Gustavus Adolphus recognized this was an unequivocal victory that opened doors to possibilities not previously considered. In the aftermath of a single day, he could consider them – despite not even having detailed maps of the southwest German area.

Elector Johann Georg I urged the king to take his army to Vienna, a move anticipated across Europe. But the king decided otherwise. The month was September and any prudent military commander had to plan ahead to sustaining his army over the winter, which required locating and occupying suitable territory. And the provender was known to be meager in the uplands on the approach to Vienna.  But that was not all. Gustavus Adolphus did not trust the Saxon leaders. After all, it was their Saxon army that turned tail and skedaddled from the battle. And von Arnheim had fought only a few years before on the side of the Imperialists and retained a liking for the “retired” generalissimo, Albrecht von Wallenstein – whose star overnight could shine bright again. The king recommended the Saxon army invade Bohemia, perhaps even take Prague. At the same time, his Swedish army would move southwest into Bavaria to prey upon the very heart of the Catholic League.

With Tilly’s defeat at Breitenfeld, the Imperial-Leaguists lost their hold not only on northern Germany but their control was also weakened in the Rhine region and Germany’s southwest. The ambition of dominating central Europe and becoming a presence on the Baltic wafted away in the battle smoke.

Despite the grand victory at Breitenfeld, few Protestant states - except for those that had little to lose – joined the Swedish cause, for to do so would be to declare war on the emperor of their Holy Roman Empire. The Margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach found his lands in the path of the advancing Swedish army and only 1,200 militia to protect his frontier. When Gustavus Adolphus inquired if he were friend or foe, the Margrave had to cave in, which left his subjects to be plundered by the occupying Swedes. Protestant George, Margrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, considered the Edict of Restitution and that his father-in-law, Johann Georg I, Elector of Saxony, had gone over to the Swedish banner – and that this huge Swedish army was just over the hill – sighed and threw in his lot with the Swedes. State after small state in the king’s line of march succumbed to the same persuasion. With the resources of their new “allies,” the Swedish army then could winter over with full bellies.

With spring came fair weather and grass for all the horses.  Gustavus Adolphus could move his army and his goal was Bavaria.  In a well-designed feint and crossing of the River Lech, the Swedish army engaged the Imperialists under Tilly in April, 1632.  The Imperialists withdrew but did so in a discrete, organized way.  In the action, however, a cannon shot struck Tilly in the leg and he slowly died.  Bavaria lay open.

The Swedish invasion of Bavaria prodded Maximilain I closer to Ferdinand II and the Austrians – and further away from France. At least for the time being, Maximilian was compelled to set aside any strategy of conducting affairs of state independent of the Habsburgs. Encouraged by Maximilian, Pappenheim chose not to be idle. Compelled by the death of Tilly, Ferdinand II and his court appointed Wallenstein to lead the Habsburg forces again.

Although pleased the Habsburg dynastic ambitions at his east were blunted, Cardinal Richelieu perhaps was more nagged than before by his concern that military adventures of Gustavus Adolphus may not stop at the Rhine. It was time for balancing some diplomatic ventures.

Military minds have been enthralled with the 1631 Battle of Breitenfeld as an unambiguous example of the great field battle of one mighty force against the other, with the issue decided quickly and decisively - with thrilling maneuvers, breathtaking mistakes and rare opportunities seized. This type of action attracts more attention – and book ink - than the more common type of conflict of this period: years of attrition involving sieges, logistics, occupations, kleine kriege and more sieges. As icing on the cake, instrumental to winning this battle was one side using new technology and new ways of deploying troops whereas the other side clung to old styles of formations and maneuver. Measured by the enthusiasm afterwards, this should have been the victory that won the war.

But the war went on for another 17 years. This battle was more like the period at the end of one sentence, and then the next sentence began to be writ.