Leipzig, Germany (1631 & 1632 AD)
The Battles of Breitenfeld and Lutzen took place at the beginning of Swedish Intervention on the continent and roughly marked the turning point of the Thirty Years War in favor of the Protestants. These two engagements saw the armies of Sweden and the Protestant Union smash the hitherto seemingly invincible Hapsburg armies. Though there was still nearly two decades of fighting to come, including some Catholic victories, from 1632 onward the survival of the Protestant movement in Germany was assured.
In the wake of the disaster at White Mountain, the Protestants in Europe were forced on the defensive for the next five years, though fighting went on almost continuously throughout Germany, the Low Countries and France. Finally, in 1625, the Protestant powers of Scandinavia began to finally take a more active interest in the conflict when the Protestant states of Germany seemed on the immenence of collapse.
The first to intervene were the Danes, who sent armies in to stabilize the flagging Protestant cause. For five years they tried, unsuccessfully, to attain a victory against the Hapsburgs, but were defeated at every turn. In 1629 they withdrew from the conflict. However, Sweden, the greatest power in Northern Europe, joined the war against the Catholics the next year.
In 1630 a large Swedish army, led directly by King Gustavus Adolphus, arrived in Germany and began to drive the Catholics out of the north. Many German Protestants flocked to the Swedish banner. The Hapsburg army under Tilly were sent out to stop them, and the two sides met at Breitenfeld in September 1631. Fought between the two greatest military leaders of the war, Adolphus proved the greater. The catholics were routed, suffering nearly eighty percent casualties in the process, the protestant losses were also high.
The Hapsburg army, severely weakened, was forced to fall back. It suffered another blow a few months later when the near-legendary commander Tilly died of natural causes. The next year, the Protestants continued to take back territory while the Catholics regrouped. A second showdown became inevitable, and the two armies met again st Lutzen in November 1632. Again the Swedes were victorious, though casualties were very high on both sides, and Adolphus himself was killed in the fighting.
The Breitenfeld and Lutzen battlefields are among the most honored military sites in Germany. The Battle of Breitenfeld is commemorated by several monuments, including one in honor of Gustavus Adolphus as a champion of freedom of religion. The Lutzen Battlefield is similarly commemorated, with a giant stone monument marking the spot where the Swedish king was killed.
The two battlefields are located in the suburbs of Leipzig, Breitenfeld five miles to the north and Lutzen ten miles to the west, approximately 100 miles southwest of Berlin. All battlefield sites at both locations are open, with no cost of admission. Web: www.leipzig.de (official tourism website of Leipzig).
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