1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 07
Mike was charmed by the idea. “Sure, let’s do it. D’you need me to leave one of the printing presses behind?”
Unlike every other general in the known world, Mike Stearns would no more undertake a campaign without his own printing presses than he would without guns and ammunition. In his considered opinion as a former labor organizer, one printing press was as valuable as two or three artillery batteries.
Bartley pursed his lips. “Probably a good idea, sir. I can afford to buy one easily enough. The problem is that I don’t know what’s available in the area, and we’re familiar with the ones the division brought along.”
“Done. Anything else you need?”
David and Jeff looked at each other. Then Jeff said: “Well, we need a name for the currency. We don’t want to call it script, of course.”
Mike scowled. “Company script” was pretty much a profane term among West Virginia coal miners.
“No, we sure as hell don’t,” he said forcefully. He scratched his chin for a few seconds, and then smiled.
“Let’s call it a ‘becky,'” he said. “Third Division beckies.”
Bartley looked dubious. “Gee, sir, I don’t know… Meaning no offense, but isn’t that pushing nepotism a bit far?”
Higgins laughed. “In the year sixteen thirty-five? For Christ’s sake, David, nepotism is the most favored middle name around. Most rulers in the here and now get their position by inheritance, remember?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
Mike’s grin faded a little. “Relax, Captain. The problem with nepotism is that it can lead to incompetence and it’s often tied to corruption. But neither of those issues are involved here. It’s just a name, that’s all.”
Bartley thought about it for a moment, and then seemed relieved. “Okay, I can see that.”
A moment later, he looked downright pleased. “And now that I think about it, naming the division’s unit of currency after your own wife is likely to boost confidence in it. The here and now being the way it is.”
The rest of the division resumed the march to Prague early the next morning. Jeff and his officers spent the rest of the day and most of the next three getting the regiment’s camp established.
That took some time and effort, because Jeff had decided to billet the regiment’s soldiers in or next to the Thun castle on the hill, instead of in the town itself. The castle was vacant since the owner had fled, and Jeff figured he could use the fact of the nobleman’s flight as proof positive that he’d been up to no good.
That wouldn’t stand up to any kind of serious legal scrutiny, of course. But it didn’t have to. All Jeff needed was a fig leaf to cover his sequestering of the castle for the immediate period. Whatever differences there might be between down-time courts and up-time courts, and between down-time legal principles and up-time legal principles, they shared one thing in common. The wheels of justice ground very, very slowly. By the time a court ruled that the Hangman Regiment’s seizure of Thun’s castle had been illegitimate, the war would be over and the regiment would be long gone anyway.
For that matter, Jeff might have died of old age. He knew of at least one lawsuit in Franconia that was still chugging along — using the term “chugging” very loosely — three-quarters of a century after it was first filed.
Setting up the castle as living quarters for more than a thousand soldiers was not a simple process, however. Fortunately, the kitchens were very large. But there wasn’t enough in the way of sleeping quarters and the less said about the castle’s toilet facilities the better.
But it wouldn’t have made a difference even if the castle had had the most up-to-date and modern plumbing. No edifice except one specifically designed for the purpose of housing large numbers of people will have enough toilets to maintain sanitation for an entire regiment. An oversized regiment, at that. So, proper latrines had to be constructed.
About half the men would have to sleep in their tents anyway. Jeff set up a weekly rotation schedule that would allow every soldier to spend some time in the castle’s quarters. Personally, he thought the tents were probably just as comfortable. Or no more uncomfortable, it might be better to say. True, winter was almost upon them. But spending a night in a freezing stone castle was not likely to be any more pleasant than spending it in a tent equipped with a portable stove.
However, he knew the men would be happier if they were all rotated through the castle’s living quarters. That would seem fair, regardless of whether it actually made any difference in practical terms.
He was tempted to billet some of the soldiers in the town itself. But that would just be asking for trouble. Civilians hated having soldiers billeted into their own homes. That was a given. The American colonists had hated it when the British did it. Really hated it — to the point of sharply limiting the practice in the Bill of Rights. It was the third amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Czech civilians wouldn’t be any happier in the here and now having mostly German soldiers foisted upon them. The animosities produced would undermine whatever chance there might be to get the new beckies accepted by the local populace. As it was, by keeping the soldiers out of the town’s homes, Jeff was generating quite a bit of good will. Billeting troops upon civilians was standard practice in the seventeenth century, and Tetschen’s inhabitants had been glumly expecting it.
Very glumly. Even on their best behavior, soldiers crammed into homes that were usually none-too-large to begin with caused difficulties for their “hosts.” And billeted troops usually weren’t on their best behavior, especially if the home contained anything valuable or had young women present.
When Tetschen’s populace learned they would avoid the fate this time, they were immensely relieved. Some of them even went so far as to buy a round of drinks for soldiers in one of the town’s taverns. Not often, of course.
All in all, in fact, Tetschen’s inhabitants were coming to the conclusion that this might turn out for the best. The taverns were doing a land office business, as was the town’s one small brothel — which soon began expanding its work force. And with a regiment apparently stationed permanently in the town, most of the other merchants were looking to increase their business also. Soldiers have needs as well as desires. Uniforms needed to be mended, food needed to be bought and cooked, equipment needed to be repaired — the list went on and on.
Tetschen was becoming quite a cheerful town, in fact.
Then the becky made its appearance.