The Lion of the North by G. A. Henty
Chapter XIX. A Pause in Hostilities
Never had Malcolm Graheme spent a more pleasant time than the two months which he passed at Mansfeld. Travelling by very easy stages there he was so far convalescent upon his arrival that he was able to move about freely and could soon ride on horseback. For the time the neighbourhood of Mansfeld was undisturbed by the peasants or combatants on either side, and the count had acted with such vigour against any parties of brigands and marauders who might approach the vicinity of Mansfeld, or the country under his control, that a greater security of life and property existed than in most other parts of Germany. The ravages made by war were speedily effaced, and although the peasants carried on their operations in the fields without any surety as to who would gather the crops, they worked free from the harassing tyranny of the petty bands of robbers.
As soon as he was strong enough Malcolm rode with the count on his visits to the different parts of his estates, joined in several parties got up to hunt the boar in the hills, or to make war on a small scale against the wolves which, since the outbreak of the troubles, had vastly increased in number, committing great depredations upon the flocks and herds, and rendering it dangerous for the peasants to move between their villages except in strong parties.
The evenings were passed pleasantly and quietly. The countess would read aloud or would play on the zither, with which instrument she would accompany herself while she sang. Thekla would sit at her embroidery and would chat merrily to Malcolm, and ask many questions about Scotland and the life which the ladies led in that, as she asserted, "cold and desolate country." Sometimes the count's chaplain would be present and would gravely discuss theological questions with the count, wearying Malcolm and Thekla so excessively, that they would slip away from the others and play checkers or cards on a little table in a deep oriel window where their low talk and laughter did not disturb the discussions of their elders.
Once Malcolm was absent for two days on a visit to the village in the mountains he had so much aided in defending. Here he was joyfully received, and was glad to find that war had not penetrated to the quiet valley, and that prosperity still reigned there. Malcolm lingered at Mansfeld for some time after he felt that his strength was sufficiently restored to enable him to rejoin his regiment; but he knew that until the spring commenced no great movement of troops would take place, and he was so happy with his kind friends, who treated him completely as one of the family, that he was loath indeed to tear himself away. At last he felt that he could no longer delay, and neither the assurances of the count that the Protestant cause could dispense with his doughty services for a few weeks longer, or the tears of Thekla and her insistance that he could not care for them or he would not be in such a hurry to leave, could detain him longer, and mounting a horse with which the count had presented him he rode away to rejoin his regiment.
No military movements of importance had taken place subsequent to the battle of Lutzen. Oxenstiern had laboured night and day to repair as far as possible the effects of the death of Gustavus. He had been left by the will of the king regent of Sweden until the king's daughter, now a child of six years old, came of age, and he at once assumed the supreme direction of affairs. It was essential to revive the drooping courage of the weaker states, to meet the secret machinations of the enemy, to allay the jealousy of the more powerful allies, to arouse the friendly powers, France in particular, to active assistance, and above all to repair the ruined edifice of the German alliance and to reunite the scattered strength of the party by a close and permanent bond of union.
Had the emperor at this moment acted wisely Oxenstiern's efforts would have been in vain. Wallenstein, farseeing and broad minded, saw the proper course to pursue, and strongly urged upon the emperor the advisability of declaring a universal amnesty, and of offering favourable conditions to the Protestant princes, who, dismayed at the loss of their great champion, would gladly accept any proposals which would ensure the religious liberty for which they had fought; but the emperor, blinded by this unexpected turn of fortune and infatuated by Spanish counsels, now looked to a complete triumph and to enforce his absolute will upon the whole of Germany.
Instead, therefore, of listening to the wise counsels of Wallenstein he hastened to augment his forces. Spain sent him considerable supplies, negotiated for him with the ever vacillating Elector of Saxony, and levied troops for him in Italy. The Elector of Bavaria increased his army, and the Duke of Lorraine prepared again to take part in the struggle which now seemed to offer him an easy opportunity of increasing his dominions. For a time the Elector of Saxony, the Duke of Brunswick, and many others of the German princes wavered; but when they saw that Ferdinand, so far from being disposed to offer them favourable terms to detach them from the league, was preparing with greater vigour than ever to overwhelm them, they perceived that their interest was to remain faithful to their ally, and at a great meeting of princes and deputies held at Heilbronn the alliance was re-established on a firmer basis.
Before, however, the solemn compact was ratified scarce one of the German princes and nobles but required of Oxenstiern the gratification of private greed and ambition, and each bargained for some possession either already wrested or to be afterwards taken from the enemy. To the Landgrave of Hesse the abbacies of Paderborn, Corvey, Munster, and Fulda were promised, to Duke Bernhard of Weimar the Franconian bishoprics, to the Duke of Wurtemburg the ecclesiastical domains and the Austrian counties lying within his territories, all to be held as fiefs of Sweden.
Oxenstiern, an upright and conscientious man, was disgusted at the greed of these princes and nobles who professed to be warring solely in defence of their religious liberties, and he once exclaimed that he would have it entered in the Swedish archives as an everlasting memorial that a prince of the German empire made a request for such and such territory from a Swedish nobleman, and that the Swedish noble complied with the request by granting him German lands. However, the negotiations were at last completed, the Saxons marched towards Lusatia and Silesia to act in conjunction with Count Thurn against the Austrians in that quarter, a part of the Swedish army was led by the Duke of Weimar into Franconia, and the other by George, Duke of Brunswick, into Westphalia and Lower Saxony.
When Gustavus had marched south from Ingolstadt on the news of Wallenstein's entry into Saxony he had left the Count Palatine of Birkenfeld and General Banner to maintain the Swedish conquests in Bavaria. These generals had in the first instance pressed their conquests southward as far as Lake Constance; but towards the end of the year the Bavarian General Altringer pressed them with so powerful an army that Banner sent urgent requests to Horn to come to his assistance from Alsace, where he had been carrying all before him. Confiding his conquests to the Rhinegrave Otto Ludwig, Horn marched at the head of seven thousand men towards Swabia. Before he could join Banner, however, Altringer had forced the line of the Lech, and had received reinforcements strong enough to neutralize the aid brought to Banner by Horn. Deeming it necessary above all things to bar the future progress of the enemy, Horn sent orders to Otto Ludwig to join him with all the troops still remaining in Alsace; but finding himself still unable to resist the advance of Altringer, he despatched an urgent request to Duke Bernhard, who had captured Bamberg and the strong places of Kronach and Hochstadt in Franconia, to come to his assistance. The duke at once quitted Bamberg and marched southward, swept a strong detachment of the Bavarian army under John of Werth from his path, and pressing on reached Donauwurth in March 1633.
Malcolm had rejoined his regiment, which was with Duke Bernhard, just before it advanced from Bamberg and was received with a hearty welcome by his comrades, from whom he had been separated nine months, having quitted them three months before the battle of Lutzen.
The officers were full of hope that Duke Bernhard was going to strike a great blow. Altringer was away on the shore of Lake Constance facing Horn, Wallenstein was in Bohemia. Between Donauworth and Vienna were but the four strong places of Ingolstadt, Ratisbon, Passau, and Linz. Ingolstadt was, the duke knew, commanded by a traitor who was ready to surrender. Ratisbon had a Protestant population who were ready to open their gates. It seemed that the opportunity for ending the war by a march upon Vienna, which had been snatched by Wallenstein from Gustavus just when it appeared in his grasp, was now open to Duke Bernhard. But the duke was ambitious, his demands for Franconia had not yet been entirely complied with by Oxenstiern, and he saw an opportunity to obtain his own terms. The troops under his orders were discontented, owing to the fact that their pay was many months in arrear, and private agents of the duke fomented this feeling by assuring the men that their general was with them and would back their demands. Accordingly they refused to march further until their demands were fully satisfied. The Scotch regiments stood apart from the movement, though they too were equally in arrear with their pay. Munro and the officers of the Brigade chafed terribly at this untimely mutiny just when the way to Vienna appeared open to them. Duke Bernhard forwarded the demands of the soldiers to Oxenstiern, sending at the same time a demand on his own account, first that the territory of the Franconian bishoprics should at once be erected into a principality in his favour, and secondly, that he should be nominated commander-in-chief of all the armies fighting in Germany for the Protestant cause with the title of generalissimo.
Oxenstiern was alarmed by the receipt of the mutinous demands of the troops on the Danube, and was disgusted when he saw those demands virtually supported by their general. His first thought was to dismiss Duke Bernhard from the Swedish service; but he saw that if he did so the disaffection might spread, and that the duke might place himself at the head of the malcontents and bring ruin upon the cause. He therefore agreed to bestow at once the Franconian bishoprics upon him, and gave a pledge that Sweden would defend him in that position.
He declined to make him generalissimo of all the armies, but appointed him commander-in-chief of the forces south of the Maine. The duke accepted this modification, and had no difficulty in restoring order in the ranks of his army. But precious months had been wasted before this matter was brought to a conclusion, and the month of October arrived before the duke had completed all his preparations and was in a position to move forward.
While the delays had been going on Altringer, having been joined by the army of the Duke of Feria, quitted the line of the Danube, in spite of Wallenstein's absolute order not to do so, and, evading Horn and Birkenfeldt, marched into Alsace. The Swedish generals, however, pressed hotly upon him, and finally drove him out of Alsace. Ratisbon being left open by Altringer's disobedience to Wallenstein's orders, Duke Bernhard marched upon that city without opposition, and laid siege to it. Maximilian of Bavaria was himself there with a force sufficient to defend the city had he been supported by the inhabitants; but a large majority of the people were Protestants, and, moreover, bitterly hated the Bavarians, who had suppressed their rights as a free city.
Maximilian wrote urgently to the emperor and to Wallenstein, pledging himself to maintain Ratisbon if he could receive a reinforcement of 5000 men. The emperor was powerless; he had not the men to send, but he despatched to Wallenstein, one after another, seven messengers, urging him at all hazards to prevent the fall of so important a place. Wallenstein replied to the order that he would do all in his power, and in presence of the messengers ordered the Count of Gallas to march with 12,000 men on Ratisbon, but privately furnished the general with absolute orders, forbidding him on any account to do anything which might bring on an action with the duke.
Wallenstein's motives in so acting were, as he afterwards assured the emperor, that he was not strong enough to divide his army, and that he could best cover Vienna by maintaining a strong position in Bohemia, a policy which was afterwards justified by the event. Ratisbon resisted for a short time; but, finding that the promised relief did not arrive, it capitulated on the 5th of November, Maximilian having left the town before the surrender.
The duke now pushed on towards Vienna, and captured Straubing and Plattling. John of Werth, who was posted here, not being strong enough to dispute the passage of the Isar, fell back towards the Bohemian frontier, hoping to meet the troops which the emperor had urged Wallenstein to send to his aid, but which never came. Duke Bernhard crossed the Isar unopposed, and on the 12th came within sight of Passau.
So far Wallenstein had not moved; he had seemed to comply with the emperor's request to save Ratisbon, but had seemed only, and had not set a man in motion to reinforce John of Werth. He refused, in fact, to fritter away his army. Had he sent Gallas with 12,000 men to join John of Werth, and had their united forces been, as was probable, attacked and defeated by the Swedes, Wallenstein would have been too weak to save the empire. Keeping his army strong he had the key of the position in his hands.
He had fixed upon Passau as the point beyond which Duke Bernhard should not be allowed to advance, and felt that should he attack that city he and his army were lost. In front of him was the Inn, a broad and deep river protected by strongly fortified places; behind him John of Werth, a bitterly hostile country, and the river Isar. On his left would be Wallenstein himself marching across the Bohemian forest. When, therefore, he learned that Duke Bernhard was hastening on from the Isar towards Passau he put his army in motion and marched southward, so as to place himself in the left rear of the duke. This movement Duke Bernhard heard of just when he arrived in sight of Passau, and he instantly recognized the extreme danger of his position, and perceived with his usual quickness of glance that to be caught before Passau by Wallenstein and John of Werth would be absolute destruction. A moment's hesitation and the Swedish army would have been lost. Without an hour's delay he issued the necessary orders, and the army retraced its steps with all speed to Ratisbon, and not stopping even there marched northward into the Upper Palatinate, to defend that conquered country against Wallenstein even at the cost of a battle.
But Wallenstein declined to fight a battle there. He had but one army, and were that army destroyed, Duke Bernhard, with the prestige of victory upon him, could resume his march upon Vienna, which would then be open to him. Therefore, having secured the safety of the capital, he fell back again into winter quarters in Bohemia. Thus Ferdinand again owed his safety to Wallenstein, and should have been the more grateful since Wallenstein had saved him in defiance of his own orders.
At the time he fully admitted in his letters to Wallenstein that the general had acted wisely and prudently, nevertheless he was continually listening to the Spaniards, the Jesuits, and the many envious of Wallenstein's great position, and hoping to benefit by his disgrace, and, in spite of all the services his great general had rendered him, was preparing to repeat the humiliation which he had formerly laid upon him and again to deprive him of his command.
Wallenstein was not ignorant of the intrigue against him. Vast as were his possessions, his pride and ambition were even greater. A consciousness of splendid services rendered and of great intellectual power, a belief that the army which had been raised by him and was to a great extent paid out of his private funds, and which he had so often led to victory, was devoted to him, and to him alone, excited in his mind the determination to resist by force the intriguers who dominated the bigoted and narrow minded emperor, and, if necessary, to hurl the latter from his throne.