1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 09

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 09

Thorsten Engler looked around the room and whistled softly. “Well, it’s certainly an improvement over the tent, Colonel. The men might start calling you ‘Sultan,’ though.”

“Very funny.” Jeff Higgins waved at one of the unoccupied seats in the salon. He’d appropriated the largest such room in the castle to serve as his headquarters. Conveniently, it had a bedroom attached. But Jeff had the door closed. Truth be told, the bedroom was even more luxurious than the salon. He hadn’t chosen these rooms for that reason, but protestations of innocence would be received with the skepticism usually bestowed upon such claims.

The real reason Jeff had selected these quarters was visible in the salon itself. Every single officer of the regiment was present at this meeting, from company level up. That meant fitting into the room one colonel, two majors, ten captains and two first lieutenants. The lieutenants served Jeff as adjutants, which was polite military-speak for gofers.

They all had places to sit, too. Comfortable ones.

“Okay, guys,” Jeff began, with his usual lack of formality. He ran the regiment in a manner that bore as much resemblance to his days as the dungeon master of role-playing games as it did to anything a traditional military man would have considered proper behavior for a commanding officer. The reason he got away with it was because his subordinates had complete confidence in him. Jeff would have been surprised, in fact, had he known just how deep that confidence ran. Not much of it was due to his status as Gretchen Richter’s husband, either, although that certainly didn’t hurt in a regiment as CoC-heavy as the Hangman.

No, it was Jeff himself. Or rather, the Colonel Higgins who had emerged from the battles at Zwenkau and Zielona Góra. Jeff was only vaguely aware of it, but he was one of those people who became calm and unflappable under stress. There was probably no other quality a commanding officer could have that produced more confidence in his soldiers. It was nice, of course, if the commander gave exceedingly intelligent and shrewd orders as well. But all he really needed to do, when a subordinate turned to him for commands, was to be able to give them as naturally and easily as a man orders a meal in a restaurant. Unless the orders were disastrously wrong, their precise nature didn’t matter that much.

Battles are not very complicated, when you get right down to it. Go there. Stay here. Shoot those people over there. Go around that hill and try to shoot them in the back. Blow up this bridge. Burn down this house. Don’t burn down this house, you idiot, we need it to sleep in after we win the battle.

Leaving aside a few euphemisms and technical terms, the vocabulary involved was entirely within reach of a ten-year-old child. The key was that it all had to be done while other people were doing their level best to go around hills and shoot you in the back. That was the stark reality that no child could possibly handle — and not all that many full-grown men could handle well, if they were in a command position.

Jeff Higgins could, and by now his men knew it. So his relaxed, almost collegial style of command helped foster an esprit de corps in the regiment instead of undermining his authority with its officers. The truth was, even if they’d been able to see into the bedroom, the officers and men of the regiment wouldn’t have done more than make wisecracks about sleeping on a bed so big you needed a map to find your way out of it in the morning. Some of the soldiers would have been tempted to sneak in and swipe the canopy, no doubt. But they probably wouldn’t have actually done it. Not the colonel’s canopy.

When he had everyone’s attention, Jeff used a pointer he’d had made for him by one of the regiment’s carpenters to indicate their position on a large map he had hanging on an easel. The map was new, having just been finished by the same artist who’d done the portrait on the beckies.

“You see this stretch of the Elbe, from here north to Königstein?” He waggled the tip of the pointer back and forth across the border. “That’s why we’re really here, gentlemen. I hope I don’t have any officers in this regiment who are so dim-witted that they really think General Stearns left us here to protect Bohemia against that jackass Heinrich Holk.”

A little sigh swept the room. They’d wondered, of course.

“The general left you with special orders,” ventured Major Eisenhauer.

Jeff shook his head. “No, he didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t need to.”

He turned to face his officers. “Here’s how it is, and if there’s anyone here who thinks he’ll have trouble with what might be coming, you’d better come talk to me in private after this meeting.”

His tone of voice was harsh, which was unusual for Colonel Higgins.

Another little sigh swept the room. They’d wondered about that, too.

“Let me start by making one thing clear. Mike Stearns believes in the rule of law just as much as I do. So if nobody breaks the rules, then you and me and every soldier in this regiment is just going to spend some chilly but probably pleasant enough months twiddling our thumbs here. But if rules do start getting broken…”

He shook his head again. “And being, honest, I’m pretty sure they will. The thing is, I know Mike Stearns — but I don’t think those other people really do. I don’t think they understand just how much they’re playing with fire here.”

Major Fruehauf spoke up. “So our real task here is to make sure that if the Third Division needs to return to the USE — quickly — that there won’t be anything in the way.”

Jeff nodded. “The key will be the fortress at Königstein.” He tapped the map again with the pointer. “I only got a look at it from a distance as we marched past, but it looked plenty tough and by all accounts it is.”

One of the infantry captains spoke up. “I have been there, sir. And, yes, it’s still quite formidable even if the structure was built four hundred years ago.”

“What I figured. We’ll maintain some cavalry patrols up and down the Elbe to keep an eye on whatever might be developing at the fortress. But mostly, I figure we’ll rely on the air force. The one definite instruction the general gave me was to build an airfield here. By happy coincidence, any plane coming in and out of Tetschen from the USE is just going to naturally overfly the fortress at Königstein.”

He turned away from the map and paused for a few seconds. “I will repeat what I said. If any of you have problems with any of this, come talk to me afterward.”

The officers glanced around at each other. Then Thorsten Engler said:

“I don’t think so, Colonel. I think I can speak for every man here. If they play by the rules, we play by the rules. But if they break the rules, then we’ll show them why we’re called the Hangman.”

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28 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 09

  1. Peter says:

    Lovely!
    Looking forward to a nice messy battle over a fortress.

  2. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @Peter – I imagine the bulk of the mess will be inside the Konigstein fortress. :-)

  3. dave o says:

    Konigstein has to be a lot closer to Jeff than Dresden. It may be a strong fortress, but it can’t be held without a strong garrison. It’s hard to believe that it has one now. The folks planning a reactionary takeover are in Berlin, and plan to stay there; no Magdeburg for capital, it’s too radical. The force moving into Dresden will support them, but will have enough trouble there to keep them busy. My guess is that by the time it occurs to them to garrison Konigstein and start moving troops up the Elbe, Jeff will be there, and the rest of the 3rd division will be hot-footing it back to support them.

    Interesting question: Can Bartley float enough Beckys to supply Konigstein?

  4. wombatcombat says:

    KONIGSTEIN always remained a stronghold and a fortress with its own garrison; the fortifications were always updated and enlarged to meet the latest requirements of arms technology. It was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here

  5. dave o says:

    #4 The Elector of Saxony is dead. His principality is destroyed. What effect do you think this will have on the garrison of this “unconquerable” fortress? Beside the fact that any fortress in unconquerable until it’s conquered.

  6. Mark L says:

    I may be wrong, but I suspect that at the end of the book Konigstein may still have its reputation as an unconquerable fortress intact. Being bought is not the same as being conquered, and often simpler and cheaper for the victors.

    Not a snerk — just a pure guess on my part.

  7. Todd Bloss says:

    Maybe they’ll use rock music and napalm on it. -Worked before…

  8. kwinn says:

    Napalm perhaps. Rock music is probably a known hazard by now.

  9. Summertime says:

    What forces are under the control of Oxenstierna, Wettin, and the Royalist reactionaries? Where will they strike in their bid to stop the democritization of Europe? Who will oppose them, 3rd Army, COC?

  10. robert says:

    @9 Baner is certain to be allied with Oxenstierna as long as Gustav is not able to command. And that is the real issue that Mike will need to deal with. Call it mutiny, call it civil war, call it what you will, Baner must be dealt with, especially with Gretchen at risk.

  11. morgulknight says:

    @10, Which begs a few questions:
    1) How big is Baner’s force compared to the combination of Third Division, the Vogtland rebels, and whatever the CoC can put together in Dresden itself?
    2) What percentage of his troops can Baner rely on if he tries to suppress the CoCs in Dresden?
    3) How do Tortensson and his troops react to all this?
    Toss in the fact that Spartacus et al have an iron lock on Magdeburg, the uptimers in and around Grantville certainly aren’t going to be siding with the likes of Oxenstierna, there’s no sign the Ram Movement has disarmed, and we still don’t really know what Ulrik and Kristina are planning, and this could get real messy real fast.

  12. ET1swaw says:

    @9 Baner’s troops are mostly mercenaries paid by Sweden. Oxenstierna through Wettin and as assumed Regent has overall CiC priveledges over USE and Swedish troops (note the assignments of 1st and 2nd Armies to siege of Poznan, 3rd Army to Bohemia, and assignment of Baner to Saxony). Most of the reactionaries will have household troops.
    @10 Baner is supposed to answer to Ernst Wettin, but will probably ignore him if Oxenstierna whispers in his ear. Or even to just gain points with a powerful man. Remember him in the Oberpfalz, his reputation is all important and commoners with attitude are beneath contempt (kill them all and let God sort them out).

  13. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @6, 7, 8 — Conquering Konigstein.

    If they are going to have an airplane — and they already know how to make napalm — why can’t they rig napalm bombs to the airplane and dive bomb Konigstein? Two or three well-placed bombs inside the fortress, and it will be done for. The Hangman Regiment can just march by with no worry about the “unconquerable fortress.”

  14. laclongquan says:

    Crude, that’s just crude.

    As the man said earlier, bribery and treachery is an acceptable tactic, plus cheaper on both the money and the men manning the siege. Why fight when we could just buy them outright.

  15. kwinn says:

    An intact fortress is much easier and more comfortable to hold than a burned out one. Bribery and treachery is the way to go if it can be done.

  16. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @14, 15 — Okay. Make the napalm bombs and rig them to the airplane. Have the airplane circling overhead while Jeff negotiates a deal to keep the fortress out of the fight. Sound better?

  17. laclongquan says:

    Anyway, dont forget this is 1636. It means that The Old Pope and Barberini clan has moved from Rome, to where is unspecified. It’s a wildcard factor. The new town might well serve another purpose, though building civilized infrastructure is nothing to sneeze at.

  18. ET1swaw says:

    @11 In answer to your questions (you posted while I was typing reply to @9&10):
    1) Depending on what troops Ernst Wettin could get him to leave in Oberpfalz, Baner’s forces could be quite large. They took fortified Ingolstadt even before they were reinforced. Vogtland rebels even if reinforced by Czech calvary probably number more than a company but not by much. CoC armed supporters by this time maybe a few more, but I doubt it. 3rd Army is just that an Army composed of battalions and regiments.
    2) Baner’s troops even before he left Oberpfalz were almost all mercenaries with Sweden as paymaster. Any CoC supporters were most likely left behind to garrison Oberpfalz. Many had already been transferred back to the USE forces (Engler’s flying batteries). Would mercenaries support their paymaster? As much as at any other time I think!
    3) If Tortensson and his troops even hear about it before it is history is doubtful. Yes they have radios, but they are obeying lawful orders to conduct a siege of Poznan PLC, far away from Berlin and even farther from Saxony. That and to bleed them was why Oxenstierna had them sent there in the first place. As to who they would support in a civil war, thats Eric’s. But I wouldn’t bet on the Crown Royalists.
    Axel Oxenstierna, through Wettin (the PM not his brother Ernst), is attempting a coup de main of the USE. 9 of 15 provinces belong to G2A which means Axel’s ringers. He’s losing Mecklenburg politically and Pomerania is seeming to follow. Swabia lost a good portion of its area to Wurtemmburg (FoJP/CoC) and the Swiss. And Prince Frederick and Nils Brahe will in no way answer to him. Of the other 5: he left out Hesse-Kassel’s widow/regent, Calenberg is with Tortennson, Tyrol is busy in the Rhineland, and SoTF/Magdeburg are FoJP/CoC.
    The fortress could be a roadblock. Mike, as a good general, left behind a subordinate, that knows without orders, to take care of it (his most foriegn-friendly and CoC supported regiment). That fortress is also a tattletale (the string attached to a rope cable, not a snitch). In addition to radio reports from Saxony, flyovers of the fortress will indicate scale of involvement.

  19. kwinn says:

    @16 – Much better idea. All the bases covered that way.

  20. Anders says:

    Question : how will Baner feel about Oxenstjenas plan ? In 1632 he made comments about the need to crop of the heads of nobelmen who got above themselves (including members of his own family). Also how will he feel about being used as a garrison commander especialy when Thorstenson is of ” winning fame and glory ” in Poland while he fights pesants (the only way to win anykind of fame in such fighting is by losing) AND what if Kristina and Ulrik orders Baner to march on Oxenstjerna.
    Remember that they are bethroed witch at that time was a kind of legal kontrakt witch would make Ulrik into an individual with some claim on the regency wich will only grove stronger with time.
    Dont forget that in real life Baner was given command of all swedish forces in germany when G2A died at Lutzern and keept it until he died and that he was considerd an able and popular general.

  21. Blackmoore says:

    I’m with #15, after all, Jeff thinks they just need to get around it.

    if they need to take it, they do have tools at their disposal to do that. I’d expect they would bribe well.

    after all, if nothing gets in, or out it would be very hard to use as a government.

  22. TimC says:

    @19 All your base are belong to us-this are include Konigstein

  23. robert says:

    Re: bribery/Konigstein
    Will they accept beckys (or is it beckies)? What other resource is available to Jeff? And in that case, what happens if the printing press breaks down while they are preparing to paper the fortress garrison? And who pays the soldiers garrisoning the fortress now?

    They don’t need to occupy the fortress, they just need to have the garrison ignore them as they go marching by. Blackmoore (@20) is right. I expect a parlay between Jeff and the garrison commander will accomplish all that is required.

  24. cka2nd says:

    I’m dying to see what Hesse-Kassel does. I could actually see them backing Stearns and Co. with whatever military forces they have left.

  25. Ed says:

    @23 Bribery may well be the way to get the fortress, but Jeff will want more than a ‘blind eye’ from the garrison. You don’t leave a bribable garrison on your General’s route of march when he is in a hurry and its your job to clear the road for him. There will be a command friendly to the 3rd division in that fortress before Jeff’s job is done.

  26. JaneDB says:

    Whoa there, guys. This is Mike “Rule of Law” Stearns. Do you really believe he will condone a civil war against Ox? IMHO history is much more about the people than the battles.

  27. Drak Bibliophile says:

    JaneDB, if Ox “breaks the rules”, Mike would likely consider himself free to act.

  28. Thanks For Sharing This! :)

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