1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 12

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 12:

Janos got up from his chair and went over to the side table to refill his cup with wine. When he and Ferdinand met privately in this small salon the emperor used for such purposes, there were no servants present. That was a practice which Ferdinand had instituted at Drugeth’s insistence.

“Beyond that, Ferdinand, I am concerned about the Turks.” He lifted the bottle, offering to pour for the emperor.

Ferdinand shook his head, and gave him another of those suspicious looks from under lowered brows. “You’re just trying to frighten me, damn you. What your leman called ‘pointing with alarm’ in one of those letters you showed me.”

Alas. Janos had forgotten that he’d shown that letter of Nicole’s to the emperor. Ferdinand served him as an adviser in his courtship of the American woman.

“Still.” He resumed his seat and shook his head, trying to seem as firm and certain as he could. “I am worried, Ferdinand. The one thing we know for sure is that the Ottomans have purchased a prodigious number of copies of various texts from Grantville. Among them have been histories as well as technical and scientific manuals.”

The emperor made a derisive sound. “Yes, they have. Despite that idiotic proclamation of the Turkish sultan that the Ring of Fire never happened, the Americans are witches, and anyone caught saying otherwise will be strangled.”

Drugeth shrugged. “Nobody ever accused Murad of being a sensible man. But I suspect the proclamation’s purpose is primarily to maintain secrecy. One other thing we know for sure is that the Turks have launched some sort of technical project near [NOTE: PUT IN DETAILS LATER] The purpose is almost certainly to develop new engines of war, using American methods.”

Ferdinand frowned. “Do you think they have American advisers and technicians, as we do?”

Janos shook his head. “Possible, but unlikely.”

He decided to leave unspoken his growing fears about the band of Americans whom he had himself suborned and escorted into Austria after they defected. It was true that they were providing Austria with a lot of valuable advice and knowledge. But Drugeth didn’t trust them. They had betrayed their own people for no more exalted motives than greed and a desire to escape prosecution for criminal activity. Why would people like that hesitate, if the Ottomans offered them still greater rewards? Which, the sultan of the Turks was certainly in a position to do, should he so choose. No realm in the world was as wealthy as the Ottoman Empire, save possibly the empire of the Mughals or that of the Ming dynasty in China. But according to the up-time texts, the Mings were on the eve of collapse at the hands of Manchu invaders. In that other universe, on the other hand, the Ottomans lasted as long as the Habsburgs themselves — and, in 1684, came very close to seizing Vienna after marching an army of 150,000 men into Austria. Like the Mughals in India, the Turks were still at the height of their wealth and power.

But Janos had no proof or even solid evidence that any of the Americans now in Austrian service were planning to defect to the Ottomans. If he raised his concerns now, Ferdinand would just accuse him of being an alarmist. Again.

He kept silent, allowing the emperor to mull on the matter. There was nothing at all wrong with Ferdinand’s mind, whenever he could shuffle off unthinking royal notions and attitudes. It was better to allow him to come to his own conclusions and decisions. Trying to chivvy him would be counter-productive.

After a minute or so, Ferdinand mused: “It’s too late for the Turk to launch an invasion this year.”

Drugeth nodded. Like most Hungarian noblemen he was an experienced soldier. The Ottomans would have to mobilize a huge army to attack Vienna — and get that army and its equally enormous supply train through the Balkans. It was impossible to do so in winter, of course. But it was also essential that such an army not be left stranded in the middle of winter. There would be no way to keep it supplied with enough food, if it failed to seize Vienna.

The end result of these harsh logistical realities was that any attack launched by the Turks against Austria had to follow a rather fixed and rigid timetable. The invasion couldn’t possibly be launched until the fresh spring grass arrived, or there wouldn’t be enough grazing for the horses and oxen. There was no possibility of hauling enough fodder. Not with the immense number of livestock involved in such a campaign.

Traditionally, the Turks began their campaigning season at or near the time of the festival in honor of Hizir Hyas, the Moslem saint who protected travelers and other people in peril. That came in early May, by the Christian calendar.

Of course, the Turks wouldn’t wait that long before they began moving their troops. They’d march them north to Belgrade in March and April, and launch the attack from there once the weather and grazing conditions permitted. Belgrade was roughly half the distance from Istanbul to Vienna, but the terrain over that final stretch was much more difficult for an army. Much of the terrain south of the Danube consisted of marshes and swamps.

The Turkish army was extremely well organized, true. Being honest, better organized than the Austrian — or, indeed, most Christian armies. But it still couldn’t move faster than ten or twelve miles a day. The earliest the Ottomans could reach Vienna would be late June or, more likely, sometime in July.

They couldn’t afford to arrive much later than that, because once they did arrive they’d only have a few months to succeed in taking the city. If they hadn’t done so by late autumn, they’d have no choice but to retreat back to Belgrade. Trying to keep an army of that size in fieldworks through winter would be almost certain disaster. Disease, exposure and hunger would slaughter far more of the sultan’s soldiers than his enemy could. Such a disaster had overtaken the Ottoman army in 1529, when Suleiman the Magnificent delayed for too long before ordering a retreat, in hopes that a final assault would take Vienna.

So, Ferdinand was right. It was already June, and thus too late this year for a Turkish invasion

“All right,” said the emperor, a bit grumpily. “I’ll agree to hold off any decision until the winter.” He raised a rigid forefinger. “But! The price is that you have to undertake an inspection of the frontier fortifications. To see if the Turks really are planning any mischief for next year.”

“Again? I inspected those forts less than –”

“Yes, again!” Ferdinand grimaced. There was some sympathy in the expression — not much — along with surly satisfaction at making Janos pay for impeding the royal will. “You can send your letters to the American woman just as well from horseback as from the comfort of your estates in Hungary.”

Estates which, in point of fact, Janos hadn’t seen in quite a while. That was because he’d been here in Vienna, serving the emperor in the capacity that the up-timers called “right-hand man.”

But there was no point arguing the matter. Truth be told, Drugeth wouldn’t mind doing such an inspection tour again. It was possible that the Ottomans had decided to attack Austria.

Mad or cruel he might be, but Murad was neither stupid nor weak-minded. He could study the up-time texts as well as anyone. Grantville’s records with respect to Turkey were assumed to be even scantier than those relating to Austria. But Janos had his own spies in Grantville and he knew that was only true of the public records. There was one large private library in the town which, as it turned out, had a copy of a book by a man named Lord Kinross. The Ottoman Centuries, was its title. Janos had a copy of it himself, in his chambers in this very palace.

Assuming that Murad had gotten his hands on a copy also — and it would be foolish to assume otherwise — he was quite capable of drawing some lessons from the history recounted therein. The section dealing with Murad’s own reign was quite extensive. Presumably, if nothing else, the young sultan would have enough sense to moderate the heavy drinking that contributed to his premature death at the age of twenty-eight in the universe from which the book came.

But perhaps not. Intemperate habits were hard for anyone to overcome, much less a man as mighty and exalted and feared as the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. But even if he persisted in his personal habits, he might still conclude that the war he launched against the Persians was a mistake. True, in that other world he’d succeeded in retaking Baghdad from the Safavids. But to what purpose, when all was said and done? Nothing really worthwhile.

If Drugeth were the sultan, there was one simple lesson he’d most likely draw from the Kinross book. In the end, the great Turkish power would be brought down not by Persians, but by the armies of Christian nations.

Baghdad was a thousand miles from Istanbul. Why start a savage and exhausting war with Persia, when Vienna was closer? — and, in another universe, was almost taken by the Turks twice. First, Suleiman’s attempt in 1529, and then again in 1683. Who was to say that an attempt in the year 1636 might not succeed?

Especially, as the new sultan would see it, with Murad himself in command. He probably enjoyed seeing the sobriquets “the Mad” and “the Cruel” in future accounts of himself. But he would undoubtedly prefer to add “the Great” or “the Sublime” to the list. And the one sure way to do that would be to succeed where Suleiman the Magnificent had failed.

So, Janos made no further demurral. He finished his cup of wine, rose, and gave his friend and emperor a little bow. “As you command, Your Majesty.”

The ruler of the Austrian empire and head of the elder branch of the great Habsburg dynasty looked up at Drugeth. Once again, from under lowered brows.

“Stop gloating,” he said.

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28 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 12

  1. evilauthor says:

    Hmm… that long aside on the logistical problems of invading Austria can’t be just an infodump. Maybe Murad’s Secret Project is… a rail road? Eliminate the Ottoman Empire dependence on the season and they could attack at any time.

  2. robert says:

    Good thing that publication date is October.

  3. robert says:

    @1 Building a rail line through the Balkans is an interesting idea. It would be a project that, for its time, would be the equivalent of the Alaska pipeline. Try this: steam driven boats/barges up the Danube. Wonder if it is navigable all the way back then.

  4. gg says:

    Ming, Mughals and the Persians…

    So… we’ve been updated on the Great Powers of the world…
    The Ottoman Turks, the Mughals, the Ming Empire

  5. Graham from London says:

    A small point, but the Austrians were not the senior branch of the Hapsburgs (at least not in the 1630s), the Spanish Hapsburgs were, being in the senior line of descent from Charles V through Philip II

  6. wombatcombat says:

    Don’t forget the second tier powers like the soon to rule china Manchu, The Joseon Dynasty of korea not yet brought into submission by the manchu, the not yet isolationist japanese, the thai kingdom of Ayutthaya, Taungoo Dynasty of Burma and all the small kingdoms of the world. They might not have much impact on europe but what they do will effect the great powers that do.

  7. TimC says:

    The role of the Persians- under Shah Abbas in the 1620’s the British East India Company had helped the Persians drive out the Portuguese from the Persian Gulf. Maybe there is now an opportunity for the Dutch and Grantville to join with the Persians by sea while the English are otherwise engaged. That could ‘distract’ the Ottomans!

  8. Mike S says:

    Yes, the Danube was navigable from the Black Sea to Vienna. And steam powered barges would make sense, except that the line of march for the Ottoman Army would not be along the Danube in moving from Belgrade to Vienna. The importance would be in sustaining a large army once it got to Vienna. There, are, however, several points on the Danube where such traffic could be blocked by fortified batteries and obstacles (sunken hulks, chains, etc). The area at Aspern-Essling comes to mind. A railroad is a good idea, but the terrain over which the Ottoman Army will move will be quite rough. And something more than a single track system would be needed to sustain an army of 150,000. The rail system of 1914 was unable to quickly move and transfer Austro-Hungarian troops against Serbia and Russia, I doubt a single track railroad would work for the Ottomans. Sort of like trying to supply the Army of Northern Virginia on a single track during the siege of Richmond-Petersburg. Such a railroad would also be vulnerable to guerilla activity (Christian Croats, Serbs, Slovenians) and light cavalry raids (hungarians). The other possibility is large, rifled, shell guns like the rifled 32pdr and 42pdr iron siege guns or the Parrot rifles used to break open Fort Pulaski. Logistics would have less impact on the campaign if the Sultan can get his Janissaries inside the Austrian fortifications at Vienna before he faces starvation or winter.

  9. 4th Dimension says:

    “Much of the terrain south of the Danube consisted of marshes and swamps.”
    No no no. Terrain AROUND Danube might be consisted of swamps, but terrain south of Sava/Danube is purely consisted of hills mountains and other hard terrain, criss crosed by couple of river valleys. AND it’s populated by fierce locals, whose fierceness and willingness to chop Turks is in direct proportion of how Orthodox they are and how inaccessible (better word might be deadly. The probability of breaking your neck, during a simple walk) their land is.

  10. gg says:

    * Hmm… I wonder why Grantville hasn’t suffered a greenfield smallpox epidemic…

    @7 Expanding the Eastern Front all the way to the Middle East?

    Second tier powers… we already have alot of that, Spain, Austria-Hungary, etc
    Small kingdoms… and that too (ie. The “Germanies”)
    though some tidbits from outside of Europe would be nice

  11. Michael says:

    Would these Polish folks be referring to Istanbul as such or would they call it Constantinople? I understand from the wiki entry that the Turks called it Istanbul in conversational speach (‘The city’), but it wasn’t officially changed till much later.

  12. Phillip Chesson says:

    The citizens of Grantville seem to be unusually gifted since it appears that even the worst of them can raise a 17th century political entity to 19th century status in a matter of months. Presumably the Ming are trying to recruit any West Virginians of chinese descent that they can find to provide them with their own “Great Leap Forward.”

  13. TimC says:

    @11 That’s right, Ottoman coins are marked ‘zuriba fi constantaniyah’- minted in Constantinople.

  14. Xellos-_^ says:

    Anyone know when the ARC is coming out?

  15. robert says:

    @9 Maybe he was thinking of the Danube Delta. But that is way far away.

    @11 These are not Polish. They are Austrian.
    From Wikipedia:
    In 1453 “Following the fall of Constantinople, Mehmed II immediately set out to revitalize the city, now named Istanbul.”

  16. Terranovan says:

    “’You’re just trying to frighten me, damn you. What your leman called ‘pointing with alarm’ in one of those letters you showed me.'”
    What is a “leman”? It’s obviously Noelle Stull. Could it be “woman”?
    “Alas. Janos had forgotten that he’d shown that letter of Nicole’s to the emperor. Ferdinand served him as an adviser in his courtship of the American woman.”
    It calls her “Nicole”. SHE’S NOELLE BRIGITTE STULL!!!

  17. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @14 – Terranovan


    “leman” is an archaic term for sweetheart, lover, or mistress.

    With all of the typos and other mistakes in these snippets so far, I’m wondering if October might be too ambitious a date for publication.

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Terranovan, “leman” is an Archaic term meaning either “a sweetheart; lover; beloved” or “a mistress”.

    Right now, I think “sweetheart” is the best definition.

  19. robert says:

    @13 myself.
    I take back that comment from Wikipedia. I just realized it was horribly ambiguous as to the meaning of the phrase “…now named Istanbul.” The word now is not specific: does it mean right now, as in the year 2010, or does now mean when Mehment did his conquering?

    Is there any other language in the world that lends itself to ambiguity as well as English does?

  20. gg says:


    I say that Chinese is more ambiguous…
    1. no punctuation
    2. no separation of sentences
    3. no plural/singular forms
    4. no “tense” forms (future/past/present)
    5. written classical Chinese uses a different grammar than any spoken Chinese
    6. sentences go from left to right AND right to left AND top to bottom (mix and match that, depending on the document you’re looking at… (right to left first, then top to bottom by line, or left to right first, then top to bottom by line, or top to bottom first, then left to right by line, or top to bottom first, then right to left by line)

  21. Jeff Ehlers says:

    @6: Japan’s already effectively become isolationist at this point. Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu crushed his rivals (local and Western) at Sekigahara in 1600, and decimated the Toyotomi clan in 1615. He also essentially outlawed Christianity in 1614 and banned foreign travel in 1633 (a year after the Ring of Fire, which was too far away to affect Japan in any realistic way). While he won’t embargo the outside world (aside from limited contacts with China and the Netherlands at Nagasaki) until 1639, for all practical purposes, the time it takes to get to Japan and back, and the fact that the Netherlands are in the process of being integrated into a new whole by Don Fernando, means that Tokugawa (Iemitsu at this point) is about as likely to care about rumors of time-lost foreigners who come telling of a future history as he is likely to care about events which happen on the moon. Same thing with future histories; what he’ll see is nearly 300 years of peace brought to Japan by Tokugawa isolationism.

    It’s not likely that either the Chinese or the Indians are likely to influence the story all that much (for now…). As noted, the Chinese are busily falling apart to a foreign invasion and domestic insurrections, and the Mughal Indians aren’t very likely to do much in Europe, considering they never really gained control over the Indian hinterlands.

  22. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Jeff, it will soon be canon that Japan will be exiling the Japanese Christians to the West Coast of North America.

    Part of the reason for Japan’s isolationism was the fear that European nations would use the Japanese Christians to ‘take over’ Japan.

    I have no word about what other differences in Japan’s history will occur in this time-line.

  23. wombatcombat says:

    there is talk of someone taking manila from the spainish, weather it is the dutch, the japanese or a combination of the both i don’t know

  24. Mike S says:

    Until the Tokugawa “isolated” Japan, Japanese ronin served as mercenaries as far away as Java and Sumatra, while Japanese pirates (Wako to the Chinese) infested the Yellow Sea and the Chinese coastal areas. At the beginning of the “time of isolation”, Japanese military technique and technology was as good as Chinese or European except for the use of field artillery, which was made difficult by the paucity of decent draft animals and roads designed for wagon/cart traffic within Japan. Certainly the Japanese would have made short work of any would be conquistadors from Manilla. The early Ming sent a naval force in huge “junks” as far as East Africa and the Chinese continued to trade through both the land and sea routes. The early Manchu forces would have been quite capable against contemporary European forces also. It was in the 18th and 19th century that the Japanese and Chinese (and most of the rest of the world) fell behind the Europeans in naval and military technique and technology, a situation that would not be redressed until the 1930s for the Japanese and even later for the rest of the world.

  25. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Re Istanbul/Constantinople

    There is a difference between a common name and a formal name, and a difference between one language and another language. Istanbul is ‘common language’ name, derived (by one tradition) from the Greek ‘common language’ name for the city, ‘istein polis’ (= roughly ‘the city’ — there was only one that mattered). So its a name more like ‘The Big Apple’ (in place of New York) or ‘Frisco’ (for San Francisco).

    Since the Austrian’s are not speaking Turkish, why would they use a Turkish colloquial name instead of the colloquial name used in the West for over 1000 years? Much the opposite — they would use any name other than the Turkish (i.e. “Victory” Fries syndrome.)

    But the Mint in Constantiople/Istanbul really did continue to issue coins stamped ‘from Constantinople.’ Remember in this period coin weights and purity had barely become standardized. A Constaniople stamp on a coin had been a guarantee of purity and weight for over a thousand years. You don’t mess with a brand like that, even if you are the Turks.


  26. Jason says:

    you kn ow after reading this I could see an Turkish invasion of Austria as the saving grace of keeping Brandenburg around. Why because it would almost certainly unify the whole of Western Europe as it did in 1683.

  27. John Cowan says:

    Robert, GG: all languages are pretty much equally good at ambiguity, just in different places. Most of GG’s points are about vagueness, not about ambiguity, and vagueness is in the eye of the beholder. From the Chinese viewpoint, the English word sister is intolerably vague, because it does not specify the fundamental distinction between older and younger sisters. If you need to say ‘sister’ in Chinese without specifying, you use a compound word meaning ‘older-sister (or) younger-sister’. From the viewpoint of Polynesian languages, both English of and its Chinese equivalent de are so vague as to make understanding impossible, because they don’t properly distinguish between alienable possession, like “my house” and inalienable possession, like “my ear”.

  28. Seth says:

    There was another big reason why the Ottomans kept Constantinople as the name of their capital: they saw themselves as the successors to the Eastern Roman Empire. That influence was incredibly important on the Empire, especially in its early days.

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