1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 18

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 18:

Chapter 7

Dresden, capital of Saxony

Eric Krenz propped his elbows on the tower’s stone railing and gazed out at the Elbe. The river that bisected Dresden was more than a hundred yards wide, and about that far away from his vantage point on the Residenzschloss. The height of the tower provided a magnificent view of the Elbe valley.

He wasn’t really studying the scenery at the moment, though. He was just using the appearance of doing so as an excuse to stall giving Tata an answer to her question.

As she well knew. The woman was infernally shrewd.

“How long are you going to procrastinate?” she asked, planting her hands on ample hips. “I’m not pushing you, I just want to know. If it’ll be a while, I’ll go get some lunch.”

Not for the first time, Eric wondered what madness had possessed him to get attracted to this creature.

“Attracted”? Better to say “obsessed,” he thought gloomily.

Being fair, when it came to Tata, most of the time his thoughts were quite cheerful. But the woman had an unnerving capacity to seemingly read his mind — and an even more unnerving relentlessness when she wanted Eric to do something.

“I’m not really an expert on this business,” he said. “I have no experience with sieges.”

“Stop whining. I know that. Gretchen knows that. It doesn’t matter right now. Somebody among the soldiers here must have some experience, and you’re good at cajoling people into doing things.”

“‘Things,'” he muttered darkly. “Would that be ‘things’ as in mutiny and treason?”

She just gave him a level look through dark blue eyes and said nothing.

But he was still just stalling, and he knew it. If that bastard Báner brought his army to Dresden and tried to force his way into the city—and there was every indication he would — then Eric knew perfectly well that a massacre would ensue. It might not be as bad as the sack of Magdeburg at the hands of Tilly’s soldiers a few years back, but it would be bad enough.

Eric was far from being the only soldier in Dresden who’d formed attachments with the local folk by now. Even his morose and generally peculiar friend Lt. Friedrich Nagel had managed to get the attention of a young woman. A guildmaster’s daughter, even, by the name of Hannalore Brockhaus.

There was no way the USE soldiers who were in Dresden would stand aside in the event Báner attacked the city. That being the case, it simply made sense to plan and prepare their defenses ahead of time, rather than having to jury-rig something at the last minute.

Eric being Eric, of course, he couldn’t resist a last complaint. Even a litany of them.

“Some of the men are still too badly injured to do much of anything. And some of the others have recovered enough that they’ll certainly be called back to service soon.”

“I said, stop whining. And you really ought to be looking at that last whine from the other end of the telescope.”

He frowned. “What does that mean?”

“It’s obvious. By now, most of you have recovered from your wounds. You certainly have, judging from the way you keep trying to get me in bed.”

That ranked among the most cheerful of his thoughts about Tata. He was pretty sure it wouldn’t be long before “trying” became “succeeding.” Most of Tata’s remaining resistance was just the ingrained reflex of a pretty woman who’d been a tavern-keeper’s daughter and had been fending off lustful males since she was thirteen.

Tata pressed on. “So what you ought to be asking yourself is why haven’t you been called back to service by General Stearns?”

That was a good question, actually. Tata was quite right that most of the soldiers from the Third Division who’d been sent to Dresden to recuperate had already done so. Well enough, anyway, to go back to active service. Yet no word had come from the general to join him in Bohemia. To all appearances, he’d forgotten about them.

Yet that was impossible. It was true that small numbers of soldiers got overlooked, from time to time. Eric knew of a volley gun crew that had remained behind in Hamburg after the city was seized during the Ostend War in order to repair badly damaged equipment. Then the commander of their unit had been injured shortly after leaving the city and had forgotten to mention them to the subordinate officer who’d replaced him. The battle of Ahrensbök had taken place a few weeks later and right afterward the subordinate in question had been reassigned. The end result was that the volley gun crew had wound up spending nine months carousing in Hamburg with not a care until someone finally remembered them.

But that was just three men. There were over four hundred soldiers from the Third Division now residing in Dresden. That represented almost five percent of the division’s strength and was enough men to form an entire battalion. There was no chance at all that Stearns had simply forgotten about them.

And even if Stearns had forgotten them, Eric was quite certain that Colonel Higgins had not — for the good and simple reason that he got letters from Jeff every week or so. There was a good and reliable courier service between Dresden and Bohemia.

So what was going on?

Tata put his own guess into words. “General Stearns wants you to stay here. And he’s got a good enough excuse for doing so if anyone asks. ‘Recuperating from wounds inflicted in valiant combat with the foe’ is the sort of explanation that most people, even shithead Swedes, will hesitate before calling into doubt. And there’s only one reason he’d want you to be here.”

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38 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 18

  1. ET1swaw says:

    A battalion of recoverees. Hangman Regiment in Tetschen less than 30 miles away. Mike on call by radio with 3rd Division somewhere nearby in Bohemia. Kresse with his Vogtland fighters, calvary from the late Electors bodyguard, various militias that have joined enroute. CoC and legacy Saxony troops/militias. Lots of manpower, but with exception of Mike and 3rd Division no real experienced command and control or internal discipline. Look at Breitenfield: the Swedes maintained cohesion even after the Saxons routed and eventually took the day.
    Baner, a very competant General in his own right (though jealous of Tortensson and Brahe), with probably at least a division’s worth of Mercenaries. A professional force that will sack a friendly city if so directed by their paymaster.
    Ernst Wettin hopefully will order Baner not to enter the city with his troops. Gretchen has already made plain to him that the opposite decision will spark insurrection and mutiny. I don’t think it was a threat, more a drawing of a line. Within it, civil forces will all be in compliance with the Swedish imposed administration. Cross it, with an ill-conceived percieved Swedish attack upon friendly Saxon/German/USE forces, and the people will fight back.
    The USE’s taking of Saxony from the Elector was a walkover. If Baner attacks Dresden rather than garrisoning outside the city as directed by Ernst Wettin (the appointed administrator) it is going to be bloody.
    Let no one forget that Oxenstierna has von Thurn’s division and the remainder of G2A’s division (both Swedish, therefore primarily mercenary, troops) with him in Brandenburg.
    Tortensson with 1st and 2nd USE Divisions is totally tied up with the seige of Poznan. Any attempt to deviate and Koniecpolski will make him BLEED!
    As stated in earlier snippets, USE provincial forces are variously tied up. Looks like nasty times ahead.
    On a lighter note, Eric Krenz may not be able to chaff his friend ‘the Count of Narnia’ much longer. If G2A recovers and if Eric and Tata survive leading the defense of Dresden, G2A might ennoble him with an embarrassing title as well. Two really big ifs and an out there suggestion, but stranger things have happened NTL.

  2. NewAgeOfPower says:

    I finally found 1635 The Eastern Front in B&N.

    Its freaking amazing. I can’t wait for 1636 now…. Goddamnit….

    How much do you earn (email me if private) from this sale? How much do you earn if I buy it online? Which way of buying it ensures the most of my money gets into Eric’s pocket?

  3. dave o says:

    Dresden was abandoned by the Elector, and taken without a fight. This means that its defenses are intact. While it would be helpful to have an experienced commander, the forces in the city are probably sufficient to defend it against Baner. Especially if Gretchen, with her experience in Amsterdam decides to lead them. Which she will. Getting Oxenstierna’s troops from Berlin to Dresden, in the middle of the winter won’t be all that easy. Especially for the cavalry,- no forage. Tortensson would have as much trouble pulling out of Poznan, but not as much as Koniecpolski’s cavalry-heavy army would following him. There is a reason why armies did not fight in the winter: horses die without food and men do too. Remember that Napoleon got some infantry out of Russia, but practically no cavalry.

    In a previous snippet, I asked whether the Elbe could handle barge traffic from Tetschen to Dresden. Well, I actually said the Oder, but was corrected. If so, Jeff and Mike will have a much easier time moving than Oxenstierna, Torstensson or Koniecpolski. The fort below Tetschen will be taken or subverted by Jeff.

  4. Robert H. Woodman says:

    We have ignored the fact that the defenders of Dresden will have an airplane. Baner likely will not have aircraft. That also could be a big factor — perhaps even a game changer — in defending against Baner and his army. Of course, I hope that Ernst Wettin will direct Baner to stay out of Dresden and garrison in the countryside. Baner, behaving as the horse’s hind end that he apparently relishes in being, may attempt to ignore Wettin. That in itself could have interesting consequences for the direction of this confrontation.

  5. dac says:

    @2 – buy it electronically at baen.com, websubscriptions is the way to get the most money in EF’s pockets. 2nd most is buy the hardcover from a brick and morter place (BN/Amazon, etc). 3rd is the paperback.

    Buying it used from any source (including B/N) means nada in EF’s pocket.

    1 and 2 might be switched, but either way is a good way

  6. ET1swaw says:

    @4 Airplane is currently broken. It is at most a Dragonfly or Dauntless, not a Belle or Gustav. The landing field is outside the walls (where Baner will be). I hope as well that Baner sees reason, but somehow I doubt it.
    @3 I’m pretty sure the 2 (1 1/2?) Swedish divisions in Brandenburg and the 2 USE divisions beseiging Poznan are as out of it as the various provincial forces. USE 3rd Division has a shot (if by nothing else than authorial fiat), but it won’t even be easy for them! Hopefully G2A recovers (or dies leaving the crown to his daughter) before USE or CoC forces have to handle Brandenburg (2 Swedish Divisions, Ox’s supporters armed retainers, and possibly legacy Brandenburg forces (Ox might make a deal with the Elector)).

  7. hank says:

    @6 The Elector of Brandenberg and his forces fled to Poland. If Ox makes a deal with him I suspect that WILL be treason, as far as G2A is concerned anyway.
    @5 Since when is Amazon Bricks & Morter?

  8. Virgil says:

    There has been too much stress on the fact that Baner is an idiot. He will attack Dresden they will defend them selve and the civil war starts

  9. Bluemax says:

    @ dave o

    The Elbe can handle barge traffic from Tetschen downriver, but in winter – especially during the current little ice age – the river could freeze over (hardly) or drift ice could hamper the traffic. Actually Tetschen (today Decin) prospered quite well by Elbe traffic until the 30 Years War.
    The fortress Königstein/Koenigstein on the way to Dresden wasn’t mentioned so far in the books, so we have to wonder what kind of garrison we’ll find there. They shouldn’t be Swedish and I doubt they are still loyal to the Elector. So as long as Baner isnt sending a force when he arrives at Dresden, I doubt there will be much threat to 3rd Division.

    As for cavalry in winter, please consider Napoleons retreat from Moscow 1812, when his troops were constantly harrassed by cossacks and these inflicted serious losses on his starving and exhausted troops. The irregular troops were provisioned and mobile enough to cause constant terror on the French (including atrocities vs. wounded, disarmed or captives). So while the French had no cavalry left, the russian cavalry/cossacks prevailed.

    In the Polish realm Koniecpolski should be able to provide enough supply for his troops. Men and horses have to get fed, war or peace. Usually there wont be a large scale campaign in wintertime, the forces will be spread to allow better provisioning and to alleviate the risk of starvation and disease.
    Still, for raiding the supply route from Poznan to the Oder (under 200 km) with some cossack warbands, the logistic should suffice. But I agree, Torstensson should be able to pull back his troops to the Oder without the same result as Napoleon at the Berezina as long as the bridges are intact.

  10. Carlos says:

    Question guys because from the description on Amazon I am missing something: ” Gretchen , who never saw a revolution she didn’t like, has been arrested in Saxony, and is likely to be executed. The revolutionary groups which she has been working with are not about to let that happen, and suddenly there’s rioting in the streets.” so at some point Gretchen will have to be arrested even if it’s house arrest and that’s what will spark the events into motion also it says in the Cover that G2A is the one that orders Mike to settle the problem…so either the information in the description is wrong (not out of the realm of possibilities) or we are still missing some information here aren’t we??

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Carlos, I think the blurb is still wrong.

  12. Todd Bloss says:

    Doesn’t the Elbe flow North to South?
    It’s a real river -not a creek or canal, so how do you move a division of troops a hundred miles upstream, against the current?

  13. kwinn says:

    @11 Steam powered barges.

  14. robert says:

    One thing that Mike will not have to worry about is feeding his army and horses. The Becky’s will have ensured that sufficient supplies are on hand when he gets to Jeff–although Jeff might have gone on to Dresden ahead of time, with his cannons (Aha! remember) to help defend the city.

    @11 Look at the maps. The Elbe flows south to north (northwest, actually), emptying into the North Sea. Its source is in what is now the Czech Republic. How convenient…

  15. robert says:

    Ooops Beckys. Plural. Sorry

  16. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @9 – Carlos, @10 – Drak —
    Carlos, I agree with Drak that the blurb may be wrong. Blurb writers seem at times to write blurbs that are only marginally related to the books to which the blurbs are attached. Perhaps it is because the blurb is written far in advance of the actual finished book, and the book has changed over the course of writing. But there may be other reasons why blurb writers are not infrequently wrong

    Drak, having said that, I still think that G2A is going to recover, and if he recovers in THIS book, then the Ox will be faced with a major game changer in the political arena. Unless Erik is pitching a complete surprise to me, I just don’t see G2A failing to recover from this brain injury, though he may not recover fully.

    @6 – ET1swaw
    You’re correct that the airplane that landed in Dresden is broken (but it’s being repaired) and that it is a Dragonfly (I think, haven’t actually looked) and that the airfield is outside of Dresden. However, the airplane could possibly be repaired and make its escape prior to Dresden being surrounded by Baner. In addition, your comment reminded me that Mike is planning on having an aircraft or two available to him if he has to come back to Dresden (remember him ordering Jeff to build an airfield?), and those will be military aircraft. In addition to the airfield that Jeff is building, they could build additional airfields as they move north to confront Baner.

  17. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert H. Woodman, on G2A recovering: Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . . . [Wink]

  18. robert says:

    @16 and @17 Tum te tum My Bum! So Gustav will recover. But how soon and after how much damage is done?

  19. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, anybody who knows for sure will only give you the “Tum, te, tum, te, tum . . .” answer.

  20. Dave o says:

    # 9 Thanks for the info about navigating the Elbe. Heavy icing could be a problem, but I still think, not as much of one as moving an army over winter wrecked dirt roads.

    We haven’t heard anything about what the Poles are doing. It’s at least possible that the Cossacks have been sent home; to save their pay, and as useless mouths in the siege. Polish troops have been described as heavy cavalry, which have much heavier forage requirements than the Cossacks.

    During our civil war, defeated armies could almost always retreat faster than successful armies could follow. I can think of only one example where this wasn’t true, and even there, some of the defeated army escaped. I may have missed a few other cases.

  21. Dennis says:

    Regards #20 and the American civil war. The reason for the sucessful retreats were mainly that the Union generals were to timid (grant and co. excepted) to presue a defeated foe. Note the lack of follow through after gettysburg.

  22. Todd Bloss says:

    Stupid maps.
    It has symbols telling you where schools and mines are, but nothing about which direction a river flows…

  23. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    As 14 mentioned, Jeff will be floating downstream to go from Teschen to Dresden.

    As 9 implied, unless the winter is unusually hard there shouldn’t be a problem with freezing over, though there might be some drift ice and/or flooding — because the downstream part of the river is in the north, it would tend to freeze first and the upstream waters would back up and cover the flood plain. But that’s only if there actually was a freeze over in the Luneburg area. 17c is supposed to be a little colder than present conditions, but I am not sure it was that cold.

    Re: 20 and 21, it depends on what part of the winter they are in. If the ground is frozen hard, it’s actually easier for a 17c era forces to move and fight, as long as they can be supplied. While the ground is soft or muddy, the opposite. So Torstenson will be stuck at Poznan for some months, but could come free once it gets really cold. Based on the location of Poznan, it might be better operations for him to move against Ox. Between Torstenson and Koniecpolski, the politics of ‘If you let me go I will knock off the chief leader of the Swedish nobility’ may become interesting.

    Mike, otoh, will have a fairly reasonable task to move his division through Bohemia and down the elbe to Dresden and (eventually) Magdeburg, though he may need to pay a political price for Wallenstein’s cooperation. The problem there will be if the Turks do go after Austria and win (or don’t go after Austia and the Habsburgs go for Wallenstein).

  24. robert says:

    @22 Todd, look at the big maps and always assume that a river flows toward an ocean or sea. I don’t know why, but it does, except if it flows into a desert it can’t get out of. Like the Mojave River.

  25. morgulknight says:

    @24, It’s called gravity; water flows downhill, and landmasses slope towards the sea.
    @23, I seriously doubt Torstensson makes any kind of deals with Koniecpolski. And even if he did, Koniecpolski as Mr. Flint’s depicted him would either take it to the Polish King, who’d probably reject it, or to the Sejm, whose speed is such that the whole argument about the advisabilty of a winter retreat becomes moot.

  26. Randal says:

    If things are public enough — if, say, Kristina demands by radio, letter and newspapers that her papa be sent to Magdeburg or Grantville to get the best care available, and Oxenstierna refuses — Torstensson should be able to negotiate a pullout with Koniecpolski. Why not let his enemies fight among themselves outside of Poland?

  27. Cindy Curry says:

    @16, In 1635: The Easstern Front, page 333, they talk about plans to build an airfield INSIDE the city walls of Dresden.

  28. Todd Bloss says:

    Good arguments, but still…
    I bet older maps had that info.
    How would you like to be a solier in WWII and see that blue sguiggle on a map and not know what direction, how deep or how wide the Elbe is?

  29. Vince says:

    @23 The downstream part of the Elbe may not actually freeze first. The downstream section is near the North Sea, and in winter large, deep bodies of water tend to release heat and raise the temperature of the land near them. The upstream section is at a higher elevation with the source in the mountains of the present day Czech Republic (Sudenten Mountains?). Higher elevations tend to drop below freezing before lower ones. Not sure how the Little Ice Age would affect things. As an example (not sure exactly how relevant, as it is considerably west of the Elbe) when I was in Dortmund, West Germany (well before the end of the Berlin Wall coming down) in late autumn/early winter the temperatures were above 70 degrees Fahrenheit when I left in the morning. Arrived at Giessen, West Germany later in the morning (still fairly early) and it was so cold when you exhaled through your mouth you could see your breath as frost, not just condensation. Warmed up later in the day to where you just saw condensation when you exhaled, but never got warm enough where you didn’t see your breath when you exhaled. Left Giessen the same afternoon and returned to Dortmund the same day. Temperatures in Dortmund were still above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

  30. dave o says:

    #23 Re: Torstensson: You are correct. The problem is SUPPLIES. At any season or weather. Koniecpolski has an army which largely consists of cavalry, with much heavier requirements than Torstensson’s. If T decides it’s necessary, he can abandon his artillery (bury it a la Montrose, maybe) and march all the faster. If he decides to withdraw, he gets to choose the time. Koniecpolski won’t find out until the next day, and will have to 1) decide to follow, 2) get permission to follow, 3) collect transport for his supplies. 4) load his supplies. Only then can he follow. It will take some luck, but I think T could get off fairly lightly.

  31. Bluemax says:

    @ 28

    Nowadays it’s the middlepart of the Elbe that usually freezes first due to the low flow velocity. The drift ice coming downing from Bohemia – the floes in a rare round form because of friction called “Bohemian Pie” – gathers in river bends and from there the freezing starts. BTW the last time the Elbe froze over at Dresden was 1963 according to weather records.
    My (online) researches of city archives implied that the winter 1634/1635 was a strong one while 1635/1636 had a mild winter and the ensuing summer was hot. So the traffic on the Elbe shouldnt be affected by the temperatures.

  32. I seem to recall Jeff getting considerable amounts of somewhat modern heavy weapons, which Baner may not have gotten his mind around yet completely, for all that he was a competent general. Mike may also have learned a bit what does or does not work as well. I also suspect that Mike may have figured out taht he really needed some ‘it’s a nice day let’s go out and have some division scale maneuvers’ stressing, for example, the use of radio.

  33. Bluemax says:

    A note on the medieval city of Dresden:

    The Elbe is bisecting the city, as Krentz stated at the beginning of this snippet, yet the town itself with the electorial palace and the main fortifications are based on the left bank of the Elbe. On the right bank lies Altendresden (today Neustadt = new town), a village that was incorporated 1549. The village was unprotected and the expansion of the city fortifications was just finished in 1632, consisting of 4 bastions and 2 half-bastions. The city on the left bank had modern italo-dutch style fortifications.

    So the Swedes attacking the city 1639 in the OTL burned some suburbs but couldnt break through the city fortifications. If CoC and the ‘recuperating’ USE soldiers can put up enough forces, they should repulse an early attack by Baner and force him to lay siege to the town. In winter. With his forces separated on both sides of the Elbe if he wants to cut off the towns resupply. His own supply route to the Upper Palatinate leading through the Vogtland, the other one to Berlin almost 200 km long on infamous brandenburgian roads. Hell to pay.

  34. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @29 and @31. That is why I mentioned freezing around Luneburg (city on a big map — the actual town on the Elbe is Lauenburg), which is well above the North Sea estuary. Given what you say about float ice, I suppose the Elbe might start freezing in the big bend it makes around Havelberg, but my feeling is starting to freeze around Luneburg is exactly the difference the Little Ice Age makes. Charlemagne used that area to cross the river during winter campaigns ca. 800, just before the Early Medieval Maximum. The real question here is the river freezing over, not the development of float ice in the river, which of course can happen at altitude in the Erzgebirge.

  35. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    I should add re: 31 hat a mild winter would make the ‘freeze over’ discussion moot for 1635/6, but who knows what those butterflies have been up to. Effectively, Eric can write himself whatever winter he wants. But a historically warmer winter might be more interesting for the author — aren’t there still some timberclads available?

  36. robert says:

    @35 Yep. If Eric can change history, then why not the weather? But I don’t think he will, unless all that industry and the associated pollution causes climate change in the other direction-rather Eric causes climate change etc.

  37. Willem Meijer says:

    Even if it’s a mild winter: laying siege (i.e. doing a lot of digging and earthmoving by hand) won’t be fun for Banér’s soldiers. In the 17th century Dutch army soldiers actually got extra pay for digging during a siege. Not because it was more dangerous, but because it was not considered normal duty. What was the situation in Banér’s army? Will we get cold and grumbling soldiers (perhaps low on food as well) waiting for their pay? And the paymaster has to get the overtime from somewhere. What was that about 200 km of bad roads from Berlin?

  38. Olav says:

    @28 On a (german) military map you should notice blue arrows showing direction of flow since that’s necessary knowledge

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