Battle of Breitenfeld, 17 September 1631
Major Imperial defeat during Thirty Years War. The Imperial army, commanded by Tilly, had captured Leipzig (15 September), where Tilly intended to wait for reinforcement. His 36,000 strong army was outnumbered by the joint Swedish and Saxon army of 42,000 men, commanded by Gustavus Adolphus. However, Pappenhiem, Tilly's deputy, desired battle, and through his actions forced Tilly to come to his rescue. Pappenheim started the fighting, with a flanking manoeuvre, and attacked the Swedish reserve, but the high quality Swedish cavalry were able to wheel round and attack Pappenheim, who found himself trapped between them and the reserve and was forced to flee. Meanwhile, the Imperial right wing attacked and scattered the Saxons, who fled the field, leaving Gustavus with the 26,000 Swedes only. Tilly attempted to attack the exposed Swedish left, but once again the Swedish troops were able to turn to face the new attack, and when Gustavus counterattacked on the Imperial left, capturing both the Saxon guns and the Imperial artillery, the Imperial forces found themselves under heavy bombardment and fled. Pappenheim's cavalry was able to cover the retreat, preventing a massacre, but Tilly still lost 7,000 dead and 6,000 prisoners, and was soon to lose his command, with the recall of Wallenstein in April 1632.
The Thirty Years War , C.V.Wedgewood. Despite its age (first published in 1938), this is still one of the best english language narratives of this most complex of wars, tracing the intricate dance of diplomacy and combat that involved all of Europe in the fate of Germany.
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (14 December 2000), Breitenfeld, battle of, 17 September 1631, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_breitenfeld.html