By Louis Ciotola For nearly two and a half centuries, Prussia celebrated June 28 as a birthday of sorts. On that date in 1675, the Prussians achieved the start of their proud military tradition. The state was then known as Brandenburg, ruled by an elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick William. A minor player on a European continent that was still recovering from the cataclysmic Thirty Years’ War, Brandenburg and its elector were about to change history. Faced by an invading army from Sweden, one of the foremost powers of the day, the Brandenburgers prepared for battle at the little town of Fehrbellin, northwest of Berlin. They were there to decide the future of their state. Victory promised unprecedented growth, while defeat nearly ensured that Brandenburg would remain a minor entity no greater than many others spread out across Germany. On the other side of the lines, the Swedes too were at a crossroads. Their mighty empire was extended beyond what its meager resources could defend, and they fought to maintain a tenuous supremacy in northern Europe. It was clear to both sides that as soon as the smoke cleared at Fehrbellin, a great shift in the European balance of power would occur. The Sun King, Frederick William and the Young King Charles XI Without a doubt, France under the great “Sun King,” Louis XIV, was the dominant power in Europe during the third quarter of the 16th century. Following the close of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, France had emerged as


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