1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 40

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 40

Chapter 19

Eric Krenz never remembered much of what happened after he collapsed from his wound until he woke up in an army hospital tent. All that remained were inchoate images of being moved on a litter and people staring down at him. The clearest of those images was that of a harried surgeon impatiently saying: “This one’ll live if he doesn’t bleed out. Put him over there.”

He had no idea where “over there” was, but some part of his brain understood that he’d just gotten a reprieve from a death sentence. It was probably that same part of his brain which enabled his eyes to observe a line of wounded men lying in a different part of the surgeon’s tent who quite obviously had not met the surgeon’s criteria for survival. The only attention being paid to them was by a single orderly, and all he was doing was giving them water. Or, more often, giving them cups of a brownish liquid that Eric couldn’t identify but which that more-or-less sentient part of his brain figured was probably laudanum. The mixture of opium and liquor had been around for at least a century. Its only real medical use was to comfort the afflicted and serve as a crude anesthetic during surgery.

But these men, clearly enough, weren’t going to be operated on. They were just going to die.

Some time later, Eric was given some of the liquid himself. In his case, as an anesthetic. The surgeon was replacing the jury rigged bandages the corpsmen had used with stitches.

The process hurt. A lot. As far as Krenz was concerned, if that bad-tasting liquor was laudanum, it had a grossly inflated reputation.

****

When Eric woke up, he was no longer in the surgeon’s tent. He was still in a tent, but this one was larger and much cleaner. More precisely, since the surgeons in the USE army did use sterilization and kept their tents washed with antiseptic, this tent had a lot less blood and gore. The double line of cots on either side of a central aisle were filled with soldiers who, though most of them were heavily bandaged, seemed in far better condition than the ones Krenz had seen in the surgeon’s care.

Apparently, then, he’d survive. Eric was quite cheered by the thought. He enjoyed life.

He didn’t even lose much of his cheer when Jeff Higgins came to visit and gave him the bad news.

“It’s not a magic wound, buddy. Sorry. You’ll be out for a while, but they’ll have you back in the ranks sooner’n you probably want.”

Eric would have shrugged, but he’d already learned that any movement of his upper body hurt. So he grimaced in such a way as to express the same sentiment.

“Just as well. Don’t listen to the silly fools, Captain Higgins. Just about any so-called ‘magic wound’ is going to be awful. You’ve almost always got to lose some body part you really don’t want to lose. Besides –”

He swelled out his chest and immediately regretted it. “Ow! Besides, the girls like the medals, sure, but they like them a lot better if they’re attached to a fellow who looks like a fellow instead of a side of beef in a butcher shop.”

A dark thought came to him. He gave Higgins a beady-eyed look. “You did put me in for a medal, didn’t you? I will remind you that I did save your life. All right, I tried to save your life. Probably didn’t have much effect on the outcome, but I think intent should count for something.”

Jeff grinned. “As it happens, I didn’t put you up for a decoration — because I didn’t need to. Colonel Straley himself saw your valiant charge and put in for it. He also told me to tell you that only a cretin thinks you can take down a mounted hussar with a sword while you’re on the ground and what the hell happened to your pistol?”

Krenz looked embarrassed, for a moment. “I sold the damn thing. It’s too heavy to carry around all the time.”

Jeff shook his head. “You’re lucky it’s only the good who die young, Eric.” He looked around the inside of the tent. “It’s not as bad as the surgeon’s tent — you want to talk about a place that’ll give you nightmares! — but it still ain’t the Ritz. However, you won’t be here long.”

Krenz got an apprehensive look on his face. “They’re not putting me back in the line, are they? Already? I just got here! And I must have lost at least ten gallons of blood.”

“Nice trick, that’d be. Seeing as how there are only five quarts of blood in a man’s body to begin with. Probably only four, in a skinny shrimp like you. Well, no, five. Your ears alone must take a whole quart.”

Jeff made a little patting motion. “Calm down. That wound you got looks pretty ghastly but it’s actually not that serious. The lance blade sliced open your side as messily as you could ask for but didn’t penetrate the peritoneum or the abdominal cavity. Once it heals you’ll be as good as new — except you’ll have a dandy scar to brag about to your grandchildren some decades down the road and girls in the here and now who have the same size brains.”

Krenz looked around the tent. “Then why aren’t I staying?”

“We’ll be marching into Dresden by the day after tomorrow. Torstensson’s already announced that all of our wounded are to be billeted in the city as soon as possible.”

Eric’s smile was a thing to behold. “I’ll be in a tavern soon! Probably one filled with good-natured barmaids. With, as you say, the mental acuity of my far-in-the-future tiny little grandchildren.”

Jeff grunted. “More likely, you’ll be in a stable. With horses a lot smarter and a whole lot more suspicious.”

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12 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 40

  1. Damon says:

    All things considered, not much of a description of a battle. Of course, the expectation was that the Saxons wouldn’t put up much of a fight, but still. What was Stearns supposed to do that was foolish? If wandering off with his division was supposed to draw out the Saxons, where was the infantry to support the foolish cavalry charge?

  2. KimS says:

    The foolish action was becoming detached from the center and not having obvious cavalry and artillery support. Infantry squares, not pike squares, were/are in the future. Try standing your ground against a half ton horse charging at you with someone atop carrying a lance or sabre. It’s uncomfortable. If your buddy breaks, you’re in deep trouble. Once the infantry begins to break, its all over. And if General Stearns ‘routs’ because of his inexperience, his troops will rout too.

    Cavalry can act unsupported because of their speed. In set piece battles though, its foolish of them to do a major push unsupported. Examples at Waterloo. The Scots Grey, cavalry, attacked without support and were routed by the French cavalry. Marshall Murat attacked the British force on the reverse slope, who formed square. Without support of the infantry, the French cavalry charge was a wasted effort.

  3. Blackmoore says:

    Well, I appreciate that Eric doesn’t go into a dark place and have Krenz begin an addiction.

  4. Doug Lampert says:

    I’m with @2, just becoming detatched all by itself was foolish enough to draw a charge. In our world it was considered shocking when the thin red line held at Balaclava in 1854, and the british in 1854 probably averaged better training and better guns than the USE army has at this time.

    But as late as 1854 it STILL surprised military professionals that a hard cavalry charge could be stopped by fire from an infanrty line and that the infantry line held without forming square. Note that later that day the British demonstrated that about 600 cavalrymen could charge and take a well supported artillery battery on high ground from the front and (temporarily) chase off the supporting cavalry. This despite the charge being made between two lines of infantry and past other artillery batteries and under heavy fire for over 400 yards.

    Really, if the light brigade could pull that off then if the Saxon cavalry were of comparable quality it could have ridden all over Stern’s and his command and killed or routed them all. It’s not unreasonable to expect that the outcome of thousands of Saxon cavalry charging 10,000 unsupported infantry is for the infantry to rout and for the rest of their army to have an excellent chance of following them. We need to assume that the Saxons mostly suck (at least in comparison to USE infantry) for the outcome in the snippets to be plausible. Mind, there’s good reason to suppose that USE infantry IS vastly superior to Saxon Cavalry, so the plan wasn’t suicidal, but it still had some risk, and if Mike had paniced that likely would have more than made up for the difference in quality.

    It took repeating rifles to make charging cavalry at infantry in line a clearly bad idea, and even against them it sometimes worked. Without ring bayonets you can’t even effectively form square (of course they HAVE ring bayonets, so I’m not sure why the USE army isn’t training in forming square).

  5. Robert Krawitz says:

    The volley guns are effectively repeating rifles, and then the armored cavalry (i. e. coal truck APC’s) ultimately repelled the charge. And remember that Mike was put in that position because Torstenssen had a very good idea that he wouldn’t panic under fire.

    But why there aren’t strict rules requiring officers to have sidearms is an interesting question (and if there are, will Krenz be disciplined for his little infraction)?

  6. Doug Lampert says:

    The Volley guns aren’t even the same order of magnitude as giving the whole infantry line repeating rifles. They’re comparable to Canister in effect, and canister WASN’T enough to stop cavalry charges. For that matter the volley guns didn’t stop this charge, the guns fired a few volleys and then left (as would be expected), it was the infantry line holding steady that stopped the charge. And without repeaters that requires that the infantry be of very high quality.

  7. Mark L says:

    @5: Will Krenz be disciplined? What for? Forgetting to use his pistol to save his commanding officer instead of his sword in a moment of stress, and then losing it on the battlefield while he was wounded and unconscious after heroically rescuing his commanding officer from certain death? Because you *know* that will be the “official” report that Jeff Higgins will make if pressed. And that *will* be the story that Straley accepts if the question is investigated by still higher authority.

    In good armies loyalty goes down as well as up. This *is* a good army, and as Krenz has demonstrated loyalty up (at peril of his own life), you can be sure that his superiors will demonstrate it down to him.

  8. Robert Krawitz says:

    @7, yeah, you’re probably right. Hopefully Jeff is telling him that it’s a really, really stupid thing to do, though.

  9. Todd Bloss says:

    I just find it hard to comprehend how a millionaire uptimer, going into battle against muskets and cavalry, doesn’t have any bullets for his uptime pistol. -wasn’t it Jeff himself who said “it’s called ‘rate of fire’, mother f’rs”?

  10. JTL says:

    @2 Marshal Murat had been defeated and executed in Italy by the Austrians by the time of Waterloo. It was Marshal Michel Ney who took the unsupported Reserve Cavalry against the interlocking British squares. Napoleon was furious. He would have been better served by the Duc of Auerstadt, Marshal Davout, then serving as Minister of War. @6 French Mitrailleuse batteries at Gravelotte-St Privat, Aug 1870, were kept back in the artillery line for no effect. They may have had better use as battalions guns up front on the line. Say one on each wing for enfilade fire as were machine guns in WWI. Leave a few massed volly gun batteries in reserve at key points. That’s if there are enough to go around. What about more use of the Swedish regimental three pounder leather guns for defense and offense on the line. Capt General GARS own inovation.

  11. yelesabekul says:

    @10 Leather guns were mentioned in 1632, GAII found them unsuitable for battle and didn’t bring any from Sweden when he came to Germany.

  12. robert says:

    There is a Giant Snerk on the Bar. There was a big open confab at NASFIC with all the 163x authors at which was discussed the very ambitious sounding book schedule, plots and plans going forward for what looks like the number of years until the heat death of the universe. The Snerker was posted by Virginia DeMarce who was taking notes.

    IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW DON’T GO THERE.

    A harmless example (items 10 11 and 12 on the list):

    “Eric and David Weber have a three-book contract with Baen.
    (10) 163x: Admiral Simpson in the West Indies.
    (11) The Ottomans with Weber? 163x: Admiral Simpson in the Mediterranean?
    (12) Still untitled book to be written with Weber.
    Response to query:
    They will appear as Weber gets time in his writing schedule (robert says “heat death of the universe?”). The dates are entirely flexible and they aren’t in the proposed publication schedule any time soon now.”

    There are slightly over 20 items listed, in all.

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