Battle of Lutter

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Battle of Lutter
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Lutter Schlacht Bild.png
The Battle of Lutter
Date 27 August 1626
Location Lutter am Barenberge (present-day Germany)
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Result Decisive Imperial victory
Flag of None.svg Lower Saxon Circle
 Holy Roman Empire
Catholic League (Germany).svg Catholic League
Commanders and leaders
Denmark King Christian IV Holy Roman Empire Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly
20,000 20,000
Casualties and losses
6,000 dead and 2,500 captured 200 dead or wounded

The Battle of Lutter (Lutter am Barenberge) took place during the Thirty Years' War, on 27 August 1626 (17 August 1626 in the modern Gregorian calendar), between the forces of the Lower Saxon Circle, combining mostly Protestant states, and led by its Circle Colonel Christian IV of Denmark, and the forces of the Catholic League. Lutter am Barenberge lies to the south of the modern town of Salzgitter, then within the Imperial Circle of Lower Saxony, and now in northwest Germany.

The battle resulted in a heavy defeat of Christian IV's troops by those of Emperor Ferdinand II, led by the Catholic League general Johan Tzerclaes, Count of Tilly.


Before the Thirty Years' War hostilities reached the Lower Saxon Circle, the chiefs of state of its members were alarmed and prepared for the worst. So in 1625 they elected from their midst the Lutheran Duke Christian IV of Holstein, simultaneously King of Denmark, the new Lower Saxon Circle Colonel, i.e. the commander in chief of the joint circular forces. In this function Christian IV allied with Ernst von Mansfeld in a military campaign and planned to start in Thuringia in Middle Germany, and then take to its south. His intention was to bring relief to German Protestants, who had been severely defeated a few weeks earlier in the Battle of Dessau Bridge.

With the participation of Christian IV, the Thirty Years' War, which had hitherto been confined to opposing factions of the Holy Roman Empire, now extended to other European powers, though Christian, as Duke of Holstein, was not a complete foreigner.

The Battle

Christian IV, in an attempt to take advantage of the absence of Albrecht von Wallenstein, set out to attack Tilly's army in late July 1626. While Christian's force encountered little resistance at first as it moved southwards, Wallenstein eventually listened to Tilly's calls for reinforcements, sending him an additional 4,300 soldiers. Now the Lower Saxon forces and Danes, demoralised, exhausted, and hungry, had no intention of fighting a major battle against a superior force, but torrential rain and muddy roads hindered their retreat. By 26 August Christian had decided to make his stand between the small villages of Hahausen and Lutter am Barenberge.[1]

This position might have been advantageous had Christian been a more competent commander. In the opening artillery engagement on the morning of 27 August he only utilised two of his twenty-two field guns, while Tilly made far much more effective use of his cannon. The Catholic League quickly followed their barrage with an all-out assault, which, though repulsed, enabled one League regiment to gain a foothold on the Dano-Lower Saxon side of a deep creek which separated the two armies. This led to confusion among Dano-Lower Saxon forces when Christian ordered a counterattack. After being just barely being beaten back by the Catholic infantry, the Lower Saxons and Danes lost all organisation when they returned to their former positions, which left the Dano-Lower Saxon infantry vulnerable when Tilly ordered his cavalry to attack. Native regiments under Christians command were decimated when they held firm. His other forces scattered to the north. Christian himself, after having four horses shot out from under him, fled to Wolfenbüttel with what remained of his own cavalry.[2]


The battle was an irreparable blow to Christian IV, Denmark and the Lutheran states in the Lower Saxon Circle. All Lower Saxon states, except those of Mecklenburg and Holstein, refused Christian their further allegiance. Leaguist forces conquered the Lutheran Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen, threatened the Calvinist city of Bremen, took the Lutheran Westphalian Prince-Bishopric of Verden. This forced the Protestant German princes to sue for peace and Ferdinand II could have ended the war then satisfied with Imperial Catholic gains but instead issued the Edict of Restitution which encouraged Sweden to enter the war.

Further reading

  • Guthrie, William P. 2001. Battles of the Thirty Years' War: from White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618-1635. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Lee, Stephen J. 1991. The Thirty Years' War. London [England]: Routledge.
  • Lockhart, Paul Douglas. 1996. Denmark in the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648: King Christian IV and the decline of the Oldenburg State. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press.
  • Parker, Geoffrey, and Simon Adams. 1997. The Thirty Years' War. London: Routledge.
  • Christian IV
  • Johann Tserclaes, count von Tilly


  1. Lockhart, Paul Douglas. 1996. Denmark in the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648: King Christian IV and the decline of the Oldenburg State. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press.
  2. Lockhart, Paul Douglas. 1996. Denmark in the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648: King Christian IV and the decline of the Oldenburg State. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press.