1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 34

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 34

Jeff never had time to contemplate the strange beauty of armies maneuvering into battle. He was neither a top-hat general who could lounge around on a saddle and let his flunkies handle everything nor an experienced volley gun battery commander who’d been through a big battle before and could afford to let his mind wander.

No, he was a fledgling battalion commander in charge of four hundred men, most of whom were even younger and greener than he was.

Well. Younger, anyway. Maybe not greener. At least half of them were veterans of Ahrensbok. Jeff didn’t know if that made him feel better or worse.

And he was just a pitiful captain, to boot. A battalion was supposed to be commanded by a major. A dinky little captain was just supposed to take care of a hundred men in a company.

Jeff could have handled that easily enough, he though. Well. Handled it, anyway. But he was finding that running a battalion was downright nerve-wracking when the fireworks were probably going to start within an hour.

Fortunately, Eric Krenz turned out to be a very good adjutant. That was army speak for right-hand man. What the Navy called an executive officer, if Jeff had the protocol straight.

Jeff was a little surprised, actually. Krenz made so many wisecracks and disparaging remarks about all matters military that Jeff hadn’t expected much from him once the shooting started. He’d figured Eric would hold his own well enough. But he hadn’t expected him to be the very helpful and quick-thinking officer he was turning out to be.

Thankfully, the worst was over. Sure, there was still the actual battle to go though. But they were in position now and Jeff thought he had everybody pretty well set.

The bugles started up again. That always startled Jeff, for an instant. He still thought there was something a little ridiculous about using Stone Age musical instruments — okay, Bronze Age — to signal soldiers on a battlefield. They did have radios, after all. Admittedly, given the rather small scale dimensions of a seventeenth century battlefield, a commander could probably signal more of his soldiers quickly with a bugle than with radio calls. Still, it was…

The signal itself finally registered on Jeff. Right oblique, MARCH.

Jeff’s mouth fell open. They were already in position — a damn good position, too, with a little rise ahead of them that could give them a bit of cover once the shooting started — already set up, ready to go, everything set —

And some damn fool of a —

Jeff looked around quickly. He’d been about to blame Eichelberger but all three regiments in the brigade were moving out. What sort of an idiot brigadier –?

Belatedly, it dawned on Jeff that the bugle call had specified a divisional move. He couldn’t see the other brigades from his position because there were just too many men and horses and artillery pieces and wagons in the way. But he could look behind him.

Sure enough, the divisional commander was coming himself, trotting forward with his staff officers.

That would be Major General Michael Stearns. The newbie. And, apparently, the glory hound. For sure and certain, the fucking idiot.

*****

“General Stearns, this is unwise,” said Colonel Long.

“I concur,” said Anthony Leebrick. “There’s no need — not this early in a battle — for you to come forward and place yourself in harm’s way. Should the situation take a bad turn, of course –”

“Pappenheim behaved this way quite regularly. Probably still does. It’s amazing the fucker isn’t dead yet.” That was Ulbrecht Duerr’s contribution.

“Gentlemen, leave it alone,” said Mike. “It probably is stupid. I’m not at all sure this whole maneuver isn’t stupid. But what I know for sure is that there’s no way I’m sending my men out there without going with them. I just can’t do it.”

Long and Leebrick fell silent. But their tight lips indicated their professional disapproval.

Duerr chuckled, on the other hand. “Pappenheim’s soldiers adore the bastard, you know.”

****

Lennart Torstensson watched from a distance as Stearns’ Third Division moved obliquely forward. That was the entire right wing of his army, now detaching itself in what would appear to be a clumsy flanking maneuver.

“What is Stearns doing?” hissed one of his aides. The colonel pointed. “Look! He’s going out himself!”

So he was. Lennart could see Stearns and his little group of staff officers trotting past the battalions as they moved slowly forward. Stearns had taken off his hat and was waving it about. Very cheerfully, it seemed. Lennart knew the man and was quite sure Stearns was accompanying the hat-waving with equally cheerful remarks. The man might be a novice general, but he was a practiced and superb politician.

Even from the distance Torstensson could hear the Third Division cheering.

This had not been part of the plan. There was no reason for Stearns to do this. As soon as the trap was sprung Torstensson was going to throw everything he had at the enemy. That including the five APCs, although he suspected it would be the volley gun batteries who’d do most of the damage. Since Ahrensbök, Lennart had a lot of confidence in his flying artillery.

All Stearns’ division had to do, once the enemy attacked, was simply hunker down and fend off the Saxons until the rest of the army came up and broke them. There was no place in all that and certainly no need for the division’s commanding general to be gallivanting about on a horse near the front.

No, at the front. Stearns and his officers had now passed the lead battalion and were trotted slightly ahead of them.

“What is he doing?” repeated the aide.

But Torstensson knew. His monarch had predicted this would happen. The essence of it, at least, if not the specific details.

“I know that man,” Gustav Adolf had told Lennart, some weeks ago. “He’s a lot like me, you know, in some ways.”

So it seemed. Lennart took off his hat and gave the general in the distance a little tip of recognition.

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Comments

16 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 34

  1. Kelar says:

    At Lutzen? And like Gustav Adolf?
    Uff!!!

  2. jorge says:

    ohh!……. and he was asking for a serious injury that left the person out of action for a while…………..

  3. Phillip Chesson says:

    Is Mike perhaps wearing a kevlar vest from the Grantville PD supply? I probably missed any such discussion, but have they tried to manufacture ballistic protection armor?

  4. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Mike is going to be part of Eric’s next book _Saxon Uprising_ so nothing much is likely to happen to him in this book.

    While I don’t know for sure, I doubt Eric was asking about a “serious injury” for this book.

    It’s possible he’d use it for _Saxon Uprising_ but I suspect it’s for a later book.

  5. Summertime says:

    Is he going out to invite them to surrender?

  6. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Nope, the plan was to use his troops as bait for a trap and he’s decided that he can not do so without putting himself in danger along with his troops.

  7. bfticardi says:

    He’s throwing the dice. Either he get hit by a stray bullet/shell fragment or bayonet thrust and becomes a bigger hero than Hans or…he gets great fame and loyalty out of millions of potential future voters. Since he tends to think a step or two ahead where politics is concerned I would be surprised if he hadn’t thought this through on many levels besides the “have to go with my boys” decision.

    Yep, typical Mike Sterns all the way. :-)

  8. laclongquan says:

    [Snort]

    For one thing, in all those shorts, to those longs, never once did they mention a bulletproof vest. I suspect the real life location used as source dont have them expensive stuff like cops in big cities.

    For another, it’s not a dicethrowing gesture. In a logical calculation, his participation courting a most dangerous and risky situation, namely his safety against the fame and adoration etecera which he doesnt need more anyway. In other situations such actions may be called for but not this sideshow lategame. Nono, it’s just a matter of personality: Mike is not a general who can send his men out while he’s sitting safely behind. Not if he can help it.

    So bfticardi, I am sorry to say Mike is not the machivellian politican you thought he was.

  9. Until Jeff recognizes the trumpet call, his battalion is unlikely to be responding. This may not be an optimal circumstance.

  10. Doug Lampert says:

    The delay won’t be that long, and everybody is moving at normal marching pace, he can doubletime for a few seconds and catch up. Formation marching paces were deliberately slower than the unit could move to allow some slack for things like that.

    Also, any delay is a PREDICTABLE consequence of not telling battalion and company commanders what’s up. Probably a fair number of junior officers spent a few seconds going “What the FUCK!” rather than moving. This is one reason the higher up commanders do know, so they can compensate and make sure people stay together as well as is called for in the plan. (Which likely means they do nothing rather than yelling at the slow subordinates to correct things, the whole movement is SUPPOSED to look like the result of a hasty movement by an incompetent general rather than the opening steps in a plan. If they all stayed together perfectly they wouldn’t be doing all that good a job of that.)

  11. robert says:

    This is not a parade ground. Even individuals, never mind units, will stumble over the terrain and fall a bit behind, or in their excitement move too far ahead. Soon the bugles will blow and they will stop, reform and execute the appropriate movements to draw the enemy into their trap.

    Jeff may be a political captain at this point, but he is too smart to screw up. Fear not, George.

  12. Robert H. Woodman says:

    From the snippet:

    Jeff could have handled that easily enough, he though.

    It should be “he thought.”

    Spell checkers don’t correct the correctly spelled incorrect word. I hope Eric’s editors are on top of things. This is one of several such typos I’ve seen throughout these snippets.

  13. Robert H. Woodman says:

    A question:

    In our timeline, Field Marshall Pappenheim died at Luetzen, in the same battle that killed Gustavus Adolphus. Colonel Duerr alludes to Pappenheim possibly still being alive, but I don’t recall the series specifying that up to this point. Can anyone shed any light on that for me?

  14. Doug Lampert says:

    Pappenheim was still alive and with Wallenstien in Prague the last time they were seen.

  15. Mike says:

    @13 – Pappenheim is most certainly alive as post 14 indicated. Additionally, it was alluded to in Wallenstein Gambit from RoF that in OTL after Wallenstein lost Pappenheim he wasn’t as effective as before. Given Wallenstein’s shakier health in NTL, Pappenheim is even more important than he was previously in OTL. While it wouldn’t be impossible, until Morris Roth or others are shown to be fully capable of filling that role in Wallenstein’s service, Pappenheim – as a character – can’t be removed without it destabalizing Bohemia. Seeing as the whole point of Wallenstein in the series is to “stop Chmielnicki” from happening, anything that prevents Wallenstein’s attempt to do so (like Pappenheim dying soon) won’t happen from a narrative standpoint.

  16. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I guess that’s why I’ve missed the information on Wallenstein before now. I just started reading the Ring of Fire series. I’ve stuck with the main books. I have gotten through The Baltic War. I haven’t read the Ring of Fire anthology or any of the Gazettes beyond the first one. I have lots of catching up to do on this series.

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