Battle of Rain

Last updated
Battle of Rain or Battle of Lech
or
Battle of the River Lech
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Schlacht bei Rain am Lech 1632.jpg
Date5 April (O.S.) or 15 April (N.S.), 1632
LocationAt the river Lech near Rain, Electorate of Bavaria, Holy Roman Empire
present-day Bavaria, Germany
Result Decisive Swedish victory
Belligerents
Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden

Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg  Holy Roman Empire

Commanders and leaders
Gustavus Adolphus Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly   (DOW)
Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria
Johann Philipp Cratz von Scharffenstein
Strength
40,000 25,000
Casualties and losses
2,000 dead 3,000 dead
Germany adm location map.svg
Battle icon (crossed swords).svg
Rain am Lech
Rain am Lech (Germany)

The Battle of Rain (also called the Battle of the River Lech or Battle of Lech) was fought on 15 April 1632 as part of the Thirty Years' War.

Thirty Years War War between 1618 and 1648; with over 8 million fatalities

The Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities not only from military engagements but also from violence, famine, and plague. Casualties were overwhelmingly and disproportionately inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the rest being battle deaths from various foreign armies. In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was surpassed only by the period January to May 1945; one of its enduring results was 19th-century Pan-Germanism, when it served as an example of the dangers of a divided Germany and became a key justification for the 1871 creation of the German Empire.

The forces involved in this conflict were 40,000 Swedish troops under Gustavus Adolphus and 25,000 Catholic League troops under Johan Tserclaes, Count of Tilly. It was the second meeting between the two legendary generals (see First Breitenfeld when Tilly received the first setback of his long and storied career) and like at Breitenfeld, Tilly lost when Gustavus forced the river Lech under the cover of his superb artillery.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden Swedish king 1611–32

Gustavus Adolphus, also known in English as Gustav II Adolf or Gustav II Adolph, was the King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632 who is credited for the founding of Sweden as a great power. He led Sweden to military supremacy during the Thirty Years' War, helping to determine the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe. He was formally and posthumously given the name Gustavus Adolphus the Great by the Riksdag of the Estates in 1634.

Catholic League (German)

The Catholic League was a coalition of Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire formed 10 July 1609. While initially formed as a confederation to act politically to negotiate issues vis-à-vis the Protestant Union, modelled on the more intransigent ultra-Catholic French Catholic League (1576), it was subsequently concluded as a military alliance "for the defence of the Catholic religion and peace within the Empire".

Battle

Statue of Marshal Tilly in front of Rain town hall Rain, DON - Tilly-Denkmal u Rathaus v O.jpg
Statue of Marshal Tilly in front of Rain town hall

Gustavus had a bridge of boats constructed across the Lech near the city of Rain through the night prior to the battle, and in the morning sent three hundred Finnish Hackapelite troops across the river under fire. The Hackapelites dug earthworks for batteries which then protected the rest of Gustavus' army as they crossed the river.

Lech (river) river in Austria and Germany

The Lech is a river in Austria and Germany. It is a right tributary of the Danube 255 kilometres (158 mi) in length with a drainage basin of 3,919 square kilometres (1,513 sq mi). Its source is located in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, where the river rises from lake Formarinsee in the Alps at an altitude of 1,870 metres (6,120 ft). It flows in a north-north-easterly direction and crosses the German border, forming the Lechfall, a 12-metre-high (39 ft) waterfall; afterwards the river enters a narrow gorge. Leaving the Alps, it enters the plains of the Allgäu at Füssen at an elevation of 790 metres (2,580 ft) in the German state of Bavaria, where it used to be the location of the boundary with Swabia. The river runs through the city of Füssen and through the Forggensee, a man-made lake which is drained in winter. Here, it forms rapids and a waterfall.

As soon as his army had crossed the river, Gustavus immediately and successfully stormed the hill. Tilly was shot in the leg early in the battle and was moved to the rear; his second in command, Johann von Aldringen, was knocked unconscious with a skull fracture minutes later. Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, ordered an immediate retreat to save the now leaderless army, leaving most of the Catholic League's baggage and artillery in the field. The army itself may only have escaped destruction due to a storm and high winds blocking roads in the night that followed. [1]

Johann von Aldringen Nobleman

Johann Reichsgraf von Aldringen was an Austrian soldier active before and during the Thirty Years' War. He was born in Luxembourg City in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and after travelling as a nobleman's page in France, Italy and the Netherlands, he went to the University of Paris.

Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria Wittelsbach ruler of Bavaria and a prince-elector (Kurfürst) of the Holy Roman Empire

Maximilian I, occasionally called "the Great", a member of the House of Wittelsbach, ruled as Duke of Bavaria from 1597. His reign was marked by the Thirty Years' War during which he obtained the title of a Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire at the 1623 Diet of Regensburg.

Aftermath

The immediate result of the battle was that Bavaria lay open for occupation by the Swedish army, enabling Gustavus Adolphus to temporarily threaten the Austrian heartland.

Bavaria State in Germany

Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area. Its territory comprises roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's main cities are Munich and Nuremberg.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

The death of Tilly also led to the recall of Albrecht von Wallenstein into Imperial service. He would raise a new army and challenge the Swedes at Nürnberg in August.

Albrecht von Wallenstein Czech marshal, duke and nobleman

Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein, also von Waldstein, was a Bohemian military leader and nobleman who gained prominence during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), in the Catholic side. His outstanding martial career made him one of the most influential men in the Holy Roman Empire by the time of his death. Wallenstein became the supreme commander of the armies of the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II and was a major figure of the Thirty Years' War.

Battle of the Alte Veste

The Battle of the Alte Veste was a significant battle of the Thirty Years' War.

Tactics

The battle is, however, more interesting from a tactical point of view rather than from its outcome, as the elaborate plan of Gustavus Adolphus to catch the entire Imperial army by complex maneuvering was prevented when Tilly was mortally wounded in the battle, resulting in the early retreat of the Imperial army. The Swedish battle plan consisted of two major elements:

1. A strong feint attack by a portion of the Swedish infantry with heavy artillery support against Tilly's strongly fortified center behind the Lech. The intended effect was to attract the full attention of the Imperial army and its reserve. The Swedish force succeeded in establishing and fortifying its position on a small island or peninsula close to the Imperial side of the river. From this position, it was able to repel a series of fierce Imperial counterattacks despite being outnumbered.

2. As the Imperial army got tied up in desperate attempts to eliminate the Swedish bridgehead, the Swedish cavalry with no opposition or attention from the enemy was able to cross the river 10 km south of the Imperial left wing. From this position they intended to outflank the entire Imperial army and thus catch it in a position with the river and the Swedish infantry at its front and the Swedish cavalry in its rear and on its flanks.

With Tilly mortally wounded, the morale of the Imperial army quickly dissolved and the army withdrew before the arrival of the Swedish cavalry. Thus, Tilly's death possibly saved his army from annihilation. Nonetheless, both armies suffered considerable losses (3,000 on the Imperial side, 2,000 on the Swedish), mostly due to frontal attacks and counterattacks against fortified positions with strong natural defenses.

The battle of Lech proves more than the Battle of Breitenfeld the innovation of Gustavus Adolphus' tactical imagination. His daring frontal attack in combination with the deployment of a large part of his army for the flanking movement has similarities with the tactics of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough at the Blenheim battlefield, (situated in the very neighborhood of Rain) or of Frederick the Great at Leuthen. The disciple of Gustavus Adolphus, Johan Banér, also employed a similar battle plan four years later in the battle of Wittstock.

See also

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References

  1. C.V. Wedgwood 1961 [1938] The Thirty Years War (Anchor Books: Garden City New York) pp.305—306

2. Friedrich Schiller 2012 [1806] History of the Thirty Years' War in Germany (Kessinger: Whitefish Monanta) pp. 239–242

Coordinates: 48°41′25″N10°55′02″E / 48.6902°N 10.9172°E / 48.6902; 10.9172