Battle of White Mountain

 

By Erin Naillon

The Battle of White Mountain was decisive for the Czech lands.

An Uprising

In 1618, several Czech lords threw two governors and a secretary from the windows of Prague Castle (Defenestration of Prague); they now drummed up 30,000 men to fight for their cause. Emperor Ferdinand II sent his own army to quash the revolt. Among the Emperor’s soldiers was philosopher Rene Descartes.

Terezin Concentration Camp Tours from Prague

Marching on Prague

On November 8, 1620, the Imperial army moved towards Prague. The army, headed by Field Marshall Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, consisted of well-seasoned fighting men, and their leader was equally experienced. Though the Czechs outnumbered the opposition, they were no match for the superior knowledge of the Imperial army.  The actual battle only lasted about an hour, with many of the Czechs retreating without fighting at all; Catholic losses were about 800, while the Czechs lost at least 4,000 men.

Krystof Harant, one of the ill-fated nobles.

Battle Lost

When news reached Prague, as it did quickly, scores of citizens and the King himself left the city. No further rebellion occurred, and Tilly’s army was triumphant. Many of the nobles who survived the battle were put on trial, and twenty-seven of them were sentenced to death. Most of the Bohemian nobility (those who didn’t die in battle or on the scaffold) were exiled, and all their property seized. The citizens of Bohemia were given a choice: Convert to Catholicism, or leave the country.  The Thirty Years’ War, however, would continue to rage for almost two decades after the Battle of White Mountain.

White Mountain (Bilá hora, in Czech) is now in the Prague 6 city district; the place where the two armies fought is now an open area with a monument dedicated to the fighters for the Bohemian cause. In Prague 6, several streets are named for the lords who took part in the battle.

 


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