France was left in a difficult position by the Swedish triumph. Their Swedish allies were both overly strong and near to French borders. The Catholic princes were defenseless before the Lutheran invader.
The French had sought to guarantee the safety of the Catholic princes in the Treaty of Bärwalde. However, as long as the League and Imperial forces fought as one, Gustavus felt free to ignore any obligation to respect the rights of the Catholic rulers.
The Catholic princes were willing to desert the standard of an Emperor who was unable to protect them from the northern invaders. In January, 1632, the Bavarians, the Electors of Trier, Speyer and Cologne and a number of lesser Catholic lords resolved to seek French mediation between the Catholic League and France’s Swedish ally.
The French negotiated an agreement from Gustavus to restore some of the Catholic lands seized (not coincidentally those closest to France), in return for an undertaking to reduce the Catholic League army and withdraw it into the lands of the League’s members. While some of the Catholic rulers were willing to agree, Maximilian I of Bavaria was not. The League would remain enemy to the Swedes.
The French were left to keep their army in Lorraine, awaiting developments.
The French also sought to limit the effects of the chaos on their northern borders by offering protection to various cities in Alsace. Many of these accepted French garrisons, as did the Elector of Trier.
Throughout the Saxon invasion of Bohemia, Wallenstein had been negotiating with his former lieutenant, von Arnim and von Arnim’s new master Johann-Georg of Saxony. It is unclear whether it was intended that Wallenstein should desert his Emperor or Johann-Georg his ally the King of Sweden. Nonetheless, whatever the negotiations, they lent the Saxon invasion a somewhat desultory air.
In the end Wallenstein preferred the service of the Emperor. Ferdinand was in desperate straits and Wallenstein extracted an awesome price for his services. Under the final agreement reached between the two in April, 1632, the generalissimo was to raise 70,000 troops for the Imperial service. In return, he was to have the right to direct the war and negotiate peace, without reference to his Imperial master.
Wallenstein began to raise troops in his domains in Bohemia.
Tilly had joined his forces with those of Maximilian. However, he was not content to stay on the defensive. He mounted an attack on the Swedish-occupied bishopric of Bamberg and drove out the Swedish army under Horn.
The Swedish response was immediate: Gustavus moved his army eastward, joined with Horn’s remaining forces in recovering Bamberg and struck south against Bavaria.
Tilly resolved to make a stand at the River Lech. On 15 April, 1632, near the city of Rain, Gustavus crossed the river in the teeth of Tilly’s army. As at Breitenfeld, the Swedish artillery swung the tide of battle. Under murderous cannon fire, Tilly was unable to prevent the crossing. Once on the other side of the river Gustavus made short work of Tilly’s remaining forces.
During the battle Tilly was mortally wounded by cannon fire. His fleeing troops carried him to Ingoldstadt. There the Virgin Mary’s general expired on 30 April, 1632.
The Swedish forces ravaged Maximilian’s defenseless Duchy. In mid-May, 1632, they captured Munich itself. Maximilian himself had fled to Salzburg and Habsburg protection.
Wallenstein did not delay in employing his new force. While continuing to negotiate with von Arnim and the Saxons, in mid-May he recaptured Prague from the invaders. By the end of May, the Saxons had been driven from Bohemia.
Having retaken Bohemia, Wallenstein joined his forces with the remnants of Maximilian’s army. In June, 1632, they marched forward into Franconia. Gustavus had gathered his forces and moved forward to try to prevent the juncture of the two armies.
Frustrated, Guastavus fell back on his allied city of Nürnberg, and began to fortify it against the Imperial forces. When Wallenstein arrived in mid-July, rather than assaulting Gustavus’s camp, he prepared a vast fortified camp. Supplies were short and Nürnberg was filled with refugees: Wallenstein preferred the slow, certain victory of plague and starvation to the hazard of battle.
Gustavus determined to assault Wallenstein’s fortifications. On 31 August, 1632, he moved his forces against the alte Veste, a ruined castle within Wallenstein’s lines. Two days of attacks on the prepared positions of the Imperials were fruitless.
On 18 September, 1632, Gustavus abandoned his camp and marched his forces toward Coburg. On 21 September, 1632, Wallenstein broke camp and moved his armies north.
Gustavus resolved to attack Upper Austria. He thought the threat against the Habsburg hereditary domains would force battle on Wallenstein. Wallenstein in his turn attacked Saxony. He thought that the threat to Gustavus’s powerful, yet unreliable, ally Johann-Georg would force Gustavus to battle.
Wallenstein proved correct. Gustavus marched north to the defense of Saxony.
Wallenstein had occupied Leipzig and the territory near Halle. He stood between Gustavus and the sea. Gustavus retraced his steps northwestward through Nördlingen and Nürnberg.
By 15 November, 1632, the Swedes had reached the plains of Leipzig, only miles from the site of their triumph at Breitenfeld.
Wallenstein’s forces in total outnumbered those of the Swedes. However, he had detached Pappenheim’s cavalry. Gustavus determined to make the most of his temporary advantage and give battle.
Wallenstein’s forces had entrenched in the ditches along a road. In a see-saw battle they were finally driven out. Wallenstein led his forces back to Bohemia.
But the Swedes too had lost: their King Gustavus lay dead on the field of battle.