1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 14

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 14:

By now, Mike had figured out the truth. But he was tired of people dancing around it — starting with Gustav Adolf himself. He was damn well going to get someone to admit it out loud.

“In short, he proposes to divide his forces in order to fight two enemies simultaneously. A military error so basic and egregious — even a neophyte like me knows that much — that it is inconceivable that a general as demonstrably superb as Gustav Adolf would commit it –”

Brunswick-Lüneburg started to say something but Mike drove over it. “– unless he had what a suspicious soul would call ‘ulterior motives.'”

This time Torstensson tried to interrupt but Mike drove over him too. “And the only such motive a suspicious soul like me can discern is that Gustav Adolf is bound and determined to defeat Saxony and Brandenburg quickly enough to leave most of the campaigning season available for some other purpose. Such purpose, of course, being an invasion of Poland.”

He paused, finally.

After a moment, Torstensson said: “Well. Yes. That is his plan.” A bit hastily he added: “We have it on good authority that the Poles will be sending a contingent to join the Saxons. So you might say they will begin the hostilities themselves.”

Mike chuckled, quite humorlessly. “Exactly how big a contingent are we talking about, Lennart?”

“Not… big.”

The duke’s chuckle, on the other hand, had some real humor in it. “To be precise, one small unit of hussars. But the commander is an Opalinski.”

“In other words, a pretext.” Mike gave Torstensson a level gaze. “I don’t suppose there’s any point in expressing my conviction that launching a major war against Poland is folly.”

Torstensson shook his head. “No, Michael, there is not. You’ve made your opinion on this subject clear enough in the past. On several occasions, to the emperor himself. Very bluntly, too.”

The two men stared at each other for a few seconds. Then Torstensson said: “You may resign your commission, of course.”

Mike shook his head. “In for a penny, in for a pound. Gustav Adolf is the head of state of the United States of Europe. Yes, he’s also the king of Sweden and so on and so forth, but that doesn’t matter here. He’s the commander in chief, according to our constitution — and I signed that constitution myself. So whatever I think of the wisdom of his decisions, I’m duty bound to obey them.”

“That constitution does not oblige you to serve personally, Michael,” George pointed out. “I’ve studied your up-time history, you know. So, yes, your President Truman fired your general McDonald’s — no, was it McCarthy? — but no one including him felt that McWhateverhisname was obliged to continue serving in the army.”

“Technically speaking, you’re right. But there are political issues involved here. Given the history of the USE — which is less than two years old, remember — and my position in that history, it would be dangerous for me to resign my commission over an issue like this one.”

“A battlefield is likely to be far more risky,” said Knyphausen, “especially one where you’re directed to behave recklessly.”

“I wasn’t referring to the personal danger to me. I was referring to the danger to the nation.”

There was silence, for a moment. Then the Frisian professional soldier nodded his head. “Well spoken, Michael,” he said softly.

“Say better, well done,” chimed in George. He gave Mike another of those cheerful smiles that seemed to come readily to the man. “Maybe there’s something to this ‘Prince of Germany’ business after all.”

Torstensson made a derisive sound. Close to a snort, but not quite. “Don’t say that in front of the emperor,” he muttered. The Swedish general pointed to one of the several side tables against the walls of the room, this one covered with maps instead of bottles of wine. “If you would, Dodo.”

Knyphausen rose and went over, then came back with one of the maps and spread it across the low table in the center. As soon as he’d done so, Torstensson leaned over and pointed to a place on the map. After a few seconds to orient himself, Mike realized that the Swedish general was pointing at Leipzig. Near it, rather.

“In this area, gentlemen,” said Torstensson. “I think the battle will happen here. It’s good, flat terrain that will favor the Saxon cavalry.”

“Favor our APCs too,” grunted Knyphausen.

Mike cocked an inquisitive eye at Torstensson. “We’re going to use the APCs against the Saxons? For God’s sake, why?”

Before Torstensson could answer, Mike waved his hand. “Never mind. Same reason.”

Torstensson nodded. Mike leaned back in his chair, and couldn’t help issuing a sigh. “Well, I say it’s stupid — and I don’t care if Gustav Adolf is a certified military genius and I’m just a grunt. It’s still stupid. Saxony is not one of the great military powers of Europe, and those so-called ‘APCs’ are just armored coal trucks — which we can’t replace. Not for years, at any rate. So why use them in this war? I leave aside the fact that the things are fuel hogs, and USE oil production still hasn’t recovered from Turenne’s raid on the Wietze oil fields during the Baltic War.”

Torstensson had a pained expression on his face. “Michael…”

“Never mind,” said Mike, waving his head. “I know it’s pointless to pursue the matter. I just want my opinion on the record.”

The decision to use the APCs was just another indication of how determined Gustav Adolf was to start a war with the Poles as soon as possible. He was willing to use the APCs now rather than hold them back, even though Poland was a much stronger military power than Saxony — or Saxony and Brandenburg combined, for that matter.

But Mike’s objection would just be overruled, and Mike would be stuck in the same bind he was stuck in now. The USE was simply too new and too unstable for him to risk precipitating a political crisis. Especially since he had mixed feelings on the subject, anyway. On the one hand, he thought the Polish situation did not lend itself well to military solutions. On the other hand…

Who could say for sure? The old saying “you can’t export a revolution with bayonets” certainly had some truth. But a lot of it was just wishful thinking, too. Mike had read a great deal of history since the Ring of Fire, and one of the things he couldn’t help notice was how often history was shaped by the outcome of wars. Napoleon was often denounced as a tyrant, but the fact remained that many of the revolutionary changes he made were not overturned after his defeat — not even by those he’d defeated and forced to accept those changes.

So… There was no way of knowing the outcome of a war between the USE and Poland. If was possible, in the event of a clear cut USE victory, that serfdom in eastern Europe would be destroyed. Not by Gustav Adolf and his armies, maybe. But one thing you could be sure of was that Gretchen Richter and her Committees of Correspondence would be coming into Poland on the heels of those armies. And they hated serfdom with a passion.

In fact, they were already there. Mike knew from his correspondence with Morris Roth in Prague that Red Sybolt and his radical cohorts were active in Poland. Possibly even in the Ukraine by now.

On balance, he thought a military approach to eradicating serfdom in eastern Europe had far more risks than benefits. Still, it was tempting. Military solutions had the great advantage of being clear and definite.

Appearing to be, at any rate. Often, though, that was just a mirage. Mike’s close friend Frank Jackson was a Vietnam veteran, and could expound for hours on the stupidity of politicians who thought a map was the territory.

He looked back down at the map in front of him and wondered if he was looking at another such mirage.

“Near Lützen, then,” said George. “Hopefully, this time there will be a better outcome.”

In the universe Mike had come from, the Swedes had won the battle of Lützen in 1632 — but Gustav Adolf had also been killed there. So, a tactical victory had become a strategic defeat.

“I will not be leading a reckless cavalry charge,” said Torstensson firmly.

But that didn’t really matter, thought Mike. There were a thousand ways that tactical victories could turn into strategic defeats.

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19 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 14

  1. Papertiger says:

    The foreshadowing in this passage scares me. Will they loose the APC’s or Mike. Maybe just destroy Mike’s credibility?

  2. Alan says:

    There seems to be some confusion about who is commander-in-chief in the USE. In 1634 The Baltic War, Chapter 68:

    ‘Simpson nodded again. Even more stiffly than before. Then, very quietly, he said, “It is a pleasure to have you as my commander-in-chief, Prime Minister Stearns.”

    The political science of this series needs a touch more consistency.

  3. Paul Conwell says:

    Look back a couple of snippets and you’ll see reference to his being voted out of office and immediately being given a generalship by Gustav Adolph. As PM Mike was commander-in-chief of the USE while Gustav is and was the Head of State, a step above Mike.

  4. Gordon says:

    There’s no inconsistency, 1634 Mike was Prime Minister, in 1635, his party lost the election so he’s free to serve. You’ve not read the intervening book/stories? I like how this story is shaping up.

  5. Virgil says:

    wHEN WAS THE USE formed, wasnt there a CSE first, I thought the USE was founded after teh baltic war asn part of that ws the fall of denmark and joining them in the something or other lol.

    MIKE is not saying it was dangerous to use the APC in Saxony but that they are unnecessary and should be saved for Poland since Gustav is determine to fight them. and Poland is much more stronger.

    If the Saxony got lucky and took out some of the APC then the USE is weaken unnecesary.

  6. frederic says:

    @Gordon,

    Yes, actually there is, as far as I can tell. Who’s the commander in chief, per the constitution, the prime minister or the emperor? Mike was prime minister in 1634; now it’s Wettin. Gustav Adolf is emperor. As I don’t remember a constitution change between the two books, the commander in chief status should be vested in the same office in both books.

  7. Alan says:

    If being prime minister made Mike commander-in-chief in 1634, why does being prime minister not make Wettin commander-in-chief in 1625? In the alternative, if being emperor and head of state makes GA commander-in-chief ‘under the constitution’ according to Mike in 1635 why did it not give him that role in 1634? For the record I’ve read the entire series.

  8. Damonby says:

    I asked this at the tail end of the last snippet. Does anyone know if any story to date has dealt with Frank and Giovanna’s release/jail break from Rome, or this also a possible thread to this book?

  9. Paul C says:

    In the US there is a federal army, the US Army. There are also the state militias, who have the state governors as their commanders-in-chief and they are used for state emergencies like floods, but when there is a war, the President can call up the state militias in case of war and, thus, be their commander-in-chief and any claims of command by the governors is suspended. I’m not certain that all of Mike’s troops are from the USE, but USE troops are being called up and used in this extension of the war under GA.

    During this period there are many military groups that will follow their leader and loyalty beyond that is at the choice of group’s leader. Nationalism during this period was growing as a concept and often ill-defined and flexible as we’ve seen all through the 1632 world.

  10. Beata says:

    “But the commander is an Opalinski.”- a politician with very limited (if any…) military experience

    “USE oil production still hasn’t recovered from Turenne’s raid on the Wietze oil fields during the Baltic War.” – distance between: Poznan and Wietze 530km (330 miles), Poznan and Kiev 1100 km (680 miles). If Gustav launching a war against Poland we will see a real interesting calavry raid.
    How fast is Commonwealth calavry? Some examples:
    – in February 1657 Stefan Czarniecki’s unit – 280 km (170 miles) in 3 days (but without a fighting);
    – in September 1672 Jan Sobieski in chase of Tatars – about 50 km (30 miles) per day;
    – in 1633 hetman Stanislaw Koniecpolski in chase of Tatars – 200 km (120 miles) in 3 and half days;
    – 1648 panic escape from Pilawce to Lviv – 340 km (210 miles) in 2 and half days…

  11. Damon says:

    Mike’s comment about “you can’t export a revolution with bayonets” was certainly one of the early goals of the French revolution, before Napoleon took it over and made himself Emperor. If you read the English lyrics to “The Marseillaise”, you realize what an all out declaration of class warfare it was.

    If one of the outcomes of Gustav’s military adventures is to export the CofCs to new territories, and they continue to maintain the status of protected political activity, then this time it may well be the exception that proves the rule.

    I am really looking forward to this book!

  12. Damon says:

    @10 I remember reading somewhere that on a long haul trip of any distance that cavalry isn’t much faster than good infantry marching. It takes a lot of supplies and gear to keep a horse in the field on campaign.

    Quick strike short duration cavalry trips can cover a lot of ground, but then you have shot to hell horses that need a lot of down time. Don’t know personally, I’ve never ridden one longer than a few hours at a time, then spent a fair amount of time cleaning and feeding them.

  13. ET1swaw says:

    @8 It will most likely be in Eric’s next book with Andrew Dennis (co-author of ‘Galilleo–‘ and ‘Cannon Law’), possibly titled ‘Barbereini Strike Back’, when they get to writing and publishing it.
    Other books also forthcoming aboout 1634-37 that impinge, but snerk collars abound for people (NOT ME) who have the inside information. Most are by Eric or co-authored with him, so we may await them longingly.

  14. ronzo says:

    I see a volleygun on the cover but I wouldhave thought navy pattern Mitrailluses’ would be put into wider production now that they learned about the french percussion cap work around. That would increase futility of cavalry charges even more. The APCs aren’t only a physical weapon but a psychological one as well as boost for the USE troops moral. Even having them in tactical reserve makes sense, especially if you got transport them in that direction anyways if they end up fighting the polish.

  15. robert says:

    @8 Mike sent Harry Lefferts to get them out. See the very last page of 1635:The Cannon Law, to wit:

    “One jailbreak coming up,” said Harry. “My specialty.”

    As he headed for the door, he said: “It’ll be the talk of Europe.”

    On his way out, he added: “Again.”

    I assume he was talking about the breakout in London.

  16. robert says:

    I mean the London jailbreak with regard to the word “Again.”

  17. Jac says:

    I was just wondering if it has been established that the Swedish army has been equiped similarly to the USE army? Aka flintlock armed, with supporting organ guns? I would assume so but I havent heard anything mentioned about the Swedish army equipment.

  18. @9

    Under FDR’s reorganization of the state militias, there are National Guards, which are partly Federally funded, have officers that must pass Federal standards, and can be called into Federal Service, and State Defense Forces (in three dozen states) (term of art, see the relevant Federal Statute) that are fully state funded, and that cannot be Federalized. [There is also the unorganized militia, not relevant to this discussion.] The State Defense Force was a reaction to WW1 in which the National Guards were Federalized and questions arose about dealing with Forest Fires and riots.

    For some reason I suspect that the USE is a bit simpler, until the CoC militias arise as an issue.

  19. Beata says:

    @12 I have some personal experience with riding, too. But we know only “today” horses. Calavry horses was better because they belong to horseman and nobody want to take risks and spare money. And horsemans had more than one horse.
    BTW I suspect that Malapolski horses are similar to XVII c horses. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapolski

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