1632: How was the First Great Modern General in History Killed?

1632: How was the First Great Modern General in History Killed?
Photo Credit To http://www.anselm.edu/academic/history/hdubrulle/militaryrevolution/Graphics/Gustavus%20Adolphus%20Death%20Cut.jpg

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  • historical event: Many military historians consider the powerful Swedish King Gustav Adolf to have been one of the greatest reformers throughout the history of warfare. On this day, Gustav Adolf was killed in the heat of battle, just was he was at the peak of his power.

The “father of modern warfare” – the mighty Swedish King Gustav Adolf – was killed on this day in 1632. He is also called the first great modern general of all time, and in Sweden he is known as Gustavus Adolphus the Great. Neighboring sovereigns called him the “The Lion of the North” and “The Golden King”.

Many military historians consider Gustav Adolf to have been one of the greatest reformers in the history of warfare. His army was characterized as well-trained, with good armament and effective artillery. All of that was supported by efficient logistics and the well-regulated financing of the army by the state.

Using his superior army, Gustav Adolf succeeded in turning Sweden into a first-class European power. Indeed, Sweden allegedly reached the rank of the third-greatest force in Europe during this time. Only the Russian Empire and Spain appeared to be more powerful. This period in Swedish history is usually called “The Age of Great Power”(Swedish: Stormaktstiden). It is interesting that Gustav Adolf was a role model to Napoleon Bonaparte in terms of war strategy.

Gustav Adolf was killed in battle just when he was at the peak of his power. This occurred during the famous Battle of Lützen. The battle took place near the German city of Leipzig and was an integral part of the bloody Thirty Years’ War. In that battle, the forces of the Catholic League, led by imperial general Albrecht von Wallenstein (a huge palace was built for him in Prague), and the Protestant Union forces led by King Gustav Adolf himself, clashed.

While personally leading a cavalry charge, Gustav Adolf and his unit entered into dense smog of mist and gunpowder smoke. It seems that, in the chaos, he was hit by one or even several rounds of gunfire. When the mist parted, they saw his horse without a rider. It took some time for the Swedes to find the dead king’s body in all the confusion.

Interestingly, the Swedes won that battle despite the king’s death. The remains of King Gustav Adolf are buried in an impressive stone sarcophagus in Riddarholm Church in Stockholm.

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