Battle of Stadtlohn

The Battle of Stadtlohn was fought on August 6, 1623 between Roman Catholic and Protestant forces during the Thirty Years' War.

The Catholics were led by Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, while the Protestants were led by Duke Christian of Brunswick.

A year after his defeat at the Battle of Fleurus and the relief of Bergen op Zoom, Christian of Brunswick found himself in command of an army of 15,000, freshly recruited and rested from winter quarters in the United Provinces. He reopened his campaign in the summer of 1623 by marching into the Lower Saxon Circle between the Weser and Elbe rivers. Calling upon Ernst von Mansfeld to fight alongside him as the two had done to some degree of success in 1622, he was refused due to lack of funds on Mansfeld's behalf. Christian now found himself in a position where he was in Catholic territory with just his army and little possibility for reinforcement. To add to this, Count von Tilly had received word of Christian's movements and was now following him. Late July 1623 thus became a period of retreat for Christian's forces, as Tilly's troops had marched across the Saxon border on July 13. Christian reportedly marched across the Weser River on July 27 and the Ems River a few days later, with Count von Tilly's more disciplined troops steadily gaining ground. Ten miles short of the border, Christian was overtaken and forced to turn and fight against Tilly's more numerous troops near the village of Stadtlohn in Westphalia. Taking position on a hill, Christian's forces withstood several attacks of increasing intensity before an attack by the Catholics caused the cavalry on Christian's wings to break and rout. On this sight, the infantrymen attempted to do the same, but were stopped by a bog to the rear of them. What then turned into a disorganized retreat became a bloodbath as Tilly's forces swept upon the retreating Protestants, killing some 6,000 and capturing 4,000 more as prisoners of war. Among the losses were 50 of Christian's highest ranking officers, and all of his artillery and ammunition. Christian himself escaped alongside 2,000 cavalrymen.

With news of the outcome reaching Frederick V of the Palatinate, the king was forced to sign an armistice with Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, thus ending the 'Palatine Phase' of the Thirty Years' War. Peace would be shortlived and in 1624 England, France, the United Provinces of the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Savoy, Venice, and Brandenburg would join in an Anti-Habsburg alliance to fight against Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor.

This was the last major battle and campaign that Christian of Brunswick would undertake and participate in. He would attempt to embark on one more campaign in 1626 before succumbing to an illness on June 16, 1626, at the age of 26 in Wolfenbüttel.

In 1623 Mansfeld issued from his Frisian stronghold, and the threat of a visitation from his army induced the princes of the Lower Saxon Circle to join him. Christian was himself a member of the Circle, and although he resigned his bishopric, he was taken, with many of his men, into the service of his brother, the duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; around the mercenary nucleus gathered many thousands of volunteers, and the towns and the nobles' castles alike were alarmed at the progress of the Catholics, who were reclaiming Protestant bishoprics. But this movement was nipped in the bud by the misconduct of the mercenaries. The authorities of the Circle ordered Christian to depart. He returned to Holland, therefore, but Tilly started in pursuit and caught him at Stadtlohn, where on 28 July/6 August 1623 his army was almost destroyed. Thereupon the Lower Saxon Circle, which, like the Bohemians, had ordered collectively taxes and levies of troops that the members individually furnished cither not at all or unwillingly, disbanded their army to prevent brigandage. Mansfeld, too, having eaten up East Friesland, returned to Holland in 1624.

The only material factor was now Tilly's ever-victorious Army of the League, but for the present it was suspended inactive in the midst of a spider's web of European and German diplomacy. Spain and England had lotcr- quarrcllcd. The latter became the ally of France, over whose policy Richelieu now ruled, and the United Provinces and (later) Denmark joined them. Thus the war was extended beyond the borders of the Empire, and the way opened for ceaseless foreign interventions. From the battle of Stadtlohn to the pitiful end twenty years later, the decision of German quarrels lay in the hands of foreign powers, and for two centuries after the treaty of Westphalia the evil tradition was faithfully followed.