Johan Tserclaes, count of Tilly (1559-1632)
Flemish mercenary, who served as an Imperial general in the early years of the Thirty Years War. He first appeared in the service of Maximilian of Bavaria, and was general of the army of the Catholic League, led by Maximilian, which invaded Bohemia on 23 July 1620 to depose Frederick V of the Palatinate, at that point king of Bohemia, and was in command of the Imperial left wing at the battle of the White Hill (8 November 1620), which ended Frederick's hopes in Bohemia. After the victory, he was sent into the Rhineland in an attempt to defeat Mansfeld's mercenary army, but was forced to withdraw due to lack of Spanish support. When serious fighting resumed in 1622, Tilly was the main Imperial commander, along with Gonzales de Cordoba, who commanded a Spanish force. Their attempts to meet were temporarily stopped by Mansfeld, who defeated Tilly at the battle of Mingolsheim (27 April 1622), by the two armies had met by early May. On 6 May 1622, their combined army defeated the Protestant army of George Frederick, margrave of Baden-Durlach at the battle of Wimpfen, who had raised an army to held Frederick, removing George Frederick from the war, although Mansfeld, with the rest of the Protestant army was unaffected. On 20 June 1622, Christian of Brunswick, another Protestant prince, managed to cross the River Main, despite attempts by Tilly and Cordoba to stop him (battle of Hochst, 20 June 1622). Although Christian lost his artillery and suffered serious casualties, his cavalry survived, and more importantly, so did the large amount of treasure that Christian had gathered However, the Protestant forces withdrew in Alsace and Lorraine, where eventually Frederick repudiated his commanders, while Tilly was able to conquer the Palatinate by the end of 1622. 1623 saw Tilly's greatest success. On 6 August 1623, he caught up with the army of Christian of Brunswick, and at the battle of Stadtlohn crushed his army. Christian was only ten miles from safety in the United Provinces, where he eventually found refuge with his remaining 2,000 troops. From 1625, Tilly found his position frequently undermined by Count Albrecht von Wallenstein, who had been hired to form an Imperial army. For the next five years, Tilly found his army draining away. Wallenstein paid better than Tilly, attracting many of his officers, while Wallenstein was able to use his authority to force Tilly to winter in inhospitable areas, a tactic which saw large numbers of soldiers deserting from Tilly's army to join Wallensteins. Even after Wallenstein was dismissed in August 1630, and Tilly reappointed to command, things did not get better. Wallenstein now refused to provide supplies for the Imperial army, and a lack of supplies force Tilly to join his second in command, Pappenheim, at the siege of Magdeburg (April 1631), where they believed there to be large numbers of supplies. The fall of Magdeburg (20 May), was followed by the fire that destroyed the city, blackening Tilly's reputation, and destroying any supplies he might have gained from the city, forcing him once again to move. By September, Tilly had moved on Saxony, and on 15 September 1631 entered Leipzig, hoping to wait their until he was reinforced. Unfortunately, Pappenheim managed to force battle, and on 18 September the Imperial forces were defeated at the battle of Breitenfeld, which left Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden dominant within Germany. In April 1632, Wallenstein was recalled, on very favourable terms. One of his first actions was to send 5,000 troops to reinforce Tilly, who had decided to hold the line of the river Lech. On 15 April 1632, Gustavus Adolphus crossed the river under fire, and stormed the Imperial position (battle of the Lech). Tilly received what eventually turned out to be mortal wound early in the battle, and his second in command was killed outright, leaving Maximiliam of Bavaria to save the army through retreat. Tilly was moved to Ingolstadt, where soon afterwards he died of his wounds.
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. (5 December 2000), Johan Tserclaes, count of Tilly (1559-1632), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_tilly.html