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- The Thirty Years War, Book IV. - 5/9 -


secret views. These insinuations, which the conduct of the duke seemed but too well to justify, failed not to make a deep impression on Ferdinand; but the step had been taken, and the great power with which Wallenstein had been invested, could not be taken from him without danger. Insensibly to diminish that power, was the only course that now remained, and, to effect this, it must in the first place be divided; but, above all, the Emperor's present dependence on the good will of his general put an end to. But even this right had been resigned in his engagement with Wallenstein, and the Emperor's own handwriting secured him against every attempt to unite another general with him in the command, or to exercise any immediate act of authority over the troops. As this disadvantageous contract could neither be kept nor broken, recourse was had to artifice. Wallenstein was Imperial Generalissimo in Germany, but his command extended no further, and he could not presume to exercise any authority over a foreign army. A Spanish army was accordingly raised in Milan, and marched into Germany under a Spanish general. Wallenstein now ceased to be indispensable because he was no longer supreme, and in case of necessity, the Emperor was now provided with the means of support even against him.

The duke quickly and deeply felt whence this blow came, and whither it was aimed. In vain did he protest against this violation of the compact, to the Cardinal Infante; the Italian army continued its march, and he was forced to detach General Altringer to join it with a reinforcement. He took care, indeed, so closely to fetter the latter, as to prevent the Italian army from acquiring any great reputation in Alsace and Swabia; but this bold step of the court awakened him from his security, and warned him of the approach of danger. That he might not a second time be deprived of his command, and lose the fruit of all his labours, he must accelerate the accomplishment of his long meditated designs. He secured the attachment of his troops by removing the doubtful officers, and by his liberality to the rest. He had sacrificed to the welfare of the army every other order in the state, every consideration of justice and humanity, and therefore he reckoned upon their gratitude. At the very moment when he meditated an unparalleled act of ingratitude against the author of his own good fortune, he founded all his hopes upon the gratitude which was due to himself.

The leaders of the Silesian armies had no authority from their principals to consent, on their own discretion, to such important proposals as those of Wallenstein, and they did not even feel themselves warranted in granting, for more than a fortnight, the cessation of hostilities which he demanded. Before the duke disclosed his designs to Sweden and Saxony, he had deemed it advisable to secure the sanction of France to his bold undertaking. For this purpose, a secret negociation had been carried on with the greatest possible caution and distrust, by Count Kinsky with Feuquieres, the French ambassador at Dresden, and had terminated according to his wishes. Feuquieres received orders from his court to promise every assistance on the part of France, and to offer the duke a considerable pecuniary aid in case of need.

But it was this excessive caution to secure himself on all sides, that led to his ruin. The French ambassador with astonishment discovered that a plan, which, more than any other, required secrecy, had been communicated to the Swedes and the Saxons. And yet it was generally known that the Saxon ministry was in the interests of the Emperor, and on the other hand, the conditions offered to the Swedes fell too far short of their expectations to be likely to be accepted. Feuquieres, therefore, could not believe that the duke could be serious in calculating upon the aid of the latter, and the silence of the former. He communicated accordingly his doubts and anxieties to the Swedish chancellor, who equally distrusted the views of Wallenstein, and disliked his plans. Although it was no secret to Oxenstiern, that the duke had formerly entered into a similar negociation with Gustavus Adolphus, he could not credit the possibility of inducing a whole army to revolt, and of his extravagant promises. So daring a design, and such imprudent conduct, seemed not to be consistent with the duke's reserved and suspicious temper, and he was the more inclined to consider the whole as the result of dissimulation and treachery, because he had less reason to doubt his prudence than his honesty.

Oxenstiern's doubts at last affected Arnheim himself, who, in full confidence in Wallenstein's sincerity, had repaired to the chancellor at Gelnhausen, to persuade him to lend some of his best regiments to the duke, to aid him in the execution of the plan. They began to suspect that the whole proposal was only a snare to disarm the allies, and to betray the flower of their troops into the hands of the Emperor. Wallenstein's well-known character did not contradict the suspicion, and the inconsistencies in which he afterwards involved himself, entirely destroyed all confidence in his sincerity. While he was endeavouring to draw the Swedes into this alliance, and requiring the help of their best troops, he declared to Arnheim that they must begin with expelling the Swedes from the empire; and while the Saxon officers, relying upon the security of the truce, repaired in great numbers to his camp, he made an unsuccessful attempt to seize them. He was the first to break the truce, which some months afterwards he renewed, though not without great difficulty. All confidence in his sincerity was lost; his whole conduct was regarded as a tissue of deceit and low cunning, devised to weaken the allies and repair his own strength. This indeed he actually did effect, as his own army daily augmented, while that of the allies was reduced nearly one half by desertion and bad provisions. But he did not make that use of his superiority which Vienna expected. When all men were looking for a decisive blow to be struck, he suddenly renewed the negociations; and when the truce lulled the allies into security, he as suddenly recommenced hostilities. All these contradictions arose out of the double and irreconcileable designs to ruin at once the Emperor and the Swedes, and to conclude a separate peace with the Saxons.

Impatient at the ill success of his negociations, he at last determined to display his strength; the more so, as the pressing distress within the empire, and the growing dissatisfaction of the Imperial court, admitted not of his making any longer delay. Before the last cessation of hostilities, General Holk, from Bohemia, had attacked the circle of Meissen, laid waste every thing on his route with fire and sword, driven the Elector into his fortresses, and taken the town of Leipzig. But the truce in Silesia put a period to his ravages, and the consequences of his excesses brought him to the grave at Adorf. As soon as hostilities were recommenced, Wallenstein made a movement, as if he designed to penetrate through Lusatia into Saxony, and circulated the report that Piccolomini had already invaded that country. Arnheim immediately broke up his camp in Silesia, to follow him, and hastened to the assistance of the Electorate. By this means the Swedes were left exposed, who were encamped in small force under Count Thurn, at Steinau, on the Oder, and this was exactly what Wallenstein desired. He allowed the Saxon general to advance sixteen miles towards Meissen, and then suddenly turning towards the Oder, surprised the Swedish army in the most complete security. Their cavalry were first beaten by General Schafgotsch, who was sent against them, and the infantry completely surrounded at Steinau by the duke's army which followed. Wallenstein gave Count Thurn half an hour to deliberate whether he would defend himself with 2,500 men, against more than 20,000, or surrender at discretion. But there was no room for deliberation. The army surrendered, and the most complete victory was obtained without bloodshed. Colours, baggage, and artillery all fell into the hands of the victors, the officers were taken into custody, the privates drafted into the army of Wallenstein. And now at last, after a banishment of fourteen years, after numberless changes of fortune, the author of the Bohemian insurrection, and the remote origin of this destructive war, the notorious Count Thurn, was in the power of his enemies. With blood-thirsty impatience, the arrival of this great criminal was looked for in Vienna, where they already anticipated the malicious triumph of sacrificing so distinguished a victim to public justice. But to deprive the Jesuits of this pleasure, was a still sweeter triumph to Wallenstein, and Thurn was set at liberty. Fortunately for him, he knew more than it was prudent to have divulged in Vienna, and his enemies were also those of Wallenstein. A defeat might have been forgiven in Vienna, but this disappointment of their hopes they could not pardon. "What should I have done with this madman?" he writes, with a malicious sneer, to the minister who called him to account for this unseasonable magnanimity. "Would to Heaven the enemy had no generals but such as he. At the head of the Swedish army, he will render us much better service than in prison."

The victory of Steinau was followed by the capture of Liegnitz, Grossglogau, and even of Frankfort on the Oder. Schafgotsch, who remained in Silesia to complete the subjugation of that province, blockaded Brieg, and threatened Breslau, though in vain, as that free town was jealous of its privileges, and devoted to the Swedes. Colonels Illo and Goetz were ordered by Wallenstein to the Warta, to push forwards into Pomerania, and to the coasts of the Baltic, and actually obtained possession of Landsberg, the key of Pomerania. While thus the Elector of Brandenburg and the Duke of Pomerania were made to tremble for their dominions, Wallenstein himself, with the remainder of his army, burst suddenly into Lusatia, where he took Goerlitz by storm, and forced Bautzen to surrender. But his object was merely to alarm the Elector of Saxony, not to follow up the advantages already obtained; and therefore, even with the sword in his hand, he continued his negociations for peace with Brandenburg and Saxony, but with no better success than before, as the inconsistencies of his conduct had destroyed all confidence in his sincerity. He was therefore on the point of turning his whole force in earnest against the unfortunate Saxons, and effecting his object by force of arms, when circumstances compelled him to leave these territories. The conquests of Duke Bernard upon the Danube, which threatened Austria itself with immediate danger, urgently demanded his presence in Bavaria; and the expulsion of the Saxons and Swedes from Silesia, deprived him of every pretext for longer resisting the Imperial orders, and leaving the Elector of Bavaria without assistance. With his main body, therefore, he immediately set out for the Upper Palatinate, and his retreat freed Upper Saxony for ever of this formidable enemy.

So long as was possible, he had delayed to move to the rescue of Bavaria, and on every pretext evaded the commands of the Emperor. He had, indeed, after reiterated remonstrances, despatched from Bohemia a reinforcement of some regiments to Count Altringer, who was defending the Lech and the Danube against Horn and Bernard, but under the express condition of his acting merely on the defensive. He referred the Emperor and the Elector, whenever they applied to him for aid, to Altringer, who, as he publicly gave out, had received unlimited powers; secretly, however, he tied up his hands by the strictest injunctions, and even threatened him with death, if he exceeded his orders. When Duke Bernard had appeared before Ratisbon, and the Emperor as well as the Elector repeated still more urgently their demand for succour, he pretended he was about to despatch General Gallas with a considerable army to the Danube; but this movement also was delayed, and Ratisbon, Straubing, and Cham, as well as the bishopric of Eichstaedt, fell into the hands of the Swedes. When at last he could no longer neglect the orders of the Court, he marched slowly toward the Bavarian frontier, where he invested the town of Cham, which had been taken by the Swedes. But no sooner did he learn that on the Swedish side a diversion was contemplated, by an inroad of the Saxons into Bohemia, than he availed himself of the report, as a pretext for immediately retreating into that kingdom. Every consideration, he urged, must be postponed to the defence and preservation of the hereditary dominions of the Emperor; and on this plea, he remained firmly fixed in Bohemia, which he guarded as if it had been his own property. And when the Emperor laid upon him his commands to move towards the Danube, and prevent the Duke of Weimar from establishing himself in so dangerous a position on the frontiers of Austria, Wallenstein thought proper to conclude the campaign a second time, and quartered his troops for the winter in this exhausted kingdom.


The Thirty Years War, Book IV. - 5/9

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