Moves, Alliances and More Moves

Upon landing in Germany, Gustavus Adolphus was not greeted with a rush of Protestant governments to his side. Many of those who stood back were Lutheran and hoped to maintain their neutrality with the Habsburgs and the Bavarians, and among their number was the Electorate of Saxony. At first only the city-state of Magdeburg declared for Gustavus Adolphus, and in the spring of 1631 perished in the siege when the Swedes could not come to its aid. The horror stories that came from that siege, though, convinced Protestant Brandenburg to ally itself with Sweden. The alliance added fuel to the aggressiveness of Gustavus Adolphus.

Events in Italy favorable to the Imperialists allowed elements of its army there to be reassigned to north of the Alps, which encouraged Tilly to go after Gustavus Adolphus. But for either side to move against the other, it had to cross the Electorate of Saxony, then a neutral Lutheran state untouched by the war – and wanting to remain untouched. Tilly made the first move. He asked that his army be allowed to cross into Saxony to replenish its food supply. Perhaps worried about the recent stories of feeding frenzies of army occupations elsewhere, the Saxon Elector, Johann Georg I, refused: “Now I see that the Saxon sweetmeats so long spared, are to be eaten; but you may find that they contain hard nuts that may break your teeth.

In late summer, 1631, Tilly chose to invade Saxony regardless of some threat to his army’s bite. The invasion had Johann Georg rushing to the side of the Swedes, and he brought an army of 18,000. With the Saxon Elector taking his army to Gustavus Adolphus, Tilly felt at liberty to occupy Leipzig, the Saxon capitol, which could not put up a determined resistance.

With the addition of 18,000 soldiers, Gustavus Adolphus believed he had the strength to go up against Tilly's army.