Siege of Magdeburg, November 1630 to 20 May 1631
Siege during Thirty Years War. Madgeburg was the most important city on the River Elbe, and had been an Imperial target for some time. An Imperial army under Gottfried zu Pappenheim had been besieging it since November 1630, and after a series of setbacks, he was joined by Tilly and the larger Imperial army in April 1631. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was hampered by the attitude of the German princes and was unable to come to the aid of the city. Within the city, there was little enthusiasm for holding out amongst the townspeople, rightly afraid of the results if the city was stormed. The city still managed to hold, and assaults on 17 and 18 May were repulsed, but on the morning of 20 November, Pappenheim attacked again, apparently without orders, and this time the city fell. The Imperial troops rapidly went out of control, and the resulting massacre left Tilly and Pappenheim attempting to defend the citizens against their own troops. Around midday, twenty or more fires started, and the conquering army found itself attempting to act put out the fire. That was beyond their capacity, and the Imperial commanders quickly realised that all they could do was save their army. Only 5,000 of the 30,000 population of the city survived the sack and fire, while the Imperial army found itself without the supplies and shelter they had hoped to gain from the city.
The Thirty Years War
, C.V.Wedgewood. Despite its age (first published in 1938), this is still one of the best english language narratives of this most complex of wars, tracing the intricate dance of diplomacy and combat that involved all of Europe in the fate of Germany.
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (26 November 2000), Siege of Magdeburg, November 1630 to 20 May 1631, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_magdeburg.html