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"Best 30YW General? Gustavus Adolphus!" Topic

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415 hits since 15 May 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian15 May 2019 7:33 p.m. PST

You were asked – TMP link

Best 30 Years War General?

65% said "Gustavus Adolphus"
8% said "Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly"
6% said "Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein"

Mithmee Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2019 5:46 p.m. PST

Yup, he was the best right up until he got himself killed in battle.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2019 1:37 p.m. PST

I think he won on name recognition alone.
His career was way to short to really judge.

It would be like saying Napoleon was the best general of the napoleonic wars if he died at Marengo(and even then he'd have more to show than Gustav Adolph

Mithmee Supporting Member of TMP04 Jun 2019 5:09 p.m. PST

Ah but he burst onto the scene with his Swedes and put a right smashing onto the other side who had basically won every battle before Gus showed up.

His Swedes even won the battle in which he was killed in.

If he did not get himself killed he would have crushed the other side.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2019 1:49 a.m. PST

Or would he?
As I said, we don't know, what we do know is he was the greatest king to get himself killed in the 30 years war.

Daniel S05 Jun 2019 5:00 a.m. PST

Too short career? Gustav Adolf was active as acommander for almost 21 years with roughly 4 years spent directing operations in Germany either through subordinates or in person. His time in active opertions in Germany was 28 months. Considering the impact on the war of those 28 months a better Napoleonic comparison would be Napoleon being killed at Eylau 1807.

Bill N05 Jun 2019 8:51 a.m. PST

Didn't Gustavus Adolphus defeat Tilly? Didn't his army defeat Wallenstein?

Marcus Brutus05 Jun 2019 9:47 a.m. PST

I think Lutzen was a draw. The Swedes held the battlefield but their King was dead and their army shattered.

Daniel S05 Jun 2019 10:18 a.m. PST

The idea that the Swedish army was "shattered" is not supported by the sources and post-battle events though I know it is a view popular with some historians. Despite it's heavy losses the Swedish army was still a functional if depleted force after the battle and able to contine operations, pretty much the opposite of a "shattered" army.

Holding the battlefield including all of the enemy field artillery is pretty much the very definition of a victory in the 17th Century. Wallenstein was also forced to abandon all of his plans and retreat back to Imperial territory. However there was no pursuit to turn the Imperial retreat into a rout and a decisive success. So you have a tactical victory followed by operational sucess but a continued strategic stalemate. All bought at a very significant cost, if the success achived was worth the cost is very open to debate. That the battle of Lützen was a Swedish victory isn't. You can well consider it a Pyrrhic victory, I've certainly refered to Lützen as such myself but the outcome of Lützen as battle fit no definition of "draw" that I know of.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2019 12:45 p.m. PST

28 months, exactly then he died, we never found out of his enemy would adapt to him and beat him in his own game, and if he then adapted to them etc.

Other generals had a decade or more in that war.

For Napoleon his enemies adapted but most of them were still not as good as him, and so all things being equal he would usually win. For Napoleon we have so much information on his military campaigns, we can pick apart all his good and all his bad. There is a reason you have rabid bonaparteist, and the anti bonaparteist. And even today 200 years later they will fight as hard as any religious fanatical person (in words)
You don't see that with the Swedish king, he came, he saw he conquered, then had the good fortune of dying at the peak of his power. He didn't end up in st Helena or get banished from Carthage after his army got crushed by the Romans.

He might be the greatest general of the war, he certainly won the contest of biggest impact in shortest time.
But we still have to few datapoints to say he was definitely the best.

And even if you as an expert say you have enough datapoints, it still means 99.5% of those that voted in that poll votes on name recognition alone.

Marcus Brutus07 Jun 2019 6:04 a.m. PST

The Swedish army that assembled after Lutzen was only 2/3 of its original strength. Many of the core senior infantry brigades were essentially wiped out and some never restored (the Yellow and Blue brigade for instance.) Desertion was high after Lutzen. The Swedish army had lost 30+ standards.

Holding the field allows a certain claim to victory but in the case of Lutzen it is very weak claim. In fact, many of Wallenstein's officers wished to continue the battle the next day. Wallenstein's decision to withdraw from Lutzen was a pragmatic strategic realization that he was better off retreating and consolidating his position. There was little to be gained in his remaining on the field. It was not a reaction to a tactical defeat on the battlefield.

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