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- The Thirty Years War, Book III. - 3/17 -


The formidable presence of the Imperialists had hitherto been a check upon the Franconian States; but their retreat, and the humane conduct of the Swedish king, emboldened the nobility and other inhabitants of this circle to declare in his favour. Nuremberg joyfully committed itself to his protection; and the Franconian nobles were won to his cause by flattering proclamations, in which he condescended to apologize for his hostile appearance in the dominions. The fertility of Franconia, and the rigorous honesty of the Swedish soldiers in their dealings with the inhabitants, brought abundance to the camp of the king. The high esteem which the nobility of the circle felt for Gustavus, the respect and admiration with which they regarded his brilliant exploits, the promises of rich booty which the service of this monarch held out, greatly facilitated the recruiting of his troops; a step which was made necessary by detaching so many garrisons from the main body. At the sound of his drums, recruits flocked to his standard from all quarters.

The king had scarcely spent more time in conquering Franconia, than he would have required to cross it. He now left behind him Gustavus Horn, one of his best generals, with a force of 8,000 men, to complete and retain his conquest. He himself with his main army, reinforced by the late recruits, hastened towards the Rhine in order to secure this frontier of the empire from the Spaniards; to disarm the ecclesiastical electors, and to obtain from their fertile territories new resources for the prosecution of the war. Following the course of the Maine, he subjected, in the course of his march, Seligenstadt, Aschaffenburg, Steinheim, the whole territory on both sides of the river. The imperial garrisons seldom awaited his approach, and never attempted resistance. In the meanwhile one of his colonels had been fortunate enough to take by surprise the town and citadel of Hanau, for whose preservation Tilly had shown such anxiety. Eager to be free of the oppressive burden of the Imperialists, the Count of Hanau gladly placed himself under the milder yoke of the King of Sweden.

Gustavus Adolphus now turned his whole attention to Frankfort, for it was his constant maxim to cover his rear by the friendship and possession of the more important towns. Frankfort was among the free cities which, even from Saxony, he had endeavoured to prepare for his reception; and he now called upon it, by a summons from Offenbach, to allow him a free passage, and to admit a Swedish garrison. Willingly would this city have dispensed with the necessity of choosing between the King of Sweden and the Emperor; for, whatever party they might embrace, the inhabitants had a like reason to fear for their privileges and trade. The Emperor's vengeance would certainly fall heavily upon them, if they were in a hurry to submit to the King of Sweden, and afterwards he should prove unable to protect his adherents in Germany. But still more ruinous for them would be the displeasure of an irresistible conqueror, who, with a formidable army, was already before their gates, and who might punish their opposition by the ruin of their commerce and prosperity. In vain did their deputies plead the danger which menaced their fairs, their privileges, perhaps their constitution itself, if, by espousing the party of the Swedes, they were to incur the Emperor's displeasure. Gustavus Adolphus expressed to them his astonishment that, when the liberties of Germany and the Protestant religion were at stake, the citizens of Frankfort should talk of their annual fairs, and postpone for temporal interests the great cause of their country and their conscience. He had, he continued, in a menacing tone, found the keys of every town and fortress, from the Isle of Rugen to the Maine, and knew also where to find a key to Frankfort; the safety of Germany, and the freedom of the Protestant Church, were, he assured them, the sole objects of his invasion; conscious of the justice of his cause, he was determined not to allow any obstacle to impede his progress. "The inhabitants of Frankfort, he was well aware, wished to stretch out only a finger to him, but he must have the whole hand in order to have something to grasp." At the head of the army, he closely followed the deputies as they carried back his answer, and in order of battle awaited, near Saxenhausen, the decision of the council.

If Frankfort hesitated to submit to the Swedes, it was solely from fear of the Emperor; their own inclinations did not allow them a moment to doubt between the oppressor of Germany and its protector. The menacing preparations amidst which Gustavus Adolphus now compelled them to decide, would lessen the guilt of their revolt in the eyes of the Emperor, and by an appearance of compulsion justify the step which they willingly took. The gates were therefore opened to the King of Sweden, who marched his army through this imperial town in magnificent procession, and in admirable order. A garrison of 600 men was left in Saxenhausen; while the king himself advanced the same evening, with the rest of his army, against the town of Hoechst in Mentz, which surrendered to him before night.

While Gustavus was thus extending his conquests along the Maine, fortune crowned also the efforts of his generals and allies in the north of Germany. Rostock, Wismar, and Doemitz, the only strong places in the Duchy of Mecklenburg which still sighed under the yoke of the Imperialists, were recovered by their legitimate sovereign, the Duke John Albert, under the Swedish general, Achatius Tott. In vain did the imperial general, Wolf Count von Mansfeld, endeavour to recover from the Swedes the territories of Halberstadt, of which they had taken possession immediately upon the victory of Leipzig; he was even compelled to leave Magdeburg itself in their hands. The Swedish general, Banner, who with 8,000 men remained upon the Elbe, closely blockaded that city, and had defeated several imperial regiments which had been sent to its relief. Count Mansfeld defended it in person with great resolution; but his garrison being too weak to oppose for any length of time the numerous force of the besiegers, he was already about to surrender on conditions, when Pappenheim advanced to his assistance, and gave employment elsewhere to the Swedish arms. Magdeburg, however, or rather the wretched huts that peeped out miserably from among the ruins of that once great town, was afterwards voluntarily abandoned by the Imperialists, and immediately taken possession of by the Swedes.

Even Lower Saxony, encouraged by the progress of the king, ventured to raise its head from the disasters of the unfortunate Danish war. They held a congress at Hamburg, and resolved upon raising three regiments, which they hoped would be sufficient to free them from the oppressive garrisons of the Imperialists. The Bishop of Bremen, a relation of Gustavus Adolphus, was not content even with this; but assembled troops of his own, and terrified the unfortunate monks and priests of the neighbourhood, but was quickly compelled by the imperial general, Count Gronsfeld, to lay down his arms. Even George, Duke of Lunenburg, formerly a colonel in the Emperor's service, embraced the party of Gustavus, for whom he raised several regiments, and by occupying the attention of the Imperialists in Lower Saxony, materially assisted him.

But more important service was rendered to the king by the Landgrave William of Hesse Cassel, whose victorious arms struck with terror the greater part of Westphalia and Lower Saxony, the bishopric of Fulda, and even the Electorate of Cologne. It has been already stated that immediately after the conclusion of the alliance between the Landgrave and Gustavus Adolphus at Werben, two imperial generals, Fugger and Altringer, were ordered by Tilly to march into Hesse, to punish the Landgrave for his revolt from the Emperor. But this prince had as firmly withstood the arms of his enemies, as his subjects had the proclamations of Tilly inciting them to rebellion, and the battle of Leipzig presently relieved him of their presence. He availed himself of their absence with courage and resolution; in a short time, Vach, Muenden and Hoexter surrendered to him, while his rapid advance alarmed the bishoprics of Fulda, Paderborn, and the ecclesiastical territories which bordered on Hesse. The terrified states hastened by a speedy submission to set limits to his progress, and by considerable contributions to purchase exemption from plunder. After these successful enterprises, the Landgrave united his victorious army with that of Gustavus Adolphus, and concerted with him at Frankfort their future plan of operations.

In this city, a number of princes and ambassadors were assembled to congratulate Gustavus on his success, and either to conciliate his favour or to appease his indignation. Among them was the fugitive King of Bohemia, the Palatine Frederick V., who had hastened from Holland to throw himself into the arms of his avenger and protector. Gustavus gave him the unprofitable honour of greeting him as a crowned head, and endeavoured, by a respectful sympathy, to soften his sense of his misfortunes. But great as the advantages were, which Frederick had promised himself from the power and good fortune of his protector; and high as were the expectations he had built on his justice and magnanimity, the chance of this unfortunate prince's reinstatement in his kingdom was as distant as ever. The inactivity and contradictory politics of the English court had abated the zeal of Gustavus Adolphus, and an irritability which he could not always repress, made him on this occasion forget the glorious vocation of protector of the oppressed, in which, on his invasion of Germany, he had so loudly announced himself.

The terrors of the king's irresistible strength, and the near prospect of his vengeance, had also compelled George, Landgrave of Hesse Darmstadt, to a timely submission. His connection with the Emperor, and his indifference to the Protestant cause, were no secret to the king, but he was satisfied with laughing at so impotent an enemy. As the Landgrave knew his own strength and the political situation of Germany so little, as to offer himself as mediator between the contending parties, Gustavus used jestingly to call him the peacemaker. He was frequently heard to say, when at play he was winning from the Landgrave, "that the money afforded double satisfaction, as it was Imperial coin." To his affinity with the Elector of Saxony, whom Gustavus had cause to treat with forbearance, the Landgrave was indebted for the favourable terms he obtained from the king, who contented himself with the surrender of his fortress of Russelheim, and his promise of observing a strict neutrality during the war. The Counts of Westerwald and Wetteran also visited the King in Frankfort, to offer him their assistance against the Spaniards, and to conclude an alliance, which was afterwards of great service to him. The town of Frankfort itself had reason to rejoice at the presence of this monarch, who took their commerce under his protection, and by the most effectual measures restored the fairs, which had been greatly interrupted by the war.

The Swedish army was now reinforced by ten thousand Hessians, which the Landgrave of Casse commanded. Gustavus Adolphus had already invested Koenigstein; Kostheim and Floersheim surrendered after a short siege; he was in command of the Maine; and transports were preparing with all speed at Hoechst to carry his troops across the Rhine. These preparations filled the Elector of Mentz, Anselm Casimir, with consternation; and he no longer doubted but that the storm of war would next fall upon him. As a partisan of the Emperor, and one of the most active members of the League, he could expect no better treatment than his confederates, the Bishops of Wurtzburg and Bamberg, had already experienced. The situation of his territories upon the Rhine made it necessary for the enemy to secure them, while the fertility afforded an irresistible temptation to a necessitous army. Miscalculating his own strength and that of his adversaries, the Elector flattered himself that he was able to repel force by force, and weary out the valour of the Swedes by the strength of his fortresses. He ordered the fortifications of his capital to be repaired with all diligence, provided it with every necessary for sustaining a long siege, and received into the town a garrison of 2,000 Spaniards, under Don Philip de Sylva. To prevent the approach of the Swedish transports, he endeavoured to close the mouth of the Maine by driving piles, and sinking large heaps of stones and vessels. He himself, however, accompanied by the Bishop of Worms, and carrying with him his most precious effects, took refuge in Cologne, and abandoned his capital and territories to the rapacity of a tyrannical garrison. But these preparations, which bespoke less of true courage


The Thirty Years War, Book III. - 3/17

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