1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 10

Melchior, the ruddy and most handsome second brother, had planned to become a Knight of St. John on Malta, but broke off his studies after several years in Fulda, Würzburg and France to become a soldier. As such he had made a very fast career to general under Wallenstein, and had since gathered a sizable fortune during his campaigns. Before going to Cologne Father Johannes had searched the library in Grantville for information about the Hatzfeldts, and in the Americans’ world Melchior had — in 1635 — become an Imperial Count, Field-Marshall and Imperial Councilor as a reward for remaining loyal to the Emperor during Wallenstein’s intrigues. Now Melchior was an Imperial Count a year early, but just that, none of the other titles. And rather than fighting against Wallenstein’s rebellion in Bohemia — or against one of the Protestant armies elsewhere — he had been given furlough to visit his family. He had, of course, left behind his regiments in Linz, and he wasn’t as famous as Tilly and Wallenstein, but he was still the highest ranking and most respected Catholic war-leader now in the West. Sending him to lead an attempt to push back the USE occupation along the Rhine, would make sense; but was that the plan? A messenger from Don Francisco had come to Cologne a few days after Melchior’s arrival: Count Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel was most alarmed by General Melchior von Hatzfeldt’s presence so near his border, and any sign of military mobilization would be viewed as intended aggression. Any information from Father Johannes would be appreciated!

The Fleckenbuehl cousins — with estates in Hesse and a long history of service to the ruling family there — repeatedly tried to corner Melchior for a private discussion, so after a few days Melchior took to spending all his afternoons with the ladies and Father Johannes in the muniment room. And to his great mortification Father Johannes found himself jealous of the other man’s easy relationship with his ladies. It was of course an unworthy feeling. Illogical. Ridiculous. And all together to be ignored. And beside Melchior’s presence in the muniment room might provide some insights in what dastardly deeds were going on in Bonn. That Father Johannes liked — really liked — the two ladies didn’t mean their male relatives weren’t both ambitious and ruthless. Father Johannes really should spend as much time as possible with the ladies. Eh! With Melchior. He owed it to … To his American friends. And the chance for a better world that they represented. And as a priest he should certainly try to prevent a renewal of the fighting in this part of Germany. Eh! As a Catholic priest he should prevent a Catholic Archbishop from using this Catholic Imperial General to re-take areas presently occupied by the Protestant? Argh! What a bloody mess. Father Johannes stopped to rest his head against the door before entering the muniment room.

Inside the two ladies and Melchior were laughing at two cats sitting on each end of the table and alternately hissing at each other and ignoring each other with contempt. “Come in Father Johannes,” said Lucie smiling up at Father Johannes, “two new toms have been added to the household and they are being absolutely ridiculous.”

“Yes,” said Maxie leaning back in her chair and smiling wryly at Father Johannes, “and their names are Melchior and Father Johannes.”

Melchior stopped laughing and stared at Maxie, while Father Johannes sank down on a chair and kept his eyes on the cats. The silence stretched for a while, then Melchior started chuckling. “I didn’t think we were being that obvious, Father Johannes.”

Father Johannes sighed and looked at the other man; when he dropped the harsh authority of an officer and his smile reached his eyes, Melchior really looked like a male version of Lucie. Kindness and humor at least somewhat included. “If my behavior has been offensive or in any way improper, I most humbly apologize,” said Father Johannes with a bow towards the other man.

“Don’t be silly, Father Johannes,” once again Lucie made Father Johannes feel like a school boy, “compared to most of the clerics I know, you are an absolute pattern-card of moral rectitude and proper behavior. But you and my dear brother have so much in common, that it’s silly so formal you both have been. Why don’t you start by telling Melchior about the Americans notion of Democracy? Papa studied for years in Strasbourg, and was most interested in Philosophy; Melchior has inherited this interest.”

Hessian camp outside the town of Frankenberg

Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel had been commanding troops since he was a teenager, including several years of learning everything he could from Gustavus Adolphus, and now every bit of experience he had told him that this campaign was getting too complex. His wife Amalie took the greatest delight in political intrigues, and the more complex the better. But while he had the greatest respect for her brain and knowledge, she didn’t really understand military realities in the field.

He had perfectly agreed with her that the new province of Hesse-Kassel needed a major center for industry and trading, preferably on the Rhine. With Gustavus Adolphus blocking both Essen and Düsseldorf, the only possibility left was Cologne. So, he’d made plans for a feint towards Wildenburg and Schönstein followed by a quick raid across the mountains south-west of Hessen to take first Bonn and then Cologne before the summer was over. That Archbishop Ferdinand had been hiring some of Wallenstein’s old colonels was not a problem, especially since the names mentioned were definitely second-rate. It made a somewhat plausible excuse for those excessively nervous types in the government who insisted that armies should only be used for defense. The French had been sniffing around the area all spring, but Richelieu liked to have a finger in all pies, and the French troops south of Trier had not been reported moving north, so that was fairly much business as usual too.

That General Melchior von Hatzfeldt had suddenly shown up in Bonn a few weeks ago was slightly more worrying, but since he came without his regiments, it was probably just some kind of scouting mission for the HRE. But now! Hesse sighed and looked down on the telegram in his hand. A special courier from Amalie had arrived only a week ago with a letter saying that Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg was in league with the archbishop and Richelieu in planning an attack on Hesse-Kassel, and that the plans should be changed to head due west for Mark and Düsseldorf. Today she had sent a telegram using the radio between Magdeburg and Kassel to get the message to him faster, if less secretly, saying that the Catholic Alliance had already attacked Essen, and that he should head north-west towards Paderborn and Dortmund to hit them from the rear!

Both changes made sense on the basis of the information, but what Amalie really didn’t understand was that you could not keep changing where your army was going and still expect it to get anywhere. Doing so undermined the men’s confidence in the leaders, and backtracking on roads already churned by a passing army meant that the cannons and supply wagons were almost guaranteed to get stuck. He could recall the cavalry and send them north to Paderborn, or he could let them take the mountain paths to the road past Plettenberg, but the cannons and the infantry were already strung out along the southern route, and there was no way he could turn them north before Siegen.

In the meantime he needed to leave the army and go see old Ludwig of Sayn-Wittgenstein. That stubborn old fool was almost on his deathbed, but still determined to make troubles. His heir, Johannes, was a sensible young man, who had almost immediately seen the benefits in having his small mountain realm incorporated in the USE province of Hesse-Kassel. But the old man had flat out refused to even discuss it; declaring in the most pompous phrases that he would see every mountain stream run red with the blood of both his own people and any invaders before he gave up the land built on the bones of his ancestors.

The army Wittgenstein could field wasn’t even a single regiment, so it was of course possible to simply ignore the old man and press ahead. But since the old man’s daughter-in-law was the sister to Hesse’s sister-in-law, it might be better to try diplomacy once more. Hesse’s brother Herman really doted on his new bride, and if Hesse — even by accident — made Juliane’s sister a widow, there really would be trouble when he returned to Magdeburg.