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1634: The Wars for the Rhine: Chapter Three

       Last updated: Monday, October 3, 2016 22:31 EDT



Düsseldorf, The Castle
June, 1634

    “Sister Maximiliane to see you, Milady.”

    Charlotte looked up from the letter she was writing to glance around the room to see if everything was in order. Two weeks ago she and Elisabeth had been about to board the boats arranged to take them up the Rhine to Cologne, when a dispatch had arrived from Wolfgang to the captain of the garrison left behind. As it turned out the cavalry that came running back to Düsseldorf with the news about the French betrayal had been only partly right: Turenne and his men had gone off on their own as soon as they had crossed the river Ruhr, but her husband was very much alive, and locked in a battle with the army of Essen. Faced with these news Charlotte had decided to stay in Düsseldorf, and wait for the arrival of her brother, rather than to try hiding from Wolfgang in Cologne. Unfortunately Friedrich had been delayed by spring flooding in the Alps washing away the roads, but according to his latest letter he had now arrived in Metz and would come north as soon as possible.

    In the meantime Wolfgang’s plans to catch the army of Essen in a vise and crush it to a quick victory had been changed into a long drawn-out battle and attacks against the fortifications surrounding Essen. He had sent for the heavy cannons from Düsseldorf — as well as all available troops from Jülich and the cavalry the archbishop had promised him — but the news coming from the front was so contradictory, that the entire town — not to mention all the servants at the castle — were in a constant state of uproar. As a result Charlotte was constantly called upon to deal with some new crisis, and whenever she sat down to think and make plans, somebody would interrupt. Elisabeth, who was supposed to help her run the castle as well as keep her company, was actually worse than useless in dealing with a crisis; her mind had never been agile, and the life as a postulant, who never had to think outside the rules, suited her perfectly.

    “Thank you, Frau van der Berg, that’ll be all.” Charlotte nodded to her castellaine, and turned her attention to her visitor. Sister Maximiliane, former Countess von Wartenberg and a cousin to Archbishop Ferdinand of Cologne, had come from Bavaria to nurse her cousin through a serious stomach disorder the previous winter. She was well known as a strong fighter for women’s right to enter total sequestration and concentrate fully on the glory of God, but to everybody’s surprise she had accepted taking change of the Hatzfeldt household in Cologne instead of returning to Münich. Speculations as to why had been running rather wild all spring, and ranged from a love-affair with Prince-Bishop Franz von Hatzfeldt to financial problems in Münich making it impossible for her to return. Elisabeth had been partial to the first theory on the basis of the many mistresses kept by the males in the Bavarian ducal family, but Charlotte knew the kind of money it took to enter total isolation, and found it far more likely that the strong-willed Maxie had bitten off more than she could chew and simply wanted to raise some money before going home.

    Well, as the hostess it was Charlotte’s task to direct the conversation, so perhaps she could direct it in that direction — and if nothing else then at least an afternoon spent with the apparently intelligent and capable older woman would serve to distract Charlotte from all the problems otherwise running her ragged.

    “My sister Elisabeth is unfortunately bed-bound with a stomach disorder today, but she has so much wanted to hear your opinion about the religious opportunities for women in Cologne. My own time is presently very much taken by the practical tasks of running this castle, but if you would be as kind as to give me your impression of the most needful undertakings, I’m sure my sister would be delighted to join you in whatever you feel would do the most good.”

    “I am no longer actively involved with religious matters.” Maxie smiled a little bitterly and sipped delicately on the sweet, fine wine Charlotte was serving in costly Venetian glasses.

    “Oh.” That was unexpected.

    “My male relatives had promised me their support, but played me false.” Maxie looked directly at Charlotte and grinned without real mirth. “I’ll not deny that it hurt to give up the plans for which I had fought so hard, and I still believe that women should have the same opportunities as men, but personally I find that there is a certain liberty in no longer needing so many people’s goodwill. I rather believe I’ll enjoy speaking my mind for a while.”

    Charlotte found a wry answering smile tucking her own lips. “Yes, that would be wonderful.”

    “I rather heard — between his words — from my archbishop cousin, that you have had some problems in that direction.” Maxie’s words were almost, but not quite a question.

    “Yes.” Charlotte looked down into her wine to hide her thoughts. Not only would Maxie be a valuable ally if Charlotte went to Cologne, but Maxie’s openness about her own life made Charlotte want to trust her with her own problems. Still, Maxie was known to her only by reputation, so it might be wise to feel her way a little. “Do you think the Americans in Thüringen have been sent by the Devil?”

    “No,” Maxie’s eyebrows had lifted in surprise, “but unless that was an abrupt change of subject, I’m most interested in the connection.”

    “Wolfgang was three times my age when we married, but not at all a bad husband — or a bad man. He was quite tolerant of what I wanted, fair in his judgments, and both concerned and capable in running his lands. He often went to Essen, being interested in what De Geer there was doing, and usually came home with new ideas and plans. Then, a little more than two years ago, an American had been there to tell about all the new things they claimed were possible, and when Wolfgang returned he was very quiet and didn̵#8217;t want to talk about it. In fact he forbade anyone to even mention the Americans. Then he started losing his temper over quite insignificant matters. Would fly into a rage if something had been moved, or his son voiced a different opinion from his own. Previously Wolfgang had been proud when Philipp had made a clever argument, but now it made him furious. And it wasn’t just with Philipp and me. It was the servants, in courts, everywhere, as if he had been bewitched into a totally different person. And it only got worse.” Charlotte shook her head and looked up at Maxie with a weak attempt at a smile. “You are very well known for your nursing skills, do you think he could be ill?”

    “Not from any disease I have ever encountered,” Maxie looked thoughtful, “but the mind is a strange place, and I might have heard about something. Has he been very opposed to anything new?”

    “Yes, anything new, anything changed.”

    “Well, first of all: I’m not personally very familiar with any Americans, but Father Johannes, a person whose judgment seems quite sound, has lived with them since shortly after they arrived. He claims that they are quite ordinary people, special only in being most excellent craftsmen, but morally neither better nor worse, neither stronger nor weaker than what you’ll find in any German town. However, one of the crafts they excel in is that of medicine, and their studies of the human body have included that of the mind. One of the books Father Johannes read and found especially interesting described things that are not actually diseases, but rather too strong or twisted reactions to things happening in a person’s life. I recognized the description of shellshock in a patient I once had, who previously survived a heavy cannonade during a siege, and what has happened to your husband could be something similar called future shock. As far as I have understood, it’s what happens when your mind cannot adjust to all the changes in your life, and try to escape into unthinking rages, drink, or apathy.”

    “I don’t understand.”



    “Well, truly neither do I,” said Maxie smiling warmly, “but Father Johannes assure me that things like the flying machines are quite real, and I suspect that a flight in one of those could drive me more than a little out of my mind. Perhaps your husband experienced something like that, something his mind could not understand or accept, but which Essen embraced, and he therefore would soon find on his northern border. Your husband’s recent behavior certainly seems to indicate that he finds Essen a danger to him.”

    “Yes,” Charlotte absentmindedly refilling the glasses, “and Turenne played him like a viola. Will you be staying long in Düsseldorf?”



Magdeburg, House of Hessen

    My Dearest Uncle

    I write in the hope of finding you and your family in your usual good health, and in the hope that your beloved wife …

    Amalie lifted the pen from the paper. No. Better not mention her last skirmish with Ehrengard at all. Uncle Albrecht would have had all the details from his wife anyway — in fact he would probably have had them morning, noon and night ever since last Christmas — and she had to find a way to make the family stand together if they were to retain any kind of prominence. So…

    …will permit your lovely daughters to visit me here in Magdeburg, and take advantage of the Abbess of Quedlinburg’s advanced lessons in the new political system. As you know the abbess is an member of the Chamber of Princes and one of the people presently working on the new constitution, but Princess Eleonore von Anhalt-Dessau, whose husband, Wilhelm Wettin, everyone expected to become the next Prime Minister of the USE, and I, have prevailed upon the abbess to offer lessons to those of her former students, who might find themselves in a position, where such knowledge would be to their advantage.

    There. Implying that Albrecht’s daughters were expected to make marriages of political importance ought to tickle his vanity. Though from the little Amalie could remember, they were all rather insipid and really difficult to keep apart. But the fences had to be mended, and this invitation — written in her own hand — could only be taken as an extended olive branch. So, now all that was left to write was the usual polite regards and inquiries, and then she could go see what Eleonore had heard about the situation in Denmark.



Cologne, Hatzfeldt House

    The four Hatzfeldt brothers had arrived together in Cologne after meeting in Bonn, and the entire family was now gathering in preparation for the youngest brother, Hermann’s, marriage to the heiress Lady Maria Katharina Kaemmerer von Worms-Dalberg on the first Sunday in June.

    The fire at Wolfer Hof had not done much damage, but Lady Sophia — with her cousin, Dame Anna, in attendance — had moved to Hatzfeldt House, so she could have her baby away from the fearful fire. They were still in residence along with the nine Wildenburg and Fleckenbuehl cousins, who had been able to come. And even with the twelve Weisweiler and Werther cousins having their own lodgings, and the eight Merten and Schoenstein cousins staying with Margaretha in Wolfer Hof, the Hatzfeldt House was now bursting at the seams, and Father Johannes’ work came to a complete hold.

    The orphaned Lady Maria Katharina, called Trinket by the Hatzfeldts for her love of finery, would come to Cologne later together with Archbishop Ferdinand, and stay with him in his palace until the wedding. Fortunately the big feast following the church ceremonial would also be held in the Archbishop’s Palace. That Trinket’s Worm ancestors descended from King Clodomir I of Cologne was almost certainly just a myth, but the archbishop none the less used it as an excuse for a big celebration in Cologne. And to get the council’s permission for him to enter the town to perform the ceremony. Cologne was staunchly Catholic, but also a free trading town with many special privileges, and since the citizens of Cologne had successfully rebelled against their clerical overlord in 1288, the following archbishops could enter the town only with the council’s permission. In Father Johannes opinion, the wedding celebration was a quite clever move, since having the town’s backing and support would most likely be crucial to any plans the archbishop made. And — of course — everybody loves a wedding.

    Lucie had stuck to her plan to take all meals — except formal dinners — in the muniment room for as long as Lady Sophia was in residence, and Father Johannes usually kept her company in both places. The formal dinners really weren’t that bad. Sure, Lady Sophia’s overblown histrionics got a bit tiresome with repetition, but usually the dinner was in the honor of this or that cousin’s arrival in Cologne, and even if it wasn’t enlivened by one of the lively feuds the Hatzfeldts entertained themselves with, at least Father Johannes gained major orders for porcelain from the Magdeburg Meissen factory he was part-owner of. The ovens were presently being built in Magdeburg, and hadn’t gone into production yet, but his few test samples fired in Grantville had convinced everybody that he could deliver.

    Maxie obviously enjoyed herself hugely by needling Margaretha whenever That Baeckenfoerde Woman had to be invited. And usually Maxie had the enthusiastic help of the Wildenburg, Weissweiler and Werther cousins, while the dignified Fleckenbuehls tried to calm things down and the Merten and Schoenstein cousins sniggered up their sleeves at their unpopular matriarch’s problems with keeping her sharp tongue under control when faced with the archbishop’s favorite cousin. All in all dinner parties from hell — except that everybody seemed to regard it as business as usual, so Father Johannes relaxed and let himself be entertained by the antics.

    During the daytime Maxie came to the muniment room whenever she could find the time, and she and Lucie soon included Father Johannes in their old and firm friendship, talking about everything between Heaven and Earth, while sorting and listing the huge piles of paper. Father Johannes sometimes helped the sorting, but usually worked on lists for the restorations, sketches for the new buildings, or — lately — plans for a library — such as shown in the latest number of Simplicissimus Magazine and fast becoming extremely fashionable — to house the family’s collection of books.

    Lucie’s four brothers also came to visit the muniment room from time to time. Quiet, calm-looking Heinrich Friedrich, the oldest of the Hatzfeldt brothers, was the least frequent visitor. Old Sebastian had spent most of his life serving the Archbishops of Mainz in one capacity or the other, and he had bought his oldest son an expensive position as a Domherr at St. Alban in Mainz. Here Heinrich had remained during and after the Swedish conquest of the town, and he now spent most of his visit in Cologne with the exiled Archbishop Anselm of Mainz.

    All the Hatzfeldt brothers had studied theology for a while in their youth, but only Franz, the sturdy and dark third brother, had taken the priestly wows and made a career within the church, first as a diplomat in the service of the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, later as a prince-bishop himself in Würzburg. Normally this would have made him the most powerful — and the wealthiest — of the brothers, but with his exile following the Swedish conquest, his prospects were now most uncertain. Especially since his main heritage from his father, the Castle Crottorf, was also behind the present USE borders.

    Hermann, the spindly and narrow-shouldered youngest brother, was a Colonel, but well known to be much more of an administrator than a warrior — and always ending up serving as quartermaster of whatever army he was serving in. With none of his three elder brothers showing any signs of marrying, Hermann was now withdrawing from warfare and concentrating on handling the family’s estates and possessions; a life Father Johannes felt certain would suit him just fine. Not to mention that he’d probably get much better results negotiating with the USE for the conquered parts of his family’s lands near Mainz, than he would trying to fight for them.



    Melchior, the ruddy and most handsome second brother, had planned to become a Knight of St. John on Malta, but broke off his studies after several years in Fulda, Würzburg and France to become a soldier. As such he had made a very fast career to general under Wallenstein, and had since gathered a sizable fortune during his campaigns. Before going to Cologne Father Johannes had searched the library in Grantville for information about the Hatzfeldts, and in the Americans’ world Melchior had — in 1635 — become an Imperial Count, Field-Marshall and Imperial Councilor as a reward for remaining loyal to the Emperor during Wallenstein’s intrigues. Now Melchior was an Imperial Count a year early, but just that, none of the other titles. And rather than fighting against Wallenstein’s rebellion in Bohemia — or against one of the Protestant armies elsewhere — he had been given furlough to visit his family. He had, of course, left behind his regiments in Linz, and he wasn’t as famous as Tilly and Wallenstein, but he was still the highest ranking and most respected Catholic war-leader now in the West. Sending him to lead an attempt to push back the USE occupation along the Rhine, would make sense; but was that the plan? A messenger from Don Francisco had come to Cologne a few days after Melchior’s arrival: Count Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel was most alarmed by General Melchior von Hatzfeldt’s presence so near his border, and any sign of military mobilization would be viewed as intended aggression. Any information from Father Johannes would be appreciated!

    The Fleckenbuehl cousins — with estates in Hesse and a long history of service to the ruling family there — repeatedly tried to corner Melchior for a private discussion, so after a few days Melchior took to spending all his afternoons with the ladies and Father Johannes in the muniment room. And to his great mortification Father Johannes found himself jealous of the other man’s easy relationship with his ladies. It was of course an unworthy feeling. Illogical. Ridiculous. And all together to be ignored. And beside Melchior’s presence in the muniment room might provide some insights in what dastardly deeds were going on in Bonn. That Father Johannes liked — really liked — the two ladies didn’t mean their male relatives weren’t both ambitious and ruthless. Father Johannes really should spend as much time as possible with the ladies. Eh! With Melchior. He owed it to … To his American friends. And the chance for a better world that they represented. And as a priest he should certainly try to prevent a renewal of the fighting in this part of Germany. Eh! As a Catholic priest he should prevent a Catholic Archbishop from using this Catholic Imperial General to re-take areas presently occupied by the Protestant? Argh! What a bloody mess. Father Johannes stopped to rest his head against the door before entering the muniment room.

    Inside the two ladies and Melchior were laughing at two cats sitting on each end of the table and alternately hissing at each other and ignoring each other with contempt. “Come in Father Johannes,” said Lucie smiling up at Father Johannes, “two new toms have been added to the household and they are being absolutely ridiculous.”

    “Yes,” said Maxie leaning back in her chair and smiling wryly at Father Johannes, “and their names are Melchior and Father Johannes.”

    Melchior stopped laughing and stared at Maxie, while Father Johannes sank down on a chair and kept his eyes on the cats. The silence stretched for a while, then Melchior started chuckling. “I didn’t think we were being that obvious, Father Johannes.”

    Father Johannes sighed and looked at the other man; when he dropped the harsh authority of an officer and his smile reached his eyes, Melchior really looked like a male version of Lucie. Kindness and humor at least somewhat included. “If my behavior has been offensive or in any way improper, I most humbly apologize,” said Father Johannes with a bow towards the other man.

    “Don’t be silly, Father Johannes,” once again Lucie made Father Johannes feel like a school boy, “compared to most of the clerics I know, you are an absolute pattern-card of moral rectitude and proper behavior. But you and my dear brother have so much in common, that it’s silly so formal you both have been. Why don’t you start by telling Melchior about the Americans notion of Democracy? Papa studied for years in Strasbourg, and was most interested in Philosophy; Melchior has inherited this interest.”



    Hessian camp outside the town of Frankenberg

    Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel had been commanding troops since he was a teenager, including several years of learning everything he could from Gustavus Adolphus, and now every bit of experience he had told him that this campaign was getting too complex. His wife Amalie took the greatest delight in political intrigues, and the more complex the better. But while he had the greatest respect for her brain and knowledge, she didn’t really understand military realities in the field.

    He had perfectly agreed with her that the new province of Hesse-Kassel needed a major center for industry and trading, preferably on the Rhine. With Gustavus Adolphus blocking both Essen and Düsseldorf, the only possibility left was Cologne. So, he’d made plans for a feint towards Wildenburg and Schönstein followed by a quick raid across the mountains south-west of Hessen to take first Bonn and then Cologne before the summer was over. That Archbishop Ferdinand had been hiring some of Wallenstein’s old colonels was not a problem, especially since the names mentioned were definitely second-rate. It made a somewhat plausible excuse for those excessively nervous types in the government who insisted that armies should only be used for defense. The French had been sniffing around the area all spring, but Richelieu liked to have a finger in all pies, and the French troops south of Trier had not been reported moving north, so that was fairly much business as usual too.

    That General Melchior von Hatzfeldt had suddenly shown up in Bonn a few weeks ago was slightly more worrying, but since he came without his regiments, it was probably just some kind of scouting mission for the HRE. But now! Hesse sighed and looked down on the telegram in his hand. A special courier from Amalie had arrived only a week ago with a letter saying that Wolfgang of Jülich-Berg was in league with the archbishop and Richelieu in planning an attack on Hesse-Kassel, and that the plans should be changed to head due west for Mark and Düsseldorf. Today she had sent a telegram using the radio between Magdeburg and Kassel to get the message to him faster, if less secretly, saying that the Catholic Alliance had already attacked Essen, and that he should head north-west towards Paderborn and Dortmund to hit them from the rear!

    Both changes made sense on the basis of the information, but what Amalie really didn’t understand was that you could not keep changing where your army was going and still expect it to get anywhere. Doing so undermined the men’s confidence in the leaders, and backtracking on roads already churned by a passing army meant that the cannons and supply wagons were almost guaranteed to get stuck. He could recall the cavalry and send them north to Paderborn, or he could let them take the mountain paths to the road past Plettenberg, but the cannons and the infantry were already strung out along the southern route, and there was no way he could turn them north before Siegen.

    In the meantime he needed to leave the army and go see old Ludwig of Sayn-Wittgenstein. That stubborn old fool was almost on his deathbed, but still determined to make troubles. His heir, Johannes, was a sensible young man, who had almost immediately seen the benefits in having his small mountain realm incorporated in the USE province of Hesse-Kassel. But the old man had flat out refused to even discuss it; declaring in the most pompous phrases that he would see every mountain stream run red with the blood of both his own people and any invaders before he gave up the land built on the bones of his ancestors.

    The army Wittgenstein could field wasn’t even a single regiment, so it was of course possible to simply ignore the old man and press ahead. But since the old man’s daughter-in-law was the sister to Hesse’s sister-in-law, it might be better to try diplomacy once more. Hesse’s brother Herman really doted on his new bride, and if Hesse — even by accident — made Juliane’s sister a widow, there really would be trouble when he returned to Magdeburg.

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