Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf (9 December 1594 – 6 November 1632, O.S.); widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus or as Gustav II Adolph, or as Gustavus Adolphus the Great (Swedish: Gustav Adolf den store, Latin: Gustavus Adolphus Magnus, a formal posthumous distinction passed by the Riksdag of the Estates in 1634); was the King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632 and is credited as the founder of Sweden as a Great Power (Swedish: Stormaktstiden). He led Sweden to military supremacy during the Thirty Years War, helping to determine the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe.
He is often regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, with innovative use of combined arms. His most notable military victory was the battle of Breitenfeld. With a superb military machine with good weapons, excellent training, and effective field artillery, backed by an efficient government which could provide necessary funds, Gustavus Adolphus was poised to make himself a major European leader, but he was killed at the battle of Lützen in 1632. He was ably assisted in his efforts by Count Axel Oxenstierna, the Lord High Chancellor of Sweden, who also acted as regent after his death.
In an era characterized by almost endless warfare, he led his armies as king from 1611 (at age 17) until his death in battle in 1632 while leading a charge—as Sweden rose from the status of a mere regional power and run-of-the-mill kingdom to one of the great powers of Europe and a model of early modern era government. Within only a few years of his accession Sweden had become the largest nation in Europe after Russia and Spain. Some have called him the "father of modern warfare", or the first great modern general. Under his tutelage, Sweden and the Protestant cause developed a number of excellent commanders, such as Lennart Torstensson, who would go on to defeat Sweden's enemies and expand the boundaries and the power of the empire long after Gustav Adolph's death in battle.
He was known by the epithets "The Golden King" and "The Lion of the North" by neighboring sovereigns. Gustavus Adolphus is commemorated today with city squares in major Swedish cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and Helsingborg. Gustavus Adolphus College, a Lutheran college in St. Peter, Minnesota is also named for the Swedish King.
Gustavus Adolphus was born in Stockholm as the oldest son of Duke Charles of the Vasa dynasty and his second wife, Christina of Holstein-Gottorp. At the time, the King of Sweden was Gustavus Adolphus' cousin Sigismund. The staunch Protestant Duke Charles forced the Catholic King to let go of the throne of Sweden in 1599, a part of the preliminary religious strife before the Thirty Years' War, and reigned as regent before taking the throne as Charles IX of Sweden in 1604. Crown Prince Gustav Adolph had Gagnef-Floda in Dalecarlia as a duchy from 1610. Upon his father's death in October 1611, a sixteen-year-old Gustavus inherited the throne (declared of age and able to reign himself at seventeen as of 16 December), as well as an ongoing succession of occasionally belligerent dynastic disputes with his Polish cousin. Sigismund III wanted to regain the throne of Sweden and tried to force Gustavus Adolphus to renounce the title.
In a round of this dynastic dispute, Gustavus invaded Livonia when he was 31, beginning the Polish-Swedish War (1625–1629). He intervened on behalf of the Lutherans in Germany, who opened the gates to their cities to him. His reign became famous from his actions a few years later when on June 1630 he landed in Germany, marking the Swedish Intervention in the Thirty Years' War. Gustavus intervened on the anti-Imperial side, which at the time was losing to the Holy Roman Empire and its Catholic allies; the Swedish forces would quickly reverse that situation.
Gustavus was married to Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and chose the Prussian city of Elbing as the base for his operations in Germany. He died in the Battle of Lützen in 1632. His early death was a great loss to the Lutheran side. This resulted in large parts of Germany and other countries, which had been conquered for Lutheranism, to be reconquered for Catholicism (via Counter-Reformation). His involvement in the Thirty Years' War gave rise to the saying that he was the incarnation of "the Lion of the North", or as it is called in German "Der Löwe von Mitternacht" (Literally: "The Lion of Midnight").
Legacy as a general
Gustavus Adolphus was an extremely able military commander. His innovative tactical integration of infantry, cavalry, logistics and particularly his use of artillery, earned him the title of the "Father of Modern Warfare". Future commanders who studied and admired Gustav II Adolf include Napoleon I of France and Carl von Clausewitz. His advancements in military science made Sweden the dominant Baltic power for the next one hundred years (see Swedish Empire). He is also the only Swedish monarch to be styled "the Great". This decision was made by the Swedish Estates of the Realm, when they convened in 1633. Thus, by their decision he is officially, to this day, to be called Gustaf Adolf the Great (Gustavus Adolphus Magnus).
Gustavus Adolphus was the main figure responsible for the success of Swedish arms during the Thirty Years' War and led his nation to great prestige. As a general, Gustavus Adolphus is famous for employing mobile artillery on the battlefield, as well as very aggressive tactics, where attack was stressed over defense, and mobility and cavalry initiative were emphasized.
Among other innovations, he installed an early form of combined arms in his formations, where the cavalry could attack from the safety of an infantry line reinforced by cannon, and retire again within to regroup after their foray. He adopted much shallower infantry formations than were common in the pike and shot armies of the era, with formations typically fighting in 5 or 6 ranks, occasionally supported at some distance by another such formation—the gaps being the provinces of the artillery and cavalry as noted above. His artillery were themselves different—he would not let himself be hindered by cumbersome heavy cannon, but instead over a course of experimentation settled on smaller, more maneuverable weapons, in effect fielding the first light field artillery in history in significant numbers.
These were grouped in batteries supporting his more linearly deployed formations, replacing the cumbersome and unmaneuverable traditional deep squares (such as the Spanish Tercios that were up to 50 ranks deep) used in other pike and shot armies of the day. In consequence, his forces could redeploy and reconfigure very rapidly, confounding his enemies.
His armies were very well trained for the day, so that his musketeers were widely known for their firing accuracy and reload speed: three times faster than any contemporary rivals. Carl von Clausewitz and Napoleon Bonaparte considered him one of the greatest generals of all time; a sentiment agreed with by George S. Patton and others. He was also renowned for his constancy of purpose and the equality of his troops—no one part of his armies was considered better or received preferred treatment, as was common in other armies where the cavalry were the elite, followed by the artillery, and both disdained the lowly infantry. In Gustavus' army the units were extensively cross trained. Both cavalry and infantry could service the artillery, as his heavy cavalry did when turning captured artillery on the opposing Catholic Tercios at First Breitenfeld. Pikemen could shoot—if not as accurately as those designated musketeers—so a valuable firearm could be kept in the firing line. His infantrymen and gunners were taught to ride, if needed. Napoleon thought highly of the achievement, and copied the tactics.
Gustavus Adolphus was a very forward thinking military engineer. He reengineered the way in which his army worked, with simple innovations that proved devastating to his adversaries.
One example of this was the Swedish cavalry system. Cavalry had been pushed to the fringes of military worth and had been largely neutralized by the Spanish tercios. They were being ineffectively used to charge the enemy front or flank, fire broadsides with pistols and muskets and then retreat to reload and reform. However, Gustavus Adolphus used light cannons (reengineered to have 3 standard calibers, one of which was eventually called "The Regimental Cannon,") along with muskets to eliminate enemy pikemen, then the cavalry would swoop in and cut through enemy lines with sabers.
Adolphus then faced the problem of equipping this newly raised army. To do so, he thought it necessary to make sure everyone had the same equipment. Standardizing this way makes mass production, training and maintenance much easier. The major reform was reducing the weight of the musket. The musket was also standardized in caliber. Perhaps Adolphus’ greatest contribution however, was his work in artillery. Making the artillery lighter and more maneuverable gave him the option of moving around instead of being in a fixed position. He formed an army that was quick to attack but also could defend.
Gustavus Adolphus inherited three wars from his father when he ascended the throne: Against Denmark, which had attacked Sweden earlier in 1611, against Russia, due to Sweden having tried to take advantage of the Russian Time of Troubles, and against Poland, due to King Charles' having deposed King Sigismund III, his nephew, as King of Sweden.
The war against Denmark (Kalmar War) was concluded in 1613 with a peace that did not cost Sweden any territory, but it was forced to pay a heavy indemnity to Denmark (Treaty of Knäred). During this war, Gustavus Adolphus let his soldiers plunder towns and villages and as he met little resistance from Danish forces in Scania, they pillaged and devastated 24 Scanian parishes. His memory in Scania has been negative because of that.
The war against Russia (Ingrian War) ended in 1617 with the Treaty of Stolbovo, which excluded Russia from the Baltic Sea. The final inherited war, the war against Poland, ended in 1629 with the Truce of Altmark which transferred the large province Livonia to Sweden and freed the Swedish forces for the subsequent intervention in the Thirty Years' War in Germany, where Swedish forces had already established a bridgehead in 1628.
Especially the weak electorate of Brandenburg was torn apart by a quarrel between the Protestant and Catholic parties. The Brandenburg minister and diplomat Baron Samuel von Winterfeld influenced Gustavus Adolphus to support and protect the Protestant side in Germany. When Gustavus Adolphus began his push into northern Germany in June–July 1630, he had just 4,000 troops. But he was soon able to consolidate the Protestant position in the north, using reinforcements from Sweden and money supplied by France (Treaty of Bärwalde). After Swedish plundering in Brandenburg (1631) endangered the system of retrieving war contributions from occupied territories, "marauding and plundering" by Swedish soldiers was prohibited. Meanwhile, a Catholic army under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly was laying waste to Saxony. Gustavus Adolphus met Tilly's army and crushed it at the First Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631. He then marched clear across Germany, establishing his winter quarters near the Rhine, making plans for the invasion of the rest of the Holy Roman Empire.
In March 1632, Gustavus Adolphus invaded Bavaria, a staunch ally of the Emperor. He forced the withdrawal of his Catholic opponents at the Battle of Rain. This would mark the high point of the campaign. In the summer of that year, he sought a political solution that would preserve the existing structure of states in Germany, while guaranteeing the security of its Protestants. But achieving these objectives depended on his continued success on the battlefield.
Gustavus is reported to have entered battle without wearing any armor, proclaiming, "The Lord God, is my armor!" It is more likely that he simply wore a leather cuirass rather than going into battle wearing no battle protection whatsoever. In 1627, near Dirschau in Prussia, a Polish soldier shot him in the muscles above his shoulders. He survived, but the doctors could not remove the bullet, so from that point on, he could not wear iron armor. Also, two fingers of his right hand were paralyzed.
Gustavus Adolphus was killed at the Battle of Lützen, when, at a crucial point in the battle, he became separated from his troops while leading a cavalry charge into a dense smog of mist and gunpowder smoke. After his death, his wife initially kept his body, and later his heart, in the castle of Nyköping for over a year. His remains (including his heart) now rest in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm.
In February 1633, following the death of the king, the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates decided that his name would be styled Gustav Adolf the Great (or Gustaf Adolf den Store in Swedish). No such honor has been bestowed on any other Swedish monarch before or since.
The crown of Sweden was inherited in the Vasa family, and from Charles IX's time excluded those Vasa princes who had been traitors or descended from deposed monarchs. Gustavus Adolphus' younger brother had died ten years before, and therefore there were only the King's daughter left as a female heir. Maria Eleonora and the king's ministers took over the government on behalf of Gustavus Adolphus' underage daughter Christina upon her father's death. He left one other known child, his illegitimate son Gustav, Count of Vasaborg.Alternative views
The German Socialist Franz Mehring (1846–1919) wrote a biography of Gustavus Adolphus with a Marxist perspective on the actions of the Swedish king during the Thirty Years' War. In it, he makes a case that the war was fought over economics and trade rather than religion.
In his book "Ofredsår" ("Years of Warfare"), the Swedish historian and author Peter Englund argues that there was probably no single all-important reason for the king's decision to go to war. Instead, it was likely a combination of religious, security, as well as economic considerations.
This view is supported by German historian Johannes Burkhardt who writes that Gustavus entered the 30 Years War exactly 100 years after the publication of the Confessio Augustana, the core confession of faith of the Lutheran Church, and let himself be praised as its saviour. Yet Gustavus' own "manifesto of war" does not mention any religious motivations at all but speaks of political and economical reasons. Sweden would have to maintain its integrity in the face of several provocations and aggressions by the Habsburgian Empire. The manifesto was written by scholar Johann Adler Salvius in a style common of the time that promotes a "just war". Burkhardt argues that traditional Swedish historiography constructed a defensive interest in security out of that by taking the manifesto's text for granted. But to defend Stockholm, the occupation of the German Baltic territories would have been an extreme advance and the imperial Baltic Sea fleet mentioned as a threat in the manifesto had never reached more than a quarter of the size of the Swedish fleet. Moreover it was never maintained to challenge Sweden but to face the separatist Netherlands. So if ruling the Baltic Sea was a goal of Swedish strategy, the conquests in Germany were not a defensive war but an act of expansion. From Swedish Finland, Gustavus advanced along the Baltic Sea coast and eventually to Augsburg and Munich and he even urged the Swiss Confederacy to join him. This was no longer about Baltic interests but the imperial capital of Vienna and the alpine passes were now in close reach of the Swedish army. Another point mentioned by Burkhardt is the Gothic legacy of the Swedes, which had become a political program. The Swedish king was also "Rex Gotorum", (Latin: King of the Goths) and the list of kings was traced back to the Gothic rulers to construct continuity. Prior to his embarkment to northern Germany, Gustavus urged the Swedish nobility to follow the example of conquests set by their Gothic ancestors. Had he lived longer, it would have been likely that Gustavus had reached out for the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire.
Gustav II Adolf's success in making Sweden one of the great powers of Europe, and perhaps the most important power in the Thirty Years' War after France and Spain, was due not only to his military brilliance, but also to important institutional reforms in Sweden's government. The chief among these reforms was the institution of the first Parish registrations, so that the central government could more efficiently tax and conscript its populace.
Gustav II Adolf's politics in the conquered territory of Estonia also show progressive tendencies. In 1631 he forced the nobility to grant the peasants greater autonomy. He also encouraged education, opening a school in Tallinn in 1631, today known as Gustav Adolf Grammar School (Estonian: Gustav Adolfi Gümnaasium) On 30 June 1632, Gustav II Adolf signed the Foundation Decree of Academia Dorpatensis in Estonia, today known as the University of Tartu. With policies that supported the common people, the period of Swedish rule over Estonia initiated by Gustav II Adolf and continued by his successors, is popularly known by Estonians as the "good old Swedish times" (Estonian: vana hea Rootsi aeg).
On 27 August 1617, he spoke before his coronation, and his words included these:
I had carefully learned to understand, about that experience which I could have upon things of rule, how fortune is failing or great, subject to such rule in common, so that otherwise I would have had scant reason to desire such a rule, had I not found myself obliged to it through God’s bidding and nature. Now it was of my acquaintance, that inasmuch as God had let me be born a prince, such as I then am born, then my good and my destruction were knotted into one with the common good; for every reason then, it was now my promise that I should take great pains about their well-being and good governance and management, and thereabout bear close concern.
Source: wikipedia.org, news.lv
|1||Tukuma pils, pils tornis||participated in war||lv|
|2||Universitas Tartuensis, Tartu Universitāte||lv|
|3||Universitas Tartuensis, Tartu Universitāte||lv|
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|1||Kristīne I Vāsa||Daughter|
|2||Marija Eleonora Vāsa||Wife|