On May 16, 1525 (having commenced the day before): it was the low water mark of the wretched Peasants Revolt. As Schaff describes things:
The peasants, badly armed, poorly led, and divided among themselves, were utterly defeated by the troops of the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Duke Henry of Brunswick, the Elector John, and the Dukes George and John of Saxony. In the decisive battle at Frankenhausen, May 25, 1525, five thousand slain lay on the field and in the streets; three hundred were beheaded before the court-house. Muenzer fled, but was taken prisoner, tortured, and executed [on May 27th].
The peasants in South Germany, in the Alsace and Lorraine, met with the same defeat by the imperial troops and the forces of the electors of the Palatinate and Treves, and by treachery. In the castle of Zabern, in the Alsace (May 17), eighteen thousand peasants fell. In the Tyrol and Salzburg, the rebellion lasted longest, and was put down in part by arbitration.
The number of victims of war far exceeded a hundred thousand. The surviving rebels were beheaded or mutilated. Their widows and orphans were left destitute. Over a thousand castles and convents lay in ashes, hundreds of villages were burnt to the ground, the cattle killed, agricultural implements destroyed, and whole districts turned into a wilderness. “Never,” said Luther, after the end of the war, “has the aspect of Germany been more deplorable than now.”
The Peasants’ War was a complete failure, and the victory of the princes an inglorious revenge. The reaction made their condition worse than ever. Very few masters had sufficient humanity and self-denial to loosen the reins. Most of them followed the maxim of Rehoboam: “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:14). The real grievances remained, and the prospect of a remedy was put off to an indefinite future.
The cause of the Reformation suffered irreparable injury, and was made responsible by the Romanists, and even by Erasmus, for all the horrors of the rebellion.
Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice, to rebel. How foolish were the followers of the radicals, to believe that God would give them victory. They paid for their folly.