Gateway to the Classics: European Hero Stories by Eva March Tappan
European Hero Stories by  Eva March Tappan

Gustavus Adolphus

Only nine years after Holland freed herself from the rule of Spain, a struggle known as the Thirty Years' War broke out in Bo-he'mi-a and Germany. It was in great degree between Catholics and Protestants; but the cause of it was not that they were trying to convert each other with fire and sword, but that each wanted certain lands of the country. War is always horrible, but it was even more dreadful in Germany than usual, for the armies were filled with the rabble of many countries, vagabonds and adventurers who had no intention of obeying their generals. Wherever they were quartered, they burned and plundered and murdered.


Wallenstein and his Generals Feasting.

Another thing that caused much suffering was the behavior of Wal'len-stein, who was in command of the emperor's forces. He was a wealthy, ambitious man who had raised a large army himself, and provided for its support. He lived, even when in camp, in the greatest luxury. His horses were the most costly that could be obtained, and large numbers of them and their grooms ware always with him. He carried about magnificent clothing and superb furnishings of all sorts. All these things were brought about by forcing the people to give him whatever he demanded, torturing them and burning their homes if they refused. He was a Catholic, but the other Catholic dukes finally rose against him, and obliged the emperor to dismiss him.


Gustavus Aldophus.

The Protestants throughout Europe had been hoping that Gus-ta'vus A-dol'phus, the king of Sweden, would come to the aid of the Protestants in Germany. He was called the Lion of the North because he was so good a soldier. For some time, however, he was occupied with other wars, making sure of the safety and prosperity of his own country. At length the day came when he felt that he might venture to help the Protestants. He called the representatives of his people together and told them that he did not undertake the war to please himself, but to aid his brethren in Germany. He spoke to the councilors, to the knights, and to the clergymen, talking to them as if he had been their father and giving them good advice. Then he spoke to the citizens. "I wish that your little cottages may grow into big stone houses," he said, "and your little boats into great ships. I wish for you all, that your fields may wax green and bring forth fruit a hundred fold and your comfort and well-being grow and increase, so that your duty may be done with joy and not in sighing." He took his little four-year old daughter Chris-ti'na in his arms and held her up to the people, for if he should not return she would be their lawful sovereign. He seemed to feel as if he should never see his people again, and the tall, strong man, the winner of many battles, was so moved that his voice broke again and again. The people sobbed and wept, for their big, yellow-haired king was very dear to them.

The news soon reached Germany that Gustavus was coming, and the emperor was much amused. "We have a new little enemy," he said, and it became quite the fashion to laugh about the "Snow King." "He'll melt away as he comes south," people declared. Gustavus came to Germany. The German princes were willing to oppose the emperor themselves, but it was a different matter to unite with a foreigner to fight against him, and they hesitated.

Meanwhile, however, Til'ly, another of the emperor's great generals, was besieging Mag'de-burg. After a long and brave resistance it had to yield. The army rushed in, stole everything that was worth stealing, tortured the people and put thousands of men, women, and little children to death, and set fire to the city.


Commissioners Concluding the Peace of Westphalia.

Then, emperor or no emperor, the German princes were ready to join Gustavus. He conquered everywhere, and Tilly was slain in battle. Wallenstein was recalled, and again put in command of the emperor's forces. Shortly afterward came the great battle of Lüt-zen. It took place on a level plain through which ran a wide roadway. Early in the morning of that day mass was celebrated in the camp of Wallenstein, and at the same time prayer was offered in the camp of Gustavus. Out of the dense fog rose the voices of the Swedish king and his men singing Luther's hymn,

"A mighty fortress is our God."

The fog lifted, and a terrible battle began. Part of Gustavus's troops were yielding. The king galloped across the field, waving his sword and calling upon his men to rally. His own safety was the last thing he thought of. Suddenly a bullet struck his arm, another his breast, and he fell from his horse, mortally wounded. The riderless steed ran madly along the Swedish lines. "The king is captured! To the rescue!" shouted the officer who now took command; and the Swedes fought like fiends. Their brave leader was dead, but Wallenstein was forced to retreat.

The Swedes continued to help the Protestants, until after a few years the war gradually became a contest, not between Catholics and Protestants, but between two princely houses, each of which was striving for power. The struggle dragged on until every one was glad when at last a treaty was proposed.

This treaty was called the peace of West-pha'lia, after a region in Germany where it was signed.

The Swedes, however, never ceased to grieve for the loss of their king. Our country, too, may claim friendship with him, for he was interested in the New World and planned to send a colony to its shores. The little Christina became queen, and when she was twelve years old, the wish of her father came to pass, and on the spot in Delaware where the city of Wilmington now stands some Swedish colonists built a fort and named it Fort Christiana in her honor.


The cause of the Thirty Years' War. — Why the war was especially horrible. — Wallenstein. — Gustavus bids farewell to his people. — The "Snow King."—The siege of Magdeburg. — The victories of Adolphus. — The battle of Lützen. — A Swedish colony in America.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Invincible Armada Is Defeated  |  Next: Peter the Great Founds St. Petersburg
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.