Battle of Breitenfeld (1642)

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The Second Battle of Breitenfeld, also known as the First Battle of Leipzig, took place on 23 October 1642 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]

The battle[edit]

Map of the battle.

In this second clash between ideologies for the prized Saxon city of Leipzig, the Protestant allied forces, led by Torstensson, defeated an army of the Holy Roman Empire, led by Leopold and his deputy, Prince-General Piccolomini. The Imperials had 26,000 men and 46 guns, the Swedes 20,000 men and 70 guns.[2]

Like the first battle, the second was a decisive victory for Swedish-led forces who had intervened in the Thirty Years' War on behalf of various Protestant princes of the generally small German states against the German Catholic League formed to resist Protestant expansion in Central Europe.

The Imperial army suffered 9,500 casualties, including 4,500 taken prisoner.[3] The victors captured 46 guns. Killed or wounded were 4,000 Swedes; among them, General Torsten Stålhandske, who led the Finnish Hakkapeliitta Cavalry, received a serious wound.


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[clarification needed] 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 sentenced the Madlon regiment to exemplary punishment. Six regiments which had signalized[clarification needed] themselves in the battle, was drawn up under arms, and surrounded Madlon's regiment, which was severely rebuked 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 erased them from the register of the imperial troops, pronounced the sentence which had been agreed in the council of war, condemning the colonel, captains and lieutenants to be beheaded and soldiers to be decimated.[4] Ninety men (chosen by rolling dice) were executed in Rokycany, western Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) on December 14, 1642 by Jan Mydlář (junior), the son of Jan Mydlář, the famous executioner from Prague. On the first day of the execution the regiment's cords[clarification needed] were broken by the executioner. On the second day, officers were beheaded and selected men hanged on the trees on the road from Rokycany to Litohlavy. Another version said that soldiers were shot, and their bodies hanged on the trees. Their mass grave is said to be on the Black Mound in Rokycany, which commemorates the decimation to this day.


  1. ^ The second battle was 11 years after the first battle at the crossroads village had unbottled the Swedish forces under Gustavus II Adolphus wherein he[clarification needed] had handed Field Marshal Count Tilly his first major defeat in fifty years of soldiering on the same plain.
  2. ^ Wilson 2011, p. 636.
  3. ^ Clodfelter 2017, p. 41.
  4. ^ Compiled from Original Writers. (1761). The Modern Part of an Universal History: From the Earliest Account of Time. (VOL. XXX. ed.). London. p. 260. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°20′25″N 12°22′29″E / 51.3403°N 12.3748°E / 51.3403; 12.3748