Known in Latin as Gustavus Adolphus, in his native Sweden called Gustav II Adolph. Born December 9th 1594, died November 6th 1632. Was King of Sweden from 1611-1632. He was considered a tremendous leader and ruler by his people, who sometimes referred to him as "The Lion of the North" or Gustav Adolph the Great. He is remembered by the rest of the world as the leader of the Swedish military in the Thirty Years' War, and is also seen by many as the "inventor of the modern army.
He was beloved by his people because of his ability to stand among them and relate to them, especially soldiers. Where most kings would command the battle from afar, Gustavus actually led his troops into battle, and was wounded many times, further increasing his fame and enhancing his good reputation among the commoners. This led to his demise however, as he was killed at the Battle of Luetzen. Up to his death however, he was also a very effective political leader, rallying almost all the Swedish political groups behind him, thus creating a very effective home front from which to wage war.
The army of Gustavus Adolphus was both small and maneuverable, two traits totally unheard of in armies at the time. He is credited with the first widespread use of mobile cannon, and also with marching his troops in a "T formation". This was also one of the first armies that stressed attacking over defense. Created with the help of Dutch military experts among others, it was considered the most modern army ever at the time. Aside from the strategic and technological advantages, his army was known all over Europe for its discipline and courage. Gustavus himself was a religious man, and the feared army often marched into battle singing Lutheran battle hymns.
Gustav’s most famous actions were those of the Swedish phase of the Thirty Years’ War. He was the protestant hero for many, and his campaign in Germany succeeded in turning the Baltic Sea into a Swedish lake for a period of time. The campaign began in 1630, when Gustav landed in Pomerania, and then in Germany. He had many Saxon allies in this campaign, and although they were not much help as a military, their funding helped give the Swedes a further advantage with superior equipment. The Swedish army under Gustavus Adolphus had many major victories over German forces, including the battles of Breitenfeld, Lech, and Luetzen. After his death at Luetzen, the campaign effectively ended, and although the Swedes won the battle and continued winning other battles, the death of such a revered and loved leader meant the end of both Swedish military and political prestige. In 1633, the Swedish government decided to put an accolade on his name, thus making him "Gustav Adolph the Great”. He is the last figure in Sweden to receive such a title. There is an official holiday known as Gustav Adolph day which is celebrated November 6th of each year.
Palmer, R.R./Colton, Joel/Kramer, Lloyd. A History of the Modern World: Ninth Edition 2002.