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Swedish Intervention
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Gustave Adolphe at Breitenfeld-Johann Walter-f3706497
Gustav II Adolf leads his army to victory at the Battle of Breitenfeld
Date 1630–1648
Location Throughout the Holy Roman Empire
Result Decisive Swedish victory
Pomerania is annexed by Sweden

</tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Belligerents</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Sweden Swedish Empire

Temporary combat support:
Flag of Electoral Saxony.svg Electorate of Saxony (1630-1631)[2]
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg Kingdom of France (1648)

Limited or non-combat support:
Flag of Scotland.svg Kingdom of Scotland[3] </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">Catholic League (Germany).svg Catholic League and allies:
Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg Holy Roman Empire
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Habsburg Empire
23x15px Augsburg
Austria Austria
Wappen Bistum Bamberg.png Bamberd
Bavaria Bavaria
Bohemia Bohemia
Black St George&#039;s Cross.svg Cologne
Banner of Baden (3^2).svg Constance
Flag of the Kingdom of Croatia (Habsburg) Croatia[4]
Hochstift Eichstaett coat of arms.svg Eichstätt
Wuerttemberg Banner.svg Ellwangen
War Flag of Hungary.svg Hungary[5]
Fuerststift Kempten coat of arms.png Kempten
Banner of the Electorate of Mainz.svg Mainz
Wappen Bistum Passau.svg Passau
Flag of Electoral Saxony.svg Electorate of Saxony (1635-1648)
Wappen Bistum Speyer.png Speyer
Banner of the Prince-Bishopric of Strassbourg I (1^1).svg Strasbourg
Red St George&#039;s Cross.svg Trier
Flag of Hesse.svg Worms
Flag of the Grand Duchy of Baden (1871–1891).svg Würzburg
Denmark Denmark-Norway[6]
Spain Spanish Empire </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Commanders and leaders</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">Sweden Gustav II Adolf
Sweden Axel Oxenstierna
Sweden Johan Banér
Sweden Lennart Torstenson
Sweden Gustav Horn
Sweden Carl Gustaf Wrangel
Sweden Prince Karl Gustav
Sweden Alexander Leslie </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">Holy Roman Empire Albrecht von Wallenstein
Holy Roman Empire Johann Tserclaes
Holy Roman Empire Ferdinand II
Holy Roman Empire Ferdinand III
Holy Roman Empire Franz von Mercy
Holy Roman Empire Johann von Werth
Holy Roman Empire Gottfried Pappenheim
Catholic League (Germany).svg Maximilian I of Bavaria </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Strength</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">70,600:
Landing in Germany: 13,000 men[7][8]

  • 10,000 infantry[7]
  • 3,000 cavalry[7]

Defending Sweden:
24,600 men
Allies and mercenaries:
33,000 men </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">546,000:
50,000 Imperial
150,000 German
300,000 Spanish
26,000 Danish
20,000 Hungarian and Croatian[9] </td> </tr><tr> <th colspan="2" style="background-color: #B0C4DE; text-align: center; vertical-align: middle;">Casualties and losses</th> </tr><tr> <td style="width:50%; border-right:1px dotted #aaa;">31,518 killed, wounded and captured </td><td style="width:50%; padding-left:0.25em">101,094 killed, wounded and captured </td> </tr></table> The Swedish invasion of the Holy Roman Empire, or the Swedish Intervention in the Thirty Years' War, that took place between 1630 and 1635, was a major turning point of the war often considered to be an independent conflict. After several attempts by the Holy Roman Empire to prevent the spread of protestantism in Europe, King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden ordered a full-scale invasion of the Catholic states. Although he was killed in action, his armies successfully defeated their enemies and gave birth to the Swedish Empire after proving their ability in combat. The new European great power would last for a hundred years before being overwhelmed by numerous enemies in the Great Northern War.


The "Roman Catholic States" led by the Catholic Habsburg Imperial family sought to tighten its grip on the Holy Roman Empire, and gain formal in addition to retaining its de jure control over the Empire, which it had by and large secured by this point, albeit still on risky foundations. The political structure of the Holy Roman Empire ensured they would never seize this as a hereditary right unless the political structure of Germany was altered. They sought to do this by suppressing the practice of the Protestant branch of Christianity in north Germany, and reseating the Protestant potentates in the Empire with Catholic ones. This was because election to the Holy Roman Empire was divided between a number of princelings who were of both Protestant and Catholic faith. They simultaneously seized Protestant places of worship and started to roll back many of the religious compromises that had previously been arranged in order to preserve religious stability within the empire. This would afford them the opportunity to alter the political structure of the Holy Roman Empire via its legislative body. The Protestant powers were fighting to preserve their religious freedom, and simultaneously preserve their political autonomy from the Habsburgs.

The Holy Roman Empire was a hodgepodge of Protestant and Catholic states of various sizes that exercised sway over Germany, and over European politics, according to the resources and armies that they had at their command.[10] Broadly speaking, the Holy Roman Empire – prior to the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War – was divided in half between the Protestant North and the Catholic South.[11]

The Swedish situationEdit

File:Swedish Intervention Map 1630.png

Gustav II Adolf of House Vasa had inherited the throne at age sixteen in the year of 1611. He immediately showed an interest in reforming the military, seeing little value in the common feudal warfare of peasant draftees. With his reorganizations came a professional standing army of 22,834 men (19,584 infantry and 3,250 cavalry), equipped with the most advanced weapons available and drilled to become a superior fighting force.[12] However, an issue remained that the territories under Swedish control were large but held small populations, making the king favor a strategy of counterattack rather than defense, should any other nation attack Sweden. Gustav II Adolf was confident in the Swedish military superiority as of 1630, and personally commanded his men into battle and won great victories against much larger enemy forces. The Royal Swedish Navy consisted of 22 ships and it outclassed the embryonic Imperial fleet that Wallenstein tried to build up in Stralsund.

Ship name Ship type Guns Launched Fate
Andromeda Galleon 44 Early 1600s Shipwrecked in 1654 or 1655
Ceasar Galleon 54 1648 Captured by Denmark in 1677
Fågel Grip Pinnace 14 Early 1600s Shipwrecked in 1639
Gamla Kronan Galleon 32 1618 Retired in 1643
Göta Ark Galleon 72 1634 Sunk in 1650
Jupiter Galleon 50 1633 Sold in 1647
Kalmar Nyckel Pinnace 14 1625 Sold in 1651
Krona Ark Galleon 68 1633 Sunk in 1675
Kronan Galleon 68 1632 Sunk in 1675
Maria Galleon 54 1648 Lost in 1677
Mars Galleon 44 1633 Sunk in 1660
Oldenburg Galleon 42 1628 Captured from Denmark, 1644
Patentia Galleon 48 1616 Captured from Denmark, 1644
Scepter Galleon 66 1636 Sunk in 1675
Tre Lejon Galleon 46 1642 Captured from Denmark, 1644
Vasa Galleon 64 1627 Sunk during maiden voyage in 1628
Vestervik Galleon 44 Early 1647 Burnt in 1676
Äpplet Galleon 64 1628 Sold in 1659

The Catholic situationEdit


At the time of the Treaty of Stettin, Sweden had one of the best equipped and trained military powers in the world and were theoretically superior to the Holy Roman Empire's soldiers by far. However, unlike the Imperial army which had been fighting against protestant German states for 12 years, the Swedes had no experience of actual combat and had to resort to risky operations that could very well have caused the destruction of the Swedish army. In the first battle at Frankfurt an der Oder, the Swedish army successfully defeated an entrenched Imperial force with pure offensive power and Gustav II Adolf would repeat the same pattern for the rest of his life: a quick, powerful offensive with superior discipline and mobility to overwhelm the enemy. The Swedish military superiority over the Holy Roman Empire, considered a near-superpower at the time, was made obvious in battles such as Breitenfeld and Oldendorf. Despite the death of Gustav II Adolf at the otherwise successful battle of Lützen, the Swedish army continued to press forward into catholic territories with amazing success until the peace of Westphalia was signed in 1648. Sweden's rise into a European great power had been confirmed, and the Holy Roman Empire's power begun to decline with their defeat in the Thirty Years' War, mainly due to the Swedish efforts. Of all parties in the conflict, the Swedes were the most successful and claimed responsibility for the loss of more than 100,000 Imperial troops, which was half of the national army.

Battles during the Swedish intervention in the Thirty Years' War
Battle Swedish numbers Enemy numbers Swedish casualties Enemy casualties Result
Frankfurt an der Oder 13,000 N/A 800 3,000 Swedish victory
Werben 16,000 23,000 Minor 6,000 Swedish victory
1st Breitenfeld 23,000 35,000 3,550 23,600 Decisive Swedish victory
Rain 40,000 25,000 2,000 3,000 Decisive Swedish victory
Wiesloch N/A N/A N/A N/A Swedish victory
Alte Veste 46,000 40,000 2,500 2,000 Imperial victory
Lützen 19,000 22,000 3,400 5,000 Swedish victory
Oldendorf 13,000 25,000 700 6,000 Decisive Swedish victory
Nördlingen 25,600 34,000 6,000 3,500 Spanish-Imperial victory
Wittstock 16,000 22,000 3,100 7,000 Decisive Swedish victory
Rheinfelden 12,000 25,000 1,968 4,000 Swedish-Weimar victory
Chemnitz 20,000 8,000 Minor 1,500+ Decisive Swedish victory
2nd Breitenfeld 15,000 25,000 2,000 10,000 Decisive Swedish victory
Jüterbog 16,000 15,000 Minor 3,800 Swedish victory
Jankau 16,000 16,000 1,500 10,000 Decisive Swedish victory
Zusmarshausen 11,000 10,000 Minor 2,000 Swedish-French victory
Lens 16,000 18,000 3,500 10,000 Swedish-French victory
Prague 13,500 2,000 500 694 Disputed


  1. Helmolt, Hans Ferdinand (1903). The World's History: Western Europe to 1800. W. Heinemann. p. 573. ISBN 0-217-96566-0. 
  2. John George I abandoned the Swedish cause early on in the war, and joined the Catholics after hearing of Sweden's defeat in the battle of Nördlingen
  3. Numerous Scottish mercenaries and volunteers served in the Swedish army, most notably Alexander Leslie
  4. Hussar (Huszár)
  5. Ervin Liptai: Military history of Hungary, Zrínyi Military Publisher, 1985. ISBN 9633263379
  6. Denmark fought Sweden and the Dutch Republic in the Torstenson War
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Schmidt (2006), p.49
  8. Oakley (1992), p.69
  9. László Markó: The Great Honors of the Hungarian State (A Magyar Állam Főméltóságai), Magyar Könyvklub 2000. ISBN 963-547-085-1
  10. Dodge, Theodore (1996). Gustavus Adolphus. Greehill Books. pp. 145. .
  11. Dodge 1996, p. 145
  12. Isacson, Göran Militär Historia, nr 3, 2010.

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