Sudeten wanderer. How the Swedes rampaged in the borderlands

Ordinary people didn’t really care which army settled in their home. Protestants or Catholics, it was always a disaster. Economically, the entire region went to the bottom, cities made mandatory contributions to huge armies and if they refused, they were threatened with burning.

E.g. the heavily tested Kadaň had to take care of, for example, 1,500 horsemen and 12 infantry companies of Jan Wachtmeister. At the same time, the Swedish soldiers behaved like normal thieves – they climbed into granaries and farms, stealing everything they found. However, the experienced population mostly hid the valuables. In addition to looting, regular levies worked. Due to its location on international routes, Kadaň also became important for the campaigns of the well-known Swedish general Jan Gustafsson Baner.

Chomutov also became impoverished, turning from a big city into a poor, indebted town. The population dwindled, but they still had to feed the soldiers. That is why they begged the emperor several times to forgive their taxes and stop stationing troops in the city. The worst was the period 1634-1635, when a bad harvest could not support even the locals, let alone thousands of foreign soldiers. The cities of Most, Teplice, Louny and Ústí nad Labem were similarly affected.

Karel Čapek in the Sudetenland. Here in Chiesch, we speak Czech


Jan Banér and the Battle of Přísečnice are often talked about in connection with Ore Mountains. Banner came from an old Swedish family. He was born at Djursholm Castle in 1596. His father was initially the powerful Reich Councilor Gustav Banér, but later he was executed and the family fell out of favor.

Jan Banér apparently dreamed of an army from childhood, and the new king Gustav II. Adolf gave him many opportunities to shine in battle. He was able to appear for the first time during the siege of Russian Pskov and in 1621 during the siege of Riga, where he was wounded. Four years later, the king knights him and his importance in the Swedish army is evidently growing.

Photo: Pieter Snayers

The Battle of Přísiečnica after the Flemish painter Pieter Snayers

However, his personality is often described as angry, unstable. He was easily angered and sometimes burst into tears. He was an alcoholic. He apparently really loved his family, but he treated the civilian population terribly.

His invasion of Bohemia in the years 1639-1640 is described in detail in the professional literature, which we will not describe here at length. At that time, the Swede made his main tent at the castle in Brandýse nad Labem. Due to the lack of cannons and infantry, he was unable to control nearby Prague.

In 1641, Jan Banér of Bohemia was already retreating. In March, he tried to reach Saxony via Kadaň and the mountain Přísečnica. The Swedes sometimes still used the remains of the Ore Mountains castles for temporary defense.

Baner and his men traveled through the muddy Ore Mountains until they arrived in Kadana, where they camped, at the end of March. First, on March 26, 1641, they sent slow artillery to ascend to Přísiečnica, where a short but probably not completely insignificant battle took place, which was captured by the famous Flemish Baroque painter Pieter Snayers.

Banner’s enemy, the Catholic warlord Ottavio Piccolomini, was camped in Ostrov nad Ohří, very close to Kadana, so the danger of attack was imminent. The banner fled to the mountains, while Piccolomini’s first troops, according to contemporary accounts, hurried only an hour or even half an hour behind the last Swedes.

Photo: Matthaüs Merian

Ottavio Piccolomini

Banner in Přísečnica placed artillery on a hill near the forest (he had about sixty cannons) and is said to have also created a wagon wall. According to various reports, the number of men could range from 6,000 to 14,000. Climbing from Kadana to Přísečnice in March must have been exhausting for both the Swedes and the Imperials, with snow at the top, mud at the bottom, and in between thousands of people, wagons and cannons drowning in slush.

The Swedish shooters had a better position on the hills above Přísečnica, but it did not help fundamentally. The fiercest battle took place over the castle there, but in reality most of the army did not take part in the fighting at all – Banér no longer had ambitions to crush the emperor, he basically wanted to escape to Saxony. Hundreds of men met rather than thousands. The city in the valley was taken over by the Imperials relatively soon, and then only the cannons on the hill remained, which Baner sacrificed and rode to Leipzig, creating obstacles behind him so that Piccolomini could not pursue him. His men captured the remnants of the Swedes on a hill outside the town and confiscated the cannons. The battle is over.

Sudeten wanderer. Behind the secret of a 500-year-old mine in the Ore Mountains


The city was completely destroyed, burned. The weakened Banér died in Halberstadt, Germany shortly after his infamous departure from Bohemia.

Sudeten wanderer

Photo: Stanislav Dvořák

Sudeten wanderer

The Sudeten Wanderer is a long-term series of cultural-historical articles. Do you have suggestions for Sudetenland topics? Send them to the author at: [email protected]

The article is in Czech

Tags: Sudeten wanderer Swedes rampaged borderlands

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