Tilly against Mansfeld – Wiesloch/Mingolsheim (April 27, 1622)

Johann Tilly

Battle of Wiesloch, (April 27, 1622).

Following the Catholic and Imperial victory at the White Mountain (1620), the army of the Catholic League moved north under Johann Tilly to join Spanish troops from the Netherlands and clear Protestantism from the Palatinate. A mercenary army under Graf von Mansfeld and Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar moved to block the planned union of the Catholic armies. Mansfeld briefly checked Tilly at Mingolsheim (April 22, 1622). Tilly recovered, then stumbled on Mansfeld’s rearguard and drove it back onto his main body. A counterattack drove Tilly back in turn. Mansfeld then made the mistake of digging in. Tilly simply marched around him and linked with a 20,000 man Spanish army. These armies clashed again at Wimpfen (May 6, 1622).

Mansfeld proved a resourceful and tenacious opponent. Having failed to break through north-west Bohemia and join Johann Georg von Brandenburg Jägerndorf in May 1621, he entrenched 13,000 men at Waidhaus on the Nuremberg–Pilsen road just inside the Upper Palatinate. The remaining 2,000 were posted in Amberg and Cham to cover his rear against the Bavarians while he faced Tilly and Count Balthasar Marradas, who had collected over 18,000 Liga and imperial troops opposite him at Roshaupt (Rozuadov) across the pass. The two armies spent the next four months alternately assaulting and shelling each other’s encampments in the first of a series of protracted struggles that characterized the war as much as the better-known pitched battles. Tilly remained weak, despite his superior numbers, because Maximilian had withdrawn his best regiments to form a second Bavarian army at Straubing totalling 14,500 men. The soldiers were replaced by fewer numbers of militia, who performed badly in the prolonged positional warfare.

Maximilian’s preparations at Straubing were finally complete by mid-September 1621. Within a week he had taken Cham and was closing against Amberg, intending to trap Mansfeld against the mountains. With his customary negotiations going nowhere, Mansfeld broke out one stormy night and dashed to Neumarkt. Once Tilly had crossed the pass to join Maximilian, Mansfeld’s position became untenable and he raced westwards on 9 October, through Nuremberg to Mannheim, abandoning stragglers to arrive two weeks later with 7,000 unruly, unpaid troops.

His escape was embarrassing for Tilly, but an opportunity for Maximilian. The Upper Palatinate submitted without further resistance, freeing Tilly to pursue Mansfeld. Maximilian was concerned the Spanish might seize the entire Lower Palatinate and wanted to capture at least its capital Heidelberg as it was associated with the electoral title. Mansfeld escaped across the Rhine to ravage Lower Alsace, abandoning the area to the east to Tilly. Sickness and detachments had reduced the main Liga army strength to fewer than 12,000, and it was unable to take either Heidelberg or Mannheim, while Córdoba and the Spanish similarly failed to dislodge the British defenders in Frankenthal.

The resistance of his fortresses revived Frederick’s hopes and he travelled incognito through France to join Mansfeld at Germersheim on 22 April 1622. Georg Friedrich of Baden-Durlach declared his hand, handing over government to his eldest son and mustering his own troops at Knielingen, near modern Karlsruhe. Duke Christian had been unable to break through Count Jean Jacob Anholt’s cordon at the end of 1621, but did eject Wolfgang Wilhelm’s garrison from Lippstadt in the County of Mark in January. Dutch engineers helped transform the town into a major fortress, while Christian’s cavalry ransacked nearby Paderborn. The contents of the episcopal treasury were sold to buy arms and build the army to around 10,000 men.

Tilly faced the formidable task of defeating the three paladins before they could combine. New recruits had given him 20,000 men ready to besiege Heidelberg. Frederick and Mansfeld crossed the Rhine at Germersheim, plundering their way across the bishopric of Speyer, but found Tilly’s position at Wiesloch too strong. They fell back, hoping Georg Friedrich would join them. Tilly pounced at dawn on 27 April, catching them as they crossed the swollen Kleinbach stream at Mingolsheim 10km south of Wiesloch. Tilly had about 15,000 men with him, 3,000 less than Mansfeld. The Liga advance guard threw Mansfeld’s cavalry into confusion as they tried to cover the crossing of the rest of the army. Cohesion was lost as men raced for the bridge and the road became clogged with abandoned wagons. Tilly’s Croats set the village on fire, but a Protestant Swiss regiment held it long enough for the fugitives to regroup on a hill to the south. Mansfeld and Frederick had gone on ahead, but now returned and rode along the lines exhorting the men to redeem the honour lost at White Mountain. Tilly attacked over the bridge as his infantry arrived that afternoon, but Mansfeld counter-attacked with his cavalry from behind the hill and chased Tilly’s troops back through Mingolsheim until they were halted by the Schmidt infantry regiment of Liga veterans. Mansfeld’s rearguard remained on the hill until dusk, before following the rest of the army that had already retreated having lost 400 killed. Discipline was collapsing. Many of Mansfeld’s men had lost their shoes scrambling across the marshy stream and spent the afternoon stripping the dead. Tilly’s losses were greater, possibly 2,000, and he retired east to Wimpfen.

The Bavarian Army During the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648: The Backbone of the Catholic League (Century of the Soldier) by Laurence Spring (Author)

The Bavarian Army has been overshadowed by those of Gustavus Adolphus’ and Wallenstein’s Armies, but it was one of only a few armies to have fought throughout the Thirty Years War, first as part of the Catholic League and then an independent army after the Peace of Prague. Among the generals of the Bavarian Army were Count Johann von Tilly and Gottfried von Pappenheim, who are two of the most famous generals of the war. This book covers not only the Bavarian Army’s organization, but also has chapters on recruitment, officers, clothing, weaponry, pay and rations of a soldier during the Thirty Years War. As well as life and death in the army, this book also looks at the women who accompanied it. The chapter on ‘civilians and soldiers’ looks at the impact of the war on the civilian population, their reaction to it and the infamous sack of Magdeburg which sent shockwaves across Europe. This chapter also looks at the impact on Bavaria by having Swedish, Spanish and Imperialist troops quartered upon it and how this affected the country’s war effort. In addition there are chapters on regimental colors and a detailed look into the tactics of the time, including those of Spain, Sweden and the Dutch. As well as using archival and archaeological evidence to throw new light on the subject the author has used several memoirs written by those who served in the army during the war, including Peter Hagendorf who served in Pappenheim ‘s Regiment of Foot from 1627 until the regiment was disbanded after the war. Hagendorf’s vivid account is unique because not only is it a full account of the life of a common soldier during the war, but also records the human side of campaign, including the death of his two wives and all but two of his children. This book is essential reading to anyone interested in the wars of the early seventeenth century, not just the Thirty Years War.

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