1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 04
In the event, it was the experienced staff officers who raised the objections and the young new colonel who kept his mouth shut.
“But what’s the point, sir?” asked Anthony Leebrick. His tone of voice was not quite peevish, but awfully close to it. “There’s no chance at all that the Austrians will attack Bohemia from the north.”
“I understand that,” said Mike. “But Holk and his army are still out there somewhere. They’ve attacked Bohemia before, you know.”
Leebrick almost choked. While he struggled to regain his composure, Colonel Christopher Long spoke up. “The most recent information we have places Holk’s forces near Breslau, General Stearns. If he was going to invade Bohemia from there, he’d most likely strike through Trutnov rather than marching all the way back through Saxony to come down the Elbe.”
Long used the German name for the city, Breslau, instead of the Polish name Wroclaw. That reflected no particular anti-Polish bias on his part, simply a linguistic preference. He was as fluent in German as he was in his native English, and had only a smattering of Polish.
“Leaving that aside,” chimed in the third of Mike’s staff officers, Colonel Ulbrecht Duerr, “I think the chance of Holk attacking Bohemia under the current circumstances is about as likely as a lady’s lap dog deciding to attack a bear. The time he assaulted Prague was after Wallenstein had taken his army out to meet the Austrians and Holk thought the city was undefended.” He barked a sarcastic laugh. “And then look what happened! The sorry bastard was driven off by fucking Jews and university students. Do you really think he’s now going to challenge Wallenstein himself — not to mention our division?”
Long’s geographical reasoning was impeccable, Duerr’s assessment of Holk’s state of mind was dead on the money, and Mike had considerable sympathy for Anthony Leebrick’s exasperation with his commanding general’s lapse into lunacy. But he was still going to stick to his decision, so the only suitable tactic was inscrutable generalissimo-ness.
“Gentlemen, my mind is made up. I appreciate your advice, but the decision stands and there’s no point thrashing it over again.”
They’d been meeting in one of the rooms on the upper floor of Tetschen’s largest tavern. As was de rigeur in seventeenth-century warfare, Mike had requisitioned the tavern for his temporary headquarters — which, of course, would now become the more-or-less permanent headquarters of the regiment he was planning to leave behind after the rest of the Third Division resumed its march to Prague.
Up till now, the tavern-keeper had been quite happy with the situation. Mike still had enough USE dollars in the division’s coffers to pay in cash. The man would probably be a lot less happy once Mike left and the regiment staying behind explained the new financial arrangements.
Mike swiveled in his chair to look at that regiment’s commander. Unlike the three staff officers, who were sitting at the table with Mike, Colonel Jeff Higgins had chosen to perch himself atop a small side table by the door. The arrangement struck Mike as a bit on the chancy side. Higgins was a big man and that side table looked awfully rickety.
“I’m leaving Captain Bartley and his newly-formed Exchange Corps here with you, Jeff. I figure this is as good a time and place as any to see if his ideas will really work.”
Higgins didn’t look particularly thrilled at the news, but he made no protest. He’d barely said a word since the meeting began and Mike announced his decision to leave Higgins and his Hangman Regiment here in Tetschen.
“Any questions, Colonel?” he asked.
Higgins chewed on his lower lip for a few seconds. “I assume Engler and his flying artillery company are still attached to my regiment?”
“Yes. You can figure that’s now a pretty permanent situation.”
Jeff nodded. “All right. But I’d like some regular artillery as well. Assuming Holk does come ravening up the Elbe” — he said that with a completely straight face; Mike was impressed as well as amused — “having two or three culverins would be handy. Holk will be using flat-bottom barges to haul his supplies, just as we are. Thorsten’s volley guns are great against cavalry but they won’t do squat to sink a boat.” He chewed on his lip for another two or three seconds. “I wouldn’t mind some more mortars, either.”
Mike looked to Duerr, who served as what an up-time American army would have called the division’s G-1 officer, in charge of personnel. “Can we spare anyone, Ulbrecht?”
Unlike the two English staff officers, who were all but rolling their eyes at the absurdity of the whole conversation — culverins to sink non-existent barges, for the love of God, as if the division couldn’t find better use for the artillery pieces! — Duerr’s expression was placid. He was quite a bit older than Long and Leebrick, and had seen plenty of idiotic command decisions in his long career. You just had to be philosophical about it. Generals were like women. Handy to have around, as a rule, and occasionally delightful; but also given to peculiar moods and whimsies.
“Not too hard,” he said. “We’ve kept up our recruiting even on the march. Having a reputation helps — ha! — which we certainly do after Zwenkau and Zielona GÃ³ra. So we’re back up to strength and then some. Still short of cavalry, of course.”
That was pretty much a given. Cavalrymen couldn’t be trained quickly, the way infantrymen and artillerymen could. In the nature of things, in the seventeenth century, most people who already had the horsemanship skills to serve in cavalry units came from the nobility. The lower nobility, as a rule — what Germans called the Niederadel as opposed to the much smaller Hochadel class comprised mostly of dukes and counts. But such men still considered themselves part of the aristocracy and most of them were not friendly to the Stearns administration that had governed the USE since its formation.
So, the USE army had always found it difficult to enlist as many cavalrymen as they would have liked. The new nation’s army made up for it by having what they considered the continent’s best infantry and artillery.