1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 32

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 32

From atop the closest thing his scouts could find to a hill — it was really just a hillock, a slight rise in the landscape — Hans Georg von Arnim studied the surroundings. And, just as Eric Krenz had done, mused on the fact that in another universe the king of Sweden had died in battle not far from this very place.

Exactly where, no one knew. The up-time accounts referred to “the battle of Lutzen,” but provided few details. The battle hadn’t taken place in the town itself but in some field nearby. There was supposed to have been a monument erected where Gustav Adolf died, but of course that did not exist in the world on this side of the Ring of Fire.

Von Arnim himself had once been in Swedish service, for several years. That had been two decades back, not long after Gustav Adolf ascended the throne. The new Swedish king had been seventeen years old at the time. He was only nineteen when Arnim came into his employ.

That had been a long time ago. Two decades. Two decades during which von Arnim, like most professional soldiers of the time, had served many employers. Having been born in Brandenburger Land, naturally enough he’d begun his military career as a soldier for the duchy of Prussia. That had been before Prussia was absorbed by Brandenburg. He’d had to leave hastily due to a duel, which was how he’d wound up on the Swedish payroll.

From there, he’d fought for the Poles for a time. In 1624, Wallenstein — then a general for the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II — had hired him. Just a few years later, the Austrian emperor sent an army to support the Polish king Sigismund III against the Swedes. Arnim had been one of the commanders of those forces.

So, on June 17, 1629, he’d faced Gustav Adolf at the battle of Trzciana. His Polish allies had been commanded by Stanislaw Koniecpolski. That had been a ferocious battle, which ended with a slight advantage for the Poles and imperials. But the Austrian troops had mutinied when the Poles failed to pay them, and von Arnim had wound up leaving imperial service in disgust and going to work for the Elector of Saxony.

Two years later, in one of the twists that were so common in the Thirty Years War, von Arnim had wound up fighting alongside Gustav Adolf again, when he met Tilly at the battle of Breitenfeld. That had been a great victory for the Swedish king, but the Saxon troops had been ignominiously routed early in the battle.

However, von Arnim himself had not been blamed for the fiasco. It would have been hard to do so, since the Elector John George had been present on that battlefield himself and had been one of the first to flee. So von Arnim had remained in Saxon service.

Today, he was regretting it. For the past four years, the Elector of Saxony had generally refused to listen to von Arnim’s advice. That was true with matters both large and small.

With regard to the largest, John George had ignored von Arnim’s advice when the Ostend War broke out. Von Arnim had been confident that Gustav Adolf would eventually emerge triumphant, and thus it would be folly not to support him as Saxony was required to do by the provisions of the agreement which had set up the Confederated Principalities of Europe.

But the Elector had chosen to do otherwise. He’d been resentful for years at Gustav Adolf’s pre-eminence among the Protestant nations and principalities of Europe, and John George was unfortunately prone to being sullen and stubborn. His legal argument was based on a differing interpretation of the relevant provisions of the CPE agreement, but von Arnim was sure that the Elector’s real motive was profoundly irrational. He felt he’d been dragooned against his will into the CPE by Gustav Adolf’s bullying — which was true enough, of course — and now with the Ostend War he saw a chance to get out and regain his independence.

In purely legal terms, John George’s position was probably as valid as Gustav Adolf’s. Those provisions were not what anyone would call a model of clarity. But regardless of the letter of the agreement, John George was certainly breaking its spirit — and the king of Sweden was just as certain to become furious over the issue. Politics and the law were related but ultimately quite different realms. If Gustav Adolf did triumph over the Ostenders, as von Arnim thought he would and John George insisted he wouldn’t, the repercussions on Saxony would be severe.

So it had proved. Once again, Hans Georg von Arnim would face the forces of Gustav Adolf on a battlefield.

Not Gustav Adolf himself, though. Saxon spies had said the Swedish king was taking his own forces north to do battle with Brandenburg. More importantly, since von Arnim had no great confidence in the Elector’s espionage apparatus, the Poles said the same. It had become clear to von Arnim that Koniecpolski had a very capable spy network in the USE.

Unfortunately, Koniecpolski would be absent from the coming battle. The Polish Sejm was still squabbling over whether or not to come to the aid of Saxony and Brandenburg. King Wladyslaw IV wanted to do so, but without the Sejm’s agreement Koniecpolski would not move. And the king was not foolish enough to think his will could over-ride that of the Grand Hetman of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

So, there was only a token Polish force here. Cold-bloodedly, von Arnim intended to order them into the thick of the battle. They’d probably suffer terrible casualties. If von Arnim managed to fend off the USE army — he had no real hope of defeating them — and could prolong the war, then the bloodshed by those young Polish hussars might be enough to tip the scale in the Sejm. Their commander was an Opalinski. If all went well, he might be killed himself.

****

“You watch,” grumbled Lubomir Adamczyk. “That Saxon bastard’s going to get us all killed.”

Lukasz Opalinski glanced at the young hussar riding next to him. “He’s Prussian, actually.”

Adamczyk sneered. “What’s the difference? They’re all Lutherans.”

Lukasz thought most Brandenburgers were Calvinists, although he wasn’t sure what von Arnim’s own beliefs were. But there was no point discussing that with Lubomir. Like most hussars, Adamczyk’s range of knowledge and interests was limited. It certainly didn’t include delving into the fine distinctions between Protestant sects. Why bother? None of them were Catholic and thus all of them were damned. Question closed.

When it came to military matters, on the other hand, Lubomir was no dimwit. Opalinski thought his assessment of the current situation was quite accurate. Von Arnim would try to get them killed. A number of them, anyway.

Allowing for perhaps excessive ruthlessness, though, Lukasz didn’t really blame him that much. The Saxon Elector had placed his army commander in an exceedingly difficult position. Von Arnim, with no significant advantage in numbers, had to face the same army that had recently crushed the French at Ahrensbök. Even allowing that the reputation of the French army had probably been overblown, no one really doubted that it had still been superior to the Saxon army. It was just a fact that the only significant feat of arms of Saxony’s forces in recent times had been their ignominious routing at Breitenfeld, less than four years earlier.

Von Arnim had only two factors in his favor. The first was that one of Torstensson’s three top lieutenants was the American Mike Stearns. However capable Stearns might have been a political leader, he had no significant military experience. Von Arnim would surely concentrate his attack on Stearns’ units. If, by doing so, he could at least achieve a stalemate at this coming battle…

…and if the small Polish contingent which had come to join him should happen to suffer sadly severe casualties in the doing…

…especially if one of those casualties was from the very influential Opalinski family…

Well, then. Who could say? Perhaps the notoriously temperamental Polish Sejm might cease its bickering and unite furiously in the cause of avenging their wrongs.

No, Lukasz didn’t much blame the Saxon commander. On the other hand, he had no intention of obliging him, either.

He leaned in his saddle toward Adamczyk. “Remember. We’re mostly just here to observe.”

Lubomir made a face. “On a battlefield, that’s a lot easier said than done.”

Alas, true.

****

Looking across the field at the Saxon army as it came into position, Thorsten Engler felt nervous. Unusually so, he thought. He couldn’t remember feeling this nervous when the battle of Ahrensbök began.

But at Ahrensbok he’d just been a non-commissioned officer in charge of a single volley gun battery. Today, he was a captain in charge of an entire company.

No, it was worse than that. Thanks to the whim of a princess, he was now the Imperial Count of Narnia. A silly title, but it had apparently been enough to draw the attention of the division commander, General Stearns.

And so, Thorsten Engler had been brought into the subtle plans of Stearns and his own commander, General Torstensson, where most officers had not. And so, he’d learned of the trap they hoped to lay for the Saxon commander, von Arnim.

Traps require bait, of course. And so, Thorsten had discovered his role in the coming battle.

Not as bait, though. Oh, no, it was much worse than that. He was the fellow — a child-princess’ fantasy of a fairy-tale count — who had to go charging in and rescue the bait after the trap had been sprung and the monster had it in his teeth.

One thing had not changed from Ahrensbok, though. Before they began, battles were magnificent. Things of beauty, you could even say. At no other time and place in the world could you see so many men moving together in such immense formations. And all of it to music, too. (Admittedly, the instrumentation was limited. Bugles, fifes and drums only.) It was as if the battlefield was an gigantic stage and an enormous ballet was about to begin.

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19 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 32

  1. jeff bybee says:

    looking forward to the sctual book but am very greatfull to get these snippits. thankyou

  2. Mike S says:

    Now I am going to rant.

    Open rant:

    “Organ guns” Ahhhrrrggghhh! The damn things didn’t work in the American Civil War with percussion caps. A couple of skirmishes in the field and they were restricted to covered positions, which is why they were called “bridge” guns. These have to use open powder trails, which means the train can be broken or incolpete by a hurried crew or the powder can get wet.

    Napoleon said that the best way to embarass good infantry was to give them guns. When he went back to regimental guns it was because of the declining proficiency of his infantry.

    Given the available technology, the best bet would have been to go with:

    Infantry support (if you must, I wouldn’t) – 12 pounder Dahlgren bronze smooth boore “boat” guns on the wrought iron landing carriage. Firing canister to 250-300m and shell and case (shrapnel) to 750m at a rate of fire of up to 3 rounds per minute.

    Horse artillery – 2.67in Parrot rifles, cast iron on the Rodman method with extended wrought iron bands and 9 pounder smooth bore bronze “Napoleons” (the Columbia Arsenal of the CSA cast some in 1864 because the 12pdr light gun, Model of 1857 (the Napoleon) was to heavy for cavalry, especially when the CSA had to cut their gun teams back to four horses).

    Field artillery – 3in Parrot rifles and 12pdr Napoleons

    Heavy artillery – 20pdr Parrot rifles

    Civil war artillery was almost immune to weather as long as the powder in the caissons could be kept dry. Fixed rounds, tin cartridges, friction primers, Borman fuzes all worked to give artillery an all weather fire power.

    End Rant: Your pateince is appreciated.

  3. alejo says:

    Oh, the anticipation! Oh, the wait! The plot thickenet.

  4. robert says:

    Wouldn’t it be funny (and Eric-y) if Thorsten captured Lukasz Opalinski? What’s the next step up from Imperial Count of Narnia? Or does he just get a promotion to Brigadier?

  5. Mark L says:

    @4 It would be hilarious because the only rewards Thorsten would get would be worthless to him. At a minimum he would be “mentioned in dispatches” — the dream of every young officer on the make because it would help secure promotion. But totally useless to Thorsten because he wants to pursue a civilian career as a psychologist. Or he gets a promotion (more work and responsibility -ugh!). He does get ransom, but that goes to the widows and orphans fund — again useless. In fact, Thorsten is more and more reminds me of the Swiss mercenary in George Bernard Shaw’s play “Arms and The Man.” More concerned about his civilian obligations than his military ones.

  6. Beata says:

    “Remember. We’re mostly just here to observe.” So Thorsten will have no chance captured Lukasz Opalinski… because hussars will stay in place.
    For Sejm it’s only Opalinski’s family business (like False Dmitriy case in Russia Time of Troubles) and Von Arnim feel too optimistic.

  7. Dave O says:

    Von Armin intends to fight the battle the way Torstensson predicted: by attacking Stearns’ division. My guess is that Torstensson will position Stearns in the center of his line, and try to rerun Cannae. Stearns retreats until Von Armin pushes enough troops into the bag, then stops, supported by Engler’s Organ guns and the flank divisions surround and destroy Von Armin’s army. It helps a lot when the other side fights the battle you want him to.

    #2 The organ guns were deployed in battle and were successful. Maybe G’s army is better trained than Union soldiers. In downtime battles, Cavalry was the decisive arm until the ROF. In the Civil War it was never, well hardly ever, used in that role.

  8. jorge says:

    Now i get why polish troops seems to be ataking in the same direction of USE troops, refering to the ilustration of the book. they are not, they are running away.

  9. laclongquan says:

    IT’s a twist!

    Highly possible that American forces (Thorsten, Mike) capture Polish force nearly casualty-free, thus neatly prevent the scenario Von Arnim designed. Everyone breath reliefs.

    Alas, the assassination in Sweden point toward Polish royal element and Gustavus muster his Battalions. To War!

  10. Mike S says:

    7# If “organ guns” successful, why didn’t they replace the 3in Ordnance Rifles in the Union horse artillery? There were no “organ guns” at any of the major battles from 1862 on. If Flint and Drake didn’t want to do Gatling guns, why not the Ager “coffee mill” gun which was used successfully at a couple of cavalry skirmishes (perhaps this is the gun you were really thinking of?)? Or the later Nordenfelt which did not have moving barrels. Or the Gorgon CSA rapid fire cannon?

    Given the situation where the use of copper or brass primed cartridges is not available, then the use of prepared cartridge holders, like those used in the navy’s “Militereuae” (which is very much a Vandenberg “volley gun”) would be indicated. The original French “Militereuse” was carriage mounted and equal in weight to light artillery. Why not that device instead of “organ guns”. The Ager gun worked well as long as there was a supply of steel cartridge holders as did the early Gatlings. There are several historical alternatives to a weapon relying on an open powder train for firing.

  11. Mark L says:

    @10 Organ guns did not replace artillery in the ACW because repeating breechloading rifles worked better than organ guns. Functionally an organ gun is just a bunch of repeating rifles linked together. So a squad of dismounted cavalrymen firing repeating rifles gives the same firepower as an organ gun, but with more flexibility and less hardware.

    In the 163X world, except for those brought back in the the ROF, repeating rifles do not yet exist. So organ guns are useful.

  12. robert says:

    @10 & @11 Please check the cover art at
    http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2010/07/26/1635-the-eastern-front-snippet-32/
    and let those of us who are not gun people know what you think the correct nomenclature should be. The cover art looks like an organ gun, not a volley gun. But what do I know…

    Mike S.: I think the same gun was used in the battle against the French et al in The Baltic War and seemed to be successful, but maybe the author made it so.

  13. Beata says:

    About cover art – it’s King’s hussars not Opalinski’s. See http://www.hussar.com.pl/galerie-zdjeciowe/rolka-sztokholmska-fragmenty It’s: the Wedding Procession of Constance of Austria and Sigismund III into Cracow, so-called Stockholm Roll.

  14. Terranovan says:

    @ 12 & 13 robert: I’ve heard it said that authors get little or no say in what goes on the cover of their books. So there!

  15. Robert Krawitz says:

    @9, that wouldn’t surprise me one bit. We already know Mike Stearns prefers to coopt his enemies, domestic or otherwise. Thorsten Engler, meanwhile, was a hero for capturing a couple of enemy commanders rather than killing them, and Caroline Platzer would surely approve.

    von Arnim, meanwhile, sounds like he’d be more than willing to turn his coat…in return for the right price, which sounds like it’s measured in respect at least as much as coin.

  16. robert says:

    @14 Yeah, but given Baen’s readership and VERY LOUD VOICES the Bar would be experiencing a 9.2 ‘quake if the cover showed the wrong gun. Remember the left-handed salute on Mission of Honor’s cover.

  17. Mike S says:

    OK, on the Billinghurst-Requa “volley” gun, 25 x .58 rifled barrels. I haven’t been able to find a weight in the field. Three man crew.

    First, a link, http://www.floridareenactorsonline.com/machinegun.htm

    Second, a quote from Jack Coggins’ “Arms and Equipment of the Civil War” – “A fault was that the powder train was exposed to rain and could misfire. It was used mainly in the defense of bridges, hence the nickname “covered bridge gun”. Another issue would have been the open “flash” hole in the base of the metal cartridge, which had to be hand loaded and then loaded into the strips to be used. Perhaps as many as 50 were produced in 1861-62.

    Third, admittedly, with enough strips prepared ahead of time, a trained crew in optimum weather could reach seven volleys per minute. Keep in mind that we are talking rifled barrels and black powder, which means that the buildup of residue would quickly reduce windage and force the crew to clean out the barrels. Another problem is smoke. On a windless day, three volley would quickly cover the gun in a cloud of smoke which would obscure its targets. For a very small idea of what it could be like on a black powder battlefield, watch the sequence in “Gettysburg” where the Confederate gun line is executing the artillery prep for “Pickett’s Charge”. Just a couple blank rounds from a couple dozen guns and the infantry re-enactors are marching forward through a “powder” mist hugging the ground around the guns. That’s the reason for flags, as they stuck up above the smoke and identified units and their positions and movements.

    Four, a Dahlgren bronze smooth bore “boat” gun on a field carriage fired a 10lb shell, an 11lb case shot (shrapnel) and a 12.5lb canister round. The case shot carried 78 .69 musket balls. Canister contained 27 cast iron shot, 1.5in and .43 lbs each. The cannon could fire 3 rounds per minute, two sustained in almost any weather (a boat gun was expected to operate in significant sea states). It weighed 1200lbs with carriage. Range at 5 degrees is given as 1085yds. Some 573 were produced during the War. An alternative might be the 12pdr Mountain Howitzer Model of 1835. It weighed 377lbs in total and fired the same ammo to 900yds at 5 degrees.

    On the other hand, a bronze smooth bore 12pdr “light” gun, Model of 1857 (the Napoleon), weighed 2355lbs and fired the same ammo to 1760yds. The 3in Rifle, Model of 1861 (the Ordnance Gun) made of wrought iron, 1720lbs firing a 9.5lbs shell or 10lb bolt to 1830 yds. The 10pdr Parrott weighed in at 1900lbs and fired similar ammo. The 20pdr Parrott fired 20lb bolts and 19lb shells to 1900yds at a cost of 2950lbs.

  18. Theodore says:

    Will these books be publisher as audio books?

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