1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 13

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 13:

Chapter 7

“Please have a seat, Michael.” Lennart Torstensson waved at a side table against the far wall. “There is wine, but if you prefer I can have some coffee made for you.”

The Swedish general who commanded the army of the USE had a sly smile on his face. Americans had a reputation for being teetotalers among down-timers — a reputation which any number of proper hillbillies had found quite disconcerting when they learned about it.

There was some truth underneath the stories. The Americans came from a land where clean water was taken for granted. Alcohol was generally considered something a person drank in the evening, not something you consumed the whole day long. But for people in the seventeenth century, as had been true for most of human history, alcoholic beverages were a lot safer than water, unless it had been recently boiled.

So, here it was, still before noon — and Torstensson was having himself a little fun. Poking the stiff and proper up-timer, to see how high he would jump.

Mike returned the smile with a frown, as he studied the bottles on the side table.

“No whiskey?” he asked mournfully.

Torstensson chuckled. “I should know better, by now.” He gestured toward the other two men in the room, who were already seated. “You have met Dodo, I believe. The more substantial fellow over there is the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg — and now also the Prince of Calenberg.”

The very plump nobleman gave Mike a cheerful smile. “Please! Call me George. Staff meetings are dreary enough without everyone stumbling over titles.” He half-rose from his seat and extended his hand, which Mike shook.

The other officer in the room did not follow suit, but Mike knew that wasn’t due to rudeness. It was just the nature of the man. Dodo Freiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen was a professional soldier from East Frisia and had been one all his life. He’d started his career as a teenager fighting for the Dutch, and risen to the rank of captain by the time he was twenty years old. He’d been fighting for the Swedes since 1630.

Despite the fancy titles, Knyphausen was not really what Americans thought of as a nobleman. Mike didn’t know him very well, but his best friend Frank Jackson thought highly of him. “He ain’t what you’d call the life of the party, but he’s solid as a rock,” had been his summary judgment.

After Mike took his seat, he looked around. He had to struggle a bit to keep from grinning. Talk about chateau generals! This staff meeting of the commander of the USE army and the major generals in charge of the army’s three divisions was being held in an actual castle.

Well… what the Germans called a “schloss,” at any rate. The word was usually translated in up-time dictionaries as “castle,” but they didn’t resemble the medieval stone fortresses that Americans thought of when they used that term. Most of them, including this one, had been built during or since the Renaissance and they reminded Mike of pocket palaces more than anything else.

The derisive term “chateau generals” came from World War I, and it really wasn’t fair applied to these men. They might be meeting in a castle and enjoying for the moment its little luxuries. The chairs in this particular salon were very nicely upholstered, and the walls seemed to be plastered with portraits. But all of these men would soon enough be on a battlefield and placing themselves in harm’s way.

That included Mike, he reminded himself, lest his amusement get out of hand.

The four chairs in the room were not positioned evenly. The chair that Torstensson sat in faced the three chairs of his subordinates, which were arranged in a shallow arc. Torstensson’s chair seemed slightly more luxurious, too. A large, low table was positioned in the center. Americans would have called it a coffee table.

After he took his seat, Torstensson was silent for a moment. He was giving Mike a look that he couldn’t interpret. Slightly embarrassed, perhaps, although that would be quite out of character for the man.

Brunswick-Lüneburg smiled again, even more cheerfully than before. “Poor Lennart! A rustic Swede, he does not really have the aptitude for Machiavellian maneuvers.”

The duke transferred the smile onto Mike. “He wants to use you as bait for a trap. I’d urge you to refuse, except it really is quite a delightful scheme.”

Torstensson gave him an exasperated look. “Stop clowning, would you? Michael, if we eliminate the buffoonery, what George says is true enough.”

Mike spread his hands a little, inviting the Swedish general to continue. But before he could say anything, Knyphausen spoke up.

“The thing is, General Stearns, you are a neophyte and the Saxon commander Von Arnim is certainly feeling desperate by now.”

The professional soldier had a lean and very long-nosed face that naturally lent itself to lugubrious expressions. He had such an expression now. “Poor bastard, with John George for an employer.”

He seemed genuinely aggrieved at the plight faced by the Saxon general. Mike had to fight down another grin. Professional soldiers in the Thirty Years War tended to have a thoroughly guild-like mindset, when it came to their attitudes toward other officers. There were some exceptions like Heinrich Holk, who were generally despised. But for the most part generals on opposite sides of the battlefield were more likely to feel a closer kinship to their opponent than either one of them felt for their employers.

Knyphausen leaned back, apparently satisfied that his cryptic references to Mike’s inexperience and Von Arnim’s difficulties had made everything clear.

Mike looked back at Torstensson. “Could you perhaps be a bit more precise?”

Torstensson now tugged at his ear. “Well… The thing is, Michael, I would like you to behave recklessly in the coming battle. Pretend to behave recklessly, rather.”

Brunswick-Lüneburg’s smile seemed fixed in smile. “What he’d really prefer would be for you to act the poltroon at the coming battle. Flee at the first sign of a Saxon attack.”

“Much as the Saxons did themselves at Breitenfeld,” chimed in Knyphausen.

Torstensson gave them both an exasperated glance. “Actually, no. As a theoretical exercise, that would be indeed ideal. But battlefields don’t lend themselves well to abstractions. A rout, once started — whether in fakery or not — is extraordinarily hard to stop. And I don’t actually want your division to leave the field.”

Mike settled back in his seat and once again had to suppress an expression. A sigh, this time, not a grin.

“Let me guess. The reason you want to undertake such a gambit — which is bound to be risky, especially with a divisional commander as inexperienced as I am — is because you figure we’ll be outnumbered in the coming battle.”

“You do have an experienced and capable staff,” pointed out George. “Just leave it to them.”

That was not quite blithering nonsense, but close. Mike’s firsthand knowledge of military affairs was limited to a three-year stint as an enlisted man in the up-time American army twenty years back. He’d also done a lot of reading since he’d realized he was most likely going to end up as a general — what Civil War era Americans would have called a “political general” — after he left office as the USE’s prime minister. But he knew enough to know that a good staff could only substitute so far for the character of a unit’s commander.

Torstensson knew it himself, of course. A bit hastily, he added: “Mostly, it will just require steady nerves on your part. And the emperor himself told me he thought you had nerves of steel.”

That last came with a friendly expression. But Mike wasn’t about to let himself get sidetracked by a compliment. It was not really a compliment anyway, since he was pretty sure Gustav Adolf had said that to Lennart in a fit of aggravation due to Mike’s admittedly hard-nosed approach to political negotiations.

“The more interesting issue,” he mused, “is why you expect us to be outnumbered in the coming battle. By all accounts I’ve heard, John George can’t field an army any larger than thirty-five thousand men. That’s an official count, mind you. In the real world, you have to allow for desertion and illness. There’ll be plenty of men just too drunk, too. I’ve been told by — your words, gentlemen, I remind you — my experienced and capable staff, that we won’t actually face more than about twenty-five thousand men on the field of battle.”

Torstensson was looking embarrassed again. Given the nature of the man, that was not something that Mike found at all comforting. The truth was, he did have an excellent staff.

“Our own army — the USE army proper, I mean — officially numbers twenty-seven thousand men. Three divisions, each with a complement of nine thousand officers and enlisted soldiers. Of course, we suffer from desertion, illness and drunkenness too. But certainly not to the same extent as the Saxons. Many of our soldiers are volunteers enlisted by the CoCs, motivated by ideology rather than money. So I’ve been told by — your words, gentlemen, not mine — that same experienced and excellent staff, that we’ll be able to bring at least twenty thousand men onto that battlefield. Probably more like twenty-two or even twenty-three thousand.”

Knyphausen and the duke looked away. Torstensson cleared his throat. Mike pressed on relentlessly.

“Then, of course, we need to add the forces which Gustav Adolf will bring onto the field. Even allowing for the troops he’ll leave stationed against Bernhard and the French in the Rhineland provinces and in the Oberpfalz against Bavaria, as well as large garrisons left in militarily-administered areas like Pomerania, he should still be able to muster a Swedish army numbering around twenty thousand men. And that doesn’t include the sizeable forces that some of the provincial rulers might bring. I was told by my experienced and capable staff — such a charming phrase, too bad I didn’t coin it myself — that Wilhelm V of Hesse-Kassel will bring at least seven thousand additional men.”

“Closer to eight, actually,” said Torstensson. Again, he cleared his throat. “Michael…”

“The way I figure it, we’ll have around fifty thousand men facing an army not much more than half that size. And that’s not allowing for the difference in command. Myself excluded — and allowing for my experienced and capable staff — the quality of our commanding officers greatly exceeds that of the Saxons.”

“Von Arnim’s pretty good,” said Knyphausen stoutly.

The plump duke sniffed. “He’s not the Lion of the North. Nor is he Lennart, for that matter.”

Torstensson had been holding his breath for the past few seconds. Now, he let it out in a rush. “Michael, enough! As you have obviously already deduced, the emperor will not be with us on the field. He and Wilhelm are marching instead into Brandenburg. The USE army will face the Saxons alone.”

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15 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 13

  1. robert says:

    Dodo Freiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen.
    Where is Sid Ceasar when we need him. Or even Mel Brooks.

    Why does Gustav need to go to Brandenburg? Who needs him if THE Richter is going there?

  2. gg says:

    Hmm… a massive Cannae tactic perhaps?

    I wonder if Stearns has read “The Art of War” and “On War” yet…

  3. Mike says:

    Gustav likely is headed to Bradenburg as Gustav’s wife is the sister of the current ruler of Brandenburg. (Margrave I believe is his current title, but since he’s also the Duke of Prussia, not sure which he gets referred to by in casual use)

    Gustav is likely headed there (as opposed to Saxony) due to familial ties. It is also quite likely he could want it to be a territory that is administered on his behalf with himself as the ruler, much like Mecklenburg and Pomerania.

    Hesse-Kassel is likely headed to Bradenburg due to the fact that while the territory as a whole is still predominantly Lutheran, the ruler himself and most of the senior administration is Calvinist.

    If those aren’t reasons enough for Gustav to be there, Brandenburg is also geographically better positioned to attack (or counter-attack) into Poland compared to Saxony. That is, assuming that a comment in a previous snippet about Wallenstein controlling Silesia implies Wallenstein will keep all of Silesia. Silesia effectively shields Saxony from Poland. If Gustav went to Saxony, he’d either need to move through an ally or march around quite a bit. (Wallenstein is an ally of the USE, is he also by default an ally of Sweden? Diplomatically the two are distinct, are right of passage issues default settled or would they be seperately negotiated?)

    The other interesting territory to consider is whether “Saxony” (in whatever form it emerges after the events in this book) still retains control of Lusatia or not. John George earned a big chunk if not all of Lusatia earlier in the war. Will that stay part of Saxony? Will it revert back to Bohemia? (Bohemia, Moravia, Lusatia and Silesia being a grouping more often than not until 30 Years War) Or will Lusatia be its own entity in the USE albeit a small one?

  4. laclongquan says:

    Actually no, I think this time Gustav overstretch.

    I think he got overconfidence and underestimating his enemies, basking in the afterglow of great victories. By dividing his force he intend to reap his small fries in one dual short campaign, preserve his force for Poland later. He counted on his generals and soldiers to won battles with nearly equal odds.

    Mind you, it may possibly work out, but it’s awfully risky in my book.

    Anyway, dont think that’s reading books can substitute for actual aptitude and experience.

  5. robert says:

    @4 “experienced and capable staff” have the aptitude and experience. Mike has the leadership qualities to complement that experience.

  6. robert says:

    Oh, I forgot. Gustav is a far better General than anyone in Brandenburg, even if the Poles intervene. And THE Richter will also be coming to raise the guerilla forces and make sure that self-determination is one of the conditions of the post-war.

  7. Terranovan says:

    @3: I think that the ruler of Brandenburg (aka Gustav II Adolf’s brother-in-law) is the Elector of Brandenburg. Some searching on Wikipedia turns out that he’s the Margrave as well – and the duke of Prussia.
    Link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_William,_Elector_of_Brandenburg

  8. Jason says:

    actually when the USE army throws down on the Saxons the combat power will probably swing more to the USE than you think.

    1. Better arms and Doctrine = The USE army is entirely musket armed Napoleonic or Civil War armed Army. The Saxons are your typical Pike and Musket Army of the 40 years war era now you can expect that part of his army might have better weapons like some of the flintlocks that Suhl was making but, but the rest of the army will be Pike and Matchlock.

    2. Better Command and Control = Radio, Radio, Radio,You can bet that the USE army will have radio communication at least at the Divisional level and possibly down to the regimental level. That mean Torstensen can instantly give order to the divisional commander who then can pass them on to thier subordinates thus giving them unmatched reaction speed.

    3. Morale = The Last battle the Saxons fought was Brietenfield and well…… they ran like little girls at the first cavalry charge. The USE army on the other had has been blooded with an incredibly succseful campaign by breaking the French at Ahrensbruck.

  9. laclongquan says:

    Logistic! Always plan your campaign with logistic and finance in minds. Even if you can win decisively, those two matters will limit what actions you can take after victories.

    Their limits make Gustave play a risky hands in trying to squash small fries simultanously, betting on his generals and soldiers. Beside If he dont get some quick campaigns in, when the French return he will face serious problems since their guns are equal (maybe even better) Turenne has an extremly capable staff, and a very fine calvary force. The window of opportunity is opened only for a short time, see.

    And Richter? Whoever said she’s Gustav’s ally? Fellow travellers for a time, that’s all. And CoC is too busy consolidating in Netherlands and Franconia to support naked imperialism. Hum!

  10. Mike says:

    @8 – While radio will likely have some benefit, one of the stories from the Gazettes (I think the title was Little Jammer Boys) spoke of the sons of the Elector of Saxony developing Radio Jammers. Those were intended to prevent people using crystal radio sets to listen to VOA, and I’m not certain how those would impact other radio frequencies. I know very very little about radio, so not sure if it would even work against military radio. Moving beyond whether it is even effective, there are the issues of how many could the Saxons actually have developed, the jammer’s effective range, and – the big one – whether Eric includes them in his stories at all.

  11. Mike says:

    @9 Regarding future wars with France – it was somewhat of an aside conversation – but there was conversation in 1635 Tangled Web dealing with chasing down the four Irish colonels involved in the kidnapping of Abbot of Fulda that there was a campaign by both Duke Bernhard and the King in the Low Countries that absorbed everything between them (Archbishopric of Cologne on down through Lorraine). The comment was made that it made it so those two rulers were now buffers between the USE and France. A very narrow buffer, but still no direct contact. There were also comments made that all of that campaign would be clearer in 1635 Wars on the Rhine. More or less, I don’t think France will be in position to attack the USE unless it wants to go through a territory that might provoke a war. Turenne’s last raid ended up with his host at the midway point in Germany getting annexed. Not a scenario anyone would like to repeat.

  12. ET1swaw says:

    @3 AFAIK Lusatia OTL didn’t go to Saxony until 1635. NTL Wallenstein should still own it (except for Cottbus, Brandenburg owns that).
    @11 Don’t forget France/Richeliu is currently trying to stave off civil war and that Duke Berhard’s playpen and Lorraine are narrow buffer states.

  13. Damon says:

    Since I don’t know a better place to ask this, does anyone know if any story so far talks about Frank and Gabriella getting rescued or released in Rome?

  14. Mike says:

    @12a – Lusatia was given to administration by Saxony in 1620 by Ferdinand (until he could pay them) for Saxony intervening on the Emperor’s side against Frederick before White Mountain. In OTL, 1635 Peace of Prague, Ferdinand handed it over to Saxony officially as part of the peace process. In NTL, it is currently occupied by Saxony. The Ring of Fire map (dated to right after “the 1634 campaigns”) shows Lusatia as being part of Saxony. (Zittau and Gorlitz are both part of Saxony) It does have the Cottbus cutout which would be Brandenburg. That beign the case, it is part of Saxony in NTL.
    @12b – France in near civil war plus Spanish backing for Gaston (ref: 1635 Cannon Law) pretty much ensures France won’t be attacking USE through that corridor anytime soon. Narrow buffers they might be, but the troop concentration is significant.

  15. laclongquan says:

    Reread the novels again, gentlemen, esp the later part of 1634 Baltic War, when Mike discuss future plans with Gustavus.

    Gustavus plan to smash those two small fries, okay. But he also plan to smash Poland too. And all this must happen before French’s instability end. Which is about 2-3 years,max. He doesnt fear French troops per se, but her Machiavellian schemes of which Richelieu is famous for.

    Do remember that French troops die very few during this League of Ostend campaign. The Cardinal only use money and scheme to do this thing, his troops were heading toward America to absorb the English lands that he bought. Only insanes can underestimate what Richelieu cando once his hands are no longer tied.

    And I repeat, Richter and CoC are not Gustavus’ lackeys. They help in squashing those two provinces because those small fries stabbed CPE’s back, so now it’s the time to teach betrayers a lesson. But war with Poland? Hah.

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