IV. The Swedish invasion, 1630-5
An example of the crude silver coins minted by
Spain in the New World
|In 1628, the Spanish suffered a catastrophic loss of their treasure fleet (carrying at least
8,000,000 guilders of silver) to a Dutch freebooter called Piet Hein
(or Heyn); this shifted the military initiative in the Spanish-Dutch war
heavily in favor of the Dutch.
In 1629, Sweden made the Truce of Altmark with Poland, and in June
1630 Gustavus Adolphus landed with his
army in Pomerania. Its armaments included eighty field guns - far more
artillery than the Imperial armies possessed.
The Swedes established themselves on the
coast near Peenemünde and soon captured Stettin.
Adolphus devoted great care and attention to the training of his
troops. He ensured that Swedish recruits were so proficient in
in the use of their muskets that they could fire and reload far
more quickly than rival formations.
Sweden allied with France in the Treaty of
by this treaty France agreed to pay the Swedes a subsidy for five
years, provided that the Swedes maintained an army of 36,000 men in
Germany. Gustavus Adolphus supplemented his Swedish conscript soldiers
with Scottish mercenaries and Dutch troops.
Gutavus Adolphus marched south
in Spring 1631 and attempted to relieve Magdeburg, besieged by Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly (1559-1632).
Count of Tilly
1631, Magdeburg fell to Tilly's forces, which sacked the city.
Much of Magdeburg was burnt to the ground and about 20,000 of
its inhabitants died. The
sack of Magdeburg was one of the
bloodiest incidents in the Thirty Years War, and outraged all
The armies of Tilly (32,000
Gustavus Adolphus (30,000 men, now joined by 10,000 troops of Johann Georg,
of Saxony) met just north of Leipzig in the Battle of Breitenfeld,
7 September 1631. The raw Saxon levies fled, but with great tactical
skill Gustavus Adolphus reformed his lines and launched a cavalry
attack that seized the Imperial artillery. The Imperial army suffered
casualties of at least 8,000 and had to withdraw.
Johann Georg's troops went to
Silesia to attack the Hapsburgs in Bohemia, taking Prague in November
Gustavus Adolphus marched
south taking the cities of Frankfort-am-Main and Mainz. The
Swedish armies then moved deeper into southern and western Germany
in an attempt to force a decisive battle that would lead to a
permanent political settlement.
Tilly attempted to establish a
defensive line, north of Augsburg along the River Lech to defend Catholic Germany from
Swedish assault. In April 1632, his army was defeated there and Tilly died from wounds
received in the battle. Gustavus
Adolphus marched into Bavaria and plundered Maximilian's capital,
A Catholic standard from the Thirty Years War
[The legend means: For Christ and the Church]
In desperation, Ferdinand II
turned once again to Wallenstein for help. Wallenstein rapidly raised
a new army, and in November 1632 drew most of it up in defensive
positions around Lützen. Gustavus Adolphus discovered that Wallenstein
had sent his best cavalry north, and decided to attack immediately. 6
November 1632, the Swedes attacked with considerable success, despite
the return of the Imperial cavalry forces in the middle of the battle.
Lützen was at once a
victory and a disaster, for Gustavus Adolphus was killed. His heir was
his daughter, Christina - six years old at
the time. Effective control of government was in the hands of Gustavus' chief minister, the new regent,
(1583-1654). In April 1633, he persuaded the German Protestant princes
to form the League of Heilbronn and place him in charge of it.
The League was committed to fighting the Emperor until their liberties
and religion were secure.
On his recall, Ferdinand II
had given Wallenstein extensive powers. Much to Ferdinand's chagrin,
Wallenstein took the opportunity offered by Gustavus Adolphus' death
not to smash the rebel forces, but to attempt to negotiate a
settlement of his own. He offered the Saxons the suspension of the
Edict of Restitution, and began to negotiate with France, Sweden and
February 1634, Ferdinand II lost patience and - egged on by Spanish
advisors who trusted Wallenstein as little as he trusted them -
ordered the arrest of Wallenstein on charges of treason. On 25 February 1634,
the Irish General Walter Butler accompanied by two Scottish Colonels,
Walter Leslie and John Gordon, and a few other other soldiers found
Wallenstein and killed him. They were handsomely rewarded for the