Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1636: The Saxon Uprising: Chapter Twenty Two

       Last updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 07:28 EST




    The first major clash outside of Saxony — and the only one, as it turned out — occurred in Mecklenburg. The nobility of that province had been chafing ever since most of them were driven out during Operation Kristallnacht. Now, emboldened by the convention in Berlin and what they saw as the new dispensation enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Duties, they formed themselves into a small army of sorts — entirely an army of officers, so far — and sallied from Berlin, calling on their retainers and supporters to join them.

    A fair number did so, in fact, before they reached the Mecklenburg border. But more than half a year had passed since the change of regime in Mecklenburg. The province’s Committee of Correspondence had not spent those months idly, and neither had the Fourth of July Party. The Mecklenburg CoC’s initial armed contingents that they’d fielded during Operation Kristallnacht — ragged bands, more like — had been transformed into a fairly well-trained and a very well-armed militia in the intervening period.

    And they sallied forth just as enthusiastically as did their betters. Class relations in Mecklenburg were more savage than in any other province in the USE. The poor soil of the region supported a poor agriculture and industrial development was still nascent and confined almost entirely to a few major towns. So, outright poverty clashed against its close cousin in the form of a hardscrabble aristocracy.

    The initial skirmishes were fought in a range of sandy hills just south of Wittstock. None of the contestants realized it, then or ever, but in the universe the Americans had come from a much greater battle would be fought on that same terrain less than a year later, in October of 1636. In that battle, the Swedish army led by General Banér — the same man who was besieging Dresden in this universe — would defeat an army of Austrian Catholic imperialists and their Saxon Protestant allies. The Swedes were financed by Catholic France, proving once again that the supposed “wars of religion” were just a veneer over dynastic rivalries.

    The terrain favored the reactionary forces, because of their greater strength in cavalry, but not by much. Truth be told, it was terrain that suited nobody very well — just as it hadn’t (wouldn’t — didn’t — mightn’t? the Ring of Fire played havoc with grammar) in the battle of Wittstock.

    After two days of intermittent fighting, the noblemen’s forces managed to push their way to the town’s outskirts, but there they were stopped. As was usually true with German militias, the CoC contingents fought best on the defensive, especially when they could fight behind shelter — and by then, they’d done a fair job of fortifying Wittstock.

    Another day passed during which the leadership of the reactionary army squabbled and bickered. They’d had no clearly defined leadership structure when they left Berlin, and the situation hadn’t improved any since. Finally, more because a few of the leaders decided to do it and the rest just tagged along, rather than because they’d persuaded anyone, the noblemen’s army headed north.

    The plan, if such it could be called, was to circle around Wittstock and then strike across country toward the provincial capital of Schwerin. The logic involved was flimsy, at best. Why, after being stymied by the jury-rigged defenses of Wittstock, these leading noblemen thought they could take the larger and much better fortified city of Schwerin, was something that none of them even tried to answer. They were satisfied, it seemed, simply by the act of doing something.




    Back in Berlin, Oxenstierna was of two minds on the matter of Mecklenburg. On the one hand, he was skeptical that the aristocratic expedition had any real chance of success. On the other hand, he was glad to see someone doing something. Doing anything. Like the leaders of that little army, the chancellor of Sweden was getting increasingly frustrated by the defensive tactics of his opponents.

    He hadn’t expected that. Axel Oxenstierna was a very intelligent man, but even intelligent people are prone to being blinded by their own biases and preconceptions. The chancellor’s favorite word to describe the political state of affairs brought into existence in the Germanies by Mike Stearns, the Fourth of July Party — to say nothing of Gretchen Richter and her Committees of Correspondence — was “anarchy.”

    He repeated the term so often that he came to believe it himself. Indeed, came to take it as a given, an axiom of political theory, the foundation of right thinking and the keystone of statesmanship.

    He’d have done better to ask the Archduchess Isabella her opinion of Gretchen Richter. She’d have told him the same thing she once told her nephew Fernando, now the king in the Netherlands: “I hate to admit it, but that infuriating young woman would make a splendid queen — and if we were ever so unlucky as to live in a universe where she was an empress, we’d be calling her either ‘the Great’ or ‘the Terrible,’ depending on which side of her favor we lay.”

    The new king hadn’t disputed the matter. He was pretty sure the canny old woman was right.

    Of Mike Stearns, the chancellor would have done better to listen to the Dutch painter and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens than to listen to himself. Rubens would have told him that he was quite sure future historians would refer to their period as the Stearns Era, or something similar, and that he could think of no more foolish error for a statesman than to underestimate Stearns.

    But of all Oxenstierna’s mistaken assessments of his enemies, the worst was his assessment of Rebecca Abrabanel.



    He had none at all. At least, none beyond the common judgment of all heterosexually-inclined males between the ages of twelve and dead that the woman was extraordinarily attractive.

    He’d met her during the course of the Congress of Copenhagen, which she’d attended. Several times, in fact. Once, he’d even been seated next to her at a formal banquet and had discovered, a bit to his surprise, that she was a charming conversationalist as well as a great beauty.

    But he’d never thought much about her in any other terms, and certainly not in terms of her qualities as a political leader. Without even really thinking about the matter, he took it for granted that she was a cipher. A wife — hardly the first in history — who was able to attend affairs of state and pose as an important figure solely and simply because of the status of her husband.

    Strigel, Spartacus, Achterhof — those were his enemies, now that Stearns himself had been shipped off to Bohemia. And Piazza, of course, but Piazza was tied down in Thuringia-Franconia thanks to the shrewd maneuver with the Bavarians.

    Strigel was an administrator, Spartacus was a propagandist, and Achterhof was a thug. A very capable administrator, an often dazzling essayist, and a dangerous thug, to be sure — none of them were men you wanted to take lightly. Still, they moved within certain limits.

    Those being, of course, the inherent limits of their anarchic rule.

    So, the chancellor of Sweden was frustrated. How was it that chaos had not already spread across the Germanies, as the wild men of the CoCs erupted in fury? Chaos which would require a strong hand to suppress. How was it that entire provinces seemed to have remained perfectly calm and orderly?

    Even under the pressure of the Bavarian assault, the SoTF was apparently quite stable. Hesse-Kassel had already announced it was maintaining neutrality in what the landgravine — a most aggravating woman, despite her high birth — chose to call “the current turbulence.” As if the situation was the product of the weather instead of anarchy!

    She was influencing Brunswick in that direction, too. That was not particularly surprising, any more than it was surprising that Prince Frederik of Denmark was keeping his province of Westphalia on the sidelines. What Oxenstierna hadn’t expected, though, was to see her attitudes beginning to spread further south. It was as if the Rhine was an infected vein carrying a female disease. Now the acting administrator of the Upper Rhine, Johann Moritz of Nassau-Siegen, was starting to coo like a dove!

    Nils Brahe, the Swedish general who doubled as the administrator for the Province of the Main, was insisting that he needed to keep all his troops rather than sending some of them to Banér on the grounds that the French were behaving “suspiciously.” While, at the same time, reporting that his province was orderly and undisturbed by CoC agitators.

    Oxenstierna was doubtful that Brahe was telling him the truth. But what was worse was that he didn’t know whether he preferred the truth in the first place. The thought that Brahe might be reporting accurately when he said the CoC was quiescent in the Main was in some ways more disturbing than if they’d been running amok.

    Finally, there was the ongoing aggravation produced by General Horn in Swabia. What in the world had possessed Oxenstierna, that he’d ever agreed to let his daughter marry that wretched man? Christina’s death four years earlier had had one beneficial effect: at least her father no longer had to associate socially with his ex-son-in-law. But that wasn’t any help under these circumstances, when the association was necessitated by political and — above all — military realities. Except for Banér’s army at the gates of Dresden and the army Oxenstierna was keeping in reserve here in Berlin, Gustav Horn commanded the most powerful Swedish force in the USE. Being fair, Horn’s claims that he needed them to counter the ever-ambitious Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar had a great deal more substance than the similar claims made by Brahe about the French. Oxenstierna was dubious that the French were behaving “suspiciously,” but he didn’t doubt for a moment that Bernhard was.

    Horn, moreover, could also argue that he needed some of his troops to maintain order in Württemberg, which had been restive ever since the dying Duke Eberhard had bequeathed his territory to its people. Oxenstierna took a moment, again, to curse the young man’s shade. Eberhard had been filled with a treasonous spirit, obviously. It was reliably reported that the duke’s former concubine was now one of the leading figures among the Dresden rebels. The chancellor wondered from time to time which of them had infected the other with sedition.

    Then there was the Tyrol, about which the less said, the better.



Darmstadt, Province of the Main

    Upon the conclusion of the meeting, the delegation from Darmstadt’s Committee of Correspondence was politely ushered to the door by the mayor, the head of the city’s militia and three members of the city council. When they’d left the Rathaus, the militia’s commander finally exploded.

    “I hate dealing with those radical swine!”

    One of the council members made a face, indicating his full agreement with the sentiment. But the expressions on the faces of the other two councilmen indicated a much more skeptical attitude.

    The mayor agreed with them, too. He put a friendly hand on the commander’s shoulder — no feigning involved; the two men were good friends, and cousins to boot — and said: “Look, Gerlach, no one likes having to deal with them. But it’s better than the alternative.”

    “I could drive them out of the city — entirely out — inside of a day.” He worked his jaw for a moment. “All right, two days. Maybe three.”



    “And then what?” asked one of the councilmen. “Before you know it they’d be back with reinforcements from Frankfurt and we’d have an all-out war on our hands. Remember the mess after the Dreeson Incident?”

    “And at what cost?” asked the other councilmen who’d been dubious. “Two or three days of fighting inside the city will leave a third of it in ruins. It’s not worth it. It’s not even close to being worth it.”

    The militia commander went back to working his jaw. It was a mannerism he had when he was angry but had no satisfactory way to act upon it.

    “We won the election!” he exclaimed.

    The mayor shook his head. “Not the way it turned out. I figured — so did you — that the duke of Saxe-Weimar would be the prime minister. Instead, he’s in prison and we’ve got Oxenstierna in the saddle.”

    There was a gloomy silence for a few seconds. Then one of the councilmen said: “I didn’t like Stearns, not one bit. But let’s be honest — whatever else, he kept the Swedes off our neck. Now here they are, back in charge again.”

    Augsburg, one of the USE’s seven independent imperial cities

    The commander of Augsburg’s militia had a very different viewpoint than his counterpart in Darmstadt. Nor was he a cousin of Jeremias Jacob Stenglin, the head of the city council, and they certainly weren’t friends.

    Augsburg didn’t have a mayor, as such. Stenglin played a somewhat similar role as head of the council, but his actual title was that of Stadtpfleger — “city caretaker.”

    “Fine, then,” the militia commander snarled at Stenglin. “I’ll resign and you can try to stand off the Bavarians when they come.”

    “If they come,” muttered one of the councilmen at the meeting.

    The militia commander shifted his glare to the muttering fellow. “We’re talking about Duke Maximilian, Herr Langenmantel, not your betrothed. He’ll come, if he takes the Oberpfalz.”

    That was a low blow. The councilman’s intended had failed to carry through on her vows. She’d left the city altogether, in fact, eloping with their young parson. It had been quite the scandal.

    While the councilman was spluttering indignantly, the head of the militia went back to glaring at the rest of the council. “I told you and I will tell you again. We’re right on the border and Maximilian is running wild again. We can’t hold the city against him without the co-operation of the CoC and its armed contingents and the support of the SoTF — which is controlled by the Fourth of July Party. Not against the Bavarian army.”

    Stenglin ran fingers across his scalp. Looking for the hair that was no longer there, perhaps. “I don’t like those shitheads!”

    The militia commander shrugged. “Who does? But the one thing about them is that they’ll fight. They aren’t good for much else, but they are good for that.”

    A tavern in Melsungen, in the province of Hesse-Kassel

    “Here’s to the health of our landgravine!” shouted one of the revelers, holding up his stein of beer. “Long may she reign!”

    The tavern was full, as it often was on a winter’s eve. Not a single stein failed to come up to join the toast.

    Other provinces might suffer — would suffer, for a certainty, some of them — but not Hesse-Kassel. Not so long as Amalie Elisabeth of Hanau-Münzenberg sat in the provincial palace. The landgrave’s blessed widow would keep the storm away.

    A fishing boat in the Pomeranian Bay

    “I wish now I’d voted for the bastard, instead of that useless Wettin.” One of the two fishermen in the boat heaved at the net.

    His partner frowned. “Stearns? He’s too radical.”

    “Yes, I know. That’s why I voted for the other fellow. And look what happened! When Stearns was running things, he drove all the foreign armies out of Germany. For the first time in years, we had peace. Didn’t we?”

    His companion made a face, but after a couple of seconds grunted his agreement.

    “Right. Then we put in the duke and the first thing he does is get himself arrested and here we are, with the Swedes back on top.”

    He paused at their labor and stared out over the sea, gloomily. “I’ll tell you this, for sure. The damn Swedes wouldn’t have arrested the Prince. They wouldn’t have dared.”

    His partner grunted agreement again. Immediately.




    The noblemen’s expedition never got to Schwerin. It got no farther than the southern shore of Lake Müritz. By then, CoC contingents from all over the province had gathered to meet the invaders.

    They had no trouble finding them. As they had done during Operation Kristallnacht, the supposedly neutral USE Air Force had maintained reconnaissance patrols out of Wismar and provided the CoC contingents with regular reports on the location of their enemy.

    Colonel Jesse Wood denied doing so, every time someone asked. But he’d kept a straight face while doing that, during Kristallnacht. Now he didn’t bother to hide the grin.

    The battle that followed lasted less than three hours. Once again, the Mecklenburger nobility found itself outclassed when it had to face a large force of CoC fighters coming out of the bigger cities like Schwerin and Rostock. Many of those men were not from the militias. They were former soldiers in the USE’s army; some of them, veterans of the great battle at Ahrensbök.



    But except for Mecklenburg — and Dresden, of course — the Germanies remained remarkably calm. There were scuffles aplenty; harsh words exchanged beyond counting; the same for threats. But rarely was any blood shed by anything more deadly than a fist or a cudgel.




    The chancellor’s frustration mounted and mounted. His puzzlement, as well.

    What was keeping the anarchists from anarchy?

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image