The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Gustavus II., Adolphus

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GUSTAVUS II., Adolphus, king of Sweden, sixth of the line of Vasa, son of Charles IX. and Christina of Schleswig-Holstein, born in Stockholm, Dec. 9, 1594, killed at Lützen, Nov. 6 (new style 16), 1632. His father was the youngest son of Gustavus Vasa, and had been called to the throne on the exclusion of his nephew Sigismund, king of Poland, who was the rightful heir, but had given umbrage to the states by professing the Roman Catholic religion. (See Charles IX. of Sweden.) Sigismund had made an alliance with Russia for the recovery of the Swedish crown, and Gustavus Adolphus, on the death of his father, Oct. 30, 1611, inherited a war with the Poles and Russians, besides a long standing hostility with the Danes. Securing the assistance of his nobles by confirming their privileges, he made a peace with Denmark on favorable terms, and then, turning his arms against the Russians, drove them from Ingria, Karelia, and part of Livonia. He made a treaty with the czar at Stolbova in 1617, by which he retained much of the conquered territory, and was then in a condition to prosecute the Polish war with greater advantage. He overran the Baltic coast from Riga to Dantzic, made himself master of a large part of Polish Prussia, defeated the Poles in several engagements, but was repulsed and wounded before Dantzic, and on Sept. 30, 1627, fought a bloody but indecisive battle. The emperor Ferdinand II. now took part in the contest, placed Gustavus under the ban of the empire, and sent 10,000 men under Wallenstein into Pomerania. The Swedes, however, continued victorious, and by the mediation of France and England a truce for six years was concluded in September, 1629, on terms highly favorable to Gustavus. Meanwhile the expense of the war had raised several seditions at home, which the king put down by alternate mildness and severity. Leaving the care of his kingdom to the chancellor Oxenstiern, Gustavus now turned his attention to fresh foreign conquests. The growing power of Austria on the Baltic, the affront put upon him by Ferdinand in the late war, and the danger that threatened the Protestant cause in the great religious contest which then divided Germany, joined to an ambition to aggrandize his country, induced him to declare war against the emperor; and having presented to the states assembled at Stockholm his daughter Christina as the heiress of his throne, he set sail with about 20,000 men, and landed at the mouth of the Oder, June 24, 1630. By July 10 he had seized almost the whole of Pomerania. He levied a heavy contribution in this province, disciplined his troops, taught them a new system of tactics, and then, having received an accession of six Scottish regiments under the duke of Hamilton, led a division of his army into Mecklenburg. Ferdinand, who at first looked with contempt upon the movements of this “king of snow,” now proposed a truce; but Gustavus preferred to follow up his successes, and in eight months from the time of his landing he had taken 80 fortified places. The imperialists under Tilly and Pappenheim gained several successes, but many of the Austrian magazines fell into the hands of the Swedes; and Gustavus, having first carried Frankfort-on-the-Oder by assault, pushed on toward Magdeburg, which Tilly was then investing. Before he could reach it the city was stormed, and more than 25,000 of the inhabitants were massacred. In September, 1631, Gustavus was joined by the elector of Saxony, with whom he at once gave battle to Tilly, and defeated him at Breitenfeld, near Leipsic, Sept. 7. This signal victory over a general never vanquished before, which displayed the superiority of the king's mode of fighting, based on boldness of attack and celerity of movement, at once established his reputation as a general. The Protestant states now hailed him as their leader. The elector of Saxony carried the war into Bohemia, while Gustavus marched into Franconia and the Palatinate, defeated Tilly again at Würzburg, and wintered at Mentz. Oxenstiern would have had him attack Vienna, but Gustavus, anxious to appear not as a conqueror, but as the liberator of the Protestants, had resolved to confine the operations of his armies to the N. and W. provinces. Ferdinand now determined to recall Wallenstein, who had been dismissed about the time of the Swedish landing; but before he could obey the summons Gustavus had attacked the Austrians at the river Lech (April, 1632), and had driven them into Ingoldstadt. Tilly was mortally wounded in the action. Munich surrendered to the Swedes in May; almost the whole of Bavaria was in their hands, and the elector was forced to take refuge in Ratisbon. The Lutheran peasants of Upper Austria took up arms; the Swiss granted permission to the king to raise levies in their territory, and the Swedish standard was carried triumphantly by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar to Lake Constance and the Tyrolese mountains. At this juncture Wallenstein appeared at the head of 40,000 men, drove the Saxons from Bohemia, entered Prague on May 4, effected a junction with the elector of Bavaria at Eger on June 11, and thence advanced toward Nuremberg, where he found Gustavus intrenched. The hostile armies remained in sight of each other for three months, each endeavoring to conquer by famine and disease. At last Gustavus, having made an unsuccessful attempt to storm the position of the enemy, retired toward the upper Danube, and in November entered Saxony, where Wallenstein was spreading carnage and desolation. On the 5th he found himself face to face with the enemy at Lützen, with 12,000 foot and 6,500 horse under his command; Wallenstein's army is believed by good authorities to have been considerably superior in numbers. The night was spent in preparation for battle. The morning of the 6th broke foggy, and when the mists rose, about 10 o'clock, the Swedes were seen kneeling in their ranks. They sang Luther's hymn, Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, and a hymn composed by the king, and then charged the enemy, Gustavus leading the right wing and Bernhard of Weimar the left. The imperialists were driven from their strong intrenchments, but meanwhile Pappenheim arrived with a body of cavalry from Halle, and the Swedes were turned back in confusion. Gustavus rallied them, and with a small body of horse rode forward to support the infantry in a fresh attack; but approaching too near a squadron of imperial cuirassiers, he received a shot in the arm, and as he turned to be led away another in the back which caused him to fall from the saddle. His horse, which had been wounded in the neck, dragged him some distance by the stirrup, and galloping riderless back to the ranks roused the Swedes to fury. Led by Bernhard of Weimar, they rushed forward with an impetuosity which nothing could resist. Pappenheim fell mortally wounded, and Wallenstein at last ordered a retreat. The dead body of the king was found covered with wounds. After having been embalmed at Weissenfels, it was carried to Stockholm, and there interred in the church of Riddarholms. It was believed that the duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, the king's cousin, who was with him when he fell, and a few days afterward went over to the Austrians, inflicted the wound in the back of which Gustavus died.—Gustavus inherited the commanding presence, eloquence, and accomplishments of his grandfather. He aimed at great conquests, but the extent of his ambition can hardly be conjectured. He owed his success in battle to strict discipline and the ardor with which he inspired his soldiers. His magnanimity, clemency to the vanquished, and respect for the religious opinions of others, compelled the esteem of his enemies. Though eminently a warlike king, he devoted much time to the internal affairs of Sweden; he encouraged commerce and manufactures, made excellent regulations for the mines, and endowed the university of Upsal. He is regarded as the Protestant hero of Germany, and in 1832, on the 200th anniversary of his death, was founded the “Gustavus Adolphus union.” Up to the close of 1868 this society had expended about 2,325,000 thalers in the support of new and poor Protestant congregations. Gustavus was married in 1620 to Maria Eleonore of Brandenburg, whose court he had visited in disguise for the purpose of choosing a wife. Their daughter Christina was his successor.