1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 40

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 40

Ivan considered taking the troughs out of the bunker and pointing the rockets directly at the approaching boats, but that would take five minutes at least. More likely ten. By then the steamboats would be at the docks. He calculated again, adjusted the aim once more, and sent another salvo. But he didn’t watch this one. Instead, he turned to Captain Sergei Lagunov. “Captain, gather the men and head for the docks. It looks like we are going to have company. I’ll try to support you with indirect fire.” It wasn’t an order that Ivan liked giving, but at this point he knew more about firing the new rockets than anyone. Besides, he was going to have to be the one to decide whether the risk to his own people . . .

“Got one,” shouted one of the rocketeers.

Ivan looked over. A second of the steamboats was on fire and turning away. That left one untouched, and coming up on the docks.

As he watched that single ship coming on, Ivan noted the fundamental difference between land armies and waterborne armies. On land the army would have broken by now, as hundreds of individual soldiers decided for themselves whether to stand or run. Each man who ran made it easier for the next to run and harder for the others to stand. But the boat that was steaming for the docks was doing so because the ship’s captain decided to. The soldiers on the rails, and even more the sailors manning the engines, had very little idea what was going on in the rest of the battle and no choice at all where the boat went. Not unless they wanted to mutiny, which was a whole different question than just turning and running in the confusion of battle.

***

Sergei looked at the steamboat and considered his options. The dock was a long stonework dock that went along the bank, so once the enemy debarked they would be spread out. On the other hand, if he charged now he could take the boat. He started up and a hand grabbed his arm. “Sergei, no!”

Sergei swung around and almost hit his little brother.

Vadim shouted. “No! If we go out there Major Maslov can’t support us with the rockets.”

“He can’t anyway, not at this range. He’d be shooting almost straight up. They would go wherever the wind took them.”

“There is also cover. We have it here and we won’t on the docks.”

By the time he and his idiot little brother had finished arguing, it was too late. The troops on the boat weren’t on the boat anymore. They were on the dock. On the other hand, Sergei’s men were in place with their AK3s loaded and ready.

“Fire!” shouted Vadim. “Reload. Quickly now, boys, but don’t forget to prime your pans.”

The smoke was clearing from the first volley. It had been effective. At least five men were down there, and the return fire from the dock had not hit anyone. It was the difference between standing in the open and crouched behind cover.

The commander down there was shouting to his men too. “Reload! Cock and aim. Fire!”

The enemy were firing their second round while Sergei’s men were still reloading. That was the difference between flint locks and caplocks. A bullet flashed by and Sergei felt a stinging in his right arm. He reached across with his left hand and felt wetness. Then it really started to hurt.

“Fire!” Vadim shouted again, and the battlefield was wreathed in smoke. Between them and the attackers, they were firing too fast for the smoke to fully clear before the next volley blinded them all again. And that, Sergei realized, was to the enemy’s advantage. So far Sergei himself was the only one of his people wounded and that was because he was standing up arguing with Vadim, not crouched behind cover. He crouched and shouted. “Wait for the smoke to clear.”

He looked around and turned back to Vadim. “They are going to charge soon.”

Vadim nodded, then pointed up the hill. “We need to get some people up there to cover our retreat.”

Sergei looked down at the docks and up the hill, then nodded. “You do that. Take the men you had out on the march and get up there.”

Vadim nodded again and started shouting names. He shouted some orders and Sergei didn’t pay much attention. He was watching the gun smoke slowly drift away. He could see the enemy again, shadows in the acrid gray fog. “Wait a little longer,” he shouted.

Suddenly the enemy were running up the hill toward his men. “Fire!”

The bayonets were an adaptation that had gained rapid acceptance from Russian troops. Everyone wanted one. And by now, with the stamp presses, just about everyone who had a gun of any sort had a bayonet. They were not great steel. Anyone from Damascus would spit when they passed by. But they were sharp and hard enough to cut. And there were scores of them charging his command. Sergei drew his sword with his right hand. His arm hurt, but it seemed to be working. Sergei didn’t have time to worry about it.

***

Vadim got his men in place just in time to see the enemy charge strike home. Now there weren’t two forces, just a milling mob. Well, not entirely. His brother was holding — being pushed back, but slowly. “Aim for the rear ranks, men. And only aimed fire now.”

His men started shooting. Not a volley this time, but the crackle of individual fire. Sergei was holding them in place while Vadim’s boys were sniping them. Vadim looked at the battle and saw a man in the fanciest coat that he had ever seen. The man had a tall fur hat as well. Vadim took careful aim and fired. And missed. Apparently not by much, though. That man was looking right at Vadim. He turned and pointed his pistol up the hill, aiming at Vadim, and started shooting. Vadim was under cover, only his head sticking out, and he was at least forty yards away, so it wasn’t surprising that the man missed with all five shots.

What was surprising was that one of the shots was close enough for Vadim to see the wood chips from where it hit a log. Ducking behind his cover, Vadim reloaded quickly and then laid his AK3 on the log and took careful aim. The fancy coat had managed to reload his pistol faster than he’d been able to reload his AK3 and there was another fusillade of shots. Then Vadim fired again, and the man went down.

That caused consternation in the enemy’s ranks, and they started peeling away and running back toward the boat.

***

Ivan Maslov watched the battle from the hilltop till the enemy broke, then he realized he hadn’t given any instructions for what to do if they won. Ivan ran for a horse, any horse he could find. He needed to get down there now and avoid a blood bath. Besides, he wanted that boat. He wanted those guns. Especially the cannon.

As it happened, he needn’t have worried. Sergei and Vadim had been happy enough to take the enemy’s surrender, even patching up Petr Ivanovich Chaplygin, who apparently Vadim had shot in the left leg. Vadim insisted that it was intentional, but Ivan didn’t believe it. He also didn’t publicly question it. In fact, he was fulsome in his praise for everyone from Alexi who had been in charge of placing the mines through Sergei and Vadim and the troops. The first battle of Ivan’s first command had been a victory, and nothing breeds esprit de corps like victory.

Now if they could only survive long enough to get some sort of armaments.

The next evening

The cannon from the steamboat were still being hauled up Kruglaya Mountain. They were good guns, if light. Rifled breech-loaders that would reach across the river. And once they got the ones from the sunken steamboats they would have eight.

Petr Ivanovich Chaplygin was drinking copious amounts of vodka as anesthetic for his leg. The bullet had apparently chipped his thigh bone and the surgeon had been busy for a couple of hours, cutting him up and sewing him back together.

“General Birkin has an army of fifty thousand men,” Chaplygin said, sounding both belligerent and aggrieved to Ivan. “You won’t stop him with your fancy tricks.”

“I don’t expect to stop him,” Ivan offered calmly. Chaplygin had been one of those officers that despised the academy and the baker’s boy. Ivan knew him and didn’t like him at all, but the more important issue was getting some intelligence. Ivan needed to know what the enemy had in mind. To do that he needed to engage Chaplygin in conversation.

“Even so, Ivan, I wonder if we have enough men,” Alexander Volkov said. “Sure, this is a great position. I know that, you know that. Ivan the Terrible knew it when he put the fort here. But the best fort has to have people manning it.”

“‘At’s right,” Chaplygin slurred. “And peasants won’t do it, not like Vadim here. I put a dozen shots into the tree he was behind and he kept calm and shot me in the leg. Lazy peasant wouldn’t do that. Buggers would run as soon as the wood chips started flying!”

Ivan hastily waved Alexander down before he could correct Chaplygin on the courage of peasants when they were armed and defending their own.

 

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5 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 40

  1. Tweeky says:

    Is this the last snippet before the book is published?

  2. Bret Hooper says:

    So! another victory at least partially in detail! And they got the rifled, breech-loading cannon!

    How many of the losing force will come over to Czar Mikhail’s side?

    Now if only Sheremetev’s infantry/cavalry sloggers will take Lytt’s sage advice and split their cavalry int many small recon units to be defeated in detail!

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Now if only Sheremetev’s infantry/cavalry sloggers will take Lytt’s sage advice and split their cavalry int many small recon units to be defeated in detail!”

      In the real world without reality-changing cheat codes, there won’t be (m)any “defeated in detail” such units, while the garrison would inevitable stress its own forces and suffer some inevitable losses, while their enemy would gain a momentum and achieve a total blockade of the island from either shore of Volga, dooming it to the death by hunger.

  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    “The dock was a long stonework dock that went along the bank”

    Woodwork – not stone.

    “It was the difference between standing in the open and crouched behind cover.”

    Wow – what a deep strategic insight! The thing is – it was the only way how Russian streltzi fought. They never stood in the open field, but always fought from behind some kind (often – mobile, like gulay-polje) cover. Why the authors feel the need to describe their (military) characters as idiots, desiring for a glorious chaaaaaaaarge, is beyond me. Judging by themselves?

    “The bayonets were an adaptation that had gained rapid acceptance from Russian troops”

    [Facepalm]

    It’s always the smallest of things…

    You know – I expected that. Waited with trepidation. If the authors think that the only way the conflicts in the described time periods had been resolving themselves via one glorious chaaaaaaarge after another (and also counting on the assured fact, that the whole novel is just lazy recycling of the 19th c. “Great Trek West” tropes) it was to be expected.

    Soooo… the bayonets. No one is disputing their usefulness. They also were introduced to the armies of Europe in 17th. By the French – and there was a good reason for that. Because – can you imagine the magnitude of the industrial potential that is need to mass produce *identical* military grade products? RoF or not (“stamp presses”… just… no, no way!), but 1630s Russia could not allow that (and many, many other insane stuff handwaved by the authors). Simply there were not enough metal ore even for the production of the basic, essential stuff. Russia had to import metal ore (or, more often, to import manufactured metal products) and it had been spent on really important stuff like cannon and armor. To waste it on bayonets would be, well, waste.

    But even if allowing for the fact that, miraculously, Russia of 1630s was awash with bayonets – would it make any difference? Because Russian professional infantry – streltzi – knew not how to fight using them. At all. In the whole Europe of 1630s there, probably, were no military trainers who knew how to do that, let alone ones who both knew and were willing to travel to Russia to teach (for a long, long period) the locals of how to do that. There was a reason for the pikiners, you know.

    Finally – for a long time bayonet remained just a curio. Muskets of the time period were ill suited for any kind of “fencing”. You could not simultaneously shoot and fight with the bayonet attached.

    Did our authors thought that over?

    “Vadim looked at the battle and saw a man in the fanciest coat that he had ever seen. The man had a tall fur hat as well”

    Fancy coat – that’s plausible. Tall fur hat – not. Not for the battlefield.

    “Vadim was under cover, only his head sticking out, and he was at least forty yards away, so it wasn’t surprising that the man missed with all five shots.”

    Again – what’s with the authors and their desire to present military men as idiots? I’m not going to comment on how that bigwig got hold on a sixshooter – things that virtually impossible to come by in a meaningful amount outside of the USE and the newly united Netherlands.

    “Ducking behind his cover, Vadim reloaded quickly and then laid his AK3 on the log and took careful aim”

    When did a noble assigned to the dead end garrison job learned how to fire a musket/rifle/whatever? Russian nobles disdained firearms till 1680s – for several good reasons. First, for them it was a point of prestige. While any monkey can learn how to fire a gun, they had to learn how to use saber and bow since they were 4 y.o. Firing a musket like a common soldier – that was simply nevmestno for a noble. Second – they had to buy their own weapons. Firearms cost much, much more than sajdak, plus if you were to practice with it, it inevitable raised the expenses on non-renewable gunpowder and shot. Some (mostly Novgorodian and other North-Western nobles) did acquire firearms, but because nobility served nearly universally in the cavalry, then they bought things appropriate to their station – pistols and carbines.

    And now Vadim is a bloody sniper! Authors tell us that there is no need to learn. At all. You will win if the authors tweak reality with enough cheat codes.

    “Ivan ran for a horse, any horse he could find. He needed to get down there now and avoid a blood bath”

    *YOU* are their commander. *YOU* are supposed to delegate. Send a runner! You still have non-military mindset of someone to be ordered around, not to take charge of the things.

    “The cannon from the steamboat were still being hauled up Kruglaya Mountain. They were good guns, if light. Rifled breech-loaders that would reach across the river. And once they got the ones from the sunken steamboats they would have eight.”

    Do they have enough gunpowder and shot to use them?

    “And peasants won’t do it, not like Vadim here. I put a dozen shots into the tree he was behind and he kept calm and shot me in the leg. Lazy peasant wouldn’t do that. Buggers would run as soon as the wood chips started flying!”

    Actually – he is absolutely right. No arguing here.

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