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The End Of Two Great Soldiers
by [?]

Two armies faced each other in central Bavaria, two armies on which the fate of Germany depended, those of Gustavus Adolphus, the right hand of Protestantism, and of Wallenstein, the hope of Catholic imperialism. Gustavus was strongly intrenched in the vicinity of Nuremberg, with an army of but sixteen thousand men. Wallenstein faced him with an army of sixty thousand, yet dared not attack him in his strong position. He occupied himself in efforts to make his camp as impregnable as that of his foeman, and the two great opponents lay waiting face to face, while famine slowly decimated their ranks.

It was an extraordinary position. Both sides depended for food on foraging, and between them they had swept the country clean. The peasantry fled in every direction from Wallenstein’s pillaging troops, who destroyed all that they could not carry away. It had become a question with the two armies which could starve the longest, and for three months they lay encamped, each waiting until famine should drive the other out. Surely such a situation had never before been known.

What had preceded this event? A few words will tell. Ferdinand the emperor had, with the aid of Tilly and Wallenstein, laid all Germany prostrate at his feet. Ferdinand the zealot had, by this effort to impose Catholicism on the Protestant states, speedily undone the work of his generals, and set the war on foot again. Gustavus Adolphus, the hero of Sweden, had come to the aid of the oppressed Protestants of Germany, borne down all before him, and quickly won back northern Germany from the oppressor’s hands.

And now the cruelty of that savage war reached its culminating point. When Germany submitted to the emperor, one city did not submit. Magdeburg still held out. All efforts to subdue it proved fruitless, and it continued free and defiant when all the remainder of Germany lay under the emperor’s control.

It was to pay dearly for the courage of its citizens. When the war broke out again, Magdeburg was besieged by Tilly with his whole force. After a most valiant defence it was taken by storm, and a scene of massacre and ruin followed without a parallel in modern wars. When it ended, Magdeburg was no more. Of its buildings all were gone, except the cathedral and one hundred and thirty-seven houses. Of its inhabitants all had perished, except some four thousand who had taken refuge in the cathedral. Man, woman, and child, the sword had slain them all, Tilly being in considerable measure responsible for the massacre, for he was dilatory in ordering its cessation. When at length he did act there was little to save. All Europe thrilled with horror at the dreadful news, and from that day forward fortune fled from the banners of Count Tilly.

On September 7, 1631, the armies of Gustavus and Tilly met at Leipsic, and a terrible battle ensued, in which the imperialists were completely defeated and all the fruits of their former victories torn from their hands. In the following year Tilly had his thigh shattered by a cannon-ball at the battle of the Lech, and died in excruciating agonies.

Such were the preludes to the scene we have described. The Lutheran princes everywhere joined the victorious Gustavus; Austria itself was threatened by his irresistible arms; and the emperor, in despair, called Wallenstein again to the command, yielding to the most extreme demands of this imperious chief.

The next scene was that we have described, in which the armies of Gustavus and Wallenstein lay face to face at Nuremberg, each waiting until starvation should force the other to fight or to retreat.

Gustavus had sent for reinforcements, and his army steadily grew. That of Wallenstein dwindled away under the assaults of famine and pestilence. A large convoy of provisions intended for Wallenstein was seized by the Swedes. Soon afterwards Gustavus was so strongly reinforced that his army grew to seventy thousand men. At his back lay Nuremberg, his faithful ally, ready to aid him with thirty thousand fighting men besides. As his force grew that of Wallenstein shrank, until by the end of the siege pestilence and want had reduced his army to twenty-four thousand men.