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The Thirty Years War and The Civil War Connection

Shop our English Civil War & Thirty Years War ranges here.

While England was in the midst of fighting its own Civil War, most of mainland Europe was fighting out the final rounds of a longer, more widespread and bloody conflict. The Thirty Years War raged from 1618 to 1648 and was the proving ground in which many of the English and Scottish soldiers fighting in the English Civil War learned their trade. Most of these soldiers were members of Swedish mercenary companies and regiments.

The Thirty Years War comprised a series of conflicts fought between great dynastic powers, religious sects and national and colonial mercantile entities with competing (and sometimes conflicting) trading interests. The absolutist Catholic Habsburgs, rulers of Spain, Austria and the Czech and Hungarian estates (while holding sway over Bavaria and many of the German states as well), were pressing for domination of Europe against the will of the growing Protestant nations and estates. The Netherlands, with some English assistance, had been fighting to be free of Spanish imperialism since the mid sixteenth century; for them this was the latter part of their Eighty Years War where the Poles and Lithuanians had fought the Russians on behalf of the Habsburgs.

The Thirty Years War really started out with a series of badly co-ordinated campaigns (the Bohemian-Palatinate Period of 1618-24), in which a revolt against the Habsburgs by the Czech estates ended in the defeat of their mercenaries by the armies of the Catholic League in 1620; in southern Germany, the Upper and Rhenish Palatines were defeated and occupied by Spanish and Bavarian troops. The main battles of this period of the war were: Pilsen, Zablat, "White Mountain", Wiesloch, Wimpfen, Hochst, Fleurus and Stadtlohn.

In 1625 a new version of the anti Habsburg coalition headed by Denmark heralded the second phase of the war (the Dutch-Danish Period of 1625-29), in which Denmark invaded north-west Germany; not receiving the anticipated support from the Protestants of the north German dukedoms, the Danes were defeated and driven back into Denmark by Wallenstein's Imperial army and Tilly's Bavarians. The main battles of this stage of the conflict were: Dessau Bridge, Lutter at the Barenberg, Straslund and Wolgast.

The third phase of the Thirty Years War (the Swedish Period, 1630 to 1635) was heralded by the entry into the war of the Swedes under the command of their brilliant soldier king, Gustavus Adolphus who quickly captured many of the German cities. The Swedish king was unfortunately killed at the battle of Lutzen in 1632 by Wallenstein’s Imperial army and this, not unsurprisingly, took some of the heart out of the Swedes, who then suffered a series of setbacks. A Spanish and Imperialist army defeated the Swedish and Protestant army at Nordlingen in September 1634 and took over southern and central Germany. In the following spring, Saxony changed sides abandoning the Swedes completely. The period between mid 1631 and early 1634 had seen a temporary alliance between Sweden and Brandenburg. The infamous siege of Magdeburg took place during this period; Magdeburg, the most important city on the river Elbe, was ransacked by the Catholic armies under the control of Tilly and Pappenheim in May 1631 after a long siege; around twenty-five thousand of its thirty thousand inhabitants were massacred and the city left in flames. Other main battles of this period were: Frankfurt on the Oder, Werben, Breitenfeld, Rain and Nuremberg. Hostilities ended with the Peace Of Prague in 1635.

The final phase of the Thirty Years War came about when France allied with Netherlands and Sweden (the Swedish-French Period of 1636 to 1648); previously the French, along with the Russians, had given the Swedes diplomatic and financial support. With the intervention of the French under Prince Conde and Turenne, Bernhard of Weimar's mercenaries went over to their service. France also became allied with the Netherlands against the Spanish, and joined the Swedes in south west Germany. The end of the war saw armies looting and pillaging in search of supplies over land exhausted by many years of conflict. Hostilities finally came to an end with the Peace of Westphalia. The main battles of this final phase were: Wittstock, Rheinfelden, Breisach, Breitenfeld II, Recroi, Tuttlingen, Freiburg, Jankau, Mergentheim, Nordlingen II, Zusmarshausen, Prague II and Lens.

The Habsburg plan for domination had failed, but they were able to create an even more severe absolutist regime from their Austrian/Czech/Hungarian domains. France and Sweden came out of the War with the most influential positions but ultimately, the end of the war left great tracts of mainland Europe decimated, saw populations reduced following death from pestilence and disease as well as the war itself, and trade relations and the development of crafts retarded.

The Thirty Years’ War marked the last major religious war in mainland Europe and did much to end the use of mercenaries whose acts of brutality defied description; the age of the use of well-trained, well-disciplined national armies was about to begin.

What with the overlapping time frame and the considerable first-hand British involvement as mercenaries and adventurers in the Thirty Years War, and the “cross-fertilisation” that occurred from returning English and Scots soldiers, along with Europeans from Prince Rupert to Vermuyden who fought on both sides in the English Civil War, it won’t be surprising that models from Foundry’s Thirty Years War Range can, and indeed are intended to, strengthen and enhance the English Civil War Range, and vice-versa! Just as the previous section of this brief article is a very swift and by no means definitive introduction to the Thirty Years War, what follows is a far from exhaustive guide to how the little chaps from both ranges can be used together for even more impressive results.

It’s really a question of balance, whole blocks of Thirty Years War pikemen in the middle of your New Model Army may look a little old fashioned, but one pack of them mixed in with a couple of packs from our ECW range will give added charm to a unit; on the other hand, the Thirty Years War range was designed in the wake of our English Civil War range, specifically to plug the gaps to be able to produce a Thirty Years War army using the Foundry English Civil War range as a basis.

English Civil War Range models used in the Thirty Years War:

Let’s start with the easiest stuff: All ECW artillery are equally suited to the Thirty Years war, including Mortar, Engineers and Petard.

ECW004 Cuirassiers will do just as good service as Thirty Years War Cuirassiers, either as separate units or mixed in with TYW010, for extra variety.

For the bulk of the cavalry units in a Thirty Years War army, especially German mercenary cavalry, you’ll need ECW003 Cavalry Troopers for the less well armoured units, and ECW017 Cavalry Troopers with Carbines for their better equipped buff-coated colleagues. Command for either is ECW002. ECW039 and ECW040 are good dismounted cavalry for the Thirty Years War. ECW018 contains some lovely dismounted cavalrymen, and ECW005 “Blacksmith” with waiting cavalry trooper is a great character pack.

ECW006 make fine mounted senior infantry or cavalry officers or generals, and ECW001 Generals make a great command group for any European army.

For TYW Dragoons use ECW007 for mounted and ECW008 for dismounted. Dragoons in the Thirty Years and English Civil Wars were mounted infantry, so ECW014 and ECW015 can be mixed in as dismounted dragoons, any ECW officers can command these.

Along with the infantry figures in the Thirty Years War Range, greater variety of and within units can be produced by adding the following in any army: Musketeers, ECW013 and ECW038, ECW041 Musketeer Characters are just what it says on the label, and highly suitable for TYW. Pikemen, ECW010, ECW011, ECW012, ECW043 and ECW045, (ECW010, 012, 043 and 045 make particularly good Swedes). For Command ECW009 can be used alongside or mixed in with TYW001.

Scots serving with the Swedes or Danes in the Thirty Years War. Musketeers can be had from any of packs: ECW022, ECW023, ECW030, ECW033 and ECW034. For the Pikemen use ECW024, ECW025 and/or any combinations of helmeted pikemen from packs ECW010, ECW011, ECW012, ECW043 and ECW045. Don’t forget that if you’re collecting an English Civil War Scots Covenant army, mixing any of these blokes in, as hodden grey clad Scots pikemen is a must. Of course, as with many other combinations in these ranges, you’ll be able to get dual use from these fellows: in this case as Scots in the ECW or mercenaries in the TYW! Command pack is ECW021, but let us not forget that most Scots officers were gentlemen, just like the rest, and just like any other officers, liked to show off the fact, so any officers from ECW009 would mix in nicely.

ECW58, of course will make Scots “Redshanks” highland mercenaries, and the ones in trews make good Irish mercenaries. Some lowland Scots will serve as Irish.

As for English mercenary foot, ECW013 and ECW038 with musket rests are best suited, although you could use ECW014, ECW015 and ECW037. For pikemen you have a choice of ECW010, ECW011, ECW012, ECW043 and ECW045, command:ECW009.

Other packs that can be used to improve the look of your Thirty Years War army are: BSECW1 Sedan Chair and Crew containing a wealthy gentleman or general, with his young lady companion; the crew look great painted in a livery uniform of your own devising, ECW049 Casualties and ECW036 Civilians with camp followers of higher and lowly birth, servants and Yokels.

Thirty Years War Range models used in the English Civil War:

Cuirassiers: a unit of these mounted heavies really adds something to any English Civil War army or collection, and pack of TYW010 will make them even better.

TYW006 Mounted Arquebusiers give interesting variety to an English Civil war cavalry regiment, or with command figures from ECW002 will make a nice unit of their own.

TYW005, are nice Musketeers with musket rests, they’ll do well in any ECW army other than Scots or New Models.

TYW003 and TYW004, to me these guys will always be French Musketeers, if you have a copy of “European Weapons & Warfare 1618-1648”, take a look at pages 98-99. They’re so fashion conscious they’ve just got to be French. That doesn’t exclude them from your ECW collection, however, just like the man Charles Stuart, you could hire them to do your dirty work.

Armoured Pikemen Advancing TYW009 will go very nicely with any well equipped regiment, while TYW002 are a little old fashioned in the breeches department in any quantity for most English Civil Wardrobes, but with a little carefully applied “green stuff”!

TYW001 Infantry Command, what a lovely bunch: stylish officers, a businesslike sergeant and a couple of lovely musicians; you’ve simply got to find a place for them in your Civil War!

A fairly cursory look across both ranges together will enable you to come up with some very pleasing mixes to create even better collections and armies. Pack titles are a guide for identification but are not meant to be exclusive, feel free to use the models the way you want to.

Suggested reading:

Osprey Men-at-Arms 235 & 262 “The Army of Gutavus Adolphus 1 & 2”

“The Thirty Years War” by C. V. Wedgwood (1944, Jonathon Cape, London).

“The Thirty Years War” by Herbert Langer (1990, Dorset Press).

“European Weapons & Warfare 1618-1648” by Eduard Wagner (1979, Octopus Books Limited).

This volume is a goldmine of pictorial detail, if you can find it! If you can’t get it on the web, try your library, you’ll be glad you did.

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