Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg
by Frederick the Great
A New Translation by Levi Bookin
THE ELECTOR GEORGE-WILLIAM
George-William succeeded to the Electorate in the year 1619. His rule was the most unfortunate of all those of his house. His dominions were rendered desolate during the course of the Thirty Years War, of which the somber traces are so profound when one still surveys the Mark at the time I am writing this history. All the catastrophes of the universe fell at the same time on this unfortunate Electorate. It had a prince at its head who was incapable of governing and who had a traitor to his country for his minister. War, or rather a general upheaval, occurred at the same time. The Electorate was inundated by both friendly and enemy armies, equally barbaric pillagers, who collided like waves stirred up by a tempest, sometimes covering it with their number, and sometimes retracting after ruining it. And finally, the culmination of the desolation: those of its inhabitants who escaped the soldier's sword perished from dangerous and contagious diseases.
The same fatality that pursued this elector appeared to hound all his relatives. George-William had married the daughter of Frederick 4th, Elector Palatine. He was consequently a brother-in-law of the unfortunate Frederick 5th, who was elected and crowned King of Bohemia, defeated at Weissenberg, and stripped of the Palatinate and put under the ban of the Empire by the Emperor Ferdinand 2nd. The Duke of Jaegerndorf, uncle of George-William, was dispossessed of his country because he had embraced the party of Frederick 5th. The Emperor gave the duke's confiscated possessions to the house of Lichtenstein, which is still in possession. The Elector protested in vain against this violence. His second uncle, the Administrator of Magdeburg, was eventually deposed and put under ban of the Empire, for joining the league of Lauenburg and for making an alliance with the King of Denmark. The Emperor, victorious over his enemies, was almost despotic in the Empire.
The Thirty Years War began in the year 1618 with the revolt of the Bohemians, who elected Frederick 5th, Elector Palatine, to be their king. However, because we are limiting ourselves to the events which directly affect the history of the house of Brandenburg, we will not make mention of this war, except where it relates to this history.
The twelve-year truce concluded by the Dutch and the Spanish in 1609 was expiring and the duchies of the succession of Cleves, where these two nations had troops, became the theater of war. The Spanish seized the garrison of Juelich, which the Dutch held for the Elector; Cleves and Lippstadt surrendered to Spinola. In 1629, however, the Dutch chased the Spanish out of the country of Cleves, and retook some cities for the Elector. In 1630, George-William and the Duke of Neuburg persuaded the Spanish to evacuate a part of these provinces. The Dutch stationed garrisons in the Elector's territories, and the Spanish in those of the Duke; but this arrangement did not last.
In 1635, the war recommenced in those provinces with more violence than before; and during the entire rule of the Elector, the provinces of this succession were prey to the Spanish and to the Dutch, who seized the posts, took cities by surprise, gained advantages one over the other, and lost them again, while nothing of importance came about. In those days, the actions of the officers and the brigandage of the soldiers constituted the major part of military art.
Although the Emperor affected an independent sovereignty, the princes of the Empire did not refrain from opposing his despotism with a firmness which halted him several times. These princes formed alliances which often caused alarm in Vienna.
The electors of Brandenburg and Saxony interceded with the Emperor on behalf of their colleague, the Elector Palatine, who had been put under the ban of the Empire. They refused to recognize the Elector Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, whom Ferdinand 2nd had elevated to this dignity, to the prejudice of the house of the Elector Palatine and against the laws of the Empire. According to the Golden Bull, an emperor has no right to impose the ban of the Empire, nor to degrade an elector, without the unanimous consent of the entire Diet, assembled as a body. These intercessions did not produce any effect; and the Emperor, who was only interested in his personal vengeance, finding that he had the strength, paid no attention to the privileges of the German assembly, nor to the laws of equity.
From that point, the Elector and his council foresaw the approach of the war and the necessity that would lead to their entry as the result of the complicated events which rendered it almost inevitable. On the one hand, the right to maintain the succession of Cleves; on the other, the Thirty Years War; and most of all, the dissensions to which religion had given birth, and which caused cabals and powerful leagues. The wars already in conflagration and those ready to involve his state, warned George-William to prepare himself to save what he was most unable to avoid. His first minister, the Count of Schwartzenberg, proposed to raise, by various means, a body of twenty thousand men that he wanted to transfer to the service of the Emperor. But such bad measures were taken and such ridiculous arrangements made that, with difficulty, six thousand men were assembled.
The progress of the Reformation, which divided Germany into two powerful parts, gradually led to open war.
The Protestants, interested in maintaining the free exercise of their religion, and to retain the possessions that they had confiscated from the clerics, held a confederation at Lauenburg. King Christian 4th of Denmark, and the dukes of Lueneburg, Holstein, Mecklenburg, and the Administrator of Magdeburg, the Elector's uncle, joined. The Emperor took umbrage and, judging it beneath him to use negotiation and sweetness to bring back the parties to a compromise, sent Tilly, at the head of twelve thousand men, into the district of Lower Saxony. Tilly appeared before Halle and although the city surrendered without resistance he gave it up to pillage. At the same time, Wallenstein approached the bishoprics of Halberstadt and Magdeburg with twelve thousand Austrians. Astounded by these hostilities, the States of Lower Saxony requested the Emperor for a compromise; but these propositions did not impede either Tilly or Wallenstein from invading the country of Halberstadt and of Magdeburg.
Christian-William, Administrator of Magdeburg, was deposed; and, against the expectation of the Imperial court, the chapter gave his nomination to a younger son of the Elector of Saxony, named August.
The deposed administrator joined his troops to those sent by the King of Denmark into Lower Saxony to maintain the confederation of Lauenburg. Christian-William and the Count of Mansfeld who commanded this army attacked Wallenstein at the bridge of Dessau and were defeated. Following their defeat, they fled to the Mark of Brandenburg, which they pillaged. Another body that the King of Denmark had near Lutter in Lower Saxony was defeated at the same time, by Tilly. The proximity and the victories of the Imperial forces eventually obliged George-William to submit to the wishes of the Emperor and to recognize the new dignity of Maximilian of Bavaria.
Having recovered from his defeats, the King of Denmark reappeared the following year with two armies, of which he commanded one, and the Administrator, the other; but, discouraged by the poor success that he had had, he did not dare to present himself before Tilly, who occupied Brandenburg, Rathenow, Havelberg and Perleberg.
Mansfeld, who had similarly re-assembled the wreckage of his army, entered the Mark despite the Elector's wishes. The Imperial forces detached against him seven thousand men, to whom the Elector joined eight hundred, under the orders of colonel Kracht. This body crossed the Warthe and scattered Mansfeld's fleeing troops. With such feeble assistance given by the Elector, it was clear that he only had a few foot soldiers.
The Imperial forces profited by their advantages and put garrisons in all Pomerania. And because there was some likelihood of the King of Sweden, as in the case of Denmark, joining the party of the Protestant princes of Germany, whom the Catholics were oppressing, the Emperor used this pretext to appear as the defender of the Empire. His secret intention was to arrange in accordance with his wishes the succession to this duchy, which would revert to the Elector after the death of Duke Bogislas, who had no descendants. Stralsund resisted the Imperial forces. Wallenstein put it to the siege; and raised it, having lost [it is said] twelve thousand men. This number appears to me to be greatly exaggerated, in view of the weakness of the body used; and it is apparent that the chroniclers of these times would add something, with their love of the astounding. The city of Stralsund, which sustained itself by its courage, defied his forces and concluded an alliance with Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and received a Swedish garrison of nine thousand men.
The Emperor however, swollen with the success of his generals in Germany, and believing the occasion favorable for diminishing the Protestant princes and the new religion, published his famous Edict of Restitution. This ordinance commanded the Protestant princes to hand over to the Church the possessions of which the Protestants had taken possession following the Treaty of Passau. This would have caused the considerable losses: the house of Brandenburg would be have been stripped of the bishoprics of Brandenburg, Havelberg, and Lebus. This was the signal for the Protestants to take up arms anew against the Catholics.
The ambitious projects of Ferdinand 2nd were not limited to belittling the princes of the Empire; he had always had an eye on the Archbishopric of Magdeburg. Nevertheless, when Wallenstein had besieged this capital for the greater part of seven months, he was forced to raise the siege in humiliation.
The troubles of Germany should not prevent us from considering for a moment those that arose in Poland. King Sigismund of Poland, had pretentions in respect of the kingdom of Sweden, which was then ruled by Gustavus Adolphus. The King of Sweden, more active and a greater man than his adversary, anticipated him. While Sigismund prepared to make war, Gustavus Adolphus crossed into Prussia, took the fortress of Pillau, and made great progress in Livonia as well as in Polish Prussia. At Danzig, he signed a truce for six years with the Poles, in which the Elector was included, and which was prolonged for twenty-six years. There was a question in this treaty concerning the status of George-William as a feudatory of Poland; in the year 1626 at Warsaw, he had received in person the investiture of Prussia.
The King of Sweden had plans to enter Germany, in order to profit from the divisions by which it was split, and by the troubles which were increased by the Edict of Restitution that the Emperor had published. In accordance with the practice of kings, Gustavus published a manifesto, at Warsaw, in which he set out his grievances against the Emperor. His subjects of complaint were that the Emperor had powerfully assisted the King of Poland; that he had deposed his ally, the Duke of Mecklenburg; and that he had employed violence against the city of Stralsund, with which Gustavus was in alliance. The Emperor was able to reply that as an ally of the King of Poland he had been forced to assist him by virtue of his commitment. Further, the Duke of Mecklenburg would not have been deposed, had he not been a member of the League of Lauenburg. And finally, it was only in relation to its commerce that a Hanseatic city like Stralsund was permitted to make treaties with kings and foreign princes.
When considering the reasons of Gustavus, they were no more valid than those employed by Charles 2nd of England in seeking a dispute with the Dutch. Briefly, the king complained that the de Witts had in their house a scandalous picture. Is it necessary that such frivolous matters arm nations one against the other, causing the ruin of the most flourishing provinces, and that the human species pours out its blood and lavishes its life for the ambition and the caprice of a single man?
While the Swedes were preparing to pounce on Germany, Wallenstein, who was established in the Electorate of Brandenburg, levied exorbitant sums. It was very singular that the Imperial forces treated a friendly country with such excessive harshness, and the ruler of which had given no subject of complaint to the Emperor. The deplorable situation in which George-William found himself was expressed, apparently with much truth, in a reply that he made to Ferdinand 2nd, who had invited him to appear at the Diet of Ratisbon, namely "The exhaustion of the Mark puts me beyond providing my normal expenses and even more so, to those of such a journey."
It is reported that the regiments of Oppenheim and St. Julian, who had their quarters in the Middle-Mark, drained it of three hundred thousand crowns in sixteen months. The silver mark was then at nine crowns; it is at present at twelve, meaning that this sum would make four hundred thousand crowns in our currency. Equally, these authors assure us that Wallenstein drew from the Electorate the sum of twenty million florins, which would be valued at 17,777,777 crowns; which is certainly exaggerated by a half. The writers of that time did not claim any accuracy; they collected popular rumors that they presented as if truth, and without thinking that the people ruined might find a type of consolation by amplifying their misfortunes and exaggerating their losses.
The storms which had been brewing for some years about the Electorate eventually united and came to swoop on it from all sides. Gustavus Adolphus entered Germany; he landed on the island of Ruegen, from which he dislodged the Imperial forces with the aid of his garrison of Stralsund. At the approach of the Swedes, the Emperor informed the electors of Saxony and of Brandenburg that they should prepare supplies and munitions for his troops, assuring them that in return for this service, he would modify in their respect his Edict of Restitution.
While the Diet of Ratisbon, in fine speeches, deplored the misfortunes of Germany and deliberated on the means of delivering it from so many evils, and above all of the invasion of Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden, who did not waste his time in useless words, seized all Pomerania. He placed a garrison at Stettin, and chased Torquato Conti, commander of the Imperial forces, out of the duchy. Driven out of Pomerania by the Swedes, this general withdrew through the New Mark and re-established his troops next to Frankfurt-am-Oder.
Gustavus Adolphus, master of Pomerania, made a treaty with Duke Bogislas. It stipulated that, if after the death of the duke there should be a dispute as to the devolution of Pomerania to the Elector of Brandenburg, or if Sweden was not entirely indemnified for the expense of the war, this province would remain sequestrated in the hands of Gustavus Adolphus.
The Protestants, encouraged by the approach of the King of Sweden, held a conference at Leipzig, where they deliberated on their interests.
The city of Magdeburg was already allied with Gustavus Adolphus and accorded him passage over its bridge across the Elbe. Consequent on this alliance, they chased the Imperial forces out of the flat country; but Tilly returned at the head of his army and put this city to the blockade, so famous in history.
The electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, disapproving of the conduct of the Magdeburgers, resolved to remain attached to the Emperor, and to assemble a general levy to oppose the Swedes.
At the approach of Gustavus Adolphus, the Elector hastily raised some earthworks before the gates of Berlin; he placed some cannons on the ramparts; lacking troops and not having had the time to assemble a general levy, he obliged the burghers to mount guard and see to the security of the city.
Gustavus Adolphus, however, crossed the Mark and rushed to the assistance of the Duke of Mecklenburg. As much a politician as a brave man, the king made his troops observe exact discipline. He planned to enlist all the Protestants in his interests, announcing the whole time that, in coming to Germany, his only intention was to deliver its rulers from the yoke that the Emperor had imposed on them, and above all to defend religious freedom. France and Sweden had the same interest in opposing the despotism of the house of Austria. They soon became allies, and their treaty, negotiated a long time previously, was concluded at Borwalde.
The Imperial forces, which were divided, thought to join up to oppose the Swedes. Tilly left some troops to continue the blockade of Magdeburg, and marched with the most of his forces to Frankfurt-am-Oder, where he joined Torquato Conti. He then crossed the Electorate in order to attack the Swedes, who were making progress in Mecklenburg. But the fortunes of Gustavus Adolphus were markedly in the ascendant compared with those of the Imperial general. The King of Sweden left Mecklenburg; he crossed the Oder at Schwedt; he took Landsberg in passing; he laid siege to Frankfurt, which was defended by seven thousand Imperial troops. He took the city and a number artillery pieces kept there; he seized Crossen once more, and then turned suddenly towards Berlin in order to rescue Magdeburg, to which Tilly had returned to besiege in person.
When Gustavus Adolphus arrived at Koepenick, he demanded that George-William hand over the fortresses of Spandau and Koestrin, under the pretext of securing his withdrawal, but in truth, with the intention of enlisting the Elector in his interests, despite himself. Astounded by this strange proposition, the Elector was unable to make up his mind to do anything; and the ministers proposed a meeting between the two rulers. George-William went to meet the King, a quarter of a mile from Berlin. The meeting took place in a small wood. The Elector found the King escorted by a thousand infantrymen and four cannons. Gustavus Adolphus reiterated the propositions that he had already made to George-William. Thrown into the cruelest embarrassment, not knowing what to decide, the Elector requested half an hour to consult his ministers. While waiting, the Swedish monarch looked after the princesses and the ladies of the court. After giving their advice, George-William's ministers always returned to the same refrain: "What to do? They have the cannons." After a long period of deliberations and with nothing concluded, he requested the King of Sweden to go to Berlin. Gustavus Adolphus entered this capital with his entire escort. Two hundred Swedes mounted guard at the castle of Berlin; the remainder of his troops were lodged with the burghers. The following day, all the Swedish army encamped at the gates of the city; and the Elector, no longer his own master, consented to everything the King of Sweden wanted. The Swedish troops who occupied the fortresses of Kuestrin and Spandau took an oath to the Elector; and the King promised to hand over these places to him when his need of them would be past. Gustavus Adolphus advanced beyond Potsdam, and at his approach, the Imperial forces that held Brandenburg and Ratenau withdrew the army that had besieged Magdeburg. The Elector of Saxony refused the Swedes passage over the bridge across the Elbe at Wittenberg, which hindered Gustavus in rescuing the city of Magdeburg as he had intended.
This unfortunate city, which neither Wallenstein nor Tilly had been able to take by force, succumbed in the end to a ruse. Thanks to the intervention of the Hanseatic cities, the Imperial forces had initiated negotiations with the Magdeburgers. During these conferences, they made a point of not shooting at the city. The Magdeburgers, gullible and negligent at the same time, slumbered in this apparent safety. The burghers who had formed the guard at night on the ramparts retired for the most part to their houses towards morning. Pappenheim, who directed the siege and had advanced his position as far as the counterscarp of the ditch, perceived this and profited by it. He made his dispositions and one morning, when few people were on the ramparts, he mounted four assaults at the same time, and made himself master of the ramparts without great resistance. At the same time, moving along the side of the Elbe, which was low at the time, the Croats ran along without distancing themselves too far from the banks, and took the works from the rear. Tilly, master of the cannons of the ramparts, aimed them so that they enfiladed the streets; and the number of Imperial troops, increasing by the minute, eventually rendered useless all the resistance that the inhabitants could have made. This city, one of the most ancient and one of the most flourishing in Germany, was thus taken when she expected it the least, and was barbarously given over to three consecutive days of pillage.
All that could be invented in the frenzied license of the soldier when nothing arrests his fury; all that the most ferocious cruelty inspires in men when a blind rage seizes their senses, was committed by the Imperial forces in this unhappy city. The soldiers gathered, their weapons in their hands; they rushed through the streets and indiscriminately massacred the old, the women, and the children, those who defended themselves, and those who did not make any resistance. The houses were pillaged and vandalized; the streets inundated with blood and covered with dead. One only saw corpses still pulsating, piled up or stretched out entirely naked. The mournful cries of those whose throats were cut and the furious cries of their murderers mingled in the air and inspired horror. The majority of the citizens perished in this cruel butchery, except for fourteen hundred who, having retreated into the cathedral, obtained the mercy of Tilly. The massacres were followed by arson. The flames arose on all the sides, and in a few hours, private houses and public buildings formed only the same mound of ashes. Scarcely one hundred and forty houses survived this general arson. Twelve hundred maidens drowned themselves, it is said, to preserve their virginity; but such matters are from fabulous tales, more successful at the time of Herodotus than that of ours.
All Germany, friends and enemies, lamented the fate of this city and deplored the unfortunate end of its inhabitants. The cruelty of the Imperial forces was of the utmost horror, similar to which history presents few examples of such great inhumanity.
After the loss of Magdeburg, Gustavus Adolphus encamped near Berlin for the second time; he was infuriated at his inability to save [Magdeburg], and he blamed it on the electors of Brandenburg and Saxony. George-William sent the Electress and all the princesses of his court to the camp of the King of Sweden, in order to appease him. He eventually went personally and accorded to the king all that he wanted of him. When the Elector returned to Berlin, the Swedish army saluted him with a triple discharge of cannons. As these pieces were charged with cannon balls and pointed towards the city, many houses and roofs were damaged by them. The inhabitants found this politeness somewhat Gothic and Herulian. The following day, the Swedish army crossed through the Spree and defiled through the city.
The Elector excused his conduct to Ferdinand 2nd, pleading that he had not been in a condition to resist the violence of a powerful king who had laid down the law to him with his main army. The Emperor replied drily that the Swedes would not treat the Mark any better than the Imperial forces had.
The Elector of Saxony, who saw the Swedish arms prospering, aligned himself on the side of the strong, setting an example to all the Protestant rulers. The Swedes returned Spandau and Kuestrin to the Elector; they subsequently overran Lower Saxony, entered the Old Mark, and took the camp of Werben, a post with an admirable base and situated at the confluence of the Havel and the Elbe. Tilly, fearing for Pappenheim, who had been forced to shut himself up in Magdeburg, left Thuringia and went to his assistance. He advanced towards the camp of the King of Sweden. The fortunate spirit of this king, which facilitated all his undertakings, gave birth to a plan to surprise Tilly's vanguard, comprising three regiments that this general had ventured too much. He executed this project himself, cut this body in pieces, after what he returned to his camp. Tilly, who wanted to take revenge for this affront, marched right to the Swedes; but the base of the camp was so strong, and the dispositions of the king so good, that he did not dare to run the risk. He lacked supplies and, finding himself forced to withdraw, he turned beside Halle with the intention of overcoming Leipzig and of constraining the Elector of Saxony to leave the Swedish side. Detecting his plan, Gustavus Adolphus left his camp at Werben, crossed the Elbe at Wittenberg, joined the Saxons at Dueben, and fell on the Imperial forces, which he totally defeated. Amongst the numerous artillery pieces that the King took to [confront] the Imperial forces in this battle of Leipzig, many pieces with the arms of Brandenburg, Saxony, and Lueneburg were noticeable, which the Imperial forces had appropriated. Having left six thousand of his own there, Tilly fled to Thuringia, where he gathered the debris of his defeat.
We shall not follow the Swedes in the course of their triumphs. It suffices to know that Gustavus Adolphus became the arbiter of Germany. He penetrated as far as the Danube while Baner, at the head of another Swedish body, chased the Imperial forces out of the bishoprics of Magdeburg and Halberstadt and established a government in the name of his master in these territories. To the Imperial forces remained only the city of Magdeburg, where they had a strong garrison.
While Germany was devastated and pillaged, Sigismund, King of Poland, died, and Ladislaus was elected in his place.
The Swedes, who did not rest on their laurels, besieged Magdeburg. Pappenheim, who was in the Duchy of Brunswick, rushed to the rescue. Baner raised the siege at his approach; at the same time, the Duke of Lueneburg, who was allied to the Swedes, went to join Baner with a fine army. Finding himself too weak to resist so much strength, Pappenheim evacuated the city of Magdeburg and retired into Westphalia and Franconia, where the war followed him. The Swedes entered Magdeburg and encouraged the few who remained of its former inhabitants to rebuild the walls of their land.
Rendered gentler by the misfortune of his arms, the Emperor used most ingratiating language in order to detach the electors of Saxony and Brandenburg from the party of the Swedes. But these had strong reasons for using it otherwise. The Elector of Saxony flattered himself that, with the favor of the superiority of the Swedes, he could play a great role in the Empire. And the Elector of Brandenburg, who feared the Imperial forces and the Swedes equally, not knowing what to decide, thought to take a side advantageous to his states, by attaching himself to the strength of Gustavus Adolphus, which appeared so well consolidated. He even sent some weak assistance to the Saxons, who were pursuing a body of Imperial forces in Silesia, commanded by Balthazar of Maradas.
Irritated by the refusal of these princes and more so at their descent on Silesia, the Emperor decided to mark his resentment, and sent Wallenstein at the head of a strong army to appropriate these two electorates. Pappenheim left Westphalia, and joined Wallenstein. Because the King of Sweden was now in Bavaria, these two generals profited by his remoteness: they entered Saxony and took Leipzig, Naumburg, Merseburg, Halle and Giebichenstein.
The King of Sweden learned of this piece of news, and rushed to the assistance of Lower Saxony. He arrived, he won the famous battle of Luetzen, and he lost his life in combat. The Swedes, victors, considered themselves defeated, no long having their hero at their head; and the Imperial force, although defeated, believed themselves victorious, no long having Gustavus Adolphus to fight.
Thus ended the king who had made the Emperor tremble, who had re-established the freedom of the princes of Germany, and whom one could not reproach with any fault other than too much ambition, which is unfortunately true of the majority of great men. After his death, the Swedes chased the Imperial forces out of Lower Saxony; and all the cities which Wallenstein was holding were retaken by the Elector of Saxony. Oxenstierna took over the direction of the affairs of the Swedes in Germany; and at Heilbronn, he concluded an alliance with Franconia, Swabia, the Upper and the Lower-Rhine, in the name of Sweden.
Although the Elector did not join the alliance of Heilbronn, he sent some new assistance to Arnim, who commanded the Saxon troops in Silesia; the Elector's entire force did not consist in more than three thousand horse and five thousand infantrymen. When he learned that Wallenstein and Gallas had re-entered Silesia, he called up a general levy, or rather he armed all his subjects; but, as he lacked funds to maintain them, he never gathered sufficiently numerous forces to oppose the violence of his enemies.
Wallenstein advanced in Silesia with an army of forty-five thousand men; he amused Arnim by propositions for compromise; he gave him openings to Saxony, but turned suddenly towards Steinau, detached eight hundred Swedes, seized Frankfurt, and sent parties who ravaged Pomerania and the Electorate. He commanded Berlin to bring its keys, but he learned, on the one hand, that Bernard of Weimar had retaken Ratisbon; and on the other, that nine thousand Saxons and Brandenburgers were advancing towards him; and, without continuing his projects, he withdrew to Silesia, leaving a strong garrison at Frankfurt and some other cities. Arnim and Baner covered Berlin with their army. The Elector, assisted by the Swedish troops, found himself at the head of an army of twenty thousand men, of which, at most, the sixth part belonged to him. The names of the Brandenburger regiments in this army were Burgsdorff, Volckmann, Francois-Lauenburg and Ehrentreich-Burgsdorff. He appeared with these troops before Frankfurt, and a thousand Austrians emerged by way of capitulation; the Imperial garrison of Crossen emerged with the white stick in their hands.
While Baner directed Sweden's military operations, Oxenstierna became the core of the negotiations. Having found that the alliance he had made at Heilbronn with the districts of the Empire was advantageous, this chancellor made a similar proposition to the districts of Upper and Lower Saxony. It was actually concluded at Halberstadt, and the electors of Saxony and Brandenburg became the principal members. Seeing the armies of Sweden triumphant throughout, and the princes of the Empire allies or dependants of Sweden, Oxenstierna thought its power so well established that nothing could resist it from then on. In this belief, he showed his true colors in an assembly held at Frankfurt-am-Main, and proposed that in return for compensating Sweden for its expenses incurred on behalf of the Protestant princes, the Empire should cede Pomerania to it after the death of its last duke.
Let it be said in passing that this proposition was a true comment on the manifesto published by Gustavus Adolphus when he entered Germany. The Elector of Brandenburg found himself extremely wounded by Oxenstierna's proposition, which tended to frustrate his rights over Pomerania; and the Elector of Saxony, who flattered himself as governing Germany, was extremely jealous of the power of this chancellor and of the pride that the Swedes affected. Misfortune required that in these circumstances the Archduke Ferdinand and the Cardinal-Infant won a complete victory over the Swedes at Nordlingen, which succeeded in weakening the allies, who had in addition, as we have said, real subjects of dissatisfaction.
Careful to divide the states of Germany aligned against him, the Emperor profited with skill from the peaceful dispositions of these two electors, and he made peace with them at Prague. The conditions of this treaty, signed on 20th March 1635, were: that the second son of the Elector of Saxony would remain Administrator of Magdeburg; that the four bailiwicks carved from this archbishopric would remain the property of Saxony; the Emperor promised the Elector of Brandenburg to support his rights in respect of Pomerania, and not to lay any further claim to Church property in his possession; further, he confirmed the pacts of fraternity between the houses of Brandenburg, Saxony, and Hesse.
After this peace, the Swedes who infested the bishoprics of Magdeburg and Halberstadt were cleared out by the Imperial and Saxon troops. The city of Magdeburg alone remained to the Swedes. Pomerania, Mecklenburg, and the Old Mark felt anew the effects of the troubles of the war. The Imperial forces and the Saxons occupied all the banks of the Elbe and the Havel, but that did not impede the Swedes from making incursions well forward into the country, and even to push their parties as far as Oranienburg. Baner, in order to distance the war from Pomerania, which he wanted to preserve for the Swedish crown, assembled his army at Rathenow, and marched by Wittenberg at Halle, still hoping to deliver the Swedish garrison of Magdeburg, which was very much harried by the Imperial forces. The Elector of Saxony rushed to Meissen, where he joined a body of the Imperial forces commanded by Morosini. The war ceased for a long time at the banks of the Saale. The Saxons, however, forced Baner to withdraw, and the Imperial forces took Magdeburg. Baner passed through Lueneburg, and returned to the Mark; Wrangel joined him with a reinforcement of eight thousand men. They surprised and seized Brandenburg; and Rathenow, where there was an Imperial garrison. The unfortunate electorate thus became the prey of its first occupant; those who used the name of friends as well as those who spoke as declared enemies: levying exorbitant contributions, pillaging, sacking, devastating the country, and making themselves the masters as long as they were there. All the cities situated the length of the Havel were pillaged twice by the Swedes in less than six weeks, and once by the Imperial forces. The desolation was universal: the country was not ruined, but it was totally battered.
The misfortunes of those times ensured that fortune would never declare herself entirely for one party and that, seeming to want to perpetuate the war, she raised up inadvertently those that she had struck down and subsequently reduced those that she had raised up.
The manner in which war was made then was different from the way it is made at present. Rulers only rarely made great efforts to raise troops. In time of war they maintained one or, according to their power, several armies; the number of each did not normally exceed twenty-four thousand men. These troops lived off the country where they were employed; they would normally be billeted, and only encamped when they wanted to give battle, when their subsistence was easily provided. When the Emperor or the King of Sweden wanted to execute some great project, they joined two armies, by means of which they attained superiority. The generals of the weaker body, compared with the forces of the enemies, withdrew without fighting; and as they lived everywhere as they wished, abandoned a country which was irrelevant to them, because they always found another, to pillage. This method prolonged the war, decided nothing, consumed more people during its duration than there are at present; and the rapine and the brigandage of the troops totally devastated the provinces which served as the theater of war for the armies.
Baner won a victory over the Imperial forces and the Saxons at Wittstock. The Swedes suddenly regained superiority; defeated and in flight, the troops did not stop until Leipzig. The Swedes flooded the Mark anew; Wrangel entered Berlin and garrisoned five companies there, after which he asked the Elector for the return of his fortresses. George-William, who had retired to Peitz, replied that he had abandoned himself to the discretion of the Swedes, but that the Imperial forces were masters of his territories and that he could not dispose of them. Wrangel encamped in the New Mark.
At this time, Ferdinand 2nd, proud oppressor of Germany, died. His son Ferdinand 3rd, whom he had had elected King of the Romans, succeeded him, as if this throne were hereditary. Bogislas, whose family had possessed the Duchy of Pomerania for seven hundred years, also died during these troubles, and all his house was extinguished with him. Masters of Pomerania and even of the states of Brandenburg, the Swedish armies impeded the Elector from asserting his rights over the Duchy; he contented himself with sending a trumpeter to the states of Pomerania, to order them to treat the Swedes as enemies. This strange embassy had no effect; no doubt the Elector used a trumpeter because he thought that he would pass through the Swedish troops more easily than a man in good shape.
Under the orders of Hatzfeld and Morosini, however, the Imperial forces chased Baner out of Saxony, pushed him beyond the Schwedt, and retook Landsberg. At the head of the Saxons, Klitzing cleaned out the Mark and the banks of the Havel, and liberated this country from the Swedes at the same time. The war, which travelled from one province to another, moved anew into Pomerania, where the Imperial forces were joined by three thousand Hungarians. Pomerania suffered the fate of the Mark. Exposed to the same robberies, she was taken, retaken, burned and ruined. Fate wanted the Swedes to receive powerful assistance, which gave them the means of forcing the Imperial forces to flee before them as far as Bohemia. [Notwithstanding] several reverses that tested the Austrian troops, nothing was capable of detaching the electors of Brandenburg and Saxony from the alliance that they had made with the Emperor.
The Swedes appeared for the fourth time before the gates of Berlin, and four hundred Brandenburgers evacuated the city at their approach. In order to avenge the evils that the Swedes had caused the Electorate to suffer, the Elector planned a diversion: four thousand Prussians entered Livonia, where they committed various ravages; but negligent as to appropriating cities in order to secure their establishment, they promptly abandoned their conquests, and their expedition became useless. The Swedes made the Mark feel the losses that they had caused in Livonia. At Bernau, they surprised fifteen hundred Brandenburgers, commanded by Burgsdorff. Dewitz took the road to Silesia, and Baner sacked Saxony and the country of Halberstadt.
In command at Berlin, Axel Lilje hung on near Spandau and lightly blockaded Kuestrin, where the Elector had retired with his fugitive court. The Estates of Pomerania convened at this time and the Elector sent deputies. The Estates did not favor the Swedes at all and the Elector's envoys at the Diet of Ratisbon took the place there of the dukes of Wolgast and of Stettin.
As the Estates of Prussia were to be convened that year at Koenigsberg, George-William appeared there, in order to solicit the payment of arrears of subsidies. However, he died at Koenigsberg on 3rd of December, leaving to his son, Frederick-William, a desolate country of which his enemies were in possession, possessing few troops, allies whose friendship was equivocal, and almost no resources. Without offending the laws of equity, one could not place the responsibility on George-William for all the misfortunes which occurred during his government. If he was guilty of major errors, they consisted in the fact that he placed his confidence in the Count of Schwartzenberg, who betrayed him and who, according to several historians, had formed a plan to make himself Elector of Brandenburg. He was a Catholic; he had always taken the side of the Emperor; and he prided himself that more than for his protection, the fortresses of the Electorate had been handed over to the Emperor.
Above all, George-William is to be reproached for not having raised, before the war came to ravage his dominions, a body of twenty thousand men that he was capable of maintaining. These troops would have served to uphold his rights in respect of the succession of Cleves and even more usefully, to defend his provinces. If the Elector had been armed in this way, Mansfeld and the Administrator of Magdeburg would not have undertaken, as they did, a crossing of the Electorate. The Emperor Ferdinand 2nd would have been eager to show respect for him and he would have depended on himself alone whether to become an ally or an enemy of the Swedes, instead of being a slave of whoever first came along, as he was.
Since George-William did not take these measures, the bizarre complication of the circumstances did not allow him more than a choice between errors. He was obliged to choose between the Emperor and the Swedes; and as he was weak, his allies were always his masters.
The zeal with which the Emperor persecuted the Protestants, his famous Edict of Restitution, the eye he had on the archbishopric of Magdeburg, and above all the despotic manner with which he wanted to govern Germany, could only inspire the Elector to distance himself from him. Equally, the danger of alliance with a foreign power, the incredible pillages that the Swedes carried out in the country of Brandenburg, the pride of Oxenstierna, and the plan that the Swedish crown had formed of acquiring Pomerania, impeded George-William from entering an alliance with the Swedes. What is more, he understood that they would not use him, as a principal instrument, to seize the succession of Pomerania for him. At certain points, revolted by the harshness of Ferdinand 2nd, he threw himself, as if in despair, into the arms of Gustavus Adolphus. At others, pushed about by Oxenstierna's plans, he sought the support of the court at Vienna. In continual uncertainty, without force and without power, he turned willingly or by compulsion; and Fortune, passing all the time from the Imperial armies to the Swedish, and from the Swedish to the Imperial rendered the Elector the victim of his own weakness, so that his allies never had sufficiently steady advantages that they should protect him as they should have done against the enterprises of their common enemies