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"The Father of Modern Warfare" Who Was Gustavus Adolphus?

Gustavus Adolphus was a Swedish King who established Sweden as a formidable power in the Baltic and Europe. The Swedish King rose to prominence during the Thirty Years War as his intervention on behalf of the Protestants forces gave the Protestants the upper hand in the war for a short period. Gustavus Adolphus's revolutionary use of artillery and combined arms made his armies the most powerful in Europe. Under his reign, Sweden reached its largest and most influential form. Just as quickly as he rose to prominence as he met his premature end at the Battle of Lutzen. Gustavus Adolphus' left a legacy that forever changed Sweden and modern warfare.


Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden

Early Life and Rise to Power

In 1594, Gustavus Adolphus was born into the Swedish royal house of Vasa. At the time of his birth his Catholic cousin, Sigismund ruled Sweden. Sweden was one of the nations most impacted by the Protestant reformation as the baltic nation became a majority Protestant nation when King Gustav I established Sweden as a Lutheran nation. However, Sigismund was raised as a Catholic and in the backdrop of religious conflict throughout Europe, Sigismund found himself with his Protestant subjects and nobles. In 1604 Charles IX, Gustavus' father, forced Sigismund to abdicate and Charles was declared King of Sweden. In 1611, Charles died and a 16-year-old Gustavus Adolphus inherited the Swedish throne.



Early Rule

As a relatively young ruler, Gustavus faced a daunting situation when he took the throne. Gustavus Adolphus inherited conflict with Russia in the Ingrian War. Gustavus also inherited the Kalmar war against Daniah and Norweigan forces. Finally, Sigismund the deposed King of Sweden had ambitions to restore his rule over Sweden. Gustavus Adolphus continued the conflict in Russia as he saw it as an opportunity to strengthen Sweden at the expense of Russia. Gustavus Adolphus achieved this with the Treaty of Stolbovo which saw Sweden acquire the province of Ingria and Russia lose its access to the Baltic sea. Gustavus has less success in the Kalmar war. The war was initially started by Charles IX because he did not want to pay fees to the Danish for access to the strait that separated the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. Upon inheriting the throne, Gustavus did not want to continue fighting and wanted peace. However, Christian IV of Denmark saw this as a moment of Swedish weakness and wanted to press his advantage. Christian sent his armies into southern Sweden. The Danes seized provinces that blocked off Sweden's western access to the sea. Further advances into Sweden were undermined by Swedish scored earth tactics and Christian's mercenaries deserting after not receiving their pay. A peace agreement brokered by King James I and England called the Peace of Knared. The Danish-Norwegian side received control over the Swedish route through Lapland and extorted a high ransom for the fortresses and towns captured in the war. However, Sweden did receive the right to free trade through the Sound strait which is exactly what Charles IX hoped to achieve when he started the war in 1607. Despite being on the losing end for most of the war, Sweden managed to achieve its strategic aim after all. The most dangerous threat that Gustavus Adolphus faced came from the deposed king Sigismund. Sigismund still ruled the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was a significant threat to Gustavus. Sweden and Poland fought on several occasions such as 1600-11 1617-18 and 1621-1625 none of which yielded any results or agreements. Even as Sigismund advanced in age, he never gave up on his ambitions to rule Sweden again. In 1626, Gustavus decided to invade Poland and he seized the province of Livonia. Gustavus than invaded the Protestant Duchy of Prussia where he and his forces were warmly received. Swedish progress was stopped soon as Gustavus could not take control of the strategic city of Danzig and the next summer, the campaign was stopped as Gustavus was seriously wounded. in 1629, the two sides agreed to the Truce of Altmark which saw Sweden gain control of Livonia. The threat from Sigismund was once and for all neutralized as Sigismund did not make any more attempts to regain power in Sweden. Gustavus Adolphus faced three key threats when ascended to the throne as a teenager and he was able to successfully guide his nation through them all and into a position of increased power. When not fighting his enemies, Gustavus Adolphus instituted new and far-reaching military reforms. The time to test these new reforms came when the Thirty Years War reached Sweden

Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War can essentially be boiled down to Catholics vs Protestants (France fought for the Protestant side but that was due to competition with the Habsburg dynasty). The War started when Matthias, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia did not have an heir. Arrangements were made for Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria to become the crown prince of the Holy Roman Empire. While Matthias was content to let Protestantism exist within the empire, Ferdinand was a devoted Catholic and wanted to impose Catholic hegemony amongst the Holy Roman Empire. This move was extremely unpopular amongst the majority Protestant kingdom of Bohemia. The nobles of Bohemia officially rejected Ferdinand and when Ferdinand's delegates were sent to negotiate, the Protestant delegation threw Ferdinand's delegates out the window. This event, known as the Defenestration of Prague caused the Thirty Years War. For the first phase of the war, the Catholic forces had the upper hand and the Protestant cause appeared to be petering out. That all changed with the Swedish intervention. in 1630, the Swedish army led by Gustavus landed in Pomerania, ready to push back Catholic forces. Upon their arrival, the Swedish forces began plundering in Brandenburg. Meanwhile, Johann Count of Tilly the leader of the Catholic forces caught word of the Swedish arrival and left Saxony to apprehend the threat. The Swedes under Gustavus routed Tilly's forces at the First Battle of Breitenfield.. Gustavus Adolphus invaded Bavaria the furthest any Protestant force would reach At the Battle of Rain, Gustavus' forces forded a river and outmaneuvered Tilly's forces. In the midst of the battle, Tilly was fatally shot. With his enemies army now leaderless Gustavus had put himself e and the Protestant cause in a strong position.The turning point of the Swedish intervention came at the Battle of Lutzen. In heavy fog, the Swedish forces advance on the Catholic forces. In the midst of leading a cavalry charge, Gustavus became separated from his men and ended up behind enemy lines. Gustavus had his horse shot in the neck which made it difficult to control. Gustavus was then shot several times and died. The Swedes eventually won the battle, but the loss of their leader was far more significant. The Protestant cause soon lost steam and Swedish forces failed to make any more progress in Bavaria.

Tactics and Strategies

Gustavus Adolphus is renowned for his revolutionary tactics. Gustavus Adolphus employed combined arms tactics. Combined arms tactics mix different types of troops such as infantry cavalry archers and recently artillery. Most armies fighting in the Thirty Years War consisted of rows upon rows of infantry or the pike and shot formation. The pike and shot formation consisted of pike-wielding infantry who would keep the opposing army away. Than musketeers and gun-wielding infantry would shoot at the enemy to create gaps in the enemy lines. Under Gustavus, the Swedish armies consisted of calvary infantry and artillery. Gustavus' use of artillery is what gave the Swedish army the critical edge in battle. Artillery in the mid-17th century was often cumbersome and hard to maneuver. Gustavus made use of light and mobile artillery. This artillery could be deployed anywhere on the battlefield. Furthermore, Gustavus relentlessly cross-trained his armies. His infantry and calvary could use artillery while his infantry could ride horses. This versatility combined with the mobile artillery meant that Gustavus and his armies could rearrange or adapt every battle to their advantage. Gustavus' use of artillery revolutionized warfare. Soon most armies incorporated artillery increasingly into their tactics. Gustavus Adolphus and his armies were not the first to use combined arms but they were the first to effectively use combined arms with mobile artillery. Modern warfare relies heavily on artillery combined with infantry and other forces. Gustavus Adolphus essentially made the blueprints for how armies would fight from then up until modern times. Armies such as Napoleon Bonaparte's the German Imperial Army and the Wermarcht all used combined arms. During the First Battle of Breitenfield, Gustavus rapidly redeployed his lighter artillery and calvary tp enveop the attacking Catholics and create a crossfire. In other battles such as the Battle of Rain , Gustavus Adolphus used his artillery to quickly ford a river and crush the Catholic forces. Gustavus Adolphus use of combined arms made him and his Swedish armies one of the most formidable armies on the planet. Gustavus Adolphus deserves recognition as a millitary genius, a capable leader and the mind behind one of the most important developments in military history.


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