1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 39

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 39

By the time Lukasz got his senses back, his horse — being no hussar himself, and thus no damn fool — had turned around and was galloping toward the rear. A full-bore gallop, too. A dumb beast he might be, but he wasn’t dumb enough to stay in this area any longer than he had to.

If all likelihood, if Opalinski hadn’t had the by-now almost instinctive horsemanship of a hussar, he’d have been spilled on the ground. As it was, he needed to use both hands to stay in the saddle. That was easy enough, though, since he’d lost his lance somewhere along the way.

He couldn’t remember exactly what had happened. Had he killed that big infantry officer? Or perhaps the little big-eared one who’d come racing up waving his sword?

He simply couldn’t remember. He hoped he’d killed at least one of them. Not because he had any personal animus against either of those officers but simply because it was already obvious that this battle was turning into a disaster and he liked to think he’d accomplished something in the process.

He looked around, but he simply couldn’t tell how many of his hussars had survived. They were too mingled with the Saxon cavalrymen and all of them were racing off. This was not a retreat, this was a pure and simple rout.

Lukasz felt bitterly shamed. This was the first time in his life either he or any hussars he’d fought alongside had been routed in a battle. The worst of it was that he couldn’t understand how it had happened.

****

Opalinski couldn’t understand it because he hadn’t seen it. He’d been so pre-occupied with his personal duel with the two USE officers that he hadn’t noticed the effect of the volleys fired by the infantry. Coming on top of the damage already inflicted by the volley guns, that had been enough to bring the charge to a complete halt.

At which point the APCs had arrived. Five of the monstrous machines, charging in from the side and raking the confused cavalrymen with rifle fire from the gunports along the sides of the vehicles. All the while, making the most hideous piercing shrieks from some sort of horns.

The horses had panicked then, and it had all been over.

****

“That’s it,” said Torstensson. “Send in Dodo and George’s divisions. Nothing fancy. Just straight ahead, firing volleys as they go.”

Two of his aides raced off. Colonel Schonbeck and three others remained at his side. After a moment, Schonbeck said: “You were right, General. Stearns did quite well.”

Torstensson glanced at the Third Division. They were starting to move forward again. He could see that Stearns — or his staff, more likely — had already organized measures to take care of the wounded.

Stearns had done well. To all intents and purposes, in fact, his division had won the battle on its own. Allowing, of course, for the critical assistance of the flying artillery and the APCs. Still, he’d keep his men solid, confident, and fully in the fight from beginning to end — and now had them back in action.

“This could get interesting,” he said softly.
“Excuse me, sir?”

“Never mind, Colonel Schonbeck.” Torstensson saw no point in explaining to a capable but stolid military aide that he really hoped the new prime minister of the USE wouldn’t allow himself to be rushed into doing anything rash. Or things could get… interesting.

Besides, there were other matters to attend to. He glanced back to make sure the observation balloon was still in place. As an observation balloon, the device had been only minimally useful in this battle. But as a radio platform, it would now prove most useful indeed.

“Colonel Schonbeck –” Torstensson broke off and turned to a different aide. “Major Ziegler, rather. See to it that our cavalry units get word immediately that the Saxon army has been defeated. John George will try to escape now, and I want him intercepted before he can reach the Polish border.”

Ziegler was a young man, attuned to the new technological possibilities. He’d use the radios immediately where Schonbeck would probably waste time sending out couriers first.

****

“Sound the retreat,” von Arnim said grimly. “We’ll withdraw into Leipzig.”

Colonel Carl Bose looked skeptical. “We may not be able to make it, General. They’ll be pushing the pursuit hard, from the looks of things.”

Von Arnim shook his head. “No, they won’t, once they’re sure we’re retiring from the field. I am quite certain that Torstensson has orders to take Dresden as fast as possible. He won’t waste time with us” — now that he’s beaten us out of his way, but von Arnim left that unspoken — “when he has a chance to catch the Elector.”

Von Arnim tightened his lips. His military career might be over, as of today. There was no chance he could move his troops into Poland, which was a pity since he was sure King Wladyslaw would hire him. But Torstensson would immediately pursue if the Saxon army — what was left of it — made any move in that direction. If need be, he’d postpone taking Dresden.

The French wouldn’t hire him, not given his reputation as a staunch Lutheran. Richelieu wouldn’t care himself, but with the political situation as tense as it was in France he couldn’t afford to give Monsieur Gaston any more political ammunition. The Bavarians wouldn’t even consider the possibility. Not with Duke Maximilian’s Catholic fanaticism at the fever pitch it was today.

That left the Austrians. Which… might actually be possible. Von Arnim felt his spirits lifting a bit. Even under Ferdinand II, the Austrians had been willing to employ Protestant soldiers. Now with his son on the throne — Ferdinand III had a reputation for being far more tolerant — and with the tensions with Bohemia…

A detail intruded.

“Oh, yes.” He had promised the man, after all. “Colonel Bose, see to it that a courier gets off to Dresden immediately. Warn the Elector that we’ve lost the battle and Torstensson will be moving on Dresden. And…”

He studied the distant enemy observation balloon. He wasn’t sure of this, but…

“Also warn the Elector that Torstensson has probably got cavalry units watching the Polish border. I’d advise the Elector to seek exile in Bavaria instead.”

He went back to contemplating more important things. There did, of course, remain the awkwardness that he’d once resigned from Austrian service in something of a high dudgeon and not so long ago at that. Still…

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21 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 39

  1. Peter S says:

    Opalinski will carry home the word that they have to train their horses not to panic at the sight & sound of big machines – and the word that massed fire makes cavalry charges against mobile guns and infantry obsolete. I wonder if he’ll find it hard to admit that?

  2. Ed says:

    The Austrian’s may well be very glad to see Von Arnim depending on what the Ottaman’s are discovered to be up to. Though it does seems lucky that the Austrains will get some troops just when they may be desperately needed. :-)

  3. Jason says:

    Im sure Maximillian of Bavaria’s inquisitors would be overjoyed to get a hold of John George of Saxony.

  4. robert says:

    @1 And if he does carry that word home, it will be second hand because he was “not all there” at the time.

    I wonder what Tortensson expected Mike might do?

  5. dave o says:

    Opalinski will report back. Every other Polish hussar will begin attacking his skill and courage. If they get into a war, they will have to be gunned down at least twice more. In WW2, Polish cavalry attacked a German tank column.

  6. Beata says:

    5@ Do you think about Krojanty? It’s myth. See http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=111&t=48194&start=0

    Or about Mokra? A nasty suprise for Gereman… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mokra

  7. Jason says:

    @5 actually that charge was a myth. What really happened at the Charge at Krojanty was the poles ran into a wehrmarcht infantry battalion and after a brief fight forced the infantry to flee and they occupied the position sadly about this time a unit of German Armored Recon unit i.e. half tracks showed up and ran them off. After words German and then Russian propaganda being what it is, and the rest is history.

  8. ET1swaw says:

    @5 Don’t forget how the Poles wiped up on the Russian cavalry in the ‘Wet Firecracker War’. Though they also might be ignored/attacked because of their eventual loss to a ‘peasant infantry’. If Opalinski does manage to report back, his uncle, at the very least, will hopefully listen. And he is one of the few living generals that have handed G2A his head in battle.
    @1 Use of the APCs may have reduced their amplified tactical effects. But remember Morris Roth is making ‘War Wagons’ for Wallenstein/Bohemia for his ‘Anaconda’ expansion (including through the PLC). And the ‘psyops’ concept (including sonic assualt) has been out there since Wartburg.
    @4 As said, many contemporary generals/officers (especially calvary/hussars), with a few exceptions (i.e. Duke Bernhard, Turenne, and the Swedish/USE), are more along the lines of the French at Ahrensbrock and the Russian calvary commanders.
    @4@5 And even in ACW cavalry sometimes got a ‘wild hair’ (i.e. Stonewall Jackson) and calvary, even into ‘modern’ times, have charged into near certain death (i.e. Light Brigade, Polish Hussars charging Nazi tanks in WWII)
    @2 The only current Protestant/religiously-tolerant rulers are either allied/friendly to the USE/Sweden (KLC, Essen, Burgandy, Denmark-Norway-Iceland, Bohemia/Wallenstein, Vienna,and the Swiss Confederacy)or semi-neutral (Austro-Hungary, England). There may be small Catholic territories, in Nothern Italy (what little is not held by Spanish or dominated by France) or in a Bishopric (i.e. Freising (surrounded by Bavaria), Salzburg, etc.), that will accept him. PLC and Russia are both doubtful, and Bavaria, Spain/Portugal and territories, and the Ottoman territories would be deathtraps. He might find a rebellious force in the Spanish or Ottoman Territories to join, but risks losing his head (defeated generals are ransomed, defeated rebel leaders are executed). He might even be involved in the next book ‘Saxon Uprising’! Or he might buy the farm further along in this one. His options are limited. Who knows, ‘the horse might sing’.

  9. ET1swaw says:

    @6 Apologies for my inaccuracy in @7. You posted while I was typing/composing (with inaccurate info on hussar charge).

  10. Ed says:

    In this Ring of Fire universe most rulers worth their salt have copies of future history and “know” that calvary is on it’s way out as a main attack tatic. Calvary is now regulated to scouts etc. In this universe Opalinski just learned the truth of that lesson the hard way.

    @7 My comment about Von Armin going to the Austrian’s is based on his musings in the story line about where he could get future employment. The story line also indicates that the current Austrain ruler is more tolerenat.

  11. Sounour says:

    But to get to Austria he has to pass the USE or Bohemia, which is an other problem.

  12. Michael says:

    @4: I suspect Torstensson is thinking about how effectively Mike could ‘alter’ the political situation with respect to the new PM if said PM starts doing really stupid things to appease his base. A whiff of grapeshot, indeed.

  13. dave o says:

    #10 Murat would be surprised to hear that cavalry is on the way out. When cap lock rifled muskets become common, then attacking unbroken infantry becomes difficut, maybe impossible. Even more so when breech loaders become common. But this won’t happen for a while. Probably every major power is trying to get better weapons. But they are costly, and will meet with resistance from senior officers who see nothing wrong with pike and matchlocks. Even in the 19th century, when states had much greater taxing and borrowing power, re-equipping an army was a stretch. You might also want to check James Wilson’s contribution in the battle of Nashville, and the subsequent pursuit. (1864) Admittedly he used his troops as mounted infantry.

  14. Jason says:

    Cavalry on the way out is still a ways off. What I saw is Von Arnheim used his Cavalry wrong. Remember when think of multibarreled gun they’re thinking of the old volley gun not the requa that was developed in 1861. And when you point out what happened at Arnsbruek alot of people in 1635 will say well that was the French, or that was the Saxons. What they need to do is start using some of the combined arms tactics that the french used in the napoleonic war is threaten point A with you Cavalry, get the enemy to deploy there anti cav tactics and then pound them with artillery. There is a reason why Napoleon deployed combined arms corps.And another think with the Volley guns which the USE hasn’t had to face yet for they havent had a prolonged campaign with multiple battles is they use up alot of Ammo.

  15. Jason says:

    @12 well if you look at the blurb in Amazon about the next 163xish book the Saxon uprising your going to see exactly that.

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Well Jason, Eric has posted on the Bar about the inaccuracy of the blurb.

    He didn’t say what it should be, but said that it was wrong.

    Can’t say more because of the “Snerk Collar”.

  17. Daryl says:

    To my knowledge the last successful cavalry charge was in WW1 at Beersheba in 1917 in the Middle East where the Australian Light Horse captured the town with its strategically important wells. My own grandfather was one of the survivors. The attack shouldn’t have succeeded as the defenders were well dug in with artillery and machine guns, well trained, and they outnumbered the attackers. Historians believe that the audacity and speed of the attack caused most of the defending fire to be too high as they didn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to keep coming. Some nitpickers say that they were mounted infantry not cavalry as they had 18 inch bayonets and rifles not swords and lances, but in my opinion they rode horses all the way into battle and used cold steel, so were cavalry.

  18. Mike S says:

    The last successful charge by the US cavalry was conducted by the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) in 1942. I would have to get home and pull the book for the exact location and date. The Japanese vanguard had occupied a village on the near side of a river but a troop of the 26th charged into the village before the Japanese were set and drove them across the river. Two more troops came up, they dismounted and conducted a successful defense of the crossing for the rest of the day. There were at least three successful mounted charges during the Mexican Expedition in 1917. All these charges used pistols as their main weapon. There were several successful charges against infantry during the Civil War. All were the result of hitting infantry and artillery on the march, or deploying or from the flank by maneuevring using “dead space” and concealment to approach within charge distance. Another factor for success was the state of morale, training, leadership or preparation of the defending force. During the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, the Russo-Polish War of 1918-21, the Russian Civil War (1917-20), the Second Sino-Japanese War (1932-33) and the Third Sino-Soviet War (1937-45), the Chinese Civil Wars (1913-1928), (1946-1949) and finally on the Eastern Front during WW2. The Italian Savoia Cavalry Regiment conducted a successful mounted charge in 1942, as did Germand and Soviet cavalry.

  19. Alejo says:

    Von Arnim could also be captured and then convinced to seek employment in the USE. Opalinski might also be captured and thereby prevented from reporting anything to the Poles keeping them ripe for the picking.

  20. John H says:

    A Canadian cavalry squadron charged and broke a double line of German machine nests on March 30, 1918 at Moreuil Woods in the Amiens sector of the Western Front. It was expensive – the squadron suffered at least 70% casualties and the commander was awarded his Victoria Cross posthumously – but the action helped to stop the German Spring Offensive of 1918 in its tracks.

    For details, check Wikipedia (or Google for other sites) under ‘Gordon Flowerdew VC’ or ‘Battle of Moreuil Wood’.

  21. jeff bybee says:

    I’ve also read that when italians attacted in eathopia before ww2 that some of their tanks were knocked out by spear using natives I belive mointed men shoving the blades through the vision slits.

    their is an american armor historian who has written stongly in favor of suporting tanks with calvery as the russians did in ww2. his last name starts with a Z and his novel of veitnam is called jungle tracks.

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