1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 36
Dresden, capital of Saxony
Jozef Wojtowicz watched workmen laying gravel onto the cobblestones of the huge city square. What madness possessed me, he wondered, to come to Dresden?
He was still possessed by the same madness, to make things worse. He had more than enough money to have gotten out of the city any time he wanted. His employer was his uncle Stanislaw Koniecpolski, the grand hetman of Poland and Lithuania and one of the Commonwealth’s half-dozen richest men. He was no miser, either. Jozef had never lacked for the financial resources he needed.
Yes, here he still was. And if he didn’t leave by tomorrow — the day after, at the outside — he probably wouldn’t be able to leave at all. Báner’s army was already setting up camp just south and west of Dresden’s walls. It wouldn’t take the Swedish general very long to have regular cavalry patrols surrounding the city.
Jozef might still be able to pass through, if the cavalrymen were susceptible to bribery. Mercenaries usually were. It would be risky, though. There were already reports that Báner’s troops had committed atrocities in some of the villages northeast of Chemnitz, in their march through southern Saxony. Báner was known for his temper and his brutality, and commanders usually transmitted their attitudes to their soldiers. A cavalry patrol that Jozef encountered might decide to murder him and take all his money rather than settle for a bribe.
He couldn’t bring himself to leave. Dresden was just too interesting, too exciting, right now. When he’d lived in Grantville, Jozef had come across the up-time term “adrenalin junkie” and realized that it described him quite well. Since he was a boy he’d enjoyed dangerous sports — he was an avid rock-climber, among other things — and part of the reason he’d agreed to become his uncle’s spy in the USE was because of the near-constant tension involved. Whenever he contemplated his notion of Hell it didn’t involve any of the tortures depicted in Dante’s Inferno; rather, it was to be locked in a room for eternity with nothing to do. Jozef had a very high pain threshold, but an equally low boredom threshold.
Besides, he could always justify the risk on the grounds that staying in Dresden gave him an unparalleled opportunity to study the Committees of Correspondence in action. Gretchen Richter herself was in charge here! What better opportunity could you ask for?
That very moment, as it happened, he saw her entering the square from the direction of the Residenzschloss, surrounded by a dozen or so people. She and her CoC cohorts had effectively taken over the palace of the former Elector of Saxony, John George, as their own headquarters.
You had to add that term “effectively” because Richter still maintained the pretense that the Residenzschloss was primarily being used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. She’d also been heard to point out that the province’s official administrator — that was Ernst Wettin, the USE prime minister’s younger brother — also had his offices and quarters in the Residenzschloss. The fanciest ones available, in fact, the chambers and rooms that had been used by John George and his family before they fled the city.
Both claims were thread-bare. True enough, Richter was reportedly always polite to the provincial administrator and made sure his stay in the palace was a pleasant one. She even provided him with a security detail, since Wettin had no soldiers of his own. But that fact alone made it clear who really wielded power in the city.
As for the soldiers who’d been sent to Dresden to recuperate from their wounds, by now most of them had regained their health. They still lived in the section of the Residenzschloss that had been designated as the hospital, but that was simply because there were no barracks available and Richter had decreed that no soldiers would be billeted on the city’s inhabitants. Nor had any of the few officers made any objection, although the woman had absolutely no authority to be making any decisions concerning soldiers in the USE army.
And there was another thing Jozef found interesting about the situation. All of the USE officers here were very junior. There was not so much as a single captain among them, much less any majors or colonels. They were all lieutenants — and newly-minted ones, at that, for the most part.
How was that possible? How could an army division fight as many battles as the Third Division had fought during the summer and fall without any of its company commanders or field grade officers being wounded?
Had they all been killed? The odds against that happening were astronomical.
And they had to have been engaged in the fighting. No army could possibly win battles if the only officers who placed themselves in harm’s way were lieutenants.
There was only one possible answer, from what Jozef could see. For whatever reason, the commanding general of the Third Division had deliberately sent only his most junior officers and enlisted men to Dresden. Those of higher rank who’d been wounded he must have sent elsewhere.
Jena, probably. The USE had a big new hospital there, already reputed to be one of the very best in the world. General Stearns could have sent the more senior officers there on the grounds that there was only limited space in Jena so he was making a priority of giving them the best treatment available.