1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 60

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 60

Kassel, capital of the province of Hesse-Kassel

“Poor Wilhelm,” Amalie Elisabeth murmured to herself, as she gazed through the window on the snow-covered ground. That ground would turn into a very cheery and pleasant garden, come the spring. But for now, it just looked cold and bleak.

Her own mood had been cold and bleak, ever since her husband was killed in that stupid, pointless war in Poland. Mike Stearns had been right about that war, as he was right about so many things. The fact just made the landgravine’s mood bleaker, of course. Her differences with Stearns and his party still remained; extraordinarily wide in most places, if nowhere quite as deep as a chasm. Why could her own side in this great political dispute not produce a man to match him?

She’d hoped that Wilhelm Wettin would be that man, once. But for all his undoubted intelligence he’d proven too prone to short-sightedness. And now that short-sightedness had led him into a prison cell. It might yet lead him to the executioner’s block.

In an odd sort of way, though, the news of Wilhelm’s arrest had improved her spirits. Not cheered her up, certainly. But there was a greater ease about her now, a certain lightening of dark airs. Whatever else, Wilhelm had been a good friend for many years. It had pained her greatly — her husband, too — to watch him sink deeper and deeper into the mire.

He was out of it now. Whatever happened, no more blame or fault could be placed upon him. She was glad for that, if nothing else.

But there was something else to be glad about, as it happened. In fact, two things.

First, that foul Swedish chancellor had finally exposed himself as a tyrant as well as an unprincipled schemer. Imprisoning the former duke of Saxe-Weimar on such vague and patently absurd charges had infuriated her — and she knew full well it would infuriate many others in her class. In the Niederadel, as well.

There was an irony there, and she was not blind to it. For all that Stearns had so often bruised — badly bruised — the sentiments and sensibilities of the German aristocracy, not once had he broken his own laws when he’d been in power. Not once had he thrown a nobleman into prison on vague and obviously trumped-up charges. The fact was, whether they liked the man or not, that German noblemen could move about the USE in greater safety and security during the time of the Stearns’ regime than they could now. Amalie Elizabeth herself would be nervous, if she left Hesse-Kassel.

Well…unless it was to visit Brunswick. Duke George was another old friend.

A pity he was off in Poland, commanding one of the army’s divisions. But the man he’d left behind to run Brunswick’s affairs, Loring Schultz, was both competent and pleasant to deal with. Later today, she’d write him a letter, urging that Brunswick should join Hesse-Kassel in declaring strict neutrality in the current political conflict.

But there was another letter she needed to reply to before then. And there lay the second thing to be glad about.

She left the window, moved back to her writing desk, and picked up the letter she’d received the evening before from Rebecca Abrabanel.

Shrewd, shrewd, shrewd. Who would have thought to find such subtlety — such delicacy, even — in a young Sephardic Jewess most of whose life had been cloistered and tightly circumscribed? The sheer naked intelligence involved was almost frightening.

In no other respect were the ways of God quite so mysterious as the way He sometimes divided his favors. To think that He’d provided such a wife for such a man. It seemed grossly unfair, but no doubt He had His reasons.


“I wasn’t expecting you, sir, to put it mildly.” Jeff Higgins motioned to one of the chairs in his headquarters. “Have a seat, please.”

“As long as it’s not an airplane seat.” Mike Stearns eased himself into the offered chair. “The truth is, Jeff — I’ll admit it like a man — flying makes me nervous. Always did, even the fancy airliners we had back home, much less these ramshackle gadgets Jesse has at his disposal and I never said that, you understand. Air force guys have thin skins and tender egos, it’s some kind of law of nature.”

Jeff sat down in another chair and nodded solemnly. “Not a word, sir, I promise. He’ll be at the field for another two hours anyway, fussing over the ramshackle gadget.”

Mike smiled. “For today, let’s keep it to ‘Jeff’ and ‘Mike.’ ”

Jeff pursed his lips. “Why does that make me nervous?”

“Most times, it probably should. But not today. The reason I twisted Jesse’s arm into flying me up here — and twisted it a lot harder to get him to agree to fly me back tomorrow — is because I figured I’d better come talk to you in person.” He paused for a moment, as if he were studying Jeff. “Before you got too twitchy.”

“Twitchy about what, sir? Ah, Mike.”

“Twitchy about the fact that there’s a whole army at your wife’s throat and I’m just keeping you here twiddling your thumbs and keeping myself even further away. Twiddling my thumbs.”

“Oh. That.” Jeff got up and went over to a small stove in a corner. “I’ve got some coffee, if you’d like some. Tea, also.”

“You’ve got coffee? Is it…?”

“The real stuff? Sure is.”

Jeff stirred up the fire, looking over his shoulder with a little grin on his face. “Fact is, Mike, the becky’s become the strongest currency in the whole area. The exchange rate’s terrific. So, yeah, I can afford real coffee. Not often, of course. But I figure this counts as a special occasion.”

He placed a kettle on the stove and went back to his chair. “As for what you’re worried about, relax. I wasn’t actually getting twitchy. Well…a little, I guess, but I’ve applied it to a useful task.”

“Which is?”

The young colonel’s tone got noticeably harder. “Which is the moment you tell me to take the fortress at Königstein, it’s toast.”

“Ah. Good.” Mike cocked his head a little. “But I’m a little curious. Why aren’t you twitchy?”

“Hey, I can read.” Jeff motioned toward a table against one of the walls. The table wasn’t exactly piled high with newspapers, but there were a fair number of them. “Between what’s happening in Berlin and what’s not happening in Magdeburg and what I’m damn sure is happening in Dresden — not much news coming out of there, of course — I figure I know what we’re up to.”

“Keep going. I’m fascinated, watching a great detective at work.”

Jeff smiled. “This ain’t hardly Sherlock Holmes territory, Mike. What we’re up to is that we’re just biding our time, on account of we’re frugal. Or maybe just lazy. You’ve got the smartest wife in the world and I’ve got the toughest one, so we’re letting them soften up the opposition for a while.”

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23 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 60

  1. Daryl says:

    As the mist clears we start to see further. Interesting times ahead.

  2. robert says:

    A formidable one-two.

  3. Peter says:

    Ahh, yes, it’s really all about the women.


  4. Jeff Ehlers says:

    So now we see how the more reasonable nobles are reacting to Oxenstierna’s coup.

    Things don’t look good for him. I think he forgot that German nobles are far pricklier than Swedish ones, and aren’t going to lightly forgive what he’s done. And given that at least some of the Crown Loyalists are going to be from those nobles, it’s extremely unlikely that he’s ever going to have a quorum to actually pass anything legitimate.

    So this is probably going to come down to the military at some point. And the simple fact is that Oxenstierna, even with his treachery in turning Ingolstadt over to the Bavarians, and the situation in Dresden, doesn’t have enough loyal military forces to finish things up quickly. Not before the USE army gets back to clean his clock, anyway.

  5. dave o says:

    Interesting. Hesse and Brunswick, and probably many others will remain neutral. Koenigstein will fall whenever Jeff moves. I wonder what Becky has proposed, and Amelie Elizabeth is about to agree to. We still need to hear from Torstensson and how the town patriciates will react, but looking good so far. And only about 17 snippets left to go.

  6. ET1swaw says:

    @4 Jeff Ehlers: Throughout the series so far IMO, especially in ‘1632’ and ‘1633’, EF has always made clear Adel (hoch and nieder) discomfort with Swedish treatment of their sensibilities. G2A, and by association Kristina, has seemingly risen above that, or has been forgiven it. Axel, on the other hand, has managed to recall it to the very people he is trying to put in charge. As for military forces, he does have von Thurn’s 30K of Swedish troops and whatever the reactionaries can bring to the table (equivalent to maybe 2 USE Divisions at most). And von Arnim has 10K available in Liepzig looking for a paymaster. If Tortensson tries to return to the USE, IMO Koniecpolski will ream him a new one (dead soldiers can not return and attack the PLC). Mike, so far, is holding steady in Bohemia and NO provincial troops are in position to intervene. And the Swedish troop training area is in Pomerania (their MP seats are in legal contention for false rescindment of Adel status; many of their exilees were sheltering in Berlin; and after Krystallnacht they recieved no joy from G2A on any claims against CoCs)whose Adel seem to be following Axel’s lead. Baner is in danger from USE troops, but not Axel IMO.

  7. dave o says:

    #6 ET1swaw I don’t see why you think Koniecpolski will defeat and destroy Torstenssen if he withdraws. Torstennson can decide to leave whenever he wants to. If he maintains security, Koniecpolski won’t know about it until after he’s gone. Once he finds out, it will take time to gather supplies, especially forage for his cavalry-heavy army. Then he has to collect cartage for his supplies. I think this will give Torstensson a couple of days lead time. Tactically, the Poles have some modern weapons, but it’s almost certain that Torstensson has a lot more. And cavalry has rather poor chances to defeat well-lead infantry.

    We have a rough idea how many troops Torstensson has, but not Koniecpolski, But he can’t have superior numbers, or he would be using them outside Poznan to break the siege.

    Then there are the political considerations. Earlier snippets suggested that Koniecpolski was not getting full support from the King and Sejm. It may well be that given the total picture, K would be happy to see Torstensson leave Polish territory. In any event, we’ll find out soon enough.

    I agree that von Arnim could be a factor. But he’s going to be real, real careful which side he comes in on. He’s been on the losing side once already, and can’t be looking forward to being there again. If money is the issue, Becky and the people in Magdburg have the edge. In this snippet, even the ad hoc money Jeff is using is the strongest currency in the area. USE dollars are a lot stronger.

  8. ET1swaw says:

    @7 dave o: I see your point. Then again, K. only has to harass and raid (I was thinking more of attrition while helping them on their way). But you’re right, they may have already started eating the horses even (which would slow his response even further). It depends on which way Tortensson jumps (he is sworn to the USE in addition to G2A, but so was Baner). His troops are mostly non- and ex- mercenaries (a very high percentage of CoC raised troops, though not so much so as 3rd USE) from Dodo and Brunswick to the lowest recruit; so emotions will be running heavy. And von Arnim’s troops are going to have some pretty bad morale as well (from Breitenfield to Saxony’s fall they have either run or gotten waxed and then run). They may not be as much as a help for their employer as their numbers dictate.

  9. johan says:

    @8 Et1swaw

    Torstensson is Chief of the Army of USE (might even be the Chief of Staff of all Armed Forces, second to G2A, I don’t remember) aswell as a general in the Royal Army of Sweden. In addition to this he is the founder of new military academy. He is heavily in invested in USE. Banér is (was) just the commanding officer of the occupation forces under Ernst Wettin. He has NO position within the USE whatsoever, same as general Gustaf Horn. They are just there to “pacify” the areas that will become USE provinces. Their first and last allegiance is to the king of Sweden.

    And while emotions in all likelihood run high in the 1st and 2nd divisions, remember that they are arguably the most well-trained soldiers in Europe, with experience from Ahrensbök and the fighting in Poland. I have no doubt that their patriotism would be a determining factor in any battle with Oxenstierna’s mercenaries.

  10. Doug Lampert says:

    @5, I suspect Becky asked Amalie to have the available Hesse-Kassel forces reinforce the SoTF forces in fighting off the perfidious foriegn invader (aka Bavaria).

    That lets her remain neutral and simultaneously demonstrating her loyalty and value to the USE. Taking on an outside invader is pretty well always allowed, even when other people are fighting a civil war. It’s one of the few activities that no matter which side wins, the winner of the civil war pretty well HAS to accept as why you weren’t helping the side of truth, justice, and the whatever way to win the civil war.

  11. Jeff Ehlers says:

    ET1swaw: I think it was discussed in an earlier snippet that the provincial forces loyal to the CoCs and the FoJ party were not dramatically weaker than the forces loyal to Oxenstierna and the reactionaries. The salient point, however, is that Oxenstierna is the aggressor here. He knows that his illegal ‘reforms’ aren’t going to be placidly accepted by anyone but his ‘supporters’, and the only way he can make them stick is through a military solution. Thus why he tried to get the USE army decimated in Poland and why he set off the treachery in Ingolstadt. Which, by the way, I’m almost sure is why those two men rode off prior to Wettin’s arrest in Berlin – Oxenstierna needed to kick things off in a hurry (I suspect Hand will discover that in due course, which will almost guarantee much of Oxenstierna’s support collapsing).

    The point is, without Bavaria’s intervention and with the USE army still in the game, he has a significantly lower chance of actually having the military force necessary to pull off his coup.

  12. robert says:

    @3 Peter…ain’t it always?

  13. Alex says:

    I’m get sick and tired of people always looking out the gottinhimmel windows! It used to just be Stearns’ thing but now every character does it. There’d better be some literary payoff like Spring as a metaphor for the new birth of the Federal Constitutional Parliamentary Republic of the USE.

  14. Randy says:

    @11 Just how long will it take for the forces available to SOTF/Hesse-Kassel?/Brunswick?/Bohemia? to overrun Bavaria. Munich is the prize not Ingolstadt. I wonder what Bernhard Wettin is going to do about his brother’s arrest and possible execution. Amalie Elisabeth does not appear to have been informed about Ingolstadt. How strong is her relationship with Mary Simpson. Personal friendships had real meaning back then. Mary and John Simpson, not to mention Mike Stearns, are going to go ape shit if anything bad has happened to Tom Simpson or his wife.

  15. dave o says:

    #14 Randy: We don’t have much of an idea how strong Bavaria’s forces are. Considering Max’s recent actions, probably not very. But no matter how strong or weak, he’s not the main concern. Until the civil war is over in the USE, I don’t think they’ll do much more hold what they have. After that, however. . .

    The last I heard, Bavaria’s heir is in Bohemia. Wallenstein may decide to take advantage of this to invade Bavaria, and get rid of an unfriendly neighbor. I was told previously that there are independent bishoprics between the two but Stalin’s question is apposite: how many troops do the bishops have?

    Your point about personal friendships is well taken. I would add, solidarity of relatives is even stronger. It’s hard to see how Bernhard can play much of a role, but certainly possible.
    Your point about personal friendship

  16. dave o says:

    Sorry about the last sentence fragment.

    An additional thought. Ferdinand may be studying what a nuisance Bavaria was to Austria later in the century,-ally of France then and in the 18th century and decide he doesn’t need them as a neighbor either. And it would give his army, still deployed in the west something to do before facing the Turks.

  17. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    dave o — re: Stalin’s question, in 17C Germany, Bishops will have about the same number and quality of troops as princes controlling territories of similar size. From that point of view they are just a different kind of ruler, like counts and dukes.

    You make a good point about Munich being the prize to take in Bavaria, but the SoTF Militia’s first job will be to defend Regensburg. That will control communications between USE, Bohemia, and Austria and provide a nice launching point for an invasion up the Isar, which Duke Max will have to respect. Regensburg will also have some propaganda value to the USE, as it was the closest thing to a capital city for the old Holy Roman Empire in its (NTL) final phase.

  18. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @13 You sound like me kvetching about the proverbs :-)

    Really, though, Eric seems to be writing this quite rapidly, without a lot to diversions to characters that might be interesting to hear about but aren’t really essential to the book plot. It’s one reason the scene in Baghdad jarred a bit — we would have expected something like that in Baltic War, where a number of scenes were there more to drive the epic over-plot instead of the book-plot.

    This also is a change from the more sprawling, ‘family saga’ tone the series had been showing overall. I think I understand why Eric is doing that, and expect several Gazettes worth of ‘There we were, during the Civil War, trying to xxxx” short stories about various people (I hope mostly from authors other than Eric — his time becomes more and more valuable as series multiply, and Ed the Insatiable wants more Rivers of War and Jaoverse stories too!)

  19. ET1swaw says:

    @15 dave o: Most of the border between Bohemia and Bavaria belongs to an arm of the Oberpfalz (where Mad Max caught up to his brother in ‘Bavarian Crisis’). AFAIK the only independent Archbishopric is Passau and that belongs to Ferdinand III’s little brother (teen or early twenties, but OTL an excellant general on the Imperial side). Brunswick and Hesse-Kassel are on the far side of SoTF from Oberpfalz and even farther from Bavaria. Imperial City of Augsberg and provinces of Swabia and Tyrol border Bavaria along the Lech River and the Alps.

  20. ET1swaw says:

    Archbishopric of Friesing is enclaved within Bavaria and Archbishopric of Salzberg (quite large actually) enclaved by Tyrol, Bavaria, and Austria-Hungary. Both are fully independent of their surrounds.

  21. Randy says:

    If the good guys can blitz Bavaria (I know its harder with foot infantry, but the distances aren’t that great Augsburg is only 44 miles from Munich, Ingolstadt is 50 miles from Munich)and knock out Bavaria, it would free up a lot of troops to deal with Axel et al. I know its winter and armies, particularly mercenaries, didn’t campaign in winter. That’s how Washington surprised the Hessians. Union troops (not normally the most fleet of foot) marched 35 miles in a single day to escape from Jackson in 1862 during the Shennadoah Valley campaign. The good guys would have the element of surprise, better intelligence (in all senses of the word), and more motivation than the Bavarians. Max would not want to give up Ingolstadt and would have to divide his already inferior forces. Sort of like what Longstreet was proposing at Gettysburg. Swing around the enemy, make him come to you, and defeat him in detail on the ground of your choosing.

  22. Stanley Leghorn says:

    The two mystery men. Curious. They could be part of a plot. Or, they could have found out what was going on, informed Wettin, and ran to avoid getting caught if he ratted them out. Spies for a dozen interested parties? So many possibilities.

  23. m says:

    Ferdinand should understand in this current situation that if he does not move to take over Bavaria, then Bavaria might end up to the power of USE – which would not be a nice future propect for Austria. Austria surely would like to rule over the Dabube valleys to as far west as possible, and not allow another big power to entrench there.

    Imo Ferdinand does not neec to make the takeover as a real outright annexation. Insteasd, he could invoke some right of his to be overlord of Bavarian dukes and enforce an overlordship. In the future, pushing the Bavarian dukes to be merely local figureheads, the austrian central government making high politics such as foreign policy and armed forces.
    Because Max could be proclaimed mentally incapable, the overlord could for the beginning to start with forming a regency in Bavaria. And in the long run, even when a sane duke ascends, the overlord-emperor could retain much of the real power over Bavaria.

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