Religious division, dynastic ambition, and national rivalry were all parts of the political context of warfare in the seventeenth century.
Religious division, dynastic ambition, and national rivalry were all parts of the political context of warfare in the seventeenth century. These factors overlapped, often in complex ways. For example, the Thirty Years’ War
Gustavus II Adolphus is mortally wounded in battle at Lützen in 1632.
As religious passions cooled after 1630,
In the Netherlands and England, higher military spending and standing armies came at the price of granting political control to representative institutions. More commonly, enhancing the political power of the
The Thirty Years’ War: Battle Sites
These wars also established
For much of the seventeenth century, the heavy matchlock
Although the matchlock
A skirmish before the Battle of Poltava in 1709. Only after the Russian forces had maneuvered into a favorable position did the entire army engage in battle.
Artillery also tended to become standardized around weapons of a few calibers rather than the miscellaneous collection of guns that had characterized sixteenth century artillery. Artillery also became lighter and more mobile during the seventeenth century.
Standing forces with professional officers could be far more effectively drilled and disciplined than forces raised, or hired as units under the contract system, for a single conflict. The dangers of
Standing forces, whether composed of volunteers or conscripts, were expensive. The creation of new military agencies was required to administer and supply these standing armies. Bureaucratic development reached a peak in France in the second half of the century, as the nation’s peacetime army expanded to around 165,000 men, with a maximum wartime strength of nearly 400,000 men. France also established the first professional military
The seventeenth century was an age of
It is not surprising that much effort went into the design of better fortresses and siege techniques. From the 1660’s onward, the French, under the guidance of Vauban, led the way in fortification design and siegecraft. Vauban devised a new system of advancing in successive parallel trenches, which sealed off the fortress and allowed the relatively secure deployment of devastating artillery fire against the fortress walls.
If the assault and defense of fortresses increasingly ruled strategy, it by no means eliminated battles between field armies. Interest in the improvement of battlefield tactics remained high throughout the century. Infantry were traditionally deployed in squares of
Successfully tested at the Battle of Nieuwpoort
As infantry formations became less capable of all-around defense, cavalry played increasingly decisive roles in battle. The mark of a superior tactician, such as the Great Condé, came to be in timing the launch of a decisive cavalry charge.
Influenced by his experience fighting the Poles, Gustavus II Adolphus, who had never abandoned the traditional cavalry charge, trained his cavalry to charge in lines, using their swords instead of pistols. Another of Gustavus’s pioneering military reforms was his use of more mobile field
Although the seventeenth century witnessed an enormous outpouring of military treatises, memoirs, and histories, only a few are available in modern editions. Robert
Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban wrote a number of military works, especially on siege warfare, of which he was probably the greatest practitioner of all time.
Asch, Ronald G. “Warfare in the Age of the Thirty Years’ War, 1598-1648.” In European Warfare, 1453-1815, edited by Jeremy Black. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. Brauer, Jurgen, and Hubert van Tuyll. “The 1600’s: Gustavus Adolphus and Raimondo de Montecuccoli.” In Castles, Battles, and Bombs: How Economics Explains Military History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Brzezinski, Richard. The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (1): Infantry. Illustrated by Richard Hook. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 1991. _______. The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (2): Cavalry. Illustrated by Richard Hook. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 1993. Chandler, David. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough. 2d ed. Staplehurst, England: Spellmount, 1990. Duffy, Christopher. The Fortress in the Age of Vauban and Frederick the Great, 1660-1789. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985. Frost, Robert I. The Northern Wars: War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe, 1558-1721. New York: Longman, 2000. Guthrie, William P. Battles of the Thirty Years’ War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618-1635. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Lynn, John A. Giant of the Grand Siècle: The French Army, 1610-1715. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Parker, Geoffrey, ed. The Thirty Years’ War. 2d ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1997. Rothenberg, Gunther E. “Gustavus II Adolphus.” In The Reader’s Companion to Military History, edited by Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Van der Hoeven, Marco, ed. Exercise of Arms: Warfare in the Netherlands, 1568-1648. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1998. Wedgwood, C. V. The Thirty Years’ War. London: J. Cape, 1938. Reprint. New York: New York Review Books, 2005. Weigley, Russell Frank. “The Return of the Legions: Gustavus Adolphus and Breitenfeld.” In The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo. 1991. Reprint. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. Alatriste. Feature film. Estudios Picasso, 2006. The Last Valley. Feature film. ABC Pictures, 1970. Marston Moor. Documentary. Cromwell Productions, 1999.
European Wars of Religion
The Era of Frederick the Great
The Era of Napoleon Bonaparte
The Crimean War
The American Civil War