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1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Two

       Last updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 07:22 EDT



    “Run that by me again, Captain.” Jeff Higgins shook his head. “I’m having some trouble with the logic involved.”

    Captain David Bartley looked a bit lost, as he often did when other people couldn’t follow his financial reasoning. “Well…”

    He sat up straighter on the stool in a corner of the Hangman Regiment’s HQ tent. “Let’s try it this way. The key to the whole thing is the new script. What I’m calling the divisional script.”

    Higgins shook his head again. “Yeah, I got that. But that’s also right where my brain goes blank on account of my jaw hits the floor so hard. If I’ve got this right, you are seriously proposing to issue currency in the name of the Third Division?”

    “Exactly. We’ll probably need to come up with some sort of clever name for it, though. ‘Script’ sounds, well, like script.”

    “Worthless paper, in other words,” provided Thorsten Engler. He, like Bartley and Colonel Higgins himself, was also sitting on a stool in the tent. The flying artillery captain was smiling. Unlike Jeff, he found Bartley’s unorthodox notions to be quite entertaining.

    “Except it won’t be — which is why we shouldn’t call it ’script.’”

    “Why won’t it be worthless?” asked Major Reinhold Fruehauf. Unlike the others, he was standing. Slouched against one of the tent poles, more precisely. Fruehauf commanded the regiment’s 20th Battalion. Battalions were numbered on a divisional basis, with the 1st and 2nd battalions assigned to the division’s “senior” regiment, the Freiheit Regiment commanded by Colonel Albert Zingre. Jeff Higgins’ Hangman Regiment being the bastard tenth regiment of the division, its two battalions got the numbers nineteen and twenty.

    Bartley squinted a little, as if puzzled by the question. “Why won’t it be worthless? Because… Well, because it’ll officially be worth something.”

    The regiment’s other battalion commander cocked a skeptical eyebrow. “According to who, Captain? You? Or even the regiment itself?” Major Baldwin Eisenhauer had a truly magnificent sneer. “Ha! Try convincing a farmer of that!”

    “He’s right, I’m afraid,” said Thorsten. His face had a sympathetic expression, though, instead of a sneer. Engler intended to become a psychologist after the war; Major Eisenhauer’s ambition was to found a brewery. Their personalities reflected the difference.

    “I was once one myself,” Engler continued. “There is simply no way that a level-headed farmer is going to view your script — call it whatever you will — as anything other than the usual ‘promissory notes’ that foraging troops hand out when they aren’t just plundering openly. That is to say, not good for anything except wiping your ass.”

    Bartley looked more lost than ever. “But — but — Of course it’ll be worth something. We’ll get it listed as one of the currencies traded on the Grantville and Magdeburg money exchanges. If Mike — uh, General Stearns — calls in some favors, he’ll even avoid having it discounted too much.” He squared his slender shoulders. “I remind all of you that they don’t call him the ‘Prince of Germany’ for no reason. I can pretty much guarantee that even without any special effort money printed and issued by Mike Stearns will trade at a better value than a lot of European currencies.”

    Now, it was the turn of the other officers in the tent to look befuddled.

    “Can he even do that?” asked Captain Tadeusz Szklenski. He was the commander of the artillery battery that had been transferred to Jeff’s unit from the Freiheit Regiment.

    Bartley scratched his head. “Well… It’s kind of complicated, Ted. First, there’s no law on the books that prevents him from doing it.”

    Szklenski frowned. “I thought the dollar –”

    But David was already shaking his head. “No, that’s a common misconception. The dollar is issued by the USE and is recognized as its legal tender, sure enough. But no law has ever been passed that makes it the nation’s exclusive currency.”

    “Ah! I hadn’t realized that,” said Thorsten. The slight frown on his face vanished. “There’s no problem then, from a legal standpoint, unless the prime minister or General Torstensson tells him he can’t do it. But I don’t see any reason to even mention it to anyone outside the division yet. Right now, we’re just dealing with our own logistical needs.”

    The expressions on the faces of all the down-timers in the tent mirrored Engler’s. But Jeff Higgins was still frowning.

    “I don’t get it. You mean to tell me the USE allows any currency to be used within its borders?”

    He seemed quite aggrieved. Bartley was grinning, however.

    “You’re like most up-timers,” David said, “especially ones who don’t know much history. The situation we have now is no different from what it was for the first seventy-five years or so of the United States — our old one, back in America. There was an official United States currency — the dollar, of course — but the main currency used by most Americans was the Spanish real. The name ‘dollar’ itself comes from the Spanish dollar, a coin that was worth eight reales. It wasn’t until the Civil War that the U.S. dollar was made the only legal currency.”

    “I’ll be damned,” said Jeff. “I didn’t know that.”

    He wasn’t in the least bit discomfited. As was true for most Americans, being charged with historical ignorance was like sprinkling water on a duck.

    Jeff had been sitting long enough, and the stools weren’t particularly comfortable anyway. So he rose and stretched a little. “What you’re saying, in other words, is that there’s technically no reason — legal reason, I mean — that the Third Division couldn’t issue its own currency.”

    “That’s right.”

    A frown was back on Captain Szklenski’s face. “I can’t think of any army that’s ever done so, though.”

    David shrugged. “So? We’re doing lots of new things.”

    “Let’s take it to the general,” said Jeff, heading for the tent flap. “We haven’t got much time, since he’s planning to resume the march tomorrow.”



    Mike was charmed by the idea. “Sure, let’s do it. D’you need me to leave one of the printing presses behind?”

    Unlike every other general in the known world, Mike Stearns would no more undertake a campaign without his own printing presses than he would without guns and ammunition. In his considered opinion as a former labor organizer, one printing press was as valuable as two or three artillery batteries.

    Bartley pursed his lips. “Probably a good idea, sir. I can afford to buy one easily enough. The problem is that I don’t know what’s available in the area, and we’re familiar with the ones the division brought along.”

    “Done. Anything else you need?”

    David and Jeff looked at each other. Then Jeff said: “Well, we need a name for the currency. We don’t want to call it script, of course.”

    Mike scowled. “Company script” was pretty much a profane term among West Virginia coal miners.

    “No, we sure as hell don’t,” he said forcefully. He scratched his chin for a few seconds, and then smiled.

    “Let’s call it a ‘becky,’” he said. “Third Division beckies.”

    Bartley looked dubious. “Gee, sir, I don’t know… Meaning no offense, but isn’t that pushing nepotism a bit far?”

    Higgins laughed. “In the year sixteen thirty-five? For Christ’s sake, David, nepotism is the most favored middle name around. Most rulers in the here and now get their position by inheritance, remember?”

    “Well, yeah, but…”

    Mike’s grin faded a little. “Relax, Captain. The problem with nepotism is that it can lead to incompetence and it’s often tied to corruption. But neither of those issues are involved here. It’s just a name, that’s all.”

    Bartley thought about it for a moment, and then seemed relieved. “Okay, I can see that.”

    A moment later, he looked downright pleased. “And now that I think about it, naming the division’s unit of currency after your own wife is likely to boost confidence in it. The here and now being the way it is.”



    The rest of the division resumed the march to Prague early the next morning. Jeff and his officers spent the rest of the day and most of the next three getting the regiment’s camp established.

    That took some time and effort, because Jeff had decided to billet the regiment’s soldiers in or next to the Thun castle on the hill, instead of in the town itself. The castle was vacant since the owner had fled, and Jeff figured he could use the fact of the nobleman’s flight as proof positive that he’d been up to no good.

    That wouldn’t stand up to any kind of serious legal scrutiny, of course. But it didn’t have to. All Jeff needed was a fig leaf to cover his sequestering of the castle for the immediate period. Whatever differences there might be between down-time courts and up-time courts, and between down-time legal principles and up-time legal principles, they shared one thing in common. The wheels of justice ground very, very slowly. By the time a court ruled that the Hangman Regiment’s seizure of Thun’s castle had been illegitimate, the war would be over and the regiment would be long gone anyway.

    For that matter, Jeff might have died of old age. He knew of at least one lawsuit in Franconia that was still chugging along — using the term “chugging” very loosely — three-quarters of a century after it was first filed.

    Setting up the castle as living quarters for more than a thousand soldiers was not a simple process, however. Fortunately, the kitchens were very large. But there wasn’t enough in the way of sleeping quarters and the less said about the castle’s toilet facilities the better.

    But it wouldn’t have made a difference even if the castle had had the most up-to-date and modern plumbing. No edifice except one specifically designed for the purpose of housing large numbers of people will have enough toilets to maintain sanitation for an entire regiment. An oversized regiment, at that. So, proper latrines had to be constructed.

    About half the men would have to sleep in their tents anyway. Jeff set up a weekly rotation schedule that would allow every soldier to spend some time in the castle’s quarters. Personally, he thought the tents were probably just as comfortable. Or no more uncomfortable, it might be better to say. True, winter was almost upon them. But spending a night in a freezing stone castle was not likely to be any more pleasant than spending it in a tent equipped with a portable stove.

    However, he knew the men would be happier if they were all rotated through the castle’s living quarters. That would seem fair, regardless of whether it actually made any difference in practical terms.

    He was tempted to billet some of the soldiers in the town itself. But that would just be asking for trouble. Civilians hated having soldiers billeted into their own homes. That was a given. The American colonists had hated it when the British did it. Really hated it — to the point of sharply limiting the practice in the Bill of Rights. It was the third amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    Czech civilians wouldn’t be any happier in the here and now having mostly German soldiers foisted upon them. The animosities produced would undermine whatever chance there might be to get the new beckies accepted by the local populace. As it was, by keeping the soldiers out of the town’s homes, Jeff was generating quite a bit of good will. Billeting troops upon civilians was standard practice in the seventeenth century, and Tetschen’s inhabitants had been glumly expecting it.

    Very glumly. Even on their best behavior, soldiers crammed into homes that were usually none-too-large to begin with caused difficulties for their “hosts.” And billeted troops usually weren’t on their best behavior, especially if the home contained anything valuable or had young women present.

    When Tetschen’s populace learned they would avoid the fate this time, they were immensely relieved. Some of them even went so far as to buy a round of drinks for soldiers in one of the town’s taverns. Not often, of course.

    All in all, in fact, Tetschen’s inhabitants were coming to the conclusion that this might turn out for the best. The taverns were doing a land office business, as was the town’s one small brothel — which soon began expanding its work force. And with a regiment apparently stationed permanently in the town, most of the other merchants were looking to increase their business also. Soldiers have needs as well as desires. Uniforms needed to be mended, food needed to be bought and cooked, equipment needed to be repaired — the list went on and on.

    Tetschen was becoming quite a cheerful town, in fact.

    Then the becky made its appearance.

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