1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 49

1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 49

Wismar, Germany, on the Baltic coast

The up-time radio operator frowned. “Say what?”

“Grain futures,” Jozef Wojtowicz repeated.

The tow-headed young fellow’s jaws moved, much like a cow chewing a cud. It was difficult to imagine that his people had once, in another world, put a man upon the moon. This particular American seemed about as bright as a sheep dog.

Eventually, Sergeant Trevor Morton confessed. “I don’t exactly know what that is.”

With a genial expression on his face, Jozef leaned forward across the table.

“It’s not complicated. As you know” — which he certainly didn’t — “Poland is the world’s greatest exporter of wheat.”

That might even be true. Close enough for these purposes.

“The grain is shipped through the Baltic. But the process is slow. Grain is bulky.” Best to use short sentences. One syllable words as much as possible. “By the time it reaches the market, prices have often changed. Those who speculate” — no way to avoid that term — “in grain can lose a lot of money.”

He paused, enabling the sergeant to absorb this mountain of knowledge.

“Yeah, okay, I get it,” said that worthy eventually. His jaws were still moving back and forth. Jozef wondered what he could possibly be chewing? It couldn’t be the bizarre material the up-timers called “chewing gum.” That had vanished years ago. Jozef had never actually laid eyes on the stuff.

Perhaps Sergeant Morton, having gotten into the habit of chewing gum, had simply continued the process when the gum disappeared. Who could say?

“Well, then,” Jozef continued. “Nothing has more effect on the travel time of Polish wheat down the rivers and across the sea than the weather.”

That was probably true also, although Jozef was grossly overstating its importance to grain speculators. The real effect of the weather on grain prices was seasonal, not daily or weekly. But that wouldn’t do for his purposes here.

“Yeah, okay, I can see that.”

Jozef smiled. Mission accomplished?

Alas, no.

“But what’s that got to do with me?” asked the American sergeant.

It was all Wojtowicz could do not to throw up his hands. Instead, in as gentle a tone of voice as he could manage, he continued the lesson in remedial bribery.

“The weather in northern Europe generally goes from west to east. As you know. Especially over the open waters of the Baltic. Where you are located, here in Wismar.”

The reason the sergeant was located here was because of the USE air force base in Wismar. But the base was no longer used much for active air operations. It had become a sleepy garrison post. Hence the presence of sleep-walking soldiers like Morton. In earlier times, Jozef wouldn’t have had to do all this, since the weather forecasts were broadcast openly. Lately, though, once it became clear that Gustav Adolf was going to invade Poland, the USE had decided that a knowledge of the upcoming weather might be a military asset, so they now kept the information as private as such information could be kept — which was not at all, as Jozef was now demonstrating. But then, no knowledgeable man expects a government to be any smarter than a cow.

Jozef had paused for a bit, allowing the man across the tavern table to digest that stew of complex data. Now, finally, the sergeant seemed to have done so.

“Yeah, okay, I get that.”

“So. You give me a copy of the weather forecast every evening. We can meet in this tavern or anywhere else you’d prefer.”

“Here’s fine,” said Morton. “I come here every day after work anyway. But what good’s the forecast going to do you when you need it in Poland?”

A flicker of intelligence. Amazing. Best to stamp it out quickly, lest it spread.

“I’ll have couriers ready, on the fastest horses.”

Anyone with a knowledge of geography would have understood immediately that that was absurd. No string of horses could possibly get a weather forecast from Wismar to Poland before the weather itself arrived and made the whole exercise pointless. What Jozef was actually going to do was transmit the information on his own radio. The messages could be easily coded, since they’d be short. Even if a USE radio man should happen to stumble upon the frequency, they wouldn’t know what was being transmitted.

But Jozef was certain that Morton wouldn’t realize he was being duped. The man obviously had no idea where Poland was in the first place. Nor the name of its capital, the language its people spoke, or… anything. Jozef had once met a man more ignorant of the world than this sergeant. But he had the excuse of being an illiterate Lapp reindeer herder.

Finally, Morton’s brain got around to the core of the matter. “How much you say you’ll pay me?”

Warsaw, Poland

The Grand Hetman of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth peered down at the object in the hand of his nephew’s agent.

“Amazing,” he said. “I thought they needed huge towers to work.”

The agent shook his head. “That was a lie that the Americans spread at first. They call it ‘disinformation.’ It’s true that radios work better with big towers, especially transmissions, but they’re not necessary.” He hefted the receiver. “I can only use this effectively in the morning and evenings. What they call the windows. But I’ll be able to get the boss’s transmissions.”

Stanislaw Koniecpolski nodded, and dismissed the agent with a motion of his hand. He then turned to face young Opalinski, who was seated in a chair in the small salon located in the Royal Castle. Lukasz still had a haunted look on his face.

“It is no crime to be defeated, young man,” the Grand Hetman said gently. “Especially not when you return with such useful information.”

Opalinski made a face. “It may not be so useful as all that.”

Koniecpolski shrugged. “Anything will help. Gustav Adolf will bring some fifty thousand men into Poland. I will have perhaps forty thousand with which to oppose him, ten thousand of whom are Brandenburgers.” He scowled. “I’m not counting Holk’s men, assuming the king ignores my advice and hires the swine. Making things still worse, half of the Swede’s infantry will be armed with rifled muskets, where I have but a thousand of the French breechloaders.”

Opalinski perked up a bit. “You got them, then?”

The grand hetman nodded. “Yes, and I think I’ll have at least two thousand SRGs by the time we confront him. They’ve made enough of those by now to create a sizeable black market and for once” — the scowl came back — “the Sejm isn’t being miserly.”

He took a seat near Opalinski. “Finally, Gustav Adolf will have his airplanes and his APCs. The first, from what I can determine from the reports I’ve gotten, have a somewhat limited capability as weapons. On the other hand, they provide superb reconnaissance.”

“In good weather,” said Lukasz.

“As you say. In good weather. Much like the APCs, which you describe as being invincible war machines against men –”

Lukasz completed the thought. “But by no means invincible against terrain and weather. I warn you, though, I got that mostly from listening to Lubomir Adamczyk and some of the other hussars who survived the battle.” His face tightened. “I did not see very much myself, after…”

“After you led an almost successful charge with only two hundred hussars against the same flying artillery that crushed the French cavalry at Ahrensbok. Stop flagellating yourself, young man. We’re Catholics, not heathens.” A smile removed the sting from the last words and turned them into a jest.

The grand hetman signaled a servant standing by a far wall. “Some wine,” he said, when the man came over.

As the servant went about his task, Koniecpolski turned back to Lukasz. “Regardless of who made the observations, I think they’re accurate. The only way I can at least partially nullify the Swede’s many advantages is to refuse to meet him on terrain and under weather conditions that favor him. I will have to maneuver as long as necessary” — his expression became bleak — “and allow as much ravaging by the enemy as I must, in order to fight a battle under those conditions which favor me. Or, at least, counter some of the enemy’s strengths.”

The servant returned, with a bottle and two goblets. After he poured the wine and retreated, Koniecpolski raised his goblet.

“Once again, my precious nephew has done right by us. A toast! Here’s to drenching rain and blinding fog and the Swedish bastard’s downfall.”

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19 Responses to 1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 49

  1. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I wonder if Sgt. Trevor Morton is Eric’s way of commenting on the abysmal state of American education today?

    I wonder if Stanislaw Koniecpolski will adopt a “scorched earth” defense policy against GA2? Or perhaps he will adopt uptime guerilla warfare tactics to his defense of Poland.

  2. bfticardi says:

    I think it more likely he’ll just do what he says and maneuver around till a weather front hits, then lure the Swedes into terrain where APCs can’t follow and where breech loading rifles in cover can decimate the infantry. Then he’ll try to follow up with a cavalry charge to mop up the battlefield. It might take awhile to get the best weather for it, so he won’t do a scorched earth policy since it would be too destructive…after all he wants to defeat the Swedish king in battle, not drive them out of Poland with no battle.

  3. Robert Krawitz says:

    I wonder how long it will take at least the up timers to catch on. If Koniecpolski is obviously avoiding battle for too long, and then all of a sudden changes his plans at just the right moment weather-wise, suspicious types might start wondering.

    Then, of course, Sgt. Morton might not be quite what he seems…or might get caught selling weather reports. The joys of waiting for the next snippets…

  4. dave o says:

    Koniecpolski’s army is probably mostly light horse,- polish hussars. The Brandenburg army probably has some infantry. The french breechloaders are carbines, not rifles, and likely don’t outrange G2A’a flintlocks. He probably figures that his army is more mobile than G2A’s. but may not know about Tac-rail, which will make a big difference.
    The breechloaders can be used from horseback, but would be a lot more effective for dismounted cavalry. It’s hard to believe that he has enough control to prevent some Polish noble charging G2A when he sees his lands destroyed. Equally hard to believe Hussars will want to fight dismounted. Koniepolsk thinks that Opalinski was defeated by volley guns. Does he realize that it was infantry which finally destroyed them? K mentions he may have 2000 breechloaders. How much ammunition will he have for them?

  5. Blackmoore says:

    Another variable is G2A’s plans for Poland. Does HE plan a scorched earth policy? that won’t be accepted by the CoC troops, nor the Poles he manages to conquer.

    He sure in hell wasn’t going to go in and strike at the heart like he could with Denmark.

  6. Beata says:

    @4 Koniecpolski’s army in 1635 (historicity):
    – 6000 cavalry
    – 1800 dragoons (infantry on horses)
    – 10000 infantry
    – more than 11000 from private armys

    “It’s hard to believe that he has enough control to prevent some Polish noble charging G2A when he sees his lands destroyed.” – not for me, they are soldiers not “common movement”, and have some experience with Tatars and something called the “harvesting of the steppe”.

    Hussars don’t like to fight dismounted but they can: Siege of Zbarazh – Defenders: 6200 cavalry + 1000 infantry + 1800 dragoons. Or Chocim (in Eng) http://www.radoslawsikora.republika.pl/materialy/Chocim1621/Chocim1621.pdf

  7. Cobbler says:

    Koniecpolski has forty thousand men. He has two thousand French carbines. Everybody else will be using flintlock muskets…maybe rifles…and wheel lock pistols. And he wants to fight in the rain?

    Forget calling it the Eastern War. It will be known as the Wet Gunpowder War.

  8. Jac says:

    I would think by this point that the entire USE/Swedish army would be 100% armed with SRG’s.

  9. ronzo says:

    He has 1000 “Cardinal”: breach loaders and approximately 2000 “SRG’s”: USE flint lock rifled muskets. Against Damn near 40,000 infantry that all have SRG’s (if theres big enough black market for the sejm to come up 2000 the entire use army has to be equipped) thats going to be pretty lop sided. That’s not even considering the improvements in field artillery(not including the volley guns)and the tactics that they haven’t seen yet like the square formation that will also do a number on his hussars. Unless he can force G2A to attack him on a narrow front, which I doubt G2A will do that. Bad Weather and bad ground will also limit the usefullness of the Hussars as well. When is Ollie Reardon going to get caught up on the Carbines any way? Hes had the time, I also think that with the french solution for percussion caps the army would be chomping at the bit to get a hold of navy pattern mitraluese (probably murdered the spelling) guns to replace the volley guns. I think the hussar problem could also be solved with the application of even primative claymore mines.

  10. Doug Lampert says:

    Rain only dampens his powder if he’s planning to win by firepower. Which is INSANE. He can’t possibly win by firepower. Sufficiently bad weather will kill most USE guns as well as his, fog will eliminate the ability to get more than one volley off, mud KILLS the ability of period field guns to deploy.

    He’ll use his handful of good guns for the dragoons, which gives him a better combination of mobility and firepower than the USE army has in any equivalent sized unit. He may well leave the infantry and private infantry in garrison. Then he’s counting on the ability of 6,000 of his cavalry + the private cavalry who AREN’T hit by massive firepower on the approach to ride over any opposition.

    The USE army with DEAD PERFECT conditions concentrated fire from a division plus their field artillery and volley guns on 200 hussars, and failed to stop them. Assuming that they can smash 6,000 hussars in bad weather strikes me as foolishly optimistic.

    It’s not a good plan, but its far and away the best available. Fighting in good weather and trying to depend on matchlocks against superior numbers + superior guns + volley guns + aircraft + APCs + field artillery is absolutely batshit insane. Bad weather is his only hope.

  11. Summercat says:

    @10 –

    Will GA2 finally be beaten? Mmm.

  12. Doug Lampert says:

    @11, Depends entirely upon the power of PLOT. Which in fiction is far more powerful than mear armies.

    “Realistically” the odds are still almost entirely on GA’s side. He’s got a bigger army, a better army, better communications, better weapons, better heavy weapons…. He’s somewhat inferior in cavalry, but not catastrophically.

    It’s plausible that he could lose if everything goes wrong or he lets himself get ambushed. But it’s not likely. As I said in my earlier post, Koniecpolski’s plan isn’t actually a good plan, it’s just far better than any other plan I can see for him.

    The big problem with Poland isn’t defeating the army in the field, it’s occupying and holding the place afterward.

  13. lkan says:

    He’ll probably fight “the Swede” to a standstill after giving up the Western half of Poland, and Gustav will be contented for a while, with everything that Germany got out of WWII in Poland, with the Soviet deal.

    Then some flaming redheaded troublemaker will get the Lithuanians to want to split PLC into Poland and Lithuania… and get Moscovy to fall apart into several smaller states, allowing Gustav to swallow up the north, the Kola, all of Karelia, etc, except this time, for Sweden instead of USE.

  14. robert says:

    @13 Why is nobody taking Gustav’s generalship into account? Nor his mortality?

    Suppose he is badly hurt in battle and cannot lead, or worse? Then what? Do the Poles automatically win, rain or shine? What will happen on the home front? Will Ox take over? Will the CoC take to the streets? Will Mike stand still for such a mess?

    Or Gustave wins the decisive battle? Does he get to rule Poland (ha ha)? Or is he just after his rotten relatives’ heads? After all, the whole idea of war against the Poles is irrational and based on what passes for family values amongst the 17th century ruling classes.

  15. ronzo says:

    @14 Presumably the command would fall to ranking general on the field, and the battle could still be won by the Swede/USE forces. It would depend on alot of factors.
    On home front the Queen or Ox would be Kristina’s regent. Both leave alot to be desired on the Part of the Americans and the COC. Or that could be the focus of the power struggle with the various factions vying for the regency.

  16. Peter S says:

    What authority/influence does Ulrich have as Kristina’s consort, if G2A is out of action? Is he automatically sidelined until she comes of age?

  17. laclongquan says:

    Didnt Gustavus just invade the land of his relatives, with Princess Kristina’s ex-fiance is a member of the ruling class? The fiance of a grossly underage princess is hardly a member of the chain of succession: Gustavus–>Kris—> maybe some close male cousins of Gustavus. The Queen and the Chancellor is Regents, at best.

    As to the outcome of battles, there are three factors that you guys didnt remember: the grossly ineffienct and inept way of politics hide a lot of Polis valor on battlefield, and a ruinous victory is a very different animal from a cheap victory. The last is that Gustavus left his conquered territory insufficiently pacified. Oh yeah!

    Normally, after such a landgrab like that you need some time to establish the rules, stash your garrisoned troops, and generally deal with all the headaches come from such territories. Now he plan to concentrate a lot of his troops on Polish front and nowhere near enough on those two territories. They gonna blow! The peasants are always revolting, after all.

  18. robert says:

    @17 laclongquan
    If the assassins in Stockholm manage to kill the Queen, then it will be Ox as regent for Kristina, were Gustav to be killed or incapacitated. And with Gretchen away in Saxony, who will calm things down when Ox tries to set the clock back?

  19. ET1swaw says:

    OTL ‘the Ox’ wrote the ‘1634 Instrument of Government’ that among other things set forth the five great officers(in order of precedence: High Justice (legal system)-an Oxenstierna ATT, High Constable (Army)-Jacob de la Gardie (mother was Sigismund’s illegitimate half-sister), High Admiral (Navy)- Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm (G2A’s illegitimate half-brother), High Councilor (foriegn relations)- the Ox, and High Treasurer (was unofficially G2A’s brother-in-law (his wife was basically foster-mom to Kristina)but was officially replaced by an Oxenstierna)) that were to act both as regents for any underage monarch and privy council for the monarch at all times (combined oversight and cabinet). five lesser offices were also designated (High Marshal (moonarch’s court and palace afffairs), Huntmaster (forests), Master of Horse (calvary and stud farms), Master of Artillery (all gunpowder weapons and fortifications), and Quartermaster General (sometimes not included, but logisitics/supply were his).
    So if anything like OTL, the Ox is Kristina’s regent for the Swedish Empire (Sweden Proper, Dominions and Possessions). But NTL the Ox is not in chain-of-command for USE or Union of Kalmar (appointed by parliment / Christian IV).

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