1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 58

Chapter 21

Bamberg, capital of the State of Thuringia-Franconia

At the last moment, worried about the Bavarian threat to the Oberpfalz, Ed Piazza had decided not to attend the conference Becky had called in Magdeburg. When word came the day before the conference of the so-called “Charter of Rights and Duties” passed by the convention of reactionaries taking place in Berlin and — this came as a complete surprise — the arrest of Wilhelm Wettin, he’d regretted that decision.

Today, he was deeply thankful he’d stayed in Bamberg. The president of the State of Thuringia-Franconia was facing the worst crisis of his political career.

The Bavarians attacked Ingolstadt the evening after the news arrived from Berlin. Possibly just a coincidence, of course. The attack was certainly not unexpected.

What was unexpected — no, profoundly shocking — was that they’d taken the highly fortified city within a few hours. By dawn, it was all over. When the Bavarians had controlled Ingolstadt, they’d withstood a siege by Banér’s army for months. So how and why had the USE’s defense collapsed literally overnight?

There was only one possible answer: treason. And not the usual sort of treason that often afflicted cities under siege — such as the treason which had turned over Ingolstadt from the Bavarians, in fact. In such cases, after long months of siege, a small party within the city would jury-rig a scheme to open the defenses to the enemy. Typically, the besiegers would come in through a gate opened by the traitors and, over many hours, force in enough men to overwhelm the city’s defenders.

From the few and limited accounts they’d gotten so far, though, what had happened in Ingolstadt this time looked far different to Piazza. The Bavarians had apparently penetrated the city simultaneously in several places, after guard detachments had been overwhelmed from within. That suggested a massive conspiracy and one that had been planned over a period of time.

An utterly ruthless conspiracy, to boot. That much was obvious from the one radio message Major Tom Simpson had managed to send before he vanished. It had been transmitted in Morse code, for reasons that were unclear. Perhaps reception hadn’t been good enough for voice messages. More likely, Ed thought, they’d lost their best radios.

Bavarians over-running Ingolstadt. Colonel Engels murdered. City cannot be held. Withdrawing what remains of regiment into countryside.

That message had come early this morning. Since then, nothing.

His secretary Anton Roeder stuck his head in the door. “General Schmidt is here, sir.”

“Send him –” But Heinrich was already coming through the door. He was not standing on ceremony today.

“How soon –”

“Now,” Heinrich answered. “In fact, the first of the regiments is already marching out of the camp. I expect to have the entire division on the road by evening.”

“How long –”

“No way to know, Mr. President, until we see what the road conditions are like.” The young general shrugged his thick, muscular shoulders. “The roads are good, but with the snowfall two days ago… Still, it shouldn’t take us more than three days to reach Nürnberg. From there, we can figure another three day march to either Ingolstadt or Regensburg, whichever you’ve decided is more important. That assumes the authorities in Nürnberg are co-operative. If they close the border, it will take us at least another day to march around the city.”

Nürnberg was a political anomaly. For centuries it had been one of the major imperial cities in the Germanies; in most respects, a completely independent city-state. It had jealously held onto that status through the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, the formation of the Confederated Principalities of Europe, the collapse of the CPE and its replacement by the United States of Europe. Today, it was for all practical purposes an independent miniature nation, but one that was completely surrounded by the USE. The only up-time equivalent Ed could think of was Lesotho.

The Nürnbergers were generally on good terms with their much larger neighbor (or hyper-neighbor, it might be better to say) but they could sometimes get prickly. And there was no way to know yet how they’d be reacting to the turmoil inside the USE. The city’s own authorities were on the conservative side, and would thus be politically inclined toward the Crown Loyalists. On the other hand, it was the intervention of the Americans on the side of Gustav Adolf which had so quickly and decisively defeated Wallenstein’s army as it moved to besiege the city. In more immediate and cruder geopolitical terms, two-thirds of the city-state’s border adjoined the SoTF. Ed had always made it a point to stay on good terms with the Nürnbergers and they’d been just as punctilious returning the favor.

So, he didn’t expect any problems. But these were uncertain times.

On a positive note, he finally managed to get in a complete sentence. Heinrich tended to be abrupt under pressure.

“I’m inclined to think we should accept the loss of Ingolstadt — for the moment — and concentrate on defending Regensburg.”

“I agree,” said General Schmidt.

“Let’s settle on that, then. Take the division to Regensburg.”

“What are the latest radio reports coming from the city?”

“Nothing, oddly enough. A few clashes with Bavarian skirmishers south of the Danube, but nothing worse. And there’s still no sign of any attempts to cross the river. Not even probes.”

“Not so odd as all that, Mr. President. Duke Maximilian still hasn’t built his army back up to strength. He’s gambling right now — obviously, because he thought traitors had given him a particularly strong hand.” Darkly: “Which, indeed, they did. But he still would have concentrated all his forces at Ingolstadt. He would not have taken the risk of launching two simultaneous attacks so widely separated. It’s more than thirty miles from Ingolstadt to Regensburg — on those roads at this time of year, at least a two-day march. Separated units could not reinforce each other in case of setbacks.”

“In that case, how soon –”