Battle of White Mountain

Last updated

Battle of White Mountain
Part of the Bohemian Revolt during the Thirty Years' War
Schlacht am Weissen Berg C-K 063.jpg
Battle of White Mountain, oil painting by P. Snaijers
Date8 November 1620
Location
White Mountain (Czech: Bílá Hora), near Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia
(present-day Czech Republic)

Coordinates: 50°04′42″N14°19′10″E / 50.07833°N 14.31944°E / 50.07833; 14.31944
Result

Catholic victory

Outcome:

Outcome for the Bohemian Estates:

  • Heavy material losses, big reduction in farmsteads
  • Substantial decline of the population
  • Forced conversion to Roman Catholicism
  • Eradication of Protestantism
  • Decline of the Czech language
  • German established as the main language of Bohemian aristocracy
  • Old Town Square execution
  • Bohemian aristocracy partly exiled to Protestant countries

Outcome for the Holy Roman Emperor and his allies:

Belligerents

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

Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spanish Empire

Flag of Bohemia.svg  Kingdom of Bohemia

Flag of The Electoral Palatinate (1604).svg Electoral Palatinate
Commanders and leaders
Count of Tilly
Count of Bucquoy
Jindřich Matyáš Thurn
Christian of Anhalt
Strength
27,000 men (From the Empire, the Catholic League, soldiers from Spain, the Spanish Netherlands and Polish Lisowczycy) 20,000-30,000 men (Mainly mercenaries from Bohemia and the German lands, Hungarian and Austrian allies)
Casualties and losses
700 dead or wounded [1] 4,000 dead or wounded [1]
Map of Prague.png
Battle icon (crossed swords).svg
White Mountain
Location within Prague
Czech Republic adm location map.svg
Battle icon (crossed swords).svg
White Mountain
White Mountain (Czech Republic)

The Battle of White Mountain (Czech : Bitva na Bílé hoře; German : Schlacht am Weißen Berg) was an important battle in the early stages of the Thirty Years' War.

Contents

It was fought on 8 November 1620. An army of 15,000 Bohemians and mercenaries under Christian of Anhalt was defeated by 27,000 men of the combined armies of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor led by Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Count of Bucquoy and the German Catholic League under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly at Bílá Hora ("White Mountain") near Prague. [2] The site is now part of the city of Prague.

The battle marked the end of the Bohemian period of the Thirty Years' War and decisively influenced the fate of the Czech lands for the next 300 years. Its aftermath drastically changed the religious landscape of the Czech lands after two centuries of Protestant dominance. Roman Catholicism retained majority in the Czech lands until the late 20th century.

Prelude

In the early 17th century most of the Bohemian estates, although under the dominion of the predominantly Roman Catholic Holy Roman Empire, had large Protestant populations, and had been granted rights and protections allowing them varying degrees of religious and political freedom. In 1617, as the health of Emperor Matthias deteriorated, his cousin Ferdinand a fiercely devout Roman Catholic and proponent of the Counter-Reformation was named his successor as Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. This led to deep consternation among many Bohemian Protestants, who feared not only the loss of their religious freedom, but also of their traditional semi-autonomy, under which many of the estates had separate, individual constitutions governing their relationship with the Empire, and where the king was elected by the local leaders. [3]

Ferdinand (who would become Emperor Ferdinand II following Matthias' death in 1619) saw Protestantism as inimical to the Empire, and wanted to impose absolutist rule on Bohemia while forcefully encouraging conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. He also hoped to reclaim church properties which had been seized by Protestants at the start of the Reformation decades earlier, and to do away with the Electorate - the body of princes who chose the Holy Roman Emperor and who had considerable power over Imperial policy.[ dubious ]

Particularly galling to Protestants were perceived violations of Emperor Rudolf II's 1609 Letter of Majesty, which had ensured religious freedom throughout Bohemia. [4] In May, 1618, wanting to air their grievances over this and other issues, a group of Bohemian noblemen met representatives of the Emperor at the royal castle in Prague; the meeting ended with two of the representatives and their scribe being thrown out a high window and seriously injured. This incident, known as the Second Defenestration of Prague, triggered the Bohemian Revolt. [5]

In November 1619, Elector Palatine Frederick V, who like many of the rebels was a Calvinist, was chosen as King of Bohemia by the Bohemian Electorate.

Battle

In 1620, now fully established as emperor, Ferdinand II set out to conquer Bohemia and make an example of the rebels. King Frederick and his military commander, Prince Christian of Anhalt, had organized a Protestant army of 30,000 men; Ferdinand countered with a force of 25,000, many of them seasoned soldiers, under the capable leadership of Field Marshal Tilly, a Roman Catholic Spanish-Flemish nobleman. Tilly's army enjoyed the advantage of including two successful military leaders - Tilly himself and the future General Wallenstein. Tilly's force was made up of two distinct groups: Imperial troops commanded by Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Count of Bucquoy, and soldiers of the German Catholic League, directly under Tilly. All of the armies of the day employed numerous mercenaries, including, by some definitions, Tilly himself. Serving with the Catholic League as an official observer was the future "father of modern philosophy", René Descartes. [6]

After conquering most of western Bohemia, the Imperial army made for Prague, the Bohemian capital, then in rebel hands. The Bohemians attempted to block them by setting up defensive positions, which the Imperial army simply bypassed. Force-marching his men, Christian of Anhalt managed to get ahead of the Imperial army just before Prague. He thus gained an advantageous position on the "White Mountain", actually a low plateau, but had little time to set up defensive works. Enthusiasm for joining battle was low on both sides. After the reverses of the previous several weeks, Christian of Anhalt's army had been reduced to about 15,000 men, with little prospect of victory; the mercenaries on both sides had not been paid in months; and with winter approaching, cold, wet, weather made for less than ideal combat conditions.

On 8 November a small Imperial force was sent to probe the Protestant flank. To their surprise, the Bohemians retreated at their advance. Tilly quickly sent in reinforcements, and the Bohemian flank began to crumble. Anhalt tried to relieve the situation by sending forward infantry and cavalry led by his son Christian II. The cavalry charged into the Imperial infantry, causing significant casualties, but Tilly countered with his own cavalry, forcing the Bohemian horsemen to retire. The Bohemian infantry, who were only now approaching the Imperial army, saw the cavalry retreating, at which they fired one volley at extreme range before retreating themselves. A small group of Imperial cavalry began circling the Protestant forces, driving them to the middle of the battlefield. With the Bohemian army already demoralized, company after company began retreating, most without having actually entered the battle. Tilly and his Imperial cavalrymen advanced with 2,000 Bavarian hussars, steadily pushing Protestant forces back to the Star Palace (just west of Prague), where the rebels tried without success to establish a line of defense.

The Bohemian army was no match for the Emperor Ferdinand's troops. The actual battle lasted only an hour and left the Bohemian army in tatters. Some 4,000 Protestants were killed or captured, while Imperial losses amounted to only about 700. [7]

Aftermath

With the Bohemian army destroyed, Tilly entered Prague and the revolt collapsed. King Frederick fled the country with his wife Elizabeth (hence his nickname the Winter King). Forty-seven leaders of the insurrection were put on trial, and twenty-seven of them were executed in Prague's Old Town Square on what came to be called the "Old Town Square execution". Amongst those executed were Kryštof Harant and Jan Jesenius. Today, 27 crosses have been laid into the cobblestones as a tribute to those victims. An estimated five-sixths of the Bohemian nobility went into exile soon after the Battle of White Mountain, and their properties were confiscated. [8]

There remained a strong Protestant army in Silesia under the command of Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, Duke of Krnov, which continued fighting the Imperial army in Moravia and in what today is Slovakia until 1623.

In 1621, the Emperor ordered all Calvinists and other non-Lutherans to leave the realm in three days or to convert to Roman Catholicism.[ citation needed ] In 1622, he forbade practice of the Lutheran faith. In 1626, he ordered all Lutherans (most of whom had not been involved in the revolt) to convert or else leave the country. [9] By 1627, Archbishop Harrach of Prague and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice set out to convert the heretics, as they were termed, by peaceful means; most Bohemians converted, but a significant Protestant minority remained. Spanish troops, seeking to encircle their rebellious Dutch provinces, seized the Palatinate lands. With the prospect of Protestantism being overrun in Germany, Denmark entered the struggle. Sweden was to join the Protestant forces in 1630.

Before the war about 151,000 farmsteads existed in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, while by the year 1648 only 50,000 remained. At the same time the number of inhabitants decreased from three million to only 800,000. [10]

The result of the 1620 battle brought two centuries of recatholicization of the Czech lands and the decline of the Czech-speaking aristocracy and elite as well as the Czech language (accompanied with the growing influence of German-speaking elites), a process that was slowed down by the Czech National Revival starting in the late 18th century. Czech nationalist historians and writers such as Alois Jirásek have referred to the 17th and 18th century in the Czech lands as the Dark Age.

See also

Related Research Articles

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. The deadly clashes ravaged Europe; 20 percent of the total population of Germany died during the conflict and there were losses up to 50 percent in a corridor between Pomerania and the Black Forest. In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was surpassed only by the period of January to May 1945 during World War II. 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 Defenestrations of Prague were three incidents in the history of Bohemia in which multiple people were defenestrated. The origin of the word "defenestrate" is believed to come from the episodes in Prague in 1618 when the disgruntled Protestant estates threw two royal governors out of the castle window and wrote an extensive Apologia to this act. However, in the Middle Ages and early modern times, defenestrations took place quite often, and this event carried elements of lynch, ordal and murder committed together. In medieval and early modern society, which is markedly horizontally divided, defenestration has the character of symbolic punishment.

Battle of Nördlingen (1634) German battle 6 September 1634

The Battle of Nördlingen was fought in 1634 during the Thirty Years' War, on 27 August or 6 September. The Roman Catholic Imperial army, bolstered by 15,000 Spanish soldiers, won a crushing victory over the combined Protestant armies of Sweden and their German-Protestant allies.

Siege of Pilsen

The Siege of Pilsen or Battle of Pilsen was a siege of the fortified city of Pilsen in Bohemia carried out by the forces of the Bohemian Protestants led by Ernst von Mansfeld. It was the first major battle of the Thirty Years' War. The Protestant victory and subsequent capture of the city enlarged the Bohemian Revolt.

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

Ferdinand II, a member of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor (1619–1637), King of Bohemia, and King of Hungary (1618–1637). He was the son of Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria, and Maria of Bavaria. In 1590, his parents, who were devout Catholics, sent him to study at the Jesuits' college in Ingolstadt, because they wanted to isolate him from the Lutheran nobles. In the same year, he inherited Inner Austria—Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and smaller provinces—from his father. Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, who was the head of the Habsburg family, appointed regents to administer Inner Austria on behalf of the minor Ferdinand.

Frederick V of the Palatinate Elector Palatine (1610–23), and King of Bohemia (1619–20), the Winter King

Frederick V was the Elector Palatine of the Rhine in the Holy Roman Empire from 1610 to 1623, and reigned as King of Bohemia from 1619 to 1620. He was forced to abdicate both roles, and the brevity of his reign in Bohemia earned him the derisive sobriquet "the Winter King".

Albrecht von Wallenstein 17th-century Czech marshal and nobleman

Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein, also von Waldstein, was a Bohemian military leader and statesman who fought on the Catholic side during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). His successful martial career made him one of the richest and 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 Wimpfen battle

The Battle of Wimpfen was a battle in the Bohemian Revolt period of the Thirty Years' War on 6 May 1622 near Wimpfen.

Catholic League (German) German military alliance

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".

Lands of the Bohemian Crown (1526–1648)

Although the Kingdom of Bohemia, the both Lusatias, the Margraviate of Moravia and the Silesia were all under Habsburg rule, they followed different paths of development. Moravians include Silesia had accepted the hereditary right of the Austrian Habsburgs to rule and thus escaped the intense struggle between native estates and the Habsburg monarchy that was to characterize Bohemian history. In contrast, the Bohemian Kingdom had entrenched estates that were ready to defend what they considered their rights and liberties. The Habsburgs pursued a policy of centralization and conflict arose, which was further complicated by ethnic and religious issues

Lobkowicz noble family

The House of Lobkowicz is a Czech noble family that dates back to the 14th century and is one of the oldest Bohemian noble families. The first Lobkowiczs were members of the gentry of north-eastern Bohemia in the late 14th century.

Kryštof Harant Czech traveller, composer and writer

Kryštof Harant of Polžice and Bezdružice was a Czech nobleman, traveler, humanist, soldier, writer and composer. He joined the Protestant Bohemian Revolt in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown against the House of Habsburg that led to Thirty Years' War. Following the victory of Catholic forces in the Battle of White Mountain, Harant was executed in the mass Old Town Square execution by the Habsburgs.

Sack of Magdeburg destruction of the Protestant city of Magdeburg on 20 May 1631 by the Imperial Army and the forces of the Catholic League

The Sack of Magdeburg, also called Magdeburg's Wedding or Magdeburg's Sacrifice, was the destruction of the Protestant city of Magdeburg on 20 May 1631 by the Imperial Army and the forces of the Catholic League, resulting in the deaths of around 20,000, including both defenders and non-combatants. The event is considered the worst massacre of the Thirty Years' War. Magdeburg, then one of the largest cities in Germany, having well over 25,000 inhabitants in 1630, did not recover its importance until well into the 18th century.

Peace of Prague (1635)

The Peace of Prague was a peace treaty signed on 30 May 1635 by the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II and Elector John George I of Saxony representing most of the Protestant Estates of the Holy Roman Empire. It effectively brought to an end the civil war aspect of the Thirty Years' War; however, the combat actions still carried on due to the continued intervention on German soil by Spain, Sweden, and, from mid-1635, France, until the Peace of Westphalia was concluded in 1648.

Vilém Slavata of Chlum Czech baroque writer, hofmeister, valet and nobleman

Vilém Slavata z Chlumu a Košumberka was a Czech nobleman from old Bohemian family. As viceregent (místodržící) of Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg he became famous as co-victim, along with Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice, of the 1618 Defenestration of Prague.

The Peace of Nikolsburg or Peace of Mikulov, signed on 31 December 1621 in Nikolsburg, Moravia, was the treaty which ended the war between Prince Gabriel Bethlen of Transylvania and Emperor Ferdinand II of the Holy Roman Empire. Nikolaus Esterházy de Galántha was one of the treaty's chief negotiators.

Jindřich Matyáš Thurn Czech warrior

Count Jindřich Matyáš Thurn-Valsassina, was a Czech (Bohemian) nobleman, one of leaders of Protestant Bohemian Revolt against Emperor Ferdinand II. He took part in events that led to the Thirty Years War, and after the war he became a military leader and diplomat in Swedish service, who eventually resided in Swedish Estonia.

Bohemian Revolt A revolt of Bohemian Estates against the Habsburgs (1618–1620)

The Bohemian Revolt was an uprising of the Bohemian estates against the rule of the Habsburg dynasty that began the Thirty Years' War. It was caused by both religious and power disputes. The estates were almost entirely Protestant, mostly Utraquist Hussite but there was also a substantial German population that endorsed Lutheranism. The dispute culminated after several battles in the final Battle of White Mountain, where the estates suffered a decisive defeat. This started re-Catholisation of the Czech lands, but also expanded the scope of the Thirty Years' War by drawing Denmark and Sweden into it. The conflict spread to the rest of Europe and devastated vast areas of central Europe, including the Czech lands, which were particularly stricken by its violent atrocities.

Maxmilián Hošťálek Czech local politician

Maxmilián Hošťálek z Javořice was a Czech nobleman, mayor of Žatec, beheaded for his role during the uprising of the Bohemian Estates (1618-1620) in the Thirty Years' War.

Johann Philipp Kratz von Scharffenstein

Johann Philipp Kratz von Scharffenstein was a German nobleman and field marshal, who fought during the course of the Thirty Years' War. He served with distinction in forces of both the Catholic League and Holy Roman Empire. His poor relationship with the Imperial generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein frustrated his plan of becoming the supreme commander of the League's forces. Embittered by this he defected to Sweden, where he attained the rank of field marshal. He was captured at the Battle of Nördlingen (1634) and executed for treason a year later.

References

  1. 1 2 Bílá Hora. Archived 26 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine , Ottův slovník naučný (1888–1909) a Ottův slovník naučný nové doby (1930–1943). (in Czech)
  2. The Battle of White Mountain, 11-06-2003 - Radio Prague
  3. Johnson, Lonnie. Central Europe enemies, neighbours, friends. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
  4. Helfferich, Tryntje. The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Hackett Company, Inc., 2009. Print.
  5. Guthrie, William P. Battles of the Thirty Years War from White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618–1635. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Print.
  6. https://www.military-history.org/articles/thinkers-at-war-descartes.htm
  7. Guthrie, William P. Battles of the Thirty Years War from White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618–1635. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Print.
  8. Consequences of Czech Defeat, U.S. Library of Congress
  9. Wedgwood, C. V. (1964) [1938]. The Thirty Years War. London: Jonathan Cape. pp. 158, 224.
  10. The Kingdom of Bohemia during the Thirty Years´ War

Sources