Who do you believe was the best commander during the Thirty Years War?

Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
#1
I'm reading Peter H. Wilson's history of the Thirty Years War, and it can be a little difficult to keep up with all of the many commanders that led armies during the war, aside from the more well-known ones like Gustavus and Enghien on the "Protestant" side, and Wallenstein and Tilly on the Imperial side. But these men only commanded during relatively short periods of the war in different phases. I know that Gustavus is the most famous and celebrated of the commanders, but I feel like it's necessary to take into consideration that he was only directly engaged in the conflict for roughly two years, so it's easy to glorify someone if they weren't around for long enough to start making big mistakes. Is there any other commander you think deserves to be held in a higher regard for military operations during the war?
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,443
Las Vegas, NV USA
#5
I'm reading Peter H. Wilson's history of the Thirty Years War, and it can be a little difficult to keep up with all of the many commanders that led armies during the war, aside from the more well-known ones like Gustavus and Enghien on the "Protestant" side, and Wallenstein and Tilly on the Imperial side. But these men only commanded during relatively short periods of the war in different phases. I know that Gustavus is the most famous and celebrated of the commanders, but I feel like it's necessary to take into consideration that he was only directly engaged in the conflict for roughly two years, so it's easy to glorify someone if they weren't around for long enough to start making big mistakes. Is there any other commander you think deserves to be held in a higher regard for military operations during the war?

He was involved in successful wars against Denmark, Poland and Russia before entering the 30 Years War in 1628. He's credited with saving the Protestant cause and was killed at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632. He's rated as one of the greatest military leaders in history.

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden - Wikipedia
 
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Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,635
#6
I'm reading Peter H. Wilson's history of the Thirty Years War, and it can be a little difficult to keep up with all of the many commanders that led armies during the war, aside from the more well-known ones like Gustavus and Enghien on the "Protestant" side, and Wallenstein and Tilly on the Imperial side. But these men only commanded during relatively short periods of the war in different phases. I know that Gustavus is the most famous and celebrated of the commanders, but I feel like it's necessary to take into consideration that he was only directly engaged in the conflict for roughly two years, so it's easy to glorify someone if they weren't around for long enough to start making big mistakes. Is there any other commander you think deserves to be held in a higher regard for military operations during the war?
You haven't really looked at anything Gustavus did before the 30 Years War, or Sweden for that matter, have you? He was king for 22 years. He was constantly at war. He became king at 16 of a destitute, defeated country, with a weak army. When he died he was already the superstar that gives him the special kind of consideration you question because possibly he hadn't been "at it" long enough. He was "at it" his entire adult life (a lot of it as a teenager), it made his reputation. If he would be prone to start making silly mistakes for lack of experience or something that might have happened twenty years or so before the 30 Years War.

But considering the kind of plans for a total war Gustavus was harboring, possibly it was a good thing for the German lands that he died when he did, before he could really get going in that war.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,635
#7
He was involved in successful wars against Denmark, Poland and Russia before entering the 30 Years War in 1628. He's credited with saving the Protestant cause and was killed at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632. He's rated as one of the greatest military leaders in history.

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden - Wikipedia
Not only that, he inherited the throne of country in a dynastic conflict with his cousin who was king of the much more powerful Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in a three-way war with Poland, Denmark and Russia, each one at the time individually much richer and more powerful than Sweden. The country was shattered and dead broke, with a poor army, consistently defeated in battle.

He only got out of that situation at the expense of a peace the allowed Denmark to completely shut Sweden out of the Atlantic, boxing it in in the Baltic, with a ransom to be paid to regain Sweden's only western port so exacting it amounted to half the annual revenues of the kingdom... Worse, he was locked in a domestic power struggle with the still powerful Swedish higher nobility. His father Charles IX had tried to forcibly settle the score with them by literally beheading the heads of all these families (the Linköping Bloodbath of 1597). Gustavus was looking at a situation where if he failed and showed weakness he could quickly end up with a noble rebellion and civil war on his hands.

When he died, he had reformed and developed the country (or rather his even more brilliant Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna had), made peace with the dangerous nobles, channeling things into outward military expansion, eventually paid off the ransom to the Danes with ease (it was supposed to be impossible, at best crippling), and brought the war with cousin Sigismund in Poland to a successful close. (The Poles will tell you they won that war, but Gustavus won the battles, and in the end forced the Poles to grant peace while allowing him to levy tariffs on all trade exiting the Polish river mouths into the Baltic, a scheme that minted a fortune for him annually).
 
Likes: macon
Feb 2019
808
Serbia
#10
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden certainly, another I would nominate is Tilly. He was in service of the Catholics and fought with distinction at White Mountain, Tuller, Wimpfen, Heidelberg and some other battles. He was massively defeated at Breitenfeld by Gustavus and in the end was mortally wounded at Rain. All in all he was very good but has some stains on his record in my opinion.
 
Likes: macon