1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS – snippet 45:
Amberg, Upper Palatinate
“I suppose there’s no way to restrain General Banér now,” said Duke Ernst. He leaned back in the chair in his office and studied the mass of papers on his desk. “As if I didn’t have enough to worry about already.”
Colonel Erik Haakansson Hand chuckled and shook his head. “After the news of Ahrensbök? Not a chance. Johan was champing at the bit already. He’s jealous by nature, and of no other of my cousin’s generals is he more jealous than Lennart Torstensson. Johan Banér is looking at his thirty-eighth birthday, in a couple of weeks, and Lennart just turned thirty-one. Now, the upstart Torstennson has the great victory at Ahrensbök under his belt—and to make things worse, he was the commander-in-chief at the battle, not simply serving under my cousin. So now Johan is determined to match the feat—come as close as he can, at least—by seizing Ingolstadt from the Bavarians.”
“But it’s silly, Erik, even in those terms. Ahrensbök was a decisive victory, one of the very few such in the annals of war. Even if Banér succeeds in reducing Ingolstadt, it wouldn’t come even close. To be sure, having a Bavarian enclave north of the Danube is a nuisance to us, but that’s all it is. Especially since we have our own enclave south of the river at Neuburg.”
Colonel Hand shrugged. “What difference does it make? For good or ill, Gustav Adolf made it clear that Johan could operate as an independent commander down here. You simply can’t restrain him, any longer.”
Duke Ernst sighed. “True enough. What do you recommend I do?”
“Since you can’t stop him, you may as well do what you can to see that Banér succeeds. I don’t quite agree with you, anyway, that Ingolstadt is simply a nuisance. So long as the Bavarians have a bridgehead north of the Danube, they’ll pose a continual military threat to the USE. Seizing Ingolstadt would improve our strategic situation considerably.”
As the chief administrator of the Upper Palatinate for Gustav Adolf and the USE, Duke Ernst was not inclined to argue the point. In truth, he’d be a lot happier himself if he didn’t always have to keep a wary eye on Ingolstadt. These things were unpredictable. Sooner or later, Duke Maximilian was bound to dismiss the fortress’ garrison commander, Cratz von Scharffenstein, and replace him with someone who was less slothful, if not necessarily less avaricious. An energetic and aggressive commander of Ingolstadt’s forces, combined with the already-aggressive Bavarian cavalry under the command of von Mercy and von Werth, could present a real problem.
So… Colonel Hand was undoubtedly right. If Johan Banér was determined to press the matter, best to give him all the assistance possible.
“There are the mercenary units in Franconia,” he mused. “I know for a certainty that Steve Salatto and Scott Blackwell would like to get rid of them. Given the situation with the Ram Rebellion, mercenary units of that nature are more trouble than they’re worth. Ten times better at stirring up animosity among the populace than they are at squelching it.”
“True. And what’s better still, after Ahrensbök I think it’s quite likely the emperor would agree to freeing up some of Torstensson’s units and sending them down here.”
The duke winced. “They’ll be CoC regiments, Erik. CoC-influenced, at the very least. Hardly the sort of troops that would please Johan Banér.”
“Fuck Banér,” said Colonel Hand bluntly. “That’s simply the price of his own ambition. He can’t take Ingolstadt unless he can neutralize the Bavarian cavalry—and he doesn’t have cavalry as good as that commanded by von Mercy and von Werth. He doesn’t have captains who can match them, either. The regiments from Torstensson’s army could make the difference, especially if you can persuade my cousin to release one of the flying artillery regiments. By all accounts, they were quite effective against the French cavalry.”
Duke Ernst thought about it, for perhaps a minute. Then, nodded. “As you say… Well.” He was not about to repeat the crude expression aloud, even if in the privacy of his own mind the sentiment fuck Banér came quite frequently. Even easily.
“We’ll do as you recommend,” he said. “Would you do me the favor of composing the message to the emperor? I’ll have it sent out over the radio this evening.”
“It would be my pleasure, Ernst. The truth is, I’m tired of those Bavarian bastards at Ingolstadt myself.”
Mary Simpson had had an appointment to see Duke Ernst today, right after breakfast, to further discuss the prospects of fund raising for the normal school. She’d been looking forward to it, since Ernst Wettin was a man who positively loved the subject of education. In a happier world, he’d have been the Secretary of the USE’s department of education—which still didn’t exist, unfortunately—instead of the administrator of a province under military occupation. He was certainly competent at the task, but it was not one that really suited his temperament.
But the meeting had had to be cancelled. Just when the flurry of political and military activity triggered off by the news of Ahrensbök had seemed to be dying down, news came to Amberg from Düsseldorf of an event that was probably even more important to the Upper Palatinate, if not to the world as a whole. It seemed that Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm and his son and heir, Philip, had gotten themselves killed in the course of a stupid attack on the Republic of Essen while the duke was pushing his claims to his maternal inheritance of Jülich, Berg, and parts of Ravensburg.
Westphalia would have to take care of itself now that Torstensson had so thoroughly trounced the French at Ahrensbök, but it would make a huge difference right here in the Upper Palatinate that the heir to Pfalz-Neuburg was no longer a nephew of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, but rather an infant. Duke Ernst and most of his advisers, including Colonel Erik Haakansson Hand, had been closeted for two days discussing the matter.
So be it. Mary would see to re-scheduling the meeting with the duke in due time. Meanwhile, she could relax in the comfort of the inn, savoring the knowledge that her husband John had come through the hard-fought naval campaign in the Baltic. Without so much as a scratch, so far as she could determine from the newspaper reports. He was certainly alive and not seriously injured. All the accounts agreed on that.
Her companion at the breakfast table did not share her insouciance, however. Veronica Dreeson slapped the newspaper down on the table. “Arrested! What was that idiot boy thinking?
She glared at Mary. It was one of those glares that was not simply rhetorical. Ronnie wanted an answer.
What to say…?
Reading between the lines of the newspaper stories—and all the newspapers were dwelling on this one; no, slobbering over it—the situation seemed clear enough. It was obvious that Eddie Cantrell had been nabbed in flagrante delicto—by the girl’s father himself, to make things perfect—while engaged in activities with the daughter of the Danish king that the newspaper did not precisely delineate but were not hard to imagine.
“I suspect he wasn’t thinking much at all, Ronnie,” Mary said, as mildly as possible.
It was going to be a long day.
Amberg, Upper Palatinate
“Elbow room,” Keith Pilcher exclaimed.
Leopold Cavriani raised his eyebrows.
Keith put his newspaper down. “Did anyone ever tell you about Daniel Boone?”
Leopold nodded a yes; Marc nodded a no. Keith turned toward the boy.
“He was a frontiersman. Not to start out with. His father was a settler in Pennsylvania, a weaver, with a big, comfortable house. All the amenities, like Huddy Colburn puts in the ads when he’s trying to sell a house. A spring for fresh water, a cold room for keeping food fresh. Plastered walls. It’s a park, now. Well, it was a park, then. Daniel Boone’s birthplace, that is. Maxine dragged me to see it once.”
Leopold raised his eyebrows again.
Keith looked back toward the older man. “I do have a point, here. Well, George Boone’s little boy Daniel didn’t take to amenities. He headed out to the frontier and he pretty much kept moving. Western North Carolina. Kentucky. Missouri. That’s where he died, out in Missouri, on the other side of the Mississippi River. As far away from where he was born as . . . oh, as Muscovy, where Bernie Zeppi has gone, is from here. Maybe even farther. And when I was in fourth grade, we had to memorize a poem for a school program. I’ve forgotten most of it. Heck, I never learned most of it–I was just in the chorus that recited the refrain after the soloists went out front and gave a verse.
“Every time he made a move, it went: ‘Elbow room,’ said Daniel Boone.”
“So that’s what Gustav has gotten for us. He’s bought us a year, Cavriani. You and Count August, Duke Ernst, Ollie and me, and all the iron people here. He probably thinks that’s what is important is that he beat Denmark and got his little girl betrothed to that prince, but I know better. We’ve got a year of elbow room before the next crunch comes down. A year to get things going again.
“Now we’ve got to get these guys to roll up their sleeves and show some elbow.”
“Johan was champing at the bit already.”
Not a typo. “Champing” is correct in this expression.