Battle of Frankenhausen

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Coordinates: 51°21′58″N11°6′10″E / 51.36611°N 11.10278°E / 51.36611; 11.10278

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Contents

Battle of Frankenhausen
Part of the German Peasants' War
Date14-15 May 1525
Location
near Bad Frankenhausen in the present-day German state of Thuringia
Result Decisive Princely victory
Belligerents
Coat of arms of Hesse.svg Landgraviate of Hesse
Brunswick-Luneburg Arms.svg Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Coat of arms of Saxony.svg George of Saxony
Peasants' army
Commanders and leaders
Philip I of Hesse
George of Wettin
Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Bonaventura Kuerschner
Thomas Müntzer (captured)
Strength
c. 2,800 horse, 4,000 foot c. 8,000
Casualties and losses
6 7000+

The Battle of Frankenhausen was fought on 14 and 15 May 1525. It was an important battle in the German Peasants' War and the final act of the war in Thuringia: joint troops of Landgrave Philip I of Hesse and Duke George of Saxony defeated the peasants under their spiritual leader Thomas Müntzer near Frankenhausen in the County of Schwarzburg.

German Peasants War conflict

The German Peasants' War, Great Peasants' War or Great Peasants' Revolt was a widespread popular revolt in some German-speaking areas in Central Europe from 1524 to 1525. It failed because of the intense opposition by the aristocracy, who slaughtered up to 100,000 of the 300,000 poorly armed peasants and farmers. The survivors were fined and achieved few, if any, of their goals. The war consisted, like the preceding Bundschuh movement and the Hussite Wars, of a series of both economic and religious revolts in which peasants and farmers, often supported by Anabaptist clergy, took the lead. The German Peasants' War was Europe's largest and most widespread popular uprising prior to the French Revolution of 1789. The fighting was at its height in the middle of 1525.

Thuringia State in Germany

Thuringia, officially the Free State of Thuringia, is a state of Germany.

Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse Landgrave of Hesse

Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, nicknamed der Großmütige, was a champion of the Protestant Reformation and one of the most important of the early Protestant rulers in Germany.

Troop movements during the suppression of the uprising in Thuringia 1525 Frankenhausen Map of Suppression.jpg
Troop movements during the suppression of the uprising in Thuringia 1525

Preparations

On April 29, 1525, the struggles in and around Frankenhausen had culminated into an open revolt. [1] Large parts of the citizenry joined the uprising, occupied the town hall and stormed the castle of the Counts of Schwarzburg. In the following days, a rising number of insurgents gathered around the town, and when Müntzer arrived with 300 fighters from Mühlhausen on May 11, several thousand peasants of the surrounding Thuringian and Saxon estates camped in the fields and pastures. Philip of Hesse and his father-in-law George of Saxony had originally targeted Mühlhausen as their strategic objective but, when news arrived that Müntzer left with a troop for Frankenhausen, they changed their march route and directed their Landsknecht troops toward Frankenhausen. [2]

House of Schwarzburg countship

Schwarzburg is one of the oldest noble families of Thuringia. Upon the death of Prince Friedrich Günther in 1971, a claim to the headship of the house passed under Semi-Salic primogeniture to his elder sister, Princess Marie Antoinette of Schwarzburg who married Friedrich Magnus V, Count of Solms-Wildenfels. Reigning over the County of Schwarzburg and founded by Sizzo I of Schwarzburg, the family split in the 16th century into the lines of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen and Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, with the Sondershausen dying out in 1909.

Mühlhausen Place in Thuringia, Germany

Mühlhausen is a city in the north-west of Thuringia, Germany, 5 km north of Niederdorla, the country's geographical centre, 50 km north-west of Erfurt, 65 km east of Kassel and 50 km south-east of Göttingen.

Ernestine duchies duchy

The Ernestine duchies, also known as the Saxon duchies, were a changing number of small states that were largely located in the present-day German state of Thuringia and governed by dukes of the Ernestine line of the House of Wettin.


Initial Skirmishes

Barren chalk gully (Wuestes Kalktal) probable site of the skirmish on the 14th May between the Princes' scouting party and rebel contingents Frankenhausen Wuestes Kalktal.jpg
Barren chalk gully (Wuestes Kalktal) probable site of the skirmish on the 14th May between the Princes' scouting party and rebel contingents

The Princes had great difficulties in recruiting Landsknecht mercenaries. Generally they would have been better equipped than the insurgents although morale and discipline were always dependent on the size of the war chest. The peasants were less well armed with a mix of improvised weapons from farming tools and polearms, breastplates and handguns which many would have had by dint of their service in local militia bands (Landwehr). [3] Indeed, on May 14 they successfully repulsed a scouting party and its reinforcements but remained in position on the outskirts of the town having taken the decision not to pursue the Princes' "forlorn hope". The main column of Hessian and Brunswick troops were still in the process of arriving after a night's march and needed to rest up. Late that day a decision was taken [4] by the rebels to withdraw into a wagon fort on the hill overlooking the town. It is unclear who initiated a truce to enable some negotiation. This gave the princes time to meet up with George of Saxony's army approaching from the East and to encircle the wagon fort rather than lay siege on the town.

Forlorn hope soldiers with leading role in military operations, with high risk of casualties

A forlorn hope is a band of soldiers or other combatants chosen to take the leading part in a military operation, such as an assault on a defended position, where the risk of casualties is high.

Wagon fort

A wagon fort is a mobile fortification made of wagons arranged into a rectangle, a circle or other shape and possibly joined with each other, an improvised military camp. It is also known as a laager.

The Day of Battle

A 16th century falconet in the Bauernkriegsmuseum, Muhlhausen Falconet in the Peasants War Museum Muehlhausen.jpg
A 16th century falconet in the Bauernkriegsmuseum, Mühlhausen

It is suggested that the truce was broken around midday when it had become clear that Müntzer was not going to be delivered up to the Princes. Starting with an artillery barrage followed by waves of horse and footsoldiers, the princes caught the peasants off guard and they fled in panic into the town, followed and continuously attacked by the mercenaries. Most of the insurgents were slain in what turned out to be a massacre. Casualty figures are unreliable but peasant losses have been estimated at more than 7,000 while the Landsknecht casualties were estimated to be as low as six. [5] Müntzer himself was captured in the town, tortured and finally executed at Mühlhausen on May 27, 1525.

Legacy

Replica Rainbow Banner of the Muhlhauser band which set off for Frankenhausen under Thomas Muntzer - now in Muhlhausen Museum Frankenhausen Rainbow Banner.jpg
Replica Rainbow Banner of the Mühlhäuser band which set off for Frankenhausen under Thomas Müntzer - now in Mühlhausen Museum

At Frankenhausen, the battle is depicted, along with many other scenes of that age, on the world's largest oil painting, Werner Tübke's Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany (Frühbürgerliche Revolution in Deutschland), which is 400 feet (120m) long, 45 feet (14m) high, and housed in its own specially built museum. The painting was ordered by the socialist leadership of East Germany, who regarded Müntzer as a revolutionary and thus as one of their forebears; work on it went on between 1975 and 1987. However Tübke did not solely focus on the battle, contrary to the state's wishes, but placed the events at Frankenhausen in a much wider social, political and cultural context prevalent in Reformation Germany at the time.

Oil painting process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. The choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time. Certain differences, depending on the oil, are also visible in the sheen of the paints. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense, to create a varnish prized for its body and gloss.

Werner Tübke German artist

Werner Tübke was a German painter, best known for his monumental Peasants' War Panorama located in Bad Frankenhausen. He is "one of the few East German artists who gained recognition in West Germany."

<i>Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany</i> museum in Germany

Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany, also known as the Peasants' War Panorama (Bauernkriegspanorama), is a monumental painting by the East German painter Werner Tübke, executed from 1976 to 1987. It spans 14 metres (46 ft) by 123 metres (404 ft) and depicts a circular panorama of the Battle of Frankenhausen, fought on 15 May 1525 during the German Peasants' War. The painting has more than 3000 characters.

Notes/Citations

    1. Günter Vogler (editor): Bauernkrieg zwischen Harz und Thüringer Wald (2008)
    2. Martin Bensing: Thomas Müntzer und der Thüringer Aufstand 1525, (1966)
    3. Siegfried Hoyer: Das Militärwesen im deutschen Bauernkrieg 1524-1526 (1975)
    4. Siegfried Hoyer in: Vogler G. (ed) Bauernkrieg zwischen Harz und Thüringer Wald (2008) (p221)
    5. H.Müller: Über die Bauernschlachten am 14. und 15. Mai 1525 bei Frankenhausen in Historische Beiträge zur Kyffhäuserlandschaft, Bad Frankenhausen (1975)

    Further reading


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