24-pounder cannon.  This was a widely used size at the time, sufficiently powerful for battering fort walls yet handleable for heavy use on the field in a static position.

The Swedes employed small cannon, too, such as three-pounders. Although these did not have the range of their larger brethren, they could be devastating against nearby infantry or cavalry charges.  Another plus: such cannon were more mobile than their much larger counterparts, hence, better able to respond swiftly to changes in the battle, an advantage exploited by the Swedes.


Going into the battle, the Swedes and their Saxon allies brought along significantly more artillery than did their opponent. Imperial-Leaguists: 26 pieces versus Swedes: 54 and Saxon: 10-20. Of the Swedish cannon, 12 were heavy 24 and 12 pounders (and most likely the Saxon cannon were all this large).  The remaining 42 cannon used by the Swedes were regimental 3-pounders except for a lone 6-pounder (very likely a captured piece). Of the regimental cannon 24 were in the front line while 18 were with the 3 brigades of the rear line. Furthermore, Swedish cannon crews had more training than their Imperial-Leaguist counterparts.  Last but significant, the Swedes experimented successfully with pre-made cartridges – measured powder and shot in single cylindrical bags that required only to be rammed down the barrel.  The last two factors enhanced the Swedes’ rate of cannon fire, which for cannon to cannon was estimated to have been Swedes: 5 shots, Imperial-Leaguists: 3 shots.

Once units on both sides were in position at noon, artillery opened fire – and continued for 2 ˝ hours.  No sources from this period cite the number of casualties from the cannonade although King Gustavus Adolphus mentioned there were appreciable casualties on both sides from cannon fire for the entire day.  Combine the greater efficiency of the Swedish cannon with simple numerical superiority, one could conjecture that twice as many Imperial-Leaguists fell as did the Swedes and Saxons.  Despite the pounding wrought upon the Imperial-Leaguist formations, they were the first to attack.

An artillery tactic of this time was to fire solid shot into an infantry formation – but not straight, rather, at a diagonal.  A straight-in shot could pass between files whereas a diagonal shot (and not much of a diagonal would be needed) could plow across files, taking out one to four men per file. The deeper the troop formation, the greater the number of casualties possible from a single cannon ball.  Thereby, soldiers standing in the deep Imperial-Leaguist tercios lost greater numbers than did the Swedes in their thin formations. Although cannoneers also had access to canister shot, grape shot and the like, such projectiles did not have the range of solid shot.  Therefore, solid shot was the choice - until the gap between cannon and target closed sufficiently.

Some historians have drawn attention to the effect on enemy morale the Swedish salvé had: a bank of muskets, three ranks deep, firing near simultaneously with a great roar with their enemy dropping together in numbers.  Cannon balls ripping through an infantry formation would have had a psychological effect, too.  Unlike a musket ball, which usually puts only a hole in someone, a cannon ball tore off entire limbs or opened abdomens to spew intestines across other men or burst open heads to do with brains as it could with intestines.  If simply reading this seems grim, think of what seeing, hearing and feeling the experience was like – with the thought your body may be next.  A hint at the carnage cannon could reap is in the motion picture, Saving Private Ryan, in which the devastation of artillery was revealed in the sequences for the beaches of the Normandy invasion.  Tilly’s infantry in deep tercio formation undergoing heavy cannon fire for over two hours must have had their morale affected.