1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 66

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 66

Chapter 24

USE army’s siege lines, just outside of Poznań

“Some wine, Doctor?” asked George, the duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, holding up the bottle from which he’d just poured himself a glass.

James Nichols shook his head. One of the things about the seventeenth century that he’d never gotten accustomed to was the astonishing alcohol consumption. Abstractly, he knew that the practice of drinking alcohol from the morning on was common in pre-industrial societies. Melissa had told him that Americans in the early nineteenth century consumed an average of six times as much in the way of alcoholic beverages as Americans did in the late twentieth century — and they were mostly drinking whiskey, too, not beer or wine.

From a medical standpoint, it even made a certain amount of sense, in an insane sort of way. You couldn’t assume the local water was potable — it very likely wasn’t, in fact — and alcoholic beverages were much safer to drink in that respect.

Never mind that they also had a lot of unhealthy side effects. The thing that really drove James Nichols crazy was that one of the standard practices for drinking in the daytime was to cut the wine with water — as Duke George was doing this very moment. He’d only poured himself half a glass of wine. The rest, he was filling up from a carafe of water.

Drink wine in order to avoid microbes from infected water. Then cut it with water full of microbes. Go figure.

Something of his thoughts must have showed in his expression, because the duke smiled widely. “I assure you, doctor!” He waved the bottle at General Torstensson, who was sitting in a comfortable chair just a few feet away — with a glass of wine cut with water in his own hand. “Lennart always insists that his orderlies have to boil the water we use for our beverages.”

Torstensson chuckled and said: “And now the good doctor is wondering why we simply don’t drink the water.” He shrugged. “It has no taste, I’m afraid. Or tastes bad, often enough.”

He used the glass to gesture at a chair positioned not far away in the chamber of his headquarters he was using for informal meetings. It was one of the rooms on the second floor of a tavern he’d seized in one of the villages not far from Poznań.

“I can have some tea made, if you’d like. I’m afraid I have no coffee.”

The duke plopped his portly figure into another chair. “Tea! But it’s still at least two hours short of noon!”

“That’s it, make fun of the abstemious up-timer,” grumbled Nichols, as he took his chair. “Thank you, General, I would appreciate a cup of tea.”

He didn’t ask for cream or sugar. Cream, because he wasn’t willing to drink un-pasteurized dairy products; sugar, because it was rarely available and he didn’t much care for honey. So, he’d just learned to drink tea plain. By now, he’d even developed a taste for it.

At that, he was enjoying a luxury. Tea was even more expensive than coffee, and coffee was extremely expensive. The standard hot beverage for people at the time if they weren’t drinking alcohol was a thin broth of some sort.

Torstensson wiggled a finger at the orderlies standing by the doorway and one of them left to get the tea. The other two remained in place.

And that was another seventeenth century custom Nichols had never really gotten used to — the ubiquity of servants. By now, most Americans had adapted because they’d found they could afford servants themselves. But Melissa strongly disapproved of the practice — she was not entirely rational on the subject, in James’ opinion, but it wasn’t something worth arguing about — so they had no servants in their own household. Instead, they had a seemingly endless procession of cleaning ladies and cooks who didn’t live on the premises and were thus not technically “servants” but who did exactly the same thing and cost about twice as much.

Go figure. It wasn’t as if everything about the twentieth century had been logically coherent either.

Duke George seemed to be something of a telepath today. “And how is your estimable wife these days?”

The third general in the room was Dodo Freiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen. He shook his head lugubriously. “You forget the lewd American customs, George! ‘Shaking up,’ I believe they call it. Amazing, really, that the Lord didn’t smite the lot of them for sinfulness.”

“The term is actually ‘shacking up,’ ” Nichols said mildly, taking another sip of tea, “although the genteel way to depict Melissa is as my ‘Significant Other.’ I’m more amazed the Lord didn’t smite the lot of us for mangling the language, myself. As for Melissa, she’s fine. Feeling a bit ragged these days, from traveling so much. She says she’s feeling her age, although she’s been saying that as long as I’ve known her. Melissa is one of those people who feels betrayed by the march of time, as if she and the universe had an understanding that she’d always stay about twenty and the universe is welching on the deal.”

George smiled. “I will not inquire as to the nature and purpose of the travel. Such a firebrand! Who would guess, beneath such a proper appearance? I swear to you, James, the first time I met her I thought she was a duchess herself.”

A lot of down-timers had that reaction to Melissa Mailey, when they first met her, especially people who were members of the nobility. Nichols had always found that amusing — and been even more amused by the appalled reaction so many of them had once they discovered Melissa’s radical political history and her still-radical political views.

In the case of the duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, however, the reaction had been curiosity and interest. In the two years or so that had passed since he first encountered Melissa and James at one of Mary Simpson’s soirees in Magdeburg, he and Melissa never missed a chance to discuss politics whenever they found themselves in the same city. At considerable length, too. Oddly enough, one of the highest-placed members of the Hochadel — George was Prince of Calenberg in addition to being the ruling duke of a province and the commander of an army division — had wound up becoming quite a good friend of hers.

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18 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 66

  1. robert says:

    So what is Nichols doing at the siege of Poznan? I have taken several driving vacations in Europe over the years and the last few snippets somehow remind me of them–especially the first few where we had to see everything. Dizzying!

  2. johan says:

    Perhaps he’s there to give them a status update on this back home? Inspecting the sanitation arrangements?

  3. John Samford says:

    Maybe he is going to look at G? To see if he is in good enough shape for Harry to snatch?

  4. dave o says:

    #1 Robert: Even more interesting, Where is Melissa going, and what’s she doing when she gets there?

  5. summertime says:

    Everything must be going allright with the siege. They all seem to be in a good frame of mind. One would hope for a little more significance in the snippets, other than the state of the water and the state of Melissa.

  6. Doug Lampert says:

    The interesting issue on boiling the water is that it may mean the besiegers have plenty of fuel. That’s somewhat surprising. (Or it may mean that Torstensson is using fuel to boil water while his men face death by freezing, either is possible.)

    On the other hand the doctor being at the sight of a major military opperation hardly needs any great explanation.

    Where there’s a significant siege there’s a significant hospital (that or lots of people dying without treatment). Where there’s a significant field hospital there’s a great need for qualified doctors.

  7. bas says:

    Perhaps the Poles have noticed the good health and well-being of their enemies, while they themselves suffer from the various illnesses, etc. that result from seige conditions in the 17th century. Maybe the good doctor is present to “facilitate” an accommodation or even a truce with Koniepolski. The Big K could be a willing party, especially since the Sejm is being its usual, intractable self.

  8. robert says:

    @6 Doug, I hardly think that the goings on at Poznan constitute a “significant siege.” Tortenson must be using all of his ingenuity to keep his army from getting bored to tears. Charades, anyone?

    @4 dave o, yesyesyes. What is the former Ambassadoress to England doing these days? Good one! Since Mike has no authority and the official government is all messed up, whatever she is doing, she is doing it unofficially and one wonders who she is doing it for, with whom is she doing it, and to whom she is doing it.

    @3 John, Harry was sent to Italy for a completely different snatch. That was before the election that Mike lost, but after the Borja mess. Re-read the end of The Cannon Law.

  9. Rick Elleman says:

    His presence at the siege mainly means the the casualties the Poles are expecting from disease over the winter are going to be DRASTICALLY reduced. Which is very likely why he’s there…

  10. dave o says:

    Maybe someday Flint will let us in on the supply situation in and around Poznan. Koniecpolski could be better off, Torstensson could be better off, both either well supplied or eating rats and shoes. Koniecpolski might be varying the diet with horse. I don’t know, and don’t have enough to speculate on. But it should be the critical factor in what happens there next.

    #3 John: If G2A is going to get snatched, I suspect Erik H. Hand and G2A’s bodyguard will do it. Then again, we haven’t heard from Italy in a long time, so maybe Harry is back, or on the way.

  11. Doug Lampert says:

    @8, They’ve got two divisions camped outside a city in winter, That’s a significant siege with significant casualties even if no one were EVER to fire a shot in anger. There are lots of people in the hospital. Somehow prevent ALL infectious diseases and ALL foraging losses, and you’d still have both frostbite and drunken stupidity if nothing else. That’s plenty to require a significant field hospital. Any actual fighting is icing on the cake.

    @10, Agreed on supplies being both critical and unknown. Koniecpolski knew the war was coming, knew he’d have to stand siege somewhere, and chose where to stand siege. His supply situation SHOULD be fine. The USE started the siege after the harvest was in and as yet is unlikely to have railroad or reliable waterborn resupply, hence their supply situation SHOULD suck. But feeding that many horses is hard, so Koniecpolski MAY not be that well off, and the USE has TacRail units, so their supply situation COULD be fine if the Railline reaches that far.

  12. ET1swaw says:

    @3 John Samford: G2A is being held in Berlin by Oxenstierna, a long way from Poznan.
    @11 Doug Lampert: IIRC TacRail isn’t being used in PLC (too much danger from Poliish and Cossack calvary). That might have changed with the seige situation though. I am curious how EF sees the supply situation.
    @4 dave o, @8 robert: Melissa and James have been all over in 1634/35 (Rome-Venice (‘Cannon Law’) and Prague (Anaconda Project) just for two examples)! BTW Mike’s sister was the ambassador not Melissa.

    Melissa -is- familiar with Koniecpolski’s nephew (the ones -not- in Poznan or stuck in Prague) and James could help improve the Poznan health situation (for either side). Mike did have Anne Jefferson give Fernando the recipe for Chloram and other medicines as far back as the early siege of Amsterdam (1633/34). Mike is no longer PM, but Becky is still very much involved (and much more acceptable to people as a whole; Mike’s politics -scare- people). And epidemics have been the Doc’s biggest cause from the ROF on. And Tortensson can contribute Scaglia’s book to the mix. They may not be able to open inroads into Poznan, but then again they might. Koniecpolski has consistently refused to blindly frontally attack the besiegers as almost ordered by the Sejm and his king, so bad blood between opponents won’t be as high and feelings toward Sejm and king won’t be as good (I am sure all of Poznan is aware of the suicidal orders coming from on high, even with Koniecpolski suppressing them). They might also be there to sit on the USE divisions for Becky.

  13. jtl says:

    I am surprised there is no mention of Cossacks so far. During G2A’s Polish Campaigns from 1626-1629, Koniepolski used Zaporozhian and other cossacks to supplement his mounted arm. It would seem logical to have them interdicting the USE supply lines that deep into Poland. In the US Civil War, a raid by Van Dorn on Grant’s main supply base at Holly Springs, Miss,(Dec 20,1862)forced Grant to pull back from his first overland attempt at Vicksburg. In the histories it seemed that Koniepolski was always up for dislocating maneuvers such as that since he was always weak in infantry and artillery.

  14. johan says:

    IIRC Melissa was hired as a teacher in Political Science, specializing in up-time political theory, at the University of Jena sometime after she got back from London and around the time she went to Italy. So what she’s donig away from her students is anyone’s guess.

  15. John Samford says:

    Re-read the end of The Cannon Law.

    Not sure where it is. I consider it the 2nd worst of the series, right behind Ram Rebellion, which was a true waste of a tree. IIRC, the good doctors daughter and her new hubby were getting the diplos out of town. They had rescued the pope, I think. Or his Qu33r cousin, I forget which. I found the book amnesic. Not quiet as coma inducing as the last few Webers but close.

  16. B Taylor says:

    @15 John Samford: Melissa (and co) weren’t getting the diplomats out of town (although that became part of the job, when Borja showed up), they were attending a wedding (the doctor’s daughter’s). They then (incidentally, because even without God, God smiles on Grantville, ’cause it would be boring and depressing otherwise) rescued the Pope and his nephew, as they got out of Dodge.

  17. Peter says:

    I greatly enjoyed Canon Law. I am looking forward to its sequel.

  18. Bret Hooper says:

    I have enjoyed EVERY 163x book published so far, and I have 6TSU on order @ Amazon. I can hardly wait for 5 The Kalmar Union, or whatever EF chooses to call it, and the sequel to 5CL.
    That being said, I must admit that I did find FAR too much Brillo in 4TRR. I would not delete all of it, but replacing about 90% of the Brillo material with more on the actual rebellion and its aftermath would have been a great improvement.

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