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- The Thirty Years War, Book V. - 5/10 -


had carried off nearly 400 men in his camp. The black spots which appeared upon his body, his own dying expressions, and the advantages which France was likely to reap from his sudden decease, gave rise to a suspicion that he had been removed by poison--a suspicion sufficiently refuted by the symptoms of his disorder. In him, the allies lost their greatest general after Gustavus Adolphus, France a formidable competitor for Alsace, and the Emperor his most dangerous enemy. Trained to the duties of a soldier and a general in the school of Gustavus Adolphus, he successfully imitated his eminent model, and wanted only a longer life to equal, if not to surpass it. With the bravery of the soldier, he united the calm and cool penetration of the general and the persevering fortitude of the man, with the daring resolution of youth; with the wild ardour of the warrior, the sober dignity of the prince, the moderation of the sage, and the conscientiousness of the man of honour. Discouraged by no misfortune, he quickly rose again in full vigour from the severest defeats; no obstacles could check his enterprise, no disappointments conquer his indomitable perseverance. His genius, perhaps, soared after unattainable objects; but the prudence of such men, is to be measured by a different standard from that of ordinary people. Capable of accomplishing more, he might venture to form more daring plans. Bernard affords, in modern history, a splendid example of those days of chivalry, when personal greatness had its full weight and influence, when individual bravery could conquer provinces, and the heroic exploits of a German knight raised him even to the Imperial throne.

The best part of the duke's possessions were his army, which, together with Alsace, he bequeathed to his brother William. But to this army, both France and Sweden thought that they had well-grounded claims; the latter, because it had been raised in name of that crown, and had done homage to it; the former, because it had been supported by its subsidies. The Electoral Prince of the Palatinate also negociated for its services, and attempted, first by his agents, and latterly in his own person, to win it over to his interests, with the view of employing it in the reconquest of his territories. Even the Emperor endeavoured to secure it, a circumstance the less surprising, when we reflect that at this time the justice of the cause was comparatively unimportant, and the extent of the recompense the main object to which the soldier looked; and when bravery, like every other commodity, was disposed of to the highest bidder. But France, richer and more determined, outbade all competitors: it bought over General Erlach, the commander of Breysach, and the other officers, who soon placed that fortress, with the whole army, in their hands.

The young Palatine, Prince Charles Louis, who had already made an unsuccessful campaign against the Emperor, saw his hopes again deceived. Although intending to do France so ill a service, as to compete with her for Bernard's army, he had the imprudence to travel through that kingdom. The cardinal, who dreaded the justice of the Palatine's cause, was glad to seize any opportunity to frustrate his views. He accordingly caused him to be seized at Moulin, in violation of the law of nations, and did not set him at liberty, until he learned that the army of the Duke of Weimar had been secured. France was now in possession of a numerous and well disciplined army in Germany, and from this moment began to make open war upon the Emperor.

But it was no longer against Ferdinand II. that its hostilities were to be conducted; for that prince had died in February, 1637, in the 59th year of his age. The war which his ambition had kindled, however, survived him. During a reign of eighteen years he had never once laid aside the sword, nor tasted the blessings of peace as long as his hand swayed the imperial sceptre. Endowed with the qualities of a good sovereign, adorned with many of those virtues which ensure the happiness of a people, and by nature gentle and humane, we see him, from erroneous ideas of the monarch's duty, become at once the instrument and the victim of the evil passions of others; his benevolent intentions frustrated, and the friend of justice converted into the oppressor of mankind, the enemy of peace, and the scourge of his people. Amiable in domestic life, and respectable as a sovereign, but in his policy ill advised, while he gained the love of his Roman Catholic subjects, he incurred the execration of the Protestants. History exhibits many and greater despots than Ferdinand II., yet he alone has had the unfortunate celebrity of kindling a thirty years' war; but to produce its lamentable consequences, his ambition must have been seconded by a kindred spirit of the age, a congenial state of previous circumstances, and existing seeds of discord. At a less turbulent period, the spark would have found no fuel; and the peacefulness of the age would have choked the voice of individual ambition; but now the flash fell upon a pile of accumulated combustibles, and Europe was in flames.

His son, Ferdinand III., who, a few months before his father's death, had been raised to the dignity of King of the Romans, inherited his throne, his principles, and the war which he had caused. But Ferdinand III. had been a closer witness of the sufferings of the people, and the devastation of the country, and felt more keenly and ardently the necessity of peace. Less influenced by the Jesuits and the Spaniards, and more moderate towards the religious views of others, he was more likely than his father to listen to the voice of reason. He did so, and ultimately restored to Europe the blessing of peace, but not till after a contest of eleven years waged with sword and pen; not till after he had experienced the impossibility of resistance, and necessity had laid upon him its stern laws.

Fortune favoured him at the commencement of his reign, and his arms were victorious against the Swedes. The latter, under the command of the victorious Banner, had, after their success at Wittstock, taken up their winter quarters in Saxony; and the campaign of 1637 opened with the siege of Leipzig. The vigorous resistance of the garrison, and the approach of the Electoral and Imperial armies, saved the town, and Banner, to prevent his communication with the Elbe being cut off, was compelled to retreat into Torgau. But the superior number of the Imperialists drove him even from that quarter; and, surrounded by the enemy, hemmed in by rivers, and suffering from famine, he had no course open to him but to attempt a highly dangerous retreat into Pomerania, of which, the boldness and successful issue border upon romance. The whole army crossed the Oder, at a ford near Furstenberg; and the soldiers, wading up to the neck in water, dragged the artillery across, when the horses refused to draw. Banner had expected to be joined by General Wrangel, on the farther side of the Oder in Pomerania; and, in conjunction with him, to be able to make head against the enemy. But Wrangel did not appear; and in his stead, he found an Imperial army posted at Landsberg, with a view to cut off the retreat of the Swedes. Banner now saw that he had fallen into a dangerous snare, from which escape appeared impossible. In his rear lay an exhausted country, the Imperialists, and the Oder on his left; the Oder, too, guarded by the Imperial General Bucheim, offered no retreat; in front, Landsberg, Custrin, the Warta, and a hostile army; and on the right, Poland, in which, notwithstanding the truce, little confidence could be placed. In these circumstances, his position seemed hopeless, and the Imperialists were already triumphing in the certainty of his fall. Banner, with just indignation, accused the French as the authors of this misfortune. They had neglected to make, according to their promise, a diversion upon the Rhine; and, by their inaction, allowed the Emperor to combine his whole force upon the Swedes. "When the day comes," cried the incensed General to the French Commissioner, who followed the camp, "that the Swedes and Germans join their arms against France, we shall cross the Rhine with less ceremony." But reproaches were now useless; what the emergency demanded was energy and resolution. In the hope of drawing the enemy by stratagem from the Oder, Banner pretended to march towards Poland, and despatched the greater part of his baggage in this direction, with his own wife, and those of the other officers. The Imperialists immediately broke up their camp, and hurried towards the Polish frontier to block up the route; Bucheim left his station, and the Oder was stripped of its defenders. On a sudden, and under cloud of night, Banner turned towards that river, and crossed it about a mile above Custrin, with his troops, baggage, and artillery, without bridges or vessels, as he had done before at Furstenberg. He reached Pomerania without loss, and prepared to share with Wrangel the defence of that province.

But the Imperialists, under the command of Gallas, entered that duchy at Ribses, and overran it by their superior strength. Usedom and Wolgast were taken by storm, Demmin capitulated, and the Swedes were driven far into Lower Pomerania. It was, too, more important for them at this moment than ever, to maintain a footing in that country, for Bogislaus XIV. had died that year, and Sweden must prepare to establish its title to Pomerania. To prevent the Elector of Brandenburg from making good the title to that duchy, which the treaty of Prague had given him, Sweden exerted her utmost energies, and supported its generals to the extent of her ability, both with troops and money. In other quarters of the kingdom, the affairs of the Swedes began to wear a more favourable aspect, and to recover from the humiliation into which they had been thrown by the inaction of France, and the desertion of their allies. For, after their hasty retreat into Pomerania, they had lost one place after another in Upper Saxony; the princes of Mecklenburg, closely pressed by the troops of the Emperor, began to lean to the side of Austria, and even George, Duke of Lunenburg, declared against them. Ehrenbreitstein was starved into a surrender by the Bavarian General de Werth, and the Austrians possessed themselves of all the works which had been thrown up on the Rhine. France had been the sufferer in the contest with Spain; and the event had by no means justified the pompous expectations which had accompanied the opening of the campaign. Every place which the Swedes had held in the interior of Germany was lost; and only the principal towns in Pomerania still remained in their hands. But a single campaign raised them from this state of humiliation; and the vigorous diversion, which the victorious Bernard had effected upon the Rhine, gave quite a new turn to affairs.

The misunderstandings between France and Sweden were now at last adjusted, and the old treaty between these powers confirmed at Hamburg, with fresh advantages for Sweden. In Hesse, the politic Landgravine Amelia had, with the approbation of the Estates, assumed the government after the death of her husband, and resolutely maintained her rights against the Emperor and the House of Darmstadt. Already zealously attached to the Swedish Protestant party, on religious grounds, she only awaited a favourable opportunity openly to declare herself. By artful delays, and by prolonging the negociations with the Emperor, she had succeeded in keeping him inactive, till she had concluded a secret compact with France, and the victories of Duke Bernard had given a favourable turn to the affairs of the Protestants. She now at once threw off the mask, and renewed her former alliance with the Swedish crown. The Electoral Prince of the Palatinate was also stimulated, by the success of Bernard, to try his fortune against the common enemy. Raising troops in Holland with English money, he formed a magazine at Meppen, and joined the Swedes in Westphalia. His magazine was, however, quickly lost; his army defeated near Flotha, by Count Hatzfeld; but his attempt served to occupy for some time the attention of the enemy, and thereby facilitated the operations of the Swedes in other quarters. Other friends began to appear, as fortune declared in their favour, and the circumstance, that the States of Lower Saxony embraced a neutrality, was of itself no inconsiderable advantage.

Under these advantages, and reinforced by 14,000 fresh troops from Sweden and Livonia. Banner opened, with the most favourable prospects, the campaign of 1638. The Imperialists who were in possession of Upper Pomerania and Mecklenburg, either abandoned their positions, or deserted in crowds to the Swedes, to avoid the horrors of famine, the most formidable enemy in this exhausted country. The whole country betwixt the Elbe and the Oder was so desolated by the past marchings and quarterings of the troops, that, in order to support his army on its march into Saxony and Bohemia, Banner was obliged to take a circuitous


The Thirty Years War, Book V. - 5/10

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