1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 40:
Mike sat erect and leaned over the desk, planting his hands in front of him. “Francisco, I think we need to give some consideration to your safety. After the election, I mean, when you’re back to being a private citizen.”
It was Nasi’s turn to look startled. He hadn’t really considered that matter, he realized.
“You’ve made enemies in your position,” Mike continued. “And what’s worse, some of them are not what you’d call casual enemies.”
“Well… yes. But so have you, Michael.” He nodded at Jackson. “Even Frank, for that matter.”
Jackson snorted. “Big deal. I’m in the army. I’ve got soldiers around me every day. Very well armed soldiers. As for Mike…”
He snorted again. “First, as long as he stays in Magdeburg, he’s got Gunther Achterhof’s CoC people watching over him. You know what they’re like.”
Gunther Achterhof was perhaps the most ruthless of all the CoC leaders—which was saying something, in an organization that had Gretchen Richter as one of its leaders. He more or less ran the Committee of Correspondence in the USE’s capital city, and he had what you might call “pro-active” notions when it came to security issues. That there were enemies spies in Magdeburg, no one doubted. What no one also doubted was that those spies worked very, very, very carefully—and stayed well away from any activities which the city’s CoC might perceive as a direct threat to its people or those they supported.
Mike stirred in his chair. “I probably won’t be staying in Magdeburg, though. I’m almost certain, by now, that once I lose the election Gustav Adolf is going to ask me to become a general in the army.”
Frank shook his head. “That still seems just plain nuts to me. Meaning no offense, old buddy, but you’ve got as many qualifications to be an army general as I do to be a brain surgeon. Zip. You served exactly three years in the army, back up-time—as a grunt. That’s it.”
But Nasi agreed with Mike’s estimate. “It doesn’t matter, Frank. You even have the same tradition in your own history, if you go back far enough.”
Francisco still found it amazing how many Americans—even otherwise intelligent ones like Jackson, holding important positions—knew practically nothing even of their own nation’s history. Much less the history of the rest of the world.
Mike provided the explanation. “In the twentieth century, generals in the American army were almost all professional soldiers. But if you go back to the Civil War, Frank, you’ll find that Abe Lincoln appointed lots of civilians to generalships. In some cases, men with no military experience at all. The most famous is probably Ben Butler. He had a post as an officer in one of the state militias, but that didn’t mean squat in military terms. He just got the post because he was a prominent politician. When the war started, Lincoln made him a major general in the U.S. Army.”
“In God’s name, why?”
Mike shrugged. “Pretty much the same reason that Gustav Adolf is going to offer me a position as general. Ben Butler was a very prominent Democrat, but one who stuck with the North when the South seceded. He supported Lincoln’s prosecution of the war. So Lincoln made him a general.”
“You could refuse,” pointed out Nasi. “You even have a good excuse, since you’ll be the leader of the opposition.”
“It’d be stupid for me to do that. If we were in peacetime, yes. But we’re going to be at war again next summer. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Gustav Adolf is coldly furious with Saxony and Brandenburg and come hell or high water he’s going to bring them to heel for their treachery in the Baltic War. They’ll put up a fight and he’ll overrun them.”
For the first time, Mike’s placid countenance became somber. “Mind you, if I thought I could persuade the emperor to leave it at that, I’d stay a civilian. But I don’t. The Poles and the Austrians are bound to come in on the other side. In and of itself, that wouldn’t be a problem. But Gustav Adolf thinks—and so do I—that he’s going to hammer all of them on the battlefield. And that being so, unfortunately, I’m almost certain he’s going to try to conquer Poland itself. Big chunks of it, anyway. And then all hell’s going to break loose. A smallish and self-contained war—really, more in the way of suppressing a rebellion—is going to turn into an ongoing nightmare. Gustav Adolf is simply biting off more than he can chew, even if he won’t accept the fact.”
Jackson looked at Nasi. “You agree with him?”
“Oh, yes. On both counts. First, that the emperor will make the mistake of turning the war into a full-scale war with Poland. Second, that the Polish resistance will be ferocious.” He made a face. “Unfortunately, the Poles are so feckless in their politics that people tend to forget what they’re like on the battlefield. Especially when they have a Grand Hetman with the military skills of Stanislaw Koniecpolski.”
Jackson looked back at Stearns. “All the more reason, that would seem to me, to stay the hell out of it.”
Mike spread his hands. “I can’t, Frank. Agree with the emperor or disagree with him, it doesn’t matter. If I was just a private citizen, it’d be different. But I’m not. I’m trying to lead a revolution—all across Europe, not just here. Under the circumstances, if Gustav Adolf offers me a post as general in the army on the eve of a new major war for the USE and I refuse, I’ll just marginalize myself politically. Besides…”
He paused, for a moment. “Being cold-blooded about it, I expect Wilhelm to screw up as the new Prime Minister. Screw up badly, in fact. On his own, he might not. But he’s made too many promises and owes too many favors to too many people, many of whom are stone reactionaries and dumber than bricks. So I think there’s likely to be some real political explosions after he takes office. Which, being blunt about it, is fine with me—especially if I’m not around where people can try to force me to play fireman.”
“Oh.” Frank pursed his lips. “To put it another way, you figure the CoCs are going to be running amok sooner or later, and you’d just as soon not be around when they do.”
“Not… exactly. I want to be close enough—hopefully—to be able to guide the thing a bit. Turn an explosion into a shaped charge, you might say. But, yes, not so close that Gustav Adolf or anybody else can expect me to squelch anything right away.” He leaned back, his complacent expression returning. “I figure a military camp somewhere on the Polish border is about right.”
Frank shook his head. “God, you’re a scheming bastard.”
Mike smiled. “Speaking of which—to get back to the topic—even assuming I leave Magdeburg, I’ll still have plenty of protection. And it won’t just be ‘well-armed soldiers’ in the abstract. I’m quite sure I can get Gustav Adolf to let me bring all the Warders into the army with me, as… oh, we’ll call them some sort of ‘special unit,’ just like we do with Harry Lefferts and his wrecking crew. But what they’ll actually be is my bodyguards.”
He swiveled the chair to face Nasi squarely. “None of which will apply to you, Francisco. Not if you leave Magdeburg, at any rate—which I imagine you’d like to be able to do, at least from time to time.”
“Actually, I’ve been thinking of moving to Prague. Leaving the USE altogether.”
“Why?” asked Frank.
“Various reasons. Some of them, purely personal.” Francisco hesitated. But… these two men were good friends, in addition to everything else. “If nothing else, I am getting to the age where I need to get married. And where better to look for a wife than Prague? It has the largest Jewish community in Europe—probably the whole world—and, even better for me, its most cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Well, except for, in some ways, the Jewry of Istanbul. But I think the Ottoman Empire is now too dangerous for me.”
“Okay, I can see that. You’ll need a real bodyguard, then.”
Nasi winced. “Please, Frank! The nature of my work—which I will certainly continue, even in Prague, even as a private citizen—does not lend itself well to having great hulking brutes shuffling along after me.”
Mike laughed. “God, the Warders would love to hear that description of them!”
“Oh, I admit the Warders are different. But how many bodyguards of that caliber are available?”
“Warders, none,” said Frank. “But I have somebody who’d probably suit you even better.”
Nasi cocked an eye at him.
“Cory Joe Lang,” said Jackson. “Know the fellow?”
“His name, yes. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him, though. He’s one of the military intelligence people attached to your… ah…”
“Special unit,” supplied Frank, smiling. “Which means, among other things, that I can assign him to do pretty much anything, anywhere, for any length of time—and neither General Torstensson nor anyone else is going to ask me any questions or raise any objections.”
Francisco thought about it. It was certainly true that having a man familiar with intelligence work as a bodyguard would solve some of the problems involved. On the other hand, “intelligence work” covered a lot of ground. For all practical purposes, most “spies” were really just clerks. In many cases, what the Americans would call “outright geeks.” Hardly suitable for the possible ramifications of the job of being a bodyguard.
“Ah… that would leave the issue of this Cory Joe Lang’s… ah…”
“Physical qualifications?” said Frank, grinning. “Don’t worry about it.”
Stearns was back to his very comfortable, slouched-back-in-his-chair, hands-clasped-over-his-belly posture. “Yeah,” he said. “Really don’t worry about it.”
Francisco looked from one to the other. “What are you not telling me?”
“Let’s put it this way. Harry Lefferts was known to say that the one man in or around Grantville he’d cross the street to avoid getting into a fight with was Cory Joe Lang. Not—he’d always add this, right off—that he and Cory Joe didn’t get along just fine so it was all a moot point anyway.”
“Ah.” Nasi reviewed what he knew of the record of Harry Lefferts. Which was a great deal.
The very sanguinary record.
“Ah,” he repeated. “Yes, that should work quite nicely.”
Frank nodded. “I’ll give him his new marching orders in a few days, when he comes back to Magdeburg. Right now, he’s in Grantville.”
Why would Poland be such a problem? They still have to adjust to the new guns, or even field new guns, such as they are, they should be easy pickings for the next campaigning season at the very least. It’s not like they’ve got the French cap guns in regimental strength, or the USE muskets
Poland will be a problem because of the guerilla and irregular warfare that will erupt after an invasion. In most of the rest of Europe, the locals would have a big case of “don’t care a fig” when one king replaces another. In Poland that only applies so long as one Polish noble replaces the king.
Poland is a big nation by the standards of nations using horse-drawn transportation. That makes lines of supply critical. That makes guarding lines of supply critical. That requires a lot of troops. And Gustavus Adolphus has good troops, but not in the massive numbers required for garrisoning all of his supply lines.
On another note, Ben Butler was not as bad a general as his post-war reputation implied. He lacked the skill to conduct large-scale offensive operations (those requiring more than one division’s worth of troops), but he was an excellent administrator and military governor. He was also extremely clever when it came to gaming the system to help the Union cause.
Butler, who became an abolitionist after the war began (in 1860 he worked to get Jeff Davis the Democratic nomination) established the “Contraband” policy for runaway blacks. He declared them “contraband of war,” which provided a legal justification for not returning them to their masters. Before that, generals had to return runaways to their owners, even if the owners supported secession. Butler was also the first Union officer to successfully field black regiments in the war (a couple of other generals who tried to do so got sacked).
Butler did it by “reactivating” a Confederate “free men of color” regiment in New Orleans. This regiment had been raised by Louisiana for propaganda purposes, had received no equipment, and had no responsibilities other than marching in New Orleans parades. When the Confederacy evacuated New Orleans, the black regiment was finally given military orders — defend New Orleans against the Yankees. Of course, the blacks simply went home. Afterwards, the petitioned Butler to reactivate the unit. Butler was short of troops, so he did better than that. He formed three black regiments, ostensively from the companies of the Confederate unit. When Congress complained, Butler defense was that (a) all he did was continue an existing unit formed by the Confederacy, which had returned to loyalty; and (b) the blacks were all free men who had volunteered. Reality was that only 10% of the Confederate regiment mustered under Union colors, and that the majority of the recruits were runaway slaves, but Butler’s actions provided the legal fig leaf that allowed the regiments to be maintained rather than disbanded.
Butler later commanded the only black corps in the Civil War. He also issued the only medal awarded black soldiers for their services. While Butler was not a shining star and had shortcomings, he was cetainly not on the level of folks like Commissary Banks or John Pope. I wonder how much of his reputation for military ineptitude was propelled by the loathing the “Lost Cause” school of historians had for a man who had given blacks so many opportunities during the Civil War.
Being born and raised in Poland the suggestion that Poland would be easy pickings for invading Swedes makes me chuckle. Historically, Poles were nasty guerilla fighters and very nationalistic. When (in the real timeline ) the Swedes did invade Poland in 1655 they defeated or coopted the major armies and nobles but were forced out by a popular uprising and incessent guerrilla attacks.
Yep, I got the impression that if the Polish army tried to aid Saxony and Brandenburg, then they’d be beaten but get their own back if/when Poland was invaded.
The magical corps of loyal, well-behaved soldiers needed to garrison a country that was, along with the Holy Romans, one of the superpowers of the Middle Ages, would be rather hard to find. Keep in mind that while Poland may be BEGINNING its decline around now, Polish troops during this time played a major role in stopping the Ottoman juggernaut around Vienna, as well as lesser accomplishments like invading and occassionally occupying their puny, disorganized Russian and German neighbors. Few things surprised me quite as much as finding out that Polish troops occupied Moscow at one point. If King Gustav actually tries to get together to kind of army he’d need to conquer Poland, Richeleau will be holding Mass in Magdeburg, no matter how much better the USE’s technology is.
Actually, while the (unusally large) Polish -nobility- was pretty nationalistic in the early 17th century, or as nationalistic as a bunch of brave but egomanaical quasi-anarchists can be, the bulk of the population were serfs.
And over half were -non-Polish- serfs at that. Poland ruled big chunks of what’s now the Ukraine and White Russia.
And the Polish gentry were not, to put it mildly, popular with their subjects. In fact, they weren’t popular with anyone but themselves.
“Death to the Lah!” was always a popular slogan in the Ukraine, with the Ukrainian peasantry and the Cossacks alike.
And “Gustav brings you freedom, rise up, kill the landlords, burn their houses, take the land” would probably go over a treat with the peasantry in general, too. Certainly everywhere outside the ethnically Polish provinces, and probably within them too.
I can’t see Mike Stearns not thinking of this.
Unfortunately, Poland is still a very, very big country. And they have lots and lots of those nobility and gentry. And they don’t have any meaningful chain of command to decapitate. Occupying Poland, the Ukraine, and bits of the weak and badly outmatched Russian underdog(It never ceases to amuse that Poland was in the Middle Ages what Germany would later become) would take too many troops. And however much hatred the arrogant, bloodthirsty Polish nobility might have earned among their serfs, the Austrian and Hungarian nobility would ride to their rescue rather than let Gustav overrun them. So, while the Ukraine, parts of what would later become Russia, and even lots of Polish peasants would defect to Gustav, the USE still ends up fighting the huge Kingdom of Poland, Hungary, and the Austrians in the East, while Richeleau rebuilds the French military. While I must admit I didn’t consider how much the Polish nobility is loathed by their human cattle, the help of other eastern powers and the difficulty of occupying a huge country when its large ruling class and most of its neighbors hate you is considerable. So, despite some factors I really didn’t consider, and that I thank Mr. Stirling for reminding me of, Richeleau would still love Gustav to try to occupy huge swathes of Eastern Europe.