1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 52

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 52

His course of study had been general, with no particular focus. Had intended to be general, it would be better to say. He’d barely finished one semester when Gustav Adolf started this new war. (What was it about Swedes, anyway? Did the milk they drank as youngsters come from a special breed of belligerent cows?) Eric still had no clear idea of what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, assuming he survived the war. Something involving mechanics, most likely. But beyond that, he had no idea.

Blessedly, Tata did not press him on the matter. She was odd, that way. Most young women of a bossy temperament never stopped pestering their men about their goals and ambitions. But Tata never did. She seemed content with modifying Eric’s daily behavior to suit her liking, and was willing to let him figure out what he’d be doing in the months and years to come.

Maybe that was because she’d been a nobleman’s leman before she got involved with Eric. Tata’s way of describing that relationship — quite typical of her — was to refer to Duke Eberhard as her “boyfriend,” an up-time loan word that Eric found particularly grotesque. Despite the silly term, though, not even Tata had thought to inquire as to the duke of Württemberg’s ambitions and goals. Perhaps she was just carrying the habit over to her relationship with Krenz.

Eric felt occasional twinges of jealousy when he thought of that former involvement, but they were only twinges and they only came once in a while. For a start, the man was dead. Hard to feel much venom toward a corpse, after all. What possible further ill could you wish upon the fellow? But leaving that aside, Krenz was not much given to jealousy anyway. Or spite, or envy. He’d admit himself that he had faults, but they were generally the faults of a cheerful man perhaps a bit too fond of his immediate pleasures.

He heard a shrill, piercing call from ahead. A shriek, almost.

He couldn’t make out the word, but he didn’t need to. He’d heard that same call before, more than once. Incoming.

Fortunately, they’d reached a corner. He lunged forward, seized Tata around the waist, and hauled her behind the shelter of a tall building.

“What are you –!” But she didn’t resist. She didn’t even finish the sentence. Tata was very far from dimwitted.

A moment later, they heard a loud crashing sound. No explosion, though. Either the Swedes had fired a round shot into the city or the exploding shell had been a dud. Judging from the sound — bricks shattering; a lot of them — Eric was pretty sure it was round shot. Something awfully heavy had to have done that.

“We’ll have to move carefully from here on,” he said. “Stay under cover as much as we can.”


When they reached the fortifications, Eric saw that Gretchen Richter was already there. She was walking slowly down the line of soldiers manning the bastions and curtain wall, talking with each gun crew as she came to them. Doing what Eric was planning to do himself, and what other officers would be doing in other bastions and along other curtain walls. The words they’d be speaking were not really that important, taken by themselves. What mattered was an officer’s relaxed and calm demeanor.

No officer could do that better than Gretchen, though. The woman had a knack for projecting confidence that, given her youth — she was only twenty-six years old — was uncanny. Friedrich Nagel was of the opinion that she’d either sold her soul to the devil or to Saint Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations.

Whatever the source of her poise, Krenz was glad to see her. Gretchen steadied his nerves the same way she did everyone else’s.

The cannon fire from the Swedish lines started picking up. This would go on for weeks, in all likelihood. The army camped outside Dresden’s walls numbered about fifteen thousand men. The city itself had a population of somewhere between thirty and forty thousand, but that had been greatly expanded by refugees pouring in from the countryside over the past weeks. Dresden’s defenders could put three thousand able-bodied men on the walls, with at least that many available as a reserve in case Banér ordered a major frontal assault.

To make things still more difficult for Banér, he didn’t have enough soldiers to really seal off the city. Especially not in wintertime, when his men would shirk their responsibility to maintain patrols at night and loads could be moved into the city by sleigh without needing to use roads. Dresden’s population would be on short rations, but they wouldn’t be in any danger of starving for at least a year.

Probably longer, in fact. Gretchen Richter and the CoC had clamped down their control of Dresden. The fact that Richter used a velvet glove whenever she could didn’t change the fact that the grip itself was one of iron. Whatever anyone thought of the political program and policies of the CoC, one thing was indisputable: they greatly strengthened a city under siege, if they were in charge. Rations would be evenly and fairly apportioned; sanitation and medical measures would be rigorously applied and enforced; spies and traitors would be watched for vigilantly.

Those measures directly addressed the most common reasons a city fell — hunger, disease and treachery. The risks weren’t eliminated, but they were significantly reduced. At a guess, Eric thought any city run by Gretchen Richter could withstand a siege half again as long as it would otherwise. Maybe even twice as long. She was one of those rare people of great notoriety whose reputations weren’t overblown at all.

Odd, really, to think that she was the wife of his good friend Jeff Higgins.

“Stop daydreaming!” scolded Tata, giving his shoulder a little nudge. “Shouldn’t you be ordering the men to fire a cannon or something?”

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26 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 52

  1. Peter says:

    Raises an interesting question. What does Dresden have in terms of big guns? If the Swedes have the range on them, then they can sit back and pound the place to pieces (or until their gunpowder runs out). If Dresden’s defenders can reach the Swedish guns with their own, this could be a real short artillery duel. I doubt Baner will allow his guns to be wrecked – he’ll pull back and resume fire from maximum range if he can.

  2. dave o says:

    I noticed two points in this snippet:

    1. Eric thinks that the Swedes may have been firing a shell. We know that Simpson’s navy has guns capable of firing shell, but I don’t recall anything in the canon about the armies having them. If it does, it gives Baner a better chance of breaching the walls than I thought.
    2. Eric also thinks the shot was heavy, which if true. argues that Baner has somehow managed to get siege guns in addition to Dresden in addition to the 3 and 6 pounder field artillery normal in G2A’s armies. Again, giving Baner a better chance. But all of Eric’s direct experience was with volley guns, so perhaps he’s mistaken.

    I still think that Dresden’s defenses are likely to have more heavy guns than Baner. Perhaps a near monopoly of them. If so, counter battery fire will destroy Baner’s guns pretty quickly. Pulling his heavy guns back will reduce their breaching power a lot. Pulling field guns back will make them close to useless.

  3. Bret Hooper says:

    @1 Peter: You quite correctly “doubt Banér will allow his guns to be wrecked – he’ll pull back and resume fire from maximum range if he can.” But if the defenders wreck his guns right away (as I hope they will) then he won’t be able to “pull back and resume fire.”
    BTW, it is easy to get Banér’s name right; just copy and paste from Eric’s text.

  4. ET1swaw says:

    Banér has 15K troops (mostly mercenaries and about 3/4 of the size of 3rd USE IIRC). Opposing him in a modern fortified position is 3-6K of mixed militia, CoC, Kresse’s irregulars (if not dispersed for guerilla attacks on Banér and his supply lines), and 3rd USE regulars. Unable to complete encirclement, his only chance is treachery or a breech IMO (and with Gretchen ramrodding the CoC the chance of successful treachery seems remote).
    Thank you Bret Hooper for the tip!

  5. ET1swaw says:

    Banér could definately use reinforcement by Von Thurn’s Swedish troops (last seen in Brandenburg) or Von Arnim’s Saxon troops (who are mostly mercenaries who escaped the defeat (can’t recall the battle’s official name but was near Lutzen) last seen in Leipzig).

  6. Stanley Leghorn says:

    I wonder if the guns firing into the city are the ones Jeff hauled down into the mountains towards Ingolstadt in “The Bavarian Crisis”.

    That might explain why the defenders have not returned fire as those guns would be out of range of all but the biggest guns of the day.

    Or Gretchen might be saving powder if the city is short.

  7. THere is period and later period discussion of counter battery fire, as discussed by Nosworthy. It seems to be viewed as ineffective. Actually, close to this period, there arose the issue that the effective range of artillery firing round shot was significantly less than the effective range of rifled muskets. In any event, Banér would appear to need to drive trenches to get close enough to do anything.

    Trenches in winter. How fun!. On the other hand a good single line of trenches and earth piled properly will cut off external supply.

  8. johan says:

    Wait a minute, I remember Eric saying he wanted to open a shop selling up-time Pen and Paper RPG’s in The Eastern Front. And now suddenly he’s attended a military academy and have no idea what he wants to do with his life?

  9. Ian Chapman says:

    #6 I am very sure they are not the same guns. Those Naval Guns were under the direct control of the USE Army on loan from the USE Navy with LtC Cantrell acting as Naval Liason. Banér would consider them to be ‘unreliable’ (and rightfully so) and wouldn’t want to admit that he needed up-time guns anyway (look at the lengths he took to keep those guns from being used at Ingolstaadt(sp?) after all!)

  10. Willem Meijer says:

    Banér is being verry hasty. Normal procedure is to send in a polite request for surrender (or leave to enter te city), then to make sure your own encampments are secure from attack (preferably entreched), then drive forward the approaching trenches, build fortified batteries, and then move forward your siege (not seige!!) guns. If you move your guns forward an start shooting your batteries are open for counter-fire from the bastions. Bastions that are higher than the surrounding ground and therefore (if you use the same caliber etc) fire farther than the guns in the field. To fire into the city (over the earthworks surrounding it) you must also fire on a higher trajectory than the defenders need to do, and (using the same caliber) you must move nearer to the walls.

    It could be a cost-saving measure. I do not know how this was done in the Swedish army, but the Dutch armies of the time used peasants and soldiers to dig trenches, work for which they were paid. Even the soldiers (already being paid as soldiers) received extra pay because this digging was not considered normal duty. Laying siege was a costly affair, and the erlier you surrendered the better the terms tended to be. Granted, this is a political attack, so Dresden must be seen to be forced to surrender, and then probably grossly humiliated (or worse) so there may be political reasons not to conform to the normal rules of warfare (as practiced around 1640).

  11. Willem Meijer says:

    @10 Or it is already to cold to do any digging. Are we not entering into the so-called little ice-age?

    @last snippet Poisoning wells (silly idea) is not very usefull if you consider that Dresden is on a river. Perhaps frozen over, but a source of drinking water that cannot be tampered with. As long as the river is not frozen solid it is also a nice way to get supplies into the city. One barge can carry the supplies of many carts or sledges while using only a fraction of the man/horsepower.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Willem, I doubt that Eric Flint thinks the reader would want to read about those details when the reader knows that Gretchen isn’t about to allow Banér in and isn’t about to surrender the city.

    IMO this is a case of the author leaving stuff out that doesn’t add to the “story telling”.

  13. dave o says:

    #13 Drak: Sorry to disagree with you. I want the details. I’m interested in what happens, but just as interested in how it happens.

  14. Drak Bibliophile says:

    No problem Dave O. [Wink]

    The thing is that each of us enjoy different things in a book and the author can’t satisfy everybody.

    Some people dislike it when David Weber (for example) goes into the Politics of his Honorverse but others enjoy it.

    In this case, Eric decided that the details didn’t add to the story so some are “gripping”.

    In other cases, Eric added details that he thought was needed so some gripe about that.

    Poor authors just can’t win. [Grin]

  15. Alex says:

    It’s weird that “boyfriend” would be a loan word. Those usually happen when another language doesn’t have an equally convenient word. In English, a lot of those words are French. Fiance, voyeurism… There are some exceptions of course but Germans have a word for boy, a word for friend, and combining the two would be very easy.

  16. Pul Ess says:

    15: “Boyfriend” doesn’t mean “Boy Friend”. Modern German uses “Freund” for both, and people live with the ambiguity. To match the exact meaning of the Amerikan word, they would either borrow the word, or borrow the construction – what Alex is suggesting, something like “Jungefreund” – but that would still sound like “Boy Friend” to someone who doesn’t know the Amerikan. (This is happening OTL: Google gets 4 hits for “mein Jungefreund” (all seem to be non-native), 6360 hits for “mein Boyfriend”.)

  17. Bret Hooper says:

    Google also gets 137 hits for “mein Boyfreund,” 8 for “mein Madchenfreund,” 5 for “mein Frauleinfreund,” 3 for “mein Girlfreund,” and 2550 for “mein Girlfriend.”
    When I was a freshman in college in 1952, my German teacher said that foreign words were not readily accepted in German; e.g.”Fernsprechen” was considered more respectable than “Telephonieren,” but recently a German teacher told me that “Telephonieren” has almost completely replaced “Fernsprechen,” which is now used only by the elderly. Interesting change in the language in less than sixty years. So Eric’s ‘Amideutsch’ is a quite reasonable development; in Eric’s timeline it is just happening about 300-350 years sooner.

  18. Bret Hooper says:

    @13-14 Dave O and Drak: Like Dave O I like details and political discussions, etc., and I have never found them objectionable in anything by Eric Flint or David Weber; they both know to do them without, e.g. interrupting the action so Mike can tell Becky at length things she surely already knows. Neither do David or Eric indulge, like Peter F. Hamilton and many lesser writers, in excessive description of the physical or social environment (to increase the word count?).

  19. Bluemax says:

    IMHO the words “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” dont get a firm grip on the german language.
    Usually a girl calls her boyfriend just “mein Freund” and a boy refers to his girlfriend as “meine Freundin”. The distinction between “friend” and “boy/girlfriend” is made by the pronoun (“mein/meine”) and therefore doesn’t need an alteration/addition to the noun “friend”. Since people usually have more than one friend, you would call friends you are not related to in a partnership just “a friend” – “ein Freund/eine Freundin”.

    Today’s youth is sometimes using the english terms to describe their relation to the opposite sex, however that doesn’t derive from necessity but from the urge to sound “cool”. Actually if a german adolescent uses the english term “boy/girlfriend” in a sentence without further anglicisms, it sounds odd.

  20. TimC says:

    @17 Off topic! when I learnt French I was told the word for radio was ‘TSF’ (te es ef) or telephonie sans fils, literally ‘wireless’. I have never heard it. Even the French cannot keep loan words out entirely, though I notice that computers are ‘ordinateurs’ and they have memory in MO rather than MB! Probably the openeness of English to words links to openness to ideas and to the success of this culture!

  21. frederic says:

    @19: The domonation of English has more to do, IMO, with the occupation of France and subsequent destructions in WWII. FOr exemple, a lot of aicraft-related words before 1940 were french-derived; after 1944 none (esp wrt jets).

    And despite conter-exemples and stupid politicians (e.g. Mr All-Good), french language is flexible. Sure the first reflex is to propose a french equivalent, but after a few years, the one which is used in reality by the people becomes official. It can be the frenchified english orginal (un weekend, un fast food, un mobile…) or the french translation (un ordinateur, une imprimante, un portable) depending on the case. In some cases, it could be a non-english original, though I don’t know if that has happened recently (zwitterion, bistro…)

  22. robert says:

    @19 , @20 Many French words came into English centuries ago (1066 and all that), but then fell out of use in France over time. Lately, some of those words, or some variation of them, started to reappear in spoken French, having been borrowed from American English. French language purists were horrified at these American words being used by their young people. So much for language purists.

    I am very curious about something mentioned here: how would Banér have moved the naval guns over the mountains given all the “impediments” he faced and the difficulty the guys had moving them in the other direction in the first place? Had he tried, I would expect that they’d be at the bottom of some ravine, not at the walls of Dresden.

  23. Jeff Ehlers says:

    All languages have to deal with loanwords. It’s only the prescriptivists (language purists, which is an oversimplification but so what?) who complain about it. Furthermore, they’re doomed to a constant retreat (at best holding action), since languages change based on how they’re used.

  24. Stanley Leghorn says:

    Still, I do wonder where those guns are and who is in charge of them. They would make short work of most fortifications of the time due to the penetrating exploding shells. Walls splattered about are hard to fix or reinforce. Plus the morale impact.

  25. Sean Maxwell says:

    Be careful using Google with foreign-language and mixed-language phrases:
    “mein Freundin” gets “About 93,500 results” and
    “meine Freundin” gets “About 10,900,000 results”

    Why the 116:1 ratio? Because “meine Freundin” is grammatically correct German, and old-school Germans are a whole lot pickier about correct grammar than other people are. The pages Google finds with “mein Freundin” seem to be pages created for non-Germans and/or youths.

    A hasty choice of search terms will skew your results in ways you might not expect; here, it tells you more about teen-age obsessions than it does about comparative linguistics.

  26. Willem Meijer says:

    @12 The author is always right. There was just too much big gun talk in the comments on this snippet.

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