1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 46


“We are agreed, then,” Gustav Adolf concluded. Standing at the head of the long row of tables that had been set up for the conference, he nodded to Mike Stearns, who was seated four chairs down on the king’s left side. “As soon as we defeat the Poles and Brandenburgers in a major battle, General Stearns will take his division to Bohemia. Wallenstein has been requesting our support for months. He fears the Austrians will soon invade.”

Gustav Adolf smiled, a bit crookedly. “Personally, I think his fears are excessive. On the other hand, by stationing the Third Division in Bohemia we will certainly forestall any possibility the Austrians might send troops to aid that bastard Wladyslaw.”

The last phrase was spoken with real venom. There was a long-standing grudge between the two branches of the Vasa family. The one that ruled Poland felt — with some justification — that it had been swindled out of its rightful claim to the throne of Sweden. For their part, the Vasas who ruled Sweden resented the accusation with the bitterness felt by all usurpers who have convinced themselves they are the rightful heirs. It was a large part of the reason Mike had found Gustav Adolf so unrelenting on the subject of restarting a war with Poland.

As the Swedish king moved on to recapitulate some of the other major decisions made at the conference, Mike pondered the decision that affected him directly.

He was sure that the decision had been dictated by political considerations more than military ones. The Achilles heel of the new USE regime was the allegiance of the military. A very large portion of the soldiers in the army, possibly even a majority, had been recruited by organizers from the Committees of Correspondence. And while the navy and air force had much less of a CoC influence in the ranks, a disproportionate role was played in their leadership by up-timers. In fact, the commanding officers of both services were Americans.

That meant that if the Wettin regime tried to force through the reactionary program demanded by most of its factions, it ran the risk of provoking an open rebellion which, in turn, might very well trigger off a mutiny in the armed forces. The only reliable military units that would leave Wettin would be the king’s own Swedish troops — most of whom were actually mercenaries, and most of those from the Germanies — and the forces fielded by some of the provincial rulers. Hesse-Kassel, for instance, had a rather powerful army.

But Hesse-Kassel was here in Berlin, not in Magdeburg — and so were most of his soldiers. In fact, he was sitting across from Mike at this very table, two seats up. Wilhelm V had left just enough troops at home to provide his wife Amalie Elisabeth with a minimal military force.

From the standpoint of the Crown Loyalists and their Swedish allies centered around Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, the situation was close to intolerable. But so long as the Swedish king himself refused to support any drastic measures, they did not have many options.

They did have a few, though. Mike couldn’t prove it, but he was certain that his future assignment to Bohemia was a bone that Gustav Adolf had thrown Oxenstierna and Wettin. He’d remove one-third of the USE’s unreliable army from the equation by sending it off to Prague — or Ceske Budejovice in the south, more likely — and the one-third commanded by the most notorious leader of the opposition, at that.

“– quiet situation in the Oberpfalz, we will transfer Ernst Wettin and Johan Baner to Saxony to take charge of the province until its final disposition can be decided. They are an experienced and proven team.”

And there was another politically-motivated decision. It was true, in and of itself, that Ernst Wettin as political administrator and Johan Baner as the commander of the military had done a good job of stabilizing the Oberpfalz and beating back the Bavarians. But while no one would have any objections to the prime minister’s younger brother being appointed the political administrator of Saxony, the same was not true of Baner.

Ernst Wettin was a judicious, fair-minded and reasonable man, by all accounts Mike had ever heard including from Ed Piazza. The Swedish general, on the other hand — also by all accounts he’d heard, including from Americans who’d dealt with the man — was a pig-headed, narrow-minded militarist whose openly-stated opinion on how to deal with the CoCs was to execute the lot of them.

Sending him to Saxony, given the inevitable turmoil that would soon ensue in the province, was not much different from pouring gasoline on an open flame.

Gustav Adolf was perfectly aware of Baner’s characteristics and limitations. Baner was the kind of general whom any sensible ruler placed in positions where his undoubted military skills would be of use but which were not politically sensitive. Again, Mike was sure Gustav Adolf was tossing Wettin and Oxenstierna a bone.

Mostly Oxenstierna, actually. All the Wettin brothers except the renegade Bernhard were pretty close. By now, Mike was sure Ernst had privately made clear to Wilhelm his opinion of Baner. It was no secret that Ernst Wettin and the Swedish general had frequently clashed in the Oberpfalz.

Amberg, capital of the Oberpfalz

Ernst Wettin set down the letter he’d just received from his older brother Wilhelm. It might be more accurate to say it slipped from his loose and nerveless fingers onto the desk.

“Saxony?” he groaned aloud. “Me and Baner — to Saxony? Have they gone mad?”