The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Wallenstein, Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius Von
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Wallenstein, Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius Von
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WALLENSTEIN, väl'lĕn-stīn or wŏl'ĕn-stīn (or more recently Waldstein), Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius Von, Duke of Friedland and Mecklenburg, and Prince of Sagan, German soldier: b. Hermanic, Bohemia, 15 Sept. 1583; d. Eger, Bohemia, 25 Feb. 1634. He studied under the Jesuits at Olmütz and after accepting the Catholic faith finished his studies at the universities of Altdorf, Bologna and Padua. In 1617, on assisting the Archduke Ferdinand in the latter's war against Venice, he was raised lo the rank of count and made a colonel. When Bohemia revolted, he raised a regiment of cuirassiers for the emperor and fought against Thurn and Bethlen Gabor. When the estates of the vanquished Bohemians were confiscated in 1620 and sold to imperial adherents at nominal prices, he purchased extensive tracts, including the domains of Friedland and Reichenberg. In 1623 he was made Duke of Friedland and in 1624 his collective estates were elevated to a principality. He now applied himself to the care of these dominions. When the emperor was involved in new troubles by the Lower Saxon League in 1625 he offered to raise 20,000 men for the imperial service by his own efforts. In return he was to have full control in the hostile provinces. Before he had completed his levy he was named generalissimo and field-marshal, and then set out at the head of 30,000 men to co-operate with Tilly (q.v.). On 25 April 1625 he gained a victory over Count Mansfield at Dessau and when that general proceeded at the close of the year to Hungary to join Bethlen Gabor, he followed and brought Bethlen to conclude a truce. In the campaign of 1627 he conquered Silesia, drove the Danish king out of Germany and forced his way into northern Jutland, bought from the emperor the dukedom of Sagan at a price in which his military expenses were reckoned. The estates of Mecklenburg having been forfeited in the war, he was invested with them, first as security for his expenses and afterward as a regular fief in 1629. The attempt to take Stralsund was wholly unsuccessful (1628). In 1630, owing to the jealousy of the nobles, Wallenstein was deprived of his command.
When Gustavus Adolphus invaded Germany, Wallenstein attempted to negotiate with him on his own account, but the distrust of the Swedish hero frustrating his intentions, he listened to the earnest entreaties of the emperor and again took the field, having procured a formal capitulation securing to himself almost absolute power. After some partial successes he encountered the king of Sweden at Lützen, 16 Nov. 1632, in which battle Wallenstein was defeated and Gustavus killed. After the death of the Swedish king he had reopened negotiations with the enemies of the emperor, by whose assistance he hoped to place himself at the head of affairs in Germany. The matter proceeded slowly as his offers were received with much distrust, especially by the German princes; he resumed hostilities to make his value felt, then reopened negotiations. His proceedings were known at the court of Vienna; but he was at the head of an army largely consisting of foreigners, many of whose leaders were personally pledged to him alone. The emperor was not strong enough to remove him and was base enough to have recourse to assassination. On 24 Jan. 1634 he signed a secret patent conferring the command of the army on Count Gallas, who was instructed to arrest Wallenstein and his associates and throw them into prison. On 18 February an open proclamation was made commanding the army to obey only Generals Gallas, Piccolomini and others named. Wallenstein left Pilsen with some of his confidential associates on the 23d to take refuge in the fortress of Eger, which he reached on the 24th. Here he was assassinated on the evening of the 25th. The plenipotentiary of Saxony and Brandenburg had reached Zwickau and the plenipoteniary of France Frankfort, on their way to Wallenstein's headauarters, when they received word of his death. The emperor openly rewarded the assassins, among whom were two Scotchmen and two Irishmen, Gordon, Leslie, Butler and Devereux. Wallenstein's overtures to the enemies of the empire have been represented by his partisans as ruses de guerre.
A vigorous controversy has been waged over the matter. As an organiser and leader of armies he must be ranked among the great commanders. In a time of excessive confusion he maintained a statesmanlike control of difficult affairs. His career was made the basis of Schiller's trilogy of ‘Wallenstein.’ Consult the lives by Förster (1834); von Ranke (5th ed., 1895); Aretin (1846); Hurter (1855); Förster's ed. of the ‘Briefe Wallensteins’ (1828-29); Schebek, ‘Die Lösung der Wallensteinfrage’ (1881); Bilck, ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte Wallensteins’ (1886); Schulz, ‘Wallenstein und die Zeit des Dreissigjährigen Krieges’ (1898). See Thirty Years' War.