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- The Thirty Years War, Book IV. - 4/9 -


In the mean time, Duke Bernard of Weimar had taken up his position on the Danube, with eighteen regiments of infantry and 140 squadrons of horse, to cover Franconia, and to watch the movements of the Imperial-Bavarian army upon that river. No sooner had Altringer departed, to join the Italians under Feria, than Bernard, profiting by his absence, hastened across the Danube, and with the rapidity of lightning appeared before Ratisbon. The possession of this town would ensure the success of the Swedish designs upon Bavaria and Austria; it would establish them firmly on the Danube, and provide a safe refuge in case of defeat, while it alone could give permanence to their conquests in that quarter. To defend Ratisbon, was the urgent advice which the dying Tilly left to the Elector; and Gustavus Adolphus had lamented it as an irreparable loss, that the Bavarians had anticipated him in taking possession of this place. Indescribable, therefore, was the consternation of Maximilian, when Duke Bernard suddenly appeared before the town, and prepared in earnest to besiege it.

The garrison consisted of not more than fifteen companies, mostly newly-raised soldiers; although that number was more than sufficient to weary out an enemy of far superior force, if supported by well-disposed and warlike inhabitants. But this was not the greatest danger which the Bavarian garrison had to contend against. The Protestant inhabitants of Ratisbon, equally jealous of their civil and religious freedom, had unwillingly submitted to the yoke of Bavaria, and had long looked with impatience for the appearance of a deliverer. Bernard's arrival before the walls filled them with lively joy; and there was much reason to fear that they would support the attempts of the besiegers without, by exciting a tumult within. In this perplexity, the Elector addressed the most pressing entreaties to the Emperor and the Duke of Friedland to assist him, were it only with 5,000 men. Seven messengers in succession were despatched by Ferdinand to Wallenstein, who promised immediate succours, and even announced to the Elector the near advance of 12,000 men under Gallas; but at the same time forbade that general, under pain of death, to march. Meanwhile the Bavarian commandant of Ratisbon, in the hope of speedy assistance, made the best preparations for defence, armed the Roman Catholic peasants, disarmed and carefully watched the Protestant citizens, lest they should attempt any hostile design against the garrison. But as no relief arrived, and the enemy's artillery incessantly battered the walls, he consulted his own safety, and that of the garrison, by an honourable capitulation, and abandoned the Bavarian officials and ecclesiastics to the conqueror's mercy.

The possession of Ratisbon, enlarged the projects of the duke, and Bavaria itself now appeared too narrow a field for his bold designs. He determined to penetrate to the frontiers of Austria, to arm the Protestant peasantry against the Emperor, and restore to them their religious liberty. He had already taken Straubingen, while another Swedish army was advancing successfully along the northern bank of the Danube. At the head of his Swedes, bidding defiance to the severity of the weather, he reached the mouth of the Iser, which he passed in the presence of the Bavarian General Werth, who was encamped on that river. Passau and Lintz trembled for their fate; the terrified Emperor redoubled his entreaties and commands to Wallenstein, to hasten with all speed to the relief of the hard-pressed Bavarians. But here the victorious Bernard, of his own accord, checked his career of conquest. Having in front of him the river Inn, guarded by a number of strong fortresses, and behind him two hostile armies, a disaffected country, and the river Iser, while his rear was covered by no tenable position, and no entrenchment could be made in the frozen ground, and threatened by the whole force of Wallenstein, who had at last resolved to march to the Danube, by a timely retreat he escaped the danger of being cut off from Ratisbon, and surrounded by the enemy. He hastened across the Iser to the Danube, to defend the conquests he had made in the Upper Palatinate against Wallenstein, and fully resolved not to decline a battle, if necessary, with that general. But Wallenstein, who was not disposed for any great exploits on the Danube, did not wait for his approach; and before the Bavarians could congratulate themselves on his arrival, he suddenly withdrew again into Bohemia. The duke thus ended his victorious campaign, and allowed his troops their well-earned repose in winter quarters upon an enemy's country.

While in Swabia the war was thus successfully conducted by Gustavus Horn, and on the Upper and Lower Rhine by the Palatine of Birkenfeld, General Baudissen, and the Rhinegrave Otto Louis, and by Duke Bernard on the Danube; the reputation of the Swedish arms was as gloriously sustained in Lower Saxony and Westphalia by the Duke of Lunenburg and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel. The fortress of Hamel was taken by Duke George, after a brave defence, and a brilliant victory obtained over the imperial General Gronsfeld, by the united Swedish and Hessian armies, near Oldendorf. Count Wasaburg, a natural son of Gustavus Adolphus, showed himself in this battle worthy of his descent. Sixteen pieces of cannon, the whole baggage of the Imperialists, together with 74 colours, fell into the hands of the Swedes; 3,000 of the enemy perished on the field, and nearly the same number were taken prisoners. The town of Osnaburg surrendered to the Swedish Colonel Knyphausen, and Paderborn to the Landgrave of Hesse; while, on the other hand, Bueckeburg, a very important place for the Swedes, fell into the hands of the Imperialists. The Swedish banners were victorious in almost every quarter of Germany; and the year after the death of Gustavus, left no trace of the loss which had been sustained in the person of that great leader.

In a review of the important events which signalized the campaign of 1633, the inactivity of a man, of whom the highest expectations had been formed, justly excites astonishment. Among all the generals who distinguished themselves in this campaign, none could be compared with Wallenstein, in experience, talents, and reputation; and yet, after the battle of Lutzen, we lose sight of him entirely. The fall of his great rival had left the whole theatre of glory open to him; all Europe was now attentively awaiting those exploits, which should efface the remembrance of his defeat, and still prove to the world his military superiority. Nevertheless, he continued inactive in Bohemia, while the Emperor's losses in Bavaria, Lower Saxony, and the Rhine, pressingly called for his presence--a conduct equally unintelligible to friend and foe--the terror, and, at the same time, the last hope of the Emperor. After the defeat of Lutzen he had hastened into Bohemia, where he instituted the strictest inquiry into the conduct of his officers in that battle. Those whom the council of war declared guilty of misconduct, were put to death without mercy, those who had behaved with bravery, rewarded with princely munificence, and the memory of the dead honoured by splendid monuments. During the winter, he oppressed the imperial provinces by enormous contributions, and exhausted the Austrian territories by his winter quarters, which he purposely avoided taking up in an enemy's country. And in the spring of 1633, instead of being the first to open the campaign, with this well-chosen and well-appointed army, and to make a worthy display of his great abilities, he was the last who appeared in the field; and even then, it was an hereditary province of Austria, which he selected as the seat of war.

Of all the Austrian provinces, Silesia was most exposed to danger. Three different armies, a Swedish under Count Thurn, a Saxon under Arnheim and the Duke of Lauenburg, and one of Brandenburg under Borgsdorf, had at the same time carried the war into this country; they had already taken possession of the most important places, and even Breslau had embraced the cause of the allies. But this crowd of commanders and armies was the very means of saving this province to the Emperor; for the jealousy of the generals, and the mutual hatred of the Saxons and the Swedes, never allowed them to act with unanimity. Arnheim and Thurn contended for the chief command; the troops of Brandenburg and Saxony combined against the Swedes, whom they looked upon as troublesome strangers who ought to be got rid of as soon as possible. The Saxons, on the contrary, lived on a very intimate footing with the Imperialists, and the officers of both these hostile armies often visited and entertained each other. The Imperialists were allowed to remove their property without hindrance, and many did not affect to conceal that they had received large sums from Vienna. Among such equivocal allies, the Swedes saw themselves sold and betrayed; and any great enterprise was out of the question, while so bad an understanding prevailed between the troops. General Arnheim, too, was absent the greater part of the time; and when he at last returned, Wallenstein was fast approaching the frontiers with a formidable force.

His army amounted to 40,000 men, while to oppose him the allies had only 24,000. They nevertheless resolved to give him battle, and marched to Munsterberg, where he had formed an intrenched camp. But Wallenstein remained inactive for eight days; he then left his intrenchments, and marched slowly and with composure to the enemy's camp. But even after quitting his position, and when the enemy, emboldened by his past delay, manfully prepared to receive him, he declined the opportunity of fighting. The caution with which he avoided a battle was imputed to fear; but the well-established reputation of Wallenstein enabled him to despise this suspicion. The vanity of the allies allowed them not to see that he purposely saved them a defeat, because a victory at that time would not have served his own ends. To convince them of his superior power, and that his inactivity proceeded not from any fear of them, he put to death the commander of a castle that fell into his hands, because he had refused at once to surrender an untenable place.

For nine days, did the two armies remain within musket-shot of each other, when Count Terzky, from the camp of the Imperialists, appeared with a trumpeter in that of the allies, inviting General Arnheim to a conference. The purport was, that Wallenstein, notwithstanding his superiority, was willing to agree to a cessation of arms for six weeks. "He was come," he said, "to conclude a lasting peace with the Swedes, and with the princes of the empire, to pay the soldiers, and to satisfy every one. All this was in his power; and if the Austrian court hesitated to confirm his agreement, he would unite with the allies, and (as he privately whispered to Arnheim) hunt the Emperor to the devil." At the second conference, he expressed himself still more plainly to Count Thurn. "All the privileges of the Bohemians," he engaged, "should be confirmed anew, the exiles recalled and restored to their estates, and he himself would be the first to resign his share of them. The Jesuits, as the authors of all past grievances, should be banished, the Swedish crown indemnified by stated payments, and all the superfluous troops on both sides employed against the Turks." The last article explained the whole mystery. "If," he continued, "HE should obtain the crown of Bohemia, all the exiles would have reason to applaud his generosity; perfect toleration of religions should be established within the kingdom, the Palatine family be reinstated in its rights, and he would accept the Margraviate of Moravia as a compensation for Mecklenburg. The allied armies would then, under his command, advance upon Vienna, and sword in hand, compel the Emperor to ratify the treaty."

Thus was the veil at last removed from the schemes, over which he had brooded for years in mysterious silence. Every circumstance now convinced him that not a moment was to be lost in its execution. Nothing but a blind confidence in the good fortune and military genius of the Duke of Friedland, had induced the Emperor, in the face of the remonstrances of Bavaria and Spain, and at the expense of his own reputation, to confer upon this imperious leader such an unlimited command. But this belief in Wallenstein's being invincible, had been much weakened by his inaction, and almost entirely overthrown by the defeat at Lutzen. His enemies at the imperial court now renewed their intrigues; and the Emperor's disappointment at the failure of his hopes, procured for their remonstrances a favourable reception. Wallenstein's whole conduct was now reviewed with the most malicious criticism; his ambitious haughtiness, his disobedience to the Emperor's orders, were recalled to the recollection of that jealous prince, as well as the complaints of the Austrian subjects against his boundless oppression; his fidelity was questioned, and alarming hints thrown out as to his


The Thirty Years War, Book IV. - 4/9

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