1635: The Wars For The Rhine – Snippet 36

“Legally the general would have the power to bring at least his two personal regiments to Cologne.” Dannwitz, who had studied law before becoming a soldier, was now reading the dispatch. “And this part about stalling until reinforcements can arrive in a dispatch sent to Wolf could be taken as an order for him to get those reinforcements to the general as quickly as possible.”

“I’m pretty certain the general expected Wolf to take this letter to Vienna to speed up the permission to bring the all or most of the regiments to Cologne.” Dehn frowned at the Wolf. “Anything else would be quite contrary to the Melchior’s way of operating.”

“I completely agree.” The Wolf looked at Dehn still grinning. “But my cousin did put me in charge, and that’s not the way I operate. And before you get your dander up, old man, remember that my cousin has known me all my life, and he did not write a direct order for me to do this or that.”

“So,” Wolf looked around the table, “we’re leaving tomorrow morning with three regiments. Dehn, you take over as commander here. I’ll lead Melchior’s old regiment.  Lorentz you leave behind the newest recruits and those companies who failed to follow orders in Pisek. There’ll be absolutely no room in this for laggards or those who puts their comfort above getting things done. Dannwitz, your regiment is the smallest at the moment, so see if you can pad it a bit. Dehn might be willing to lend you some of his fastest riders, but Schierstedt and Mettecoven are not around to give permission. See what you can do, it need not be three full regiments, but I want the absolute best. We’ll take no wagons, and only those non-combatants who can ride at least as well as the soldiers. Food and tents must be packed onto the spare horses. I don’t intend for us to do any fighting until we reach the general, but I want us to reach the Rhine in little more than the time it took Pettenburg to get here. Pettenburg,” Wolf stopped and looked at Simon as if measuring the inside of his skull, “I want you to take charge of our recognizance, and that’ll be not just the couriers and scouts, but also our best saboteurs, spies, thieves and forgers. Talk with Allenberg about the permits and papers.”

Simon swallowed and mumbled something he didn’t know for sure if was a “yes, sir” or an oath.

South bank of the Danube between Vichtenstein and Passau, two days later

“And just how are you enjoying your first command?”

At the sound of Wolf’s voice Simon looked up at the grinning man, and wondered how much trouble he would get from giving the answer that first came to his mind. No, he was much too angry to give an honest answer, so instead he jumped to his feet, gave his most elegant bow and stood straight shouting: “Sir! Yes, Sir! Everything as you ordered, Sir!”

Wolf’s jaw literally dropped for a moment, then he laughed out loud and clapped Simon on the shoulder. “As bad as that, boy?”

The two men looked down the hill at the camp being organized on the meadow around the rickety barn. The general’s dispatch had given an estimate of the Hessian cavalry as two or three thousand, and Wolf had brought less than fifteen hundred, but there was just no way to get all the regiments to Bonn in time, and no one expected Wolf to try meeting the Hessians in open battle anyway. The men on the meadow represented the absolute maximum strike force the regiments could field in the least number of bodies. They were all veterans proven and trusted by their officers, all expert riders on well trained horses, and all equipped with the best weapons to be had in the HRE. All — that is — except for half of Simon’s little group of six persons now gathering around a campfire slightly removed from the rest.

Pettenburg’s Specialists — as they were called in the files — had been handpicked by Wolf, and only Marsch, Lenz and Niederthal were to do the work General von Hatzfeldt would normally have assigned them to. They were — like Simon — couriers and scouts supposed to ride very fast horses behind and through enemy lines carrying messages and gathering information about troop movements. Occasionally that also meant fighting — and usually against rather bad odds — so they were also better than average with both sabre and pistols. Of course slender, red-haired Marsch, who was the son of a very well-to-do locksmith, could also open any lock except the American ones, burly, swarthy Lenz, whose father owned a mine, was very good at setting off small precise explosions, and non-descript Niederthal, who never spoke of his background, had a padded crate filled with bottles and packets of American chemicals. Still, they were all three fine fighting men, and Simon would have been proud of being made their leader.

Ferret-like Schaden, on the other hand, usually worked at curing the sick horses in Lorentz’s regiment, and while he was really good at using any kind of knife, he was also well known for being unable to hit a barn with a musket at ten paces, and likely to do more damage to himself than his opponent with a sword. What he could do better than anyone else, was to sneak close to an enemy camp and silently remove any guards or other inconvenient persons. Not a skill often called for in the normal order of things, but being able to get that close to the enemy camps also meant getting really detailed information about their number, equipment and fighting moral.

Allenberg was a relative newcomer to the regiments, and normally the head quartermaster of Melchior von Hatzfeldt’s old regiment. He had joined shortly before the last campaign, and had made no secret of his lack of fighting ability and experience, but he was — in addition to being able to squeeze all kinds of information out of papers and ledgers for the general — also quietly known to be able to produce a most amazing range of papers and permissions. The general presumably didn’t know about Allenberg’s little nebengeschäft, but the Wolf had absolutely no objection to getting over a difficult ground as lightly as possible, and Simon’s talk with Allenberg had resulted in the finest set of forged papers Simon had ever seen. Simon rather liked the calm and solid looking forger, but Allenberg didn’t socialize much, and usually went back to quarters after buying his round at any tavern.

Allenberg’s assistant, “Rosy” Ross, on the other hand was usually the life and soul of any party. He was a fair and rather fragile looking Scot, who had all kind of outrageous stories about his background, but in Simon’s opinion the one about running away from his strict parson father to become an actor, sounded the most likely. Whether he had ever been the foremost player of female roles at the royal theater in London was a different matter, but he could in fact get away with impersonating a woman long enough to gather all kinds of information in a market, and had an almost uncanny ability to gain friends quickly in any tavern. What he could do in a fight no one had ever seen, but judging from the minimal training the general insisted on, it really wouldn’t be much.

“The road north from Passau is no easier than the one you rode from Nurnberg to Regensburg.” Wolf turned to look westward squinting his eyes against the setting sun. “That leaves us with Deggendorf, Ingolstadt, Donauwörth, or Ulm. I want you to enter Passau tomorrow, while the rest of us cross the Inn, and see what information you can gather.”

“Very well, sir. I’ll take Niederthal and Rosy with me. We’ll leave Rosy on his own, and go inquire about permission to set up a recruitment table at the Christmas Fair.” Simon stated calmly.

“Recruiting at Christmas is rare.” Wolf remarked “What’ll be the excuse for not waiting until the hiring fair in spring?”

“Unsettled times. Farmers seeing the harvest cannot last until spring.” Simon shrugged. “I’ll think of something.”

“While looking young, earnest and just a little naïve.” Wolf laughed and slapped the younger man on the shoulder. “Carry on, boy, carry on.”