In the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Lutzen—one of the most crucial engagements in the bloody Thirty Years War—it was announced to the world that King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had died. During the course of the battle on this day in 1632, the king had been surrounded by enemy soldiers. Before taking his life, they demanded his name. Gustavus replied, "I am the King of Sweden! And this day I seal with my blood the liberties and religion of the German nation."
Throughout the horrific conflict, during which Gustavus defended the cause of the Protestants against Emperor Ferdinand II, a staunch Roman Catholic, the people of Europe suffered terribly. Out of a German population of sixteen million people, only about four million survived. The town of Augsburg had a population of 80,000 people at the beginning of the conflict but only l8,000 survived to the end. Indeed, before the awful war had concluded an estimated 30,000 villages were destroyed. It was one of the saddest chapters in the long history of man—and the loss of Gustavus was a bitter loss for all the advocates of freedom.