As F. Schiller himself has defended, a work does not have to bear a purely academic and rather boring style, in order to be qualified as historical. The scene of this extensive work is the larger Europe from Russia to the Italian peninsula and the states bordering the Ottoman Empire. The actors of this so-called 30-year religious war were the sovereigns and churches of Europe. The political and military maneuvers are described, hence, in this masterpiece, in the literary style of a fiction, although the events and details related in it are truly historical. In the first parts of the book, the different warring forces as well as their motives for going to war are presented. “The prospect of independence, the rich plunder of the spiritual foundations must have made the regents craving for a religious conversion, and the weight of the inner conviction did certainly not have less strengthened this attraction in them; however, state reason alone could press them to that end.” With this sentence, Schiller makes his whole point about the war. It was not so much a precise religious doctrine for which the European powers were fighting against each other, but certainly the acquisition and the possession of wealth and privileges detained by the spiritual foundations. Alliances, unions on one side, defections and betrayals on the other, are among all the various components that make up this war, to the image of the Hungarian leaders who allied themselves with whatever party would assure them the best of their interests. In addition to that, court judgments, intrigues and affairs, poisoning and outright financial corruption are among the weapons that Schiller also describes to render a vivid comprehension of this historical event to us.
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The Thirty-Year War
Gustav Adolph's glorious battle of in Leipzig has provoked a great change in the whole subsequent behaviour of this monarch as well as in the manner of thinking of his friends and enemies. He has measured himself, now, with the greatest military leader of his time, he has applied the force of his tactic and the courage of his Swedes on the core of the Imperial troops, the most experienced of Europe, and has come out victorious from this ordeal. From this moment on, he built a firm confidence in himself and confidence is the mother of all great acts. People remarked further that in all the warring enterprises of the Swedish King, a bolder and more confident move, a proven decisiveness also in the most disadvantageous situations, a prouder rhetoric towards his enemy, more self-confidence with his allies and even in his mercy, he showed more of the commander’s arrogance.
To his natural courage came the rapt verve of his constitution into help; he very much exchanged his cause with the cause of heaven, saw in the defeat of Tilly a decisive judgement of God to the disadvantage of his enemy; but in himself, however, only a tool of the divine fury. His crown, his fatherland very far behind him, he penetrated now on the wings of victory in the inner of land of Germany, which has not seen for centuries any foreign conqueror. The warring courage of its inhabitants, the vigilance of its numerous princes, the artificial cohesion of its states, the multitude of its fortified castles, the existence of many rivers have already since immemorial times put a halt to the territorial greed of its neighbours, and no matter how often they have attacked the borders of this broad stately body, hence, was his inner land remained protected from every foreign invasion.
From early times, this Empire enjoyed the ambiguous privilege only to be its own enemy and to remain undefeated by foreign troops. Now, also it was only the disunion of its members and an impatient religious zeal that built for the Swedish conqueror the bridges to its most inner states. Dissolved was already for long the harmonious link among its authorities, through which alone the Empire was invincible and from Germany itself borrowed Gustav Adolph his forces with which he bent Germany. With much more intelligence than courage, he used what the favour of the moment favoured him, and skilled in his cabinet as well as on the battlefield, he tore the malice of a deceitful statesmanship as he brought down the walls of the cities with the thunder of his canons. Unstoppably, he chased his victories from one border of Germany to the other, without losing the thread of Ariadne which would lead him securely to his way back and on the shores of the Rhine as on the muzzle of the Lech, he never ceased to remain close to his hereditary lands.
The dismay of the Emperor and of the Catholic League over the defeat of Tilly in Leipzig could hardly be greater than the astonishment and the embarrassment of the swedish allies over the unexpected luck of the King. It was greater than people has accounted, greater than people have wished. Destroyed was at once the fearsome army which hindered his advances, put limits to his ambition, has made him dependent of its good will. Alone, without any rival, without any of the people who became his opponent, he stood, now, there, in the middle of Germany; nothing could stop his march, nothing could limit his actions when the dizziness of luck should be tempting him into exaction.
Should people have, in the beginning, trembled before the omnipotence of the Emperor, hence, now, a not lesser ground was existing for the Imperial constitution to fear everything from the upheaval of a foreign conqueror, for the Catholic Church of Germany to fear everything from the religious zeal of a protestant King. The mistrust and the zeal of some of the allied powers, put into sleep through the greater fear of the Emperor for a long time, awoke soon, again, and hardly has Gustav Adolph through his courage and his luck justified their confidence, hence, would already be prepared from afar the demolition of his projects.
In constant fight against the malice of the enemies and of the mistrust of his own allies, he had to fight through for his victories; however, his resolved courage, his deeply pressing intelligence went over all the obstacles on his ways. While the lucky success of his weapons was of concern to his powerful allies, France and Saxony, he revived the courage of the weaker ones who, now, only have the nerve to put onto light their true dispositions and to take openly his party.
They who could neither compete with Gustav Adolph’s greatness nor suffer his search for glory, expected even more about the generosity of this powerful friend who enriched them with the robbery of their enemies and took them under protection against the oppression of the powerful. His strength hid their powerlessness and insignificant in themselves, demanded they to have a weight through their union with the Swedish heroes. This was the case with most of the Imperial cities and mainly with the weaker Protestant authorities. It was them who lead the King into the inner land of Germany and covered his back positions, cared for his army, took over his troops in their fortifications, gave their blood for him in his battles.
His keen statesmanship for the preservation of the German pride, his merry behaviour, some glowing actions of justice, his consideration for laws, constituted as much chains which he put on the worried spirit of the german Protestants and the blatant barbarism of the Imperial troops, of the people of Spain and of Lorraine acted powerfully on him to use, in the most favourable light, of his and his troops’ restraint.
If Gustav Adolph has mostly to thank his own genius, hence, people may not be recognizing that the luck and the situation of the circumstances favoured him not less. He had two great advantages on his side which created for him a decisive predominance over his enemy. While he established the scene of war in the countries of the League, attracted a young team to himself, enriched themselves with the loot and watched over the incomes of the fleeing princes as over his own possession, he removed from the enemy any means to resist him with emphasis and made possible through that the maintenance of a costly war with little expense.
If from a distance they were his opponent, the Princes of the League were divided among themselves, driven by totally different, often conflicting interest, without unanimity and precisely for that reason, acted without any effectiveness when full might was lacking to the military powers, obedience to their troops, cohesion to their scattered armies; when the quality of army leader was separated from that of the legislator and the statesman: hence, to the contrary, both aspects were just united in Gustav Adolph, he directed the unique source from which all authorities flew, the unique goal on which the acting warrior directed his eyes; he alone was the soul of his whole party, the creator of his war plan and at the same time, the executer of the same war plan. In him, hence, the cause of the Protestants received a unity and a harmony which throughout lacked the opposite party. No wonder that Gustav Adolph was invincible, favoured by such advantages, at the head of such an army; gifted with such a genius to use it and inspired by such a political intelligence.
On one hand the sword, on the other grace, people see him, now, go through Germany from one end to the other as conqueror, legislator and judge, not taking more time to ride than another person would have needed to do as a leisure trip; immediately the local landlord would bring him the keys of the cities and fortifications. No castle was unassailable to him; no stream hindered his victorious march, most often, he won already through his feared name. All along the stream of the Main, people saw his swedish flags, Lower Palatinate was free, the Spanishes and the people from Lorraine retreated beyond the Rhine and the Moselle. Over the little Electorate Mainz territories of Würzburg and Bamberg have the Swedes and the people from Hessen poured down as a breaking flood; and three fleeing bishops would pay, away from their seats, for their unfortunate devotion against the Emperor. It was also the turn, finally, of the League’s leader, Maximilian, on his own soil to experience the misery which he has prepared for others.
Neither the deterring destiny of his allies, nor the amicable request of Gustav who in the middle of his conquests offered his hand to peace, could have defeated the stubbornness of this Prince. Over the corpse of Tilly who settled himself like a watching angel before the entry of the same Bavarian countries, war rolls itself in the Bavarian countries. The same way as the banks of the Rhine, is teeming, now, the bank of the Lech and Danube with Swedish warriors; hidden in his fortified castles, the beaten Electorate Prince left his ravaged states to the enemy to whom the blessed, not yet devastated fields invited to rob and the religious rage of the Bavarian landowner invited to equivalent violent acts. Munich itself opened its gates to the invincible King and the fleeing Palatinate Count Fredrick the Fifth consoled himself some moments in the abandoned residence of his rival over the loss of his territories.
While Gustav Adolph extended to the southern borders of the Empire his conquest and with a lasting violence submitted every enemy before him, would be fought from his allies and military leaders similar triumphs in the remaining provinces. Lower Saxony removed itself from the yoke of the Emperor; the enemies left Mecklenburg, from all the banks of the Weser and the Elbe retreated the Austrian garrisons. In Westphalia and on the upper Rhine, the Landgrave Wilhelm of Hessen, in Thuringia the Dukes of Weimar, in the Kurtrier the French made themselves fearsomely assertive; eastwards will the whole Kingdom of Bohemia be almost compelled by the Saxons. Already the Turks were making military preparations for an attack on Hungary and in the middle of the Austrian lands will be started a dangerous upheaval. Inconsolable, Emperor Ferdinand looks around all the Palaces of Europe to strengthen himself against the numerous enemies through foreign assistance. In vain he called upon the weapons of the Emperor who was busy with the braveness of the attacks from the troops from the Netherlands on the side of the Rhine; in vain he strived to ask for the Roman Palace and the whole Catholic Church for his rescue. The offended Pope derided with splendid processions and zealous anathemas the embarrassment of Ferdinand and instead of the demanded amount of money, people showed him the ravaged fields of Mantua.
From all the ends of his extended monarchy, surrounded him hostile weapons; with the preceding states of the League which has overwhelmed the enemy; all the bastions have collapsed, behind which the Austria power knew securely for such a long time and the fire-power flared already close to the undefended borders. Disarmed are his most ardent allied; Maximilian of Bavaria, his most powerful support, hardly still capable to defend himself. His armies dissolved through desertions and repeated defeats, and rendered coward through a long history of inability, have learned among the beaten generals this warlike hardness which, a fruit of victory, secured in advance victory. The danger is the highest: only an extraordinary means can rid the imperial power of its deep fall.
The most pressing need is a military commander and the unique one, from whom the resurrection of the previous glory is to be expected, has put away the cabal of jealousy from the head of the army. So deep sank the so fearsome Emperor that he established shameful contracts with his offended servers and subjects and to the arrogant Friedland a power which he deprived from him despicably, more despicably must he be pressing to it now. A new spirit begins, now, to enthuse the half dead body of the Austrian might and the rapid change of events betrayed the firm hand which directed it. To the commanding King of Sweden is opposed, now, a similarly commanding military commander, to the victorious hero another victorious hero.
Both forces struggle again in doubtful dispute and the price of the war, half combated already by Gustav Adolph, will be submitted to a new and more difficult battle. Around Nuremberg are camping two clouds carrying storms, both fighting armies menacingly opposed, both considering with fearful attention, both thirsting for the moment, both apprehending the moment, which will be confronting them against one another. The eyes of Europe are riveted with fear and curiosity on this important scene and the frightened Nuremberg awaits already, the result of an even more decisive massacre as a battle would be happening in Leipzig, to give it its name. Immediately, the clouds broke, the thunder of war disappeared from Frankia in order to discharge themselves even more terribly on the fields of Saxony.
Not far from Lützen fell down the thunder which menaced Nuremberg, and the already half lost combat will be won through the royal corpse. Luck which has never abandoned him on his whole march, gratified the King also in death still with the seldom favour to die in the plenitude of his glory and the purity of his name.
Through an early death, his protecting genius has fled him before the unavoidable destiny of Humanity, to learn from the height of luck, modesty, from the plenitude of power, justice. It is allowed to us to doubt whether he has deserved the tears for a longer life which Germany mourned on his tomb, has deserved the admiration which posterity testified to the first and unique rightful conqueror. In the early fall of their great leader, people feared the downfall of the whole party, however, the power ruling the world is not irreplaceable to a unique person. Two great statesmen, Axel Oxenstierna in Germany and Richelieu in France; took over the reins of the war which has slipped from the dying hero; the insensitive destiny departed from him, and still for sixteen full years, the flames of war blazed over the dust of the long forgotten hero.
People should allow me to continue, in a short overview, the victorious march of Gustav Adolph, the whole scene on which he alone is the acting hero, to go through in rapid views and then, only, when, brought through the luck of the Swedes into extremes and bent through a range of cases of misfortune, Austria was pulled down from the height of its pride into humiliating and dubious means, to give back to the Emperor the thread of History.
Not as soon as the war plan between the King of Sweden and the Electorate Prince of Saxony to Halle was projected and for the last one the attack on Bohemia, determined for Gustav Adolph the invasion in the territories of the League, not as soon the alliances were concluded with the neighbouring Princes of Weimar and of Anhalt and made the propositions to the re-conquest of the foundations of Magdeburg, as the King headed for a march toward the Empire. No despicable enemy opposed him now. The Emperor was still powerful in the Empire, through the whole Frankia, Swabia and the Palatinate were Imperial occupations extended which must only be rid from this meaningful place with the sword in the hand.
On the Rhine waited for him the Spanish who have overwhelmed all the territories of the expelled Palatinate Counts, occupied all the fortified places, made disputable to him this passage over this river. Behind his back was Tilly who already gathered new forces, marching; soon should also a supplemental army from Lorraine assault his flags. In the bosom of every Papist was his embittered enemy opposing religious hatred; and hence, allowed him in his relationships with France to act only with half freedom against the Catholics. Gustav Adolph oversaw all these obstacles but also the means to win over them. The imperial warring power lied scattered in his occupations, and he had the advantage of attacking them with a united power.
Was the religious fanaticism of the Roman Catholics and the fear of the smaller imperial authorities opposed to him before the Emperor, hence, could he expect active assistance from the friendship of the Protestants and from their hatred against the Austrian oppression. The excesses of the Imperial and Spanish troops has prepared him expressly in these countries; already for long, have the mistreated landlord and citizens languished for a liberator; and to some it seemed already an improvement to change the yoke. Some agents were already being sent ahead, to incline the more important imperial cities, preferably, Nuremberg and Frankfort on the Swedish side.
Erfurt was the first place on whose possession the King was settled and which he might not left untaken behind his back. An amicable contract with the protestant inclined citizenry opened to him, without reaching the sword, the gates of the city and the fortification. Here, as in every important place, which after wards fell into his hands, he allowed himself to be sworn fidelity by the inhabitants and secured himself the same fidelity through a sufficient occupation.
His allies, the Duke Wilhem of Weimar, would be given the command of a troop, which should be recruited in Thuringia. The city of Erfurt he would also entrust to his spouse and promised to increase its liberties. In two columns passed, now, the Swedish army through Gotha and Arnstadt to the forest of Thuringia, snatched in the meantime the County of Henneberg from the hands of the imperial troops and joined on the third day, before Königshofen, on the borders of Frankia.
Franz, Bishop of Würzburg, the bitterest enemy of the Protestants and the most zealous member of the Catholic League was also the first one who felt the heavy hand of Gustav Adolph. Some menaces were enough to deliver to the Swedes’ hands his bordering fortification of Königshofen and with it, the key to the whole provinces. Consternation seized all the circles of catholic authorities on learning about this rapid conquest; the Bishops of Würzburg and Bamberg were set into fear in their burg. Already, they saw their thrones vacillating, their churches desecrated, their religion brought down. The meanness of his enemy has spread the most terrible depictions of the hunt down spirit of and the warring manners of the Swedish King and his troops which were never completely capable to refute neither the repeated assurances of the King nor the most glowing examples of humanity and tolerance.
People feared to suffer from someone else what people knew they would themselves do in similar case. Many of the richest Catholics rushed to bring already, now, their belongings, their conscience and persons in security before the bloodiest fanaticism of the Swedes. The Bishop himself gave to his subjects the example. In the middle of the burning fire which his bigotry has set into flame, he abandoned his territories and fled to Paris in order to rage, whenever possible, against the common religious enemy to the french minister
The progresses which Gustav Adolph, in the meantime, made in the main foundation were really equal to the lucky beginning. Abandoned by the imperial occupation, Schweinfurt surrendered itself and soon afterwards Würzburg, Marienberg had to be conquered through storming. In this place believed to be insuperable have people left a great supply of food and ammunition which all fell into the hands of the enemy. A very pleasant find for the King was the collection of Jesuits’ books which he allowed to be brought to Upsal, an even more pleasant one for the soldiers was the richly filled wine cellar of the prelates. His treasures has the Bishop left still for an appropriate moment. The example of the capital soon followed the whole Bishopric; everyone submitted themselves to the Swedes.
The King allowed himself to be paid homage by all the Bishop’s subjects and established because of the absence of the rightful regents, a local government which would be led, for its half, by Protestants. In every catholic place which Gustav Adolph brought under his order, he opened the churches to the Protestant religion, hence, without putting the pressure on the Papists under which they have for so long held their brothers in religion. Only to the ones who opposed him with the sword in the hand; would the terrible law of war be applied, for individual exactions which a lawless soldatesque allowed itself in the blind rage of the first attack, people cannot make the human friendly leader not held responsible. The peaceful and armless people experienced a gracious treatment. It was Gustav Adolph’s most sacred law, to spare the blood of the enemy as his own.
Immediately on the first news of the Swedish breakout has the Bishop of Würzburg, regardless of the agreement which he, in order to win time, concluded with the King of Sweden, asked imploringly to the military commander of the League, to rush to help to the menaced main foundation. This beaten general has, in the meantime, pulled together the remains of his scattered army on the Weser, strengthened through the Imperial garrisons in Lower Saxony and united in Hessen with both his colonels Altringer and Fugger. At the head of this considerable military power, Count Tilly was impatient to make up for the shame of his first defeat through a glowing victory. In his camp in Fulda, wherein he was pushed with the troops, he waited, full of expectation, for the permission of the Duke of Bavaria, to fight Gustav Adolph.
However, the League has, outside the army of Tilly, nothing else to lose, and Maximilian was much too gentle to put the whole destiny of his party on the possibility of a new encounter. With tears in the eyes; Tilly received the commands of his ruler who compelled him into inactivity. Hence, the march of this General to Frankia would be delayed and Gustav Adolph won time to invade the whole main foundation. In vain did Tilly, afterwards, strengthen himself in Aschaffenberg through 12 000 men from Lorraine and rushed with a superior power to the rescue of the city of Würzburg.
City and citadel were already under the attack of the Swedes and Maximilian of Bavaria would, maybe not really undeservedly, blamed by the general opinion to have accelerated the ruin of the main foundation through his hesitations. Forced to avoid a massacre, Tilly rejoiced himself to hinder the enemy to remoter advances; however, only very little places he could prevent from the violence of the Swedes. After a vain attempt to throw a reinforcement in the poorly defended by the imperial troops city of Hanau, whose possession the King gave a too great advantage, he went in Seligenstadt over the Main and headed his march to the Bergstrasse in order to protect the territories of Palatinate against the crush of the winners.
Count Tilly was not the unique enemy which Gustav Adolph found on his way in Frankia and chased away. Also Duke Charles of Lorraine, through the inconstancy of his character, his zealous projects and his terrible luck, notorious in the European annals of these times, has dismissed his small army against the Swedish hero in order to serve the palatinate crown with the Emperor Ferdinand the Second. Deaf against the prescriptions of a reasonable statesmanship, he followed only the impulses of an aggressive craving for honour; attracted through the support of the Emperor France, his fearsome neighbour, and in order to follow on remote land a shimmering phantom which hence always fled him, left his hereditary territories unprotected which a French military troop invaded like a flowing river.
In Austria, people honoured him very much like the remaining Princes of the League, for the well being of the inner House. Dizzied by zealous hopes, this Prince brought together a troop of 17 000 men which he would lead himself on the field against the Swedes. When it brought immediately to these troops military discipline and bravery, hence, they attracted through a glowing appearance the eyes and so much they hid their bravery in the face of the enemy, so generously they allowed such to the armless citizen and farmer, to whose defence they were called upon. Against the bold courage and the fearsome discipline of the Swedes could this daintily attired army not for long stand.
A panicking terror seized them as the Swedish cavalry rode against them and with a lighter courage, they were chased away from their quarters in Würzburg. The misfortune of some regiments caused a general run away among the troops and the weak remainder rushed to hide themselves in some cities on one side of the Rhine before the Nordic bravery. An object of derision by the Germans, and covered with shame; their leader rode home over Strasbourg, more than too lucky to soften the rage of his defeater who has beaten him previously on the field and then, since, decided to soften an account of his hostilities through a cowardly letter of apology. A farmer from a village on the Rhine people say, had the nerve to hit the horse of the Duke as he was riding by himself during his flee. “Run fast, Lord” said the farmer, “You must run faster when you run away before the great King of Sweden.”
The unfortunate example of his neighbour has given to the Bishop of Bamberg a smarter measure. In order to protect the plundering of his lands, he sent to the King requests of peace which, however, should only serve to hinder the march of his weapons so long, until help is coming. Gustav Adolph, he himself too honest in order to fear the deceit of others, took voluntarily the requests of the Bishop and put the conditions already under which he should spare the main foundation from any hostile treatment. He showed himself the more inclined, as anyway, his intention was not to lose time with the conquest of Bamberg and his remaining projects called him to the territories around the Rhine.
The zeal with which he followed the execution of this project, brought to him the amount of money which he could have easily extorted through a longer wandering on Frankia to the powerless Bishop, for this clever prelate allowed the negotiation to fall, as soon as the thunder of war was removing itself from the borders. Hardly has Gustav Adolph turned his advances to him, hence, he threw himself into the arms of Count Tilly and took the troops of the Emperor in the namely cities and fortifications which he, shortly before, has opened voluntarily to the King. However, he has avoided only for a short time the ruin of his Bishopric through this trick; a Swedish military commander who would be left in Frankia, under took to punish the Bishop because of this infidelity and the Bishopric would, precisely through that fact, become an unfortunate scene of war which friend and enemy would devastate in equal measure.
The flee of the Imperial armies whose menacing presence has done until now constraint to the resolutions of the authorities of Frankia, and the human friendly attitude of the King encouraged the noblemen as well as the citizens of this circle, to declare themselves favourably for the Swedes. Nuremberg surrendered itself solemnly to the protection of the King, the chivalry of Frankia would be acquired to him through a flattering manifest in which he settled to excuse himself because of his hostile apparition in their country. The prosperity of Frankia and the sense of responsibility which the Swedish warrior cared to observe in his relationship with the local people, brought abundance into the royal camps.
The favour in which Gustav Adolph has known to put himself with the nobility of the whole circle, the admiration and the respect which people devoted him because of his glowing actions even with the enemy, the rich loot which people promised themselves in the service of a firmly victorious King, came to him in the number of troop recruitment very appropriately, which the dismount of so many occupations from the main army made necessary. From all the surrounding of Frankia rushed people in mass as soon as the bell would be tolled.
The King has not much more time to spend on the takeover of Frankia than he has used overall, to rush through it; to complete the submission of the whole circle and to affirm the conquest, would Gustav Horne leave to one of his most skilled General, a warring troop of 8 000 men. He himself rushed with the main army which through the recruitments in Frankia was strengthened, across the Rhine to secure for himself this border of the Empire from the Spanish, to remove the weapons from the spiritual Electorate Princes and to open in these prosperous countries new sources of support for the continuation of the war.
He followed the course of the main stream; Seligenstadt, Aschaffenberg, Steinheim, all the country would be brought into submission on his way on both banks of the stream; seldom expected the Imperial occupations his arrival, never did they affirm themselves. Already some time before, one of his officer succeeded to take the city and citadel of Hanau, on which conservation Count Tilly has been so aware, away from the Imperial troops through an assault; happy to be liberated from the unbearable pressure of this soldatesque, the Count submitted himself to the tender yoke of the Swedish King.
On the city of Frankfurt was, now, the most preferred attention of Gustav Adolph directed, whose main principles was, on German soil, to cover his back position himself with the friendship and the possession of important cities. Frankfort has been one of the first imperial cities which he asked Saxony already to prepare for his welcome and now, he allowed Offenbach, through a new deputy, once again, to demand for him the passage and to take it as occupation. This imperial city was voluntarily spared of the dubious choice between the King of Sweden and the Emperor; therefore no matter what party attacked it, hence has it to fear for its privileges and commerce.
The Emperor's anger could terribly fall upon it if it submitted itself hastily to the King of Sweden, and this latter should not remain powerful enough to protect his partisans in Germany against the imperial despotism. However, still more chaotic for it was the unwillingness of an irresistible winner who, with a fearsome army, stood already so to speak before its gates and could punish it at the cost of their whole commerce and prosperity for its resistance. In vain did it accomplished, through its deputies, an apology in order to remove the dangers which menaced its fairs, its privileges, maybe its imperial freedom itself, when it, through assault on the Swedish Party, should burden itself with the anger of the Emperor.
Gustav Adolph was astonished that the city of Frankfort in such an extremely important cause as the freedom of the whole Germany and the destiny of the Protestant church were, speak about their fairs and for timely advantages, hence neglecting the great affairs of the fatherland and its conscience. He has, he added menacingly, found the keys from the island of Rügen to all the fortifications and cities on the Main and will know to find also the keys of the city of Frankfort. The best of Germany and the freedom of the Protestant Church were alone the goal of his armed arrival and in the conscience of a rightful cause, was he simply not resolved to allow himself through some hinders to be stopped in his march.
He realized that the people of Frankfort wanted to tend nothing else but their fingers, however their whole hands he must have in order to be able to remain there. He made the representatives of the city who brought back the answer, return again accompanied with his own army, on foot, and awaited in full order of battle before Sachsenhausen the last declaration of the council.
If the city of Frankfort had scruples to submit itself to the Swedes, hence, it was only from fear of the Emperor; its own inclination allowed not the citizens any moment to be hesitating between the oppressor of German freedom and the protector of the same. The menacing preparations under which Gustav Adolph demanded, now, their declaration, could be lessening the illegality of their refusal in the eyes of the Emperor and the move which they voluntarily took, embellish through the appearance of a forced treatment. Now, people opened, hence, to the King of Sweden the gate which his army in splendid costume and admirable order crossed in the middle of this imperial city. 600 men remained back in Sachsenhausen for the occupation; the King himself advanced with the remaining army still on the same evening toward the city of Höchst on Main which was already conquered before the end of the day.
While Gustav Adolph made conquests along the river Main, fortune has also crowned the enterprises of his generals and co-allies in the north of Germany. Rostock, Wismar and Dömitz, the unique still remaining places in the Dukedom of Mecklenburg which still sighed under the yoke of the Imperial occupation, would be conquered by the rightful owner, the Duke Johann Albrecht, under the direction of the Swedish military commander Achatius Tott. In vain did the imperial General Wolf, Count of Mansfeld, seek to take back from the Swedes the foundation of Halberstadt, from which they, immediately after the siege of Leipzig, have taken possession of; he had to leave in their hands soon afterwards also the foundation of Magdeburg.
A swedish General, Banner, who with an 8 000 men strong army has remained on the Elbe, kept the city of Magdeburg most rigorously and submitted already many more imperial regiments which to the support of this city was sent there. The Count of Mansfeld defended it, in truth, in person with very much ardour; however, too weak in manpower in order to be able to oppose for long the numerous troops of the besieger, he thought already on the conditions under which he would surrender the city as the general Pappenheim came to help and occupied elsewhere the weapons of the enemies. Yet, Magdeburg or much more the terrible cottages which appeared sadly from the ruins of this big city, would move voluntarily on the side of the Imperial troops and immediately afterwards, would be taken into possession by the Swedes.
The authorities of the circle of Lower Saxony dared also, after the lucky enterprises of the King to raise their leader again from the blow which they have suffered in the unfortunate Danish war against Wallenstein and Tilly. They held in Hamburg a gathering on which the establishment of three regiments would be convened with which help they hoped to get rid of the utmost pressing Imperial occupations. The Bishop of Bremen, a relative of the swedish King; did not leave matters there, he put also together for himself personal troops and frightened with the same troops the armless priests and monks, had however the misfortune to be disarmed soon by the imperial general, Count of Gronsfeld. Georg, Duke of Lüneburg, previously high commander at the service of Ferdinand, attacked also now Gustav Adolph’s party and recruited some regiments for this monarch through which the imperial troops in Lower Saxony would be occupied with no less advantage for the King.
A far more important service, however, performed for the King the Landgrave Wilhelm of Hessen-Kassel, whose victorious weapons made tremble a great part of Westphalia and Lower Saxony, the foundation of Fulda and even the Electorate Principality of Cologne. People remembered that immediately after the Alliance which the Landgrave has concluded with Gustav Adolph to recruit in the camp, the Count of Tilly would order to Hessen the punishment of the Landgrave for his defection from the Emperor. However with a virile courage, this Prince has resisted the weapons of the enemy as well as protected his local authorities from the tumultuous preaching manifests of Count Tilly and soon, the battle of Leipzig liberated him from these devastating hordes.
He used their remoteness with as much courage as decisiveness, conquered in a short period Vach, Münden and Höxter and frightened through his prompt advances the foundation of Fulda, Padeborn and all the foundations in Hessen. The fearful states rushed through a temporal submission to limit his advances and avoided the plundering through considerable amount of money which they donated to him willingly. After these fortunate enterprises, the Landgrave united his victorious army with the main army of Gustav Adolph and he found himself in Frankfort by this monarch in order to convene with him of a more remote operation plan.
Many more Princes and foreign envoys were appearing with him in this city in order to pay homage to the Great Gustav Adolph, to implore his favour or to soften his anger. Among these, the most remarkable was that of the expelled King of Bohemia and Palatinate Count, Frederic the Fifth who was rushing from Holland, to throw himself into the arms of his avenger and protector. Gustav Adolph showed to him the infertile honour of greeting him as a crowned leader and strived through a noble compassion to relieve his misfortune. However, no matter how much Fredrick was promised of the might and luck of his protector, no matter how he counted on the justice and generosity of the same protector; so far away was, yet, the hope of re-conquest of his throne for this unfortunate king in his lost territories.
The inactivity and the absurd politic of the English court has dampened the zeal of Gustav Adolph and a sensitivity over which he could not really be master, allowed him to forget here the glorious occupation of a protector about the oppressed which he has announced so loudly in his appearance in the German Empire. The fear of the irresistible might and the close revenge of the King has also lured the Landgrave Georg of Hessen-Darmstadt and moved him into a momentary submission. The relationships in which this Prince entered with the Emperor and his lesser zeal for the Protestant cause were not a secret for the King; however he enjoyed himself to deride such a powerless enemy.
As the Landgrave knew little enough about himself and the political situation of Germany, he was ignorant of himself as well as brazen in order to position himself as an intermediary between both parties, hence cared Gustav Adolph to call him ironically “peace broker”. Often, people heard him saying when he was playing with the Landgrave and allowed him to gain: “He enjoyed twice the amount won because it was Imperial coins.” Landgrave Georg thanked it only to his relatedness with the Electorate Prince of Saxony whom Gustav Adolph has reason to be friendly with, that this monarch with the surrender of his fortification in Rüsselsheim and enjoyed the promise of observing a rigorous neutrality in this war. The Count of Westerwald and of Wetterau were appearing in Frankfort to the King in order to establish an alliance with him and to request his assistance against the Spanish who was very useful to him later on. The city of Frankfort itself had all the reasons to glorify itself of the King’s presence who through his royal authority took into protection its commerce and reinstated the security of the fairs which were very disturbed by the war, through the most impressive precautions.
The Swedish army was now strengthened by 10 000 men which Landgrave Wilhelm of Kassel has brought to the King. Gustav Adolph has already allowed the attack of Königstein, Kostheim and Flörsheim surrendered themselves to him after a short siege, he dominated the whole river of Main and in all hurry, vehicles would be built in Höchst in order to settle the troops over the Rhine. These dispositions filled the Electorate Prince of Mainz, Anselm Casimir, with fear and he doubted not any moment more that he would be the next who was menaced by the storm of the war. As a partisan of the Emperor and of the most active member of the Catholic League, he has not any better fate to hope than what both his fellow brothers, the Bishops of Würzburg and Bamberg have already had. The situation of his territories on the river Rhine made it necessary to the enemy to secure its own position and across this river, was this enviable stretch of land for the needy troops an irresistible attraction.
However, too little aware of his forces and of the opponent’s whom he had before himself, the Electorate Prince flattered himself about responding violence to violence and through the insuperability of his walls to tire the Swedish bravery. He allowed in hurry to improve the fortification works on his city of residence, insured that it was provided with all that could make it capable to endure a long siege and brought still over 2 000 Spanish soldiers in his walls whom a Spanish General, Don Philip of Sylva commanded. In order to make impossible to the Swedish vehicles the approach, he allowed the muzzle of the Main to be barricaded through many buried sticks, sank also many blocks of stones and whole ships in this surrounding. He himself flew accompanied with the Bishop of Worms, with his best treasures to Cologne and left the city and the land to the avidity of a tyrannical occupation.
All these precautions which betrayed lesser true courage than powerless confidence, contained not the Swedish army to advance towards Mainz and to make assault on the city despite the most serious dispositions. While a part of the troops extended to the Rheingau, anything Spanish that people found there, was destructed and pressed into excessive contributions; another part of the army ransomed the Catholic places of the Westerwald and the Wetterau, the main army has already besieged in Kassel, across the Mainz, and Duke Bernhard of Weimar even on this side of the Rhine conquered the tower of Mäuse and the castle of Ehrenfiels. Gustav Adolph was already preoccupied seriously with crossing over the Rhine and to surround the city from the land side as the advances of Count Tilly in Frankia made him leave hurriedly this siege and create a respite, even of short duration, to this Electorate Principality.
The danger of the city of Nuremberg which Count Tilly during the absence of Gustav Adolph on the river Rhine made the intention of besieging and in case of resistance, menaced with the terrible fate of Magdeburg, has moved the King of Sweden to this rapid break out from Mainz. In order not to expose himself, for a second time, to the reproaches and the shame before the whole Germany, to have to sacrifice an allied city to the arbitrariness of a terrible enemy; he decided in hasty marches to assault this important city; however, already in Frankfort he experienced the arduous resistance of the people in Nuremberg and the withdrawal of Tilly, and resolved, now, not to follow at any moment his plans in Mainz.
As it was not succeeded him, in Cassel, to win under the canons of the besieged the passage on the Rhine, hence he headed now to scout, on the other side of the city, his course towards the Bergstrasse, got hold on his way of any important place and appeared for the second time on the bank of the Rhine in Stockstadt between Gernsheim and Oppenheim. The whole Bergstrasse was abandoned by the Spanish; however, this side of the Rhine they sought still to defend with ardour. They have, to this end, partly burned all the vehicles in the neighbourhood, partly sank down and stood on this side of the river, military equipped for the most horrible attack if something would push the King to this place the passage.
The courage of the King exposed him, in this occasion, to the very great danger of falling into hostile hands. In order to inspect this side of the bank, he has dared, in a small boat, to cross over the river; hardly however has he landed, that a group of Spanish cavaliers fell over him, from whose hands only the hastiest retreat liberated him. Finally, he succeeded with the help of etlich surrounding ships to get hold of some vehicles, on two of which he allowed the Count of Brahe to cross over with 300 Swedes. Not so soon has they had enough time to put themselves behind protection, on this side of the bank that he would be attacked by fourteen companies of Spanish dragons and cuirassiers.
The more overwhelming was the superiority of the enemy, the more bravely Brahe fought with his small troop and his heroic resistance created enough time for the King to support him himself with fresh troops. Now, the Spanish were fleeing after a loss of 600 men; some rushed to the fortified city of Oppenheim, others to Mainz. A lion of marble set on a high pillar, with a bare sword on the right clutches, carrying a helmet; still indicated 70 years later to the passer-bys the place where the immortal King crossed the main river of Germanium.
Immediately after this lucky action, Gustav Adolph established the cannons and most part of the troops over the river and besieged Oppenheim which after a dubious resistance would be conquered on the 8th of December with a storming hand. Five hundred Spanish men who have defended so fiercely this place, would become altogether a victim of the Swedish fury.
The news of Gustav’s crossing of the river Rhine frightened all the Spanish and other people in Lorraine who occupied the other side of the country and thought to have hidden on the other side of the river from the rage of the Swedes. Rapid fleeing was now their unique security; every untenable place would be abandoned most rapidly. After a long range of violent attacks against the armless citizens, the people of Lorraine abandoned the city of Worms which they mistreated still before their withdrawal with wanton cruelty. The Spanish hurried to lock up in Frankenthal in which city they hoped to defy the victorious weapons of Gustav Adolph.
The King lost, from now on, not any time, to take his intentions to the city of Mainz in which the bulk of the Spanish troops has thrown itself. In the meantime, he advanced on this side of the river Rhine against this city, the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel has approached the same river from the other side and on the way there, brought many more fortified places under his dominance. The besieged Spanish, even if surrounded on both sides, showed in the beginning many courage and determination, expecting the worst, and an unbroken, violent bomb firings fell many more days long on the Swedish camp which cost many brave soldiers to the King. However, despite this courageous resistance, the Swedes gained ever more terrain and have already advanced so close from the city trenches that they resolved seriously for a storming.
Now, sank the courage of the besieged. With reason, they trembled before the wild fierceness of the Swedish soldiers from which the Marienberg in Würzburg was a terrible proof. A fearsome fate expected the city of Mainz if it should be defeated during the storming and easily could the enemy fell himself being chased; to avenge Magdeburg’s terrifying destiny to this rich and splendid residence of a Catholic Prince. More to take care of the city than for their own life, the Spanish occupation capitulated on the fourth day and obtained from the generosity of the King a secure accompaniment until Luxembourg, hence, the major part of the same Spanish soldiers established themselves, as has already happened until now with many more soldiers, under Swedish flags.
On the 13th of December 1631 the King of Sweden held his entry in the conquered city and took in the palace of the Electorate Prince his residence. 80 canons fell as loot into his hands and the citizenry had to pay 8000 Guld to avoid the plundering. From this evaluation were excluded the Jewish and the spiritual institutions which still had to pay particularly great sums of money for themselves. The library of the Electorate Prince took the King as his own possession and sent its content to his royal Chancellor Oxenstierna who allocated it to the school in Westeräs, however, the ship that should bring them to Sweden sank and the East sea devoured this irreplaceable treasure.
After the loss of the city of Mainz, the misfortune did not stop to follow the Spanish troops in the surroundings of the Rhine. Shortly before the conquest of this city has the Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel taken Falkenstein and Reifenberg, the fortification of Königstein surrendered to Hessen, the Rhinegrave Otto Ludwig, one of the generals of the King, had the luck to beat nine Spanish squadrons which were approaching Frankenthal and taken over the most important cities on the Rhine, from Boppart to Bacharach. After the take over of the fortification of Braunfels which the Counts from Wetterau brought into stand with the Swedish help, the Spanish lost every place in the Wetterau, and in the whole Palatinate they could, outside Frankenthal, only save very little cities. Landau and Kronweissenburg declared themselves loudly for the Swedes. Speyer demanded to recruit troops for the service of the King. Mannheim was lost because of the prudence of the young Duke Bernhard of Weimar and the neglect of the then present commandants who because of this misfortune would also be summoned before the martial court and beheaded in Heidelberg.
The King has prolonged the battle deep into the winter and apparently, even the roughness of the weather constituted a cause of superiority which the Swedish soldier affirmed over the enemy. Now, however, the exhausted troops needed the recuperation in the winter quarters which granted them Gustav Adolph soon after the conquest of the city of Mainz in its surroundings. He himself used the respite which the weather put to his warring operations, to take care of the occupations of his cabinet, together with his royal Chancellor, to care about the negotiations with the enemies because of the principle of neutrality and to end with a co-allied might some political disputes which was originated by his previous conduct.
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