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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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