The armies drew up on a plain near the village of Breitenfeld, a few miles outside the walls of Leipzig. At first, von Pappenheim’s reckless gamble seemed about to pay off: at the first charge of his cavalry, the raw Saxon levies broke and fled the field. However, Gustavus nimbly turned his line to prevent the ponderous battalia of the Imperial forces flanking him. A daring Swedish cavalry raid captured all of the Imperial artillery, which was turned against its owners. Artillery pounded the Imperial phalanxes until night fell.
The Imperial armies were utterly destroyed. They lost two-thirds of their men and all their artillery and supplies. The remnants fled: von Pappenheim took refuge in Westphalia behind the line of the Weser while Tilly fell back on the Upper Palatinate.
In a stroke, Gustavus had made himself master of Germany.