The Peasant War in Germany - səhifə 38
In Alsace the rebellion broke out after the movement had started on the right side of the
Rhine. The peasants of the bishopric of Strassbourg arose as late as the middle of April.
Soon after, there was an upheaval of the peasants of Upper Alsace and Sundgau. On April
18, a contingent of Lower Alsace peasants pillaged the monastery of Altdorf. Other troops
were formed near Ebersheim and Barr, as well as in the Urbis valley. These were soon
concentrated into the large Lower Alsace division and proceeded in an organised way to
take cities and towns and to destroy monasteries. One out of every three men was called to
the colours. The Twelve Articles of this group were considerably more radical than those of
the Suabian and Franconian groups.
While one column of the Lower Alsace peasants first concentrated near St. Hippolite
early in May, attempting to take the city but without success, and then, through an
understanding with the citizens, came into possession of Barken on May 10, of
Rappoldtsweiler on May 13, and Reichenweier on May 14, a second column under
Erasmus Gerber marched to attack Strassbourg by surprise. The attempt was unsuccessful,
and the column now turned towards the Vosges, destroyed the monastery of
Mauersmuenster, and besieged Zabern, taking it on May 13. From here it moved towards
the frontier of Lorraine and aroused the section of the duchy adjoining the frontier, at the
same time fortifying the mountain passes. Two columns were formed at Herbolzheim on
the Saar, and at Neuburg, at Saargemund, 4,000 German-Lorraine peasants entrenched
themselves. Finally, two advanced troops, the Kolben in the Vosges at Stuerzelbrunn, and
the Kleeburg at Weissenburg, covered the front and the right flank, while the left flank was
adjoining those of Upper Alsace.
The latter, in motion since April 20, had forced the city of Sulz into the peasant
fraternity on May 10, Gebweiler, on May 12, and Sennheim and vicinity, May 15. The
Austrian government and the surrounding imperial cities immediately united against them,
but they were too weak to offer serious resistance, not to speak of attack. Thus, in the
middle of May, the whole of Alsace, with the exception of only a few cities, came into the
hands of the insurgents.
But already the army was approaching which was destined to break the ungodly attack
of the Alsace peasants. It was the French who effected here the restoration of the nobility.
Already, on May 16, Duke Anton of Lorraine marched out with an army of 30,000, among
them the flower of the French nobility, as well as Spanish, Piedmontese, Lombardic, Greek
and Albanian auxiliary troops. On May 16 he met 4,000 peasants at Luetzelstein whom he
defeated without effort, and on the 17th he forced Zabern, which was besieged by the
peasants, to surrender. But even while the Lorrainers were entering the city and the
peasants were being disarmed, the conditions of the surrender were broken. The
The Peasant War in Germany
– 82 –
defenseless peasants were attacked by the Lansquenets and most of them were slaughtered.
The remaining Lower Alsace columns disbanded, and Duke Anton went to meet the Upper
Alsatians. The latter, who had refused to join the Lower Alsatians at Zabern, were now
attacked at Scherweiler by the entire force of the Lorrainers. They resisted with great
bravery, but the enormous numerical superiority – 30,000 as against 7,000 – and the
betrayal of a number of knights, especially that of the magistrate of Reichenweier, made all
daring futile. They were totally beaten and dispersed. The Duke subdued the whole of
Alsace with the usual atrocities. Only Sundgau was spared. By threatening to call him into
the land, the Austrian government forced the peasants to conclude the Ensisheim
agreement early in June. The government soon broke the agreement, however, ordering
numbers of preachers and leaders of the movement to be hanged. The peasants made a new
insurrection which ended with the inclusion of the Sundgau peasants into the Offenburg
agreement (September 18).
There now remains only the report of the Peasant War in the Alpine regions of Austria.
These regions, as well as the adjoining Archbishopric of Salzburg were in continuous
opposition to the government and the nobility ever since the Stara Prawa, and the
Reformation doctrines found there a fertile soil. Religious persecutions and willful taxation
brought the rebellion to a crisis.
The city of Salzburg, supported by the peasants and the pitmen, had been in
controversy with the Archbishop since 1522 over city privileges and the freedom of
religious practice. By the end of 1523, the Archbishop attacked the city with recruited
Lansquenets, terrorised it by a cannonade from the castle, and persecuted the heretical
preachers. At the same time he imposed new crushing taxes, and thereby irritated the
population to the utmost. In the spring of 1525, simultaneously with the Suabian-
Franconian and Thuringian uprisings, the peasants and pitmen of the entire country
suddenly arose, organised themselves under the commanders Brossler and Weitmoser,
freed the city and besieged the castle of Salzburg. Like the West German peasants, they
organised a Christian alliance and formulated their demands into fourteen articles.
In Styria, in Upper Austria, in Carinthia and Carniola, where new extortionate taxes,
duties and edicts had severely injured the interests closest to the people, the peasants arose
in the Spring of 1525. They took a number of castles and at Grys, defeated the conqueror
of the Stara Prawa, the old field commander Dietrichstein. Although the government
succeeded in placating some of the insurgents with false promises, the bulk of them
remained together and united with the Salzburg peasants, so that the entire region of
Salzburg and the major part of Upper Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola were in the
hands of the peasants and pitmen.
The Peasant War in Germany
– 83 –
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