived with his army shrouded by dense fog while Wallenstein sent messengers to summon aid from Pappenheim, who would arrive the following day.
The Swedish army at Lutzen numbered 12,800 infantry, 6,200 cavalry and 60 artillery. The Swedish infantry was positioned in two long lines in the centre with artillery in the vanguard while the cavalry was positioned on the wings with small detachments of musketeers to support them. The Imperialist army at Lutzen numbered 10,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry and 21 artillery. While most of the infantry were positioned in the centre next to the Windmill Knoll, a position of musketeers was positioned along a ditch extending from the town of Lutzen along the road to Leipzig. In addition, seven artillery were positioned in front of the infantry while 14 artillery were positioned in front of the windmills. Finally, the cavalry was deployed on both wings with the right wing’s flank being protected by the town of Lutzen.
At 11 am, the Swedish right-wing opened the battle by charging towards a gap in the Imperialist left-wing and driving it back. After an hour of fighting, Pappenheim arrived with 3,000 troops to reinforce the Imperialists and check the Swedish attack. In the process, however, Pappenheim was mortally wounded and died the following day. Meanwhile, the Swedish infantry in the centre and the cavalry on the left-wing advanced against the Imperialist centre and right-wing under the cover of fog, only to suffer heavy casualties from Imperialist artillery and musket fire. Seeing the battle turning against him, Gustavus Adolphus led a cavalry charge on the Swedish right-wing, only to be shot and killed. As Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar took command of the Swedish army, the Imperialist cavalry on the right-wing counterattacked and pushed back the Swedish left wing. At 2 pm, Bernhard launched his own counterattack when he ordered his artillery to fire upon the Windmill Knoll followed by his infantry at 3 pm. Despite taking heavy casualties, the Swedes managed to capture the position along with the fourteen-artillery positioned on the hill by 5 pm. With his forces exhausted and demoralised, Wallenstein withdrew his army under the cover of darkness. Both sides had suffered heavy casualties with the Swedes losing an estimated 6,000 men and the Imperialists losing 8,000.
The Battle of Lutzen was a Pyrrhic victory for the Swedes. Although they held the field, the death of Gustavus Adolphus damaged the Protestant cause, causing the Swedish army to lose its strategic direction. To make matters worse, the Catholic Imperialists became more united at this time when, after the dismissal of Wallenstein as commander, the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs healed the rift between them. In 1634, the combined Spanish and Austrian army defeated the Swedes at the Battle of Nordlingen, where the Habsburgs inflicted 17,000 casualties on the Protestant army. Although a Catholic nation, France subsequently entered the Thirty Years War on the side of Sweden and Holland to thwart Habsburg ambitions to impose a universal monarchy on Europe.
I have decided to draw the Battle of Lutzen because I recently sold a copy of the Battle of Brietenfeld (1631) to a customer. In addition, Gustavus Adolphus is one of my favourite military commanders from the Gunpowder Age (1500-1850) because of his innovative tactics in pike and shot warfare and charisma which led to contemporaries comparing him to Alexander the Great. Indeed, he is widely regarded as the “Father of Modern Warfare” with only Frederick the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte outshining him in terms of military genius during the Gunpowder Era. I am planning to hand-draw the Battle of Rossbach (1757), which was one of Frederick the Great’s greatest victories, at some point in the future.
Butler, Rupert. 100 Battles: Decisive Conflicts That Shaped the World. Bath, Parragon, 2013.
Chandler, David G. The Art of Warfare on Land. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 2000.
The King being arrived at Naumburg upon Thursday, November the first, (old Style) took order to have his Army lodged in the Field, Town, and Suburbs. The same Day the King went cut upon a Party, for discovering of the Enemy. After him, that afternoon, went these three Gentlemen of the English Nation, Lieutenant-Col. Francis Terret, or Terwhit, Sergeant-Major John Pawlet, and Captain Edward Fielding these three going alone by themselves, to a forsaken Village, where there were two ways thorow it (the King having gone the left Hand way, and they now taking the Right) fell into an Ambush of the Crabats: The first, and the last named of these three, were taken Prisoners by two Rit-Masters of the Crabats: One of them, named Potnick, a Greek Captain. These two Gentlemen, being carried Prisoners into the Imperial Leaguer, were on the Day of the Battle kept Prisoners in the Rear of the Enemy's Army, and after the Battel haled into Prague among the fleeing Imperialists. They were the first Night carried into Weissenfels, where Welinstein then lay in the Castle of it. He sent the Count of Pappenheim to them, the same Evening, to enquire of the King of Sweden's Strength, Lodgings, and Intentions. The most of the Imperial Foot lay now in, and near about this Weissenfels: Seven or eight Hundred of them keeping Guard upon the Market-place. The Imperialists then gave out themselves to be 50000, but it appeared to be spoken by a Figure, and to terrify the King. For that they were not any thing near that Number.
To return to the King. His Majesty the next Day (being Friday) in Person visited all the Avenues and Passes about the Town, and went out again with great Parties of Horse, to take some Prisoners, by whom to learn something of the Enemies. Finding that the Imperialists lay still and that the Passes, by which he should have gotten to them, were both Dangerous and Difficult: He returned at Night again, and gave Order to Entrench the Army before Naumburg towards Weissenfels. Till the Trenches could be made, the Army lay in the Field: After which, the Foot were enquartered in the Town and Suburb, and the Horse in the next Villages: Some two or three Thousand being only left abroad all Night to watch the Trenches.
Upon Sunday, November 4. came there a Saxon Boor to Naumburgh unto the King, with a Letter in his Hand, to shew. The Letter was written by the Count Coloredo, Serjeant Major General of the Imperial Army, unto an Officer of his, that lay with his Regiment at Querfurdt on the Western side of the River Sala, right against Hall, and Ten English Miles from it. Coloredo had enforced this Boor to carry this Letter And the Contents of it were to this purpose. That the Generalissimo had sent the Count of Pappenheim to take the Hall Castle: That his Men of Quersurdt should march up to join with Pappenheim: And that the next Morning the Imperial Army was to part from Weissenfels. This Letter seems to have been written upon the Saturday Night according to which Date, it agrees rightly with Walenstein's discamping from about Weissenfels which was indeed done upon the Sunday after that Pappenheim was dispatched towards Hall-Castle.
Upon this Intelligence, his Majesty the same Day, Duke Bernard, and Serjeant-Major Kniphausen, being at a Council of War, the King propounded the great Question unto them two Whether that in Pappenheim's absence, (he being gone to take in Hall Castle) the Duke of Fridland alone were to be set upon? Duke Bernard was for the Valiant Affirmative. That the advantage was good and that seeing they knew not how long they should enjoy the Opportunity of this Division Walenstein was presently to be attacked. But Major Nniphausen was for the sober Negative and that the Enemy was not to be fought withal: His Reasons were two:
First, No Man is to fight, but when he is apparently stronger than his Enemy,which the King at this time was not.
Secondly, No Man is to attack a stronger Enemy, unless compelled by a pressing and unavoidable Necessity. That is, either to force his passage when he is hemmed in or when hunger and want of Victuals constrain him to it. Neither of which being the King's Case, there was no Reason for present fighting.
These Reasons so far prevailed with the King, that giving over all Thoughts of present fighting, he was resolved to have left a Garrison in Naumburg, and to have marched with his whole Army to conjoin with the Dukes of Saxony and Lunenburgh, who designed to join their Forces to the King's Army, being eight Thousand Horse and Foot.
The King being thus resolved, sends Post unto the Elector of Saxony, to inform him of his purposes, and to lay the Plot for their Uniting. The King desired him to come to Eilenburg, upon the West of the River Mulda, 14 Miles West of Torgan, where the Duke then lay with an Army of 4000 Foot, and as many Horse, whereof 2000 Foot and 1500 Horse were the Duke of Lunenburg s.
Walenstein the same Sunday drew out from Weissenfels, leaving a Captain only with his Hundred Men, for the keeping of the Castle. Thence marched Walenstein unto Lutzen, two Duch Leagues to the East of it where, and in the Dorps round about it, his whole Army enquartered.
The next Day being Monday, November 5. the King according to his former Resolution, parted out of Naumburgh, to go towards the Duke of Saxony, leaving the Town and Garrison under the Command of the Saxon Colonel Vitzdum. For the more Lightness and Expedition in his March, he commanded his Baggage to stay with the Garrison still in Naumburgh, for a Day or two being he thought but only to have gone and joined with the Elector of Saxony, and then to have returned again to Naumburgh. He supposing withall that Pappenheim being now absent, and Walenstein's Men not together, that he should not be disturbed in his March. About Four, before day-light (the Drums having beaten ever since One of the Clock) on the Monday Morning he advances towards Pegan. The King having Notice of Walenstein's forsaking Weissenfels, sends by the way, to take in that Castle. The Hundred Men that Walenstein had left in it, did Coloredo come so timely to setch off, that he had done it a very little before the Swedes coming.
In the middle of his March, about Ten of the Clock the same Forenoon, came there some Gentlemen riding, and some Boors running to the King, with advice that the Imperialists were lying still in several Dorps and villages hard by, about Lutzen, without any Intelligence at all of the King's being in Motion. This the King being informed of, calls presently his High Officers to a Council of War, to advise what was best to be determined. His Majesty even then (and then first) put on the Resolution for Fighting openly speaking it out, That he now verily supposed that God had given his Enemies into his Hand. Ho! Brave Occasion, says the Duke of Saxon-Lawnenburgh: Now God Bless us (say divers great Officers) it is a happy Opportunity. And truly so it was, for divers Prisoners (even then brought in by the King's Parties and by Boors) being by the King examined whether they had any Alarm in their Quarters, of his Marching, freely confessed that they had none, and so much was evident enough, for that they were now supprised in their Quarters. Thus thought all the Officers all being resolved to fall on presently and indeed there was great Reason for it for could the King's Army have fallen in amongst those Villages, he had given a Camisado to several of their Quarters at once, have cut off all singly, for that they could never have come together, to unite their Forces, or have succoured one another. This was Evident.
The Gentry and Boors that brought him the Intelligence, told him Lutzen was but hard by which the King was in good hope of, for that he was even then in sight of it. The Army advanced stoutly, and doubled their March upon it but their Legs found it a longer way than their Eyes, it being a sad Campagnia, full eight English Miles of Ground to Lutzen: Besides all this, was there a filthy Pass in the way, at a Bridge over a River (where but one or two Men could go over abreast) which hindred the Army full two Hours going. By this hindrance, was it even Night before the Army could get within two English Miles of Lutzen.
This ill-favoured Pass was within two English Miles of Lutzen, and in the Village that belonged to it, where there two Imperial Regiments of Horse (one of them Crabats) enquartered. These having a little Notice of the King's coming, had gotten up their Horses, and taken up a high Hill on the other side of the Pass next to Lutzen they made as tho' they would have disturbed the King's Passage, but they did not, the King's Foot marching fairly over, with some Horse amongst them. Some of the King a Foot were still marching over, till it was dark Night or within it. Those that got over first, entertained a flght Skirmish with the Imperial Horsemen, without any loss to the King, killing some 50 or 100 of them, and taking one Crabats Ensign. And now the King taking another Hill (right against that which the imperialists possessed) he from thence let fly some Pieces of Ordnance amongst them, which caused them to take the Benefit of the Night, with some Confusion to March off in.
And here the King being supprised with the Darkness, was forced to sit down in the open Fields with his Army, himself lying in his Coach, as other Officers did that had them. Here lay he all Night in Battalia, every Regiment lying down in the same Order that they had marched, with their Arms by them. The Pike-Men they stuck up their Pikes an end by them, and every Rott (that is every six) of Musquetires bringing their Muesquets to their Rott-master, he set them right up with their Mouths upward, and bound them together with a Piece of Match, where they stood ready at Hand for all Occasions.
The Imperial Army was in a terrible Hubub at the King's coming over the Pass for now was the Alarm sent in hot to all the several Dorps and Quarters, even from Lutzen unto Hall and Leipsich. Order upon pain of Death was given, for every Man of the Imperial Army, with all speed possible, to repair towards Lutzen, to their Generalissimo. Presently upon this began all the Rigiments to draw together, some of which were all Night upon their Marches, and some Horse that quartered very far off, being not able to reach up till 10 of the Clock the next Morning. And thus then (even then) did the Mist to long keep off the King next Morning, till his Enemies could be made strong enough for him.
As every Regiment came in, so were they put into Order, which continued all Night long, as the two English Gentlemen (then Prisoners there) observed. About 10 at Night did Walenstein begin to think of the Places most advantageous for the planting of his Ordnance some of which having mounted upon the Wind-mill-Hills, he then began to cast up a Trench of Earth about them. All Night and next Morning his Dragoons and Pioneers wrought with their Spades about the High-way, and to make the Ditches or Drain by it, serve them for a Breast, work to lodge their Musquities in. And this was their Work too, all the next misty Morning, which fatal Weather gave them also the more respite to recover their Fears and Weariness, and to fortisy themselves against their unconquered Enemy. And thus was the Night (the last Night to some Thousands) over passed.
The King now over the Pass, had put himself into a Necessity of Fighting and being thus engaged, the sooner he fought the better for that his Enemy should be the less provided for him.
Tuesday (that fatal sixth of November) at last began to draw near, and alas it came all too early. A gentle Mist, as if fore-dooming how black a Day it would be, did his good Will to have kept it Night still and the Sun as if his great Eye had beforehand over-read the fatality of the following Day, semed very loth to have begun it. But the Martial King, even forcing himself to awaken time,and hasten on Mortality, would needs make these Clocks and Larums of the Wars, his fatal Drums to beat two Hours before day-light. Arm, Arm, repair to your Colours, keep your Order, stand to your Arms. These were the Morning Summons to awaken the hearty Soldiers from a cold, a hard, and earthly Lodging. The Army was easy to be put in Order, for that the most part of it had lain and slept in Battalia. One while was the King purposed to have advanced and fallen on presently but the War being God's Cause, he would like David, end himself, first ask Council of the God of Battels,and at least recommend his own Cause unto him. The Drums having beaten the first March he caused Prayers to be read to himself by his own Chaplain D. Fabritius and when there were Ministers at Hand, the same was done through every Regiment of the Army.
The Morning proved so Misty, that it was not possible to see which way to March, nor where to find an Enemy to strike at. And this (unluckily) staid the King's Thoughts from advancing presently. This was a Fog of Advantage unto Walenstein, who purposing but to stand his Ground, (which by working all Night about the Ditch and Highway, his Pioneers had made more troublesome to be affaulted) was now resolved, that if he must fight, he would there abide the first shock and no way to seek the Battel or to move towards his Adversary.
About Eight of the Clock the Mist brake up, and but for one Mischance in it, promised as fair a Day as ever was sixth of November. As it began to clear, the King took Occasion to encourage up his Soldiers and going to his own Subjects first, he to this purpose bespeak them.
The King's Oration to the Swedes.
My dear Brethren carry your selves bravely this Day fight Valiantly, in God's Name, for your Religion, and for your King. This if you do, God's Blessing, and the Peoples Praises shall be your Guerdon and you for ever shall even be laden with an Honourable and Glorious Memorial nor will I forget to reward you Nobly. If you play the Pultrons, I here call God to Witness, that not a Bone of your shall ever return again to Sweden.
To the German Troops this was the Oration. O my Brethren, Officers and Fellow-Soldiers of the German Nation! I here most earnestly intreat and beseech you to make full Trial of your Valour this one Day against your Enemies fight manfully against them this Day, both with me, and for me. Be not faint-hearted in the Bartel, nor for any thing discouraged. Set me before your Eyes,and let me be your great Example.
These Orations of the King's being from both Nations, with a horrid clashing of their Armour, and with chearful Vows, and Acclamations, answered the King as chearfully then replied: And now my Hearts, let us on bravely against our Enemies and God prosper our Endeavours. Sprightfully withal casting his Eyes towards Heaven, he with a loud Voice sent up this sorcible Ejaculation, Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, Vouchsafe thou this Day, to be my strong helper and give me Courage this Day to fight for thy Glory, and the Honour of thy great Names Sake.
His Royal person was that day, waited upon by Duke Francis Charles of Saxon-Lawenburg, and by some of his Majesty's own nearest Servants. The Lord Crailsham also, Great Master or Marshal of his Majesty's Houshold, had the leading a Body of Reformadoes, which were especially commanded to wait upon the King's own Person. And amongst these were our English and Scottish Gentry and Officers whom the King had at Schleusing heretofore reformed. Of this Body (which consisted of several Nations) were there still seven or eight to be close about the King, ready to be sent with Orders up and down the Army, who were still supplied by Crailsham. The King was that Day attired, as usually he was accustomed, in a plain Buff. Coat, and unarmed. Some Report that a Tenderness in his Shoulder, wherea Musquet Bullet had a long time stuck, would not suffer him to endure Armour. And therefore when he was this Morning desired to put on his Corslet he said, The Lord was his Armour, and refused it.
The King's Watch-word, was the same which had been of so good an Omen before a Leipsich, GOTT MIT UNS, God with us. The General Walensteins being now the same which Tillies then was, Jesus Maria. This was the King's Order of embattailing his whole Army, which now (after he had left some at Naumburgh, and at Weisenfels, was between 17 and 18000 Men) he divided into two Fronts, and each of these into the Wings and Battel, with their Reserves. Each of the Wings was composed of six several Regiments or Squadrons of Horse lined with five several Bodies of commanded Musquetiers, every one of which Bodies had two small Drakes or Field-Pieces, which advanced playing still before them. The Battel in each Front consisted of four Brigades of Foot, a Reserve of Front and a Reserve of Horse hindmost of all, betwixt the two middle Brigades of the Reer, or second Front. Before each Brigade marched six Pieces of greater Ordnance. And this was the first sight of the Figure.
The Right wing was led by the King himself the first Brigade Bodies of Commanded Musquetiers, were commanded by the Count of Eberstein. The Horse Squadrons of the Left Wing were committed unto the Glory of the Day, Duke Bernard of Saxon-Weymar. The five Bodies of Foot in the Lest Wing, were the charge of the Colonel Gorsdorff. The Battle made up of the four Brigades of Foot, was commanded by the Swedish Count of Neeles, Colonel of the King's Life-Guards. The four Foot Brigades of the second Front, or Reer, were commanded by Dodo Kniphansen, Serjeant Major General of the whole Army, to whose fair Conduct the Victory is also much beholden. The Horse of the Right Wing were entrusted to Colonel Claus Conrade Zoru of Bulach, by which name of Bulach he is commonly known. The Horse of the Left Wing were committed to Prince Ernest of Anhalt. The Reserve of Foot was commanded by Colonel John Henderson a Scottish Gentleman and the Reserve of Horse by Col. Oeme of the Palatinate.
The Imperial Army had his Excellency the Generalissimo thus ordered. He first drew it all up into one mighty Front which he then divided into three Bodies. His Right Wing of Horse (whose end was near the Town of Lutzen) was committed to the Count Ridolso Coloredo, that Day Serjeant Major General of the Army. This Wing had also its commanded Musquetiers besides some others that were lodged in the Gardens by the Town aforesaid. This Wing having also the Advantage of the Wind-Mils, and their Hills, by the Town side, made use of those Natural Batteries for the planting Nine Pieces of Ordnance the Mills and Millers House serving them also for a good shelter. The Battel or middle Ward, was commanded by the Duke of Fridland himself, whose place was said to be in the Head of that great Regiment of Piccolomines Horse, which was in the very middle of the Foot Regiments. The left Wing opposite to the right Wing, was led by Colonel Hendrick Holck, newly made Lieutenant-Felt Marshal unto Pappenheim, who but commanded untill Felt-Marshal Pappenheim should be come into the Field.
All this Imperial Order of Embattailing, is presented in one mighty Front so namely, as it appeared to the King's People, and to him that took the Figure of it since (very largely) Cut and Imprinted in Coper, by John Jacob Gabler of Leipsich who also by the King's own Directions, after the Batter of Leipsich, made a Description last Year, and set forth the Figures of the Battel of Leipsich. And the manner of the same Figures of the Battel of Leipsich, we have in this also followed. We know that betwixt every Brigade of Foot, there should be so much room left as that another Brigade might advance up in the Distance between them being the breadth of one of them.
Having thus described the Order, the Field of the Battel would next be considered of. The King had a North-Easterly March of it, from Naumburgh towards Lutzen so that the rising of the Sun was something within a while favourable. The Wind also (that little that was) blew fairly for him so that the King very joyfully spake it, I thank GOD I have both Wind and Sun to favour me.
The Country was a goodly vast Level and Campain as Corn Lands could be, even as far almost as the Eye could rove ever. And yet was the place of Battel subject to as many accidents (and Walenstein was Master of them all) as a plain Country almost could be. The King right in his way of advancing had a wet Ditch (made by Hand) called the Flossgraben, cut traverse to him, so that he was sain to edge about to the Right with his whole Army to pass by it and then to edge as much to the Lest again, to put himself right before the Enemy. The Imperial Army was embattled all along beyond a broad Highway, which led from Lutzen unto Leipsich. on this side of this, was there a kind of a broad Drain, or Ditch, which served for bounding and saving the Plowed Lands, and to keep withall the Highway the drier. This had Walenstein's Pioneers bestowed some cost upon so that putting some commanded Musquetiers down into it, it served them as well as a Trench or Brest-Work. This was so troublesome for the King's Horse-men, that many of them were overturned and lest behind, in the getting over to charge Walenstein for indeed there were divers Gaps through it, which the Horse justling for, overturned one another. The Ground also behind the Ditch, had two little risings, and those did Walenstein make choice of, for the planting of some Pieces. That Part of the Highway also twards Lutzen, had an old Trench or dry Ditch drawn to it, which being nothing of it self, but a Boundary for Lands that also did Walenstein put Musquetiers into, which served them like the Highway Dich, for a Parapet or Brest-Work. A pretty Distance beyond the Highway, near unto the Town of Lutzen, were there three or four Windmills, amongst which, another Party stood. Behind these had Walenstein, lodged some Musquetiers, and the Mill-hills served as natural Batteries for him to plant Nine Pieces of Ordnance upon. Between the Mills and the Town, were there divers Gardens with Mud Walls round about them and in these also (in one of them three hundred being after found Dead) had he caused Musquetiers to be placed. Leiosich Highway, as it went sloping along, so had he caused his Men so tend and hang towards it.
And now to the Action. The Sun having by Nine of the Clock clearly dispelled the Fig, it proved as promising a Morning as ever was sixth of November. And now the King got his loosing or Warning-piece, and so advanced.
Being past the Flossgraben, he left also the Dorp of Chursit behind him betwixt which and his Army, he left his Coat and his Ammunition Waggons, of which there were not above 1000 at most, the King having left the rest at Naumburgh, with no purpose of Fighting. The King advanced, till he came with the end of his Right Wing within Musquet Shot as a little Wood, having all the way a full View of the Imperial Army.
That Walenstein much over-powered the King in Number may appear by the mighty long Front that he put out, near two English Miles from one Wing's end to another. This is also to be considered, that Walenstein's Discipline is to March Ten deep in a File whereas the King was no more but Six Deep of Foor (I mean) and of the Horse but three or four deep, according as the Brigades was either stronger or weaker. Besides this, that Walenstein's Files were all the way almost as deep again his Ranks also were in Front so much longer, that the King was sain to send for Bulach, and all the Squadrons of Horse, from the Right Wing of the Reer, or second Front to imp out his Feather at the end of the Right Wing, for fear that Walenstein should surround him. These Squadrons, when General Major Kniphausen found out of their Places, he sent a Gentleman to his Majesty, to know whether he had otherwise employ'd them. The King was at the same time likewise sending the Duke of Saxon Lawenburg unto Kniphausen, to tell him that he would but use them in that first Charge, and then return them back again to their Order. The Duke meeting with the Gentleman, and telling him thus much, both then returned to their Places.
The King wondered not a little at it, when he saw how fair a Clew Wa lenstein spread affirming to those about him, That if he had any Seconds behind his first Front, he could not judge him to be less than 30000.
Thus it is indeed, that Walenstein had given Proviant Commissions for 40000 and sometimes for 50000 Men but yet had he not so many fighting Men, for that there were at least 10000 Women, Servants, and Children, and such Hangbiers belong to the Army, which are to be discounted. Besides this, it is to be considered, that Walenstein had but one Front, and the King too that we may well allow Walenstein to be 26000 in the first Front, at the very first ordereing of the Battel. After which accounting those that were still coming in, even till 10 a Clock, and Pappenheim's Horse and Dragoons, which came in about One or Two of the Clock and his Foot (who, as we thought made the second sierce Charge towards Night) and then doubtless these could not be sewer than 10 or 12000 which made up in all 30000 fighting Men.
The Armies being come within Cannon-shot, the great Ordnance began to play one upon another teribly. The Air roar'd, and the Earth trembled, and those manly Hearts that seared not dying, were yet very loth to have no more play for their Lives, than to be beat to Pieces with the Bullet of a Cannon. And here had Walenstein surely, a great Advantage over the King's Army for his Ordnance being ready planted upon steddy and fix'd Batteries, the Canoneers traversed their Pieces, and delivered their Bullets with more aim than the King's Men could possibly, who gave Fire in motion still and advancing. His Majesty's Cannon, ever as a Piece was discharged, was there left to be brought after the Army still advancing, and marching away from it. The King liked not this sport, for that the Imperial Cannon did his Men far more Spoil and Execution, than he possibly could again return them. Seeing therefore no good to be done this way, he causes his Army to advance upon the very Mouth of the Cannon, and to charge towards the Highway, and to beat out those Musquetiers that were lodged in it.
The Imperial Army stood their Ground all this time expecting that the fierceness of their Enemy's Charge, would indifferently well be abated by that time they had beaten out those Musquetiers, and had put themselves out of Order and Breath, with scrambling over the Ditches And indeed the place being almost Man's Height, many of the King's Horsemen were there left tumbling up and down but of the rest that got over, this was the Order of their charge: The commanded Musquetiers, and the Foot of the Swedes Brigade having cleared the Highways. The whole Front advanced to charge together.
The Order of the first Charge.
This whilst they were doing, the little Drakes or Field Pieces (two of which marched before every Body of Musquetiers that lined the Horse of the Wings) were first fired, and the Musquetiers at the same time giving their first salve, the Horse then charged home upon the Imperial Horse, by the Drakes and Musquetiers, something before disordered. This Order was held in the first Charge by the whole Front of the Army.
But I must now leave the Battel and left Wing engaged, to speak of the Right Wing: First, where the King in Person commanded.
The Courageousness of the King.
The King at his first advancing, having observed wherabouts in the Imperial left Wing (now opposite to him) the Crabats were marshalled and where the Curiasiers, who were compleatly armed in black Harness Cap-a-Peee, he calls the Finnish Colonel Stolhaushe to him, (as' tis likely he did other Colonels, as he rode along) and pointing to the Eenemy, As for those Fellows (meaning the Crabats) I care not for them, says the King, but Charge me those black Fellows soundly, for they are the Men that will undo us. Thus much did Stolhaushe himself oftentimes (and at Table) relate unto divers Gentlemen of the English and Scottish Nation some of which tell the King's Words from Stolhaushe's Mouth, this way, Charge me those black Fellows Soundly, for 'its prophesied they shall be ruin of me. But this Word Prophesy, others consess that they heard not.
The King's Speech of the Imperial Curiasiers
The King was designed to fight, at the Head of the Smolanders Squadron, himself was still the foremost, with his Pistol in one Hand, and his Sword in the other. The Ostro Goths, or the Uplanders did now advance and charge the Enemy. Perchance these three now got the start, and were something more forward than the three Squadrons of the Ingermanlanders the West Goths, and the Finlanders, towards the end of the Wing.
The Crabats wheeling about upon the King's Wagons Are beaten off by Bulach
The three Squadrons, indeed, fell not on at the same place with the King, but advanced directly upon the Faces of those three Imperial Regiments of Curiasiers. Nor were they blamed after the Battle for any slackness, or not charging: For that the King (as we told you) had ordered Stolhaushe to charge these Curiasiers foundly. And as for Bulach, and those Squadrons of his, now placed to the right Hand of Stolhaushe and his Fins,they were in the very beginning of the Encounter so diverted, that they could not Charge right forward, as the King expected. And for that, this is the true Reason. That Regiment of Crabats in the very end of the Imperial left Wing, did in the very beginning of the Charge, wheel about betwixt the Wood and the end of the King's Right Wing, and there endeavour to fall upon the Swedish Ammunition Wagons in the Reer of the Army. These Crabats would have made a foul pudder among the Ammunition, and have blown up most of the Powder doubtless, had not Bulach had an Eye of them. He giving a home Charge upon them, beat them off from the Wagons for the present, but the Swedish Colonel facing about, to return to his own place again, was by the Crabats charged upon the Croops, and put to some Disorder. And this Disarray is easy enough to be believed, for that the manner of the Crabats fighting, being but for a spurt and in no good Order whosoever will answer their Charge, must necessarily do it in Disorder too, or else they cannot follow the Crabats, to do any good upon them. And just now fell the Mist again, which did this good in that part of the Battel, that this disorder among the Swedish Horse was not discerned, and so no Advantage taken of it.
In this Interim, yea, at this Instant, it is said the King was slain, it being II of the Clock when the Mist fell again.
All this while are the Imperialists Masters of the King's Body, and of the Ground they had beaten the Swedes from. They had the King in their Possession, and there they stript him, every Man being greedy to get some part of his Spoils, that they might hereafter glory to have taken it from the King of Sweden.
Several Reports there went abroad the Army, of the Circumstances, of his manner of dying, some relating it one way, and some another but all with sorrow agree he was slain.
The Noise of the King's Death was presently dispersed Abroad but yet Belief was not fully given to it, for that some Prisoners affirmed he was but hurt, and carried in a close Coach, following his white Ensign. The Swedesh Prisoners that reported him to be but wounded, were those that were taken so soon as ever he offered to Retreat. But that they said he was carried off in his Coach, &c. was their Judgment, that being wounded, it was likely he would go off in his Coach, which at first stood behind the White Regiment, but was gone out of the Field when the Crabats fell upon the King's Waggons.
The King's Death concealed from his own Army.
His Death was not certainly known, but to some few of the Great ones (no not to those of his own Wing) for 24 Hours after all believing what was, either by Art or Error, given out, how that he was but carried off wounded,
Return we now into the Battel, and to the Right Wing again. The Mist that we before told you of, was not (by their own side) judged to be any way Prejudicail, but Advantageous rather unto the Swedish seeing that the Imperialists, who had now the better of it, were by the falling of this Mist so arrested, as that they pursued not the Retreat which they had put the Swedish unto. The Rumour likewise of the King's Death, made them so to clutter about the Body, that also staid them.
All this while were the four Foot Brigades of the Swedish Battel, pellmell at it: And they (even by my Spaniards Confession) got Ground apace of those Imperialists whom they had attacked. And now also did Stolhaushe (who certainly had an Item given him of the King's Death, or great Danger) charge so siecely towards that very place, that he beat off the Imperialists, and recovered the Body which he brought off naked, after it had been a full quarter of an Hour in the Enemy's Possession. And now was Piccolomine's Regiment soundly peppered: The Swedish both Foot and Horse, after an Hour's Fight, beating all the Imperialists along before them, till they had driven them to the very Gallows behind them. And dow did the Swedish get Possession of those seven Pieces of Ordnance of Piccolomines. These Ordnance were the easier to be taken, for that they plaid not Walenstein's Powder-Waggons were by Mischance blown up, so that his Cannon were scarce heard of all the Day after.
And thus ended the second Charge: For by this time was the Mist become so Extraordinary, and by the smoak so thickened, as the Swedes could not see how to pursue their Advantage and here was the Mist become as Beneficial to the Imperialists as it had been favourable before unto the Swedish. In this time fell there so terrible an affrightment in the Imperial Army, that 1000 or 1500 Dutch Horse ran all away together. One of them was by a Gentleman of our Nation (then Prisoner in their Reer) over heard to say, Oh! I know the King of Sweden well enough, I have served him he is best at the latter end of the Day, But the chief Fright was among the Ladies, the Captains Wives, and other Women, then behind the Army. Many Gentlewomen got out of their Coaches, cut asunder the Harness, and mounted stradling upon the bare Horsebacks, and away they spudded among the Soldiers. Now went the Waggon-horses and the Ordnance-horses to it, all were ridden away with, divers Women and Children were trodden to Death: Nor would the Horsemen turn Head, notwithstanding they heard the Charge presently again renewed, and those about the Mills all this time at it, till they were gotten over a Pass, four or five English Miles from the place of Battle. The Fright so pursued them, tho no Body else did, that coming to this Pass, the Officers drew out their Swords, and slash'd and beat off the Soldiers to give them way to get over. There were at least four or five Thousand People of them, and they quartered themselves confusedly up and down in the Villages which the Boors had forsaken: Nor durst they ever return into the Battle. Amongst these were my Author carried away, from whom I learned it.
After a little pause, the Count of Pappenheim, with his Horse and Dragoons arrived whom some will needs have to have been in Person at the beginning of the Battel. By his coming was the Charge thereabouts renewed. He put himself into the Imperial left Wing (which was most distressed, and which had been reserved for him) to be opposite to the Swedish Right Wing where he supposed the King in Person had Commanded. Just as he was ordering his Horse, he was struck with a Bullet of a Falconet, or small Sling-piece, about the shoulder, of which he died presently even so soon as he was taken down from his Horse, to have been carried into Leipsich. This was a brave fighting Gentleman, whose Body was by Walenstein carried into Prague where it was to be seen publickly. The Emperor (as a little French Relation affirmeth) had newly sent the Collar of the Golden Fleece unto him and Walenstein: Which Honour before ever he received, he was, in the place where he should have worn his Order, thus dubbed with a Sling-piece. He had made his Will a little before had shriven himself, and Communicated at a dry Mass: And made this short Testament upon it. His Soul he commended to GOD, his Body (if he were slain) to the Emperor and his Wife and Children unto Walenstein.
He being short, his Officers, flocking about him, were heard to cry Oh! our General is Slain. Immediately whereupon his Horse turned Head, and ran out of the Battle without stroke striking, back again towards the Weser, and the Lower Saxony.
But the Walensteiners, whom Pappenheim's coming had set on, fell to it closely: Piccolomini advanced, and Tersica with their Cavalry and the Foot Regiments seconded them with extremity of Resolution. And now began the sorest, the longest, and the obstinatest Conflict, that had been since the King was killed. The Charge was sustained be the Swedish, with much Gallantry, and never was Battel better Fought: Nor seldom have Batallions ever stood, amongst whom so much spoil hath been committed. Full two Hours were they in hot Battle. On the Imperial side was Piccolomini twice or thrice shot Serjeant Major Bruner slain, and so was a Young Count of Wallenstein. The Abbot Fulda was at this Charge also slain. And think then how many Officers and Common Soldiers was it likely that these great Commanders did take along to wait upon them to the next World.
On the Swedes side the chief of the spoil light upon the two middlemost Brigades of Foot belonging unto Grave Neeles, and Colonel Winckle: The Imperialists charged with so much fury, and with Batallions of two or three Thousand in a Regiment, that they by force drove the Swedish to Retreat in the plain Field, and (as the most say, even then recovered their seven Pieces of Ordnance. Grave Neeles, Colonel of the Life-guards (which is the Yellow Regiment) was there shot a little above the Knee, of which, being carried off spoiled, he after died. Out of this Brigade, did the Imperialists carry away seven Colours, and to tell the Truth, the King's own Company, which served here amongst the Guards, lost their own Ensign or Standard Royal too. He that had carried the Colours was after seen with his Sword in his Hand, but his Clout was missing.
Colonel Winckle's Blue Regiment likewise found as hard a treatment. Himself (brave Man) was shot in the Arm a little above the Elbow, and in the Hand, and carried out of the Battle. His Lieutenant Caspor Wolff was slain upon the place, and most of his Colours taken. These two Brigades were of the flower of the Army old Soldiers of seven or eight Years Service, (the most of them) and whom the King had there placed, for that he most relied on them. These old Blades stood to their Arms stoutly and the adverse Writers conses that their Dead Bodies now recovered the same Ground, which living they had defended. These were old beaten Soldiers indeed, but it was so long since they had been last beaten, that they had by this time forgotten to run away. This is the Reason they were so shattered that when towards Night, they were to have fal'n on again, both these Brigades put together, could not make one squadron strong, which is but the third part of one of them.
The Swedes Brigade fared something better, because near unto the Horse: And yet there came not above Four Hundred off alive, or unwounded. Duke Bernard's Brigade was something more out of Gunshot, for that they were next the Horse of the lest Wing. Yet here was Colonel Wildestein shot in the Breast, of which he after died: Duke Bernard, Lieutenant Col. Winkler being slain upon the place. In this fore bickering, the spoil on the Imperial side, sell mostly upon old Bruner's and young Waleistein's Regiments, both which were killed with full half if not two Thirds of the Soldiers. These Regiments performed their Duties so valiantly, and Wallenstein himself took such special Notice of them, that he a long time after (if not still) maintained them in his own House at Prague for it. Henderson's Reserve of Foot in the mean time had also their share in the knocking: One of the Offices and Uses of the Reserve, being still to supply and second where most need is with fresh Men to dearn up the Holes, and stop up the Gaps of the slaughtered. And whereas those our Brigades of the Van had so terribly been Shattered, General-Major Kniphausen, had out of his care sent up these two Brigades of the Count of Thurn, and the Colonel Mitzlaff to relieve them. After a while he sent them up those four Squadrons of Horse, who so well (together) restored the Encounter, that the Imperialists began to give Ground which the Swedes so far pursued, till they had recovered the seven Pieces again, and four others at the left Hand of them.
Look we now aside, to see what was done in the Reer, and left Wing by Kniphasen and Duke Bernard. General Major Kniphausen having sent two Brigades of his four, and four Squadrons of Horse to the Relief of the Vantguard, sent also his other two Horse Squadrons, commanded by the Prince of Anhalt, and the Lieutenant of Baron Hoffkirch, unto Duke Bernard. As for the other two Brigades of Foot, (his own and Bosen's) together with Oems his Reserve of Horse, these did Kniphansen still keep by him in the Reer of the Battel.
Duke Bernard had as hard a Chapter of it, as any Man against the Imperalist s Right-Wing, at the Wind mills, and (surely) had the most renowned Don Quixot been there, there had been exercise enough for his Valour at these Wind-mills. Soberly. This was the hardest Post for Advantage of Situation, all the Field over: And Count Coloredo as well main tained it against him. Never Man did more galantly behave himself (avauchtit) that first and last, in this and other Places, he charged several times, one after another. And Coloredo gave Duke Bernard leave so charge all. He had so good an advantage of the two Ditches and the Wind-Mills that he would not scarce offer upon Duke Bernard.
The brave young Duke, pressing on in the beginning of the Fight, had set the Town of Lutzen on Fire: His Reason being that seeing if he would get the Wind-mills he must with the end of his Wing even touch (as it were) the very Walls of the Town. Should Coloredo, then, have first filled those Walls with Musquetiers they must needs have so sorely galled his Horsemen that there had been no comming near. Nor could Horse and Pistols have any Service against Walls and Musquitiers. In one of these Charges did Coloredo so Thunder upon Duke Bernard, that the Valiant Prince thought it not unsouldier-like done to shelter himself behind the Millers House.
At this time (as we told you) did Major Knaphausen keep his two Brigades, and Oems his Reserve, together unengaged: Doing no more with them, then fair and softly advance them towards the Enemy at such a time as he saw the Brigades of the Van to get any Ground of them The distance of his Reer from Front was about six Hundred Pace, and that scantling he still kept himself behind the other. This was on small occasion of the winning of the Battel: Seeing that so often as any of the Van were disordered, and put to the Retreat they with him, still find a whole great Body together unbroken, by the sight of which they resumed new Courage, and were set in order again.
And very glad was Duke Bernard, when in the next breaking up of the Mist, he came and found Kniphausen in so good Order whom (as he openly prosessed) he seared to have sound all to Pieces. For now, betwixt three and four of the Clock (which was not before Sunset) did the Mist break up and there was a fair half Hour after it. At which time Duke Bernard, going abroad, to over-view the Posture and Countenance of the Army (which since his hearing of the King's Death, the Mists and Smoak had not suffered him to discover any thing of) he came now along by the Battel unto the Right Wing, speaking to the Officers and Soldiers, and Encouraging them to a new On set plainly he found the whole Army (except Kniphausen's Part) in no very good Order which he and Kniphausen (who took much good Pains likewise about it) did their best to reduce them too. When the Word was given for a new Charge, Alas Comrade (said the poor Soldiers one to another) must we fall on again? Come, says the other (embracing him) Courage if we must let us do it bravely, and make a Day out. As Duke Bernard was leading on, the Imperial Generalissimo sent his two Colonels, Persica and Piccolomini, to discover in that clear Weather what the Swedes were a doing who brought his Excellency Word again, that they were rallied about the Wood, and in very good Order advancing towards him.
This (no doubt) made the Imperialists Hearts quake to think upon the Terror of a forth Charge. And now could the Swedes discover the Imperial Horse Retreating, in indifferent good Order towards the Wind-mills: Whereupon they bringing forwards Ten Pieces of Cannon, and turning those likewise upon them, which were before taken, they gave the Imperial Horse such a rousing Salve of great Ordnance, and charged so upon it, that they put them into Disorder. And here (as my Spanish Relator says) did the Generalissimo light upon a slight fillip by a favourable Musket Bullet, which made no Wound, but lest a blew Remembrance only upon him,
And now were the Imperialists beaten round about even to the very Wind mills, the Swedes being Masters of the Ground that they shouldered the other out of. But just now a little before Sunset, fell the fatal Mist again which so hastened on the Night, that the Swedes could not well see which way to pursue their Enemies. Duke Bernard, in his coming back was thus heard to say. Merciful God ! but for this Mist, we had even now gotten the Victory. Hence went he back again over all the Batallions, to his own Post again, towards which he now perceived the Imperialists to be making.
And now by Sun setting was all the Field clear of the Imperialist's, excepting only about the Wind-mills: And there plainly were both Coloredo's and Duke Bernard's Men, faln off one from another, like two Duellers leaning on their Swords to break Breath again. Certainly, they had so banged one another, that neither of both were in order: But either Party shot at adventure right forward, and let the Bullet find his own way as it could, through that Night of Smoak and Mistiness. Those Musquetiers which (we told you) were lodged in the Mud-walled Gardens, were seen to give Fire continually, but no Men to be discerned. And the Swedes at adventure shot at them again: And as at Night they got Ground, they stormed into the Gardens, as if they had been so many Castles. Here the next Day many were found Dead, 300 in one of them.
And just in the edge of the Evening, when the Swedish well hoped all had been finished, had Duke Bernard fresh word brought him, that Pappenheim's Foot were even now arrived from Hall, and were beginning a fresh Charge, about the Wind-mills. Thus ran the Word over the Army, Pappenheim's Foot are come, Pappenheim's Foot are come. This the Swedish believed.
Nor was all the Service (after half an Hour's silence on both sides) turned into the Wind-mills. The Imperialists Courage, like the throws of a dying Body, struggled hard at the last cast, for Life and made for the time, as sierce a Charge of it, as any had the day before passed. To withstand this now, does Kniphasen bring his second fresh Brigades: with whom are the other two of Thurn's and Mitzlaff's conjoined, that he had before sent to the Relief of the Vantguard which indeed, had not so cruelly been shattered. Now also Duke Bernard, rallying all the Horse together, advanced to the Charge. The Imperialists had a new put down some Musquetiers into the cross Ditch or Boundary of Lands, which not a little troubled the Swedish. Once or twice did they offer to force that Trench, and storm over it but it was so troublesome and dangerous in the dark, that they did but over tumble one another, and were fain to keep on the other side of it, to bring on some Musquetiers, and from thence to to give their Volleys. The best of it was, not above 100 Paces distant from the Highway, close behind which the Imperialists were ranged. That which most galled the Imperialists, was the Swedish Ordnance, which on the Right Hand Flank of them, and on the nearer side of the Highway, were now turned upon them. This most cruel and hot Fight continued till about five a Clock in the Evening, much about which time the Walenstiners, or Pappenheimers, or both together, fell off in the dark, and gave it quite over.
At sixteen he contested three wars, against the Russians, the Danes and the Poles. Sweden emerged unscathed. Victories in two of the wars brought new territory, expanding the Swedish empire.
The Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) consumed Europe for much of Adolphus’ reign: it remains one of the most destructive wars in European history, resulting in around 8 million deaths.
The conflict began when Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II demanded that all his subjects – who came from many different ethnicities and backgrounds – convert to Catholicism. His northern territories in Protestant Germany rebelled, forming the Protestant Union. They were joined by other Protestant states in a war that escalated over the next decade and became a struggle for European supremacy.
In 1630, Sweden – which was then a major military power – joined the Protestant cause, and its king marched his men into Germany to fight the Catholics.
An illustration of Gustavus Adolphus before the Battle of Lutzen. Image credit: Public Domain.
The day of battle
Morning mist delayed the Swedish army's advance, but by 9 AM the rival armies were in sight of each other. Because of a complex network of waterways and further misty weather, it took until 11 AM before the Protestant force was deployed and ready to launch its attack.
Initially, the battle went well for the Protestants, who managed to outflank Wallenstein's weak left wing. After a while, Pappenheim arrived with 2,000–3,000 cavalry and halted the Swedish assault. This made Wallenstein exclaim, "Thus I know my Pappenheim!". However, during the charge, Pappenheim was fatally wounded by a small-calibre Swedish cannonball. At the same time, Pappenheim's counterattack collapsed. He died later in the day while being evacuated from the field in a coach.
Gustavus' Adolphus' disappearance and death
The cavalry action on the open Imperial left wing continued, with both sides deploying reserves in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Soon afterwards, towards 1 PM, Gustavus Adolphus was himself killed leading a cavalry charge on this wing. In the thick mix of gun smoke and fog covering the field, he was separated from his fellow riders and killed by several shots. ΐ] His fate remained unknown for some time. However, when the gunnery paused and the smoke cleared, his horse was spotted between the two lines, Gustavus himself not on it and nowhere to be seen. His disappearance stopped the initiative of the hitherto successful Swedish right wing, while a search was conducted. His partly stripped body ΐ] was found an hour or two later, and was secretly evacuated from the field in a Swedish artillery wagon.
Meanwhile, the veteran infantry of the Swedish center had continued to follow orders and tried to assault the strongly entrenched Imperial center and right wing. Their attack was a catastrophic failure—they were first decimated by Imperial artillery and infantry fire and then ridden over by Imperial cavalry charging from behind the cover of their own infantry. Two of the oldest and most experienced infantry units of the Swedish army, the 'Old Blue' Regiment and the Yellow or 'Court' Regiment were effectively wiped out in these assaults remnants from them streamed to the rear. Soon most of the Swedish front line was in chaotic retreat. The royal preacher, Jakob Fabricius, rallied a few Swedish officers around him and started to sing a psalm. This act had many of the soldiers halt in hundreds. The foresight of Swedish third-in-command 'Generalmajor' Dodo zu Innhausen und Knyphausen also helped staunch the rout: he had kept the Swedish second or reserve line well out of range of Imperial gunfire, and this allowed the broken Swedish front line to rally.
Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar
By about 3 PM, the Protestant second-in-command Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, having learned of the king's death, returned from the left wing and assumed command over the entire army. He vowed to win the battle in retribution for Gustavus or die trying, but contrary to popular legend tried to keep the king's fate secret from the army as a whole. (Although rumours were circulating much earlier, it was only the following day that Bernhard collected his surviving officers together and told them the truth.)
The result was a grim struggle, with terrible casualties on both sides. Finally, with dusk falling, the Swedes captured the linchpin of Wallenstein's position, the main Imperial artillery battery. The Imperial forces retired back out of its range, leaving the field to the Swedes. At about 6 PM, Pappenheim's infantry, about 3,000–4,000 strong, after marching all day towards the gunfire, arrived on the battlefield. Although night had fallen, they wished to counterattack the Swedes. Wallenstein, however, believed the situation hopeless and instead ordered his army to withdraw to Leipzig under cover of the fresh infantry.
Battle of Lutzen - History
By Frank James Rottman
After his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte desperately needed to reassert his military dominance over Europe. His hold on France depended entirely on his success on the battlefield. As he would later tell Austrian peace envoy Prince Clemens von Metternich, “Your sovereigns born on the throne can let themselves be beaten twenty times and still return to their capitals. My domination will not survive the day when I cease to be strong and therefore feared.” Half a million men had fallen in the past six years to reaffirm Napoleon’s hold on power, and yet by the end of the year the emperor’s much-vaunted Grande Armée was virtually back where it had started when the emperor first seized control of his country’s destiny in 1799 and made all of Europe tremble at his name.
Reconstructing the Grande Armée
In the immediate aftermath of the Russian campaign, Napoleon almost wistfully told Marshal Louis Alexandre Berthier, his chief-of-staff, “Come, Berthier, come my old friend, let us fight the campaign of Italy all over again.” Napoleon was eager to return to the offensive quickly, before the newly allied forces of Russia and Prussia could concentrate their armies in Germany and freeze the French Army into place in a purely defensive position. But before Napoleon could begin a new campaign, a number of urgent questions remained unanswered. Could the master of Europe recoup from his Russian disaster? Would his young, inexperienced conscripts fill the huge void left by the death and destruction of 400,000 crack troops in the Grande Armée? Would his cavalry, now only 7,500 strong, still be able to act efficiently as his eyes and ears for the upcoming campaign? Napoleon pondered these questions obsessively as he made his way toward the city of Leipzig, Germany, in the spring of 1813.
The army that Napoleon brought to the plains of Saxony that spring—outwardly, at least—was not unlike his earlier armies. Morale was high, marching and maneuvering were quick, and individual courage was not lacking. However, the effects of the previous year’s terrible campaign in Russia could not be easily erased with additional levies of untried men. The indomitable French infantry, “the sinew of an army,” was filled with brave, young, but only half-trained conscripts. Neither the surviving officers nor the NCOs had the requisite time or experience of their own to thoroughly train the new men. This lack of experience would hamper Napoleon throughout the ensuing campaign.
“France was One Vast Workshop”
The artillery corps, always Napoleon’s first love, was quickly supplied with new cannon of all caliber and teams of horses to make up for the grievous losses of some 1,200 pieces in Russia. Because of a shortage of gunpowder, new mills were built and armorers were goaded to increase production. “France was one vast workshop,” cavalry general Armand de Caulaincourt observed. “The entire French nation overlooked his reverses and vied with one another in displaying zeal and devotion. It was as glorious an example of the French character as it was a personal triumph for the Emperor, who with amazing energy directed all the resources of which his genius was capable into organizing and guiding the great national endeavor. Things seemed to come into existence as if by magic.”
To alleviate the shortage of artillerists, National Guardsmen and green conscripts were made into gunners on the march. Although the artillery had first pick of all horses throughout the empire, they faced the same shortage as the cavalry. Complicating matters was the fact that the new draft horses had to be carefully matched in teams and trained to move heavy loads at a quick, sustained speed. Despite the shortage and training required, Napoleon somehow managed to provide the artillery with an adequate supply of horses. His superhuman rebuilding efforts were successful, and the emperor believed that the reconstituted artillery would compensate for the shortage of cavalry in the upcoming operations.
Allied Commander Count Ludwig Wittgenstein.
After the Russian debacle, the cavalry was in desperate shape. One example of the level of cavalry losses suffered was the experience of the 11th Hussars, which had brought 1,133 men and horses into Russia in the summer of 1812 and escaped six months later with a mere 10 officers and 79 enlisted men. These prolific losses could not be easily replaced, and Napoleon needed more time to gather sufficient numbers of healthy horses and troopers—time he would not be given. With no other choice, he collected and attempted to train the resources he had available. The remounts were few in number and poor in quality. The officers and men were no comparison to the Allied veterans they would soon be fighting. Many French conscripts in the cuirassiers, the French heavy cavalry, were too slight to carry their large swords and heavy helmets. Others were preoccupied with learning the proper way to ride and fight man-to-man in combat, and thus could not spend precious time training for mass maneuvers. Experienced light horsemen, the chasseurs-a-cheval, were also in short supply. Without his light cavalry, Napoleon would be hard pressed for accurate information about his enemies’ dispositions.
Purity of the elite Imperial Guard
The Imperial Guard, Napoleon’s veteran reserve, had also suffered greatly in Russia. One hard-bitten survivor, Sergeant A.J.B. Bourgogne, told the story of a fellow Guardsman who inquired as to the whereabouts of the Dutch grenadiers. Bourgogne responded, “You didn’t see it? That big sledge that overtook you contained the entire Dutch regiment.” There were seven men left. After the Russian campaign, the Old Guard was a mere skeleton of its original 30,000-member elite force. After removing the sick and wounded, the Guard consisted of 1,065 infantry, 663 cavalry, 265 artillerymen, and 26 engineers. Knowing that he would need their fighting ability and élan to steady his green conscripts in line and possibly snatch victory from defeat, Napoleon set about rebuilding the Guard as quickly as he could. He refitted the ranks with veteran soldiers from Spain and France, used seamen to reinforce his Guard artillery, and scrounged all over France for mounts for his Guard cavalry regiments. Every department in the empire was directed to supply men and equipment for the Guards, including 5,000 retired Municipal Guards who were recalled to the colors. At the same time, the entire Class of 1814 from the nation’s various military academies was called into service a year early.
Ever watchful of his beloved Guard, the emperor continued to insist that the criteria for joining the Guard must remain stringent. In March 1813, Napoleon wrote, “A non-commissioned officer may not be admitted into the Old Guard until he has served twelve years and fought in several campaigns. If nominations contrary to this rule are made they shall be presented for confirmation to the emperor before taking effect.” Clearly, Napoleon knew that the coming campaign’s success would rely upon his beloved Guard’s fighting prowess. The Guard would either help lead the French forces to victory or, as in Russia, safeguard their retreat.
March on Leipzig
With his young and inexperienced army, Napoleon would attempt to check the Allied advance into the Confederation of the Rhine and possibly regain his near-hypnotic spell over the Russian Czar Alexander I. Napoleon’s master strategy was to capture Berlin and give Prussia reason to doubt its decision to declare war on March 13. Napoleon’s attention in the north did not mean that he would forget the south. In fact, he hoped to gain a quick victory in the south in order to bloody his new recruits and build up morale, while giving Austria pause to reconsider its newly antagonistic relationship with France. He hoped that quick success over the Allies in the south would keep the disaffected members of his own army under wraps.
Thanks in part to a lack of cavalry, Napoleon’s army was dangerously exposed as it headed toward the historic killing ground at Lutzen. Allied blunders prevented them from capitalizing on the emperor’s unexpected vulnerability.
Napoleon believed the Allies would begin a major spring offensive with an attack on Leipzig. Therefore, on May 1, he ordered his forces to advance onto the Saxony plain. The French military machine came toward Leipzig from two directions. The Army of the Elbe, with an overall strength of 30,000 men under the direction of Prince Eugene Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson, moved toward Leipzig from the north. The Army of the Main, numbering 115,000 under Napoleon’s direct command, came up from the south toward Weissenfels. As Napoleon moved forward, he gave Marshal Michel Ney’s III Corps the responsibility for securing his right flank by occupying the historic village of Lutzen, site of a major victory by Protestant forces over their Catholic adversaries in the Thirty Years’ War 180 years earlier. Ney was also tasked with taking and holding the nearby villages of Kaja, Rahna, Gross Görschen, and Klein Görschen. This action would safeguard the French right, while allowing General Jacques Lauriston and Marshal Jacques Macdonald to advance on Leipzig unmolested.
Lutzen: Focal Point of the Allied Advance
In the early hours of May 2, Napoleon continued to expect a confrontation with the Allies at Leipzig or just south of the city. However, he became uncomfortably aware of the precarious position of his supply line and entertained the possibility of a strong Allied advance from the direction of Zwenkau that would cut his Army of the Main in two. To guard against this happening, Napoleon warned Ney that if an Allied attack came from the direction of Zwenkau, his III Corps would have to take a defensive posture and pin down the enemy near Lutzen while the Army of the Elbe moved around to attack the Allied left. At 4 am, Napoleon, still unaware of the Allies’ intentions, issued a written order to Ney to send out two strong reconnaissance forces, one toward Zwenkau and the other toward Pegau.
For some reason, Ney failed to implement the order. Instead, he sent two of his five divisions out toward Kaja and Starsiedel, but they made no attempt to continue forward into Zwenkau and even failed to fortify their positions. Instead, the men were allowed to forage for their lunch. One possible explanation for Ney’s dereliction may be that because he lacked sufficient numbers of light cavalry, he was unaware that the Allies were present in any great force.
At about the same time, the Allied commander, Count Ludwig Wittgenstein, sent out a reconnaissance force to scout the French positions near Lutzen. Wittgenstein could hardly believe his ears when he heard their report. The main body of French troops was moving toward Leipzig on the Weissenfels-Lutzen highway. A small detachment of French soldiers was present near Kaja, and stronger detachments were near Teuchern. Wittgenstein surmised, a little wonderingly, that he had surprised the French. The French, without a sufficient cavalry arm, had no idea that the Allies were concentrated near Kaja. For the first time in his experience, Wittgenstein had managed to seize both the battlefield initiative and a superior concentration of forces over Napoleon.
The Allied commander quickly formulated a plan of attack. He would make a lightning strike at Lutzen and cut the Weissenfels-Lutzen highway. The result would be a complete split of the French forces. Wittgenstein envisioned the entire operation taking six hours, commencing at 1 am and concluding at 7 am. Meanwhile, he ordered General Friedrich Kleist to hold the Allied right at Leipzig while General Mikhail Miloradovitch moved toward Zeitz to protect the Allied left. The rest of Wittgenstein’s 71,000-strong forces would quick-march to Gross Görschen. From there, Wittgenstein planned to capture Kaja and position his artillery to cut the highway, thus forcing the French to retreat toward the River Elster or else be cut in two.
Driving the French Back
Unfortunately for Wittgenstein, his careful timetable quickly started to unravel. Beginning their march in near-total darkness, his lead formations did not reach Gross Gröschen until 11 am. However, although their timing was off, his forces still held the tactical advantage of surprise and superior numbers. Confident of complete victory and wishing to make up for lost time, Wittgenstein ordered Marshal Gebhard Blücher’s cavalry to attack the French force, believed to be 2,000 men, near Gross Gröschen. The Prussians soon received a rude surprise when they found themselves facing two complete French divisions instead of 2,000 hapless troopers. Likewise, the French received a comparable shock when a large Prussian force materialized in front of them.
Amid cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” Napoleon rallies the untested conscripts of his III Corps at the height of the fighting at Lutzen. With the battle hanging in the balance, Napoleon constantly exposed himself to enemy fire.
Both sides quickly took action. Blücher called for artillery, while the French commander, General Joseph Souham, following Napoleon’s precept that lost territory could be recovered but time never could be, took advantage of the Allied pause by occupying Gross Görschen. On his immediate right, General J.B. Girard consolidated his forces around the village of Starsiedel. Because of the Allies’ poor reconnaissance and subsequent delay, the French found themselves in defensible positions. Both Souham and Girard felt confident that they could hold out long enough for General Auguste Frederic de Marmont VI’s Corps to come to their aid.
After the arrival of his artillery, Blücher unleashed a devastating cannonade, consisting of 45 guns, against Souham’s position at Gross Görschen. After sustaining an estimated 4,000 rounds of artillery, the French were hard pressed to hold the village and moved behind Gross Görschen. The Prussians took the village and, with two Russian columns, attacked Kaja. At midday, the French retired behind Kaja to hold fast until help arrived. Unfortunately for Souham’s forces, helping the men of the III Corps was not yet part of Napoleon’s plans.
As a desperate struggle was taking place at Gross Görschen, Napoleon, with Ney at his side, followed the trouncing of Kleist by Lauriston’s V Corps at Leipzig. Napoleon still believed that the Allies were concentrated there. Macdonald recalled, “He gave me orders to support him [Lauriston] if necessary, but at that moment he received intelligence that the allies who had debauched from Pegau were advancing towards us. The Emperor would not believe it, because he was firmly convinced that their main force was at Leipzig.” However, after both Napoleon and Ney heard the increasing cannon fire to the southwest, he ordered Ney to return to his command at Lutzen with all possible speed. At the same time, Napoleon began to formulate a new plan to meet the growing threat to his right.
“We have no cavalry and must do it with infantry, as in Egypt,” Napoleon told subordinates. Orders were sent out for the III Corps to hold all its present positions at all costs. The Imperial Guard would wait in reserve. Marmont’s VI Corps was to move up to Ney’s right around Starsiedel, while General Henri Bertrand’s IV Corps moved west from Tauchau to threaten the Russian left. Meanwhile, the Russian right would be assailed by Macdonald’s XI Corps and two divisions from Lauriston’s V Corps, which would swing southward toward Eisdorf. Napoleon felt his personal presence on the field might be necessary and quickly followed Ney toward the fighting.
A Fierce Fight for Lutzen
The events between 11 am and 1 pm showed just how well the Allies had surprised the French. Of all Lutzen’s outlying villages, only parts of Kaja remained in French hands. The Allies were close to pushing the French from their defensive positions and creating a wedge between the divisions of Souham and Girard. In fact, Souham was being driven back by a heavy concentration of artillery fire. Fortunately for the French, Girard held his position. Ney arrived at Lutzen in time to gather his three remaining divisions and rush them forward to stop Souham’s retreat. He ordered an aide to “go tell the Emperor that it really is a battle and a battle such as he has never seen before.” While this was being done, Ney joined the battle with his usual courage and élan.
The fighting was fierce—both sides realized that Lutzen was the key to victory. If the Allies succeeded, they would split the French in half. If the French held, they might succeed in enveloping the Allies. Ney, covered by dust from his ride, soon lost his horse to a cannonball and was wounded in the leg by an enemy musket, but stubbornly remained at the center of the conflict. Girard fared no better. While leading his division forward, he was wounded twice. Gathering his remaining strength, he called out a ringing challenge: “It is here that every brave Frenchman must conquer or die!” Hit by a third bullet, Girard reluctantly relinquished command.
The French and Prussians continued to pound away at each other. Decimated villages were won and lost within minutes by both sides. The French were running out of ammunition for their cannon and muskets. Along with Ney and Girard, Souham and his chief of staff had been wounded. French morale, however, remained intact. The Guard artillery performed prodigious tasks of marksmanship, and Ney’s small cavalry brigade, although outnumbered, continued to protect the rear from the dreaded Cossacks. The French still held Kaja, the largest and closest village to Lutzen. Meanwhile, the Allies suffered an incalculable loss with the mortal wounding of the Prussian chief-of-staff, Gerhard von Scharnhorst, the developer of the modern general staff system.
Even with the death of Scharnhorst, the Allies felt confident of victory. They had surprised the French and held them on the defensive for most of the day. However, to claim a complete victory they would have to drive the French out of Kaja and Lutzen before Napoleon managed to consolidate his forces. They renewed their attacks with a determination bordering on desperation. Prussian cavalry and Guards made a coordinated strike toward Kaja. Their attack was overwhelming. In one brief lightning strike, they captured Klein Görschen and Rahna and almost reached the key village of Kaja. They believed the battle was as good as won.
French confidence quickly dissipated. Even with Marmont’s VI Corps joining Ney’s right, they believed the battle to be lost. Cries of “Sauve qui peut! [Every man for himself]” were heard as the young conscripts threw down their arms. The French army that Napoleon had forged from nothing was beginning to crack under the intense Allied advance. Veteran troops might have been able to withstand the intense three-hour fight, but the inexperienced conscripts were wavering quickly. Unlike 1812, this defeat could not be attributed to the force of nature or unreliable allies. The French were about to be defeated fairly and squarely by the Prussian and Russian armies. All was lost—or was it? Word began to pass from man to man: the Emperor had arrived. Excited shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” filled the air.
Disregarding their own wounds, Napoleon’s ever-faithful soldiers greet his electrifying eleventh-hour arrival on the battlefield.
At 2:30 pm, Napoleon personally joined the fray. French morale rose accordingly. In a moment, the customary French élan returned. Napoleon’s first order was to rally the III Corps conscripts who were in full flight. He commanded the Light Horse of the Old Guard to “bar their passage between our squadrons.” Meanwhile, Napoleon rode among his troops instilling his confidence in both veterans and recruits. “This,” recalled Marmont, “was undoubtedly the day, of his whole career, on which Napoleon incurred the greatest personal danger on the field of battle. He exposed himself constantly leading the defeated men of III Corps back to the charge.” The Saxon translator E. d’Odeleben recalled, “Hardly a wounded man passed before Bonaparte without saluting him with the accustomed vivat. Even those who had lost a limb, who would in a few hours be the prey of death, rendered him this homage.”
During the afternoon, both armies fought fiercely, but neither side could claim complete victory. With each passing hour, Napoleon’s plan of envelopment was taking shape. Macdonald came into contact with the Allied right and made his presence felt with devastating fire on the enemy infantry and cavalry in that sector. With Miloradovitch’s Russians coming up from Zeitz, Bertrand deliberately slowed his movement toward Marmont until 3 pm in order to ensnarl the Russians in the flank. Feeling that Miloradovitch’s forces were sufficiently exposed, at 4:30 pm Bertrand’s corps began to assemble on Marmont’s right. Napoleon’s enveloping movement was beginning to materialize.
Victory from the Jaws of Defeat
Faced with a growing menace on both his right and left flanks, Wittgenstein needed a steady flow of additional men to hold his present position near the village of Kaja. What reserves he had arrived at a trickle because Czar Alexander, believing that the Allies were victorious and wishing to emulate Napoleon’s practice of sending his Imperial Guard forward for the coup de grace, held back Russian general A.P. Tormassov’s Guards. In spite of the czar’s personal intervention, by 4 pm Wittgenstein had a sufficient number of reserves on hand and rushed them forward to Kaja. The Prussians were making the supreme effort to breech Napoleon’s center. The emperor wondered if his worn-out, severely punished III Corps and untested Imperial Guard would hold their positions or falter. “You will defend these batteries,” Napoleon told the veterans, “and if the enemy attacks you shall give a good account of yourselves.”
As if to underline the emperor’s words, Allied grapeshot immediately smashed into two files of grenadiers. The Guard flinched. The cannonade increased in quickness and accuracy. A derisive Napoleon wondered aloud, “What does the Guard duck?” A bomb fell in front of the first division and destroyed 30 muskets. This time, not one man winced. Satisfied that the Guard was holding fast, Napoleon ordered the Young Guard and remnants of III Corps to counterattack.
Although very nearly successful, Wittgenstein’s all-out effort used up his reserves and proved to be his last serious threat on Napoleon’s center. By 6 pm, Macdonald took Eisdorf on Ney’s left, and Bertrand was fully deployed on Marmont’s right. Napoleon ordered Marshal Adolphe Mortier and his 10,000 Young Guardsmen to assault the enemy forces remaining in and near Kaja. At the same time, he directed General Auguste Drouot to concentrate all available artillery southwest of Kaja to support the Guard’s advance. Finally, Napoleon moved six battalions of Old Guard, Guard Cavalry, and remnants of III Corps behind the artillery to support the Young Guard’s breakthrough. Ever the gambler, Napoleon was sure that the odds were now on his side and that the time was right for a final thrust.
“La Garde au Feu!” Napoleon barked, ordering Mortier to lead 16 battalions of the Young Guard into their first major battle. At first, the four attack columns moved forward at a slow, hesitant pace, with no look of pride or conquest in their eyes. Sensing their fear, the man who had cultivated their loyalty, obedience, and devotion like a father would his sons proclaimed, “Know that our fate is decided. If we are destined to die, perish we must. En Avant!” The Young Guard’s martial fire began to burn. They would continue the Imperial Guards’ tradition of loyalty, obedience, and devotion to emperor—or die trying. In short order, the villages of Rahna, Kelin, and Gross Görshchen were recaptured by the Young Guard, who suffered 1,069 casualties. Napoleon was so impressed by their fighting élan that he would later write with simple approval, “The Young Guard has fulfilled our expectations.”
The Allied line began to crack then crumble. The men who had fought so hard and long and who had almost tasted victory were now pushed back to the Elster. They only avoided a complete rout because of the lack of French cavalry. Hostilities ended at 9 pm with a Prussian cavalry counterattack against Marmont’s chasing infantry.
A crestfallen Napoleon tries to comfort Marshal Jean-Bptiste Bessieres, his jack-of-all-trades, who was mortally wounded by a stray cannonball during the approach to Lutzen.
“I am Once More Master of Europe”
Napoleon boasted after the Battle of Lutzen, “I am once more master of Europe.” However, his new mastery came at a cost he could ill afford. French losses in killed and wounded totaled at least 20,000. The Allies’ losses were between 11,500 and 20,000. Wittgenstein had caught the vaunted Napoleon by surprise and until late afternoon was in a position to claim victory. Even when enclosed by a slowly developing pincer movement, the Allies managed to retreat in a disciplined, professional manner. Napoleon bitterly commented, “These animals have learned something.”
Conversely, the Allies were confronted with the sobering fact that the French Army was not a paper lion and that Napoleon’s battlefield faculties were as keen as ever. Although short of experienced soldiers and crippled by a lack of cavalry, Napoleon had won an improbable but undeniable victory. “In my young soldiers,” he said, “I found all the valor of my old companion in arms. During the twenty years I have commanded French troops I have never witnessed such bravery and devotion.” Napoleon’s faith in his army, combined with his military genius, would mean another full year of war in Europe. As he had demonstrated convincingly at Lutzen, the old emperor still had a few more tricks up his sleeve.
The Battle of Lützen and the Death of the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus
On November 16 , 1632 , the Battle of Lützen , one of the most important battles of the Thirty Years’ War , was fought, in which the Swedes defeated the Imperial Army under Wallenstein , but cost the life of one of the most important leaders of the Protestant alliance, the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf , which caused the Protestant campaign to lose direction.
The Thirty Years’ War
The Thirty Years’ War was a series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648, which began with the Second Defenestration of Prague in 1618 and ended with the Treaty of Westfalen in 1648. It was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history. It was the deadliest European religious war, resulting in eight million casualties. Initially a war between various Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmented Holy Roman Empire , it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers. These states employed relatively large mercenary armies, and the war became less about religion and more of a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.
Two days before the battle, on 14 November the Roman Catholic general Albrecht von Wallenstein decided to split his men and withdraw his main headquarters back towards Leipzig. He expected no further move that year from the Protestant army, led by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus , since unseasonably wintry weather was making it difficult to camp in the open countryside. However, Gustavus Adolphus’ army marched out of camp towards Wallenstein’s last-known position and attempted to catch him by surprise. A skirmish delayed the Swedish advance, thus when night fell the two armies were still separated by about a few kilometres.
Wallenstein, seeing the danger, dispatched a note to General Pappenheim ordering him to return as quickly as possible with his army corps, who immediately set off to rejoin Wallenstein with most of his troops. During the night, Wallenstein deployed his army in a defensive position along the main Lützen-Leipzig road, which he reinforced with trenches. He anchored his right flank on a low hill, on which he placed his main artillery battery. By 9 am the rival armies were in sight of each other. Because of a complex network of waterways and further misty weather, it took until 11 am before the Protestant force was deployed and ready to launch its attack.
The Death of Gustavus Adolphus
Initially, the battle went well for the Protestants, who managed to outflank Wallenstein’s weak left wing. After a while, Pappenheim arrived with 2,000–3,000 cavalry and halted the Swedish assault. This made Wallenstein exclaim, “Thus I know my Pappenheim!”. However, during the charge, Pappenheim was fatally wounded by a small-calibre Swedish cannonball. The cavalry action on the open Imperial left wing continued, with both sides deploying reserves in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Soon afterwards, towards 1:00 pm, Gustavus Adolphus was himself killed while leading a cavalry charge on this wing. In the thick mix of gun smoke and fog covering the field, he was separated from his fellow riders and killed by several shots. His fate remained unknown for some time. However, when the gunnery paused and the smoke cleared, his horse was spotted between the two lines, Gustavus himself not on it and nowhere to be seen. His disappearance stopped the initiative of the hitherto successful Swedish right wing, while a search was conducted. His partly stripped body was found an hour or two later, and was secretly evacuated from the field .
Cornelis Danckerts: Historis oft waerachtich verhael. 1632. Engraving by Matthäus Merian. Battle of Lützen, Germany (6 November 1632), in the Thirty Year’s War. Large unfolded engraving. Panorama of the battle showing both armies. Cannonades. Explosion in the foreground. At top right the town of Lützen. Latin text: “Typus CRUENTISSIMI ILLIUS PRAELY, IN OVO EXERCITUS REGIS Sueciae cum acie caesarea sub Duce Fridlandiae, cum magna utriusque partis strage et plerorumque Ducum interitu ad LUZAM conflixit, a.d. 6 Novemb Anni 1632”.
Retreat of Wallenstein
By about 3 PM, the Protestant second-in-command Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, having learned of the king’s death, returned from the left wing and assumed command over the entire army. He vowed to win the battle in retribution for Gustavus or die trying, but contrary to popular legend tried to keep the king’s fate secret from the army as a whole. The result was a grim struggle, with terrible casualties on both sides. Finally, with dusk falling, the Swedes captured the linchpin of Wallenstein’s position, the main Imperial artillery battery. The Imperial forces retired back out of its range, leaving the field to the Swedes. The arrival of Pappenheim’s infantry allowed Wallenstein to retreat in good order.
Strategically a Protestant Victory
The body of Gustav II Adolf was plundered of its clothes and gold jewellery and left on the battlefield dressed only in his shirts and long stockings. His buff coat was taken as a trophy to the emperor in Vienna. It was returned to Sweden in 1920, in recognition of relief efforts by the Swedish red cross during and after the First World War. Strategically and tactically speaking, the Battle of Lützen was a Protestant victory. Having been forced to assault an entrenched position, Sweden lost about 6,000 men including badly wounded and deserters, many of whom may have drifted back to the ranks in the following weeks. The Imperial army probably lost slightly fewer men than the Swedes on the field, but because of the loss of the battlefield and general theatre of operations to the Swedes, fewer of the wounded and stragglers were able to rejoin the ranks.
The Swedish army achieved the main goals of its campaign. The Imperial onslaught on Saxony was halted, Wallenstein chose to withdraw from Saxony into Bohemia for the winter, and Saxony continued in its alliance with the Swedes. Crucially, Gustavus Adolphus’s death enabled the French to gain much firmer control of the anti-Habsburg alliance. Sweden’s new regency was forced to accept a far less dominant role than it had held before the battle. The war was eventually concluded at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
In May 1813, the Emperor Napoleon was visiting the 1632 battlefield, playing tour guide with his staff by pointing to the sites and describing the events of 1632, in detail from memory, when he heard the sound of cannon. He immediately cut the tour short and went to conduct his own Battle of Lützen.
At yovisto academic video search you can get a brief summary about the events of the Thirty Years’ War in the following AP European History Video.