1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 35

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 35

Chapter 13: The River Defense

Kazan

September, 1636

“The general is in the radio room.”

“Radio?”

“Yes. It’s in the tower.” The private in the city militia pointed at the Kazan kremlin.

It took Alexander a few minutes to get to the tower located in the kremlin wall. It was a tall tower and above it was a pole reaching even higher. He made his way into the tower and was directed to a room on the bottom floor. Even with the large antenna, this wasn’t a powerful radio. They didn’t have the amplifiers that up-timers had to make radios that would reach across hundreds of miles. This radio only reached about twenty miles. That meant it could reach Sviyazhsk sitting on top of Kruglaya Mountain and through Sviyazhsk a chain of back country radio outposts that would eventually reach the radio network already established in western Russia. It was also planned to reach Ufa eventually, but for now it was basically a link to Sviyazhsk.

The radio room was also the telephone room. Within Kazan they used telephones connected by copper wires and a switch board. It allowed Tim to talk to just about anywhere in the kremlin and most of the rest of the city, at least the city walls and bastions. Right now there was a great mass of construction work going on. It was mostly sandbags and using Fresno scrapers to dig trenches and build up mounds. Alexander found himself wondering how effective that sort of wall would prove against a determined cavalry charge. He had heard about the disastrous cavalry charge at Rzhev, but he hadn’t been there and he couldn’t help but wonder if it was just that it wasn’t carried through as it should have been.

General Lebedev was standing behind the radio operator, reading over the man’s shoulder as he wrote out the message clicking in.

“Four steamboats loaded with troops and cannon left Moscow by way of Moscova River yesterday.”

“How does Sviyazhsk know that?” Alexander asked.

“This isn’t from Sviyazhsk. It’s from the dirigible.” General Lebedev didn’t look up as he answered the question. He kept reading. “Estimate a hundred streltzi and two cannon per riverboat. The dirigible is heading for Ufa, but will try to keep us informed as they can.” Then he stood and turned to Alexander. “Who are — Alexander Volkov?”

“Yes, General.” Alexander decided at the last minute to address Tim as general. “Czar Mikhail has assigned me to your forces.”

“Really? I must thank him when I get an opportunity.” Then General Tim shook himself. “I’m sorry, Captain. I should have long since given over schoolboy resentments. I really can use you. What do you know about river combat? Ivan Maslov is out at Sviyazhsk, with not much of anything to stop those boats, and I don’t have a lot more.”

Alexander was at a loss, then something Cass Lowry had said while drunk in a tavern occurred to him. “‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.’ ”

“What?”

“I’m not sure. I’m not even entirely sure what a torpedo is. But I think it has something to do with naval warfare. It’s something Cass Lowry said when he was drunk. He said it’s from river fighting in the up-timer’s civil war. Of course, he also said his prick was a torpedo. It didn’t make much sense.”

The general turned back to the radio man. “Is the Czarina still in range?”

“I think so, sir.”

“Have him ask Bernie about torpedoes in the American Civil War.”

The radio man started clicking. “Well, Captain, I hope Bernie knows about torpedoes. Even if he doesn’t, though, it was worth a try. Welcome to Kazan.”

***

As it happened, Bernie didn’t know about torpedoes in the Civil War. In fact, the information that Bernie had about torpedoes was useless . . . except to explain Cass Lowry’s reference to his prick. However, Ivan Alexandrovich Choglokov was very interested in American history. He had been at the Dacha since ’32 and had been on the second steamboat out. His family was prominent at court, but not quite of great family status. And Ivan knew where to find out what a torpedo was in 1860. He looked it up in the encyclopedia.

And suddenly they had a plan.

***

Colonel Mikhail Petrovich Kolumb looked at Alexander with a less than fully pleased expression. “Well, Captain, I take it you’re another of the baby general’s favorites.”

Alexander listened to the colonel’s voice and the bitterness in it. “No. I’m one of the ones who picked on him in the Kremlin,” he said, putting as much regret and resentment in his voice as he could. He was able to put a lot of regret and resentment that statement. It was easy. Alexander hadn’t realized till just now how much he resented Boris Timofeyevich’s rapid advancement. Little Tim wasn’t even the smart one. That was Ivan Maslov. Tim was just in the right place at the right time. Alexander had been a full lieutenant when the Rzhev campaign had happened, but he had missed it and Tim had come back promoted. Then the little bastard had been in just the right spot when the Czar needed someone, and now he was a frigging general.

“Can’t blame you,” the colonel said, his voice much less resentful or at least a lot more congenial. “I haven’t seen much sign of the military genius that everyone talks about.”

“Tim’s not the smart one. That’s Ivan Mazlov, the baker’s son. Tim was just his cover in the upper nobility.”

“Is the baker’s boy really that smart?” Now the colonel was sounding doubtful but interested.

Alexander considered. “At the time I didn’t think so. It just seemed like he had a knack for the war games that General Shein was so enamored of.” Alexander saw the colonel’s nod and held up his hand. “I’m beginning to think that Ivan Mazlov may actually be a very smart operator, and I’ve seen some things that make me think that the games may be more useful than I had thought when I was at the Kremlin.  I think that the new rifles really mean a lot when it comes to tactics.”

“Humph! Well, perhaps. But what about all these sand bags? General Lebedev is starting to be called Sandbag Timmy, and the price of cloth has gone up because of all of it he’s turning into sandbags.” The man shrugged.  “Meanwhile, I’m supposed to fit you out with underwater mines.”

Alexander nodded. Word had come back quickly and designs, even models, had arrived almost as quickly by riverboat.

“Well, I’m looked at the designs. The craftsmen of Kazan are quite capable of making the things.”

They talked it through and Colonel Kolumb sent Alexander off to a craftsman’s shop. A few days later Tim had a load of mines and instructions about placing and retrieving them.  And the craftsman had a voucher from the Czar’s Bank in Ufa.

On the Volga

September 1636

Andrei Fefilatevich Danilov looked up at the dirigible and cursed. That monster had been tracking them since they left Moscow a week and a half — and three breakdowns — ago.

It was hard enough convincing General Birkin to let him take the steamboats without that skywhale hanging up there marking their location. His was a small force. Partly that was because General Birkin had to deal with Director-General Sheremetev, who didn’t trust the steamboats, and at the same time didn’t want them wasted in combat. They were too valuable transporting goods, especially food, considering all the serfs that had run off. Reports that Kazan and Sviyazhsk had gone over to Mikhail Romanov had been ignored. Andrei hadn’t gotten permission for this expedition till the reports of diverted riverboats started coming in.

Most of the army was slowly slogging along the Klyazma River, not that far from Moscow. And it was starting to look unlikely that they would be able to get to Kazan before the winter freeze started. If that happened, they would have to stop and wait for hard winter, after the rivers froze. Andrei looked forward and smiled. It wasn’t all bad news. If his was a tiny force, he still had two of the breech-loading six-pounder cannon mounted on each of his four river boats. That would let him fire on Sviyazhsk as soon as Kruglaya Mountain came in sight. Which, if they didn’t have another breakdown, ought to be tomorrow or the next day. He could steam right up to the docks, drop his troops, then stand off to give covering fire with the breechloaders. Once Sviyazhsk was taken, he would move the cannon to the port side for the assault on Kazan. He might as well. He wasn’t going to have surprise in his favor, anyway. Not with that damned skywhale watching.

***

Quietly, eighty feet ahead of Andrei Fefilatevich Danilov’s lead boat, eight inches below the surface of the Volga, an iron pot waited. It was upside down, filled with black powder and air, making it light enough to bob to the surface if it weren’t for the rope and anchor keeping it below the muddy surface of the Volga. There was no malevolence in the waiting murderer, nor any sense of fair play. No intellect at all. It was a device, nothing more. The pot had had holes cut in it and nails, driven through wax seals. It would only take a tap to drive one of those nails forward to release a catch and allow a wound wheel-lock to spin making a shower of sparks to ignite the powder and . . . Boom!

It wouldn’t be a good day for the steamboat.

On the shore, not two hundred feet from the mines, were a group of sixty men, hiding in the brush that covered the shore. They each had a chamber-loading rifle, the AK3 flintlocks, not the new AK4 caplocks. The production of caps was also still in that part of Russia that Sheremetev commanded.

 

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14 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 35

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    So, if this works, Sheremetev will have supplied Czar Mikhail’s forces with ammunition and 2 breech-loading cannons, and prisoners capable of working. How nice. But in this case, I don’t think I would recommend sending him a polite thank-you note.

  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    ““Yes. It’s in the tower.” The private in the city militia pointed at the Kazan kremlin”

    City militia? In 17th c Russia? Ah, nope. The city defense, guard duty and the law enforcement was all covered by different professional branches. E.g. strieltzi would be both garrison troops and law enforcement. Zatinshiks were the branch of garrison troops tasked with manning the walls, while vorotniks – with manning the gates and custom’s duty. They were all accounted and included in the roster, because they were to be provided (by the state) with the arms (it was usually a hakenbüchse) and ammo. The thing is – they were not by any means “city militia”.

    Authors again demonstrate their lack of research done in preparation of writing the novel. They simply exercise a knee-jerk extrapolation of what they know (or what they think they know) about some abstract 17th c. to just about everywhere in the world.

    “Even with the large antenna…”

    Leaving aside all-too-convenient fact that they have said antenna (let alone radio) – from what material is it made?

    “That meant it could reach Sviyazhsk sitting on top of Kruglaya Mountain and through Sviyazhsk a chain of back country radio outposts that would eventually reach the radio network already established in western Russia”

    Entire “radio network”… How, just how?!

    “The radio room was also the telephone room. Within Kazan they used telephones connected by copper wires and a switch board.”

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    YES!!! They did it! It was hard, nearly impossible, they had steep competition from other incredibly imbecilic stuff already included in the book – but the authors DID IT!!!. They jumped the shark even more higher, than before with the “water park of the RaceTown”! Woo-hooo! That’s a cause for celebration everyone!

    “However, Ivan Alexandrovich Choglokov was very interested in American history”

    Is he by any chance the brother of the RL Vasily Alexandrovich Choglokov, from 1627 till 1640 holding the court title of stolnik (3 degrees below the boyar, 4 degree above any member of the deti boyarskiye )? A bookish member of the nobility, brother (possibly – younger) of the high ranking courtier… and not in the clergy? You know – I’m more interested in him right now! Who he really is? How did he ended up in the so-called “Dacha”? How does his presence here influenced his status and service to the crown?

    “And Ivan knew where to find out what a torpedo was in 1860. He looked it up in the encyclopedia.”

    Hey, why not Wikipedia?! With these books and these authors you can’t be sure!

    “General Lebedev is starting to be called Sandbag Timmy, and the price of cloth has gone up because of all of it he’s turning into sandbags”

    Why they have to slavishly emulate everything from the up-time? ‘cept, the authors desire to do so, of course. Ever heard about fascine bundles? Something tells me, that the wood is much, MUCH more cheaper and abundant in Kazan and area than the cloth.

    “And the craftsman had a voucher from the Czar’s Bank in Ufa.”

    …Which no one trusts, as established by the authors themselves…

    “Most of the army was slowly slogging along the Klyazma River, not that far from Moscow.”

    Nearly half (actually – more) of your army is cavalry. It could have arrived to Kazan’s area long time ago, doing all the usual stuff, like disrupting the communications. There is no reason for it to slog together with infantry and artillery.

    • Bret Hooper says:

      Nearly half (actually – more) of your army is cavalry. It could have arrived to Kazan’s area long time ago, doing all the usual stuff, like disrupting the communications. There is no reason for it to slog together with infantry and artillery.

      Yes, indeed, what was wrong with that fool commander, not splitting his forces (infantry from cavalry) so they could be defeated in detail, thus advancing the authors’ plot?

      • Bret Hooper says:

        And of course the people in the dirigible would never have noticed the separation of the infantry and cavalry or reported it to Ufa. Surely they would not have wanted Czar Mikhail to arrange separate ambushes for the cavalry and infantry.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        “Yes, indeed, what was wrong with that fool commander, not splitting his forces (infantry from cavalry) so they could be defeated in detail, thus advancing the authors’ plot?”

        According to the authors themselves (snippet 24):

        “The army was finally assembled. It had taken a month of purges and another of reorganization, but a cavalry force of twenty thousand was assembled outside of Moscow, with a contingent of streltzi almost as strong, and twenty of the new breech-loading rifled cannon.”

        Their potential enemy has no cavalry to speak of. Well, their potential enemy has no forces to speak of, honestly. So they could/should allocate most of the cavalry units to something else than just “slugging” along with the infantry. The role of the cavalry units, given the lack of ariship, would also be recon.

        “And of course the people in the dirigible would never have noticed the separation of the infantry and cavalry or reported it to Ufa. “

        They would notice literally dozens of small cavalry units riding forward, which would make them impossible to track down. Cavalry recon is the thing to do, if you want to discover said ambushes.

        • Johnny says:

          Yes, because cav recon is so superior to air recon. lol Lytt, stick to history, your military strategy is disastrous.

          • Daryl says:

            His history is dogmatic and prone to errors as well.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “Yes, because cav recon is so superior to air recon. lol Lytt, stick to history, your military strategy is disastrous.”

            Where am I saying that one is superior to other? I’m saying that there ought to be some form of recon conducted by Sheremetev’s forces and that, traditionally, it’s been done by the cavalry. Just because they lack airships does not mean that they will decided to abscond with the recon altogether, seeing as they can’t get the “superior” result.

        • Bret Hooper says:

          They would notice literally dozens of small cavalry units riding forward

          Even easier to defeat in detail!

          , which would make them impossible to track down.

          The dirigible wouldn’t need to keep track of all at once; it could keep track of the furthest-forward unit or two and arrange ambushes to greet them, and then the furthest-forward of the remaining units, and so on.

          Cavalry recon is the thing to do, if you want to discover said ambushes.

          Aah, what joy to discover you are being ambushed, seeing your comrades fall mortally wounded and feeling the fatal bullet entering you!

          • Bret Hooper says:

            With the cavalry defeated in detail, and thus with no cavalry support, and considering the Czar’s forces’ recent experience in setting ambushes, it should be no surprise if Lytt’s services as a military tactician will not be in great demand.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            “Even easier to defeat in detail!”

            Using what troops? Say, a dozen or so cavalrymen per one unit, there are dozens of such units spread through the area – can one (1) airship track them all? Will it even bother doing that, instead of keeping track of the main army?

            Oh, and btw, who will doing this “defeating” of these small cavalry units?

            “The dirigible wouldn’t need to keep track of all at once; it could keep track of the furthest-forward unit or two and arrange ambushes to greet them, and then the furthest-forward of the remaining units, and so on.”

            Yes – if said dirigible would be invisible and the Crown Loyalists“ of Mikhail Romanov would have enough forces to field for staging such ambushes, which have to arrive in time for the ambushes to be set. Say, what forces do they have? How about cavalry?

            “Aah, what joy to discover you are being ambushed, seeing your comrades fall mortally wounded and feeling the fatal bullet entering you!”

            Yes, because it is impossible to notice the enemy is trying to sprang a trap against your other forces, beforehand… Oh, wait! That’s what the recon is for!

            “With the cavalry defeated in detail, and thus with no cavalry support, and considering the Czar’s forces’ recent experience in setting ambushes”

            Can the Russian pro-Mikhail forces can teleport now? I don’t know – with these books written by these two authors everything is possible. Then how they will defeat all the cavalry? How can they sprang traps for all of them? Set up ambushes against highly mobile units, some of which might even know the area in the first place? Please – enLYTTEN me!

            • Bret Hooper says:

              Then how they will defeat all the cavalry?

              In detail.That means defeating each small cavalry recon unit in a separate battle, using forces (groups of fighters) maybe double or triple the size of the small recon unit and directed by the crew of the dirigible by radio to the best place(s) for ambushing them. I say force(s) because two or three such forces might have to go to different places the cavalry unit might choose to pass thru. When it becomes clear just which of the possible routes the cavalry was going to actually use, the other force(s) could be redirected to reinforce the appropriate ambush force, or to go ambush another of the cavalry units.

              • Lyttenburgh says:

                “In detail.That means defeating each small cavalry recon unit in a separate battle, using forces (groups of fighters) maybe double or triple the size of the small recon unit and directed by the crew of the dirigible by radio to the best place(s) for ambushing them”

                Very sound strategy! Now, how do you plan to execute it, given the facts, that:

                1) You have only one (1) airship. Noisy airship, that needs fuel and various supplies. It’s hard to miss it either. Various characters in the novel continue to continue to compare it to the whale, despite the fact that it is as authentic for the 90% of 17th c. Russians, as referencing kangaroos for the ancient Greeks in the times of Socrates.

                2) Field is not a clear tabletop with no fog of war (Volga is heavily forested along its shores). You can’t possibly track all cavalry units. You don’t have radar either.

                3) You don’t have a teleport. How you plan to transport your troops to the spot of the potential ambush?

                4) You (“Major” Maslov in this case) have severe problems in the homefront, with his officer cadres seeing him as [censored] uppity commoner, who should not be trusted even with shoveling dung of the glorious horses of the totally deserving nobles (like them). His troops are not better, being a bunch of RMFs from the zhiletskiye strieltzi, more familiar with the garrison/city guard duty, than with something so complicated as setting up a successful ambush. There is also too few of them (about 500 or less)

                Taken together, this means: A) You don’t have a lot of man to spare setting up multiple ambushes in a lot of places, hoping to eliminate a significant number of the enemy forward recon cavalry. B) You’d probably have to do this yourself, not trusting your subordinates not to screw up/betray you. C) Even if you resort to DIY, those fine noble gentlemen (who hate your guts) might still betray/frag you.

                5) Skirmishes in the course of cavalry recon were expected – as well as losses from that. It was a standard practice – and acceptable tradeoff. Russian noble cavalry in that period was capable of covering up to 50 miles per day. If you have several units doing active recon (as was the practice of just about everyone in the time period) maintaining communications with each other and the HQ via messengers, this results in appropriate (for the time period) intelligence gathering operation. Even If one of such units will get into an ambush (and the defenders could hardly pull anything better than that per few days) this would still be a useful intelligence. Besides – there is no guarantee, that this result in the ambushers easy victory.

            • Bret Hooper says:

              enLYTTEN me!

              I appreciate your pun. Good one!

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