Part 6 out of 7
The Protestant inhabitants of Ratisbon, equally jealous
of their civil and religious freedom, had unwillingly submitted
to the yoke of Bavaria, and had long looked with impatience
for the appearance of a deliverer. Bernard's arrival before the walls
filled them with lively joy; and there was much reason to fear
that they would support the attempts of the besiegers without,
by exciting a tumult within. In this perplexity, the Elector addressed
the most pressing entreaties to the Emperor and the Duke of Friedland
to assist him, were it only with 5,000 men. Seven messengers in succession
were despatched by Ferdinand to Wallenstein, who promised immediate succours,
and even announced to the Elector the near advance of 12,000 men under Gallas;
but at the same time forbade that general, under pain of death, to march.
Meanwhile the Bavarian commandant of Ratisbon, in the hope
of speedy assistance, made the best preparations for defence,
armed the Roman Catholic peasants, disarmed and carefully watched
the Protestant citizens, lest they should attempt any hostile design
against the garrison. But as no relief arrived, and the enemy's artillery
incessantly battered the walls, he consulted his own safety,
and that of the garrison, by an honourable capitulation, and abandoned
the Bavarian officials and ecclesiastics to the conqueror's mercy.
The possession of Ratisbon, enlarged the projects of the duke,
and Bavaria itself now appeared too narrow a field for his bold designs.
He determined to penetrate to the frontiers of Austria,
to arm the Protestant peasantry against the Emperor, and restore to them
their religious liberty. He had already taken Straubingen,
while another Swedish army was advancing successfully along the northern bank
of the Danube. At the head of his Swedes, bidding defiance to the severity
of the weather, he reached the mouth of the Iser, which he passed
in the presence of the Bavarian General Werth, who was encamped on that river.
Passau and Lintz trembled for their fate; the terrified Emperor
redoubled his entreaties and commands to Wallenstein, to hasten with all speed
to the relief of the hard-pressed Bavarians. But here the victorious Bernard,
of his own accord, checked his career of conquest. Having in front of him
the river Inn, guarded by a number of strong fortresses, and behind him
two hostile armies, a disaffected country, and the river Iser,
while his rear was covered by no tenable position, and no entrenchment
could be made in the frozen ground, and threatened by the whole force
of Wallenstein, who had at last resolved to march to the Danube,
by a timely retreat he escaped the danger of being cut off from Ratisbon,
and surrounded by the enemy. He hastened across the Iser to the Danube,
to defend the conquests he had made in the Upper Palatinate
against Wallenstein, and fully resolved not to decline a battle,
if necessary, with that general. But Wallenstein, who was not disposed
for any great exploits on the Danube, did not wait for his approach;
and before the Bavarians could congratulate themselves on his arrival,
he suddenly withdrew again into Bohemia. The duke thus ended
his victorious campaign, and allowed his troops their well-earned repose
in winter quarters upon an enemy's country.
While in Swabia the war was thus successfully conducted by Gustavus Horn,
and on the Upper and Lower Rhine by the Palatine of Birkenfeld,
General Baudissen, and the Rhinegrave Otto Louis, and by Duke Bernard
on the Danube; the reputation of the Swedish arms was as gloriously sustained
in Lower Saxony and Westphalia by the Duke of Lunenburg and the
Landgrave of Hesse Cassel. The fortress of Hamel was taken by Duke George,
after a brave defence, and a brilliant victory obtained over the imperial
General Gronsfeld, by the united Swedish and Hessian armies, near Oldendorf.
Count Wasaburg, a natural son of Gustavus Adolphus, showed himself
in this battle worthy of his descent. Sixteen pieces of cannon,
the whole baggage of the Imperialists, together with 74 colours,
fell into the hands of the Swedes; 3,000 of the enemy perished on the field,
and nearly the same number were taken prisoners. The town of Osnaburg
surrendered to the Swedish Colonel Knyphausen, and Paderborn to the Landgrave
of Hesse; while, on the other hand, Bueckeburg, a very important place
for the Swedes, fell into the hands of the Imperialists.
The Swedish banners were victorious in almost every quarter of Germany;
and the year after the death of Gustavus, left no trace of the loss
which had been sustained in the person of that great leader.
In a review of the important events which signalized the campaign of 1633,
the inactivity of a man, of whom the highest expectations had been formed,
justly excites astonishment. Among all the generals
who distinguished themselves in this campaign, none could be compared
with Wallenstein, in experience, talents, and reputation;
and yet, after the battle of Lutzen, we lose sight of him entirely.
The fall of his great rival had left the whole theatre of glory open to him;
all Europe was now attentively awaiting those exploits, which should efface
the remembrance of his defeat, and still prove to the world
his military superiority. Nevertheless, he continued inactive in Bohemia,
while the Emperor's losses in Bavaria, Lower Saxony, and the Rhine,
pressingly called for his presence -- a conduct equally unintelligible
to friend and foe -- the terror, and, at the same time, the last hope
of the Emperor. After the defeat of Lutzen he had hastened into Bohemia,
where he instituted the strictest inquiry into the conduct of his officers
in that battle. Those whom the council of war declared guilty of misconduct,
were put to death without mercy, those who had behaved with bravery,
rewarded with princely munificence, and the memory of the dead honoured
by splendid monuments. During the winter, he oppressed the imperial provinces
by enormous contributions, and exhausted the Austrian territories
by his winter quarters, which he purposely avoided taking up
in an enemy's country. And in the spring of 1633, instead of being the first
to open the campaign, with this well-chosen and well-appointed army,
and to make a worthy display of his great abilities, he was the last
who appeared in the field; and even then, it was an hereditary province
of Austria, which he selected as the seat of war.
Of all the Austrian provinces, Silesia was most exposed to danger.
Three different armies, a Swedish under Count Thurn, a Saxon under Arnheim
and the Duke of Lauenburg, and one of Brandenburg under Borgsdorf,
had at the same time carried the war into this country;
they had already taken possession of the most important places,
and even Breslau had embraced the cause of the allies. But this crowd
of commanders and armies was the very means of saving this province
to the Emperor; for the jealousy of the generals, and the mutual hatred
of the Saxons and the Swedes, never allowed them to act with unanimity.
Arnheim and Thurn contended for the chief command; the troops of
Brandenburg and Saxony combined against the Swedes, whom they looked upon
as troublesome strangers who ought to be got rid of as soon as possible.
The Saxons, on the contrary, lived on a very intimate footing
with the Imperialists, and the officers of both these hostile armies
often visited and entertained each other. The Imperialists were allowed
to remove their property without hindrance, and many did not affect to conceal
that they had received large sums from Vienna. Among such equivocal allies,
the Swedes saw themselves sold and betrayed; and any great enterprise
was out of the question, while so bad an understanding
prevailed between the troops. General Arnheim, too,
was absent the greater part of the time; and when he at last returned,
Wallenstein was fast approaching the frontiers with a formidable force.
His army amounted to 40,000 men, while to oppose him the allies had
only 24,000. They nevertheless resolved to give him battle,
and marched to Munsterberg, where he had formed an intrenched camp.
But Wallenstein remained inactive for eight days; he then left
his intrenchments, and marched slowly and with composure to the enemy's camp.
But even after quitting his position, and when the enemy,
emboldened by his past delay, manfully prepared to receive him, he declined
the opportunity of fighting. The caution with which he avoided a battle
was imputed to fear; but the well-established reputation of Wallenstein
enabled him to despise this suspicion. The vanity of the allies
allowed them not to see that he purposely saved them a defeat,
because a victory at that time would not have served his own ends.
To convince them of his superior power, and that his inactivity proceeded
not from any fear of them, he put to death the commander of a castle
that fell into his hands, because he had refused at once to surrender
an untenable place.
For nine days, did the two armies remain within musket-shot of each other,
when Count Terzky, from the camp of the Imperialists, appeared with
a trumpeter in that of the allies, inviting General Arnheim to a conference.
The purport was, that Wallenstein, notwithstanding his superiority,
was willing to agree to a cessation of arms for six weeks.
"He was come," he said, "to conclude a lasting peace with the Swedes,
and with the princes of the empire, to pay the soldiers,
and to satisfy every one. All this was in his power;
and if the Austrian court hesitated to confirm his agreement,
he would unite with the allies, and (as he privately whispered to Arnheim)
hunt the Emperor to the devil." At the second conference,
he expressed himself still more plainly to Count Thurn.
"All the privileges of the Bohemians," he engaged, "should be confirmed anew,
the exiles recalled and restored to their estates, and he himself
would be the first to resign his share of them. The Jesuits,
as the authors of all past grievances, should be banished, the Swedish crown
indemnified by stated payments, and all the superfluous troops on both sides
employed against the Turks." The last article explained the whole mystery.
"If," he continued, "HE should obtain the crown of Bohemia,
all the exiles would have reason to applaud his generosity;
perfect toleration of religions should be established within the kingdom,
the Palatine family be reinstated in its rights, and he would accept
the Margraviate of Moravia as a compensation for Mecklenburg.
The allied armies would then, under his command, advance upon Vienna,
and sword in hand, compel the Emperor to ratify the treaty."
Thus was the veil at last removed from the schemes, over which
he had brooded for years in mysterious silence. Every circumstance
now convinced him that not a moment was to be lost in its execution.
Nothing but a blind confidence in the good fortune and military genius
of the Duke of Friedland, had induced the Emperor, in the face of
the remonstrances of Bavaria and Spain, and at the expense
of his own reputation, to confer upon this imperious leader
such an unlimited command. But this belief in Wallenstein's being invincible,
had been much weakened by his inaction, and almost entirely overthrown
by the defeat at Lutzen. His enemies at the imperial court
now renewed their intrigues; and the Emperor's disappointment
at the failure of his hopes, procured for their remonstrances
a favourable reception. Wallenstein's whole conduct was now reviewed
with the most malicious criticism; his ambitious haughtiness,
his disobedience to the Emperor's orders, were recalled to the recollection
of that jealous prince, as well as the complaints of the Austrian subjects
against his boundless oppression; his fidelity was questioned,
and alarming hints thrown out as to his 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.
Such continued insolence and unexampled contempt of the Imperial orders,
as well as obvious neglect of the common cause, joined to
his equivocal behaviour towards the enemy, tended at last
to convince the Emperor of the truth of those unfavourable reports
with regard to the Duke, which were current through Germany.
The latter had, for a long time, succeeded in glozing over
his criminal correspondence with the enemy, and persuading the Emperor,
still prepossessed in his favour, that the sole object
of his secret conferences was to obtain peace for Germany. But impenetrable
as he himself believed his proceedings to be, in the course of his conduct,
enough transpired to justify the insinuations with which his rivals
incessantly loaded the ear of the Emperor. In order to satisfy himself
of the truth or falsehood of these rumours, Ferdinand had already,
at different times, sent spies into Wallenstein's camp; but as the Duke took
the precaution never to commit anything to writing, they returned
with nothing but conjectures. But when, at last, those ministers
who formerly had been his champions at the court, in consequence of
their estates not being exempted by Wallenstein from the general exactions,
joined his enemies; when the Elector of Bavaria threatened,
in case of Wallenstein being any longer retained in the supreme command,
to unite with the Swedes; when the Spanish ambassador
insisted on his dismissal, and threatened, in case of refusal,
to withdraw the subsidies furnished by his Crown, the Emperor found himself
a second time compelled to deprive him of the command.
The Emperor's authoritative and direct interference with the army,
soon convinced the Duke that the compact with himself
was regarded as at an end, and that his dismissal was inevitable.
One of his inferior generals in Austria, whom he had forbidden,
under pain of death, to obey the orders of the court,
received the positive commands of the Emperor to join the Elector of Bavaria;
and Wallenstein himself was imperiously ordered to send some regiments to
reinforce the army of the Cardinal Infante, who was on his march from Italy.
All these measures convinced him that the plan was finally arranged
to disarm him by degrees, and at once, when he was weak and defenceless,
to complete his ruin.
In self-defence, must he now hasten to carry into execution the plans
which he had originally formed only with the view to aggrandizement.
He had delayed too long, either because the favourable configuration
of the stars had not yet presented itself, or, as he used to say,
to check the impatience of his friends, because THE TIME WAS NOT YET COME.
The time, even now, was not come: but the pressure of circumstances
no longer allowed him to await the favour of the stars. The first step
was to assure himself of the sentiments of his principal officers,
and then to try the attachment of the army, which he had so long
confidently reckoned on. Three of them, Colonels Kinsky, Terzky, and Illo,
had long been in his secrets, and the two first were further united
to his interests by the ties of relationship. The same wild ambition,
the same bitter hatred of the government, and the hope of enormous rewards,
bound them in the closest manner to Wallenstein, who,
to increase the number of his adherents, could stoop to the lowest means.
He had once advised Colonel Illo to solicit, in Vienna, the title of Count,
and had promised to back his application with his powerful mediation.
But he secretly wrote to the ministry, advising them to refuse his request,
as to grant it would give rise to similar demands from others,
whose services and claims were equal to his. On Illo's return to the camp,
Wallenstein immediately demanded to know the success of his mission;
and when informed by Illo of its failure, he broke out
into the bitterest complaints against the court. "Thus," said he,
"are our faithful services rewarded. My recommendation is disregarded,
and your merit denied so trifling a reward! Who would any longer
devote his services to so ungrateful a master? No, for my part,
I am henceforth the determined foe of Austria." Illo agreed with him,
and a close alliance was cemented between them.
But what was known to these three confidants of the duke,
was long an impenetrable secret to the rest; and the confidence with which
Wallenstein spoke of the devotion of his officers, was founded merely
on the favours he had lavished on them, and on their known dissatisfaction
with the Court. But this vague presumption must be converted into certainty,
before he could venture to lay aside the mask, or take any open step
against the Emperor. Count Piccolomini, who had distinguished himself
by his unparalleled bravery at Lutzen, was the first whose fidelity
he put to the proof. He had, he thought, gained the attachment
of this general by large presents, and preferred him to all others,
because born under the same constellations with himself.
He disclosed to him, that, in consequence of the Emperor's ingratitude,
and the near approach of his own danger, he had irrevocably determined
entirely to abandon the party of Austria, to join the enemy
with the best part of his army, and to make war upon the House of Austria,
on all sides of its dominions, till he had wholly extirpated it.
In the execution of this plan, he principally reckoned on the services
of Piccolomini, and had beforehand promised him the greatest rewards.
When the latter, to conceal his amazement at this extraordinary communication,
spoke of the dangers and obstacles which would oppose so hazardous
an enterprise, Wallenstein ridiculed his fears. "In such enterprises,"
he maintained, "nothing was difficult but the commencement. The stars were
propitious to him, the opportunity the best that could be wished for,
and something must always be trusted to fortune. His resolution was taken,
and if it could not be otherwise, he would encounter the hazard
at the head of a thousand horse." Piccolomini was careful not to excite
Wallenstein's suspicions by longer opposition, and yielded apparently
to the force of his reasoning. Such was the infatuation of the Duke,
that notwithstanding the warnings of Count Terzky, he never doubted
the sincerity of this man, who lost not a moment in communicating
to the court at Vienna this important conversation.
Preparatory to taking the last decisive step, he, in January 1634,
called a meeting of all the commanders of the army at Pilsen,
whither he had marched after his retreat from Bavaria. The Emperor's
recent orders to spare his hereditary dominions from winter quarterings,
to recover Ratisbon in the middle of winter, and to reduce the army
by a detachment of six thousand horse to the Cardinal Infante,
were matters sufficiently grave to be laid before a council of war;
and this plausible pretext served to conceal from the curious the real object
of the meeting. Sweden and Saxony received invitations to be present,
in order to treat with the Duke of Friedland for a peace; to the leaders
of more distant armies, written communications were made. Of the commanders
thus summoned, twenty appeared; but three most influential, Gallas, Colloredo,
and Altringer, were absent. The Duke reiterated his summons to them,
and in the mean time, in expectation of their speedy arrival,
proceeded to execute his designs.
It was no light task that he had to perform: a nobleman,
proud, brave, and jealous of his honour, was to declare himself capable
of the basest treachery, in the very presence of those who had been accustomed
to regard him as the representative of majesty, the judge of their actions,
and the supporter of their laws, and to show himself suddenly
as a traitor, a cheat, and a rebel. It was no easy task, either,
to shake to its foundations a legitimate sovereignty, strengthened by time
and consecrated by laws and religion; to dissolve all the charms
of the senses and the imagination, those formidable guardians
of an established throne, and to attempt forcibly to uproot
those invincible feelings of duty, which plead so loudly and so powerfully
in the breast of the subject, in favour of his sovereign. But,
blinded by the splendour of a crown, Wallenstein observed not the precipice
that yawned beneath his feet; and in full reliance on his own strength,
the common case with energetic and daring minds, he stopped not to consider
the magnitude and the number of the difficulties that opposed him.
Wallenstein saw nothing but an army, partly indifferent and partly
exasperated against the court, accustomed, with a blind submission,
to do homage to his great name, to bow to him as their legislator and judge,
and with trembling reverence to follow his orders as the decrees of fate.
In the extravagant flatteries which were paid to his omnipotence,
in the bold abuse of the court government, in which
a lawless soldiery indulged, and which the wild licence of the camp excused,
he thought he read the sentiments of the army; and the boldness with which
they were ready to censure the monarch's measures, passed with him
for a readiness to renounce their allegiance to a sovereign
so little respected. But that which he had regarded as the lightest matter,
proved the most formidable obstacle with which he had to contend;
the soldiers' feelings of allegiance were the rock on which his hopes
were wrecked. Deceived by the profound respect in which he was held
by these lawless bands, he ascribed the whole to his own personal greatness,
without distinguishing how much he owed to himself, and how much
to the dignity with which he was invested. All trembled before him,
while he exercised a legitimate authority, while obedience to him was a duty,
and while his consequence was supported by the majesty of the sovereign.
Greatness, in and of itself, may excite terror and admiration;
but legitimate greatness alone can inspire reverence and submission;
and of this decisive advantage he deprived himself, the instant
he avowed himself a traitor.
Field-Marshal Illo undertook to learn the sentiments of the officers,
and to prepare them for the step which was expected of them.
He began by laying before them the new orders of the court to the general
and the army; and by the obnoxious turn he skilfully gave to them,
he found it easy to excite the indignation of the assembly.
After this well chosen introduction, he expatiated with much eloquence
upon the merits of the army and the general, and the ingratitude with which
the Emperor was accustomed to requite them. "Spanish influence,"
he maintained, "governed the court; the ministry were in the pay of Spain;
the Duke of Friedland alone had hitherto opposed this tyranny,
and had thus drawn down upon himself the deadly enmity of the Spaniards.
To remove him from the command, or to make away with him entirely,"
he continued, "had long been the end of their desires;
and, until they could succeed in one or other, they endeavoured
to abridge his power in the field. The command was to be placed
in the hands of the King of Hungary, for no other reason
than the better to promote the Spanish power in Germany;
because this prince, as the ready instrument of foreign counsels,
might be led at pleasure. It was merely with the view of weakening the army,
that the six thousand troops were required for the Cardinal Infante;
it was solely for the purpose of harassing it by a winter campaign,
that they were now called on, in this inhospitable season,
to undertake the recovery of Ratisbon. The means of subsistence
were everywhere rendered difficult, while the Jesuits and the ministry
enriched themselves with the sweat of the provinces, and squandered the money
intended for the pay of the troops. The general, abandoned by the court,
acknowledges his inability to keep his engagements to the army.
For all the services which, for two and twenty years,
he had rendered the House of Austria; for all the difficulties
with which he had struggled; for all the treasures of his own,
which he had expended in the imperial service, a second disgraceful dismissal
awaited him. But he was resolved the matter should not come to this;
he was determined voluntarily to resign the command, before it should be
wrested from his hands; and this," continued the orator, "is what, through me,
he now makes known to his officers. It was now for them to say
whether it would be advisable to lose such a general. Let each consider
who was to refund him the sums he had expended in the Emperor's service,
and where he was now to reap the reward of their bravery,
when he who was their evidence removed from the scene."
A universal cry, that they would not allow their general to be taken
from them, interrupted the speaker. Four of the principal officers
were deputed to lay before him the wish of the assembly,
and earnestly to request that he would not leave the army.
The duke made a show of resistance, and only yielded
after the second deputation. This concession on his side,
seemed to demand a return on theirs; as he engaged not to quit the service
without the knowledge and consent of the generals, he required of them,
on the other hand, a written promise to truly and firmly adhere to him,
neither to separate nor to allow themselves to be separated from him,
and to shed their last drop of blood in his defence. Whoever should break
this covenant, was to be regarded as a perfidious traitor,
and treated by the rest as a common enemy. The express condition
which was added, "AS LONG AS WALLENSTEIN SHALL EMPLOY THE ARMY
IN THE EMPEROR'S SERVICE," seemed to exclude all misconception,
and none of the assembled generals hesitated at once to accede to a demand,
apparently so innocent and so reasonable.
This document was publicly read before an entertainment,
which Field-Marshal Illo had expressly prepared for the purpose;
it was to be signed, after they rose from table. The host did his utmost
to stupify his guests by strong potations; and it was not until he saw them
affected with the wine, that he produced the paper for signature.
Most of them wrote their names, without knowing what they were subscribing;
a few only, more curious or more distrustful, read the paper over again,
and discovered with astonishment that the clause "as long as Wallenstein
shall employ the army for the Emperor's service" was omitted. Illo had,
in fact, artfully contrived to substitute for the first another copy,
in which these words were wanting. The trick was manifest,
and many refused now to sign. Piccolomini, who had seen through
the whole cheat, and had been present at this scene merely with the view
of giving information of the whole to the court, forgot himself so far
in his cups as to drink the Emperor's health. But Count Terzky now rose,
and declared that all were perjured villains who should recede
from their engagement. His menaces, the idea of the inevitable danger
to which they who resisted any longer would be exposed,
the example of the rest, and Illo's rhetoric, at last overcame their scruples;
and the paper was signed by all without exception.
Wallenstein had now effected his purpose; but the unexpected resistance
he had met with from the commanders roused him at last from the fond illusions
in which he had hitherto indulged. Besides, most of the names
were scrawled so illegibly, that some deceit was evidently intended.
But instead of being recalled to his discretion by this warning,
he gave vent to his injured pride in undignified complaints and reproaches.
He assembled the generals the next day, and undertook personally to confirm
the whole tenor of the agreement which Illo had submitted to them
the day before. After pouring out the bitterest reproaches and abuse
against the court, he reminded them of their opposition to the proposition
of the previous day, and declared that this circumstance had induced him
to retract his own promise. The generals withdrew in silence and confusion;
but after a short consultation in the antichamber, they returned
to apologize for their late conduct, and offered to sign the paper anew.
Nothing now remained, but to obtain a similar assurance
from the absent generals, or, on their refusal, to seize their persons.
Wallenstein renewed his invitation to them, and earnestly urged them
to hasten their arrival. But a rumour of the doings at Pilsen
reached them on their journey, and suddenly stopped their further progress.
Altringer, on pretence of sickness, remained in the strong fortress
of Frauenberg. Gallas made his appearance, but merely with the design
of better qualifying himself as an eyewitness, to keep the Emperor
informed of all Wallenstein's proceedings. The intelligence
which he and Piccolomini gave, at once converted the suspicions of the court
into an alarming certainty. Similar disclosures, which were
at the same time made from other quarters, left no room for farther doubt;
and the sudden change of the commanders in Austria and Silesia,
appeared to be the prelude to some important enterprise.
The danger was pressing, and the remedy must be speedy, but the court
was unwilling to proceed at once to the execution of the sentence,
till the regular forms of justice were complied with. Secret instructions
were therefore issued to the principal officers, on whose fidelity
reliance could be placed, to seize the persons of the Duke of Friedland and
of his two associates, Illo and Terzky, and keep them in close confinement,
till they should have an opportunity of being heard, and of answering
for their conduct; but if this could not be accomplished quietly,
the public danger required that they should be taken dead or live.
At the same time, General Gallas received a patent commission, by which
these orders of the Emperor were made known to the colonels and officers,
and the army was released from its obedience to the traitor,
and placed under Lieutenant-General Gallas, till a new generalissimo
could be appointed. In order to bring back the seduced and deluded
to their duty, and not to drive the guilty to despair, a general amnesty
was proclaimed, in regard to all offences against the imperial majesty
committed at Pilsen.
General Gallas was not pleased with the honour which was done him.
He was at Pilsen, under the eye of the person whose fate he was to dispose of;
in the power of an enemy, who had a hundred eyes to watch his motions.
If Wallenstein once discovered the secret of his commission,
nothing could save him from the effects of his vengeance and despair.
But if it was thus dangerous to be the secret depositary of such a commission,
how much more so to execute it? The sentiments of the generals
were uncertain; and it was at least doubtful whether, after the step
they had taken, they would be ready to trust the Emperor's promises,
and at once to abandon the brilliant expectations they had built
upon Wallenstein's enterprise. It was also hazardous to attempt to lay hands
on the person of a man who, till now, had been considered inviolable;
who from long exercise of supreme power, and from habitual obedience,
had become the object of deepest respect; who was invested with
every attribute of outward majesty and inward greatness; whose very aspect
inspired terror, and who by a nod disposed of life and death!
To seize such a man, like a common criminal, in the midst of the guards
by whom he was surrounded, and in a city apparently devoted to him;
to convert the object of this deep and habitual veneration
into a subject of compassion, or of contempt, was a commission calculated
to make even the boldest hesitate. So deeply was fear and veneration
for their general engraven in the breasts of the soldiers,
that even the atrocious crime of high treason could not wholly eradicate
Gallas perceived the impossibility of executing his commission
under the eyes of the duke; and his most anxious wish was, before venturing
on any steps, to have an interview with Altringer. As the long absence
of the latter had already begun to excite the duke's suspicions,
Gallas offered to repair in person to Frauenberg, and to prevail on Altringer,
his relation, to return with him. Wallenstein was so pleased
with this proof of his zeal, that he even lent him his own equipage
for the journey. Rejoicing at the success of his stratagem,
he left Pilsen without delay, leaving to Count Piccolomini
the task of watching Wallenstein's further movements. He did not fail,
as he went along, to make use of the imperial patent, and the sentiments
of the troops proved more favourable than he had expected.
Instead of taking back his friend to Pilsen, he despatched him to Vienna,
to warn the Emperor against the intended attack, while he himself repaired
to Upper Austria, of which the safety was threatened by the near approach
of Duke Bernard. In Bohemia, the towns of Budweiss and Tabor
were again garrisoned for the Emperor, and every precaution taken
to oppose with energy the designs of the traitor.
As Gallas did not appear disposed to return, Piccolomini determined
to put Wallenstein's credulity once more to the test. He begged to be sent
to bring back Gallas, and Wallenstein suffered himself a second time
to be overreached. This inconceivable blindness can only be accounted for
as the result of his pride, which never retracted the opinion
it had once formed of any person, and would not acknowledge, even to itself,
the possibility of being deceived. He conveyed Count Piccolomini
in his own carriage to Lintz, where the latter immediately followed
the example of Gallas, and even went a step farther. He had promised the duke
to return. He did so, but it was at the head of an army,
intending to surprise the duke in Pilsen. Another army under General Suys
hastened to Prague, to secure that capital in its allegiance,
and to defend it against the rebels. Gallas, at the same time,
announced himself to the different imperial armies as the commander-in-chief,
from whom they were henceforth to receive orders. Placards were circulated
through all the imperial camps, denouncing the duke and his four confidants,
and absolving the soldiers from all obedience to him.
The example which had been set at Lintz, was universally followed;
imprecations were showered on the traitor, and he was forsaken
by all the armies. At last, when even Piccolomini returned no more,
the mist fell from Wallenstein's eyes, and in consternation he awoke
from his dream. Yet his faith in the truth of astrology,
and in the fidelity of the army was unshaken. Immediately after
the intelligence of Piccolomini's defection, he issued orders,
that in future no commands were to be obeyed, which did not proceed
directly from himself, or from Terzky, or Illo. He prepared, in all haste,
to advance upon Prague, where he intended to throw off the mask,
and openly to declare against the Emperor. All the troops were to assemble
before that city, and from thence to pour down with rapidity upon Austria.
Duke Bernard, who had joined the conspiracy, was to support
the operations of the duke, with the Swedish troops, and to effect a diversion
upon the Danube.
Terzky was already upon his march towards Prague; and nothing,
but the want of horses, prevented the duke from following him
with the regiments who still adhered faithfully to him. But when,
with the most anxious expectation, he awaited the intelligence from Prague,
he suddenly received information of the loss of that town, the defection of
his generals, the desertion of his troops, the discovery of his whole plot,
and the rapid advance of Piccolomini, who was sworn to his destruction.
Suddenly and fearfully had all his projects been ruined --
all his hopes annihilated. He stood alone, abandoned by all
to whom he had been a benefactor, betrayed by all on whom he had depended.
But it is under such circumstances that great minds reveal themselves.
Though deceived in all his expectations, he refused to abandon
one of his designs; he despaired of nothing, so long as life remained.
The time was now come, when he absolutely required that assistance,
which he had so often solicited from the Swedes and the Saxons,
and when all doubts of the sincerity of his purposes must be dispelled.
And now, when Oxenstiern and Arnheim were convinced of the sincerity
of his intentions, and were aware of his necessities, they no longer hesitated
to embrace the favourable opportunity, and to offer him their protection.
On the part of Saxony, the Duke Francis Albert of Saxe Lauenberg
was to join him with 4,000 men; and Duke Bernard, and the Palatine Christian
of Birkenfeld, with 6,000 from Sweden, all chosen troops.
Wallenstein left Pilsen, with Terzky's regiment, and the few who either were,
or pretended to be, faithful to him, and hastened to Egra,
on the frontiers of the kingdom, in order to be near the Upper Palatinate,
and to facilitate his junction with Duke Bernard. He was not yet informed
of the decree by which he was proclaimed a public enemy and traitor;
this thunder-stroke awaited him at Egra. He still reckoned on the army,
which General Schafgotsch was preparing for him in Silesia,
and flattered himself with the hope that many even of those
who had forsaken him, would return with the first dawning of success.
Even during his flight to Egra (so little humility had he learned
from melancholy experience) he was still occupied with the colossal scheme
of dethroning the Emperor. It was under these circumstances,
that one of his suite asked leave to offer him his advice.
"Under the Emperor," said he, "your highness is certain of being
a great and respected noble; with the enemy, you are at best
but a precarious king. It is unwise to risk certainty for uncertainty.
The enemy will avail themselves of your personal influence,
while the opportunity lasts; but you will ever be regarded with suspicion,
and they will always be fearful lest you should treat them
as you have done the Emperor. Return, then, to your allegiance,
while there is yet time. -- "And how is that to be done?" said Wallenstein,
interrupting him: "You have 40,000 men-at-arms," rejoined he,
(meaning ducats, which were stamped with the figure of an armed man,)
"take them with you, and go straight to the Imperial Court; then declare
that the steps you have hitherto taken were merely designed to test
the fidelity of the Emperor's servants, and of distinguishing the loyal
from the doubtful; and since most have shown a disposition to revolt,
say you are come to warn his Imperial Majesty against those dangerous men.
Thus you will make those appear as traitors, who are labouring
to represent you as a false villain. At the Imperial Court,
a man is sure to be welcome with 40,000 ducats, and Friedland will be again
as he was at the first." -- "The advice is good," said Wallenstein,
after a pause, "but let the devil trust to it."
While the duke, in his retirement in Egra, was energetically pushing
his negociations with the enemy, consulting the stars, and indulging in
new hopes, the dagger which was to put an end to his existence
was unsheathed almost under his very eyes. The imperial decree
which proclaimed him an outlaw, had not failed of its effect;
and an avenging Nemesis ordained that the ungrateful should fall
beneath the blow of ingratitude. Among his officers, Wallenstein had
particularly distinguished one Leslie*, an Irishman, and had made his fortune.
This was the man who now felt himself called on to execute the sentence
against him, and to earn the price of blood. No sooner had he reached Egra,
in the suite of the duke, than he disclosed to the commandant of the town,
Colonel Buttler, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon, two Protestant Scotchmen,
the treasonable designs of the duke, which the latter had imprudently enough
communicated to him during the journey. In these two individuals,
he had found men capable of a determined resolution. They were now called on
to choose between treason and duty, between their legitimate sovereign and
a fugitive abandoned rebel; and though the latter was their common benefactor,
the choice could not remain for a moment doubtful. They were solemnly pledged
to the allegiance of the Emperor, and this duty required them to take
the most rapid measures against the public enemy. The opportunity
was favourable; his evil genius seemed to have delivered him
into the hands of vengeance. But not to encroach on the province of justice,
they resolved to deliver up their victim alive; and they parted with
the bold resolve to take their general prisoner. This dark plot
was buried in the deepest silence; and Wallenstein, far from suspecting
his impending ruin, flattered himself that in the garrison of Egra
he possessed his bravest and most faithful champions.
* Schiller is mistaken as to this point. Leslie was a Scotchman, and Buttler
an Irishman and a papist. He died a general in the Emperor's service,
and founded, at Prague, a convent of Irish Franciscans which still exists.
At this time, he became acquainted with the Imperial proclamations
containing his sentence, and which had been published in all the camps.
He now became aware of the full extent of the danger which encompassed him,
the utter impossibility of retracing his steps, his fearfully
forlorn condition, and the absolute necessity of at once trusting himself
to the faith and honour of the Emperor's enemies. To Leslie he poured forth
all the anguish of his wounded spirit, and the vehemence of his agitation
extracted from him his last remaining secret. He disclosed to this officer
his intention to deliver up Egra and Ellenbogen, the passes of the kingdom,
to the Palatine of Birkenfeld, and at the same time, informed him
of the near approach of Duke Bernard, of whose arrival
he hoped to receive tidings that very night. These disclosures,
which Leslie immediately communicated to the conspirators, made them change
their original plan. The urgency of the danger admitted not of half measures.
Egra might in a moment be in the enemy's hands, and a sudden revolution
set their prisoner at liberty. To anticipate this mischance,
they resolved to assassinate him and his associates the following night.
In order to execute this design with less noise, it was arranged
that the fearful deed should be perpetrated at an entertainment
which Colonel Buttler should give in the Castle of Egra.
All the guests, except Wallenstein, made their appearance,
who being in too great anxiety of mind to enjoy company excused himself.
With regard to him, therefore, their plan must be again changed;
but they resolved to execute their design against the others.
The three Colonels, Illo, Terzky, and William Kinsky,
came in with careless confidence, and with them Captain Neumann,
an officer of ability, whose advice Terzky sought in every intricate affair.
Previous to their arrival, trusty soldiers of the garrison,
to whom the plot had been communicated, were admitted into the Castle,
all the avenues leading from it guarded, and six of Buttler's dragoons
concealed in an apartment close to the banqueting-room, who,
on a concerted signal, were to rush in and kill the traitors.
Without suspecting the danger that hung over them, the guests
gaily abandoned themselves to the pleasures of the table,
and Wallenstein's health was drunk in full bumpers, not as a servant
of the Emperor, but as a sovereign prince. The wine opened their hearts,
and Illo, with exultation, boasted that in three days an army would arrive,
such as Wallenstein had never before been at the head of. "Yes,"
cried Neumann, "and then he hopes to bathe his hands in Austrian blood."
During this conversation, the dessert was brought in, and Leslie gave
the concerted signal to raise the drawbridges, while he himself
received the keys of the gates. In an instant, the hall was filled
with armed men, who, with the unexpected greeting of "Long live Ferdinand!"
placed themselves behind the chairs of the marked guests. Surprised,
and with a presentiment of their fate, they sprang from the table.
Kinsky and Terzky were killed upon the spot, and before they could
put themselves upon their guard. Neumann, during the confusion in the hall,
escaped into the court, where, however, he was instantly recognised
and cut down. Illo alone had the presence of mind to defend himself.
He placed his back against a window, from whence he poured
the bitterest reproaches upon Gordon, and challenged him to fight him
fairly and honourably. After a gallant resistance, in which he slew
two of his assailants, he fell to the ground overpowered by numbers,
and pierced with ten wounds. The deed was no sooner accomplished,
than Leslie hastened into the town to prevent a tumult.
The sentinels at the castle gate, seeing him running and out of breath,
and believing he belonged to the rebels, fired their muskets after him,
but without effect. The firing, however, aroused the town-guard,
and all Leslie's presence of mind was requisite to allay the tumult.
He hastily detailed to them all the circumstances of Wallenstein's conspiracy,
the measures which had been already taken to counteract it,
the fate of the four rebels, as well as that which awaited their chief.
Finding the troops well disposed, he exacted from them a new oath of fidelity
to the Emperor, and to live and die for the good cause.
A hundred of Buttler's dragoons were sent from the Castle into the town
to patrol the streets, to overawe the partisans of the Duke,
and to prevent tumult. All the gates of Egra were at the same time seized,
and every avenue to Wallenstein's residence, which adjoined the market-place,
guarded by a numerous and trusty body of troops, sufficient to prevent
either his escape or his receiving any assistance from without.
But before they proceeded finally to execute the deed,
a long conference was held among the conspirators in the Castle,
whether they should kill him, or content themselves with making him prisoner.
Besprinkled as they were with the blood, and deliberating almost over
the very corpses of his murdered associates, even these furious men
yet shuddered at the horror of taking away so illustrious a life.
They saw before their mind's eye him their leader in battle,
in the days of his good fortune, surrounded by his victorious army,
clothed with all the pomp of military greatness, and long-accustomed awe
again seized their minds. But this transitory emotion was soon effaced
by the thought of the immediate danger. They remembered the hints
which Neumann and Illo had thrown out at table, the near approach
of a formidable army of Swedes and Saxons, and they clearly saw
that the death of the traitor was their only chance of safety. They adhered,
therefore, to their first resolution, and Captain Deveroux, an Irishman,
who had already been retained for the murderous purpose,
received decisive orders to act.
While these three officers were thus deciding upon his fate
in the castle of Egra, Wallenstein was occupied in reading the stars
with Seni. "The danger is not yet over," said the astrologer
with prophetic spirit. "IT IS," replied the Duke, who would give the law
even to heaven. "But," he continued with equally prophetic spirit,
"that thou friend Seni thyself shall soon be thrown into prison,
that also is written in the stars." The astrologer had taken his leave,
and Wallenstein had retired to bed, when Captain Deveroux
appeared before his residence with six halberdiers, and was immediately
admitted by the guard, who were accustomed to see him visit the general
at all hours. A page who met him upon the stairs, and attempted
to raise an alarm, was run through the body with a pike. In the antichamber,
the assassins met a servant, who had just come out of the sleeping-room
of his master, and had taken with him the key. Putting his finger
upon his mouth, the terrified domestic made a sign to them to make no noise,
as the Duke was asleep. "Friend," cried Deveroux, "it is time to awake him;"
and with these words he rushed against the door, which was also bolted
from within, and burst it open.
Wallenstein had been roused from his first sleep, by the report of a musket
which had accidentally gone off, and had sprung to the window
to call the guard. At the same moment, he heard, from the adjoining building,
the shrieks of the Countesses Terzky and Kinsky, who had just learnt
the violent fate of their husbands. Ere he had time to reflect
on these terrible events, Deveroux, with the other murderers,
was in his chamber. The Duke was in his shirt, as he had leaped out of bed,
and leaning on a table near the window. "Art thou the villain,"
cried Deveroux to him, "who intends to deliver up the Emperor's troops
to the enemy, and to tear the crown from the head of his Majesty?
Now thou must die!" He paused for a few moments, as if expecting an answer;
but scorn and astonishment kept Wallenstein silent. Throwing his arms
wide open, he received in his breast, the deadly blow of the halberds,
and without uttering a groan, fell weltering in his blood.
The next day, an express arrived from the Duke of Lauenburg,
announcing his approach. The messenger was secured, and another
in Wallenstein's livery despatched to the Duke, to decoy him into Egra.
The stratagem succeeded, and Francis Albert fell into the hands of the enemy.
Duke Bernard of Weimar, who was on his march towards Egra, was nearly sharing
the same fate. Fortunately, he heard of Wallenstein's death in time
to save himself by a retreat. Ferdinand shed a tear over the fate
of his general, and ordered three thousand masses to be said for his soul
at Vienna; but, at the same time, he did not forget to reward his assassins
with gold chains, chamberlains' keys, dignities, and estates.
Thus did Wallenstein, at the age of fifty, terminate his active
and extraordinary life. To ambition, he owed both his greatness and his ruin;
with all his failings, he possessed great and admirable qualities,
and had he kept himself within due bounds, he would have lived and died
without an equal. The virtues of the ruler and of the hero,
prudence, justice, firmness, and courage, are strikingly prominent features
in his character; but he wanted the gentler virtues of the man,
which adorn the hero, and make the ruler beloved. Terror was the talisman
with which he worked; extreme in his punishments as in his rewards,
he knew how to keep alive the zeal of his followers, while no general
of ancient or modern times could boast of being obeyed with equal alacrity.
Submission to his will was more prized by him than bravery;
for, if the soldiers work by the latter, it is on the former
that the general depends. He continually kept up the obedience of his troops
by capricious orders, and profusely rewarded the readiness to obey
even in trifles; because he looked rather to the act itself, than its object.
He once issued a decree, with the penalty of death on disobedience,
that none but red sashes should be worn in the army. A captain of horse
no sooner heard the order, than pulling off his gold-embroidered sash,
he trampled it under foot; Wallenstein, on being informed of the circumstance,
promoted him on the spot to the rank of Colonel. His comprehensive glance
was always directed to the whole, and in all his apparent caprice,
he steadily kept in view some general scope or bearing.
The robberies committed by the soldiers in a friendly country, had led to
the severest orders against marauders; and all who should be caught thieving,
were threatened with the halter. Wallenstein himself having met a straggler
in the open country upon the field, commanded him to be seized without trial,
as a transgressor of the law, and in his usual voice of thunder,
exclaimed, "Hang the fellow," against which no opposition ever availed.
The soldier pleaded and proved his innocence, but the irrevocable sentence
had gone forth. "Hang then innocent," cried the inexorable Wallenstein,
"the guilty will have then more reason to tremble." Preparations were
already making to execute the sentence, when the soldier, who gave himself up
for lost, formed the desperate resolution of not dying without revenge.
He fell furiously upon his judge, but was overpowered by numbers,
and disarmed before he could fulfil his design. "Now let him go,"
said the Duke, "it will excite sufficient terror."
His munificence was supported by an immense income, which was estimated
at three millions of florins yearly, without reckoning the enormous sums
which he raised under the name of contributions. His liberality and clearness
of understanding, raised him above the religious prejudices of his age;
and the Jesuits never forgave him for having seen through their system,
and for regarding the pope as nothing more than a bishop of Rome.
But as no one ever yet came to a fortunate end who quarrelled with the Church,
Wallenstein also must augment the number of its victims.
Through the intrigues of monks, he lost at Ratisbon the command of the army,
and at Egra his life; by the same arts, perhaps, he lost what was
of more consequence, his honourable name and good repute with posterity.
For in justice it must be admitted, that the pens which have traced
the history of this extraordinary man are not untinged with partiality,
and that the treachery of the duke, and his designs upon
the throne of Bohemia, rest not so much upon proven facts,
as upon probable conjecture. No documents have yet been brought to light,
which disclose with historical certainty the secret motives of his conduct;
and among all his public and well attested actions, there is,
perhaps, not one which could not have had an innocent end.
Many of his most obnoxious measures proved nothing but the earnest wish
he entertained for peace; most of the others are explained and justified
by the well-founded distrust he entertained of the Emperor,
and the excusable wish of maintaining his own importance. It is true,
that his conduct towards the Elector of Bavaria looks too like
an unworthy revenge, and the dictates of an implacable spirit;
but still, none of his actions perhaps warrant us in holding his treason
to be proved. If necessity and despair at last forced him to deserve
the sentence which had been pronounced against him while innocent,
still this, if true, will not justify that sentence. Thus Wallenstein fell,
not because he was a rebel, but he became a rebel because he fell.
Unfortunate in life that he made a victorious party his enemy,
and still more unfortunate in death, that the same party survived him
and wrote his history.
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 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.
* The first was occasioned by the death of Gustavus Adolphus.
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
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 subjects,
and seduced by the tempting propositions of the House of Austria,
the Elector at last abandoned the common cause, and, caring little
for the fate of his confederates, or the liberties of Germany,
thought only of securing his own advantages, even at the expense
of the whole body.
In fact, the misery of Germany had risen to such a height,
that all clamorously vociferated for peace; and even the most disadvantageous
pacification would have been hailed as a blessing from heaven. The plains,
which formerly had been thronged with a happy and industrious population,
where nature had lavished her choicest gifts, and plenty and prosperity
had reigned, were now a wild and desolate wilderness. The fields,
abandoned by the industrious husbandman, lay waste and uncultivated;
and no sooner had the young crops given the promise of a smiling harvest,
than a single march destroyed the labours of a year, and blasted
the last hope of an afflicted peasantry. Burnt castles, wasted fields,
villages in ashes, were to be seen extending far and wide on all sides,
while the ruined peasantry had no resource left but to swell
the horde of incendiaries, and fearfully to retaliate upon their fellows,
who had hitherto been spared the miseries which they themselves had suffered.
The only safeguard against oppression was to become an oppressor. The towns
groaned under the licentiousness of undisciplined and plundering garrisons,
who seized and wasted the property of the citizens, and, under the license
of their position, committed the most remorseless devastation and cruelty.
If the march of an army converted whole provinces into deserts,
if others were impoverished by winter quarters, or exhausted by contributions,
these still were but passing evils, and the industry of a year might efface
the miseries of a few months. But there was no relief for those who had
a garrison within their walls, or in the neighbourhood; even the change
of fortune could not improve their unfortunate fate, since the victor
trod in the steps of the vanquished, and friends were not more merciful
than enemies. The neglected farms, the destruction of the crops,
and the numerous armies which overran the exhausted country,
were inevitably followed by scarcity and the high price of provisions,
which in the later years was still further increased by a general failure
in the crops. The crowding together of men in camps and quarters --
want upon one side, and excess on the other, occasioned contagious distempers,
which were more fatal than even the sword. In this long
and general confusion, all the bonds of social life were broken up; --
respect for the rights of their fellow men, the fear of the laws,
purity of morals, honour, and religion, were laid aside, where might
ruled supreme with iron sceptre. Under the shelter of anarchy and impunity,
every vice flourished, and men became as wild as the country.
No station was too dignified for outrage, no property too holy
for rapine and avarice. In a word, the soldier reigned supreme;
and that most brutal of despots often made his own officer feel his power.
The leader of an army was a far more important person within any country
where he appeared, than its lawful governor, who was frequently obliged
to fly before him into his own castles for safety. Germany swarmed
with these petty tyrants, and the country suffered equally from its enemies
and its protectors. These wounds rankled the deeper, when the unhappy victims
recollected that Germany was sacrificed to the ambition of foreign powers,
who, for their own ends, prolonged the miseries of war. Germany bled
under the scourge, to extend the conquests and influence of Sweden;
and the torch of discord was kept alive within the Empire,
that the services of Richelieu might be rendered indispensable in France.
But, in truth, it was not merely interested voices which opposed a peace;
and if both Sweden and the German states were anxious, from corrupt motives,
to prolong the conflict, they were seconded in their views by sound policy.
After the defeat of Nordlingen, an equitable peace was not to be expected
from the Emperor; and, this being the case, was it not too great a sacrifice,
after seventeen years of war, with all its miseries, to abandon the contest,
not only without advantage, but even with loss? What would avail
so much bloodshed, if all was to remain as it had been; if their rights
and pretensions were neither larger nor safer; if all that had been won
with so much difficulty was to be surrendered for a peace at any cost?
Would it not be better to endure, for two or three years more,
the burdens they had borne so long, and to reap at last some recompense
for twenty years of suffering? Neither was it doubtful,
that peace might at last be obtained on favourable terms,
if only the Swedes and the German Protestants should continue united
in the cabinet and in the field, and pursued their common interests
with a reciprocal sympathy and zeal. Their divisions alone,
had rendered the enemy formidable, and protracted the acquisition
of a lasting and general peace. And this great evil the Elector of Saxony
had brought upon the Protestant cause by concluding a separate treaty
He, indeed, had commenced his negociations with the Emperor, even before
the battle of Nordlingen; and the unfortunate issue of that battle
only accelerated their conclusion. By it, all his confidence in the Swedes
was lost; and it was even doubted whether they would ever recover
from the blow. The jealousies among their generals, the insubordination
of the army, and the exhaustion of the Swedish kingdom,
shut out any reasonable prospect of effective assistance on their part.
The Elector hastened, therefore, to profit by the Emperor's magnanimity,
who, even after the battle of Nordlingen, did not recall the conditions
previously offered. While Oxenstiern, who had assembled the estates
in Frankfort, made further demands upon them and him, the Emperor,
on the contrary, made concessions; and therefore it required
no long consideration to decide between them.
In the mean time, however, he was anxious to escape the charge
of sacrificing the common cause and attending only to his own interests.
All the German states, and even the Swedes, were publicly invited
to become parties to this peace, although Saxony and the Emperor
were the only powers who deliberated upon it, and who assumed the right
to give law to Germany. By this self-appointed tribunal, the grievances
of the Protestants were discussed, their rights and privileges decided,
and even the fate of religions determined, without the presence of those
who were most deeply interested in it. Between them, a general peace
was resolved on, and it was to be enforced by an imperial army of execution,
as a formal decree of the Empire. Whoever opposed it, was to be treated
as a public enemy; and thus, contrary to their rights, the states were to be
compelled to acknowledge a law, in the passing of which they had no share.
Thus, even in form, the pacification at Prague was an arbitrary measure;
nor was it less so in its contents. The Edict of Restitution
had been the chief cause of dispute between the Elector and the Emperor;
and therefore it was first considered in their deliberations.
Without formally annulling it, it was determined by the treaty of Prague,
that all the ecclesiastical domains holding immediately of the Empire,
and, among the mediate ones, those which had been seized by the Protestants
subsequently to the treaty at Passau, should, for forty years, remain in
the same position as they had been in before the Edict of Restitution,
but without any formal decision of the diet to that effect.
Before the expiration of this term a commission, composed of equal numbers
of both religions, should proceed to settle the matter peaceably
and according to law; and if this commission should be unable
to come to a decision, each party should remain in possession of the rights
which it had exercised before the Edict of Restitution. This arrangement,
therefore, far from removing the grounds of dissension, only suspended
the dispute for a time; and this article of the treaty of Prague
only covered the embers of a future war.
The archbishopric of Magdeburg remained in possession of Prince Augustus
of Saxony, and Halberstadt in that of the Archduke Leopold William.
Four estates were taken from the territory of Magdeburg,
and given to Saxony, for which the Administrator of Magdeburg,
Christian William of Brandenburg, was otherwise to be indemnified.
The Dukes of Mecklenburg, upon acceding to this treaty,
were to be acknowledged as rightful possessors of their territories,
in which the magnanimity of Gustavus Adolphus had long ago reinstated them.
Donauwerth recovered its liberties. The important claims
of the heirs of the Palatine, however important it might be
for the Protestant cause not to lose this electorate vote in the diet,
were passed over in consequence of the animosity subsisting between
the Lutherans and the Calvinists. All the conquests which,
in the course of the war, had been made by the German states,
or by the League and the Emperor, were to be mutually restored;
all which had been appropriated by the foreign powers of France and Sweden,
was to be forcibly wrested from them by the united powers. The troops
of the contracting parties were to be formed into one imperial army,
which, supported and paid by the Empire, was, by force of arms,
to carry into execution the covenants of the treaty.
As the peace of Prague was intended to serve as a general law of the Empire,
those points, which did not immediately affect the latter,
formed the subject of a separate treaty. By it, Lusatia was ceded
to the Elector of Saxony as a fief of Bohemia, and special articles
guaranteed the freedom of religion of this country and of Silesia.
All the Protestant states were invited to accede to the treaty of Prague,
and on that condition were to benefit by the amnesty.
The princes of Wurtemberg and Baden, whose territories
the Emperor was already in possession of, and which he was not disposed
to restore unconditionally; and such vassals of Austria as had borne arms
against their sovereign; and those states which, under the direction
of Oxenstiern, composed the council of the Upper German Circle,
were excluded from the treaty, -- not so much with the view
of continuing the war against them, as of compelling them to purchase peace
at a dearer rate. Their territories were to be retained in pledge,
till every thing should be restored to its former footing.
Such was the treaty of Prague. Equal justice, however, towards all,
might perhaps have restored confidence between the head of the Empire
and its members -- between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics --
between the Reformed and the Lutheran party; and the Swedes, abandoned by
all their allies, would in all probability have been driven from Germany
with disgrace. But this inequality strengthened, in those who were
more severely treated, the spirit of mistrust and opposition,
and made it an easier task for the Swedes to keep alive the flame of war,
and to maintain a party in Germany.
The peace of Prague, as might have been expected, was received
with very various feelings throughout Germany. The attempt
to conciliate both parties, had rendered it obnoxious to both.
The Protestants complained of the restraints imposed upon them;
the Roman Catholics thought that these hated sectaries had been favoured
at the expense of the true church. In the opinion of the latter,
the church had been deprived of its inalienable rights,
by the concession to the Protestants of forty years' undisturbed possession
of the ecclesiastical benefices; while the former murmured that the interests
of the Protestant church had been betrayed, because toleration
had not been granted to their co-religionists in the Austrian dominions.
But no one was so bitterly reproached as the Elector of Saxony,
who was publicly denounced as a deserter, a traitor to religion
and the liberties of the Empire, and a confederate of the Emperor.
In the mean time, he consoled himself with the triumph of seeing
most of the Protestant states compelled by necessity to embrace this peace.
The Elector of Brandenburg, Duke William of Weimar, the princes of Anhalt,
the dukes of Mecklenburg, the dukes of Brunswick Lunenburg,
the Hanse towns, and most of the imperial cities, acceded to it.
The Landgrave William of Hesse long wavered, or affected to do so,
in order to gain time, and to regulate his measures by the course of events.
He had conquered several fertile provinces of Westphalia,
and derived from them principally the means of continuing the war;
these, by the terms of the treaty, he was bound to restore.
Bernard, Duke of Weimar, whose states, as yet, existed only on paper,
as a belligerent power was not affected by the treaty, but as a general
was so materially; and, in either view, he must equally be disposed
to reject it. His whole riches consisted in his bravery,
his possessions in his sword. War alone gave him greatness and importance,
and war alone could realize the projects which his ambition suggested.
But of all who declaimed against the treaty of Prague,
none were so loud in their clamours as the Swedes, and none had so much reason
for their opposition. Invited to Germany by the Germans themselves,
the champions of the Protestant Church, and the freedom of the States,
which they had defended with so much bloodshed, and with the sacred life
of their king, they now saw themselves suddenly and shamefully abandoned,
disappointed in all their hopes, without reward and without gratitude
driven from the empire for which they had toiled and bled,
and exposed to the ridicule of the enemy by the very princes
who owed every thing to them. No satisfaction, no indemnification
for the expenses which they had incurred, no equivalent for the conquests
which they were to leave behind them, was provided by the treaty of Prague.
They were to be dismissed poorer than they came, or, if they resisted,
to be expelled by the very powers who had invited them. The Elector of Saxony
at last spoke of a pecuniary indemnification, and mentioned the small sum
of two millions five hundred thousand florins; but the Swedes had already
expended considerably more, and this disgraceful equivalent in money
was both contrary to their true interests, and injurious to their pride.
"The Electors of Bavaria and Saxony," replied Oxenstiern, "have been paid
for their services, which, as vassals, they were bound to render the Emperor,
with the possession of important provinces; and shall we,
who have sacrificed our king for Germany, be dismissed with the miserable sum
of 2,500,000 florins?" The disappointment of their expectations
was the more severe, because the Swedes had calculated upon being recompensed
with the Duchy of Pomerania, the present possessor of which
was old and without heirs. But the succession of this territory
was confirmed by the treaty of Prague to the Elector of Brandenburg;
and all the neighbouring powers declared against allowing the Swedes
to obtain a footing within the empire.
Never, in the whole course of the war, had the prospects of the Swedes
looked more gloomy, than in the year 1635, immediately after the conclusion
of the treaty of Prague. Many of their allies, particularly among
the free cities, abandoned them to benefit by the peace; others were compelled
to accede to it by the victorious arms of the Emperor. Augsburg,
subdued by famine, surrendered under the severest conditions;
Wurtzburg and Coburg were lost to the Austrians. The League of Heilbronn
was formally dissolved. Nearly the whole of Upper Germany, the chief seat
of the Swedish power, was reduced under the Emperor. Saxony, on the strength
of the treaty of Prague, demanded the evacuation of Thuringia, Halberstadt,
and Magdeburg. Philipsburg, the military depot of France,
was surprised by the Austrians, with all the stores it contained;
and this severe loss checked the activity of France. To complete
the embarrassments of Sweden, the truce with Poland was drawing to a close.
To support a war at the same time with Poland and in Germany, was far beyond
the power of Sweden; and all that remained was to choose between them.
Pride and ambition declared in favour of continuing the German war,
at whatever sacrifice on the side of Poland. An army, however, was necessary
to command the respect of Poland, and to give weight to Sweden
in any negotiations for a truce or a peace.
The mind of Oxenstiern, firm, and inexhaustible in expedients, set itself
manfully to meet these calamities, which all combined to overwhelm Sweden;
and his shrewd understanding taught him how to turn even misfortunes
to his advantage. The defection of so many German cities of the empire
deprived him, it is true, of a great part of his former allies,
but at the same time it freed him from the necessity of paying any regard
to their interests. The more the number of his enemies increased,
the more provinces and magazines were opened to his troops.
The gross ingratitude of the States, and the haughty contempt
with which the Emperor behaved, (who did not even condescend
to treat directly with him about a peace,) excited in him
the courage of despair, and a noble determination to maintain the struggle
to the last. The continuance of war, however unfortunate it might prove,
could not render the situation of Sweden worse than it now was;
and if Germany was to be evacuated, it was at least better and nobler
to do so sword in hand, and to yield to force rather than to fear.
In the extremity in which the Swedes were now placed by the desertion
of their allies, they addressed themselves to France, who met them
with the greatest encouragement. The interests of the two crowns
were closely united, and France would have injured herself
by allowing the Swedish power in Germany to decline. The helpless situation
of the Swedes, was rather an additional motive with France
to cement more closely their alliance, and to take a more active part
in the German war. Since the alliance with Sweden, at Beerwald, in 1632,
France had maintained the war against the Emperor, by the arms
of Gustavus Adolphus, without any open or formal breach,
by furnishing subsidies and increasing the number of his enemies.
But alarmed at the unexpected rapidity and success of the Swedish arms,
France, in anxiety to restore the balance of power, which was disturbed
by the preponderance of the Swedes, seemed, for a time,
to have lost sight of her original designs. She endeavoured to protect
the Roman Catholic princes of the empire against the Swedish conqueror,
by the treaties of neutrality, and when this plan failed,
she even meditated herself to declare war against him. But no sooner
had the death of Gustavus Adolphus, and the desperate situation
of the Swedish affairs, dispelled this apprehension, than she returned
with fresh zeal to her first design, and readily afforded in this misfortune
the aid which in the hour of success she had refused. Freed from the checks
which the ambition and vigilance of Gustavus Adolphus placed upon her plans
of aggrandizement, France availed herself of the favourable opportunity
afforded by the defeat of Nordlingen, to obtain the entire direction of
the war, and to prescribe laws to those who sued for her powerful protection.
The moment seemed to smile upon her boldest plans, and those which
had formerly seemed chimerical, now appeared to be justified by circumstances.
She now turned her whole attention to the war in Germany; and, as soon
as she had secured her own private ends by a treaty with the Germans,
she suddenly entered the political arena as an active and a commanding power.
While the other belligerent states had been exhausting themselves
in a tedious contest, France had been reserving her strength,
and maintained the contest by money alone; but now, when the state of things
called for more active measures, she seized the sword, and astonished Europe
by the boldness and magnitude of her undertakings. At the same moment,
she fitted out two fleets, and sent six different armies into the field,
while she subsidized a foreign crown and several of the German princes.
Animated by this powerful co-operation, the Swedes and Germans awoke from
the consternation, and hoped, sword in hand, to obtain a more honourable peace
than that of Prague. Abandoned by their confederates, who had been reconciled
to the Emperor, they formed a still closer alliance with France,
which increased her support with their growing necessities, at the same time
taking a more active, although secret share in the German war, until at last,
she threw off the mask altogether, and in her own name made an unequivocal
declaration of war against the Emperor.
To leave Sweden at full liberty to act against Austria, France commenced
her operations by liberating it from all fear of a Polish war.
By means of the Count d'Avaux, its minister, an agreement was concluded
between the two powers at Stummsdorf in Prussia, by which the truce
was prolonged for twenty-six years, though not without a great sacrifice
on the part of the Swedes, who ceded by a single stroke of the pen
almost the whole of Polish Prussia, the dear-bought conquest
of Gustavus Adolphus. The treaty of Beerwald was, with certain modifications,
which circumstances rendered necessary, renewed at different times
at Compiegne, and afterwards at Wismar and Hamburg. France had already come
to a rupture with Spain, in May, 1635, and the vigorous attack which it made
upon that power, deprived the Emperor of his most valuable auxiliaries
from the Netherlands. By supporting the Landgrave William of Cassel,
and Duke Bernard of Weimar, the Swedes were enabled to act with more vigour
upon the Elbe and the Danube, and a diversion upon the Rhine
compelled the Emperor to divide his force.
The war was now prosecuted with increasing activity. By the treaty of Prague,
the Emperor had lessened the number of his adversaries within the Empire;
though, at the same time, the zeal and activity of his foreign enemies
had been augmented by it. In Germany, his influence was almost unlimited,
for, with the exception of a few states, he had rendered himself
absolute master of the German body and its resources,
and was again enabled to act in the character of emperor and sovereign.
The first fruit of his power was the elevation of his son, Ferdinand III.,
to the dignity of King of the Romans, to which he was elected
by a decided majority of votes, notwithstanding the opposition of Treves,
and of the heirs of the Elector Palatine. But, on the other hand,
he had exasperated the Swedes to desperation, had armed the power of France
against him, and drawn its troops into the heart of the kingdom.
France and Sweden, with their German allies, formed, from this moment,
one firm and compactly united power; the Emperor, with the German states
which adhered to him, were equally firm and united. The Swedes,
who no longer fought for Germany, but for their own lives,
showed no more indulgence; relieved from the necessity of consulting
their German allies, or accounting to them for the plans which they adopted,
they acted with more precipitation, rapidity, and boldness.
Battles, though less decisive, became more obstinate and bloody;
greater achievements, both in bravery and military skill, were performed;
but they were but insulated efforts; and being neither dictated
by any consistent plan, nor improved by any commanding spirit,
had comparatively little influence upon the course of the war.
Saxony had bound herself, by the treaty of Prague, to expel the Swedes
from Germany. From this moment, the banners of the Saxons and Imperialists
were united: the former confederates were converted into implacable enemies.
The archbishopric of Magdeburg which, by the treaty, was ceded to
the prince of Saxony, was still held by the Swedes, and every attempt
to acquire it by negociation had proved ineffectual. Hostilities commenced,
by the Elector of Saxony recalling all his subjects from the army of Banner,
which was encamped upon the Elbe. The officers, long irritated
by the accumulation of their arrears, obeyed the summons, and evacuated
one quarter after another. As the Saxons, at the same time, made a movement
towards Mecklenburg, to take Doemitz, and to drive the Swedes from Pomerania
and the Baltic, Banner suddenly marched thither, relieved Doemitz,
and totally defeated the Saxon General Baudissin, with 7000 men,
of whom 1000 were slain, and about the same number taken prisoners.
Reinforced by the troops and artillery, which had hitherto been employed
in Polish Prussia, but which the treaty of Stummsdorf rendered unnecessary,
this brave and impetuous general made, the following year (1636),
a sudden inroad into the Electorate of Saxony, where he gratified his
inveterate hatred of the Saxons by the most destructive ravages. Irritated by
the memory of old grievances which, during their common campaigns,
he and the Swedes had suffered from the haughtiness of the Saxons,
and now exasperated to the utmost by the late defection of the Elector,
they wreaked upon the unfortunate inhabitants all their rancour.
Against Austria and Bavaria, the Swedish soldier had fought from a sense,
as it were, of duty; but against the Saxons, they contended
with all the energy of private animosity and personal revenge,
detesting them as deserters and traitors; for the hatred of former friends
is of all the most fierce and irreconcileable. The powerful diversion
made by the Duke of Weimar, and the Landgrave of Hesse,
upon the Rhine and in Westphalia, prevented the Emperor from affording
the necessary assistance to Saxony, and left the whole Electorate
exposed to the destructive ravages of Banner's army.
At length, the Elector, having formed a junction with
the Imperial General Hatzfeld, advanced against Magdeburg,
which Banner in vain hastened to relieve. The united army
of the Imperialists and the Saxons now spread itself over Brandenburg,
wrested several places from the Swedes, and almost drove them to the Baltic.
But, contrary to all expectation, Banner, who had been given up as lost,
attacked the allies, on the 24th of September, 1636, at Wittstock,
where a bloody battle took place. The onset was terrific;
and the whole force of the enemy was directed against the right wing
of the Swedes, which was led by Banner in person. The contest
was long maintained with equal animosity and obstinacy on both sides.
There was not a squadron among the Swedes, which did not return ten times
to the charge, to be as often repulsed; when at last, Banner was obliged
to retire before the superior numbers of the enemy. His left wing
sustained the combat until night, and the second line of the Swedes,
which had not as yet been engaged, was prepared to renew it the next morning.
But the Elector did not wait for a second attack. His army was exhausted
by the efforts of the preceding day; and, as the drivers had fled
with the horses, his artillery was unserviceable. He accordingly retreated
in the night, with Count Hatzfeld, and relinquished the ground to the Swedes.
About 5000 of the allies fell upon the field, exclusive of those
who were killed in the pursuit, or who fell into the hands
of the exasperated peasantry. One hundred and fifty standards and colours,
twenty-three pieces of cannon, the whole baggage and silver plate
of the Elector, were captured, and more than 2000 men taken prisoners.
This brilliant victory, achieved over an enemy far superior in numbers,
and in a very advantageous position, restored the Swedes at once
to their former reputation; their enemies were discouraged,
and their friends inspired with new hopes. Banner instantly followed up
this decisive success, and hastily crossing the Elbe, drove the Imperialists
before him, through Thuringia and Hesse, into Westphalia. He then returned,
and took up his winter quarters in Saxony.
But, without the material aid furnished by the diversion upon the Rhine,
and the activity there of Duke Bernard and the French,
these important successes would have been unattainable. Duke Bernard,
after the defeat of Nordlingen, reorganized his broken army at Wetterau;
but, abandoned by the confederates of the League of Heilbronn,
which had been dissolved by the peace of Prague, and receiving little support
from the Swedes, he found himself unable to maintain an army, or to perform
any enterprise of importance. The defeat at Nordlingen had terminated
all his hopes on the Duchy of Franconia, while the weakness of the Swedes,
destroyed the chance of retrieving his fortunes through their assistance.
Tired, too, of the constraint imposed upon him by the imperious chancellor,
he turned his attention to France, who could easily supply him with money,
the only aid which he required, and France readily acceded to his proposals.
Richelieu desired nothing so much as to diminish the influence of the Swedes
in the German war, and to obtain the direction of it for himself. To secure
this end, nothing appeared more effectual than to detach from the Swedes
their bravest general, to win him to the interests of France,
and to secure for the execution of its projects the services of his arm.
From a prince like Bernard, who could not maintain himself
without foreign support, France had nothing to fear, since no success,
however brilliant, could render him independent of that crown.
Bernard himself came into France, and in October, 1635, concluded a treaty
at St. Germaine en Laye, not as a Swedish general, but in his own name,
by which it was stipulated that he should receive for himself
a yearly pension of one million five hundred thousand livres,
and four millions for the support of his army, which he was to command
under the orders of the French king. To inflame his zeal, and to accelerate
the conquest of Alsace, France did not hesitate, by a secret article,
to promise him that province for his services; a promise which Richelieu
had little intention of performing, and which the duke also estimated
at its real worth. But Bernard confided in his good fortune, and in his arms,
and met artifice with dissimulation. If he could once succeed
in wresting Alsace from the enemy, he did not despair of being able,
in case of need, to maintain it also against a friend. He now raised an army
at the expense of France, which he commanded nominally under the orders
of that power, but in reality without any limitation whatever,
and without having wholly abandoned his engagements with Sweden.
He began his operations upon the Rhine, where another French army,
under Cardinal Lavalette, had already, in 1635, commenced hostilities
against the Emperor.
Against this force, the main body of the Imperialists, after the great victory
of Nordlingen, and the reduction of Swabia and Franconia had advanced
under the command of Gallas, had driven them as far as Metz,
cleared the Rhine, and took from the Swedes the towns of Metz and Frankenthal,
of which they were in possession. But frustrated by the vigorous resistance
of the French, in his main object, of taking up his winter quarters in France,
he led back his exhausted troops into Alsace and Swabia.
At the opening of the next campaign, he passed the Rhine at Breysach,
and prepared to carry the war into the interior of France.
He actually entered Burgundy, while the Spaniards from the Netherlands
made progress in Picardy; and John De Werth, a formidable general
of the League, and a celebrated partisan, pushed his march into Champagne,
and spread consternation even to the gates of Paris.
But an insignificant fortress in Franche Comte completely checked
the Imperialists, and they were obliged, a second time,
to abandon their enterprise.
The activity of Duke Bernard had hitherto been impeded
by his dependence on a French general, more suited to the priestly robe,
than to the baton of command; and although, in conjunction with him,
he conquered Alsace Saverne, he found himself unable, in the years
1636 and 1637, to maintain his position upon the Rhine. The ill success
of the French arms in the Netherlands had cheated the activity of operations
in Alsace and Breisgau; but in 1638, the war in that quarter
took a more brilliant turn. Relieved from his former restraint,
and with unlimited command of his troops, Duke Bernard,
in the beginning of February, left his winter quarters
in the bishopric of Basle, and unexpectedly appeared upon the Rhine,
where, at this rude season of the year, an attack was little anticipated.
The forest towns of Laufenburg, Waldshut, and Seckingen, were surprised,
and Rhinefeldt besieged. The Duke of Savelli, the Imperial general
who commanded in that quarter, hastened by forced marches
to the relief of this important place, succeeded in raising the siege,
and compelled the Duke of Weimar, with great loss to retire.
But, contrary to all human expectation, he appeared on the third day after,
(21st February, 1638,) before the Imperialists, in order of battle,
and defeated them in a bloody engagement, in which the four Imperial generals,
Savelli, John De Werth, Enkeford, and Sperreuter, with 2000 men,
were taken prisoners. Two of these, De Werth and Enkeford,
were afterwards sent by Richelieu's orders into France,
in order to flatter the vanity of the French by the sight
of such distinguished prisoners, and by the pomp of military trophies,
to withdraw the attention of the populace from the public distress.
The captured standards and colours were, with the same view,
carried in solemn procession to the church of Notre Dame,
thrice exhibited before the altar, and committed to sacred custody.
The taking of Rhinefeldt, Roeteln, and Fribourg, was the immediate consequence
of the duke's victory. His army now increased by considerable recruits,
and his projects expanded in proportion as fortune favoured him.
The fortress of Breysach upon the Rhine was looked upon as holding the command
of that river, and as the key of Alsace. No place in this quarter was
of more importance to the Emperor, and upon none had more care been bestowed.
To protect Breysach, was the principal destination of the Italian army,
under the Duke of Feria; the strength of its works, and its natural defences,
bade defiance to assault, while the Imperial generals who commanded
in that quarter had orders to retain it at any cost. But the duke,
trusting to his good fortune, resolved to attempt the siege.
Its strength rendered it impregnable; it could, therefore,
only be starved into a surrender; and this was facilitated by the carelessness
of the commandant, who, expecting no attack, had been selling off his stores.
As under these circumstances the town could not long hold out,
it must be immediately relieved or victualled. Accordingly,
the Imperial General Goetz rapidly advanced at the head of 12,000 men,
accompanied by 3000 waggons loaded with provisions, which he intended
to throw into the place. But he was attacked with such vigour by Duke Bernard
at Witteweyer, that he lost his whole force, except 3000 men,
together with the entire transport. A similar fate at Ochsenfeld, near Thann,
overtook the Duke of Lorraine, who, with 5000 or 6000 men,
advanced to relieve the fortress. After a third attempt of general Goetz
for the relief of Breysach had proved ineffectual, the fortress,
reduced to the greatest extremity by famine, surrendered,
after a blockade of four months, on the 17th December 1638,
to its equally persevering and humane conqueror.
The capture of Breysach opened a boundless field to the ambition
of the Duke of Weimar, and the romance of his hopes was fast approaching
to reality. Far from intending to surrender his conquests to France,
he destined Breysach for himself, and revealed this intention,
by exacting allegiance from the vanquished, in his own name,
and not in that of any other power. Intoxicated by his past success,
and excited by the boldest hopes, he believed that he should be able
to maintain his conquests, even against France herself.
At a time when everything depended upon bravery, when even personal strength
was of importance, when troops and generals were of more value
than territories, it was natural for a hero like Bernard to place confidence
in his own powers, and, at the head of an excellent army,
who under his command had proved invincible, to believe himself capable
of accomplishing the boldest and largest designs. In order to secure himself
one friend among the crowd of enemies whom he was about to provoke,
he turned his eyes upon the Landgravine Amelia of Hesse,
the widow of the lately deceased Landgrave William, a princess whose talents
were equal to her courage, and who, along with her hand, would bestow
valuable conquests, an extensive principality, and a well disciplined army.
By the union of the conquests of Hesse, with his own upon the Rhine,
and the junction of their forces, a power of some importance,
and perhaps a third party, might be formed in Germany,
which might decide the fate of the war. But a premature death
put a period to these extensive schemes.
"Courage, Father Joseph, Breysach is ours!" whispered Richelieu
in the ear of the Capuchin, who had long held himself in readiness
to be despatched into that quarter; so delighted was he
with this joyful intelligence. Already in imagination he held Alsace,
Breisgau, and all the frontiers of Austria in that quarter,
without regard to his promise to Duke Bernard. But the firm determination
which the latter had unequivocally shown, to keep Breysach for himself,
greatly embarrassed the cardinal, and no efforts were spared
to retain the victorious Bernard in the interests of France.
He was invited to court, to witness the honours by which his triumph
was to be commemorated; but he perceived and shunned the seductive snare.
The cardinal even went so far as to offer him the hand of his niece
in marriage; but the proud German prince declined the offer,
and refused to sully the blood of Saxony by a misalliance.
He was now considered as a dangerous enemy, and treated as such.
His subsidies were withdrawn; and the Governor of Breysach
and his principal officers were bribed, at least upon the event
of the duke's death, to take possession of his conquests,
and to secure his troops. These intrigues were no secret to the duke,
and the precautions he took in the conquered places, clearly bespoke
the distrust of France. But this misunderstanding with the French court
had the most prejudicial influence upon his future operations.
The preparations he was obliged to make, in order to secure his conquests
against an attack on the side of France, compelled him to divide
his military strength, while the stoppage of his subsidies delayed
his appearance in the field. It had been his intention to cross the Rhine,
to support the Swedes, and to act against the Emperor and Bavaria
on the banks of the Danube. He had already communicated
his plan of operations to Banner, who was about to carry the war
into the Austrian territories, and had promised to relieve him so,
when a sudden death cut short his heroic career, in the 36th year of his age,
at Neuburgh upon the Rhine (in July, 1639).
He died of a pestilential disorder, which, in the course of two days,
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,