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


through Thuringia into Westphalia and Lunenburg, in the hope of forming a junction with the French army under Turenne, while the Imperial and Bavarian army followed him to the Weser, under Melander and Gronsfeld. His ruin was inevitable, if the enemy should overtake him before his junction with Turenne; but the same consideration which had just saved the Emperor, now proved the salvation of the Swedes. Even amidst all the fury of the conquest, cold calculations of prudence guided the course of the war, and the vigilance of the different courts increased, as the prospect of peace approached. The Elector of Bavaria could not allow the Emperor to obtain so decisive a preponderance as, by the sudden alteration of affairs, might delay the chances of a general peace. Every change of fortune was important now, when a pacification was so ardently desired by all, and when the disturbance of the balance of power among the contracting parties might at once annihilate the work of years, destroy the fruit of long and tedious negociations, and indefinitely protract the repose of Europe. If France sought to restrain the Swedish crown within due bounds, and measured out her assistance according to her successes and defeats, the Elector of Bavaria silently undertook the same task with the Emperor his ally, and determined, by prudently dealing out his aid, to hold the fate of Austria in his own hands. And now that the power of the Emperor threatened once more to attain a dangerous superiority, Maximilian at once ceased to pursue the Swedes. He was also afraid of reprisals from France, who had threatened to direct Turenne's whole force against him if he allowed his troops to cross the Weser.

Melander, prevented by the Bavarians from further pursuing Wrangel, crossed by Jena and Erfurt into Hesse, and now appeared as a dangerous enemy in the country which he had formerly defended. If it was the desire of revenge upon his former sovereign, which led him to choose Hesse for the scene of his ravage, he certainly had his full gratification. Under this scourge, the miseries of that unfortunate state reached their height. But he had soon reason to regret that, in the choice of his quarters, he had listened to the dictates of revenge rather than of prudence. In this exhausted country, his army was oppressed by want, while Wrangel was recruiting his strength, and remounting his cavalry in Lunenburg. Too weak to maintain his wretched quarters against the Swedish general, when he opened the campaign in the winter of 1648, and marched against Hesse, he was obliged to retire with disgrace, and take refuge on the banks of the Danube.

France had once more disappointed the expectations of Sweden; and the army of Turenne, disregarding the remonstrances of Wrangel, had remained upon the Rhine. The Swedish leader revenged himself, by drawing into his service the cavalry of Weimar, which had abandoned the standard of France, though, by this step, he farther increased the jealousy of that power. Turenne received permission to join the Swedes; and the last campaign of this eventful war was now opened by the united armies. Driving Melander before them along the Danube, they threw supplies into Egra, which was besieged by the Imperialists, and defeated the Imperial and Bavarian armies on the Danube, which ventured to oppose them at Susmarshausen, where Melander was mortally wounded. After this overthrow, the Bavarian general, Gronsfeld, placed himself on the farther side of the Lech, in order to guard Bavaria from the enemy.

But Gronsfeld was not more fortunate than Tilly, who, in this same position, had sacrificed his life for Bavaria. Wrangel and Turenne chose the same spot for passing the river, which was so gloriously marked by the victory of Gustavus Adolphus, and accomplished it by the same means, too, which had favoured their predecessor. Bavaria was now a second time overrun, and the breach of the truce punished by the severest treatment of its inhabitants. Maximilian sought shelter in Salzburgh, while the Swedes crossed the Iser, and forced their way as far as the Inn. A violent and continued rain, which in a few days swelled this inconsiderable stream into a broad river, saved Austria once more from the threatened danger. The enemy ten times attempted to form a bridge of boats over the Inn, and as often it was destroyed by the current. Never, during the whole course of the war, had the Imperialists been in so great consternation as at present, when the enemy were in the centre of Bavaria, and when they had no longer a general left who could be matched against a Turenne, a Wrangel, and a Koenigsmark. At last the brave Piccolomini arrived from the Netherlands, to assume the command of the feeble wreck of the Imperialists. By their own ravages in Bohemia, the allies had rendered their subsistence in that country impracticable, and were at last driven by scarcity to retreat into the Upper Palatinate, where the news of the peace put a period to their activity.

Koenigsmark, with his flying corps, advanced towards Bohemia, where Ernest Odowalsky, a disbanded captain, who, after being disabled in the imperial service, had been dismissed without a pension, laid before him a plan for surprising the lesser side of the city of Prague. Koenigsmark successfully accomplished the bold enterprise, and acquired the reputation of closing the thirty years' war by the last brilliant achievement. This decisive stroke, which vanquished the Emperor's irresolution, cost the Swedes only the loss of a single man. But the old town, the larger half of Prague, which is divided into two parts by the Moldau, by its vigorous resistance wearied out the efforts of the Palatine, Charles Gustavus, the successor of Christina on the throne, who had arrived from Sweden with fresh troops, and had assembled the whole Swedish force in Bohemia and Silesia before its walls. The approach of winter at last drove the besiegers into their quarters, and in the mean time, the intelligence arrived that a peace had been signed at Munster, on the 24th October.

The colossal labour of concluding this solemn, and ever memorable and sacred treaty, which is known by the name of the peace of Westphalia; the endless obstacles which were to be surmounted; the contending interests which it was necessary to reconcile; the concatenation of circumstances which must have co-operated to bring to a favourable termination this tedious, but precious and permanent work of policy; the difficulties which beset the very opening of the negociations, and maintaining them, when opened, during the ever-fluctuating vicissitudes of the war; finally, arranging the conditions of peace, and still more, the carrying them into effect; what were the conditions of this peace; what each contending power gained or lost, by the toils and sufferings of a thirty years' war; what modification it wrought upon the general system of European policy;--these are matters which must be relinquished to another pen. The history of the peace of Westphalia constitutes a whole, as important as the history of the war itself. A mere abridgment of it, would reduce to a mere skeleton one of the most interesting and characteristic monuments of human policy and passions, and deprive it of every feature calculated to fix the attention of the public, for which I write, and of which I now respectfully take my leave.


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

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