The Battle of Nordlingen        

The Battle of Nordlingen

The Battle of Nordlingen

The Battle of Nördlingen was fought on 27 August or 6 September 1634 during the Thirty Years' War.

The Later Thirty Years War German Imperial army, bolstered by 18,000 Later Imperial Spanish and Italian soldiers won a crushing victory over the combined Protestant armies of the Early Thirty Years War Swedish and their Later Thirty Years War German-Protestant allies (the Heilbronn Alliance).

In the battle, and following the failure of the early tercio system in the First Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 the professional Later Imperial Spanish troops deployed at Nördlingen proved the tercio system could still contend with the deployment improvements devised by Maurice of Orange and the late Gustavus Adolphus of the Early Thirty Years War Swedish.

What Happened?

After the Protestant victory in The Battle of Lutzen two years before, the Early Thirty Years War Swedish failed to follow up their victory due to the death of Gustavus Adolphus. As a result, the Later Thirty Years War German Imperial forces had begun to regain the initiative. In 1634 a Protestant Saxon and Swedish army invaded Bohemia and so the future Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand of Hungary, decided to attack Protestant Southern Germany. Both sides were aware that Later Imperial Spanish reinforcements under the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand were en-route from Northern Italy marching through the Stelvio Pass trying to open a new "Spanish Road" to the Spanish Low Countries.

The Protestant commanders decided they could not ignore the threat and combined their two largest armies near Augsburg on July the 12th, the Swabian-Alsatian Army under Gustav Horn and the so called Franconian Army under Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. Both armies were named after their main operation area and belonged to the Heilbronn Alliance. The Germans wore Blue, some Scottish mercenaries wore Green and a few national Swedish/Finnish regiments (mostly cavalry) and one national Swedish infantry brigade made up the Yellow brigade, making it easy for wargamers to research uniforms without even having to post a message on TMP.

Ferdinand and the Imperials and the Cardinal-Infante were waiting at Nordlingen for three days before the Protestants turned up.

How did it pan out?

Ferdinand and Ferdinand prepared for battle, ignoring the advice of the more experienced generals, who felt a full engagement against two of the most experienced Protestant commanders was reckless and unlikely to have a positive outcome. However the cousins were supported by the Count of Leganés, the Spanish deputy commander who had read the rules on how tough Elite infantry actually are. The Protestant commanders seem to have underestimated the numerically superior enemy forces, with Horn and Bernhard estimating that the Spanish reinforcements numbered only 7,000, not 21,000. This was kinda imortant as when added to the 12,000 Imperials this gave the Habsburgs a considerable superiority over the 26,000 Protestants.

During the battle almost anything that could go wrong went wrong for the Protestant forces, although some of this was stuff going right for the Elite Spanish infantry, the feared "Tercios Viejos" (Old Tercios). Fifteen Swedish assaults by Horn's right wing were repulsed by the Spaniards with the decisive support of Ottavio Piccolomini's Italian cavalry squadrons. On the left of the Protestant line the left Swedish wing under Bernhard of Weimar and the Imperial-Bavarian troops had avoided closing with each other, until late in the battle.

The Imperial commanders observed the weakened condition of Bernhard's troops, who had been sending large numbers of reinforcements to assist the Swedish troops. They ordered an advance by the Imperial troops which resulted in the quick collapse and rout of the weakened Swedish left wing infantry brigades. Pursuit of Bernhard's troops threatened to cut off any escape route of the Swedish units, who also promptly broke, turning into a panic stricken mob and leaving their side of the field to the Spanish troops of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand.

Gustav Horn af Björneborg was captured, his army was destroyed, and the remainder of the Protestants who successfully fled to Heilbronn were only a remnant of those engaged

What happened next?

In the long term, the battle proved to be just another twist in the complicated war. It ensured that a triumph of the Swedish led Protestants powers, would not occur. This enabled the Counter-Reformation to preserve its gains against the Reformation in central Europe. That said, the victory did not lead to an overall Catholic-Habsburg victory, as the Spanish and Imperialist forces would suffer serious setbacks later in the war. Ultimately, the defeat of the Swedish forces at Nordlingen was largely responsible for French, not Swedish, goals taking precedence at the negotiations; with a significant effect on the political map of the Empire.

Refighting the battle

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Created by admin. Last Modification: Monday January 2, 2012 15:43:09 GMT by admin. (Version 2)

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