1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 16

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 16:

Chapter 6

Dresden, capital of Saxony

Gretchen Richter studied the man sitting behind the desk. He was slight of build, with a large-featured face framed by long, light brown hair and decorated with mustachios and a goatee. Two bright blue eyes peered at her above a bony nose. The gaze was composed of equal parts of apprehension, suspicion and curiosity.

He seemed to be using the desk as a shield to protect himself against her — more like a barricade, perhaps. He held his old-fashioned quill pen as if it might serve him as a pike against charging cavalry.

About what she’d expected. The very fact that Duke Ernst of Saxe-Weimar had chosen to meet her in his office with himself seated at his desk told her a great deal about the way the man approached the world. The leaders of the Spanish forces besieging Amsterdam with whom she’d negotiated had been politicians, first and foremost. Despite the vast formal gulf in rank between themselves and a printer’s daughter like Gretchen, both Don Fernando — then the Cardinal-Infante in command of Spain’s armies in the Low Countries; now the King in the Netherlands — and his great-aunt Isabella, the Austrian archduchess who was the Netherlands’ regent, had always met her sitting down at chairs in an informal setting.

But the duke was not really a politician, no matter that his older brother Wilhelm Wettin was now the prime minister of the USE and his youngest brother Bernhard had carved out an independent principality for himself from the Franche-Comté and parts of Swabia. Instead, Ernst was an administrator — what the Americans called a bureaucrat. His natural and instinctive response when face with a challenge was to withdraw into his redoubt, his desk. There, armed with pen and ink and paper, he was best equipped to deal with whatever might arise.

A very good administrator, by all accounts. Even a fair-minded one, and no more prone to favoring his own class than was more-or-less inevitable given his origins and upbringing.

Gretchen had spent some time discussing Wettin with Dane Kitt, just a few weeks before coming to Dresden. The SoTF soldier had been in Grantville for the birth of his daughter at the same time Gretchen had been there attending to some personal matters for her husband. Kitt had served in the Oberpfalz during the Bavarian crisis and had given her a hilarious depiction of Wettin’s insistence on bombarding the Bavarian defenders of Ingoldtadt with Lutheran religious tracts hurled by a catapult. That story meshed with what her grandmother had told her about Mary Simpson’s assessment of Wettin: the slightest whiff of chalk dust acts on that man like perfume.

She decided that was probably where the chink in his armor could be found.

“Saxony’s schools are wretched,” she said abruptly. “Even here in Dresden. Correcting that problem has to be one of our first priorities.”

Fiercely, she added: “And we won’t be satisfied with purely religious schools, either. I have nothing against them, as a rule, and they certainly have every right to operate according to the basic principles of the separation of church and state. But those same principles require the creation — or support and expansion, if they already exist — of secular schools established by the government of the province.”

Duke Ernst stared at her. Clearly enough, this was not what he’d been expecting to hear from her. Certainly not as her opening remarks in their very first meeting.

“Ah…” he said.

“And we won’t accept pleas of poverty. Saxony is a rich province. This is not Mecklenburg — and even in Mecklenburg they’ve begun creating public schools, now that the boot heel of the aristocracy has been thrown off.”

That last statement was certainly true, in and of itself, but she’d really added it to allay whatever suspicions the duke might be developing that she was trying to undermine his resolution to oppose her at every point. Which, of course, she was.

One of the negotiating ploys she’d learned from watching Mike Stearns was the value of giving your opposite number a choice between alternatives, one of which was so unsavory that it made the other look tasty by comparison even if it wasn’t actually a taste the person would normally enjoy at all. A standard form of that maneuver was to present a choice between persons: either make a deal with me or — here a finger would be pointed to a nearby ogre — you’ll have to try coming to terms with that creature.

As often as not, in fact, Gretchen herself had been the ogre to whom Stearns had pointed. The CoCs, at least, if not herself personally.

But there was a variation on the tactic which she’d also learned from watching Stearns. It was a more subtle version in which the opposite party was given a choice between personalities rather than actual persons. In essence: Either make a deal with me when I’m in a good mood and we’re discussing something mutually amenable or we can wrangle over something that puts me in a really foul mood.

The actual expression she’d heard Stearns use was “or we can talk when I’m on the rag.” When she’d asked for a clarification of the expression from Melissa Mailey, she’d been stiffly told that it was quite offensive to women and Melissa would say nothing further on the matter.

That had been enough in itself, of course, to make its meaning clear. Gretchen had found the expression amusing rather than offensive. Who cared what men thought about such things? If men didn’t like the inevitable by-products of female anatomy, they could bear their own children and see if they liked being pregnant any better.

So, she was giving Wettin a choice. Shall we spend the afternoon discussing the profoundly foul nature of the aristocracy — to which you belong yourself — or shall we spend it instead talking about the need for educational reform, a subject about which you yourself are enthusiastic?

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21 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 16

  1. Peter says:

    Gretchen is a remarkable analyst. Even more, she is remarkable for her capacity to learn accurate lessons from what she analyzes. I really like her character.

  2. robert says:

    And the aristos know exactly what she thinks of them. She makes no bones about it.

  3. dave o says:

    It’s established that Ernst dislikes Baner. Maybe despises would be a better term. And now he finds out that he shares at least one goal with Gretchen. He’s an administrator, which means that he likes order, peace, and quiet, and dislikes disorder and violence. On which side will he be when Baner starts carrying out a pre-emptive counterrevolution, white terror, to keep the masses down and ignorant? It’s been suggested in comments to past snippets that his brother may not be willing to go along with Ox’s agenda. Will Ernst help Wilhelm to not go along?

  4. Mike says:

    The real question is how far ahead of Baner did Wettin arrive? If Gretchen has time to demonstrate there are areas (like Education) that Wettin and her can work together and find common ground, that will help show that Gretchen isn’t the enemy. What is interesting here is that it isn’t specified _where_ Wettin’s office is located. Is it in the Rathaus? The Electoral Palace? (at least one if not both were appropriated by the CoC earlier, correct?) When Wettin arrived, how was he greeted by 1) the CoC, 2) the militia that wants to stay neutral and only defend Dresden, and 3) any representatives of Kresse’s forces? If Wettin already arrived, Kresse can’t be that far behind. The roads within Saxony can’t be so bad that Wettin beat him to Dresden by all that much, can they? While Wettin likely traveled in a relatively small party with his staff, I can’t imagine Baner and his army would be all that much further behind him either. Even if Wettin took longer but quicker routes, he can’t be more than a month ahead of Baner and Kreese should arrive in the interval between them. (Yes, I know – the needs of the story will dictate arrivals more than simple distances and travel factors would indicate.)

  5. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Mike, getting an army ready to move would be much harder than getting a small group ready to move.

    IE, it’s not just time on the roads that is involved.

    Dave O, I suspect that there’s another side of Ernst that we haven’t seen.

    My guess is that he’ll learn that Baner has orders to “restore order in Dresden” and will know that Ox (and Baner) will see that as meaning destroying the CoC.

    IMO while Ernst disagees with the CoC end goals (no more Nobles), he’ll see Baner’s “cure” as worse than the “problem”.

    He’ll act decively in the defense of Dresden *and* my guess is that he’ll give Mike political “cover” by calling on Mike to stop Baner.

    Sure Mike would act without Ernst’s message but Ernst IMO would see Mike as the “cure” for Baner.

    By the way, I mentioned the problem of the time involved in getting Baner’s troops ready to move.

    IMO Mike will have plans in place so he’ll be able to get his troops ready to move than Baner could.

  6. Doug Lampert says:

    It’s not just getting ready to move that slows armies down. A big army is inherently slower than a smaller group if constrained to stay together on a single road.

    A road column for an army is LONG, especially when you include the artillery and baggage wagons. The main advantage of formation marching in step is that it lets you slightly increase your density on the road, slightly reducing the column length. If your column is 15 miles long, and you march at an average pace of 2.5 miles per hour (a bit slow but not excessively as an average), and you’re willing to use 12 hours for marching (which means your cooks are up well before dawn and may not actually have time to sleep), then congradulations, you move a maximum of 15 miles a day even though any single unit might be able to cover 30 miles a day if it could move for all 12 hours. The lead units have to stop early so tail end charlie can catch up, the trailing units can’t start till all those other slowpokes are on the road and moving.

    And this assumes that not a SINGLE wagon or carriage breaks down or bogs or otherwise delays things, good luck with that on unpaved roads.

    It also pretty well assumes that anyone who gets sick or is injured (including accidents, it doesn’t take enemy action to have some injured) can find something to ride or is left behind.

    Was Baner given any orders to expidite his movement? Will he try to keep his entire force together, or will he split it up to use multiple roads or allow the lead and trailing units to use separate camps? Depending on this sort of thing Baner’s march rate could be quite slow.

  7. dave o says:

    It’s worth pointing out that a large part of the way, Mike will follow the Oder to Dresden. I don’t know if barge traffic is possible on this stretch of the river. If it is, he’ll move a lot faster than Baner. Especially in winter.

    #4 I think Gretchen is the enemy. But she only wants aristocrat’s power, not their blood. Unless she has to take both.

  8. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    #7 I think you mean the Elbe.

    #6 all correct, but something like Jeff’s big regiment will move faster, precisely because it isn’t a whole army division. Baner can do the same thing — send a big company or so to escort Ernst, then a big Regiment to get some firepower in place and clear the roads. Then march up with the division.

    But there is an upper limit (somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000, depending on terrain, infrastructure, % cavalry vs. infantry) on any single military force (This is in fact where the concept of an army division or corps came from). You can concentrate more troops for a single battle by marching up on parallel (or if the General is brave) converging routes, but it doesn’t look like any of the forces in play have the organization to do that.

    If any do have a chance I’d bet on Mike and the CoC’s — they would have the option of doing something like a ‘remote leveee en masse,’ where they just walk to Dresden in small groups. Probably they would really form up wherever Jeff is at that moment. That would breing in what amounts to untrained militia, but they would probably arrive with weapons (Suhl) and enough food for a couple of days. They wouldn’t be a real match for Baner’s troops, but they might be strong enough to divert him. We might even see a ‘Jeff and the CoC militia vs. Baner’ confrontation for a week or two — at least until Mike got there.

  9. KimS says:

    The problem with the Oder is Konigstein Fortress overlooks it and controls it. That must be neutralized or subborned first.

  10. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Note: There’s a typo in a place name. Eric has “Ingoldtadt” whereas it should be “Ingoldstadt”.

  11. dac says:

    i wonder if Eric is going to bring gurilla sniping tactics to this world – i.e. what the yanks did to the brits in the revolutionary war – after all, pretty easy for the CoC with modern weapons to cause havoc on a march through wilderness

  12. ET1swaw says:

    Don’t forget Kresse is also addding people as he comes. That will slow him down considerably. And CoC penetration isn’t yet as great in Saxony and Brandenburg as it could be.
    Baner is moving a mercenary army through what was lately enemy territory. I wonder how much bad will he is leaving in his wake! Especially since Holk has already poisoned the waters considerably!
    Mike and Jeff are constrained by their status as a reactive force. They can’t really start moving until Baner screws up enough or Ernst Wettin calls on them. I agree Wettin may provide Mike a fig leaf after the fact, but I’m not so sure he would so openly oppose Axel and Baner as to call in the nearest major USE forces ahead of time. Calling them to reestablish peace (Kresse + CoCs vs Baner in outright warfare) or covering for them when they do so I can easily see.
    And constrained as a reactive force does not mean they can’t prepare to deploy at a moment’s notice. Also remember 3rd USE is already familiar with rapid movement (forced march to rescue of G2A – southernmost force of USE troops were far ahead of the other two closer divisions in reaching G2A).

  13. @6 Very well said. The increase in density corresponding to marching in step (and the early advance, in time) is actually quite large; see Nosworthy.

  14. Willem Meijer says:

    @6 and 13 And I thought that all that marching when I was a conscript in the Dutch army was just to annoy us. Typical military thinking: tell people to do it, not why they have to do it. Oops, I forget: had we been there faster, there would be another annoying job to do, like cleaning something, or more drill.

  15. @14 On no longer marches into battle like this; it was an earlier issue.

    However, the period space between soldiers in a marching formation was typically about six feet, because they neither marched in step or in time.

    Turning a period column was even more entertaining because of their great width.

    As Nosworthy notes, period “roads” while unpaved tended to be very wide, and the march formation was the same. leading to amusing consequences when hedges, fences, or bridges were encounters.

    I put some of this into The One World (the three Musketeers invade the kingdom of the Amazons). Setting up on a battlefield when the honor formation leads the march, the honor formation sets up on the right, and the main road enters on the right — the heroine arranges this for the villains in the large battle — was particularly time consuming.

  16. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Having been caught profoundly off-guard by Gretchen, I’m keen to see how Ernst Wettin responds to her.

  17. Mark L says:

    @11 — The Yanks did not defeat the Brits in the American Revolution due to their guerilla tactics. Rather, they won because they were able to build an army that could match British regulars on a battlefield in the open, go bayonet to bayonet with them and hold their ground. It took a long time to do that. The war effectively started in 1775, and the Continental Regulars lacked the ability to beat the British in open field combat until the spring of 1779.

    Before that the Americans fought behind field fortifications (Bunker Hill, White Plains, etc.), launched ambushes (Trenton, Princeton), or got pushed around like the Little Sisters of Charity’s football team playing the varsity of the number 1 college football team (most notably at Brandywine). The Saratoga campaign was the only one in which guerilla tactics contributed significantly to the defeat of a British field force, but that was mainly by denying the Brits freedom of motion for their supply trains once they got too deep in hostile country to retreat back to Canada.

    Guerilla tactics played an important part in that war, mainly by denying the British access to local agricultural products, but it was possible only because the Continental Army forced the Brits to stay concentrated into garrisons or field forces of at least 4000 men. (To prevent further Princetons or Trentons.) Prior to Princeton the British had broken down into garrisons of 1000-1500 men who were successfully blotting up Continental irregulars. Washington’s successful destruction of three Hessian regiments at Princeton fored the Brits to abandon that strategy.

  18. matthew says:

    The sniper issue here is going to be much worse than in the revolutionary war. The weapons are much better on the side of the rebels and Baner is not as well equipped as the British were. The COC can get its hands on modern weapons and get them to people who are dedicated to an honest to god cause. 50 guys with Cardinals can slow Baner’s army to a crawl from a huge distance and Baner is not going to know what to do about it. He can’t send out foraging parties nor can any of the weapons he carries be effectively deployed against single guys sniping from a hundred yards out with fast horses. The only downtimers with long range rifle skills are the guys who were using the 1 shot rifles i.e. hunters and farmers not the musketeer/pikemen of Baner’s army. He’s going to strike at the only target he can hit; the civilian population.

    Baner doing just that would be perfect for the COC. A reactionay army attacking USE citizens gives Mike the freedom to move, might convince reluctant militias elsewhere onto the COC side, and hitting the civilians doesn’t do anything to actually stop 50 guys with Cardinals from sniping the hell out Baner’s army. The modern strategy of assymetric warfare is pressuring the other side into overreaction, thus forcing the neutral population onto your side. There is no way it’s not going to work against Baner or any of the other generals that Ox will send.

  19. Doug Lampert says:

    @17 is correct. Another thing to remember about snipping from cover is, IT DOESN’T WORK for anyone who wants to get off two shots and have a real chance of living unless you have breachloading rifles with smokeless powder.

    Without a breach loader you need to stand up to reload so you only get one shot from hiding behind a fence or something; without rifles you don’t have the range to snip effectively; without smokeless powder the word “hiding” is being used in reference to the guys with the big smoke cloud giving away their position.

    In 1635, just how many irregulars HAVE a breach-loading smokeless powder riffle? And it really takes all three to be effective, with any two your irregulars can manage till they notice that the casualty count actually favors the other side (slightly) and that the fatality count is WAY in favor of the other side.

  20. robert says:

    @17 The British attempt to cut the colonies that culminated in the battle at Saratoga, NY, was preceded by their march south through roadless forest wilderness and swamp land after they left the environs of Ticonderoga. They lost men and equipment along the way because of the impossible and nearly impassable country they had to pass through. At that time, the upper Hudson was non-navigable with many rapids, etc., and even today is only useful for small boats and pleasure craft. And the thought of transporting an army & its equipment in small river boats, with all the hazards involved is mind-boggling. Bourgoyne was doomed unless the Americans really screwed up and they didn’t.

  21. david carlson says:

    defeating Ox through guerrilla warfare is not what i suggested. Using it as a tactic I wondered if he might introduce it. Kill a few officers, slow down a march, sow a little confusion.. Mike all ready has an army that can stand toe to toe. What he will need is time to get in place.

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