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According to various biographical sources, John Forbes was born c.1600 and served in the Dutch Republic, Denmark-Norway in Mackay's regiment in the 1620's, the Båhus regiment in the 1640's and the Dal regiment in the 1650-1660's. This is not the case and two Major John Forbes's have been confused. This John Forbes (sometimes styled 'of Corse') did serve in Denmark with Mackay's regiment and transferred to Sweden in 1629. Thereafter he was promoted Colonel of a regiment of German soldiers in the Swedish army, was then careless and taken prisoner in his bed in 1633; was held for three years at Lindau in Bavaria; and was later killed in France. This man is the author of the letter to Reverend John Forbes [SSNE 4957] in Delft printed after the sources below. 

"A LETTER SENT FROM SARIENT MAIOR FORBES FROM THE KING of Swethens army to his reverend father Mr. Iohn Forbes, minister to the worshipful Company of Marchant Adventurers residing in Delft, touching the great Battle fought by Lypsick betweene the King of Swethen, the Duke of Saxons Army, and the Emperours Army, and that commanded by Generall Tilly, of the Catholique League the 7. of September, 1631.

Honoured, and Loving father upon the fourth of this month of September, it pleased God that the Kings Army, & the Duke of Saxons joyned together, neere unto a Towne called Dichen and marched forward towards Lypsick, which Generall Tilly, had taken in, and laye with his Army about halfe a mile from it, where he mett us, with his army, and tooke up the best advantage of ground for his men, and planted his ordinance upon the places, which he thought best. The Knigs Armie marched on the right hand of the Battle, and the Dukes on the left, and advanced in Battleray against out Ennemy; who begann to playe dispitfully with his Ordinance upon us which we cared not much for, but advanced forward with our ordinance likewise playing before us. They seing us marching towards them, they advanced likewise towards us, and came so close one to an other that joyning battalions together, wee came to pushe of pike and disputed the buysinesse so longe, till it pleased God, that wee routed them, and gaue us the victorie, by putting the Ennemy to a retreate with the Kings owne Army, but the Dukes Army was vily beaten back, and begann to make a shameful flight, so that wee were forced to send our horse men after these that were beaten, and to relieve the Dukes men with our foote, which doing, we putt all the Ennemy at last to flight, and followed the execution very hotely till it was darke night, & till wee could not see to persue them any further, for which victorie immortal thankes be given to God. The Ennemy was at least 4,0000 all fighting men, and our Army, and the Dukes cold make not aboue 3,6000 men horse and foote. The next day there was found dead on both sides slayne upon the place of battle 10000 bodies, whereof the most of them were the Ennemies, besides these that were slayne upon their flight & execution which were connted to be as great a number. There were taken in all about 8,000. prisoners, the most of them having taken enteraynment of the King, and marches with our Army. There were diverse Collonells of note slayne, on both sides. Generall Tilly was shott and hurt three times, the Lord Marshall Schoonburck slayne, and fiue other Collonells. The Duke of Holsteyne taken prisonner, who afterward dyed of his wounds, besides divers other Lieutenants, Colonels, Captaynes, and Officers, which would be too long to relate, of our side there were slayne Collonell Divel, Collonele Hall, Colonele Cullenburck, and Lieutenant Colonele Adercus. Colonele Turnill hurt, and my Colonele hurt, besides diverse Captaynes, Lieutenants, & Ensignes: Wee haue taken two and twentie peeces of Canon, whereof there are seven which were the King of Bohemias, lost at the Battle of Prage. Besides great store of powder, Bullets, match, and munition of warre, 52 Coullours of foote, and 37 Cornetts of horse this is the truth of the great victorie wch God hath given us wch you maye report for a certaine, for I write noe more unto you but that wch I saw with my owne eyes. I wold haue written to diverse others, but I praye yow lett this letter suffice for all, and when any other occasion shall offer yt selfe, yow shall heare further from mee. Noe more at this time, but my dutie remembred to your selfe my mother, and my loue to my bretheren and sisters, and all other my freinds. I commit you to the protection of him that has given us this glorious victorie and rest. Your Loving Sonne. I. F. [Major John Forbes]From the Kings Army at Hall the tenth of September 1631. The rest of the Kings proceeding in the Countries and Townes which he hath taken in since that battle as they followe in time. I take it this generation doe live in that age this prophecy shal be fulfilled Revelation 18:20. O heavens rejoyce of hir, and ye holy Apostles and Prophets, for God hath given your judgement on hir for your sakes. Here the Holy-ghost doth describe the joy and rejoycing of all the faithfull for the destruction of the Romish superstition, and humane inventions. By heaven here is meant, the faithfull Professours of the truth, because they belong to heaven, and have their meditations in heaven. By Apostelss and Prophets, are not meant those famous preachers which lived in former ages, but are to be taken for those faithfull teachers which witnes Gods truth on earth in his millitant Church. As for our matters on earth, they belong not to those blessed soules which are and have been resting so long blessedly in heaven, for dead men (saith the Scripture) know nothing anie more here Eccles. 9:5. and therfore saith the Prophet, that Abraham is ignorant of us, and that Israel knows us not I say. 63:16. Therefore this is the rejoycing of all Gods people at the abolishing of all humane inventions in Gods Worship, and they rejoyce at the advancing of all institutions of Christ, that he may raigne as King in his church by his own laws and ordinaunces as the Apostle testifyeth 1. Timo. 3:14.15. and this he is commanded to observe till the appearing of Iesus Christ to judgement the 6:14 thererefore not in the liberty of earthly potentates to alter, for Christ shall raign, Amen"


Additional Sources: R. Monro, His expedition with the worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keyes (2 vols., London, 1637), II, The List of Scottish Officers in Chiefe; See also W. E. Brockington (ed.), R. Munro: His Expedition with that Worthy Scots Regiment called Mac-Keys (Praeger Press, 1999), pp.114, 238, 310, 312; O. Ovenstad, Militærbiografier: Den Norske Hærs Officerer (Oslo, 1948), p.308; G. Lind, Danish Data Archive 1573; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, pp.130 and 193; J.C.W. Hirsch and K. Hirsch (eds.), 'Fortegnelse over Dansk og Norske officerer med flere fra 1648 til 1814 (12 vols. compiled 1888-1907), III, vol.4; J. Ferguson, Papers Illustrating the History of the Scots Brigade in the service of the United Netherlands, 1572-1697 (Edinburgh, 1899), I, pp.454 and 575; A. and H. Tayler, The House of Forbes (Revised Edition, Bruceton Mills, 1987), p.316; Thomas Fischer, The Scots in Sweden (Edinburgh, 1907), p.127. 


The editors thank Robin Greenwood and Alexander Forbes for contributing to this article and Dr Bernd Warlich for the following reference: Detlev PLEISS, Das Kriegstagebuch des schwedischen Offiziers William Forbes: Von seiner Landung an der Unterelbe im Sommer 1634 bis zu seiner Rückkehr nach Stade im Winter 1649/50, in: Stader Jahrbuch Neue Folge 85, (1995), p.152.

Service record

Arrived 1619-01-01, as UNKNOWN
Departed 1625-12-31, as UNKNOWN
Capacity SOLDIER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1626-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1628-10-04, as MAJOR
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1629-10-01, as COLONEL
Departed 1639-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1633-01-01
Departed 1636-12-31
Capacity PRISONER, purpose MISC., MILITARY