The Thirty Years' War:
Dr. Gavin Hughes
'The Lord God is my armour.'
- Attrb. Gustavus Adolphus on his refusal to wear armour on the day of the battle.
THE DEATH OF KING GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS
The 'Lion of the North' at Lützen, 1632
On the 16th November, 1632, two armies stood facing each other across the raised road which led to Leipzig. On one side, stood the forces of the Imperial League led by Duke Albrecht von Wallenstein. Against them, stood the Protestant army of King Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden. The battle that followed became one of the most bloody and legendary engagements of the Thirty Years' War - Lützen.
Of all of the battles in the Thirty Years' War, none have aroused quite as much controversy, mythology and research as Lützen. The following scenario (on the charge of King Gustavus Adolphus) is designed with Warhammer English Civil War in mind, but could be easily adapted for other rule systems. Hopefully, it will provide an enjoyable and challenging game - and something a little bit different for the upcoming festive season...
The Lützen campaign was fought between the armies of the Imperialist League (the combined name for the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and Catholic League) and the Protestant forces of King Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden. In an age where sustained warfare bred a generation of able commanders, Gustavus was considered to be one of the finest. From the War of Kalmar (1611-13) and throughout the Polish Wars (1617-1629), the Swedes conducted many hard-fought campaigns with Gustavus gaining a fiercesome reputation as a result. In 1627, the King was wounded twice; once at Klein-Werder (Danzig Head) in June and the second time at Dirschau, in August. This latter wound was from a Polish marksman who hit the King between the neck and shoulder blade and, as the bullet was not removed, this injury caused him considerable pain in later years. Indeed, it was due to this wound that Gustavus frequently did not wear armour, preferring the flexibility of a buff-coat instead.
From 1630 to 1632, Gustavus fought his way through Germany, becoming a force to be reckoned with. A series of victories followed, but many Protestant German princes and leaders still refused to join the Swedish. Gustavus' supply lines were stretched ever thinner as he avoided these neutral areas and advanced deeper into Germany. The Imperialists, under the able Count Tilly, struck against Saxony and forced its Elector, John George, to ally with Gustavus, who marched to his aid. At Breitenfeld (September 17th, 1631), Gustavus defeated Tilly after five hours of furious fighting. In Spring 1632, Gustavus defeated Tilly once more at the River Lech, where the Count died of wounds at nearby Ingolstadt. This led to the appointment of the shrewd Albrecht von Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland, as commander of the Imperialist League armies. Although Imperialist setbacks continued, in early September Gustavus suffered a serious reverse when he tried to destroy Wallenstein's defended camp at Alte Veste. This Swedish defeat heartened the Imperialists and, in a daring gamble, Wallenstein advanced into Saxony in late September, with the objective of removing it from Gustavus' alliance.
Wallenstein, joined by General Heinrich Holk's army, pushed northwards, intent on meeting up with Field Marshal Pappenheim's forces encamped on the Weser river. Although it left the way to Vienna (the Imperial capital) wide open, Wallenstein correctly surmised that Gustavus would not allow Saxony to fall or any further disruption to his lines of supply. The bait of drawing him into Saxony proved too much and Gustavus (aided by Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar), was also eager to engage Wallenstein as soon as possible. Yet, the King was unable to stop Wallenstein and Holk from capturing Leipzig and could not halt the ever-growing Imperialist League army from combining with Pappenheim's forces.
With the onset of winter, and with Christmas fast approaching, the conditions for warfare were becoming less than ideal. In November, Wallenstein, thinking that the campaign season was over, ordered his army into winter quarters at Lützen. He then ordered Pappenheim's 5,000 troops some thirty-five miles away to the safety of Halle. This took Gustavus by surprise but, seeing the division of the Imperial League army, he seized his chance. He left his quarters at Naumberg early on the 15th November and force-marched the Swedish army to Weissenfels, hoping to strike at the unprepared Imperial Army.
At Rippach, Gustavus encountered Wallenstein's surprised rearguard under Colonel Rudolf von Colloredo; who managed to alert the main force and slow down the Swedish advance on Lützen. It gave Wallenstein time to gather his scattered contingents to him and, using the flood plain around Lützen to his advantage, prepared his hurried defences. There is still academic debate over the exact strengths and deployment of Wallenstein's forces as, by and large, he adapted his plan as and when the contingents arrived. The Imperialists spent the night feverishly redeploying for the expected attack and Wallenstein sited most of his guns among four windmills on a hill north of Lützen. Wallenstein also fortified the double-ditched Leipzig- Lützen raised road, filling these 'trenches' with units of musketeers. This causeway road became vital to Wallenstein's plan and he placed his remaining seven guns on a piece of rising ground behind their position.
Gustavus' army arrived in the early hours of the 16th November. The morning was dark, bitterly cold and with pitches of dense freezing fog lying in the hollows of the battlefield. The Swedes took hours to position themselves in front of Wallenstein's army, as the mist delayed their deployment and hindered their crossing of the rivers Flossgraben and Muhlgraben. By approximately 8 am, the fog began to disperse (which Gustavus took as a good sign) and the Swedish guns were slowly wheeled into place. The King was urged by his young squire, August von Leubelfing, to put on his armour but, as usual, Gustavus declined. At 9.45 am, the Imperialist guns finally opened fire, causing the Swedish guns to reply and starting a prolonged artillery duel. Then the Swedish guns fell silent and Gustavus struck savagely at the weakest point in the Imperial line - the left flank which, traditionally, the Imperialists used to cover any retreat. Gustavus felt that if he could turn Wallenstein's flank here, the Imperialist League's escape route to Leipzig would be severed and they would be trapped in Saxony over the winter.
As the Swedish advanced, the fog again descended, aggravated by the clinging smoke that now hugged the ground. Additionally, Colloredo had fired Lützen and the smoke from the burning town was drifting across the freezing battlefield. On the Swedish left, Prince Bernhard's troops were stopped by Colloredo's holding action around the gardens and back walls of the town. Undeterred, the Swedish right pushed onwards and were pressurising the Imperial left when Gustavus led his combined cavalry regiments, including the Smĺland Horse, against the Imperial lines. Here, the ditches thwarted Gustavus' advance and he led them along the road to find a suitable passing point. As he did so, the Swedish 'commanded shot' ousted the enemy musketeers from the road. At the same time, Colonel Ottavio Piccolomini's cuirassiers formed up to bolster Götz's cuirassiers and were engaged by Gustavus' musketeers. Götz's cuirassiers tried to dislodge the Swedes but were caught in murderous musket shot instead and were forced to retreat. As the midday sun broke through the mist, Pappenheim's cavalry arrived on the field just in time to strengthen the left flank. Joining with Holk's survivors, Pappenheim led a counter-charge alongside Piccolomini but, within minutes, the famous Field Marshal was mortally wounded by a canon ball. The Imperialist cavalry charge immediately lost impetus, direction and motivation. Whilst the battle raged, Piccolomini regrouped the cavalry and consolidated Wallenstein's left flank, although it took seven charges to do so. The last charge finally pushed the Swedes back beyond the Leipzig road-ditch but no further.
In the confusion, Gustavus saw the Imperialist cavalry slashing into his infantry and decided to personally charge the Smĺland Horse against them. As Gustavus' cavalry rode over a narrow crossing place on the Leipzig road, an Imperialist sharpshooter hit the King. The ball broke Gustavus' arm and his staff clustered around him with concern, urging him to leave the field and have his wound attended to. Gustavus characteristically refused to leave, although he did dismount in order to have his arm bound. In the meantime, the Swedish cavalry rode on, leaving Gustavus to remount and follow on. Ahead of him, Piccolomini had sliced the Smĺland Horse in two and they wheeled around back towards the road-ditch. At the same time, Gustavus was beginning to feel the effects of his wound and his stablemaster, Schulenburg, led the King's horse back to the supposed Swedish lines. Accompanied by a small number of staff, Gustavus rode to where he expected his men to be - but they had retreated further than he thought and, in the mist, his party got lost.
The King, cut off from his own men, was actually riding between the two battle lines, not at the rear of his own line as he believed. Gustavus' group included his page, Leubelfing, and the King's bodyguard, Anders Jönsson. When a troop of Götz's cuirassiers emerged out of the fog, they pursued the King's party and fired their pistols after him. Jönsson gallantly reined up to engage them but was subsequently hacked down. Gustavus also suffered a number of sword wounds during this pursuit and another musket ball struck him, this time in the base of the spine, causing him to tumble from his saddle. Leubelfing saw him fall and tried to ride back to help Gustavus onto his horse but, by this time, the Imperialist cuirassiers had already surrounded him. Whilst exact details of Gustavus's death are disputed, the way in which he died is not. According to one story, as he lay prone, the cuirassiers demanded to know who he was; to which Gustavus replied that he was the King of Sweden. Upon hearing this, they fired their pistols into his head. In Piccolomini's version of events, he arrived to find a Swedish officer dying on the ground and was told by his men that it was Gustavus. Later, when the Swedish line surged forward again, a trooper of Piccolomini's Horse shot the King through the head before riding off.
The rest of the battle was a confused ebb and flow of attack and counter-assault. Both sides fluctuated between retreats and courageous advances. Prince Bernhard resolutely followed Gustavus' orders and sent wave after wave against the Imperialist line. It saw the destruction of the veteran Swedish Blue and Yellow Brigades in the centre but, with visibility poor, the Imperial regiments did not pursue. When the Swedes eventually surged forward into Wallenstein's centre-right and captured his guns, the Imperialist cavalry retreated and its withdrawal threatened to expose his entire flank At 2.30 p.m., Holk led his cavalry out to rally the Imperialists, only to loom out of the fog and find the Swedish waiting for him. It was a deciding moment in the battle and threw the advancing Swedes into a panic, as they expected the cavalry to be their own. As they fell back, Wallenstein's centre-right rallied enough to make a counter-assault on the Swedish line which shook them badly. The Imperialists swamped the forward Swedish units, who fell back and relinquished the guns yet again. As the Swedes withdrew to the causeway, the full weight of the Imperialist frontline pushed against them. By now, Swedish casualties were flowing from the centre to the rear and it seemed as if the whole of the Swedish line would collapse. At around 3.00 p.m., Gustavus' bloodstained horse was discovered (and news began circulate of the King's death) and Prince Bernhard assumed overall command. As the situation looked dire for the Protestant army, Knyphausen suggested an ordered withdrawal using his carefully protected reserves as cover. Bernhard, however, resolved to attack a final time.
Just as it seemed to Wallenstein as if the Swedish had withdrawn, their entire line was seen advancing with as much determination as it had hours before. Bernhard had launched a last desperate assault on Wallenstein, sending General Brahe against the guns on Windmill Hill. These were captured, but only after a brutal close combat. The Swedish right charged forward and their centre, with Knyphausen's reserves, hammered against the Imperial line. In the melee that followed all of Wallenstein's guns were taken and, but for steadfast elements in the Imperialist centre, the line would have dissolved. Hope for the Imperialist cause now lay with the arrival of Pappenheim's infantry reserves. In an attempt to sway the outcome, the Imperial cavalry hurtled into the flanks of the battle. Yet, the exhausted cuirassiers made little effect on the Swedish cavalry and, instead, they counter-attacked, successfully driving the Imperialist cavalry away. Piccolomini was wounded for a seventh time during this engagement (he also had his third horse killed from under him) and Colloredo's positions on the Imperialist right began to disintegrate.
By 5 PM, the advantage was back in the hands of the Swedish, who had grimly forced the Imperial Leaguers to retrace their steps. The close combat was gruelling but neither side would yield. On the left, Brahe had secured 'Windmill Hill' and captured the Imperialist guns for the sixth and final time as dusk fell. Although Pappenheim's remaining reserves had arrived on the field, by this time it was almost dark and both sides were utterly exhausted. The Imperial League had lost guns, the advantage of the high ground and Wallenstein felt that any further counter attack would be pointless. As Pappenheim's infantry were worn-out by the time they reached Lützen (they had been marching for over twelve hours), Wallenstein saw little option but to use them to cover his withdrawal. As night fell, the Imperialist League extricated itself from the battle. By the same token, Prince Bernhard, seeing the weariness of his own men, did not order them to pursue. The epic battle of Lützen had finally ended. Ironically, on the ground, nobody was quite sure who had actually won.
The scenario focuses on the last charge of King Gustavus Adolphus and revolves around a small section of the battlefield on the Swedish central-right wing. It follows the normal rules of 'pitched battle' with the guidelines of initial set-up shown in the accompanying map. The player who rolls the highest score on a d6 goes first. The forces suggested are based on their historical counterparts and have been stylised to give a balanced and fun game. The numbers in brackets represent approximate unit strengths at Lützen and can be used as a guideline for scaling your forces down (a ratio of 1:33 or 1:25 works well). The scenario should last from 4 - 6 turns (determined as usual) although it could also be played with a 'sudden death' element should Gustavus be killed. Victory Points are as normal in the Warhammer Victory Chart.
To reflect the weather conditions, at the start of each turn, roll a d6; on a roll of 1- 4 the mist lifts. On a 5 or 6, a thick fog descends on the battlefield imposing a penalty of -1 to shooting rolls and -2" to movement. Every unit on the table must take a Ld test; if failed, the unit becomes 'confused'; if in close combat, half the unit stops fighting, if not in close-combat, move the unit directly forward at half-normal speed.
Scenario objectives are as follows: King Gustavus Adolphus must either a) repulse the Imperialist League troops (which will rally his own line) OR b), if he is attacked by the enemy, evade capture and not get killed. Against this, the Imperialist League must withstand the initial assault and, if possible, counter-attack immediately. If they get the opportunity, the units of Imperialist cuirassiers must pursue Gustavus Adolphus.
KING GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS II OF SWEDEN
- King Gustavus Adolphus II, he should be classed as a galloper - must not wear armour but may wear buff coat.
- The King's Page, August von Leubelfing, he should be classed as a galloper - may wear light armour.
- The King's Stablemaster, Schulenburg, he should be classed as a galloper - may wear light armour.
- The King's Bodyguard, Anders Jönsson, he should be classed as a galloper - may wear heavy armour (but not cuirassier)
- 1 'Steady' Regt. of Horse, The King's 'Red Life Regiment of Horse' Uppland (250) including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr, they should be classed as gallopers in light/heavy armour (first rank heavy, second rank light).
- 1 'Veteran' Regt. of Horse 'The Smĺland Horse', (400) includes Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as gallopers in light/heavy armour (first rank heavy, second rank light) and are 'rash'.
- 1 'Steady' Regt. of Horse 'The Östergötland Horse', (100) includes Ldr, may include Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as gallopers in light/heavy armour (first rank heavy, second rank light).
- 2 Companies of 'commanded' musketeers:, (200 each), may include a Ldr., Ens. and Mus.; they should be classed as steady with no armour and are 'stubborn'.
- General Ottavio Piccolomini classed as a galloper in heavy armour (cuirassier).
- Piccolomini's Lifeguard of Horse; (150), including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as trotters in heavy armour (cuirassier) and are subject to 'hatred'.
- 1 'Steady' Troop of Piccolomini's Horse, (350), including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as trotters in heavy armour (cuirassier) and are subject to 'hatred'.
- 1 'Steady' Troop of Gotz's Horse, (400), including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as trotters in heavy armour (cuirassier) and are subject to 'hatred'.
- 3 Companies of 'commanded' musketeers:, (200 each), may include a Ldr., Ens. and Mus.; they should be classed as steady, with no armour.
Suggested further reading:
There are many entertaining and scholarly works currently available on the Thirty Years' War and the Lützen campaign. Some of the best and most accessible are featured below:
- Brzezinski, R. - Lützen, 1632: Climax of the Thirty Years War (Osprey, Campaign 68, 2001)
- Brzezinski, R. - Armies of Gustavus Adolphus, Vol.1 (Osprey, No.235, 1991)
- Brzezinski, R. - Armies of Gustavus Adolphus, Vol 2 (Osprey, No.262, 1993)
- Dupuy, T.N. - Military Life of Gustavus Adolphus (New York, 1968)
- Lee, S.J. - Thirty Years' War (London and New York, 1991)
- Parker, G. - Thirty Years' War (London, 1984)
- Roberts, M. - Gustavus Adolphus: A History of Sweden, 1611-1632 2 Vols (Edinburgh, 1953-1958)
- Wedgewood, C.V. - Thirty Years' War ( New York, Reprint, 1961)