FYI April 15, 2019

On This Day


1632 – Battle of Rain: Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus defeat the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years’ War.
The Battle of Rain (also called the Battle of the River Lech or Battle of Lech) was fought on 15 April 1632 as part of the Thirty Years’ War.

The forces involved in this conflict were 40,000 Swedish troops under Gustavus Adolphus and 25,000 Catholic League troops under Johan Tserclaes, Count of Tilly. It was the second meeting between the two legendary generals (see First Breitenfeld when Tilly received the first setback of his long and storied career) and like at Breitenfeld, Tilly lost when Gustavus forced the river Lech under the cover of his superb artillery.

Gustavus had a bridge of boats constructed across the Lech near the city of Rain through the night prior to the battle, and in the morning sent three hundred Finnish Hackapelite troops across the river under fire. The Hackapelites dug earthworks for batteries which then protected the rest of Gustavus’ army as they crossed the river.

As soon as his army had crossed the river, Gustavus immediately and successfully stormed the hill. Tilly was shot in the leg early in the battle and was moved to the rear; his second in command, Johann von Aldringen, was knocked unconscious with a skull fracture minutes later. Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, ordered an immediate retreat to save the now leaderless army, leaving most of the Catholic League’s baggage and artillery in the field. The army itself may only have escaped destruction due to a storm and high winds blocking roads in the night that followed.[1]

The immediate result of the battle was that Bavaria lay open for occupation by the Swedish army, enabling Gustavus Adolphus to temporarily threaten the Austrian heartland.

The death of Tilly also led to the recall of Albrecht von Wallenstein into Imperial service. He would raise a new army and challenge the Swedes at Nürnberg in August.

The battle is, however, more interesting from a tactical point of view rather than from its outcome, as the elaborate plan of Gustavus Adolphus to catch the entire Imperial army by complex maneuvering was prevented when Tilly was mortally wounded in the battle, resulting in the early retreat of the Imperial army. The Swedish battle plan consisted of two major elements:

1. A strong feint attack by a portion of the Swedish infantry with heavy artillery support against Tilly’s strongly fortified center behind the Lech. The intended effect was to attract the full attention of the Imperial army and its reserve. The Swedish force succeeded in establishing and fortifying its position on a small island or peninsula close to the Imperial side of the river. From this position, it was able to repel a series of fierce Imperial counterattacks despite being outnumbered.

2. As the Imperial army got tied up in desperate attempts to eliminate the Swedish bridgehead, the Swedish cavalry with no opposition or attention from the enemy was able to cross the river 10 km south of the Imperial left wing. From this position they intended to outflank the entire Imperial army and thus catch it in a position with the river and the Swedish infantry at its front and the Swedish cavalry in its rear and on its flanks.

With Tilly mortally wounded, the morale of the Imperial army quickly dissolved and the army withdrew before the arrival of the Swedish cavalry. Thus, Tilly’s death possibly saved his army from annihilation. Nonetheless, both armies suffered considerable losses (3,000 on the Imperial side, 2,000 on the Swedish), mostly due to frontal attacks and counterattacks against fortified positions with strong natural defenses.

The battle of Lech proves more than the Battle of Breitenfeld the innovation of Gustavus Adolphus’ tactical imagination. His daring frontal attack in combination with the deployment of a large part of his army for the flanking movement has similarities with the tactics of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough at the Blenheim battlefield, (situated in the very neighborhood of Rain) or of Frederick the Great at Leuthen. The disciple of Gustavus Adolphus, Johan Banér, also employed a similar battle plan four years later in the battle of Wittstock.

See also
Rain order of battle


Born On This Day

1892 – Corrie ten Boom, Dutch-American clocksmith, Nazi resister, and author (d. 1983)
Cornelia Arnolda Johanna “Corrie” ten Boom (15 April 1892 – 15 April 1983) was a Dutch watchmaker and later a writer who worked with her father Casper ten Boom, her sister Betsie ten Boom and other family members to help many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her home. They were caught and she was arrested and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, is a biography that recounts the story of her family’s efforts and how ten Boom found hope while imprisoned at the concentration camp.




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