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Gustavus Adolphus

Gustavus Adolphus


Gustavus AdolphusGustavus Adolphus is the favorite national hero of Sweden, and, as the champion of Protestantism in the Thirty Years' War, has been called "The Lion of the North. "He was," says Schiller, " incontestably the first commander of his century, and the bravest soldier in the army he had created. In everything their law-giver was also their example.


Gustavus Adolphus was the second king of that name in Swedish history. He was born at Stockholm, on the 9th of December, 1594. and was the eldest son or Charles IX., and a grandson of Gustavus Vasa. His mother was Christina, of Schleswig Holstein. He was carefully educated by tutors named John Skytte and the Count de la Gardie. He learned Latin, which was then the universal language of diplomacy, and could converse fluently in four languages besides his own. He was, also, sufficiently acquainted with Greek to be able to read Xenophon in the original. At an early age he was accustomed to public affairs. At the audiences given to foreign ambassadors, his father required him to reply on behalf of the crown of Sweden when he was but ten years old.


When Christian IV. of Denmark declared war against Sweden, in April, 1611, Gustavus was sent to collect troops for the relief of Kalmar, then the most important Swedish seaport, which Christian had besieged and which he soon took. Charles IX. died October 30, 16, I, and, for two months after his death, Sweden was without a king, for Gustavus was but seventeen years old, and the age of legal authority for kings had been fixed at twenty-four. In December, 16II, the Diet declared him to be of full age, and he took his father's title Elected King and Hereditary Prince of the Swedes, Goths and Van· dais.


At his accession, Sweden was involved in war against the king of Denmark, who possessed the three southern provinces of the Swedish peninsula, Blekingen, Holland and Schonen, Few kings have inherited a kingdom in a more critical condition. His chief minister and adviser was the Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, one of the greatest statesmen of modern times. These two now sat down to play in earnest the great game of war against all the powers of northern Europe. The stake was the very national existence of Sweden. In the beginning of 1612, Christian, of Denmark, occupied the two most important fortresses of Sweden, Kalmar and Elfsborg. The war was ended in January, 1613. by a treaty, according to which Christian restored Kalmar and Elfsborg, and Gustavus paid him one million dollars rikstalers. Among the enemies of Gustavus was Sigismund, the Catholic king of Poland, who was a son of John, king of Sweden, and still claimed the crown of that country. though he had been forced to resign on account of his adherence to Catholicism. Charles IX. and Sigismund had fought against each other for the possession of Livonia. The Swedish king had also begun the conquest of the ,Baltic provinces of Russia, and in ,1611 had penetrated as far as Novgorod. In 1614, Gustavus marched to Narva and took Augdoff by stonn. He gained several victories in the campaign of r6IS, and in February, 1617, concluded a peace by which Russia ceded to Sweden the provinces of Carelia and Ingria. Now," said Gustavus, Russia cannot launch a boat on the Baltic without our permission." The ground on which St. Petersburg now stands then passed to the crown of Sweden.


Meanwhile Sigismund left no artifice untried to shake the allegiance of the Swedes to Gustavus, to coot the ardor of his friends aud to embitter his enemies. In 1617 Sigismund. having formed an alliance with Austria and Spain, invaded the Swedish part of Livonia. Gustavus, who had no allies, was not well prepared for war, and after two campaigns in which no important victories were gained, the conflict was suspended by an armistice to July, 1621. The marriage of Gustavus Adolphus with Maria Eleanora, the daughter of the Elector Of Brandenburg, in 1620, gave him a new link with German Protestantism. Gustavus is said to have sacrificed his earlier attachment to the Countess of Brahe on account of the critical condition of his kingdom at his accession. His European reputation was founded in the Polish war, which was renewed in 1621. Gustavus raised an army of 24,000 men and opened the war by the siege of Riga, which, after an obstinate resistance, surrendered in September. Sigismund, who was then obliged to wage war against the Turks also, was glad to conclude a new armistice June, 1622, which left Sweden in full possession of Livonia, and several places in Kurland. The armistice was prolonged, by mutual agreement, to June, 1625.


After the Thirty Years' War began, Gustavus said, in 1624, that he would enter the war for the defense of the Protestant cause in Germany only on stringent conditions; be must be assured of having a port to the south of the Baltic, or on the North Sea he should have a large subsidy from England or France i and he should have the command of all the forces to be raised by himself or his allies. England and the other allies declined to accept his terms. Gustavus and Richelieu were probably the only rulers of Europe who realized that this war was a life and death struggle with the House of Hapsburg. In 1625 the war against Sigismund being renewed, Gustavus soon captured all the strong places in Kurland. He defeated the Polish General Sapieha, in a pitched battle at Wallhof, in January, 1626. In June of that year he sailed with 150 ships to West Prussia, which then belonged to Poland. His siege of Dantzic, the richest city of eastern Europe, was without success but be took Dirschau, and conquered nearly all of West Prussia in 1626. In the next year be continued the siege of Dantzic, and, during its progress, he was twice severely wounded. The fleet of Dantzic defeated the Swedish fleet and broke the blockade in November, 1627.


In the meantime Christian, of Denmark, who had been chosen leader of the army of the Protestant allies, was utterly defeated by Tilly, at Lutter, in August, 1626. In the autumn of that year Wallenstein with all Imperial army stood on the edge of the Baltic, prepared to conquer Denmark, and make himself admiral of the Baltic, in fact as well as in name. In April, 1628, Gustavus and Christian signed a treaty by which the Lutter promised to exclude from the Sound and the Baltic all foreign ships except those of Holland. The Swedish king forced Wallenstein to raise the siege of Stralsund in July, 1628, and thus allied himself with a German town against the Emperor Ferdinand. In September, 1629, Sweden and Poland concluded a trace for six years.


Gustavus now prepared for the inevitable German war, which he began without any powerful ally. his own dominions were not able to supply the troops needed, and, therefore, he raised about 40,000 men in foreign countries. In June, 1630, he landed in Germany with about 15,000 men, and before the end of the year other regiments followed, making the total about 40,000. His artillery and engineers were superior to those of the enemy. In this department Gustavus Adolphus stands out as an innovator in the art of war. He also made improvements in tactics, and placed his reliance on rapidity of movement. In the old Spanish system of weight gave place before the new Swedish system of mobility." His troops were better armed than his enemies, and he was careful to provide warm clothing for them. To him also is attributed the creation of uniforms, field hospitals and traveling medicine chests. He also watched strictly over the morals of his soldiers. He was ably assisted by his subordinate officers. Among his best generals were Horn, Bauer and Forstenson.


No opposition was made to the advance of Gustavus, who, in his first campaign of eight months, from July, 1630, to February, 1631, took eighty strong places in Pomerania and Mecklenburg. A year and two months passed before Gustavus could draw the Imperial General Tilly to meet him in a pitched battle, for Tilly hoped that the discipline of the Swedish army would give way under the press me of hunger. On the 13th of January, 1631, a treaty of alliance was concluded between Sweden and France, whose policy was then dominated by the great Richelieu. According to its terms Louis XIII.


agreed to pay Gustavus 400,000 dollars a year for six years, while Sweden was required to keep in the field an army of 36,000 men. This alliance, the object of which was declared to be the protection of their common friends, the security of the Baltic, the freedom of commerce, and the restitution of the oppressed members of the empire, was of inestimable advantage to Gustavus. "Even in prestige," says the historian Fletcher, "the chosen ally of the most Christian king was a very different person from the king of snows and ice. And money was of more importance than prestige." At last, in July, 163I, the cautious Tilly, who had 22,000 men, attacked the Swedish army of about 16,000 at Werben, but was compelled to retreat after he had lost about 6,000 killed and wounded.


On the 1st of September, 1631, John George, Elector of Saxony, signed a treaty of offensive and defensive alliance with Gustavus, who was promptly reinforced by about 18,000 Saxons. One week after the signing of the treaty Gustavus attacked, near Leipsic, the imperial army commanded by Tilly who had 32,000 men, and achieved a complete victory. The Swedes captured all Tilly's artillery and plundered his camp. Gustavus lost in this battle about 2,000 men. The loss of the other army is variously reported at 7,000 or 10,000, besides prisoners. This action, which is sometimes called the battle of Breitenfeld, made Gustavus the champion of Protestantism. He had about 26,000 men when, on the 17th of September, he quieted Halle and matched into Franconia. In October the strong fortress of Marienburg was taken by storm and immense treasure was obtained by the Swedes, who now rested for a month at Wurzburg. Tilly had raised another army of 40,000 men but his superiors ordered him not to risk a battle. Gustavus marched to Frankfort-on-the-Main, which surrendered without fight ing in November, 1631. He was then joined by the Landgrave of Hesse with 14,000 men. On the 12th of December, after a siege of two days, Mayence was taken, and here Gustavus resolved to take up his winter quarters. He held a splendid winter court, to which came many German princes and ambassadors from England and France. At the end of 1631 the Swedish king, now thirty-seven years old, bad eight armies on foot, with an effective strength of about 100,000 men.


On the 5th of April, 1632, Gustavus, with about 36,000 men, attacked Tilly's army of 30,000, strongly entrenched on the river Lech, near Nordheim. After a fight of six hours Tilly was mortally wounded, and his army retreated in the night. The Swedes lost here 2,000, and the other army 3,000. Gustavus hoped the enemy would risk a battle to defend Munich, but they did not; and, on the 7th of May, the magistrates of Munich brought him the keys of their city. Here he remained three weeks, making friends among all classes. On the 9th of June he entered Nuremberg, which was well fortified and devoted to the Protestant cause. A few days later Wallenstein, commanding an army of about 65,000 men, marched against Nuremberg. He would not risk a battle with the Swedes, but designed to starve them. After a siege of two mouths the Swedes and the people of the city suffered severely from famine. Gustavus who, on the 12th of August, was reinforced by 30,000 men, was obliged by the want of food, to force an action. He ordered an assault on the entrenched camp of the enemy. For twelve hours the Swedes, who had to charge up-hill, stormed with courage against fearful odds; but they were repulsed with heavy loss. Gustavus, knowing that Waltenstein was not able to take Nuremberg, retired in good order September 8, leaving 4,0000 men to defend the city.


He, himself, soon marched with 18,000 men to the defense of Saxony, which Wallenstein had invaded. On the 16th of November, 1632, he attacked Wallenstein who had about 25,000 at Lutzen. They fought nine hours with doubtful result Gustavus, who rode ahead of his men, was killed, and the flower of his army was cut to pieces; but at night the imperial army retreated and the Swedes remained masters of the field. Gustavus Adolphus died at the early age of thirty·eight. He left a daughter, Christina, who became Queen of Sweden.


In person Gustavus Adolphus was majestic and graceful, tall, and inclined to stoutness. His complexion was florid; his nose, aquiline j his hair, tight; his countenance was attractive, and his manners affable; he was quick.tempered, highly courageous and thoroughly religious. Like his contemporary Oliver Cromwell, he combined greatness as a military leader with statesmanship of the first order. He improved the art of war by substitution for unwieldy masses a flexible formation in three lines. He greatly improved the efficiency of the artillery, giving to it a quickness and dexterity before deemed impracticable. But his genius as a warrior was subordinate to his efforts on behalf of his country. He seems to have aimed at establishing a Swedish empire somewhat similar to the present German empire, yet more comprehensive. Such a government would have been better for the welfare of Europe than the ascendancy of Austria. Schiller, in his "History of the Thirty Years' War," while acknowledging the genius and able leadership of the Swedish king, yet with national prejudice against a foreigner, attempts to show that" his sudden dis appearance secured the liberties of Germany." It would be more correct to say that the premature death of Gustavus Adolphus gave Germany over to barbarism, dissension and desolation, from which she but slowly recovered.




The celebrated Swedish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, had announced on the appearance of a new star in Cassiopeia, in the year 1572, "that a northern prince might be expected to arise who should greatly assist the interests of the more pure religion, and that the precise culmination of this astral influence should be perceived by the generality of mankind in the year 1632, or thereabouts." Gustavus Adolphus being in the zenith of his glory, in the very year indicated, many were led to recur to this prediction, and to cast in their minds to what it was now about to lead. The Swedish army marched from the valley of the Danube to Arnstadt, where it rested for six days. The King had brought the Chancellor with him from Nuremberg, to confer with him at greater leisure as to the prospects of the war. But here Oxensterna took his last farewell of his respected sovereign and early friend, and returned to Nuremberg; while the King earned the arm forward to Erfurt, where he found his Queen Eleanora, who received him on foot in the market-place, attended by her train of ladies; and here, two days later, he took a most affectionate leave of her also, who was never again to behold him, save in his coffin at Weissenfels. In two days and a half His Majesty, by easy marches, reached Naumburg on the 1st of November, which town on his approach he found barred against him by an officer of Pappenheim's on which Gustavus sent Colonel Brancistein, at the head of a body of Musketeers, who, on reaching the gate of the city, and finding some hesitation in its being opened, applied a petard to the portcullis, and, opening his way, entered the town sword in hand. The inhabitants of the country through which Gustavus Adolphus had marched flocked around his path in crowds, to look upon the great hero who a short year before had alighted in that same region, appearing among them like a protecting angel. Shouts of joy everywhere attended his progress. The people knelt before him, and struggled for the honor of touching the sheath of his sword, or kissing the hem of his garment. The characteristic modesty of the "Lion of the North disliked these tributes of generation, which a grateful and admiring multitude paid him, saying, "is it not as if this people would make a god of me? Our affairs indeed prosper but I fear the vengeance of Heaven will fall upon me for this presumption, and soon reveal to this multitude my human weakness and mortality.


Wallenstein, having besieged and captured Leipzig, had, on the 28th of October, effected a junction with Pappenheim at Merseburg. While the two Imperial leaders were concocting their future plan of operations, word came that the King of Sweden had arrived on the banks of the SaaI. It became necessary, therefore, to bring matters to the hazard of a battle, in order that the Imperialist army might secure winter-quarters. Duke Bernnard of Saxe Weimar, who had been hovering about Wallenstein's movemcnts, had now joined the King, so that Gustavus was at the head of 20,000 veterans. However, he consulted both Bernhard and Kniphausen as to their opinion of his hazarding" a battle; and it was resolved that His Majesty had better not do so with such odds of numbers against him, principally on the judgment of the older general, Kniphausen, who laid it down that" no commander ought to encounter an enemy superior to him in strength, unless compelled to do so by some pressing necessity. Now, your Majesty is neither circumscribed in space, nor in want of provisions, forage, or warlike stores." In consequence of this decision, the army was ordered, on the 3d of November, to throw up entrenchments, in order to await some reinforcements expected under the Duke of Lunenburg. This precaution of the King's deceived the Imperialist General, who thought that Gustavus was forming his entrenched camp near Naumburg.


But Pappenheim, with 8,000 men, was detached to Halle. This fact was made known to the King of Sweden by an intercepted letter from General Colloredo on the very day that the detachment marched off. Other divisions of the army were found also to have moved into cantonments between the Unstruth and the Saal. On hearing of this act of his adversary, the King thought himself released from Kniphausen's arguments, and to be at liberty to follow his own inclination to bring Wallenstein to battle. At one hour after midnight, on the 5th of November, the whole Swedish army was accordingly put in motion as far as Pegau, where it stopped four hours before daylight to take some repose and refreshment and Gustavus here received from some of the country people the gratifying assurance that the Imperialist army was quiet, and had made no counter-movement. He formed the idea on the spur of the moment to advance and surprise the detachments in their quarters before it could be possible for the commanding officers to collect any mass together. He therefore demanded the road to Lutzen, and was informed that it was close under his eyes, and the army was therefore ordered to march right shoulders forward, and to bend its course towards that place, supposed to be five miles distant. It proved, however, to be more than eight miles off and the greater part of the day was expended in struggling through the ploughed ground, m3king but an inconsiderable advance. At length they attained to Rippach, a village in which was a regiment of Imperial cuirassiers, and another of Croatians. The King immediately opened some field-pieces, under whose fire he attacked the flank, while he went forward and dislodged the enemy out of their quarters: but yet it was thought that the success was unimportant, and that this furtive night-march of the whole Swedish army was a somewhat rash proceeding so that Kuiphausen again intruded his counsel to the King for a retreat. The King however replied, with a tone of decision somewhat more arbitrary than was customary with him, "that the die was now cast i that he could not bear to have Wallenstein under his beard and not make a swoop upon him for, n said he, "I long to unearth him, and see how he can acquit himself in a champagne country." 'rile motions of the Swedish army had been, now ever, now recognized; and the light troops of the Duke of Friedland, nuder the command of the Croatian General Isolani, dashed forward to occupy the villages on the plain of Lutzen. Wallenstein at the same time dispatched an officer to recall Pappenheim, with orders to allow nothing to impede his return. As soon as he had sent off his message, and recovered a little his presence of mind, He began to scan anxiously the nature of the ground occupied by himself, or possessed by Gustavus, and to reconnoitre the battle-field.


A large highway from Lutzen to Leipzig bisects the plain in a line that extends from west to coast on the southern side of which lay the Swedes, and on the north the Imperialists. Two ditches, one on each side, ran parallel to this road, on the sides of which, here and there, were old willow-trees. The soil is a deep rich mould, somewhat heavy to the tread of horse and foot. On Wallenstein's right, near the town of Lutzen, was an eminence, on which some windmills stood. It does not appear that Gustavus employed the time of the evening of the 5th in forming any artificial defenses; but the Duke of Friedland bad ordered that the ditches on the roadside should be deepened and widened; and he fixed two large batteries on the windmill bill. Gustavus ordered his army to be prepared to attack two hours before daybreak; but the morning was so intensely dark, owing to a heavy mist, that it was scarcely possible to discern an object at two pikes' distance. The King had passed his night in his coach with Kniphausen and Duke Bernhard, for the old campaigner was not the proprietor of a tent, or of any field equipage-a neglect which is not generally the characteristic of an old soldier, Gustavus was early on horseback, and ordered his chaplain to perform Divine service. He declined to take any refreshment another grievous omission in an old soldier. When invited to put all his steel breastplate, according to custom, he refused, saying, "The Lord is my armor and this would have been a weakness, but that it is believed that a wound which he had formerly received prevented his wearing it and he was therefore only clad in a new plain cloth doublet, and an elk skin surt out. "God with us, I was the counter sign of the Swedes Jesu Maria," was that of the Imperialists.


It was past eight o'clock some say eleven before the fog lifted and the King immediately mounted his horse, and made a short address to the several divisions of his army. Drawing his sword for action, Gustavus placed himself at the head of the right wing. Wallenstein opened upon his advance a heavy fire of artillery to which the King could in reply, from the fact that, although the Swedish guns were more in number than those of his adversary, yet they were all of light calibre, and many of them merely made of leather. The ditches of the road were a formidable obstacle for any troops to surmount, for they were lined with musketeers, who exceedingly incommoded the cavalry in their advance. But at length the commanded" musketeers of the Swedes cleared the high road, and crossed it. But the brigades that followed the advance found the passage of the road so hazardous, that they seemed to pause whereupon Gustavus, quickly observing this hesitation, snatched a partisan from one of the colonels, to lead them across. "If," said he, with severity, after having passed so many rivers, scaled so many walls, and fought so many battles, your old courage has failed you, stand still but a moment, and see your master die in the manner we all ought to be ready to do " and he essayed to leap the ditch before them. Stop, sire," said the men for Heaven's sake spare your invaluable life do not distrust us the business shall be completed."


Having now passed the ditches with them, he observed opposite to him three dark masses of Imperial cuirassiers, clad in iron; and, turning to Colonel Stalhaus, an officer of considerable repute, be said, H Charge those black fellows; for they are men that will undo us-as for the Croatians, I mind them not. It Stalhaus executed the royal order with great alacrity; but the Croatians suddenly changed their direction, to fall upon the baggage, and had actually reached the King's coach, which only escaped capture in the great disorder. The trenches being passed, the Swedes pressed forward with such irresistible impetuosity that the first, second, and third Imperial brigades were forced to fly but Wallenstein came down to their aid in person, and at the sound of his voice the fugitives were stopped. Three regiments of cavalry now arrived to cover their re-formation, and they in their turn pressed vigorously against the Swedes, who were forced to retire again beyond the trenches; and a Swedish battery all the further side was captured.


The King was at the moment on the right, when word was brought him that his left wing had been driven back across the trenches. Leaving, therefore, Gustavus Horn to maintain the conflict all the right, he galloped at the head of the regiment of Steinbach to repair the disorder. As he passed along, a cuirassier corporal, of Piccolomini's regiment, remarking that every one respectfully made way for him, and therefore thinking he must be an officer of consequence, immediately ordered a musketeer to fire at him. The soldier fired as he was ordered, and Guistavus received his first wound in his left arm. With his accustomed resolution he concealed the fact from the men around him; but, at length, perceiving his strength to fail, he whispered to the Duke of Lunenburg, "Cousin, I perceive myself to be grievously wounded lead me to some place of safety." At the same moment of an imperial squadron came rushing up, and, in the confusion of the moment, the King received a second shot, in the back; when he turned to the same prince, saying, Brother, have enough; look you to your own life;" and at the same instant he fell to the ground. His few personal attendants remained at his side to tend and protect him; but the troops that accompanied him were dispersed. A desperate struggle, however, still tool place around his body; when a German page, refusing

to tell his royal master's rank, was shot through the body. But the dying hero, taking up the question, said, "I am the King of Sweden, and seal with my blood the Protestant religion and the liberties of Germany. It A shot from a pistol, and a sword-thrust, soon terminated the life of the royal sufferer, who could only add, "My God! my God I Alas I my poor Queen, and expired.


The sight of the King's charger covered with blood proclaimed to the army that" the Lion of the North had fallen." Duke Bernhard of Saxe Weimar immediately assumed the command, and ordered an advance to secure possession of the royal body. The soldiers fought for it like enraged lions, for everyone seemed to have the ambition to expire by the side of their royal leader but it could not at that time be obtained. The fight was for some time maintained with resistless impetuosity, and the yellow guard of the King was nearly cut to pieces. It was not till the fury of the battle was past, that, after a long search, the royal corpse was discovered, covered with wounds and blood, trampled under horses' hoofs, stripped and naked, and scarcely to be recognized. After the victory of Lutzen the King's body rested for a time on a great stone, which still exists on the field, and is called" the stone of the Swede." The body was afterwards carried from the field in state, attended by the whole army, and conducted to Weissenfels, where it was entrusted to the care of Queen Eleanora, and the loving wife attended it to Sweden, when it was deposited in the royal vault at Stockholm, amidst the tears of the Swedish nation and the sight of the coffin still excites the sympathies of after generations, who will never cease to appreciate Gustavus' great worth, devotion, and most just claims to immortality.-SIR E. CUST.


Gustavus Adolphus

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