Battle of Wittstock

Battle of Wittstock

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{{more footnotes|date=October 2011}} {{Campaignbox Thirty Years' War Swedish-French Intervention}} The '''Battle of Wittstock''' took place during the [[Thirty Years' War]] (1618-1648). It was fought on 24 September ([[Julian calendar]]) or 4 October ([[Gregorian calendar]]) 1636. A Swedish-allied army under general [[Johan Baner]] decisively defeated a combined [[Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire|Imperial]]-[[Saxony|Saxon]] army, led by [[Count Melchior von Hatzfeld]] and the Saxon Elector [[John George I, Elector of Saxony|John George I]]. Baner was helped by Swedish Count [[Lennart Torstenson]] and Scottish professional soldiers [[Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven|Alexander Leslie]], later first [[Earl of Leven]], [[James King, 1st Lord Eythin|James King]], later first Lord Eythin, and [[John Ruthven]]. ==Context== The Holy Roman Emperor, with his Saxon and [[Roman Catholic]] allies, was fighting for the control of northern Germany against the Swedes and an alliance of Protestant princes opposed to Habsburg hegemony. The Swedes were also allied to the French, but they played no part in the battle. The Imperial main army was screening the Swedish army behind the Elbe while a smaller army under General Klitzing was overrunning Brandenburg. Field Marshal Johan Baner commanding the main Swedish army was joined by Field Marshal [[Alexander Leslie]] commanding the Army of the Weser which comprised German, Scottish and (at least one) English regiments. Together they crossed the Elbe with a surprise march and met their opponents in the forested hilly landscape slightly south of Wittstock. The Imperial army was larger in strength than the Swedish army, but at least one-third of it was composed of Saxon units of questionable quality. The Swedish artillery was considerably stronger, leading the Imperial commanders to maintain a largely defensive position on the hill tops. The Imperial forces decided to wait for the Swedes on a range of sandy hills, the Scharfenberg. A part of the Imperial front was further defended with six ditches and a wall of linked wagons. Their commanders waited for some time for the Swedish troops to appear on the open fields to their front. Instead, the Swedish army was turning the Imperial left flank, moving behind the cover of a series of linked hills. The Imperial troops were forced to redeploy their lines to set up a new front. The battle was begun by small forces detached in detail to secure the hills. The Swedes, under Baner and Leslie had problems moving up reinforcements through marshy ground, but battle was eventually joined along a wide front. Baner and Leslie had detached one-fourth of the army under General James King, General John Ruthven and General Torsten Stålhandske to take a long detour around the Imperial right flank. They found the traverse difficult leading Baner's troops to take heavy casualties. Alexander Leslie moved six of his regiments to his relief taking heavy casualties in the process with the Scottish and English regiments being particularly badly mauled. Nonetheless they were able to relieve Baner in time for King's cavalry to finally outflank the Imperial troops causing a rout. Now attacked on two fronts, the Imperial forces, having lost all their artillery, retreated under the cover of dusk in full rout. In the accounts of the battle preserved in National Archives of Sweden, Johan Baner accredits the victory to Field Marshal Leslie. Leslie, in his personal correspondence to the Swedish Chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna, was clearly horrified at the losses sustained by his army and implies that there had been disagreement about the wisdom of Baner's tactics. Nevertheless, Wittstock was a resounding victory for the Swedish forces and corrected any delusions harboured by the Imperialists that they were a spent force after the earlier [[Battle of Nordlingen (1634)|battle of Nordlingen]]. ==Further reading== *Crossland, David. [http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,497461,00.html Mass Grave Sheds Light on Europe's Bloody History], ''[[Der Spiegel]]'', 31 July 2007 *Hall, Allen. [http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2833901.ece Mass grave offers a glimpse of wartime life in 17th century], [[The Independent]], 4 August 2007. — originally published in the Independent under the byline of "Allen Hall in Berlin" on Page 29. *[[Reuters]] agency report. [http://www.chinadaily.net/photo/2007-07/24/content_5442549.htm Pictures of the remains of soldiers killed during the Battle of Wittstock], [[China Daily]], 25 July 2007 *[http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/about-the-author.htm Trueman, Chris]. [http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/thirty_years_war.htm Thirty years War] {{coord missing|Brandenburg}}