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- The Thirty Years War, Book II. - 5/17 -


the name of Gustavus. But the fame of his rival excited the envy of the Danish monarch; and the more success he promised himself in this campaign, the less disposed was he to show any favour to his envied neighbour. Both laid their conditions and plans before the English ministry, and Christian IV. finally succeeded in outbidding his rival. Gustavus Adolphus, for his own security, had demanded the cession of some places of strength in Germany, where he himself had no territories, to afford, in case of need, a place of refuge for his troops. Christian IV. possessed Holstein and Jutland, through which, in the event of a defeat, he could always secure a retreat.

Eager to get the start of his competitor, the King of Denmark hastened to take the field. Appointed generalissimo of the circle of Lower Saxony, he soon had an army of 60,000 men in motion; the administrator of Magdeburg, and the Dukes of Brunswick and Mecklenburgh, entered into an alliance with him. Encouraged by the hope of assistance from England, and the possession of so large a force, he flattered himself he should be able to terminate the war in a single campaign.

At Vienna, it was officially notified that the only object of these preparations was the protection of the circle, and the maintenance of peace. But the negociations with Holland, England, and even France, the extraordinary exertions of the circle, and the raising of so formidable an army, seemed to have something more in view than defensive operations, and to contemplate nothing less than the complete restoration of the Elector Palatine, and the humiliation of the dreaded power of Austria.

After negociations, exhortations, commands, and threats had in vain been employed by the Emperor in order to induce the King of Denmark and the circle of Lower Saxony to lay down their arms, hostilities commenced, and Lower Germany became the theatre of war. Count Tilly, marching along the left bank of the Weser, made himself master of all the passes as far as Minden. After an unsuccessful attack on Nieuburg, he crossed the river and overran the principality of Calemberg, in which he quartered his troops. The king conducted his operations on the right bank of the river, and spread his forces over the territories of Brunswick, but having weakened his main body by too powerful detachments, he could not engage in any enterprise of importance. Aware of his opponent's superiority, he avoided a decisive action as anxiously as the general of the League sought it.

With the exception of the troops from the Spanish Netherlands, which had poured into the Lower Palatinate, the Emperor had hitherto made use only of the arms of Bavaria and the League in Germany. Maximilian conducted the war as executor of the ban of the empire, and Tilly, who commanded the army of execution, was in the Bavarian service. The Emperor owed superiority in the field to Bavaria and the League, and his fortunes were in their hands. This dependence on their goodwill, but ill accorded with the grand schemes, which the brilliant commencement of the war had led the imperial cabinet to form.

However active the League had shown itself in the Emperor's defence, while thereby it secured its own welfare, it could not be expected that it would enter as readily into his views of conquest. Or, if they still continued to lend their armies for that purpose, it was too much to be feared that they would share with the Emperor nothing but general odium, while they appropriated to themselves all advantages. A strong army under his own orders could alone free him from this debasing dependence upon Bavaria, and restore to him his former pre-eminence in Germany. But the war had already exhausted the imperial dominions, and they were unequal to the expense of such an armament. In these circumstances, nothing could be more welcome to the Emperor than the proposal with which one of his officers surprised him.

This was Count Wallenstein, an experienced officer, and the richest nobleman in Bohemia. From his earliest youth he had been in the service of the House of Austria, and several campaigns against the Turks, Venetians, Bohemians, Hungarians, and Transylvanians had established his reputation. He was present as colonel at the battle of Prague, and afterwards, as major-general, had defeated a Hungarian force in Moravia. The Emperor's gratitude was equal to his services, and a large share of the confiscated estates of the Bohemian insurgents was their reward. Possessed of immense property, excited by ambitious views, confident in his own good fortune, and still more encouraged by the existing state of circumstances, he offered, at his own expense and that of his friends, to raise and clothe an army for the Emperor, and even undertook the cost of maintaining it, if he were allowed to augment it to 50,000 men. The project was universally ridiculed as the chimerical offspring of a visionary brain; but the offer was highly valuable, if its promises should be but partially fulfilled. Certain circles in Bohemia were assigned to him as depots, with authority to appoint his own officers. In a few months he had 20,000 men under arms, with which, quitting the Austrian territories, he soon afterwards appeared on the frontiers of Lower Saxony with 30,000. The Emperor had lent this armament nothing but his name. The reputation of the general, the prospect of rapid promotion, and the hope of plunder, attracted to his standard adventurers from all quarters of Germany; and even sovereign princes, stimulated by the desire of glory or of gain, offered to raise regiments for the service of Austria.

Now, therefore, for the first time in this war, an imperial army appeared in Germany;--an event which if it was menacing to the Protestants, was scarcely more acceptable to the Catholics. Wallenstein had orders to unite his army with the troops of the League, and in conjunction with the Bavarian general to attack the King of Denmark. But long jealous of Tilly's fame, he showed no disposition to share with him the laurels of the campaign, or in the splendour of his rival's achievements to dim the lustre of his own. His plan of operations was to support the latter, but to act entirely independent of him. As he had not resources, like Tilly, for supplying the wants of his army, he was obliged to march his troops into fertile countries which had not as yet suffered from war. Disobeying, therefore, the order to form a junction with the general of the League, he marched into the territories of Halberstadt and Magdeburg, and at Dessau made himself master of the Elbe. All the lands on either bank of this river were at his command, and from them he could either attack the King of Denmark in the rear, or, if prudent, enter the territories of that prince.

Christian IV. was fully aware of the danger of his situation between two such powerful armies. He had already been joined by the administrator of Halberstadt, who had lately returned from Holland; he now also acknowledged Mansfeld, whom previously he had refused to recognise, and supported him to the best of his ability. Mansfeld amply requited this service. He alone kept at bay the army of Wallenstein upon the Elbe, and prevented its junction with that of Tilly, and a combined attack on the King of Denmark. Notwithstanding the enemy's superiority, this intrepid general even approached the bridge of Dessau, and ventured to entrench himself in presence of the imperial lines. But attacked in the rear by the whole force of the Imperialists, he was obliged to yield to superior numbers, and to abandon his post with the loss of 3,000 killed. After this defeat, Mansfeld withdrew into Brandenburg, where he soon recruited and reinforced his army; and suddenly turned into Silesia, with the view of marching from thence into Hungary; and, in conjunction with Bethlen Gabor, carrying the war into the heart of Austria. As the Austrian dominions in that quarter were entirely defenceless, Wallenstein received immediate orders to leave the King of Denmark, and if possible to intercept Mansfeld's progress through Silesia.

The diversion which this movement of Mansfeld had made in the plans of Wallenstein, enabled the king to detach a part of his force into Westphalia, to seize the bishoprics of Munster and Osnaburg. To check this movement, Tilly suddenly moved from the Weser; but the operations of Duke Christian, who threatened the territories of the League with an inroad in the direction of Hesse, and to remove thither the seat of war, recalled him as rapidly from Westphalia. In order to keep open his communication with these provinces, and to prevent the junction of the enemy with the Landgrave of Hesse, Tilly hastily seized all the tenable posts on the Werha and Fulda, and took up a strong position in Minden, at the foot of the Hessian Mountains, and at the confluence of these rivers with the Weser. He soon made himself master of Goettingen, the key of Brunswick and Hesse, and was meditating a similar attack upon Nordheim, when the king advanced upon him with his whole army. After throwing into this place the necessary supplies for a long siege, the latter attempted to open a new passage through Eichsfeld and Thuringia, into the territories of the League. He had already reached Duderstadt, when Tilly, by forced marches, came up with him. As the army of Tilly, which had been reinforced by some of Wallenstein's regiments, was superior in numbers to his own, the king, to avoid a battle, retreated towards Brunswick. But Tilly incessantly harassed his retreat, and after three days' skirmishing, he was at length obliged to await the enemy near the village of Lutter in Barenberg. The Danes began the attack with great bravery, and thrice did their intrepid monarch lead them in person against the enemy; but at length the superior numbers and discipline of the Imperialists prevailed, and the general of the League obtained a complete victory. The Danes lost sixty standards, and their whole artillery, baggage, and ammunition. Several officers of distinction and about 4,000 men were killed in the field of battle; and several companies of foot, in the flight, who had thrown themselves into the town-house of Lutter, laid down their arms and surrendered to the conqueror.

The king fled with his cavalry, and soon collected the wreck of his army which had survived this serious defeat. Tilly pursued his victory, made himself master of the Weser and Brunswick, and forced the king to retire into Bremen. Rendered more cautious by defeat, the latter now stood upon the defensive; and determined at all events to prevent the enemy from crossing the Elbe. But while he threw garrisons into every tenable place, he reduced his own diminished army to inactivity; and one after another his scattered troops were either defeated or dispersed. The forces of the League, in command of the Weser, spread themselves along the Elbe and Havel, and everywhere drove the Danes before them. Tilly himself crossing the Elbe penetrated with his victorious army into Brandenburg, while Wallenstein entered Holstein to remove the seat of war to the king's own dominions.

This general had just returned from Hungary whither he had pursued Mansfeld, without being able to obstruct his march, or prevent his junction with Bethlen Gabor. Constantly persecuted by fortune, but always superior to his fate, Mansfeld had made his way against countless difficulties, through Silesia and Hungary to Transylvania, where, after all, he was not very welcome. Relying upon the assistance of England, and a powerful diversion in Lower Saxony, Gabor had again broken the truce with the Emperor. But in place of the expected diversion in his favour, Mansfeld had drawn upon himself the whole strength of Wallenstein, and instead of bringing, required, pecuniary assistance. The want of concert in the Protestant counsels cooled Gabor's ardour; and he hastened, as usual, to avert the coming storm by a speedy peace. Firmly determined, however, to break it, with the first ray of hope, he directed Mansfeld in the mean time to apply for assistance to Venice.

Cut off from Germany, and unable to support the weak remnant of his troops in Hungary, Mansfeld sold his artillery and baggage train, and disbanded his soldiers. With a few followers, he proceeded through Bosnia and Dalmatia, towards Venice. New schemes swelled his bosom; but his career was ended. Fate, which had so restlessly sported with him throughout, now prepared for him a peaceful grave in Dalmatia. Death overtook him in the vicinity of Zara in 1626, and a short time before him died the faithful companion of his fortunes, Christian, Duke of


The Thirty Years War, Book II. - 5/17

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