1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 35

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 35

Chapter 17

“It might be a ploy, sir,” said Colonel Carl Bose.

Hans Georg von Arnim continued to examine the peculiar maneuver being undertaken by the enemy’s right wing. He’d lowered the eyeglass, though, after he’d confirmed that the commander was the newly-made general Michael Stearns.

“A trap, you mean?” Von Arnim had spent the past few minutes pondering the same problem. But now, he shook his head.

“I don’t believe Torstensson would be so reckless. Stearns is a complete novice. If he loses his head — not even that; simply becomes confused and loses control — this could turn into a complete disaster for them.”

He wasn’t entirely certain of his conclusion, but… What choice did he really have, with the odds so heavily against him?

“Tell von der Pforte to move up his troops. But before all else, we have to get Hofkirchen’s cavalry engaged.” Von Arnim pointed to a creek in a distance, barely visible because it was so narrow. “If at all possible, we have to keep Stearns’ division from anchoring its flank on the Pleisse.”

****

“He might decide it’s a trap,” said Colonel Schonbeck. He was leaning forward in his saddle, intently studying the center of the Saxon lines where von Arnim was stationed.

Torstensson, who was almost slouched in his own saddle, gave his head a little shake. “I’m sure he’s considering the possibility. The key is Stearns. I wouldn’t have tried this maneuver with Brunswick-Luneburg or Knyphausen. But I’m betting von Arnim will decide I wouldn’t have chanced it with such a novice as Stearns.”

His aide eyed him sidewise. “It is a bit risky, General.”

Torstensson shrugged. Like the headshake, the gesture was minimal. “Stearns may be new at this, but his soldiers aren’t. Most of the units in the Third Division were at Ahrensbök. So were the flying artillery companies I lent to him. As long as Stearns doesn’t panic, they’ll be able to fend off the counter-attack. Long enough, anyway, which is all that matters.”

Schonbeck was still eyeing him sidewise. Torstensson smiled. “I’ve seen Stearns in a crisis, Colonel.”

“The unrest in Magdeburg after Wismar? But there was no real fighting there, sir.”

Again, the USE commander shook his head. The gesture, this time, was not minimal at all. “That’s not really what matters. The great danger in a crisis is not that a commander collapses from fear of being hurt or killed. Most men are not cowards, certainly not most soldiers. No, the real danger is that they simply can’t think clearly. Their brain freezes. They exude uncertainty — and that’s what begins to create panic in their subordinates and soldiers. Relax, Colonel Schonbeck. Stearns won’t lose his head.”

****

Losing his head never even occurred to Mike Stearns.

Although he had no experience with military battle, he had been a prizefighter for a time when he was a young man. Young and stupid, as he liked to say. He’d been quite good at it, too, especially the mental side of fighting. He’d won all eight of his professional bouts. The reason he’d quit — other than a sudden and unexpected lapse of youthful imbecility — was because he’d come to realize that his reflexes simply weren’t good enough. Mike was very strong and had superb reflexes. Even now, despite spending the last several years as a sedentary executive, he was still in far better physical condition than most men half his age. But “very strong” and “superb reflexes” were one thing, measured against normal values. Measured against the values of professional boxers, they were something else entirely.

So, he’d quit. Almost twenty years ago, now. But as he moved toward his first battle, Mike felt the familiar mindset closing back in.

The key thing was not to lose your head. To stay in control of the adrenaline rather than letting the adrenalin control you. Ignore the blows. Accept them as inevitable. Concentrate on the enemy. Above all, watch. The natural response of a man in a fight was to flail away. To let the fear and rage fuel his physical abilities, so that he might overpower his foe. In essence, to let the animal try to save the man.

Against a capable opponent, that was a recipe for failure. You had to watch. Never lose control. Whatever else, stay calm.

****

The officers and soldiers within eyesight were watching him. Quite closely. They knew just as well as Torstensson and von Armim that their commanding officer was a neophyte general. And they knew just as well what the calamitous results might be.

They were reassured. He might not really know what he was doing, but he seemed confident and relaxed. He had good advisers. All he had to do was listen to them.

****

“The key thing right now, sir, is to anchor ourselves on that river.” Colonel Long pointed ahead of them and to the right.

That was the Pleisse, Mike thought. Like most so-called “rivers” in the area, it was really just a creek — and not a particular large one at that. By North American standards, all the rivers he’d seen in Europe were on the small side. Even major rivers like the Elbe — the Rhine and Danube too, he’d been told, although he hadn’t yet seen them himself — were far smaller than the Mississippi.

But while Mike hadn’t been in a battle yet, by now he’d had a fair amount of experience in the seemingly simple task of getting an army to move. He’d also read a copy of von Clausewitz’s On War that Becky had obtained for him. So he’d already learned just how cruelly accurate the military theorist had been.

War is very simple, but in War the simplest things become very difficult.

Now, looking at the little river that his aide Long was pointing to, Mike could see how important it would be for his division to place its right flank against it. Even a creek ten feet wide and probably not more than a foot or two deep could serve as a significant protection against a possible flank attack. It didn’t look like much — and, indeed, to a man enjoying a hike through the countryside, it wasn’t much. He could cross it quite easily. At worst, get his boots wet.

But crossing that same creek during a cavalry charge, with bullets and cannonballs flying, would be something else entirely. Horses were big animals and like all big animals the prospect of falling made them very nervous, especially falling on a run. An eight-year-old boy weighing fifty pounds would race across that creek without a second thought, shrieking gleefully the whole while. A warhorse weighting a thousand pounds and carrying an armored man weighing another two hundred pounds might balk. Or, if they did wade across, might trip and fall if the bottom was soft or stony or simply uneven.

A balked or spilled cavalryman is likely to be a dead or maimed cavalryman, and nobody knew that better than cavalrymen themselves. So the mere fact that an opponent had his flank anchored against a creek, be that creek never so modest, would automatically shape the battle. Whether or not that creek could be forced was likely to become a purely theoretical exercise, because no general wanted to take the risk of finding out.

“Makes sense to me, Christopher. See to it, if you would.”

That lesson, Mike had not learned from an aristocratic Prussian military theorist at the age of forty. He’d learned it from his hillbilly mother, at the age of four. A none-too-gentle slap accompanied by the words be polite!

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Comments

20 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 35

  1. jk says:

    I wonder why he hasn’t read that MBA/business book, the one by Sun Tzu, the Art of War

  2. Robert Krawitz says:

    How many chapters would David Weber need for this?

  3. Mike says:

    @1 – Regardless of how many chapters Weber would use for the battle, keep in mind he’d spend at least two chapters earlier in the book discussing the new weapons that would be featured in the battle – how they work, the design process, etc. Granted those conversations would touch on several other things as well, but we’d know about the weapons and their likely effects prior to the battle.

  4. Summercat says:

    @1,2

    Instead we get quite some time talking about the skills and experience levels of the various commanders in this battle, abilities, veteran vs non-veteran, what makes a good general…

    IE, time about people. With a bit of a blurb explaining tactics… in a sense that makes sense, through the inner thoughts of said neophyte general who still needs to think these things, as opposed to just do.

  5. ET1swaw says:

    These are snippets not full chapters. As some seem fairly short, IMO not at much space as you think is being “taken up”.

  6. robert says:

    The weapons are basically the same ones that we read about in The Baltic War. Those who follow the series closely know what they are and what they can do because it has all been written about already. Those who do not follow the series, well, the backlist is still in print and in eprint (?) and available. Eric does not need to spend a lot of words on weaponry because it is unsophisticated, historical and familiar stuff. Weber’s weapons are complex, almost magical and never existed until he “invented” them (and still don’t exist). Macintosh apples vs. cabernet grapes.

  7. anonymous says:

    Missing an ‘e’ in adrenaline.

  8. dave o says:

    Von Arnim said, “We have to get Hofkirchen’s cavalry engaged” I guess that he will try a charge to keep Mike from anchoring his flank on the creek. Then the volley guns move up and break the cavalry, like they did to the French. Now Von Arnim has lost his striking force. Any guesses how the battle ends? And if Von Arnim tries to throw in the Poles, will they charge? Against the guns?

  9. Rosinante says:

    As a clue, you are on Mr. Flints website, reading a snippet (teaser) from a novel that Mr. Flint had sold LONG before he sat down to write it.
    Mr Flint has had published dozens of Novels. I have had one published. I’m not going to question the details of his plotting.
    How many have you had published?
    For an analogy, down where the tire meets the road we are piling up rubber while producing smoke. Mr Flint is vanishing into the distance. Perhaps Mr. Flint knows a little something about using a clutch?

    Yes, Weber is becoming King like in his fluffiness. I don’t blame him. I blame Tor. Any novelist HAS to write to satisfy his editor. Or at least mollify them.
    Tor made enough money off Jordan and the never ending story to want a repeat. Jordan is dead. Readers have gotten wise. Times are hard and the casual money to spend on 30$US tomes that have no plot, just an endless supply of characters isn’t there like it was for the Wheel of Time. If we (readers) stop buying endless novels, then Tor will stop producing them. My personal limit is 3 novels. If the author cannot tell the story in 3 novels, then he hasn’t earned my money.
    I have the 1st 3 in the “Safehold” series. Book 1 was one of the better Sci-Fi novels EVERY. Book 2 was slow, book 3 a waste of a tree. Sci Fi book club just tried to re-up me with their 5 for a dollar offer. Book 4 was in there for 20 cents. I passed.
    There is no point to a novel that never ends.

  10. 10. …@9 Never mind, it wouldn’t be polite.

    Every writer has a different style, and every reader has different likes and dislikes; that is why a lot of books get published in the hopes that writer and readers will match up.

    Now, can we get back to the battle? I personnally, hope Mike gets beat, partially to show he can’t be good at everything, partially to serve him right for his Gestopo tactics in THE DREESON INCIDENT, and partially because this isn’t a mystery novel and I don’t want to be able to guess, or know, what happens next.

  11. laclongquan says:

    Rosinante… Please try to refrain from argument involved with “have you done this and that to question us?” type of argument. It doesnt work on Net. At least, it doesnt work on me.

    You can point out the weak points or the illogical things. Heck, you can even use “because I like it so”. That always work on me. Personal taste is personal taste, personal Point of View is personal POV.

    Just because we readers havent written a novel/make a game/do something… doesnt mean our opinions carry no grain of truth. By browbeating someone without at least pointing the defiency, the illogical, the weakside of their argument, Net debates lose its purpose.

    FYI, I am not much a fan of Weber’s style but I never agree with someone when they badmouth his style. Personal way of writing is Personal. You like, then read. You dont like, then dont. You dont have to read it so why do you have to badmouth it?

    Mind you, DeMarce’s writings work for me. Some here complain about her but well, that’s personal taste for you.

  12. Summercat says:

    @11 – I’ll defend Rosinante’s right to be an ass over David Weber, mainly because it allows me to be an ass over John Ringo’s pathological insertion of modern political commentary into his fiction.

    That said, he is being an ass about it – just like I’m being an ass about Ringo. The difference is, Ringo can be a good author when he’s not inserting his politics so… obviously. ‘There Will Be Dragons’ was enjoyable, as was the majority of ‘Live Free or Die’.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with this snippet.

  13. Phillip Chesson says:

    How FEW sentences would it take Lois Bujold to write this?

  14. Summertime says:

    Mull Over Reading Options Naysayers!

  15. robert says:

    @13 LMM would not write this kind of story. And that’s just fine: shack to his (or her) own goo.

  16. Rosinante says:

    The web is all about opinions. People that get upset over opinions that disagree with theirs have other issues.
    One poster had an opinion that Flint was getting long winded, sorta. I disagreed, as is my 1st amendment right. Not sure why my disagreement was seen as a personal attack. I am challenging his opinion, not his person.
    As far as experience goes, it is critical in most things. That of course, is just another opinion. Anyone saying experience doesn’t matter usually has no experience, just an opinion. To be precise an um-informed opinion.
    Once again, not an attack, just another exercise in First amendment usage. An informed one.
    When is the last time you got a sex-ed lecture from a nun? That is not an off topic question, since Nuns DO teach sex ed. Something I have always considered outrageous. Some people don’t see anything wrong with nuns teaching Sex Ed.

    In this case the experience of going thru the process of planning, writing, selling a novel is something that has to be experienced to understand. Mine was pretty bad, but then again I have no talent, which makes it much more difficult. Maybe it is different when you are a best selling author. I imagine it would be. I have no experience with that so I have no opinion on how much control a best selling author has compared to some newbee.
    Something to keep in mind with any novel is that NO Author has 100% control. Packaging and shipping issues are hard and fast with little slack in them.
    Anyway, I don’t need to defend Mr. Flint, since he is a big boy and can take care of himself. So I will stop. I just figure every second he spends defending himself is one that he isn’t writing.

  17. Peter S says:

    @9 – more than one poster on this site _is_ an author, and some of us are published to varying degrees, too, but the ‘personal taste’ argument triumphs in my NSHO. I like hearing about people’s different reactions to the things I read; som reactions I don’t understand, others I dislike, and still others have made me think in new ways. All three are interesting, and sometimes useful.

  18. laclongquan says:

    So? I am a book editor (in Viet Nam). What does that have to do with anything? Net verbal battles, aka discussion, does not rely on real life’s reality. It affects the experience/knowledge/personality behind such things but it does NOT validate the discussions.

    And speak out your own personal opinions of author’s writings is a double edged sword. All too easily you dismiss one’s writing’s qualities just because it doesnt fit your taste.

    It’s one thing to say “I dont eat dog because I had a pet like that once’. Totally another thing to say “I dont eat dog because they taste horribly and no way you can cook it edible”.

  19. robert says:

    Never argue about anything but facts. Everything else is taste or some variation of it and it is what it is: their misconceptions (sorry, sorry, I’m sorry).

  20. Blackmoore says:

    @9 so why are you still reading this series if “My personal limit is 3 novels”? We are well past 3 novels, and there is no potential that this series will ever end.

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