1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 44

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 44

Mike shook his head. “Actually, no. I want you to keep Colonel Higgins up to date. It’ll be his Hangman regiment that has to deal with Königstein.”

“It’s easy enough for me justify landing here, Mike, or at České Budějovice when you get the airfield down there finished. But –”

“That’ll be in four days, my engineers tell me. Most of my division’s already there.”

“But landing in Tetschen’s something else. Once or twice, sure. But I don’t see how I can legitimately explain regular landings. And they’re bound to find out.”

“Higgins has a radio. It won’t reach here or Dresden reliably, but it’ll reach a plane flying right overhead, won’t it?”

Jesse pursed his lips. “Yeah, it will. Have to make sure nobody’s listening in, but… that’s easy enough.”

He glanced up at the imposing sight of Prague Castle, atop the Hradčany. The huge palace and the great hill it sat upon dominated the whole city. “What about Wallenstein?”

“What about him?” Mike followed Jesse’s gaze, then pointed toward a palace at the foot of the hill. “He lives in his own palace down here, by the way, not up in the Hradčany. I don’t think he’s been up there in months, since his health…”

He let that sentence die a natural death. “Wallenstein’s not very concerned about the inner workings of the USE, Jesse. Just as long as we back him against the Austrians and don’t get in his way if he nibbles at Ruthenia.”

“If you take the Third Division out of Bohemia, he might squawk.”

“If I have to take the Third Division out of Bohemia, squawks coming from Prague will be the least of my concerns.”

Jesse chuckled. “Well, that’s true.”

Mike shrugged. “He’s not really that worried about the Austrians anyway, I don’t think. They’ve been awfully quiet these past few months, and they certainly won’t launch any attack on Bohemia in the middle of winter.”

Vienna, capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Janos Drugeth finished reading the report. For the third time, actually. It hadn’t taken but a few minutes, because the report was only two pages long.

“This wasn’t sent by Schmid,” he said, waggling the sheets. “It’s much too sketchy. It’s got very little detail and no analysis at all.”

The Austrian emperor frowned down on the papers in Drugeth’s hand. “You think the report is a fake? A Turkish scheme of some kind?”

“No. What would be the point? I think it was sent by one of Schmid’s underlings. Which would lead me to believe that he’s gone into hiding. Or he’s dead or in a Turkish prison somewhere.”

He rose from his chair in Ferdinand’s private audience chamber and began pacing about. He didn’t even think of asking permission to do so. Janos and his monarch had been close friends since boyhood.

The emperor just watched him, for a minute or so. Then he said: “Come on, speak up! It won’t irritate me any less if you wait another hour. Or another day.”

Drugeth smiled. “So hard to keep anything from you. But I do hope you aren’t being encouraged to do something rash, Ferdinand.” He was one of the handful of men who could address Austria’s ruler in that manner. Only when they were alone, of course.

The emperor threw up his hands. “Ah! I knew you would say that!” The hands came down and gripped the armrests. Quite fiercely. Ferdinand spent the next minute just glaring. Ten seconds, at Janos; the rest of the time, at one of the portraits on the wall. That of his great-grandmother, Anne of Bohemia — who was quite blameless in the matter. She’d been dead for almost ninety years.

“Ah!” he exclaimed again. “I knew you’d say that!”

“This changes nothing, Ferdinand, that I can see. If anything, it makes the possibility of a threat from the Ottoman Empire even greater. The Persians were the main thing holding them in check. Now that they’ve retaken Baghdad, Murad may well make peace with the Safavids.”

“Who says they’ll agree?”

Janos shrugged. “They did in that other universe, didn’t they? When Murad took Baghdad in 1638 instead of three years earlier, as he did in this one.”

He looked back down at the sheets. “And why did he move so quickly, one has to wonder?”

The emperor grunted. “He reads the history books too. Saw that he’d managed it in another time and place and figured, why wait?”

“Possibly, yes. But here’s what else is possible, if Murad ponders the larger lessons of those history books. In the end, the Ottomans were not brought down by the Persians. They were brought down by Christian powers.”

“Not by us!” Ferdinand said, making a face. “We were allied with them in that miserable war.”

“That doesn’t really matter. The Austria of that other world is not the Austria of this one. The changes have already begun. Murad would understand that, I think. And would sense that, in whatever form, it will always be Europe that truly threatens his empire. In the long run, if not now. But he’s a young man and expects to rule for a long time, I imagine.”

Ferdinand took a deep breath and held it for some time. Then, let it out in a rush.

Again, he threw up his hands. “Fine! Fine! I accept your advice. Reluctantly. Grudgingly. I’m so aggravated, in fact, I’m not inviting you to dinner with the royal family tonight. Nor breakfast tomorrow. Lunch… possibly.”

Drugeth nodded, looking very solemn. “Punishment, indeed.”

The emperor made a snorting noise. “But don’t plan for a long lunch! Since you’ve made such an issue of this, I want you back down in the Balkans, seeing what you can find out. Right away.”

Janos decided not to tell Ferdinand he’d been about to make the same proposal. The emperor’s peevish mood would just get worse.

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32 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 44

  1. Jabulani says:

    So Bohemia & the USE are quite safe from a direct Austrian assault for the time being?

  2. JoeS says:

    Very clever set up and use of Drugeth as a character. I like the sensibility of giving opponents real humanity.

  3. VernonNemitz says:

    It occurs to me that if Murad is really mad, he might see nothing wrong in making poison-gas weapons. Here’s hoping any European spies can find out in time for sufficient gas masks to get made.

    As a side-effect, consider that the original meaning of the word “witch” was “poisoner”. All of witch-hating Christian Europe might be willing to set aside differences to deal with Murad, if he uses poison gas, and if the appropriate propaganda angle was posed to the public.

  4. William McLamb says:

    @1 If Murad used poison gas against the europians he has to know that it would be used against him unless his first use was against Grantville itself in sufficient quanities to wipeout the entire population.

    About “witches” vs. ”poisoner”, sorry but you are wrong. The word was“witches” in hebrew, but was translated as “poisoner” when the Tanakh was translated into greek for the Septuigent.

  5. robert says:

    @1 Poison Gas? Where did that come from? I must have missed something somewhere. And what kind of poison gas? How will it be delivered? Is it locally effective or more widespread?

  6. dave o says:

    The poison gases used in WWI were chlorine, relatively easy to make, and mustard, much harder. It was first released from canisters, which proved not very effective, since it was dependent on the wind. and tended to disperse before it reached its targets. Then it was loaded on artillery shells, which proved a lot more effective. In order for the Turks to use gas, they need a lot of guns, and guns with modern ranges. about a mile or more. I suppose it’s possible that they could do it, but it sounds really unlikely to me. I don’t know enough about nerve gases, but I suspect that they’re almost impossible to produce in the 17th century without at least a decade of lead time

    As a general comment, before someone introduces modern technology or weaponry, it would be nice if they thought out ALL that’s necessary to produce and use it. They have the information to do a lot, but not tomorrow.

    Conditions for an attack on Hapsburg Hungary and Vienna are at least as favorable as they were for the attack in 1684 up-time. The Poles are at war with the USE, and their king is no Sobieski. France is distracted. The Dutch have no navy. The English are a nullity. The USE is about to undergo a counter-revolution. Italy is headed toward a factionalist rat-race between the two popes. About the only thing in Austria’s favor is that they don’t have to worry about Louis XIV gobbling up more of Gemany while they’re fighting in the East. Even there, Bernard could take the French’s place.

  7. Stanley Leghorn says:

    Good to see at least one worry removed due to common sence prevailing. I suspect Murad might have read of how he died and how history looked at him. It might have sobered him up a bit. Or what is happening might be some other player acting while the sultan drugs and debauches himself to death.

    As to gas and delivery methods, blimps/zeppelins could drop such canisters onto cities easily. In the confines of a city wall, clorine would be terrifying. But we have the tools to make tools problems, so they may go with rotting carcases deliberately treated with disease.

    But, the Turks are a problem for 1636-7 due to Logistics.

  8. ET1swaw says:

    @5: Its fall into winter 1635 now. With Bagdad taken, Murad can pre-position his troops to engage EARLY in 1636 campaign season. And don’t forget possible LTA capability (mentioned by spy). As well as AK3s (rifled breechloaders) and other goodies gotten from Russia earlier this year (Ottomans can reverse engineer/copy quickly with their craftsman base). Cardinal breechloaders (or the New USE equicalent) are not widespread, USE forces mostly have SRGs (rifled but not breechloaders (and that is a major tactical handicap!)).
    @1-4: Napalm used at Wartburg was stretching Mike’s initial ban on NBC Warfare. Their open library policy did restrict SOME information (some to allies only, some to classified access only, and some (which probably includes Basics and above of NBC production) to ‘Bury It Deep’). Then again, fairly basic chemistry can give you chlorine and mustard gas (witness myriad accidental poisonings every year worldwide).
    We now know Murad is available for play in the European theater soon. Wallenstein seems to have slowed his ‘Anaconda Project’ due to ill health, but it IS in motion. The Russian Bear is awake and far more formidible than OTL. RC Church, France, Italy, USE, and Spanish/Portuguese Empire are in major flux. 1635 was/is busy, 1636 is gonna rock!!!!!!

  9. dave o says:

    #6 See my comment above. Yeah, the Turks have enough craftsmen but it will still take a lot of time to equip an army with rifled breechloaders. There’s a lot less work going into a musket, and less critical dimensions, especially with minie balls. For comparison recall how long it took to arm the US troops during the War of 1812. If I remember correctly, we weren’t able to supply the troops until the war was over in 1814. Not to mention, the idea of factory work is as new to the Turks as to everyone else. Craftsmen tend to be a real conservative bunch, and hate to change the way they work.

    You might want to look up the manufacture of mustard gas. I think it’s a lot more complicated than you suggest. I do know the Germans and English used different process to make it. Chlorine is a lot easier.

  10. Joe Cozart says:

    Even chlorine gas isn’t that easy to make in the quantities necessary without the existence of a large scale and well developed chemical industry, which not even the USE has yet, Lothlorien notwithstanding, and which would take more than a few years to develop. Even if someone had started work on such a thing the day after ROF I can see almost no possibility of chemical weapons in the near term.

  11. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Yep Jabulani, it appears that Austria has other things to think about.

  12. ET1swaw says:

    @9: As far as rifled breechloaders go, remember the AK3s sold/given to them by Russia (Ottomans got priority over arming Russian Army) are ‘monkey models’. They use a replacable breech, not a carbine action like Cardinals (knockoff Sharps rifles). Ottomans won’t go factory route, probably just throw bodies at the problem (skilled and semi-skilled slaves are a dime a dozen). Production base isn’t really there, I agree, but quantity sometimes does have a quality all its own. And Russia is trying to sell as many as they can before Ottomans start making their own.
    @10: Bucket chemistry not industrial; just alot of buckets. Chlorine gas is easy (just any fool who screwed up with cleaners), weaponized chlorine gas IS a major PITA, mustard gas is even worse (provided you can even FIND the info).
    @9,10: I agree chemical weapons seem out, but breechloaders may get distributed wider than anyone not an Ottoman would like.
    Russia’s LTA (Testbed) is recon. Denmark’s LTA is commercial. Murad may go airborne assault, he’s crazy enough and has a whole bunch of resources.

  13. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I doubt poison gas is capable of production at this time period by anyone other than Americans, and even then, a pretty good industrial base is needed. With the mustards, the best method for making them requires ethylene, but that means you have a petroleum industry, cracking towers, and cryogenic cooling. Phosgene is actually easier if you can make chlorine and carbon monoxide, but again, you have to be able to keep the reaction very cool, or the phosgene will decompose. In addition, you have to be able safely to capture the resulting products, and you have to weaponize them. The Turks don’t have the required industrial base, and I doubt they can find enough bodies to throw at the project of manufacturing these gases without the required safety systems as well (without appropriate safety systems, the casualty rate among workers will be horrific).

    Again, poison gas is not realistic for the Turks at this point in time. However, I would not be surprised to see EF write the story so that Murad starts developing his petroleum industry and his chemical industry, and in a couple of decades (say 1655-1660), poison gas weapons could start being produced by the Turks. I don’t think EF is planning on extending the series that far into the future, though.

  14. Blackmoore says:

    You guys seem to forget that the Turks in OTL used rockets. that is more than capable of delivering a round of gas. Turks had some fine chemists for the time too – so actually making it wouldn’t be a long stretch. the question is if Murar is truely mad enough to use that. I doubt it.

    the real madness i see is a political situation which looks like an early onset for the first great war.
    Too many players with agendas – and not enough sense to keep it from blowing up.

  15. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @14 Blackmoore — Yes, the Turks used rockets, and rockets were known to the Europeans well before the 1600’s. From what I’ve read, the accuracy of those rockets left quite a bit to be desired, but they did inspire terror. They could be effective delivery vehicles for gas. I think the big issue for poison gas is the safe manufacture of it in this time line with this level of technology. Without concentrated effort to build up the required industrial base and to make the necessary technological and scientific developments, I doubt seriously that poison gas of the types used in WWI can be made at this time in the RoF series.

  16. dave o says:

    16 #15 The Turks would need a lot of chlorine to be an effective weapon. It’s a gas and would disperse fairly rapidly.
    In order to get enough they would need a generator to hydrolyze enough salt solution. A compressor to concentrate enough to be effective. Air-tight containers for the compressed gas. Chlorine is very corrosive, so iron or steel probably wouldn’t do. I would hate work at their supply dump, if that’s what they use. Copper might work. Some kind of explosive charge to crack the containers. Some kind of fuze to set off the explosive. And this is just the highlights. I could go on, but you get the idea. IT CAN’T BE DONE in time for the next campaign. A few years later, maybe. Even then I would guess that they would be more interested in supplying rifles to the infantry and rifled cannons to the artillery. They don’t have unlimited funds, and they can’t do everything at once

  17. robert says:

    Who unleashed this discussion about poison gas? Where did it come from in the text? Why is anyone even writing about it? Did the Turks use it in Persia? Or is this just a lot of wild-assed Comments Section speculation? Somebody?

  18. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @17 — robert

    Look at comment #3 (VernonNemitz). It’s basically just commentary off of his speculation about whether the Turks would develop poison gas.

  19. Alejo says:

    All this talk of poison gas puts me in mind of something I read in Baltic war. I will paraphrase:

    Downtime men think in down time ways when it comes to weaponry. To bring down a building, they think of something big and impressive-looking and big parts that flash and bang. The idea that a stick of dynamite can do as much damage as it can just does not occur to them.

    Poison gas is just not something they will consider nor will they know how to go about making and would annihilate my suspension of disbelief by being just too far fetched to be possible. They’d make the wrong things to make it and would not think along the proper channels to to come up with a way to deliver it. Better guns? Sure. Improved artillery? Possible. Creative use of rockets and downtime alchemy a la Greek Fire? Maybe. Gas? laughable; preposterous.

    I doubt Eric would write such a thing but, I find it interesting to speculate on the fact that the Turks took enormous pride in their skill with the bow. I do not speak of the longbow of Western Europe with it’s cumbersome design and it’s out-dated capabilities. I speak of the composite bow of Central Asia with ranges much more akin to those of musketry which can be shot from horseback. I would imagine something more along the lines of a repeating crossbow modified to shoot different projectiles might make an appearance were this anything but fiction. Such a device was in military use up until the end of the 19th century in Manchuria. It was cheap to make, had a very nice rate of fire and a usable range. Nothing to compare to a rifle but, I don’t think the Austrians have modern weaponry do they? Put such a device in the hands of artilery, give it 6 or 7 shots before needing to be reloaded and you have somehting that would produce interesting results. It must be remembered that the Turks would have other sources of places from which to draw their ideas. They can look to the East much more easily than we are probably used to thinking.

    Yes, this is far fetched and I don’t think it will happen but, hey, so’s poison gas from 17th century Ottomans!

  20. Alejo says:


    Put the repeating crossbow in the hands of cavalry not artillery.

    Well, back to the real world!

  21. Robert H. Woodman says:

    I’m still awaiting Kristina’s and Ulrik’s next appearance.

    Also, I still believe that G2A is going to recover his mental faculties, and that’s going to really shake things up in the USE and in Sweden.

  22. Stephen says:

    #3 wrote, “As a side-effect, consider that the original meaning of the word “witch” was “poisoner”. All of witch-hating Christian Europe might be willing to set aside differences to deal with Murad, if he uses poison gas, and if the appropriate propaganda angle was posed to the public.”

    I suspect that if the Turks invaded Christian Europe with modern weapons that there would be no particular shortage of religious propoganda lines urging the Europeans to set aside their differences to deal with them.

  23. Peter says:

    The danger Murad represents is military attacks by a big army armed with guns. He can throw a _lot_ of men against Austria.

  24. Todd Bloss says:

    During the cold war, one of the biggest, almost unspoken fears, of warfare and Intelligence analysts, were not the long range bombers or even the ICBM, but “smuggle bombs”. Nuclear weapons, smuggled into the country, piece by piece, then assembled in someone’s basement, just waiting to be detonated in numerous city’s across the country. -The idea being, to destabilize and create chaos, before the actual attack.

    If I were Murad and, indeed, mad; I would send agents into the cities and strongholds of my enemies Months, maybe even a year before my invasion, to sow the populace with Plague, Smallpox and Cholera.

  25. robert says:

    @24 Given the level of medicine, those would be suicide attacks. Think of the delivery system required: infected blankets, etc. We are not talking about vials of disease.

    @18 Thank you Robert, for saving my sanity. It was out-of-the-blue blah, blah. Whew!

  26. dave o says:

    #24 Todd: Maybe instead he’ll recreate Tyrannosaurs by cloning DNA and drive them up the Danube. Or call up demons. Get real. See comment 23 for what will happen when Murad invades.

  27. VernonNemitz says:

    If Murad read in an encyclopedia about how to build a dirigible, then that same encyclopedia will describe, somewhere, the fact that electrolytic dissociation of water will produce hydrogen, which can fill a dirigible, AND that same encyclopedia will describe the fact that electrolytic dissociation of salt water will produce as much chlorine as it produces hydrogen. And Murad has the whole Mediterranean Sea available, as a source of salt water. All he needs is an electric generator to make lots and lots of (admittedly crude) poison gas.

  28. dave o says:

    Except for Vernon, no-one thinks that poison gas is a practical weapon in 1636, so I’d like to start some discussion on Airships and getting rid of them.

    Lift: ln modern LTA, lift is provided by Hydrogen, Helium, Hot Air. Hot air is the least efficient (provides the least lift). Its also the safest. Helium is a non-starter in 1636. Uptime it’s produced by fractional distillation of natural gas, which requires an extensive and expensive plant to do. 78% of helium production comes from the United States, 10% from Algeria, with Poland, Russia, and Qatar providing the rest. The Turks may have access to Qatar, depending on how much the Arabs are revolting. If Russia or Poland is producing any (really doubtful), they most likely want all they can make for their own use. This leave Hydrogen which is easy to make if they can hydrolyze water, which is possible with enough electrical power. Of course building generators need lots of copper wire and lots of insulating varnish, and lots of machine shop capability, but I won’t get into that right now.

    Design: Unpowered airships would be useful for reconnaissance, but would make lousy weapon platforms, since they can only go where the wind sends them. Dirigibles and/or Blimps could be used for weapon platforms.

    Power: The possibilities seem to be: Steam engines, Diesels, or Gasoline engines. Fuel for the engines: Coal, Heavy or light Petroleum distillates. Coal is probably the easiest, since mining technology already exists. Petroleum needs well drilling technology (exists but may not be adequate for sources of crude oil,- too deep). Distillation plan; – may be able to use crude methods but this tilts production to heavy distillates, kerosene and heavier.

    Attacking Airships: Ground fire either by small arms or artillery. The problems with small arms are that it’s hard to hit flying objects, even slow ones. And to destroy an airship you would have to start a fire if Hydrogen was used. If hot air, you would have to have a lot of hits to cause enough leaks to down the ship. Especially if they’re Dirigibles.
    Tracer shot is a possibility, and not too hard to make, but it would take a while to produce it. With artillery, the same problem hitting the things, the need to design and build an entirely new kind of gun and mount, and to figure out some method of fire control and design and build that. Shells and fuzes are another problem.

    It seems to me that it is more practical to recruit teams to attack airships while they’re grounded. It’s unlikely that anyone will think of having enough security to protect them, at least at first. And one or two successful raids could destroy enough ships to render the survivors ineffective. Airships are not something which can be built in the field, or built quickly or cheaply, so they would affect the current campaign.

  29. I suggest that airships are a resource sink. Rockets are marginally more dangerous to your opponents than to you, though the only effective use of them that I recall was by the English, who fired iirc 40,000 Congreve Rockets at iirc Copenhagen and burned a good piece of it. The rockets might be effective as a siege weapon, namely you can burn the inside of a city.

    If Murad can get modern ideas on wiredrawing, he can introduce the appropriate ultratech weapon, barbed wire. Against his non-European cavalry-loving neighbors, this is a big deal.

  30. summertime says:

    The action in this book appears to be in Germany and surrounding countries. This drivel about the Ottomans and their potential use of tech in warfare is inane, not germane.

  31. Willem Meijer says:

    With regards to blimps: anyone read Peshawar Lancers? In order to be able to use a blimp you need an engine. Filling a big bag with explosive gasses is nice (big ball of fire if you can hit it with something that burns) but it has to be able to move against the wind. Where will Murad get his engines from? Grantville? Austria? Poland? Even the Russians (if they had the ability to build engines) would not be so mad as to sell them to the Turks.

  32. ET1swaw says:

    @31: Russia does have a twin engine (steam: similar to Marlon’s in Denmark but much less advanced) dirigible called Testbed and has had for about a year now. They sold weapons and other technology to the Ottomans. They might be shortsighted enough to sell their engine technology as well. LTA has enough lift capability to excuse less efficient motive forces (Higher Power Internal Combustion Engines are not required). Also, if they are going LTA, dirigibles (semi-rigid contruction) are more likely than blimps or balloons.

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