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revolutionary pamphlets. The quiet instructive language of the thinker which had been so
characteristic  of  him,  appeared  no  more.  Muenzer  was  now  entirely  a  prophet  of  the
revolution. Incessantly he fanned the flame of hatred against the ruling classes. He spurred
the  wildest  passions,  using  forceful  terms  of  expression  the  like  of  which  religious  and
nationalist delirium had put into the mouths of the Old Testament prophets. The style up to
which  he  worked  himself  reveals  the  level  of  education  of  that  public  which  he  was  to
affect. The example of Muehlhausen and the propaganda of Muenzer had a quick and far-
reaching  effect.  In  Thuringia,  Eichsfeld,  Harz,  in  the  duchies  of  Saxony,  in  Hesse  and
Fulda,  in  Upper  Franconia  and  in  Vogtland,  the  peasants  arose,  assembled  in  armies,  and
burned castles and monasteries. Muenzer was more or less recognised as the leader of the
entire  movement,  and  Muehlhausen  remained  the  central  point,  while  in  Erfurt  a  purely
middle-class  movement  became  victorious,  and  the  ruling  party  there  constantly
maintained an undecided attitude towards the peasants.
In  Thuringia,  the  princes  were  at  the  beginning  just  as  helpless  and  powerless  in
relation to the peasants as they had been in Franconia and Suabia. Only in the last days of
April,  did  the  Landgrave  of  Hesse  succeed  in  assembling  a  corps.  It  was  that  same
Landgrave Philipp, whose piety is being praised so much by the Protestant and bourgeois
histories of the Reformation, and of whose infamies towards the peasants we will presently
have  a  word  to  say.  By  a  series  of  quick  movements  and  by  decisive  action,  Landgrave
Philipp  subdued  the  major  part  of  his  land.  He  called  new  contingents,  and  then  turned
towards the region of the Abbot of Fulda, who hitherto was his lord. On May 3, he defeated
the Fulda peasant troop at Frauenberg, subdued the entire land, and seized the opportunity
not only to free himself from the sovereignty of the Abbot, but to make the Abbey of Fulda
a  vassalage  of  Hesse,  naturally  pending  its  subsequent  secularisation.  He  then  took
Eisenach  and  Langensalza,  and  jointly  with  the  Saxon  troops,  moved  towards  the
headquarters  of  the  rebellious  Muehlhausen.  Muenzer  assembled  his  forces  at
Frankenhausen,  8,000  men  and  several  cannons.  The  Thuringian  troops  were  far  from
possessing that fighting power which the Suabian and Franconian troops developed in their
struggle with Truchsess. The men were poorly armed and badly disciplined. They counted
few  ex-soldiers  among  them,  and  sorely  lacked  leadership.  It  appears  that  Muenzer
possessed no military knowledge whatsoever. Nevertheless, the princes found it proper to
use  here  the  same  tactics  that  so  often  helped  Truchsess  to  victory  –  breach  of  faith.  On
May 16, they entered negotiations, concluded an armistice, but attacked the peasants before
the time of the armistice had elapsed.
Muenzer  stood  with  his  people  on  the  mountain  which  is  still  called  Mount  Battle
(Schlachtberg), entrenched behind a barricade of wagons. The discouragement among the
The Peasant War in Germany
– 80 –

troops was rapidly increasing. The princes had promised them amnesty should they deliver
Muenzer alive. Muenzer assembled his people in a circle, to debate the princes’ proposals.
A  knight  and  a  priest  expressed  themselves  in  favour  of  capitulation.  Muenzer  had  them
both brought inside the circle, and decapitated. This act of terrorist energy, jubilantly met
by the outspoken revolutionaries, caused a certain halt among the troops, but most of the
men  would  have  gone  away  without  resistance  had  it  not  been  noticed  that  the  princes’
Lansquenets, who had encircled the entire mountain, were approaching in close columns,
in spite of the armistice. A front was hurriedly formed behind the wagons, but already the
cannon balls and guns were pounding the half-defenseless peasants, unused to battle, and
the Lansquenets reached the barricade. After a brief resistance, the line of the wagons was
broken,  the  peasants’  cannon  captured,  and  the  peasants  dispersed.  They  fled  in  wild
disorder,  and  fell  into  the  hands  of  the  enveloping  columns  and  the  cavalry,  who
perpetrated  an  appalling  massacre  among  them.  Out  of  8,000  peasants,  over  5,000  were
slaughtered.  The  survivors  arrived  at  Frankenhaus,  and  simultaneously  with  them,  the
princes’ cavalry. The city was taken. Muenzer, wounded in the head, was discovered in a
house and captured. On May 25, Muehlhausen also surrendered. Pfeifer, who had remained
there, ran away, but was captured in the region of Eisenach.
Muenzer was put on the rack in the presence of the princes, and then decapitated. He
went to his death with the same courage with which he had lived. He was barely twenty-
eight when he was executed. Pfeifer, with many others, was also executed. In Fulda, that
holy  man,  Philipp  of  Hesse,  had  opened  his  bloody  court.  He  and  the  Prince  of  Hesse
ordered many others to be killed by the sword – in Eisenach, twenty-four; in Langensalza,
forty-one;  after  the  battle  of  Frankenhaus,  300;  in  Muehlhausen,  over  100;  at  German,
twenty-six;  at  Tungeda,  fifty;  at  Sangenhausen,  twelve;  in  Leipzig,  eight,  not  to  speak  of
mutilations and the more moderate measures of pillaging and burning villages and cities.
Muehlhausen  was  compelled  to  give  up  its  liberty  under  the  empire,  and  was
incorporated  into  the  Saxon  lands,  just  as  the  Abbey  of  Fulda  was  incorporated  in  the
Landgraviate of Hesse.
The prince now moved through the forest of Thuringia, where Franconian peasants of
the Bildhaus camp had united with the Thuringians, and burned many castles. A battle took
place  before  Meiningen.  The  peasants  were  beaten  and  withdrew  towards  the  city,  which
closed  its  gates  to  them,  and  threatened  to  attack  them  from  the  rear.  The  troops,  thus
placed  in  a  quandary  by  the  betrayal  of  their  allies,  capitulated  before  the  prince,  and
dispersed,  while  negotiations  were  still  under  way.  The  camp  of  Bildhaus  had  long
dispersed,  and  with  this,  the  remnants  of  the  insurgents  of  Saxony,  Hesse,  Thuringia  and
Upper Franconia, were annihilated.
The Peasant War in Germany
– 81 –


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