Wallenstein’s Army at Lützen

North European historians have habitually portrayed Wallenstein’s army as a raw, untried force, hastily assembled in early 1632 to replace Tilly’s devastated legions and incapable of matching Gustav Adolf’s veterans. In fact, many of Wallenstein’s regiments had longer traditions than Sweden’s Colour regiments. At least three of the units present at Lützen were raised in the 1610s, and many more in the 1620s; several had even faced the Swedes before, as part of a corps sent to help Poland in 1629.

Wallenstein’s forces were even more diverse than Gustav Adolf’s. Recruited throughout Catholic Europe, they included Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Italians, Hungarians, Poles and Croatians. Italian officers were (like Gustav Adolf’s Scots) highly valued. (Ordinary Italian soldiers were notoriously unreliable in the northern winter, and the men of Piccolomini’s horse and Colloredo’s foot regiments were mostly Germans.) Pappenheim’s army included several regiments of Walloons (French-speaking Belgians), famed for their ferocity.

The Imperial cavalry was organised into four main branches: cuirassiers, harquebusiers, dragoons and Croats. The ideal cuirassier was armed in three-quarter armour, blackened to prevent rust. By 1632 few except officers wore these costly and uncomfortable suits. Most cuirassiers were now what Montecuccoli called `half cuirassiers’, wearing only breast and back plate, and open-faced helmet. The cuirassier’s main weapons were a sword and a pair of pistols, intended for close combat rather than `caracoling’.

Harquebusiers rode smaller horses and had little armour: most made do with a buffcoat. Named after their long arquebuses (carbines), they were intended for campaign duties and skirmishes, to save the cuirassiers for serious action. In reality the distinction between cuirassiers and harquebusiers was blurring. Many regiments were raised as harquebusiers and upgraded to cuirassiers when they acquired better equipment and horses. Piccolomini’s famous regiment was still officially a harquebusier unit, yet was better armoured than many cuirassier regiments.

All the Imperial dragoons engaged at Lützen seem to have been raised during 1632. They are described in the official army lists as `German horsemen, armed with half-armour (halb Harnisch, probably a breast plate) and equipped with firelocks (Feuergewehr)’. Though expected to carry out menial duties like their Swedish counterparts, they were listed as part of the cavalry rather than the infantry, and occasionally (as at Lützen) fought mounted.

Croats or Crabats were described in the official Imperial army lists as `light horse armed in the Hungarian manner’. Most commanders of Croat regiments were Hungarians, as were many troopers, who were recruited from both Slav and Magyar provinces of the Habsburg realm. Croats were of little value in a stand-up fight; armed with carbines as their primary weapon, their duties were off-battlefield – skirmishing, patrolling and making campaign life unpleasant for the enemy, a task they carried out with admirabl diligence during Gustav Adolf’s long, wasted summer at Nuremberg. In battle, they were deployed on the wings of the army, attempting to turn the enemy flanks, distracting units that might be better employed by the enemy elsewhere. In their fur hats and long eastern coats, they made a colourful if unpredictable addition to the Imperial ranks. The irregular horse also included small units described as Hungarian or Polish. These are listed almost interchangeably with the Croats, but had distinctive dress or weaponry. The three companies of `Polish Cossacks’ present at Lützen were recruited inside the Polish realm and should not be confused with the Cossacks of the Russian Steppes.

The Imperial infantry tended to be more heavily armoured than their Swedish opponents. Austrian and south German styles of pikeman’s armour did exist, but as Wallenstein purchased much of his equipment via Nuremberg, his infantry probably differed little in appearance from their Swedish counterparts. Imperial infantry regiments had a standard organisation of ten companies, each of 200 men. However few units could maintain even half this strength in the field. Nevertheless Imperial regiments were stronger, on average, than Swedish regiments. In battle they formed up in 1,000-strong battalions (often called `brigades’, because several weak regiments would combine to make up a single battalion). Montecuccoli notes that at Lützen Wallenstein drew up his infantry seven deep, as a result of his idiosyncratic desire to position the company colours at the exact centre of the pike blocks!

The Imperial artillery had some of the most beautiful cannon in Europe. By 1632 they were being manufactured in standardised calibres: demi-cannon (24-pdrs), quarter-cannon (12-pdrs) and eighth-cannon (6-pdrs). A number of older pieces remained in use, and for example we hear of `quarter-cannon’ of 10, 12, 14 and 16 pounds calibre, captured by the Swedes at Lützen, or shortly thereafter. The Imperial and Catholic League armies were already employing regimental cannon in 1631, although in smaller numbers than the Swedes. Wallenstein’s army instructions of 4 May 1632 imply that many units possessed them and there are occasional references during the Lützen campaign. Two guns per Imperial regiment became the standard allocation from 1633, and may have been the case earlier. About two guns per front-line infantry battalion would have been the minimum available at Lützen.

Because the equipment of the rival armies differed only in subtle details, the opponents employed another means of distinguishing themselves in the field. During the 1631 campaign both sides used only improvised field-signs – sprigs of green foliage worn in the headgear by Gustav Adolf’s troops, and white strips of cloth tied round arm or hat among Tilly’s veterans. Determined to systematise the practice Wallenstein in May 1632 had ordered the use of red scarves (sashes) in his army and forbade the wearing of all other colours under pain of death. There is little evidence that Gustav Adolf adopted a single scarf colour: his officers seem to have worn any colour they liked, except, of course, red.

Since most infantrymen were never issued scarves, as important a form of identification was the `field-word’- both a password and a battle cry, issued afresh for each battle. Not one to break with convention Wallenstein chose the stock Catholic field-word: Jesus, Maria! Meanwhile Gustav Adolf stuck with the phrase that had brought him luck at Breitenfeld: Gott mit uns! (God with us).

Albrecht Eusebius von Wallenstein (Waldstein, Waldstejn), Duke of Friedland and Mecklenburg (1583-1634).

Wallenstein was, in real life, physically unimpressive – sallow featured and of middling height, his wiry build contorted by gout. But behind the brooding gaze was an agile mind of unfathomable complexity and undeniable genius.

Albrecht Eusebius Wenzel von Waldstejn, a name softened in his own day to `Wallenstein’. He was introverted and obsessive. According to astrology in which he put great stock, he was ruled by Saturn – closed, retentive; quite the opposite 16 of the Jovian Gustav Adolf.

Born in Hermanitz, Bohemia, Wallenstein was a Czech Protestant from a minor noble family, and was orphaned young. He changed his faith to ensure advancement in Habsburg service and married a rich wife in 1609, who conveniently died five years later leaving him extensive estates in Bohemia. He remained loyal to Ferdinand II during the Bohemian revolt, and was a colonel at White Mountain in 1620; as a reward, the Emperor let him buy up the estates of exiled Protestants at knock-down prices and made him Duke of Friedland.

At the outbreak of the Danish War in 1625, Wallenstein, now one of the richest men in Europe, contracted to raise an army at his own cost for the impecunious Emperor. His profit would come from the war itself and `contributions’ extracted from German towns – as his opponents objected, it was daylight robbery made legal by the Emperor’s seal.

Wallenstein transformed his private domains in north-east Bohemia into a vast military depot, building workshops and factories to supply arms and clothing for his troops. His attention to the minutiae of logistics bordered on the obsessive; as Watts commented, `The Duke of Friedland’s Master-piece, is to be a good provisioner: and he hath a singular good Catering-wit .’ More than any general before him Wallenstein realized that war was best conducted as an economic enterprise, and he did so on an industrial scale never seen before. It was him, rather than Gustav Adolf, who effected an increase in the size of European armies.

In 1629 Wallenstein received the Duchy of Mecklenburg as a reward for his services in the Danish War, but the German princes began to object to the power concentrated in his hands, his exploitative methods and even the excessive ostentation with which he surrounded himself. In September 1630 the Emperor caved in and dismissed him from office.

By the generous terms of his reinstatement to supreme command in 1632 Wallenstein achieved most of his ambitions. He had wealth, vast estates and power to rival the Emperor. But he was 11 years senior to the Swedish King, gout-ridden and already tired.

Wallenstein was respected and feared by his soldiers, rather than loved. He was generous to those who won his favour, dishing out gold ducats and promotions like confetti, but terrible and unforgiving when crossed. Whereas Gustav Adolf spurred his men to valour with charisma and religious ardour, Wallenstein ruled with the carrot and stick.

Wallenstein’s saturnine character spilled over into his generalship. He disliked taking chances in the open field and preferred fighting from the security of field works. At his first major battle, Dessau Bridge in 1626, his carefully constructed earthworks proved the undoing of the other great Thirty Years War condottiere, Ernst von Mansfeld. At Alte Feste, Wallenstein ordered his men to `make more use of their trenches than of their weapons’ – to the discomfiture of an even better general. At Lützen, Wallenstein was caught off balance but, characteristically, still attempted to fight a defensive battle from an entrenched position.

Feldmarschal Gottfried Heinrich Graf (Count) zu Pappenheim (1594-1632)

One of the most intriguing and charismatic personalities of the Thirty Years War, he was courageous, dashing and self-willed to the verge of insubordination, but was also a literate man of great charm and wit. The Swedish King used to say that Tilly was an old corporal, Wallenstein a madman, but Pappenheim was a soldier, and that he feared no enemy soldier except that `scarface’.

Feldmarschal Gottfried Heinrich Graf (Count) zu Pappenheim (1594-1632) was, in contrast to Wallenstein, an archetypal cavalryman. A Bavarian-born convert to Catholicism, he served the Catholic League in the Bohemian War of 1620 before raising a horse regiment for Duke Maximilian of Bavaria in 1622. His brutal suppression of the 1626 Upper Austrian Peasant Revolt and successes in the Danish War got him noticed, but he was considered too headstrong and impetuous to have a major field command, and spent much of his career playing side-kick to Count Tilly. Although adored by his troops, Pappenheim was not all sweetness. If anyone should carry the blame for the massacre at Magdeburg, it was him. Indeed he was also largely the cause of Tilly’s ill-advised attack at Breitenfeld, compounding the error with charge after futile charge against the tight-knit Swedish lines. His personal bravery was never in question and he is said to have killed 14 of the enemy with his own hand in the battle.

In 1632 Pappenheim made up for his mistakes in the kind of warfare to which his unique talents were ideally suited. With a ramshackle force of a few thousand troops, he turned the Lower Saxony region of north-west Germany into his private stomping-ground, pinning down Protestant forces many times the size of his own. Using internal lines to their maximum advantage, his constant raiding (and the incompetence of Swedish commanders sent to stop him) distracted Gustav Adolf from his conquests in southern Germany. Recalled by Wallenstein to Saxony against his will, Pappenheim’s bravado got him killed before he was able to make any impact on the course of the battle of Lützen.

Heinrich Holk (1599-1633)

Heinrich Holk (1599-1633) was a Danish professional soldier who lost an eye in battle against the Imperialists in 1626. After the Peace of Lübeck (1629), which took Denmark out of the war, he found service with his former enemy. After catching Wallenstein’s attention in 1632, he advanced rapidly from Oberst(Colonel) to Feldmarschall in just nine months. At Lützen he commanded the left wing of the army during Pappenheim’s absence.

With Wallenstein’s gout causing him trouble, he was relying increasingly on Heinrich Holk (1599-1633) for the everyday administration of his army. A Danish Protestant, Holk had risen rapidly in Wallenstein’s service, being promoted on 24 August 1632 to Feldmarschal-leutnant, a new rank (slightly junior to Pappenheim) created, it was said, specially for him.

Holk was the expert of war by devastation. In a conflict famous for its atrocities his troops earned an appalling reputation for brutality as they raped and pillaged their way through Saxony in late 1632. Nevertheless, flint-hearted Holk was a firm disciplinarian and an able tactician and administrator, able to satisfy even Wallenstein’s elevated demands. During the battle he was everywhere at once, ordering, cajoling, shouting. Without Holk, Lützen may well have had a far more disastrous outcome for the Imperialists.