Militärhistorisches Museum der BundeswehrLandesamt für Archäologie - SachsenArchäologisches Landesmuseum Brandenburg im Paulikloster
1636 - Trailer

The 4th of October 1636

On Saturday the 4th of October 1636 thousands of men formed up for battle in the wooded hills and marshland to the south of Wittstock. An allied force of around 22,000 imperial and Saxon troops, led by Field Marshal Melchior von Hatzfeld and Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony, faced approximately 19,000 soldiers under the command of the Swedish Field Marshal Johan Banér. The allied positions were stronger and they had numerical superiority but Banér employed a risky flanking manoeuvre that ensured a Swedish victory.

This copperplate print shows the Swedish regiments marching into battle at Wittstock on the 4th of October 1636 (from a contemporary pamphlet, courtesy of the Krigsarkivet, Stockholm).

The defeated generals gave the order to retreat on the evening of the same day. Many of their troops had already deserted and fled the battlefield. The orderly withdrawal, however, quickly turned into a rout and the imperial-Saxon army abandoned its artillery and baggage train. Advancing Swedish troops overtook the fleeing soldiers and a massacre ensued. Many had died on the battlefield but the majority of casualties occurred during the pursuit of the retreating enemy. A total of up to 8000 soldiers lost their lives.

The report on the battle written by Johan Banér for Queen Christina of Sweden (courtesy of the Riksarkivet, Stockholm).

On the following day the victorious Swedish Field Marshal gave the command to clear the battlefield, granting the surviving soldiers permission to loot but also ordering them to gather the wounded and bury the dead. 125 dead mercenaries found their final resting place at the foot of the Scharfenberg hill.