1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 03


November, 1635

The dark, broad seas

Chapter 1

Tetschen, near the border between Saxony and Bohemia

The view from Freiherr von Thun’s small castle was magnificent. Set on a rocky knoll right above the quays of Tetschen, called Děčín by the Czech locals, the old castle not only dominated the river Elbe, but provided a fine view to the north. The building had been designed more as a customs and toll stop, rather than being a fortification built with combat in mind. Its old-fashioned curtain walls were ill-suited to receive artillery fire of any kind. Still, its few guns covered the riverfront from bank to bank and they could be expanded by leaving behind some of the Third Division’s artillery.

For the purpose Mike Stearns had in mind — possible purpose, he cautioned himself — Tetschen was better than any other place the Third Division had passed through since they entered the low range of mountains that separated the Bohemian and Saxon plains. Those mountains were called the Erzgebirge in German and KruÅ¡né hory in Czech.

Tetschen had three things to recommend it:

First, it was obviously the best bottleneck to thwart an army trying to enter Bohemia from the north or Saxony from the south.

The Erzgebirge were not tall mountains. The two highest peaks, Klínovec and Fichtelberg, were only four thousand feet high. The terrain resembled a scaled-down version of Mike’s familiar Appalachia. It was nothing like the Alps or the Carpathians, much less the Rockies. Moreover, Klínovec and Fichtelberg were quite a ways to the west. Here, in the eastern part of the mountain range, the terrain was much lower. The Third Division’s engineers had told Mike that the altitude of Tetschen itself was only four hundred and fifty feet above sea level.

Still, as low as they might be, the Erzgebirge were mountains. Not much of an obstacle for a small hiking party, true enough. But for a division of soldiers numbering over ten thousand men, they were well-nigh impassable. By now, the soldiers were hardened and veteran marchers and could probably manage the task as an abstract muscular exercise. But what would they eat and drink? Small mountains streams are fine for half a dozen hikers; for regiments and battalions, they are a laughable water source. While American technology had been able to upgrade many of the weapons used by the USE’s army, its logistical methods were still largely those of the seventeenth century. That meant supply wagons drawn by horses and oxen — who needed even more in the way of food and water than soldiers did.

Armies could only pass through even low mountains by following what few natural routes existed. In this eastern portion of the Erzgebirge, that meant following the Elbe, the same river that was dominated by Tetschen here.

Tetschen’s second great advantage was that it was a relatively large town. Not a city, certainly. But it was very far from a country village, too. It was large enough to provide a base for a regiment, without requiring constant foraging in the countryside. “Foraging” being military-speak for requisitioning supplies by methods which were often nothing more than legalized plunder. Given that the lands said regiment would be plundering were Czech lands ruled by the very same Wallenstein that Mike and his Third Division had been sent to support, that could get very dicey, very quickly.

But with a town the size of Tetschen, Mike was pretty sure that one of his regiments would be able to get its supplies without overly aggravating the area’s residents. That was especially true of the regiment he had in mind for the task.

Finally, Tetschen was very close to Dresden. As the crow flies, probably not more than thirty miles. Mike wasn’t sure yet — he wasn’t sure at all, actually — but that might turn out to be critical.

As his eyes roamed across the landscape below, yet a fourth advantage to Tetschen came to his mind. There was enough flat land down there to build an airstrip. Nothing fancy, but it would be good enough for one of Jesse Wood’s Belles or Gustavs. That might prove quite handy in the future.

“Yes,” he murmured to himself. “Here.”

He smiled, then, thinking of the reactions he’d get from his staff officers and the newest and youngest colonel in his division.