Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

A Retrospect

Baron Leuchtmar received a reply to his letter to the Electoress in which she authorized him to communicate any information to the Prince about the events connected with the war which he could understand. In reality she would have preferred to have him remain ignorant about it, but as that was no longer possible, he might inform him so far as it seemed necessary.

Leuchtmar began his task at once. He went back to the times of the Reformation to show the Prince that the war which had cost Germany so much blood and so many tears was a war of religious faiths. Then he told him about conditions in Bohemia, the elevation of his uncle Frederick the Fifth to the throne of that country and his downfall, and finally the appearance of Wallenstein upon the arena of war. This occupied one evening. The Prince was deeply interested in what he heard, and would gladly have learned further details about the careers of this or that person, but he realized, as Leuchtmar had pointed out, that to understand the events of the existing war he must first be acquainted with events leading up to it.

The next evening the Prince, Leuchtmar, the Preceptor, and the pages assembled in the hunting-room and took their places at a long oval table lit by silver sconces. All listened as Leuchtmar began his talk:—

"Before I go on with Wallenstein's operations I must mention two of the fiercest, stoutest champions of the Protestant cause as well as of your unfortunate uncle. They are the Count von Mansfeld and Duke Christian of Brunswick. The first was actively engaged in Frederick's cause while he was still King of Bohemia. He was exceedingly able and had many hard battles with the League, as also did Duke Christian. Both were very vindictive against the Catholic bishops and abbots, especially the Duke. He once looted a Catholic monastery of its silver, had it melted down and coined, and inscribed upon the coins: 'God's friend, the priests' enemy.' Your uncle, who had found refuge in Holland, was told that if he would discharge these generals the Emperor would be delighted to restore the Palatinate to him. Frederick believed what was told him and dismissed them, only to find himself disappointed. The two went to Holland to assist that country against Spain. Christian, at the very outset, was so badly wounded in the arm that it had to be amputated. The operation was performed by his orders, to an accompaniment of trumpet fanfares, and when it was over he sent word to the opposing general that the mad duke had lost one arm but he was keeping the other to inflict vengeance upon his enemies. This he did not fail in doing. The two generals were in Holland but a short time. Count von Mansfeld was defeated on the Elbe, at the bridge of Dessau in 1626 by Wallenstein; and of his twenty thousand men he could only rally five thousand about him in Germany. We have suffered much from the outrages of his troops, for there were many very bad men among them. He marched through Silesia and Moravia into Transylvania. Wallenstein pursued him, which gave Christian of Denmark, who had espoused the Protestant cause, an opportunity to take the field.

The Count von Mansfeld supposed that he would have no difficulty in conducting operations against the Emperor in Transylvania. He knew that Prince Bethlen Gabor, who was ruling at that time, had been engaged in a fierce contest with the Emperor a short time previously; but he soon discovered, greatly to his surprise, that peace had been made between them. He then went to England to raise troops for fresh undertakings, and died while thus engaged. When he realized that his end was near he donned his armor and helmet and died erect, supported by two of his officers. The Duke of Brunswick died in the same year.

"In the meantime, as I have already mentioned, another champion of the Protestant cause appeared, Christian the Fourth, King of Denmark, and the Dukes of Brunswick and Mecklenburg joined him. Their union was already accomplished when Wallenstein appeared upon the scene. Supposing that they were confronted by the League alone, they now discovered that they had to meet a second and much stronger foe. While Wallenstein was pursuing Count von Mansfeld the League's forces were contending with those of the King of Denmark. The former were led by Tilly. The King tried to evade a battle, but he was finally forced into it at the village of Lutter. Christian fought bravely, but his troops were no match for those of the League. He lost the battle and had to fly. Tilly pursued him and captured one strong place after another. Meanwhile Wallenstein returned from his pursuit of the Count von Mansfeld and improved the opportunity to make a trip from Frankfurt to Berlin."

Thirty years War


"Was he in Berlin?" asked the Prince, in amazement. "Did he go there as friend or enemy?"

"Not as a friend and yet not as an avowed enemy."

"But we are Protestants, and he is the leader on the Catholic side," said the Prince.

"You are right," replied Leuchtmar, "and yet we made no hostile movement against him."

"Was no assistance tendered by us to the Protestants who rose in arms against the Catholics?"


"Why not?"

"My Prince," said Leuchtmar, after a pause, "it is not so easy to answer that question as you think. Perhaps some time you may be able to do so. You must trust your father in this matter. In this great war he has thus far not taken sides with the Protestants. Be assured he has good reasons for his course. Now listen to me once more. Our first minister, Count Schwarzenberg, is a Cath—"

"Pardon me, Herr Leuchtmar, for interrupting you," said the Prince, "We are Protestants and our first minister is a Catholic?"

"I can give you a reason for that," replied Leuchtmar. "There is an unfortunate division among the Protestants. The two factions are called Lutherans and Reformers. They are very bitter against each other, the Lutherans especially so. Were not this the case the Catholics would not have been so successful. I think your father did not care to add oil to the flames by selecting his first minister from either of those two factions. Their enmity was so strong that they would rather see a Catholic at the head of the Privy Council in Berlin than any one from either faction. It is undoubtedly due to our Catholic minister Schwarzenberg that Wallenstein was much gentler among us at the beginning of the campaign than we had any reason to expect he would be. Schwarzenberg implored him to spare the country, and upon the same occasion invited him to go to Berlin. He accepted the invitation and went there with thirty princes, counts, and barons, sixteen pages, twenty-four halberdiers, twelve lackeys, and a great number of chamberlains, cooks, and servants, in all fifteen hundred persons and a thousand horses. He remained in Berlin only one night and on the next day went back to his army, which already had been increased to a hundred thousand men. He advanced with this army, driving the Danes before him. His monthly stipend at that time, six thousand gulden, had increased by the end of 1627 to one hundred and eighty thousand, and as it had not been paid, the Emperor indemnified him with the dukedom of Sagan as a feudal tenure and also made him a prince of the empire. Thereupon he aspired to the possession of Mecklenburg. As both the dukes were allies of the King of Denmark and had therefore incurred the enmity of the Emperor, he had no difficulty in getting his consent. Ferdinand outlawed the dukes and granted Wallenstein the possession of Mecklenburg."

"About what time did this occur?" asked the Prince.

"In the year 1629," replied Leuchtmar.

"You have forgotten one very important event, Herr Leuchtmar," remarked the Preceptor, "the siege of Stralsund, the year before, in 1628."

"That is true," said Leuchtmar, "and I thank you, Herr Preceptor, for reminding me of it. Stralsund is one of the Hanseatic cities and has a regular military force. As Wallenstein absolutely dominated city and country, wherever he was, he thought he could do the same in Stralsund. He sent a force there which he expected would garrison the city. The Stralsunders, however, closed their gates and would not admit the imperial troops. Doubtless they were sufficiently familiar with imperial outrages even against friends. They sent an embassy to Wallenstein to justify their action. He turned upon them in a rage and declared in substance that even were Stralsund bound to the heavens by a chain he would break it and enter the city. The brave Stralsunders in the meantime made preparations for a stout resistance. They also applied to the King of Denmark for help, as well as to another sovereign who is a near relation of yours, my Prince."

"Ah! you mean Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden."

"Yes. Both sent help,—Gustavus Adolphus ammunition, the Danish king four companies of foot soldiers. Wallenstein's force besieged and assaulted the city without any effect. Then Wallenstein came in person, demanded the city's surrender, and swore that if it refused he would spare neither old nor young. The magistrates hesitated, but the burghers, encouraged by the arrival of four hundred Danes, and two thousand Swedes, refused to open the gates to the enemy. It will be to their honor for all time that they were so courageous and resolute. All Wallenstein's exertions were useless; after losing twelve thousand men before the walls of the city he had to make a dishonorable, shameful retreat."

With this, the talk for that day closed.

Early the next morning Leuchtmar went out for a walk in the castle grounds. The air was fresh and fragrant, and the golden morning light shimmered among the trees. As it was nearly six o'clock, he went in to wake the Prince. He walked up to his bed and drew back the silken curtains. The Prince lay before him the picture of health. His cheeks glowed, and his lips were deep red in color. "Poor little fellow," he thought to himself, "thy peace is forever gone. The knowledge of the world thou hast acquired will wither many an innocent joy in the bud. As the years increase, thy anxiety and cares will increase. Is not the lot of a prince harder than that of any one of his subjects?"

The clock struck six and Leuchtmar aroused the Prince. His first words were: "Herr Leuchtmar, I have been in Stralsund all night, fighting upon the walls against the Emperor's troops. Wallenstein came, wearing a blood-red cloak, and rose to such a towering height that his head overtopped the walls. Some of our men fled, but the most remained and shot and thrust at him. At last a cannon ball took off his head and he fell." At breakfast, also, the Prince mentioned his dream.