Michael Fredholm Von Essen, The Lion from the North, The Swedish Army During the Thirty Years War: Volume 1, 1618-1632 (Helion, 2020)
This book describes the Swedish army and its battles from Gustavus Adolphus taking the throne in 1611 until his death at Lutzen in 1632.
Essen introduces Gustavus and his character in the prologue. He spends the next 75 pages describing the wars with Denmark, Muscovy, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and finally the war in Northern Germany. There then follows chapters on the structure of the army, how it was raised and organised, and its weapons and uniforms. There is a separate chapter on how the King developed the tactics and style of war that developed into that seen at Breitenfeld and Lutzen. There is also a discussion on the importance of intelligence and counterintelligence in the conflicts. Finally, the author summarises the military legacy of the “Lion of the North”. The text is ably supported by 8 colour pages showing Swedish uniforms, 24 pages of military standards, maps of the battles of Breitenfeld, and Lutzen, and numerous black and white images of period paintings and illustrations spread throughout the book.
Essen puts Gustavus Adolphus and his army in its proper historical context and takes pains to try and separate both of these from the cults that have developed around them. This results in a more nuanced, incremental, and believable story of the development of the army and the King’s undeniable skills both as a reformer and a military commander. Recommended for those with any kind of interest in the Swedish army of the Thirty Years War or if you just want to read a fine example of military history.
(Reviewed by Mike Huston)