1636: The Ottoman Onslaught – Snippet 14
Besides, both Denise and Minnie had heard the famous story before they’d even arrived in Vienna.
“Pretty hard not to like a girl who knees a prince in the balls when he gets fresh with her,” was Minnie’s way of putting it.
“Can’t argue with that,” said Denise.
The event itself went reasonably smoothly. Noelle was relieved to see that the Barbies — especially Judy Wendell — kept a close eye on her two sometime-wayward charges and steered them out of trouble.
Thankfully for her own peace of mind, she never overheard Judy’s running commentary on the various royal, noble, and patrician attendees at the gala affair, which ranged from derisive remarks on personal foibles to explications of episodes far too scandalous for three teenage girls to even be discussing, much less analyzing in detail.
“How many are there?” General Timon von Lintelo lowered his spyglass and looked at the officer standing next to him on the wall. That was Lorenz Münch von Steinach, the colonel in command of the Bavarian cavalry units stationed in Ingolstadt. Two reconnaissance patrols had just returned after scouting the area north of the city.
“The exact number of the enemy forces isn’t known, General.” Munch used his chin to point to the north. “That area is too heavily wooded for the scouts to be sure they saw everything. But whatever the precise figure might be, there’s no doubt at all that we’ll be heavily outnumbered.”
Lintelo grunted. The sound had something of a sarcastic flavor, but the general didn’t give voice to it. Lintelo was partial to Munch. Had the cavalry colonel been another officer he might have received an open reprimand for not being able to provide an exact figure for the enemy’s force — and never mind that such figures in the middle of a war were always at least partly a mirage.
That they were heavily outnumbered was the key point anyway. The exact ratio — three to one, four to one, possibly even five to one — was somewhat academic. When Duke Maximilian learned that General Stearns and the USE’s Third Division were concentrating their forces at Regensburg, he immediately drew the conclusion that their plan was to march directly on Munich, rather than trying to recapture Ingolstadt first.
It would be a bold move, leaving an enemy fortress in his rear, but the American general had a reputation by now for being bold to the point of recklessness. So, the duke had ordered almost two-thirds of the soldiers who seized Ingolstadt in January to withdraw and rejoin the main Bavarian army just north of Munich.
Von Lintelo wasn’t privy to Maximilian’s plans, but he was sure the duke intended to meet Stearns somewhere in the open field rather than waiting for him to invest the Bavarian capital. Maximilian was given to boldness himself, and he’d recently hired the Italian general Ottavio Piccolomini to command the Bavarian army. Given the circumstances of that hiring, Piccolomini would have his own reasons to act decisively.
Piccolomini had distinguished himself during the recent Mantuan War — although more as a diplomat than a soldier — but his principal bona fides were peculiarly theoretical. Much like the French marshal Turenne, Piccolomini’s rapid promotion was due primarily to what was said about him in the American history books. Apparently in that other universe he’d been a major figure in military affairs.
Hiring the commander of an entire army because of his other-worldly and future reputation bordered on folly, perhaps, but Maximilian didn’t have many other choices. The duke’s behavior since the treachery of the Austrian archduchess who was supposed to have married him had been savage and often not very sane. As a result, Bavaria had hemorrhaged experienced commanders. Just to name two of the most prominent, General Franz von Mercy and his immediate subordinate Colonel Johann von Werth had both abandoned Bavaria after Ingolstadt had been lost due to the treachery of its commander, Cratz von Scharffenstein. Von Werth had since gone to work for Grand Duke Bernhard in Burgundy and von Mercy had taken employment with the Austrians.
Piccolomini would be anxious to prove himself, therefore. And he would probably share Maximilian’s assessment that Stearns was a lucky commander rather than a competent one. Von Lintelo shared that assessment himself. The American’s luck was bound to run out soon, and where better to have that happen than on the hills and plains of northern Bavaria?
“This seems completely silly for such a risk,” complained Stefano Franchetti.
“Look on the bright side,” said Bonnie Weaver, grunting as she heaved another sack of leaflets over the rim of the gondola. She was in something of a foul mood because the only reason she’d gotten drafted into doing this grunt work was because she’d done Heinz the favor of picking up the leaflets at the printer’s and then discovered that apparently she was expected to deliver it to the airfield herself.
That meant dickering with a nearby teamster company to provide her with a wagon and driver and then deciding she had to accompany the wagon to make sure the delivery was done properly — and then deciding she had no choice but to provide Stefano and Mary Tanner Barancek some help in loading the sacks of leaflets into the gondola because Franchetti was being sullen and Barancek was being Size 4.
“What’s the bright side?” groused Stefano.
“These things only weigh about twenty-five pounds, which Mary ought to be able to handle well enough. Who knows? If the brass decides to list tonight’s adventure as a combat mission — which they probably will, just to avoid having to wrangle with your boss Estuban over the surcharge — then Mary gets her qualifying run. One of three, anyway.”
“Hey, she’s right!” said Mary, looking cheerful. She went instantly from Struggling Size 4 to Hefty Size 10.
It took only a few minutes more, after that.
“Why so many sacks?” Mary wondered.
“From what Heinz told me, Major Simpson wants the streets of Ingolstadt paved with those leaflets. Have fun tossing them overboard.” And with that, Bonnie headed off. Happily — no fool she, and the teamster hadn’t asked for much and it was a government job anyway, not like she was paying for it — the wagon was waiting to take her back into town.
Six hundred feet above Ingolstadt
The rockets made a pretty sight, Tom thought. Between their innate inaccuracy and the fact they’d had to aim by moonlight obscured by clouds, none of the missiles got dangerously close except one — and all that one did when it exploded was pepper the bottom of the gondola with shrapnel that never penetrated. And he’d stayed far enough away from both of the rail gun pits that neither one of them ever opened fire at all.
He had Stefano slow down once they got over the city because he wanted to make sure the leaflets didn’t fall outside of the city limits. There wasn’t much chance of that happening, with the very light wind that night, but Tom didn’t want to take any chances.
This expedition was based on pure guesswork, as was true of almost any psychological warfare tactic. But Tom thought his guesswork was probably on the money, and if he was right he’d be saving himself and something like twenty thousand soldiers from USE army and the SoTF National Guard a fair amount of grief.
“Okay, that’s the last one,” said Mary. She was breathing heavily and the moonlight shone off a sheen of sweat on her face. Between her slenderness and the pace at which they’d been working, she was close to exhaustion by now.
“All right, Stefano,” said Tom. “You can go to full throttle.”
Damn, those lawnmower engines made a racket.
For some odd reason, two rockets were sent after them when they were at least half a mile beyond the city limits. Whoever fired them was probably motivated by sheer frustration, because there was no chance at all they could have done any damage.
“Do you think it was worth taking the risk?” asked Stefano, when they were another five miles away and headed back toward Regensburg. The young pilot was sounding quite cheerful now, though. Combat bonus pay was nice, once you knew you’d gotten clear.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Tom replied.
The battalion of Italian mercenaries had several men who could read German, and even two who could read English. But it hardly mattered since the contents of the leaflets were translated into Italian and Spanish also — as well as French, Polish and Dutch.
ALL BAVARIAN SOLDIERS WHO SURRENDER WILL BE GIVEN AMNESTY WHEN WE CAPTURE INGOLSTADT EXCEPT THE TRAITORS IN THE 1ST BATTALION.
The 1st Battalion had been the one whose treachery had allowed the Bavarians to retake Ingolstadt.
“Well, fuck,” said one of them, after his buddy translated it for him. He didn’t read at all. At least half of the battalion was illiterate.
But, by daybreak, every single one of them knew what the leaflets said.
The first breakout took place just before noon. General von Lintelo didn’t move quickly enough and make sure all of the guards at the gates were from reliable units. About thirty Italian mercenaries from the 1st Battalion got out through the west gate before control was restored. An hour later, another twenty or so overpowered the guards at another gate and got out of the city as well. Several dozen more — no exact count was ever made — got out right after them.
Thereafter, von Lintelo regained control of all the gates.
Until nightfall. Two hours past sundown, after a quick negotiation, the Swiss mercenaries guarding the west gate pocketed their bribe and led the Italians out of the gate themselves.
Maybe there’d be amnesty given to Swiss who weren’t in that battalion… and maybe there wouldn’t. Words were cheap. Every soldier in the garrison, no matter what his origin or what unit he belonged to or what language he spoke knew that by now, sixteen years after the White Mountain and five years after the sack of Magdeburg, there were no troops as hated in central Europe as those in the employ of Bavaria. They’d all heard of the enemy’s new battlecry: “Magdeburg quarter!”
And the Bavarian troops had behaved almost as badly when they took Ingolstadt as they had five years earlier in Magdeburg. If the USE army retook the city, there was most likely going to be another slaughter. Amnesty be damned. Magdeburg quarter.