Battle of Lützen and the Early Death of Gustav
Unfortunately for the newly emboldened Protestant cause, Gustav would perish in battle just a year later. Between the two great battles, Gustav fought the Battle of Lech where Gustav employed a screening force to launch a perfect hidden crossing of a river. His screening force was so good that they killed the legendary Tilly and forced the army to retreat before his masterful flanking force could trap the army.
At Lützen, Gustav met the Catholic League’s army under Albrecht von Wallenstein. Gustav had the advantage in numbers, but Wallenstein had reinforcements on the way, so he formed defensive lines with well-dug trenches.
The Swedish forces decided to mount an assault anyway and the attack began with a heavy fog. A heavy fog is still known as a Lutzen fog in Sweden to this day. The Swedish infantry launched waves against the fortified Catholic positions with little success.
Gustav and his cavalry had immediate success on the right flank but soon became disorganized from the fog. Gustav became entirely separated from his unit and several enemy troops happened upon him. Outnumbered and outgunned, Gustav was shot and stabbed until he fell from his horse, itself shot in the neck, where he was killed by a shot to the head.
Rumors of Gustav’s death made their way around the army, but this only made the Swedes fight harder. A Swedish cannonball found its mark, killing the commander of the Catholic reinforcements, and the Swedish infantry finally broke through the trenches to overwhelm the Catholic artillery positions. It was a hard fought battle, but certainly a victory for the Protestants, with the bitter exception of Gustav’s death.
Gustav had brought Sweden to the stage as a major European power. His victories saved the Protestant cause and made the Catholic League struggle to find answers for his devastating style of warfare. The victory at Lützen gave the Protestants time, but their cause still wavered in the years after Gustav’s death.
Eventually, the two sides were able to come to a peace, with Gustav’s decade’s old victories still giving the Protestants negotiating power. The Protestants were able to gain independence or freedom to practice and the Catholic Hapsburg dynasty saw its power wane considerably along with the overwhelming influence of the Catholic Church weakening as well.