Taiping Rebellion of 1850-1864: The Opium Conflicts & Early Western Military Influence in China

The Taiping Rebellion was one of the largest and bloodiest civil conflicts in modern world history; though seemingly forgotten today, in the 1850's-1860’s the small but prominent role played by many Westerners in the conflict was nearly a decisive factor. This conflict is remembered in China and Asia today as a bloody holy war inspired by the desire of some Chinese to escape the Imperial domination of the Manchu minority and to attain religious and cultural freedom.

Named for the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, an unrecognized state ruled from 1851-1864 by a charismatic peasant and former low ranking civil servant named Hong Xiuquan (b.1814-1864) who claimed to see visions from above and who also claimed to be the blood and spiritual brother of Jesus Christ. Support swelled for the rebellion of Xiuquan allowing for his forces to capture Nanjing in southern China as their capital in the year 1851, severely threatening the Qing Empire’s rule throughout China for the next ten years. The military of the Taiping rebels in the rebellion's later stages was led by General Li Hsiu-Ch'eng known commonly as the Chung Wang (Loyal Prince). Chung Wang won most of the Taiping's later victories in the years 1858-1860.

Hong Xiuquan

The roots of the Taiping Rebellion are grounded in the opening of China to Westerners for the first time to import and trade. By the mid to late 1840's Chinese port cities were flooded with Westerners, mostly British, French, and Americans. The Chinese absolutely hated the Westerners referring to them frequently as “barbarians”. Imperial China under the Qing emperors was dieing a slow death while the last royal family' of China rapidly lost control of its more than 400 million inhabitants. At least part of the Qing Empire's woes lay in the illicit opium trade which was gaining popularity worldwide since the British controlled the poppy grown in India and Pakistan and had control of the seas they willingly imported opium into China starting the Opium Wars.

The Opium Conflicts 1839-1860

China was first humiliated by the British and French in 1839–42 in the First Opium War which opened up general trade concessions to most of the port cities that the Europeans desired. This was the beginning Opium Wars sagas', critical to the both the prelude and to the beginning of the end of the Taiping Rebellion. It was during the Taiping civil war that an Anglo-French alliance won yet again defeating the Qing and its antiquated navy in the Second Opium War. After landing armies on the mainland and winning a quick and decisive land campaign from 1856–60, the West (France and Great Britain) opened China to greater economic and political exploitation. The Qing empire did win a victory over the French and British at the Taku Forts in June of 1859.

During the Second Opium War the Heavenly Kingdom's armies almost continuously defeated the Imperial Armies, consolidating power and cities throughout northern and southern China. The Opium Wars opened even more of China to Western trade interests and the poor performance of the Imperial Army ‘braves’ against the Taiping rebels until the early 1860’s was proof to the world that the Qing empire was in a steep decline.

The First Opium War

Western Military Influence in China 1855-1862

Despite the Western powers remaining officially neutral during the Taiping Rebellion a number of Western officers served with distinction on both sides during the conflict. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, and mercenaries served on both sides of the conflict in what was referred to by Thomas Taylor Meadows (b.1815-1868), British period author, consul in China, and Ward critic, as "foreign ruffianism". Two officers in particular are remembered to this day. Qing Imperial officials paid American Frederick Townsend Ward (b.1831-1862) and British officer Charles George Gordon (b.1833-1885) to their lead armies during the rebellion. Consequently both of these men would become legendary figures because of their service with the Imperial army corps which overtime came to be known as the Ever Victorious Army (EVA) between 1861-1864.

Charles George Gordon at the Battle of Changzhou 1864

For Gordon, it was the start of a legendary career which would end tragically in 1885 at Khartoum in the Sudan. For Ward the Taiping Rebellion would seal his legacy as a great military man and 19th century adventurer, who expired on the field of combat perhaps before the prime of his already remarkable career. With modern weapons like Colt's six shot pistols and Sharps rifles, the Chinese soldiers in the EVA became carbon copies of Western armies whose training Both of these men led diverse cadres of French and British sailors, Americans, Prussians, Chinese, Filipinos, and Indian Sepoys in service of the Qing Empire in 'anti-Pirate units and mercenary squadrons'. Ward in particular became a master of making traditional and well trained armed forces out of ranks comprised of levies and soldiers of fortune.

Ward leading his men from the front with two Colt revolvers in his hands. In reality he was almost never armed in battle in battle, preferring to wield his rattan cane opposed to a sabre or firearm

The Imperial Qing Army with the help of the EVA reversed its earlier retreat and embarrassments by smashing several larger rebel armies mostly without the use of artillery or cavalry, strategically strangling the Heavenly Kingdom with successful sieges and land battles before Hong Xiuquan committed suicide in 1864 as the Taiping Rebellion came to its conclusion. Ward’s background was complex but what is known about his early life is that he was a New England sailor and merchant by family blood and trade, he enjoyed brief stints as a French officer in the Crimea, a filibuster in Mexico, an anti-pirate auxiliary in China, and eventually a mercenary general in the Taiping conflict.

General Gordon and the EVA

In mid to late August of 1860 when Shanghai was still besieged by Taiping rebels on all sides, a British national and member of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps described seeing a "slight" officer directing some foreign men in arms in the defense of grandstand overlooking a horse-racing track in the British quarter of the city. He described him as "a man of excellent address, mild and gentle in manner, and as kind and warm-hearted as possible. His long hair and slight mustache were dark, and he habitually wore a blue coat tightly buttoned." Ward and his small Imperial army corps won their first major battle on the night of 16-17 July 1860 with the capture of forts and the city of Sung-chiang.

Ever Victorious Army c.1861 (Osprey Publishing)

In the Second Battle of Sung-chiang outside Shanghai, Ward despite being injured in the shoulder by a Taiping musket ball (the first of fifteen times during his Chinese service), captured the city and occupied it. Following his victory, Colonel Ward and he was now known had hundreds of new Chinese and foreigners flocking to his expanding army. He was also paid a large bonus by his Qing handlers though he had been promised and was owed much more. In its second test of battle, the Foreign Arms Corps, as it was then officially known was defeated by the Taiping rebels outside the walls Ch'ing-p'u. A musket ball smashed through Col. Ward's jaw an exited his cheek, critically wounding Ward and forcing his defeated army to retreat back to Shanghai.

Ward in 1861

Ward's army had grown in considerable size from the summer heat of 1860 until the winter of 1861. His infantrymen wore light green tunics and khaki in the summer and his Western style Chinese artilleryman wore light blue tunics. As their headgear, Ward's corps all sported green Sepoy style turbans. He had two dozen or more artillery guns including eighteen and six pound guns. Col. Ward's most loyal soldiers and bodyguards were around 150-200 Spanish Filipinos who he commanded in Spanish and who would die for him on multiple occasions during Ward's service in Taiping conflict. Wards corps' was armed with a variety of factory new Western firearms purchased by his financiers and through his own credit including British Snider-Enfields, Prussian Dreyse needle rifles, and other assorted Western-made muskets. Locals and Western observers were shocked by the armies aptitude to learn military drill and discipline and for their loyalty to Ward and his officers during their time at the Sung-chiang drilling grounds from the summer of 1861 until June of 1862.


Above all, Col. Ward and Gordon were men of action and bravery in the face of combat. Ward was a particularly honest man and a stellar driller of soldiers most importantly. He disciplined all under his command fairly including his own European officers; who he flogged and even executed for a variety of military offenses. Upon his death in battle at Tzeki (Cixi) in September of 1862; he was succeeded by officer Charles Gordon after some debate amongst Wards' staff over who should succeed him directly.

What is known among several differing accounts from those who were there and were in regards to Col. Ward's death is that he was grievously wounded by a musket ball while overseeing the assault on the fortress walls of Tz'u-ch'i in the thick of the fighting. His mortally wounded body was taken aboard one of his ships, the Hardy, where he soon died from this wound though the battle was a decisive victory for his army and the Qing Empire. Rumors spread and persist to this day among scholars and popular historians of the period that he was killed by a European sharpshooter-for-hire or by his own men who had been paid off by his Imperial Qing handlers.

Frederick Townsend Ward, mortally wounded at the Battle of Cixi, September 1862

It is recounted by author Caleb Carr in his book on Ward, The Devil Soldier, that General Ward was indeed owed a considerable sum of 200,000 or more Chinese taels by his Imperial employers; equaling well over a million and half US dollars in 2015. Gordon, an officer in the Royal Engineers who became known as 'Chinese' Gordon for the rest of his life was a man of similar character; though he was most certainly a personally righteous and religious zealot of sorts opposed to the more pragmatic and professional mercenary demeanor of Ward.

The Taiping Rebellion was one of the longest, largest, and brutally fought wars in the the study of the 19th or early 20th century conflicts. It is the bloodiest Civil War ever and maybe even the deadliest conflict ever recorded in the modern era. The rebellion forever altered the Chinese diplomatic and political landscape though it ultimately ensured the survival of the Qing dynasty until the revolution of 1911-1912. The 'Great Rebellion' of China sent tens of thousands of Chinese to seek passage to America or Europe.

Related Posts

Suggested Further Readings
Devil Soldier: The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China By Caleb Carr (Random House, New York, 1991-1992).

The Chinese and their Rebellions by Thomas Taylor Meadows (1856)


Utah War 1857-1858: Mormon Militarism & The War for Deseret

The conflict in Utah and parts of Western Wyoming from 1857-1858 between the Mormon militias of Brigham Young’s Church of Latter Day Saints, LDS, and the American Federal government & US Army, is one of the most unique conflicts in the study of 19th century warfare and diplomacy because it was very much a war of religion, culture, and of the shifting political and ideological union of the states and territories of the United States.

The Utah War or the Mormon Rebellion as the US government viewed it was most certainly influenced by religion both was known and speculated about the Mormon religion and its followers from a US, Anglo-Christian tradition. Furthermore the Mormons dating back to their early history had a good reason to distrust and fear ‘Gentile’ rule. Mormons were not unaccustomed to prejudice and targeted violence throughout 1830s into 1850 and as result they had become militarized to certain extent before and after the Utah War. After Joseph Smith Jr. the Prophet and founder of the Church moved to NauvooIllinois the first Mormon experiment in fielding a standing army resulted in the creation of the Nauvoo Legion.

The Legion in Illinois around 1844

The Nauvoo Legion was a Illinois state militia which was supplied and funded by Joseph Smith and the Church. Unlike other militias in just about every other state or territory the militia of Nauvoo was immaculately dressed in the best uniforms & outfitted with the best weapons & supplies that money could buy. The Legion attracted non-Mormons as well and grew to have 5,000 men or more in its ranks.

Relatively excellent (and perhaps shrewd) Mormon capital & financial skills would lead to subsequent economic prosperity for the Church when the LDS and its followers went West. In Illinois this prosperity was short lived following the arrest and subsequent murder of Smith and his brother by an anti-Mormon lynch mob. The death of the Prophet in Illinois 1844 was the precursor to this new type of LDS militarism centered on the Church-run militia under the overall command of either an elder member or the President of the Church himself. Historians have pointed to the Nauvoo Legion’s success as being partly to blame for Smith’s death and the Mormon exodus.

Joseph Smith reviewing the Nauvoo Legion.
An Interesting article about his sword and where it is today.

This type of militia system was useful for defense in the Western territories because of the fears of Native American attacks and banditry. However this system showed its susceptibilities when war broke out between the American government and the Saints as they referred to themselves in the militias. Eventually the Nauvoo Legion was reestablished serving throughout the Utah War, as home guards during the Civil War, and then as Indian Fighters against the Navajo in the 1860's and 1870's.

Utah Nauvoo Legion circa 1865-1870

15th President of America at this time James Buchanan (b.1791-1868) ordered a military force eventually commanded by General Albert Sidney Johnston, known for his death fighting for the Confederacy at the Battle of Shiloh (TN) in 1862, to march on the Utah Territory in 1857. A territory which was only a fraction of what had been originally a much larger Mormon planned state that was to be called the Deseret in the year 1849.

Map of the State Deseret imposed on the boundaries of the Utah Territory and the modern boundaries. (BYU)

Deseret never materialized and the Utah territory was established in 1850 after the LDS settled on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. This new Mormon ‘Zion’ was under the control of Brigham Young with implied and almost unchecked Church control, despite being a territory of the Federal government and therefore subject to US government control.

This was certainly at the heart of the issue which led to the US-centric view that this was an armed revolt, like the Shays 1786-1787 or Whiskey rebellions of 1791-1794. Looking back we can draw parallels to the Utah War and the American Civil War; not in how this short and relatively bloodless war was fought but in why it was fought as David L. Bigler has done in his book The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil 1857-1858 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2011).

Albert Sidney Johnston shortly before his death in 1862 as the 
commander of the Confederate Army in the West

Sherman L. Fleek, Professor and US Army, Retired, summarizes the start of hostilities as follows:
“The two main factors that caused the Utah War can best be summarized as, first, the differences in policies between federal and Church authorities concerning relations with the Utah Indians. The second consisted of Americans’ absolute fear of Mormon power and religious teachings, including practices such as polygamy, combined with the fear of perceived Mormon vigilantism and oppression of non-Mormons.”

Part of the Native American-Mormon-US conflict was played out in the controversial events even to this day of the Mountain Meadows Massacre in September 1857. What is discernible is that around 120 settlers in the Baker-Fancher party from Arkansas were massacred in repeated attacks by Mormon militiamen disguised as Native Americans and their Paiute tribe allies. The Mormon overtures to theese tribes who they generally had good relations with, was at least part of the reason for the later occupation of Utah by the US army. The quagmire that was the US Army expedition which originally worried so many in the LDS leadership, came to be known as Buchanan’s Blunder thereafter. Johnston’s army suffered greatly on the long and disorganized march from Wyoming into Utah loosing men and many animals to the blizzard and minus degree temperatures when he insisted on making a punitive expedition to reach Utah.

Massacre of the Baker-Fancher party, Mountain Meadows 1857

The Mormons of Utah feared for the worst and prepared for a confrontation, echoed in Brigham Young’s mobilization proclamation: “We are invaded by a hostile force who are evidently assailing us to accomplish our overthrow and destruction. . . . Our opponents have availed themselves of prejudice existing against us because of our religious faith, to send out a formidable host to accomplish our destruction. . . . (I order) that all the forces in said Territory hold themselves in readiness to march, at a moment's notice, to repel any and all such invasion.

The Utah War developed into a war of sporadic skirmishing and small scale ambushes and raids. This benefited the very small number of Mormon forces who did actually exchange fire with the US army during the conflict, using some tactics resembling what we now refer to as guerrilla or insurgent warfare Casualties were low on both sides with almost every single US army casualty coming by way of exposure, disease & sickness, or accident. In fact many sources note that the Mormon militias were highly defensive and had orders to harass, chase off or steal the Federal horses and cattle to impend the march on Salt Lake City. In one case they ambushed a supply trained and burned many US army wagons and supplies in a undetected
lightning strike raid.

Don Stiver's depiction of Johnston's march through Wyoming (BYU)

In the end not one pitched battle was fought from May 1857 to July 1858 as the US Army could not, and did not engage Mormon militiamen who they almost never saw or came in contact with. Johnston did eventually march on Salt Lake City peacefully establishing a fort outside the city after most of the Mormons had left the city. He allegedly remarked to one of his officers that he "would give up his plantation for a chance to bombard the city for 15 minutes." Despite mobilization the Mormons avoided conflict and wisely so; losing very few men or civilians without incurring the wrath of an occupying army who was openly defied. The militiamen who were relatively small in number yet still vastly outnumbering the occupying Army merely faded back into civilian life as farmers, traders, merchants, and church clergymen, or whatever their daily trade or profession was before the "war' had broken.

Brigham Young and the Church leaders claimed that no rebellion had taken place; mitigating at least some of the anti-Mormon rhetoric and fire-eaters in the Army and in Washington pushing for results and punishment for the Mormons after the conflict. This helped ensure a peace settlement with President Buchanan and made sure that the LDS would remain in power within the Federal governments’ territorial law. Young and his men were pardoned easing Utah's entrance to a status officially under Federal control.

Suggested Further Reading


German Peasants War 1524-1526: Landsknechts and the Swabian League

In the summer of 1524 near the Black Forest in what is today Stühlingen, Baden-Wurttemberg in southern Germany, one of the largest and most significant popular uprisings of recorded history in the middle and renaissance ages began. A quibble between peasants and the ruling countess in the province of Swabia led to a greater revolt of a loosely confederated Serf/Peasant alliance that became the catalyst for great conflict, upheaval, and civil war in the early Renaissance age in the central European Germanic kingdoms associated with the Swabian League. The league was lead by Emperor Charles V; locked in continuous series of campaigns with the Italians throughout his reign from 1519-1556.

Period drawing, Landsknechts depicted with eerie symbolism 

The king appointed his brother and successor, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (sharing the same name of his late ancestor, who’s assassination sparked the Great War in 1914) to crush the rebellion in mostly the south & southwest of Swabian League territory. The Peasants Rebellion eventually ignited a near national revolution with hundreds of thousands fighting for the rights of religious and social liberty in Southwestern Germany.

For the Swabian League forces it was a war to defend property, the greater social order & culture, and also a secondary rebellion, between disaffected lower nobles and knights, many of whom were or who were at one time employed as landsknecht mercenaries, professional, well armed and trained soldiers from within and outside Austro-German provinces. Rather ironically the title of the Peasants War or Peasants Rebellion is somewhat misleading because many of the enemy rebel forces were laborers, artisans, or lower gentry. Many of the fighting men on both were outlaw knights, mercenaries and former soldiers from Switzerland and the other German kingdoms. The infrequent regional or national makeup of the rebels was most evident especially in the ever-lacking leadership of the Peasants movement itself.

Radical theologian, Protestant reformer, and leader of the 'Rainbow' band Thomas Müntzer

One of the early participants in the rebellion which opened up the conflict into a larger war was the disinherited Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, fighting with the help of peasant levies and with distraction of the Swabian League reeling from peasant risings throughout the kingdom. Many of these men certainly had no affiliation with the Peasants movement and though they tolerated, though most certainly disagreed and personally despised those of lower social class. Of the most important leaders was a man essentially thrust into a military role without any previous experience, the radical theologian and reformer Thomas Müntzer (b.1488-1525).

Many of the peasant bands small or large (most numbering from around 300-500 to as large as 5,000-<10,000) were indeed led and commanded by men with little or no military experience, who were elected or assumed command because the men under them thought they were best suited, a radical idea. However some bands did receive the services of less than savory types such as ruthless mercenaries, free lancer landsknechts who fought for payment and plunderalso  former robber knights who had taken to the cause for personal or culutural reasons.

One knight of noble birth and status who surprisingly threw his lot in with the Peasants was Sir Gottfried, Götz von Berlichingen (b.1480- 1562), a knight known alternatively as Götz of the Iron Hand, because he wore a prosthetic iron gauntlet after loosing his sword hand in the year 1504 at the Siege of Landshu whilst in the service of the Bavarian Duke Albert IV. Ironically he too had helped crush the earlier Peasants Rebellion of the Poor Conrad band, the truth being that the Peasants rebellion was fought by many men who were not indeed peasants at all. This greater period from dating back as far as the 1480’s during the tail end of England’s Wars of the Roses 1400-1499. In the same time-frame many of the German states can were rife with similar princely wars, upheavals, and civil conflicts.

Knight and at one time rebel commander, Götz of the Iron Hand

However the influence of the peasantry and the oppressed serf classes on the overall conflict cannot be overlooked, as highlighted by the many 1930's-1980’s contemporary, and more recent histories & narratives, from Frederick Engels 1850, The Peasant War in Germanyto modern socio-religious and military studies of the conflict, which examine the conflict through alternative viewpoints. Engel’s originals study has since become a classic in revolutionary or Marxist historical revisionism, alongside perhaps similar comparative studies of the English Civil War, like historian Christopher Hill’s (b.1912-2003) The English Revolution 1640 (1940, Lawrence & Wishart).

Warfare & the Peasants War

Chronologically the first organized rebellion of the Peasants movement against Swabian League rule begins from October 1524 to the winter of 1525, as Peasant armies from Tyrol in the South to Upper Swabia in the North mobilized for total war with the League’s forces. Looting and sacking keeps, manors, or monasteries was common and peasants often overwhelmed lightly defended keeps of the rich upper class where treasures with most certainly plundered in great abundance.

One of the first pitched battles of the German Peasants War was the Battle of Leipheim April 1525. Coupled with Sir George Truchsess and the Swabian League’s campaign in Northern (Upper) Swabia, and the revolts in south and in the Black Forest, the Swabian League military fought a two front campaign against a much larger force that was most certainly ill trained and ill equipped to face a more modern, trained, and disciplined force.

Period interpretation of a landsknecht mercenary who could have fought for either side

Though no precise numbers can be ascertained anywhere between 100,000-350,000 peasants may have mobilized between 1525-1526, especially if one counts the rebellions of the early 1500’s including the revolts of Poor Conrad’s band against Duke Ulrich of Württemberg in 1514 and other revolts around Stuttgart and the Rhine valley in the prelude to the Peasants War in 1524. The military of the Swabian League depended heavily on the feudal service of lowly to middle social strata knights to form the ‘vanguard’ of their military force, centered around the mounted soldier who could fight dressed in full or half armor, fighting with a heavy sword.

Pikemen in a more ‘Swiss’ style were also most common and landsknechts, mounted and infantry, were key to the advanced military prowess of the Swabian League forces, which outclassed the Peasants in every respect. The great problem for the Swabian League was whether or not they could find the coin to finance these landsknechts; many of whom held little allegiance to the League. If they were not paid and compensated with plunder for their service they would likely mutiny thus threatening the resistance to the rebellion.

Against the peasant armies who fought mostly unarmored with improvised (farm & industrial tools) or looted weapons, with little or no artillery, the path to victory was simple for the Swabian League commanders like ‘Bauernjörg’ Sir Truchsess- break the peasant ranks with cannon and then with steel in a charge that kills or scatters them in one fell, decisive action. This tactic proved throughout the war to be the decisive factor in defeating the more numerous but scattered and often independent Peasant bands. Those who were captured faced certain execution and possible torture at times, the dukes and princes of this era taking a very blooded minded stance toward the rebels.

Battle of Frankenhausen 1525: The Conclusion & Greater Legacy of the German Peasants Revolt

Though it was not the final battle or skirmish of the war, the Battle of Frankenhausen was one of the most decisive and overall crushing defeats of the peasants at the hands of the Swabian League throughout the rebellion. The battle fought in Thuringia in May of 1525 broke the peasants will and means to field an army. It was here that the ‘Rainbow’ band of reformers, radicals, and landsknechts under Thomas Müntzer were defeated, their wagon/war van besieged, and eventually stormed by the combined armies of Hesse-Brunswick and George the Duke of Saxony. Despite the initial safety of the laager (chained wagons formed in a defensible oval or circle) formation, a the ferocious charge by the Swabian forces many of whom were landsknechts themselves, broke the Peasant line capturing Müntzer.

At Frankenhausen, Müntzer’s band was finally defeated with heavy casualties by the Swabian League army of Saxony intent on defeating and capturing this dangerous rebel leader. Müntzer was dragged from the safety of the wagon laager to a dungeon after the battle, humiliated and utterly defeated. The rebel leader was then tortured by his Swabian League captors before being executed in late May of 1525, a historically important religious martyr in the Catholic-Christendom (Protestant) reformation period

Sir George Truchsess III, known as Bauernjörg, The Scourge of the Peasants

By 1526 with perhaps 75,000 or more casualties in the war already, uprisings in Tyrol were crushed yet again and the Peasants War had all but ended in a bloody Swabian League victory. In concluding a narrative of the Peasants Rebellion one must be led to believe that it as a general uprising and military campaign. However the uprising of the peasants bands succeeded in spawning a greater declaration of human rights and religious reformation, as well as a new conscious of personal rights and freedoms. 

The Peasants War is notable and perhaps today infamous because of religious implications behind much of the conflict. Indeed much of religious teachings bordered on the occult, touting apocalyptic visions in the name of the Protestant reformation. These were essentially radicalist ideologies which in-turn spawned a massive militia and peasants upheaval in Renaissance Germany and Austria during the period. Besides the important religious reformation and societal radicalism of the individual religious leaders during the rebellion, the peasant combatants of this period also tried to enforce idealized Laws of War predating modern codes enforced by the United Nations and other institutions today by centuries.

Notable Peasant rebel groups

‘Poor Conrad’ band 1514- Failed Revolt against the Duke Ulrich of Württemberg led by the peasantry in Rems ValleyStuttgart

The Allgäu band

‘Baltringer Haufen', Baltringen band- Active December 1524-1525, known for making a series of demands to abolish serfdom and increase living standards.

Christian Brotherhood-Formed by the Upper Swabia peasant bands, including Allgäu, Baltringen, and Thuringian in March 1525.

The ‘Lake’ bands-Peasant army of the villages, manors, forests that surrounded Lake Constance.

Müntzer’s ‘Rainbow’ Thuringian band-Led by the populist radical anti-Lutheran but pro-reform theologian Thomas Müntzer. One of the leading bands in any of the German regions during the great rebellion of 1524-1525.

Swabian League lords and armies
   War council and supreme command headquarters at Ulm, on the River Danube, Baden-Württemberg

Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Ferdinand I (b.1503-1564), King of Hungary & Bohemia. Archduke of Austria, 1521-1564, Holy Roman Emperor 1531-1564. Fought a great war with the Ottoman Empire for most of his reign as Holy Roman Emperor.

Ferdinand I

George Truchsess of Waldburg (b.1488-1531)-Governor of Waldburg, Austria, a knight, lord, and general of the Swabian League armies during the German Peasants War. Nicknamed Bauernjörg, meaning the scourge of the peasants, he was literally the ‘Field Marshall’ of the Swabian League armies during the conflict.

George Duke of Saxony (b.1471-1539), Son of Albert III, Duke of Saxony. Known as George the Bearded, opponent of the Reformation who commanded Swabian League forces at the Battle of Frankenhausen.

George, Duke of Saxony