Battle of Breitenfeld (1642)

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For a related battle earlier in the same war, see Battle of Breitenfeld (1631). For the Battle of the Nations during the Napoleonic Wars, see Battle of Leipzig.
Battle of Breitenfeld
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Tortensson1642 marcossouza.jpg
Lennart Torstenson's military campaign in 1642
Date 23 October 1642
Location Breitenfeld, Saxony (present-day Germany)
Result Decisive Swedish victory
Belligerents
Flag of Sweden.svg Swedish Empire  Holy Roman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Sweden.svg Swedish Empire Lennart Torstenson
Flag of Sweden.svg Swedish Empire Torsten Stålhandske
Holy Roman Empire Leopold Wilhelm
Ottavio Piccolomini
Strength
15,000 25,000
46 guns
Casualties and losses
4,000 dead or wounded 10,000 dead or wounded
5,000 prisoners

The Second Battle of Breitenfeld, also known as the First Battle of Leipzig (23 October 1642), took place at Breitenfeld (some 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) north-east of Leipzig), Germany, during the Thirty Years' War. The battle was a decisive victory for the Swedish army under the command of Field Marshal Lennart Torstenson over an Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire under the command of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria and his deputy, Prince-General Ottavio Piccolomini, Duke of Amalfi.[1]

Battle[edit]

In this second clash between ideologies for the prized Saxony city of Leipzig, the Protestant allied forces, led by Torstenson, defeated an army of the Holy Roman Empire, led by Leopold and his deputy, Prince-General Piccolomini.

Like the first battle the second was a decisive victory for Swedish led forces in their intervention in the Thirty Years' War on behalf of various Protestant "Princes" of the generally small German states against the German Catholic League formed to stamp out Protestantism in Central Europe.

The Imperial army suffered 15,000 casualties, where of 5,000 were taken prisoner. Forty-six guns were also seized. 4,000 Swedes were killed or wounded; among them, General Torsten Stålhandske, who led the Finnish Hakkapeliitta Cavalry, received a serious wound.

Aftermath[edit]

The battle, following a brief mop-up campaign ending with the Battle of Klingenthal, enabled Sweden to occupy Saxony. His defeat made Emperor Ferdinand III more willing to negotiate peace, and renounce the Preliminary of Hamburg.

During the battle Colonel Madlon's cavalry regiment was the first that fled without fighting. Archduke Leopold Wilhelm assembled a court-martial in Prague which decided that the Madlon regiment was to be exemplary punished. Six regiments which had signalized themselves in the battle, being drawn up under arms, surrounded that of Madlon, which was severely reproached for its cowardice and misconduct, and ordered to lay down its arms at the feet of general Piccolomini. When they had obeyed this command, their ensigns were torn in pieces; and the general, having mentioned the causes of their degradation, and razed them from the register of the imperial troops, pronounced the sentece which had been agreed upon in the council of war, condemning the colonel, captains and lieutenants, to be beheaded and soldiers to be decimated.[2] 90 men (chosen by rolling dice) were executed in Rokycany, Czech Republic on December 14, 1642 by Jan Mydlář jr., the son of Jan Mydlář, famous executioner from Prague. On the first day of the execution the regiment's cords were broken by the executioner. On the second day, officers were beheaded and chosen men hanged on the trees on the road from Rokycany to Litohlavy. Another version said that soldiers were shot down and hanged on the trees afterwards. Their mass grave is said to be on the place of Black mound in Rokycany, which commemorates the decimation to this day.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The second battle was fully eleven years after the first battle at the crossroads village had unbottled the Swedish forces under Gustavus II Adolphus wherein he had handed Field Marshal Count Tilly his first major defeat in fifty years of soldiering on the same plain.
  2. ^ Compiled from Original Writers. (1761). The Modern Part of an Universal History: From the Earliest Account of Time. (VOL. XXX. ed.). London. p. 260. 

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