Battle of Lützen

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Battle of Lützen
Part of: Swedish War, Thirty Years War
Depiction of the battle on a contemporary engraving
Depiction of the battle on a contemporary engraving
date November 6th July / November 16, 1632 greg.
place near Lützen , southwest of Leipzig
output Pyrrhic victory of the Swedes
Parties to the conflict

Sweden-Flag-1562.svgSweden ,
Protestant German states

Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400) .svg Imperial Army


Gustav II. Adolf of Sweden  †,
Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar

Albrecht von Wallenstein ,
Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim  †,
Heinrich von Holk ,
Octavio Piccolomini

Troop strength
12,800 infantry,
6,200 cavalry,
60 cannons
10,000 infantry,
7,000 cavalry,
plus 3,000 infantrymen and 3,000 cavalrymen when approaching
24 cannons

3,400 dead,
1,600 wounded or missing

3,000 to 6,000 dead or wounded

Map of the battle
Aerial view of the former battlefield (view towards the Swedish positions)
The Gustav Adolf Memorial near Lützen

The Battle of Lützen was one of the main battles of the Thirty Years War . It took place on November 6th . / November 16, 1632 greg. at Lützen between a Protestant, predominantly Swedish army under the leadership of the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf and the predominantly Catholic imperial troops under Albrecht von Wallenstein .

The main political consequence of the battle was the death of Gustav Adolf on the battlefield. In Gottfried Heinrich zu Pappenheim, the imperial family also lost a prominent military leader. From a purely military point of view, the battle was of no decisive importance.

Prehistory of the battle

After the month-long camp of Nuremberg was abolished and the Battle of the Alte Veste , Wallenstein had turned against Saxony , where Gustav Adolf had followed him through Thuringia to prevent Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony from falling away from the Protestant camp.

Gustav Adolf occupied Erfurt and set up an entrenched camp near Naumburg (Saale) , as in the summer in Nuremberg. Wallenstein took up position in nearby Weißenfels , but Gustav Adolf made no move to face a battle. His further intentions appeared unclear whether he wanted to winter with his army in Naumburg and Erfurt, which Wallenstein suspected, or whether he would advance further east, in the direction of Halle or against the Elbe in order to deal with the 12,000 Saxon men operating across the Elbe To unite army under Arnim .

Wallenstein now relocated his camp to Lützen, where he had the fortified city of Leipzig behind him, and already began to distribute his army to strategically important cities in Saxony for the winter. On the one hand he wanted to put a locking bar between the Swedish army and the Elbe, on the other hand he wanted to keep the routes of retreat to Bohemia open. On November 15, for example, he sent Pappenheim and his units to Halle , while Gallas continued to secure the Elbe between Meißen and Pirna as well as the Erzgebirge passes. But he did not succeed in occupying the Elbe crossing at Torgau , as Georg von Lüneburg had already moved there with about 6,000 men. Colonel Hatzfeldt went to Eilenburg with four regiments , Colloredo was to reinforce Weissenfels with a few companies of infantry and Croats, Holk's riders went to Westphalia and the Rhine to recruit new troops there for the next spring. However, for various reasons, Wallenstein had considerable parts of the imperial army scattered throughout the empire, from Alsace to Upper Palatinate to Lower Saxony and Upper Silesia; in the whole of Saxony he only had about 35,000 men.

Gustav Adolf, however, set out from Naumburg at around 4 a.m. on November 15, to advance between the imperial cities to the Elbe and to unite there with the Saxons coming from Silesia. As Colloredo was just setting off towards Weissenfels and had crossed the Rippach river, he suddenly encountered the Swedish main army in the morning hours of November 15th. Gustav Adolf learned from prisoners that the Wallenstein army had already been divided up and thus weakened - above all that Pappenheim, with the elite of the imperial cavalry, was no longer part of Wallenstein's main army. He wanted to advance immediately to Lützen, but Colloredo was able to delay an immediate advance by the Swedes by defending two bridges over the Rippach, so that the battle did not take place until the following day.

Messenger from Colloredo in turn informed Wallenstein of the approaching Swedish armed forces. With urgent letters he ordered his troops, in particular Marshal Pappenheim, back: "The enemy marches in, the Lord leave everything and incaminate here with all the people ..." The armies took up position only a few 100 paces apart overnight. Despite the forced march, Pappenheim did not manage to join the main army that night.

Battle formation

Over night Wallenstein took up his position north of the road from Lützen to Leipzig with the front facing south and had the trenches deepened. On the right, the list leaned against the town of Lützen with its approx. 300 houses and a permanent lock in the middle. In the east it stretched to the so-called Floßgraben, a small canal for timber boatmen. There the road was elevated and the canal provided a good defensive position. The total distance should have been a maximum of two and a half kilometers. Wallenstein's order of battle was adapted to the Swedes' more modern combat tactics. Instead of the earlier square army heap ( Terzios ), the ranks were nowhere deeper than ten men for better mobility and to bridge the great length of the front. At the center were seven divisions of 1,000 men each, five in the first meeting , two behind, with equestrian companies in between. Riders and groups of musketeers were posted on the wings . The battle order provided enough space to move reserves between the divisions. The right wing, leaning against Lützen, with a further four regiments of armored cavalry, was particularly strong. There were also 14 guns ( cartoons ) in position. Seven other guns were spread out in front of the center. The eastern left wing was relatively weak. He was to be reinforced by the Pappenheimer Reiters, whose arrival was urgently expected. Until then, the left wing was commanded by Heinrich von Holk .

The order of battle of the Swedes, who stood in the field south of Leipziger Strasse overnight, was divided into two meetings, each of infantry and cavalry mixed. They numbered about 19,000 men, the imperial without Pappenheim 17,000 men. The Swedish army also had an advantage in terms of the number of guns, although the number of large guns hardly differed, but they also had about 40 small so-called leather cannons , very easy to move field guns. They took up positions in the early morning mist from the village of Meuchen, southeast of Lützen, to the northeast to the Skölziger wood. From there the Swedes, developing further, marched north against the Imperialists.

Course of the battle

Position of the troops
Position of the troops. Danckaerts Historis 1642

It was only around eleven o'clock that the fog cleared in such a way that the enemy became visible. Wallenstein, who almost always preferred a defensive battle, awaited the attack by the Swedes. After a prayer and a song sung by the entire army, Gustav Adolf led the first major thrust with his right, eastern wing, which he himself took command, against the weak left flank of the imperial army. The Finnish cuirassiers split up the only lightly mounted Poles and Croats on the Wallenstein side. The uncertainty of the left wing spread to the center. The Swedes attacking there overran the road to Leipzig, which lay between the fronts, against the resistance of the imperial musketeers. The seven guns in front of the center of the imperial army changed hands for the first time. So the battle seemed to have been decided in favor of the Protestants around twelve o'clock. At this point in time, Marschall von Pappenheim arrived with several cavalry regiments - a total of around 3,000 men. Heinrich von Holk , who had been in command here until then, went to his own units near Lützen. The Swedes had to withdraw under the massed horseman attack by Pappenheim. This also formed the imperial center, the artillery and the road to Leipzig were recaptured in fierce fighting.

Even before his attack, von Pappenheim had sent several hundred light Croatian riders in a wide arc behind the Swedish front, who attacked the ammunition wagons and the baggage there and carried unrest into the second meeting (the second series of battles). Through this several regiments of the Swedes were bound, which were not fully available for the main battle.

Marschall von Pappenheim was so badly wounded by bullets during the first attack he led that he had to be taken out of action. He died of his injuries the next morning. His regimental commanders fled, and with them most of the Pappenheim cavalrymen, so that the territories that had just been won were lost again, the Wallenstein's left wing dissolved again and the center lost its flank protection. The road to Leipzig and the guns were again in the possession of the Swedes. Once again the battle on the eastern side seemed to be lost when fog came in, in which the imperial forces managed to stabilize their front. Colonel Octavio Piccolomini hurried with two cuirassier regiments from the Lützener to the eastern side of the battle, took over command there and carried out a total of seven cavalry attacks against the Swedes during the afternoon - with heavy artillery support from the 14 guns of the right wing was wounded. The Swedes were defeated on this side and the kartons were again brought into possession of the imperial family.

Jacques Courtois : The Battle of Lützen (around 1655, fictitious).

On the western, Lützen wing, the attacks of the Swedish-Saxon forces broke out in the hail of bullets from the 14 imperial guns posted there, as well as on the armored cavalry massed there and the obstruction by the smoke of the place on fire. On the Protestant side, the Saxon regiments were set up here under the command of Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar . Wallenstein's cavalry under the command of the general himself penetrated the opposing infantry, pushed them back, so that the center of the Swedes was also endangered. After his arrival, Holk seconded Wallenstein on the right wing, who fought for two hours surrounded by Swedish infantry. Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar let the king know that he would not be able to hold out much longer. Thereupon Gustav Adolf left his right wing, which was still operating successfully at that moment, and rode with a regiment of Småländer between the front lines on the shortest route to the west in order to relieve the Lützen side. In the fog the nearsighted king came close to the enemy lines, from where he was spotted and received a musket shot in the left arm so that he could no longer control his white horse. He asked his companion, Franz Albrecht von Sachsen-Lauenburg , to get him out of the turmoil. Drifting helplessly, they met a swarm of imperial horsemen who killed the king with pistol shots in the back and stabs. While Franz Albrecht was able to flee, the corpse was looted and remained half undressed in the field. It was around one in the afternoon.

The Protestant side regrouped and attacked the Lützen wing several times. Initially, the Imperialists held out so that their artillery could still support the attacks by Piccolomini on the other side of the battlefield. Later the Wallenstein troops were pushed back and the 14 Cartoons were conquered. The Wallenstein Front crumbled.

Pieter Meulener (1602–1654): Gustav Adolf in the battle of Lützen. Oil on wood, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Vienna

The fighting lasted until dark. On the eastern wing Piccolomini could not achieve a decisive victory without artillery support, on the western wing the exhausted Swedish-Saxon army no longer had the strength for a sweeping success. If there was no chance of success, Wallenstein gave the order to withdraw. The imperial troops cleared the field in an orderly fashion. The Swedes camped in their starting positions south of the battlefield. The Pappenheim infantry did not arrive until the evening.

Result of the battle

A real victory had not been won on either side. The Swedes had held the field, the Imperial forces withdrew. Both sides had sustained significant casualties and casualties. There is no information about prisoners. After the retreat, the 21 Wallenstein Cartoons remained on the battlefield , all of which were lost to the Swedes. Although the Swedes did not camp directly on the battlefield, so that the Pappenheim infantry arriving in the evening would have been able to recover the guns, Wallenstein feared the advance of Saxon and Lüneburg troops and did not want to lose any time for the further retreat to the city of Leipzig.

The death of Marshal von Pappenheim was viewed as a great loss on the imperial side. On the Swedish Protestant side, however, the loss of King Gustav Adolf, probably the most charismatic general of the Thirty Years' War, could not be outweighed. His body was found - robbed and partially stripped - not far from a large field stone among a large number of dead.

Wallenstein received congratulations from the emperor in Vienna, from the Polish and Spanish kings, from the Pope and from France. Nevertheless, it was soon noted that the assessment as a victory was ultimately based only on the death of King Gustav Adolf. The battle owes its place in historiography and the extensive reports on its course to this fact. It was neither the largest of the war ( over 80,000 men faced each other at the Battle of Breitenfeld ), nor was it decisive for the war. At around seven hours, it lasted a very long time for the time and was - not least because of the king's death - conducted with great bitterness. Duke Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar, who had already taken over the supreme command in place of Gustav Adolf during the battle, remained in command of the Protestant side, along with the Swedish General Horn . The next morning he led his troops back to Naumburg. The political successor of Gustav Adolf was the Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna , who was also with Lützen.


Between 2006 and 2011, archaeologists from the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archeology of Saxony-Anhalt examined the Lützen battlefield using metal detectors and geomagnetics. The battlefield archeological analysis with individual finder measurements and a synopsis of all finds allows an insight into the course of the battle and also led to the localization of a mass grave that was recovered en bloc in November 2011 . In 2015, the mass grave was part of the exhibition "War - an archaeological search for traces" in the State Museum for Prehistory in Halle. In 2018 it was part of the exhibition “War. On the trail of an evolution ”in the Natural History Museum Vienna.


  • Gustav Droysen : The Battle of Lützen. Dieterich, Göttingen 1862.
  • Hans-Christian Huf (Ed.): With God's blessing into hell. The Thirty-Year War. List, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-548-60500-1 .
  • Cicely Veronica Wedgwood : The Thirty Years War. List, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-471-79210-4 , pp. 284-287.
  • Hans Delbrück : History of the Art of War. The Modern Age. Reprint of the first edition from 1920. Nikol Verlag, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-933203-76-7 .
  • Harald Meller / Michael Schefzik (eds.), War - an archaeological search for traces . Accompanying volume for the special exhibition in the State Museum for Prehistory Halle (Saale) November 6, 2015 to May 22, 2016 Theiss-Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2015, ISBN 978-3-8062-3172-4 .
  • Friedrich Schiller : History of the 30 Years War. PPKelen Verlagsgesellschaft, Gütersloh 1964.
  • Schürger, André: The Battle of Lützen: an examination of 17th century military material culture . Glasgow 2015, PhD thesis:
  • Schürger, André: The battle of Lützen. An interdisciplinary research project . In: Military History (ZMG), 3/2017, 10–13
  • Schürger, André: The first minutes of the Battle of Lützen (November 16, 1632): Isolanis Croats and Stalhandskes Finnish horsemen from an archaeological point of view. In: Lützen Talks Vol. 3, Lützen / Göteborg 2011, 103-120
  • Kurt Becker: Death as a victory prize. In: Georg Popp (ed.): The Mighty of the Earth. Arena Publishing House, 1957.

Web links

Wikisource: Battle of Lützen  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Battle of Lützen  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The above with Golo Mann : Wallenstein. His life , Frankfurt am Main 2016 (first 1971), pp. 841ff., 865ff.
  2. Golo Mann : Wallenstein. His life , Frankfurt am Main 2016 (first 1971), p. 854 f.
  3. Ibid. P. 855
  4. State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt: The mass grave from the Battle of Lützen is being examined in the State Museum for Prehistory in Halle . March 22, 2012
  5. ^ Katja Pausch: Lützen fallen in the laboratory . In: Mitteldeutsche Zeitung . March 23, 2012, updated March 27, 2012
  6. Christoph Seidler: Thirty Years' War: Well-preserved mass grave fascinates archaeologists . In: Spiegel Online . April 27, 2012
  7. ^ Exhibition 'War - an archaeological search for traces' in the State Museum of Prehistory .
  8. ^ Exhibition 'War. On the trail of an evolution 'in the Natural History Museum Vienna .

Coordinates: 51 ° 16 ′ 4.6 ″  N , 12 ° 9 ′ 24 ″  E