1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 33

Chapter 12

Magdeburg, capital of the United States of Europe

“No,” said Rebecca. “Not yet.”

Gunther Achterhof wasn’t quite glaring at her, but his look was far from friendly. For that matter, neither were the looks she was getting from many of the people gathered around the big conference table.

That table wasn’t quite as full as it had been on some occasions in the past, because none of the people from the State of Thuringia-Franconia were present except Kathe Scheiner — and she was purely a CoC organizer, not someone with a position in the provincial government. Ed Piazza and Helene Gundelfinger had planned to attend the meeting, but had decided they had to stay in Bamberg. Tensions with both the Bavarians and General Báner were now very high.

They were high in Báner’s case because the route his army had to take from the Upper Palatinate to Saxony crossed part of SoTF territory — and, one way or another, the provincial officials had managed to delay his march for at least a week. By the end, he was threatening to seize and burn Hof.

At that point, Ed Piazza had quietly instructed his subordinates to cease interfering with Báner’s army. The Swedish general now had to march his troops through the Vogtland, and the delay had given Georg Kresse and his irregulars the time they needed to sabotage the roads the Swedish army would have to take through the mountains.

The sabotage had been carefully done. There was nothing that could be proved to result from human action. Suspected to be, yes; darkly and angrily suspected, in fact. But not proved. Just… bridges somehow washed out by sluggish streams; roads running by other streams mysteriously caved in; other roads blocked by rockfalls and fallen timbers.

All of the obstacles could be cleared aside and the roads repaired, of course. But a march that should have taken no more than two weeks was taking well over a month. By the time Báner’s army finally entered the Saxon plain and reached Dresden, Gretchen and Tata and their Committee of Correspondence would have had the time to strengthen the city’s already-impressive fortifications, store food and supplies for a siege, and consolidate their political control.

As jury-rigged operations went, this one had been extremely successful. But time was now running out.

Báner was within sight of Dresden. And the gathering of reactionaries in Berlin was now public knowledge throughout the Germanies. A major pronouncement by the new prime minister and the chancellor of Sweden was expected at any moment.

Hence today’s dispute. It had been brewing for days and had now finally erupted.

“I have to say I agree with Gunther,” said Matthias Strigel.

Rebecca felt a spike of anxiety. The governor of Magdeburg province was normally one of the more judicious members of the emergency council. But he was under tremendous pressure from his constituents. For all practical purposes, Magdeburg — the whole province, not just the city — was now being governed by the Committees of Correspondence and the Fourth of July Party. That being so, why not acknowledge the fact openly and toss aside the pointless pretense that Wettin’s officials had any authority left?


The problem was not a new one. It had erupted before, most notably during the so-called “Magdeburg Crisis” that followed the battle of Wismar, when the capital city’s celebration of the victory began transforming itself into an insurrection. Only the quick and shrewd action of Mike Stearns and Spartacus averted a catastrophe, when they managed — just barely — to turn the uprising into a mass rally and celebration.

Even two years ago, with Torstensson and his troops camped just outside the city, the rebels might very well have managed to seize Magdeburg itself. The whole province would surely then have followed. It was conceivable, though not likely, that Thuringia and Franconia might have followed suit.

But the rest of the Germanies would not, as Mike had known very well. Soon enough, the traditional elites would have rallied most of the populace behind them — and they’d have the full backing of the Swedish army with Gustav Adolf at their head. He would view such an insurrection as treason and a personal betrayal, and conduct himself accordingly. The end result would have been a crushed rebellion and a monstrous setback for the democratic movement.

Most of the same factors were still in play two years later, although the variables had all changed. The greatest change of all, of course, was the incapacity of Gustav Adolf. With his heir a girl still just short of nine years old and an unsettled order of succession in two out of the three realms for which Gustav Adolf had a crown, legitimacy and legal authority had murky edges and lots of gray areas.

But for that very reason, Rebecca thought, the democratic movement had to avoid anything that clearly transgressed legality. Oxenstierna was driving this conflict, with Wilhelm Wettin trailing behind. That meant that it was the Swedish chancellor who, willy-nilly, had to make the first moves that would be clearly revolutionary. It was essential that the blame for upsetting the established order could be clearly and squarely placed on the forces of reaction. Clearly enough and squarely enough, furthermore, that most of the USE’s populace could see and understand what had happened.

The very worst mistake they could make was to launch their own offensive. As unpleasant and frustrating as it might be, they had to wait until the time was right — and if that meant giving Oxenstierna the first blows, so be it.

Her husband called it “counter-punching,” and he’d told her many times that the greatest danger an inexperienced boxer faced in the ring was being unable to control himself.

“You’re nervous, you’re excited, the adrenalin’s pumping — dammit, you came here to fight, not dance around. So you haul off and throw a haymaker, and the next thing you know the referee’s standing over you counting to ten. And it looks like there’s at least two of him, you’re so dizzy.”

She wished desperately that he was here. Michael could have kept control over the situation. Whether or not she could was still an open question.