1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 20

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 20:

Chapter 10

Northeast of Halle, not far from the Saxon border

The countryside between Magdeburg and Saxony reminded Mike Stearns of the American Midwest, except for the absence of corn and soybeans. The crops being grown were different, but the terrain was much the same — flat, and consisting mostly of open farmland but with quite a few wooded areas scattered about. None of the woods could be called forests, though.

There was one other big difference from the Midwest, but that was not peculiar to this area. It was a common feature throughout central Europe, and Mike suspected you’d find it in Western Europe as well. Unlike the twentieth-century American farm countryside he’d known, with its many scattered individual farmhouses, central European farmers in the seventeenth century all lived in small towns and villages. The farmland itself was largely barren of inhabitants, except during the day when people were working in the fields. By and large, the collective methods and village traditions of the middle ages still applied to farm labor in the German countryside.

To the farmers themselves, at any rate, if not necessarily the aristocracy. Seventeenth century Germany was no longer in any real sense of the term a feudal society. Labor relations might have resisted change, but the same was not true of property relations. In the year 1635, a landlord was just as likely to be a burgher or a well-off farmer as a nobleman — and still more likely to be an institution of some kind rather than a person: a corporation, a city council, a trust, whatever. Still, farmers lived in villages, not in separated and isolated farmhouses; and still, in many ways, worked the land in common.

His musings were interrupted by one of his staff officers, Colonel Christopher Long, who came riding up bearing some new dispatches.

“Anything important?” he asked.

The young colonel shook his head. “Nothing that can’t wait until we make camp this evening.”

The English officer was a professional soldier who’d come to Magdeburg to join the USE army — not the Swedish forces directly under Gustav Adolf, as did most mercenaries from the British Isles. The reason, Mike had discovered from a conversation a few days earlier, was that Long had been in Spanish service when the Spaniards invading Thuringia had been defeated by the Americans near Eisenach.

In fact, the Englishman was one of the survivors of the destruction of the Wartburg. His depiction of the nightmare of trying to escape the castle as it was being consumed by napalm bombs was horrific, for all that he recounted the tale in a matter-of-fact manner. He’d come away from the experience convinced that the trade of war was about to undergo a drastic transformation — and thus had placed himself at the service of those who seemed to be the agents of that change.

In the world Mike had come from, Long’s behavior would have bordered on treason. But nationalism and twentieth-century notions of patriotism were just beginning to emerge from dynasticism, in the seventeenth century. Long’s pragmatic attitude was the norm for professional soldiers in this day and age, not the exception. The only thing which made Long unusual was that, unlike most mercenary officers, he was quite willing to accept the rambunctious behavior of the CoC-influenced enlisted soldiers in the USE army, as the price for gaining the experience he wanted.

After handing over the dispatches, Long studied Mike for a moment and then said: “Your horsemanship is very good, General Stearns. I’m surprised. I’d have thought you’d ride like the average American.”

Mike smiled. “Badly, you mean.”

The tall blond officer shook his head. “That would be unfair, I think. I’ve found that most Americans — assuming they ride horses at all, that is — are reasonably competent at the business. But that’s a long ways short of the sort of horsemanship you need to be a cavalryman.”

Mike’s eyes widened with alarm. “Cavalryman? I thought I was a general. Sit on a horse — way back, you understand — and give orders.”

“Alas, no. Even with the radios we have, I’m afraid command methods haven’t changed all that much and probably won’t for some time.” Long’s grin seemed a bit on the evil side. “The casualty rate among officers in this day and age — oh, yes, generals too — is usually no better than it is for infantrymen and artillerymen and considerably worse than it is for cavalrymen.”

That was definitely an evil smile. “The cavalry can run away, you see. Except the generals, who have stand their ground and set a good example.”

Mike had already discovered that Long’s casual joking with his commanding officer was normal in the army. Whether that was due to seventeenth century custom or the egalitarian influence of the rank and file soldiers, he didn’t know. Some of both, he expected.

He wasn’t going to inquire, though, because whatever the source the attitude suited him just fine. Mike had every intention of succeeding — excelling, actually — at his new occupation. He’d done well at everything he’d turned his hand to in his life, and saw no reason to do otherwise here. But he was not a cocksure fool, either. There was no way a man in his late thirties with no training as an officer and whose only military experience had been a three year term as an enlisted man in the peacetime U.S. army — twenty years back, to boot — was going to transform himself overnight into what Mike thought of as “a regular general.”

Instead, he’d do it his way, by leaning heavily on those traits he already had which he thought would serve him in good stead as a military commander.

First, he was courageous. That wasn’t conceit on his part, it was simply a matter-of-fact assessment. He’d faced enough physical threats in his life to know that his immediate reaction to danger was cool-headedness, not panic. He didn’t think he was probably Medal-of-Honor material, but he didn’t need that sort of superlative bravery. Just enough to keep calm in the middle of a battlefield and think clearly.

Second, he was a very capable leader — and leadership, he thought, probably translated well into any field of endeavor.

Third, he was an experienced organizer. That was, in fact, the channel through which his leadership abilities normally ran. He know how to command outright, and would do so when needed. But his preference and natural inclination was to assemble a capable team and work with them and through them. He saw no reason to think he couldn’t do the same with the staff of an army.

One of the things that would require was a certain relaxation in his dealings with his subordinates. And if that sort of casualness would have appalled most of the officers Mike had known in his stint in the up-time army, so be it. He simply wasn’t worried that familiarity would lead to contempt. Why should it? Nobody who’d even gotten to know Mike Stearns in his first almost four decades of life had been contemptuous of him, not even his enemies. The only reason anyone would start now would be if Mike fumbled his new job.

Which, he had no intention of doing. It would be better to say, didn’t even consider.

And that, of course, was Mike’s fourth relevant trait. His wife Becky had once said — not entirely admiringly — “Michael, you have the self-confidence of a bull.”

Well… Yes. He did.

“And yourself, Christopher? I wouldn’t have imagined an Englishman would ride all that well, either. Your island being so small and all.”

Long chuckled. “We’re lazy. Why walk when you can make a dumb beast do most of the work? And then, of course, I was in Spanish service for a time. Your proper hidalgo considers it a point of honor to spend most of his life in a saddle. It’s an infectious attitude, I found.”

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17 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 20

  1. laclongquan says:

    Cris Long…. I wonder where I read of that name? A Gazette story perhaps. And not even a character, just an appearance, if I remember correctly.

  2. robert says:

    That is Howie Long’s son.

  3. Kelar says:

    “I’ll put a force of mercenaries at your disposal, in addition to your own retainers. The Englishman Christopher Long is their commanding officer. I believe you’ve met him?”

    “Yes. He seems a capable fellow.”

    “He is indeed. More to the point, he was in Spanish service when they were defeated by the Americans near Eisenach and was one of the survivors of the disaster at the Wartburg. So he’s come face to face with them, and their infernal devices.”

  4. reg says:

    Napoleonic Era generals commanded from a tent… weren’t the USE armies supposed to have been upgraded to a Napoleonic level?

    Is Stearns carrying an M-16 that he trained in basic with?

  5. laclongquan says:

    Dont you post back the snippet at me! I can bloody read, right? What I mean is which book/story I read that has Long before? And before you repost your thing havent you reread 1632? Is Long in there, hm?

  6. Mike S says:

    Quite a number of Napoleonic general officers were killed or wounded, even Napoleon, at least twice. It was Marshal Oudinot, I believe, who was wounded 23 times. There was LTG Picton, a British division commander, mortally wounded at Quatre Bras and then killed at Waterloo. Marshals Besseries and Lannes, Generals Desaix, Lasalle, on the French side, Generals Ross, Packenham, Marchant, and Craufurd, on the British. The names and numbers are quite long. Bluecher’s horse was shot out from under him at Ligny and he was ridden over by cava charges, one French and one Prussian. Scharnhorst was mortally wounded. Bagration was killed. Even in the Civil War, several generals were killed or wounded, Jackson, Longstreet, A.P. Hill, Ewell, Staurt, Claiborne on the CSA side, Hooker, McPherson, Kearney, Reynolds, O.O. Howard, Hancock, Sedgewick on the USA side.
    Command before wireless radios required a general to position himself where could maintain visibility over the battlefield. If a large army was involved, a general would have to move about the battlefield to maintain situational awareness, as Wellington did at Waterloo. This meant that an army commander would be at least within artillery range of the enemy, while corps, division and brigade commanders would be within artillery, rifle and musket range. But even an Army commander would often have to move forward to get a better idea of a situation when reports were not forthcoming, infrequent or inadequate, exposing him to the random musker, rifle or cannon shot. There was also the morale component of a general being seen by his troops as in command and control of the situation. Wellington once supposedly said that Napoleon on the field was equal to 40,000 troops, not just because of his operational or tactical skills, but because of the morale effect he had on a French Army. The same could be siad of Wellington, who, while not loved by his troops, had earned their full confidence. And then there was that situation where nothing remained but to ride forward and expose yourself to rally the troops, whether you were the Archduke Charles, Bluecher, Massena, or Ney.

  7. Mark L says:

    @1 Kit Long was a friend of the English captain that escorted King Charles in “1635: The Baltic War.” He had been thinking about how much smarter Long had been to join up with the Americans rather than remain in England serving Charles.

  8. robert says:

    @3 Please give citations/references when you post something from another story or book.
    @5 Testy, aren’t we. I think sarcasm rather than rage might be more appropriate. It is just a fiction, you know.

    From 1632, hardcover p. 420:
    “Give me a break,” snorted Mike. “The day I become a military genius is the day hell freezes over.” He handed the radio back to Gayle. “Call Frank and tell him about the change in plans. I want to go talk to Alex.”

    Weather Report-Hell High -5 degrees C.

  9. Mike S says:

    I believe Kelar (@3) is referring to Snippet #10 and the conversation in Poland?
    However, given the distance and time, I rather doubt that the Christopher Long mentioned is COL Cris Long, since it would have taken some time for the COL to travel from Poland, join the USE Army, reach the rank of COL and get assigned to Stearn’s staff. Probably just a small glitch on the part of the author on a draft of a draft of a book, which is what we are seeing here.

  10. laclongquan says:

    Ah, yeah. I remember that sentence. No collection of the name of that officer, but I do remember that scene and the gist of it. 1634 Baltic War is probably the best book of major novels of this series

  11. robert says:

    @10 I think you should reread 1632 if you think The Baltic War was the best of the major novels. Baltic War was the second best, not the best.

    @9 I disagree. They two snippets refer to the same man: both Christopher Long’s were at Wartburg and served the Spanish per the description in both snippets. That is not a coincidence. So the question is not necessarily a glitch in the draft (it could be, but c’mon) but rather what the heck is going on!?!

  12. Sean Maxwell says:

    Responding to “robert @11”: there can only be _one_ Christopher Long, and he is either 1) a mole planted recently by the good guys, or 2) a mole planted long [sic; he’s a _Colonel_] ago by the bad guys, or 3) he’s an editing error.

    I agree that _1632_ is the best novel of the series, and is in the top three of all prose in this series. This is because it was more thoroughly and skillfully edited than anything else in the series. If this kingdom were to be lost, it were for the lack of a blue pencil.

  13. laclongquan says:

    1632 is good in a new kid in town kind. Everything is shiny even with the stormcloud overhead. But to compare that with 1634 BW? Hum.

  14. It was considerably more dangerous to be a platoon or company commander in the British Army in the First World War than to be an infantryman; you had to get above Major before your level of risk sank below than of a member of the PBI. (Poor Bloody Infantry). My grandfather was gassed at 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele) in 1917 as a newly-minted Lieutenant.

    That’s why the British upper classes suffered proportionately more deaths than the lower in WWI, that and having a lower rejection rate as medically unfit for military service. Over a quarter of the Old Etonians and others from the major “public” (private, in Britspeak) schools in the appropriate age groups were killed in 1914-1918, as opposed to less than half that of the same groups in the general population. More than half the total were wounded, often seriously. Their enlistment rates ran over 92%. They were expected to lead their men into battle, not push them, and to set an example of personal courage, and they did.

    For that matter, 77 British -generals- were killed in action in the First World War, and many more wounded. Say what you like about the British gentry and aristocracy, they’ve never been ‘shy’.

  15. laclongquan says:

    Well, they didnt get their shining empire from sunrise to sunrise for being shy, that’s for certain.

    Still, it looks like this timeline the English shall not have their rise for a long long time.

  16. robert says:

    @14 Hello. One of my favorite authors is posting. How great is that. Wish we could post comments on Buckley’s site where the new book, The High King of Montival, is being snippeted.

    Please write more about the Peshawar Lancers.

    @13 You really should reread 1632. It is the best written and most nuanced book in the series. Now 1635 BW WAS fun, especially the parts in London, but there was too much clowning around in other parts.

  17. in order to have good busines practice, good labor relations is very important.’-;

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