1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 25:

Yet, the same thing that gave the USE’s army so much of its strength could also be its Achilles’ heel. Those soldiers out there were heavily influenced by the radical Committees of Correspondence. Given the recent political developments in the USE, there was a very real chance that they might mutiny and turn their guns against their own rulers rather than Poland and Lithuania.

But they would be far less likely to mutiny so long as they were fighting a war. Their commander Torstensson was popular with his soldiers and could probably maintain discipline — provided the war continued and his army remained in Poland, and provided that his civilian superiors were not so reckless as to try to use his regular army divisions against the USE’s own population.

That was exactly why Jozef Wojtowicz was urging his uncle to make peace with the USE. If necessary to get that peace, even give up the territory that Gustav Adolf had already seized before he was so severely wounded at Lake Bledno that his chancellor Oxenstierna was now managing Sweden’s affairs. Those territories were only marginally Polish to begin with. Most of the population of most of the towns the USE had seized were German, not Polish.

So let the USE have them — and let Oxenstierna try to deal with an angry army coming back home, most of whose soldiers despised him and weren’t much fonder of the USE’s own prime minister. In all likelihood, the USE would dissolve into civil war.

Such a war wouldn’t last forever, of course. It was possible that the victor, whoever that might be, would then want to resume the USE’s aggression against Poland. But they’d have been weakened and, more important, Poland and Lithuania would have gained the time it needed to modernize its own military. The commonwealth didn’t have the industrial base the USE possessed, but it wasn’t backward and primitive Muscovy, either. With time, effort and determination, they could build a military capable of meeting the USE’s on more or less equal terms.

But as always, the king and the Sejm were being pig-headed.

The damned Swedes had invaded — again!

To arms! To arms! No surrender, no retreat, no compromise!

And never mind that the king would continue to be a wastrel, showering money on his whores instead of his soldiers. Never mind that the Sejm would be miserly with its money and profligate with its factionalism. Never mind that the great magnates would keep their powerful private armies at home to fend off rivals instead of sending them to the front. Never mind that the szlachta would guard their petty privileges far more assiduously than they would guard the commonwealth’s national interests.

Lukasz sighed, gave the plane circling overhead an angry glance, and turned away to follow the grand hetman.


Less than a mile away, Lieutenant General Lennart Torstensson lowered his eyeglasses. The up-time binoculars had been given to him by Mike Stearns after the Magdeburg Crisis which followed the battle of Wismar. Stearns had given no specific reason for the gift, but Lennart was sure it was in appreciation for his restraint during that episode. Had he followed the advice of most of his subordinates — and just about every nobleman residing in the city at the time — there’d have been a bloodbath; which, in turn, would have precipitated a far greater political crisis. Instead, he’d kept his troops in their barracks and let Stearns and his associates settle things down with almost no violence at all.

That same conduct on his part had gotten him a far greater gift than a pair of binoculars from his monarch. Gustav Adolf had valued Lennart for his military abilities for some time already. But it wasn’t until he saw how Torstensson handled the Magdeburg Crisis that the Swedish king gave him his full political confidence. Lennart’s greatest military triumph had been the battle of Ahrensbök, but he never would have been leading the army that won that great victory if he hadn’t already shown Gustav Adolf he could be trusted with a fully independent command.

Still, modest though they might be in some terms, he treasured the binoculars. Not so much for the ability to see so well at a distance, but because in some indefinable way they made it easier for Torstensson to accept what he saw and make decisions based on it. A down-time eyeglass left things… murkier.

As murky as the orders he kept getting from Prime Minister Wettin, which he suspected were really coming from the chancellor of Sweden. As he slid the binoculars into their case, Torstensson’s jaw tightened. The respect and admiration he had long felt for Axel Oxenstierna was slipping away from him; as each week passed, more and more rapidly — and even more rapidly, his respect for Wilhelm Wettin.

He could accept Oxenstierna’s near-fanatical devotion to aristocratic interests, and could accept Wettin’s pre-occupation with political tactics at the expense of strategic vision. Grudgingly, but he could accept them.

What he could not accept was their willingness to use his soldiers as pawns in their game; their willingness to throw away lives — a great number of lives — purely for the sake of advancing their factional interests. That was what was draining away his respect, and stoking his growing anger.