Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1634: The Bavarian Crisis: Chapter Six

       Last updated: Friday, January 21, 2005 23:48 EST




February-April, 1634

Miles Bellicosus
Amberg, Upper Palatinate

    Gustavus Adolphus’ regent in the Upper Palatinate and his general assigned to the same principality were having a private discussion.

    Duke Ernst’s private secretary, seated behind his employer, took meticulous notes. He sat in on all of his employer’s meetings, at least those that he knew about, and always took careful, perhaps even unnecessarily extensive, notes (with marginal comments). Johann Heinrich Boecler, born in the utterly insignificant little town of Cornheim in Franconia, son of a Lutheran pastor and grandson of of a high school principal, found himself in 1634 in a plum post that most twenty-three-year-olds could only dream of obtaining. Thank you, Professor Bernegger; thank you, historical faculty of the University of Strassburg; I pledge upon my honor to be worthy of your trust. He intended these notes not only for the duke’s current use, but also as the basis for a history of the exciting events of this great war which he hoped would, some day, make him as immortally famous as Caesar or Livy, Suetonius or Tacitus.

    Boecler pursed his lips primly and invented yet one more shorthand substitute for the, well, colorful, not to say blasphemous and scatological, terms that peppered General Johan Banér’s vocabulary. Boecler was a bit of a prig. His father and grandfather would have been proud of him.

    “If I don’t get out of this godforsaken Upper Palatinate, my troops will mutiny. They are fighters. I have no talent for keeping the men happy when they are in quarters doing goddamned near nothing. Or, at least, not much.” Banér slammed his tankard of beer down on the dual-purpose breakfast and card table in the conference room in Amberg castle, which was serving the regency of the Upper Palatinate as a capitol building.

    Duke Ernst of Saxe-Weimar had been serving as Gustavus Adolphus’s regent in the province, the Oberpfalz as contrasted with the Rhine or Electoral Palatinate, since late the previous summer. Technically, he was governing in the name of young Karl Ludwig, the rightful ruler, who was in polite and comfortable imprisonment in the Spanish Netherlands at the moment. He had been appointed by the Gustavus Adolphus and was, as everyone knew perfectly well, managing the region on behalf of the USE. That he was acting for Karl Ludwig had been retained as a polite fiction, however. It was also a useful one, particularly since the USE did not choose to recognize Ferdinand II’s 1628 transfer of the Palatinate’s electoral vote to the other branch of the House of Wittelsbach in the person of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. In a pinch, if Ferdinand II summoned a diet for the purpose of getting his son elected as King of the Romans, Duke Ernst could challenge, on behalf of Karl Ludwig, Duke Maximilian’s right to vote, which could tie it up in procedural wrangling for a long time. Long enough, perhaps that Ferdinand might die before the electors designated his son as his successor. Well-a man could always hope.

    He knew quite well that Banér had his men constantly practicing innovative tactics involving fighting retreats and winter campaigning. He looked at his colleague reproachfully. “General,” he said, “you are fully aware of why you and your regiments must remain stationed in the Upper Palatinate. Your presence here is necessary to guard against any Bavarian incursions across the Danube. Even more, the threat caused by your presence in along the Danube keeps Duke Maximilian’s troops tied in place, so that he cannot bring them to the assistance of the Austrians against Wallenstein in Bohemia. Your task here is not the one which you have just described as ‘doing nothing,’ accompanied, I fear I must say, by a blasphemy that is not acceptable in polite discourse, and which I do not propose to repeat.”

    “Moreover,” Duke Ernst added, “your troops are being paid. Not as much as they might like, but regularly. That appreciably reduces the immediate risk of mutiny.”

    “Appreciably! Immediate! You know, Your Grace, you have some adverb or adjective just dripping with pious cant that puts a condition on everything you say,” Banér commented. “The whole Upper Palatinate is an overused cesspit as far as I am concerned! Particularly since my troops, during this winter of 1633-1634, are neither quartered upon the townspeople, whose stores they could eat up, nor allowed to exact more than very limited and rationed contributions, which my honored regent does not permit them to collect themselves – with whatever supplements they might bring in during the process – but is obtaining through contractors with the souls of stiff-necked, constipated bookkeepers and accountants. Calvinist bookkeepers and accountants. Walloons, most of them. Or Genevans!”

    The honored regent whose office was so emphasized by Banér’s tone of voice pointed out mildly that Frederick V of the Palatinate and erstwhile Winter King of Bohemia, whose political ambitions had been the immediate trigger of the war, had been a Calvinist. As was his son Karl Ludwig; so far, at least. It seemed only reasonable, therefore, to employ at least a moderate number of Calvinists in the administration of the province.

    “The Upper Palatinate is not,” Duke Ernst continued, “only that which you rendered so unacceptably as ‘an overused cesspit.’ Although,” he continued judiciously, “there are times that I too have been tempted to consider it almost ungovernable-if only because there are three sets of legal claimants, duly but separately appointed or authorized by its former Lutheran, Calvinist, and Catholic rulers respectively, to almost every piece of property within its borders. Nonetheless. It has industrial resources that are crucial to the ‘technology’ of the up-timers. That are, therefore, crucial to the ‘technology’ being used by Gustavus Adolphus. Who is, if I may remind you once more, your king as well as my emperor, the emperor of the USE. The presence and protection of your troops is necessary if we are to restore the mines to full production. Otherwise, a raid from Austria or Bavaria could destroy the infrastructure once more, just as effectively-and just as fast-as Tilly and Mansfeld, between them, destroyed it during this past decade.”

    Banér opined that if his king, or more likely that tight-assed young Torstensson wanted the artillery that might be manufactured from the ore produced by the Upper Palatinate’s mines, smelted with the Upper Palatinate’s charcoal, and processed in the Upper Palatinate’s hammer-mills, then it should be Torstensson’s troops who got stuck with the hell-designed duties such as protecting mines, assholes, smelters, latrines, hammer-mills, and chamber-pots while real cavalrymen got on with the process of fighting battles.

    The two men, odd couple though they might be, had learned a lot from one another in the past several months. They had conducted variations on this conversation so frequently that Duke Ernst didn’t even pause.

    “We have to consider the problems presented by the other Upper Palatine territories, as well. Duke Maximilian’s brother is married to the sister of the landgrave of Leuchtenberg. Her brother and nephews fled into Bavaria when the Swedes took the whole region: there’s really no practical way to conquer part of the squares on a game board and pass by the others. The Duke of Pfalz-Neuburg, who as you know perfectly well married Duke Maximilian’s sister in 1613, converted to Catholicism in the expedient hope that it would enhance his inheritance expectations in Juelich and Cleves.

    And, although his Bavarian duchess has been dead for five years, he’s still, basically, Maximilian’s client. He, seems, for the moment, to have no immediate intentions of undertaking military action to reclaim those parts of his lands that are up here, north of the Danube, intermixed with those of the Upper Palatinate. The best information that I have indicates that he is currently living on his south-Danubian properties. However, his local administrators are still in place and he has filed a complaint against us with the Imperial Supreme Court on grounds that we have “unjustifiably dispossessed” him of the north-Danubian lands that interpenetrate those of the Upper Palatinate. And, I expect, whether the acknowledged emperor of the Germanies be the Swede or the Austrian, the imperial chamber court will hear the case. Certainly, given the slightest chance, Maximilian will seize upon either set of grievances as an excuse to invade, citing noble defense of the unjustly dispossessed.”

    Banér shared his view of the matter, which was that Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg was a son of a bitch-or would be, if his mother hadn’t been a perfectly respectable woman. That he was, indeed, the kind of man who qualified as a son of a bitch even when his mother had been impeccably virtuous. His character had the kind of son-of-a-bitchness that overrode such minor impediments. He....

    “What do you think of his brothers-the Lutheran dukes of the Junge-Pfalz? August at Sulzbach – well, he died a couple of years ago, so it’s his widow as regent-and Johann Friedrich at Hilpoltstein?” Duke Ernst interrupted Banér’s spiel with some apparently genuine curiosity. These cadets of the Pfalz-Neuburg ruling house held appanages, independently-administered lands that checkerboarded with those of the Upper Palatinate. He dealt with them, or, at least, with their officials, on an almost daily basis.

    “Honestly?” Banér asked. “I think that the ‘ruling high nobility’ of all of these crappy bits and pieces of the Palatinate would be a lot improved if someone did to them what the kings of Sweden did to their own nobility two generations ago. Namely, chop off their shitting heads. And keep chopping until the ones left alive become obedient servants of the crown instead of hopped-up would-be independent rulers. Which applies even though all four of my great-grandfathers were among the ones who ended up shorter than they’d been the day before. Turn this running asshole of a place into something that looks like a country instead of this little mini-state here and that little mini-state there.”

    “Oh,” Duke Ernst said. The comment that he had just heard was something new.

    Boecler was taking shorthand a mile a minute. Although the duke was a native of Thuringia rather than of the Palatinate, there was no doubt in Boecler’s mind that the Wettin family probably fell into Banér’s category of should-be-chopped-ees. Although they were, more or less voluntarily, serving Gustavus II Adolphus because he appeared to offer the best option available to them, neither Ernst nor his brother Wilhelm had expressed any real desire to abandon their little mini-states altogether. While they had “slid” Saxe-Weimar itself rather gracefully into the hands of the up-timers, Wilhelm had been more than compensated with the Eichsfeld while Ernst, himself, had prospects for Coburg and a few other places that, one could argue logically and legalistically, either had not been incorporated into the new state established by the up-timers or were only confederated with it and thus still in need of a ruler.

    “Oh,” the duke said again. Whatever he might have been thinking after Banér’s diatribe, he introduced a change of subject-matter. “You asked for this special meeting,” he said. “What is the topic?”

    “I want to take Ingolstadt,” Banér said baldly. “Letting the Bavarians keep a garrisoned fortress on the north bank of the Danube is a boil on our rump, to put it plainly. And a danger to Horn’s flank in Swabia. Which means that it’s a threat to the king. I’m sick of it. And my men damned well need something more to do. I’m tired of just sitting there, investing it, when we know perfectly well that it’s being re-provisioned almost every night by those fleets of little boats that run through those multiple channels of the river to the south. Plus, if you want us to keep the Bavarians off Wallenstein’s back, a major campaign at Ingolstadt will give them something else to think about – actually pull Max’s troops to the west, probably. A fair number of them, anyway.”

    “I am sure,” Duke Ernst said judiciously, “that the fact that we hold Regensburg is just as much of an irritant to the Bavarians as their possession of Ingolstadt is to us.”

    Banér glared. He was not in favor of an even-handed, fair-minded assessment of the rights and wrongs of the military situation. From his standpoint, the ideal situation would be for Sweden to have every military stronghold in the Germanies firmly within its grasp.

    “If you take your regulars – or most of them – to Ingolstadt, what do I do about the rest of the borders? I’m still not so sure that we were smart to take that neck of hill and forest running down from Regensburg to Passau, just because it was north of the Danube and just because we could, right then, since the Bavarians were in full retreat after we took Regensburg. Admittedly, it’s one of the few things that we’ve done that actually helps Wallenstein-giving him a fairly secure southwestern border against the USE rather than against the Bavarians as far down as Passau. But it’s not an easy place to patrol. Plus the whole river, from Donauwörth to Passau. That’s two hundred fifty miles by itself. Not counting the twists and turns.” Duke Ernst assumed a righteous expression-one that came to him rather easily because of extensive practice.

    Banér’s countering expression was closer to “Gotcha!”

    “Hill and forest, you say? Then use your oh-so-valuable hillbillies and foresters. River bank, you say? Then use your precious river rats and their barges. Don’t look so sanctimoniously at me, Duke. I know what you’ve been doing, training whole squads of non-soldiers to patrol the regions they know best. And you’ve been doing it because you fucking well believe that the first chance I have, I’m going to pull out of this twice-damned, thrice-cursed, totally-abandoned-by-God place and get my men back to my king and his war in the Baltic, which is where I belong and where I might, just might, have an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, fucking chance to get a promotion. Which is what I am going to do. For a general, it is a thoroughly career-destroying move to be stuck in a backwater where nothing is going boom. Be grateful that I’m solving Ingolstadt for you first.”

    Banér drained his tankard and stood up without the regent’s permission.

    Duke Ernst was used to that.

    The general slammed the door on his way out.

    Duke Ernst was used to that, too.

    As Boecler duly noted in the margin. Of course, the clean copies of the minutes that he submitted to the duke never included his marginal notes.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image