A nice story to share with
Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and Breysach. From johann Schiller book 'The History of the Thirty Years War'
...Bernard himself came into France, and in October, 1635, concluded a treaty
at St. Germaine en Laye, not as a Swedish general, but in his own name,
by which it was stipulated that he should receive for himself
a yearly pension of one million five hundred thousand livres,
and four millions for the support of his army, which he was to command
under the orders of the French king. To inflame his zeal, and to accelerate
the conquest of Alsace, France did not hesitate, by a secret article,
to promise him that province for his services; a promise which Richelieu
had little intention of performing, and which the duke also estimated
at its real worth. But Bernard confided in his good fortune, and in his arms,
and met artifice with dissimulation. If he could once succeed
in wresting Alsace from the enemy, he did not despair of being able,
in case of need, to maintain it also against a friend. He now raised an army
at the expense of France, which he commanded nominally under the orders
of that power, but in reality without any limitation whatever,
and without having wholly abandoned his engagements with Sweden.
He began his operations upon the Rhine, where another French army,
under Cardinal Lavalette, had already, in 1635, commenced hostilities
against the Emperor.
Against this force, the main body of the Imperialists, after the great victory
of Nordlingen, and the reduction of Swabia and Franconia had advanced
under the command of Gallas, had driven them as far as Metz,
cleared the Rhine, and took from the Swedes the towns of Metz and Frankenthal,
of which they were in possession. But frustrated by the vigorous resistance
of the French, in his main object, of taking up his winter quarters in France,
he led back his exhausted troops into Alsace and Swabia.
At the opening of the next campaign, he passed the Rhine at Breysach,
and prepared to carry the war into the interior of France.
He actually entered Burgundy, while the Spaniards from the Netherlands
made progress in Picardy; and John De Werth, a formidable general
of the League, and a celebrated partisan, pushed his march into Champagne,
and spread consternation even to the gates of Paris.
But an insignificant fortress in Franche Comte completely checked
the Imperialists, and they were obliged, a second time,
to abandon their enterprise.
The activity of Duke Bernard had hitherto been impeded
by his dependence on a French general, more suited to the priestly robe,
than to the baton of command; and although, in conjunction with him,
he conquered Alsace Saverne, he found himself unable, in the years
1636 and 1637, to maintain his position upon the Rhine. The ill success
of the French arms in the Netherlands had cheated the activity of operations
in Alsace and Breisgau; but in 1638, the war in that quarter
took a more brilliant turn. Relieved from his former restraint,
and with unlimited command of his troops, Duke Bernard,
in the beginning of February, left his winter quarters
in the bishopric of Basle, and unexpectedly appeared upon the Rhine,
where, at this rude season of the year, an attack was little anticipated.
The forest towns of Laufenburg, Waldshut, and Seckingen, were surprised,
and Rhinefeldt besieged. The Duke of Savelli, the Imperial general
who commanded in that quarter, hastened by forced marches
to the relief of this important place, succeeded in raising the siege,
and compelled the Duke of Weimar, with great loss to retire.
But, contrary to all human expectation, he appeared on the third day after,
(21st February, 1638,) before the Imperialists, in order of battle,
and defeated them in a bloody engagement, in which the four Imperial generals,
Savelli, John De Werth, Enkeford, and Sperreuter, with 2000 men,
were taken prisoners. Two of these, De Werth and Enkeford,
were afterwards sent by Richelieu's orders into France,
in order to flatter the vanity of the French by the sight
of such distinguished prisoners, and by the pomp of military trophies,
to withdraw the attention of the populace from the public distress.
The captured standards and colours were, with the same view,
carried in solemn procession to the church of Notre Dame,
thrice exhibited before the altar, and committed to sacred custody.
The taking of Rhinefeldt, Roeteln, and Fribourg, was the immediate consequence
of the duke's victory. His army now increased by considerable recruits,
and his projects expanded in proportion as fortune favoured him.
The fortress of Breysach upon the Rhine was looked upon as holding the command
of that river, and as the key of Alsace. No place in this quarter was
of more importance to the Emperor, and upon none had more care been bestowed.
To protect Breysach, was the principal destination of the Italian army,
under the Duke of Feria; the strength of its works, and its natural defences,
bade defiance to assault, while the Imperial generals who commanded
in that quarter had orders to retain it at any cost. But the duke,
trusting to his good fortune, resolved to attempt the siege.
Its strength rendered it impregnable; it could, therefore,
only be starved into a surrender; and this was facilitated by the carelessness
of the commandant, who, expecting no attack, had been selling off his stores.
As under these circumstances the town could not long hold out,
it must be immediately relieved or victualled. Accordingly,
the Imperial General Goetz rapidly advanced at the head of 12,000 men,
accompanied by 3000 waggons loaded with provisions, which he intended
to throw into the place. But he was attacked with such vigour by Duke Bernard
at Witteweyer, that he lost his whole force, except 3000 men,
together with the entire transport. A similar fate at Ochsenfeld, near Thann,
overtook the Duke of Lorraine, who, with 5000 or 6000 men,
advanced to relieve the fortress. After a third attempt of general Goetz
for the relief of Breysach had proved ineffectual, the fortress,
reduced to the greatest extremity by famine, surrendered,
after a blockade of four months, on the 17th December 1638,
to its equally persevering and humane conqueror.
The capture of Breysach opened a boundless field to the ambition
of the Duke of Weimar, and the romance of his hopes was fast approaching
to reality. Far from intending to surrender his conquests to France,
he destined Breysach for himself, and revealed this intention,
by exacting allegiance from the vanquished, in his own name,
and not in that of any other power. Intoxicated by his past success,
and excited by the boldest hopes, he believed that he should be able
to maintain his conquests, even against France herself.
At a time when everything depended upon bravery, when even personal strength
was of importance, when troops and generals were of more value
than territories, it was natural for a hero like Bernard to place confidence
in his own powers, and, at the head of an excellent army,
who under his command had proved invincible, to believe himself capable
of accomplishing the boldest and largest designs. In order to secure himself
one friend among the crowd of enemies whom he was about to provoke,
he turned his eyes upon the Landgravine Amelia of Hesse,
the widow of the lately deceased Landgrave William, a princess whose talents
were equal to her courage, and who, along with her hand, would bestow
valuable conquests, an extensive principality, and a well disciplined army.
By the union of the conquests of Hesse, with his own upon the Rhine,
and the junction of their forces, a power of some importance,
and perhaps a third party, might be formed in Germany,
which might decide the fate of the war. But a premature death
put a period to these extensive schemes.
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