1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 24:
The grand hetman of Poland and Lithuania finished studying the enemy lines beyond the city’s fortifications. From his expression, Lukasz Opalinski thought he wasn’t very happy with what he saw. Not so much because of the enemy’s lines, but because of his own. Poznán had begun the process of renovating its walls with the modern trace italienne design, but had not finished it when the USE launched its invasion of Poland. As usual, funds had been short and erratic. King Wladyslaw IV was a spendthrift and the Sejm was feckless.
Stanislaw Koniecpolski turned away, shaking his head. “Lucky for us the Swedish bastards are pre-occupied with their own affairs for the moment.”
Lukasz decided that gave him the opening he’d been waiting for. “As it happens, I just got a letter from Jozef yesterday. He thinks –”
The grand hetman waved a massive hand. “I know what my nephew th-thinks, young Opalinski.” Koniecpolski suffered from stuttering, if he wasn’t careful. “My letter from him arrived the day before yest-terday. I am willing to wa-wager that if we matched the t-two letters, they’re word-for-word alm-most the same.”
The stuttering was much worse than usual. That was partly an indication of the grand hetman’s anxiety, and partly — so Lukasz liked to think, anyway — because Koniecpolski had developed a great deal of trust in his young new adjutant. He was less careful about his speech impediment in the presence of close friends, relatives and associates.
The grant hetman tightened his lips and took a slow, deep breath. That was his method for bringing the stuttering under control. It usually worked, as it did this time.
“I might even agree with Jozef,” Koniecpolski continued. “But it’s not my decision, something which Wojtowicz tends to overlook.”
Overlook wasn’t really the right word. Lukasz had had many long political discussions with Jozef Wojtowicz over the past two years. The grand hetman’s bastard nephew was disgusted with the state of Poland’s political affairs. Actually, he’d been fed up with them since he was fourteen years old. But his experience as the grand hetman’s spy in Grantville and later as the head of Koniecpolski’s espionage apparatus in the USE had brought that teenage semi-inchoate discontent into sharp focus. The reason Jozef kept urging courses of action on his powerful uncle was not because he “overlooked” the legal formalities but because he no longer cared much about them and had no confidence at all in either the king or in the Sejm.
Neither did Lukasz, for that matter. He wasn’t prepared to go so far as his older brother Krzysztof, who had become an outright revolutionary and was off somewhere in the Ruthenian lands agitating for the overthrow of Poland’s monarchy and aristocracy. Like Jozef Wojtowicz, Lukasz was still seeking a way to reform the government of the Polish and Lithuanian commonwealth.
But he was growing less and less sanguine about the prospects for doing so, as each month passed. He’d come to the point where he’d even prefer some sort of outright autocracy, if the autocrat was competent and decisive and would cut the Gordian knot of Polish and Lithuanian politics. He knew Jozef had come to that same conclusion months earlier.
There was only one realistic candidate for the position of Poland and Lithuania’s dictator, however, and that was the man Lukasz was standing beside this very moment. Unfortunately — at least, under these circumstances — Grand Hetman Stanislaw Koniecpolski was a staunch adherent to legality. Whatever he thought of the Sejm or the king, he kept to himself. And while the grand hetman was quite willing to extend his authority as far as the legal parameters allowed, he was not willing to go an inch beyond those limits.
He never had been, and Lukasz was now certain he never would be. Poland’s top military commander might have a supple mind on the battlefield or when it came to military affairs, but he was rigid when it came to Poland’s laws and political traditions. Had he still been a young man, perhaps that might be subject to change. But Stanislaw Koniecpolski was now in his forties. Early forties, true, but forties nonetheless. Not many very successful men were willing, at that age, to call into question their basic political and social attitudes. The grand hetman was no exception.
Lukasz decided there wasn’t any point in pursuing the matter. Koniecpolski would just get irritated. So, he let his eyes drift toward the fieldworks being put up by the army now besieging Poznán.
It was probably the best army in the world, leaving aside cavalry. The USE regular army’s first and second divisions, under the command of Lennart Torstensson. The third division was somewhere in Bohemia, according to Jozef’s reports. The American Mike Stearns was in command of that division.
The soldiers in those lines outside Poznán were not the polyglot mercenaries you found in the ranks of most European armies in the seventeenth century. Nor were many of them noblemen, as was true of the Polish military. The enlisted men were mostly Germans and almost all were commoners, volunteers driven more by ideological than pecuniary motives. They had the best military equipment in the world, thanks to the Americans, and the training to use it.
A sound from above drew his eyes to the sky. One of the USE’s airplanes had arrived, taking advantage of the recent good weather. It would probably drop a few bombs on the city’s walls, which wouldn’t do any real damage except to morale. But the blasted things gave Torstensson superb reconnaissance, so long as the weather was good. Polish armies could no longer maneuver as they were accustomed to doing, using the speed of their powerful cavalry to confuse their opponents. In good weather, they were always under observation; in bad weather, slowed by the weather itself. They were reduced to fighting what amounted to an infantry war, something which the USE army excelled at and they did not.
One siege after another. A Dutch style of war, not a Polish one.