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- The Thirty Years War, Book V. - 1/10 -




Translated from the German




Wallenstein's death rendered necessary the appointment of a new generalissimo; and the Emperor yielded at last to the advice of the Spaniards, to raise his son Ferdinand, King of Hungary, to that dignity. Under him, Count Gallas commanded, who performed the functions of commander-in-chief, while the prince brought to this post nothing but his name and dignity. A considerable force was soon assembled under Ferdinand; the Duke of Lorraine brought up a considerable body of auxiliaries in person, and the Cardinal Infante joined him from Italy with 10,000 men. In order to drive the enemy from the Danube, the new general undertook the enterprise in which his predecessor had failed, the siege of Ratisbon. In vain did Duke Bernard of Weimar penetrate into the interior of Bavaria, with a view to draw the enemy from the town; Ferdinand continued to press the siege with vigour, and the city, after a most obstinate resistance, was obliged to open its gates to him. Donauwerth soon shared the same fate, and Nordlingen in Swabia was now invested. The loss of so many of the imperial cities was severely felt by the Swedish party; as the friendship of these towns had so largely contributed to the success of their arms, indifference to their fate would have been inexcusable. It would have been an indelible disgrace, had they deserted their confederates in their need, and abandoned them to the revenge of an implacable conqueror. Moved by these considerations, the Swedish army, under the command of Horn, and Bernard of Weimar, advanced upon Nordlingen, determined to relieve it even at the expense of a battle.

The undertaking was a dangerous one, for in numbers the enemy was greatly superior to that of the Swedes. There was also a further reason for avoiding a battle at present; the enemy's force was likely soon to divide, the Italian troops being destined for the Netherlands. In the mean time, such a position might be taken up, as to cover Nordlingen, and cut off their supplies. All these grounds were strongly urged by Gustavus Horn, in the Swedish council of war; but his remonstrances were disregarded by men who, intoxicated by a long career of success, mistook the suggestions of prudence for the voice of timidity. Overborne by the superior influence of Duke Bernard, Gustavus Horn was compelled to risk a contest, whose unfavourable issue, a dark foreboding seemed already to announce. The fate of the battle depended upon the possession of a height which commanded the imperial camp. An attempt to occupy it during the night failed, as the tedious transport of the artillery through woods and hollow ways delayed the arrival of the troops. When the Swedes arrived about midnight, they found the heights in possession of the enemy, strongly entrenched. They waited, therefore, for daybreak, to carry them by storm. Their impetuous courage surmounted every obstacle; the entrenchments, which were in the form of a crescent, were successfully scaled by each of the two brigades appointed to the service; but as they entered at the same moment from opposite sides, they met and threw each other into confusion. At this unfortunate moment, a barrel of powder blew up, and created the greatest disorder among the Swedes. The imperial cavalry charged upon their broken ranks, and the flight became universal. No persuasion on the part of their general could induce the fugitives to renew the assault.

He resolved, therefore, in order to carry this important post, to lead fresh troops to the attack. But in the interim, some Spanish regiments had marched in, and every attempt to gain it was repulsed by their heroic intrepidity. One of the duke's own regiments advanced seven times, and was as often driven back. The disadvantage of not occupying this post in time, was quickly and sensibly felt. The fire of the enemy's artillery from the heights, caused such slaughter in the adjacent wing of the Swedes, that Horn, who commanded there, was forced to give orders to retire. Instead of being able to cover the retreat of his colleague, and to check the pursuit of the enemy, Duke Bernard, overpowered by numbers, was himself driven into the plain, where his routed cavalry spread confusion among Horn's brigade, and rendered the defeat complete. Almost the entire infantry were killed or taken prisoners. More than 12,000 men remained dead upon the field of battle; 80 field pieces, about 4,000 waggons, and 300 standards and colours fell into the hands of the Imperialists. Horn himself, with three other generals, were taken prisoners. Duke Bernard with difficulty saved a feeble remnant of his army, which joined him at Frankfort.

The defeat at Nordlingen, cost the Swedish Chancellor the second sleepless night he had passed in Germany.--[The first was occasioned by the death of Gustavus Adolphus.]--The consequences of this disaster were terrible. The Swedes had lost by it at once their superiority in the field, and with it the confidence of their confederates, which they had gained solely by their previous military success. A dangerous division threatened the Protestant Confederation with ruin. Consternation and terror seized upon the whole party; while the Papists arose with exulting triumph from the deep humiliation into which they had sunk. Swabia and the adjacent circles first felt the consequences of the defeat of Nordlingen; and Wirtemberg, in particular, was overrun by the conquering army. All the members of the League of Heilbronn trembled at the prospect of the Emperor's revenge; those who could, fled to Strasburg, while the helpless free cities awaited their fate with alarm. A little more of moderation towards the conquered, would have quickly reduced all the weaker states under the Emperor's authority; but the severity which was practised, even against those who voluntarily surrendered, drove the rest to despair, and roused them to a vigorous resistance.

In this perplexity, all looked to Oxenstiern for counsel and assistance; Oxenstiern applied for both to the German States. Troops were wanted; money likewise, to raise new levies, and to pay to the old the arrears which the men were clamorously demanding. Oxenstiern addressed himself to the Elector of Saxony; but he shamefully abandoned the Swedish cause, to negociate for a separate peace with the Emperor at Pirna. He solicited aid from the Lower Saxon States; but they, long wearied of the Swedish pretensions and demands for money, now thought only of themselves; and George, Duke of Lunenburg, in place of flying to the assistance of Upper Germany, laid siege to Minden, with the intention of keeping possession of it for himself. Abandoned by his German allies, the chancellor exerted himself to obtain the assistance of foreign powers. England, Holland, and Venice were applied to for troops and money; and, driven to the last extremity, the chancellor reluctantly resolved to take the disagreeable step which he had so long avoided, and to throw himself under the protection of France.

The moment had at last arrived which Richelieu had long waited for with impatience. Nothing, he was aware, but the impossibility of saving themselves by any other means, could induce the Protestant States in Germany to support the pretensions of France upon Alsace. This extreme necessity had now arrived; the assistance of that power was indispensable, and she was resolved to be well paid for the active part which she was about to take in the German war. Full of lustre and dignity, it now came upon the political stage. Oxenstiern, who felt little reluctance in bestowing the rights and possessions of the empire, had already ceded the fortress of Philipsburg, and the other long coveted places. The Protestants of Upper Germany now, in their own names, sent a special embassy to Richelieu, requesting him to take Alsace, the fortress of Breyssach, which was still to be recovered from the enemy, and all the places upon the Upper Rhine, which were the keys of Germany, under the protection of France. What was implied by French protection had been seen in the conduct of France towards the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, which it had held for centuries against the rightful owners. Treves was already in the possession of French garrisons; Lorraine was in a manner conquered, as it might at any time be overrun by an army, and could not, alone, and with its own strength, withstand its formidable neighbour. France now entertained the hope of adding Alsace to its large and numerous possessions, and,--since a treaty was soon to be concluded with the Dutch for the partition of the Spanish Netherlands--the prospect of making the Rhine its natural boundary towards Germany. Thus shamefully were the rights of Germany sacrificed by the German States to this treacherous and grasping power, which, under the mask of a disinterested friendship, aimed only at its own aggrandizement; and while it boldly claimed the honourable title of a Protectress, was solely occupied with promoting its own schemes, and advancing its own interests amid the general confusion.

In return for these important cessions, France engaged to effect a diversion in favour of the Swedes, by commencing hostilities against the Spaniards; and if this should lead to an open breach with the Emperor, to maintain an army upon the German side of the Rhine, which was to act in conjunction with the Swedes and Germans against Austria. For a war with Spain, the Spaniards themselves soon afforded the desired pretext. Making an inroad from the Netherlands, upon the city of Treves, they cut in pieces the French garrison; and, in open violation of the law of nations, made prisoner the Elector, who had placed himself under the protection of France, and carried him into Flanders. When the Cardinal Infante, as Viceroy of the Spanish Netherlands, refused satisfaction for these injuries, and delayed to restore the prince to liberty, Richelieu, after the old custom, formally proclaimed war at Brussels by a herald, and the war was at once opened by three different armies in Milan, in the Valteline, and in Flanders. The French minister was less anxious to commence hostilities with the Emperor, which promised fewer advantages, and threatened greater difficulties. A fourth army, however, was detached across the Rhine into Germany, under the command of Cardinal Lavalette, which was to act in conjunction with Duke Bernard, against the Emperor, without a previous declaration of war.

A heavier blow for the Swedes, than even the defeat of Nordlingen, was the reconciliation of the Elector of Saxony with the Emperor. After many fruitless attempts both to bring about and to prevent it, it was at last effected in 1634, at Pirna, and, the following year, reduced into a formal treaty of peace, at Prague. The Elector of Saxony had always viewed with jealousy the pretensions of the Swedes in Germany; and his aversion to this foreign power, which now gave laws within the Empire, had grown with every fresh requisition that Oxenstiern was obliged to make upon the German states. This ill feeling was kept alive by the Spanish court, who laboured earnestly to effect a peace between Saxony and the Emperor. Wearied with the calamities of a long and destructive contest, which had selected Saxony above all others for its theatre; grieved by the miseries which both friend and foe inflicted upon his

The Thirty Years War, Book V. - 1/10

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