Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had a career akin to Alexander the Great or Stonewall Jackson; a promising career cut short by an unexpected death. Gustav rose to the Swedish crown at the young age of 16 and rose to such fame that he was known as the Lion of the North. In addition to being a military genius, Gustav also boosted Sweden into the renaissance that it had been missing out on earlier.
Gustav took advantage of Sweden’s natural metal stockpiles and gladly accepted skilled metal workers fleeing religious prosecution to create the most modern gunpowder army Europe had seen. Gustav made use of newer, smaller cannons as mobile anti-infantry and had guns throughout the infantry.
Not only did Gustav use the latest tech, he trained his army to be able to adapt to any situation; the archer was well practiced with his bow, but he was drilled in operating a hand gun if he needed. Pikemen were trained in horsemanship so they could steal the horses of the defeated cavalry and launch a swift counter.
This level of cross-training was unheard of and came into action at the Battle of Breitenfeld. In a massive and equally-matched battle, Gustav’s cavalry swept the flank and captured the large artillery battery. Instead of sabotaging the guns as most cavalry of the era would, the Swedish got off their horses and manned the cannons, firing into the rear of the enemy infantry who soon routed due to the relentless artillery from opposite directions.
The Battle of Breitenfeld was a perfect example of Gustav’s modern army and his tactics during the battle let a pike and gunner unit hold off sustained cavalry charges while the Swedish cavalry worked their way to the cannons. Later in his career, at the Battle of Lutzen, Gustav organized an attack on an entrenched Catholic League through heavy fog.
A hard fought and confusing first phase of the battle left Gustav separated and he was fatally wounded. His army fought on and embraced their training and pushed through fortified trenches and broke the enemy center. Though Gustav’s career was short-lived, it was one of excellent strategic and tactical command decisions. The Protestants were on the brink of losing the war before Gustav stepped in and after his death they turned the tides of war in their favor for several years.