Tuesday, 7 April 2009

After the battle.

General Rauppen-Schlepper at work.

General Rauppen-Schlepper was not displeased with the efforts his troops made to pursue the enemy, although they were without exception tired after the long day. His main concern was the lack of fresh cavalry. Rumtopft’s Dragoons had covered themselves in glory and had earned their new battle honor of Viehdorf, but they were almost spent as a military force. Their surviving troops had been converged into two full-strength squadrons, and Rauppen-Schlepper could see them ahead where they were probing the retreating Gravies in a slow and desultory fashion. Their colonel had been taken to Viehdorf where his wounds could be tended, and that brave gentleman’s welfare was of much concern to his men.
The Bishop’s Horse were not in much better shape, although their colonel was full of vigor and ready to lead his men into the fray once more. At the moment they were acting as reserve, close to hand and ready to respond to Rauppen-Schlepper’s orders.

From what he could see of the Gravies’ cavalry their hussar regiment posed the biggest danger. Their colonel was on his way back to Kimmelsbrücke under escort, but his capture and whatever losses they’d suffered on the field hadn’t affected them much. They were still numerous and well-handled, showing the potential of their type in slowing pursuit, probing flanks and harassing stragglers. If their infantry had not been so battered the hussars would no doubt be looking for trouble. The Seinfeld cuirassiers were acting as reserve, standing until the Hetzenberg army had followed up to within long musket shot before turning their mounts and riding away perhaps a quarter mile to the next position. Occasionally they would threaten a charge, and of course he would have to respond, even though he knew it to be a bluff. It will not do to be careless now, when these poor men have achieved so much.

Some two hundred yards behind the dragoons Wohl and Brabenachel’s regiments were acting as the main body, with his headquarters party riding at walking pace between the two. They too had fought well, though not with such distinction as to earn battle honors. The infantrymen were as tired as the cavalry troopers and after an earlier attempt to follow the retreat in line had resorted to marching in column, it being much easier to maintain cohesion. A couple of platoons had been deployed to either flank to help sweep up the stragglers from the Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl army, and a good many exhausted Gravies were being sent to the rear under escort. It had to be done, but it meant a slow erosion of the infantry’s remaining fighting capabilities.

Behind him marched Sleibnitz’s regiment, largely untouched by the battle. They were deployed in line and were easily keeping up with the more battle-weary regiments ahead. Rauppen-Schlepper had treated Colonel Sleibnitz with cool reserve when giving his orders for the pursuit. I’ll deal with him later, and don’t I wish him joy of the encounter! Sleibnitz’s connections with the Ducal family had stood him in good stead until now; but Rauppen-Schlepper had his own power, and the victory would give him an ascendancy that would outstrip any Sleibnitz could muster. Once this campaign is over a nice posting on the frontier, well away from civilization, will suit that fellow.

The baggage train was following at its own speed but the artillery had been left in Viehdorf, along with Graf Philip and his protégé Lieutenant Mary Amadeus. Rauppen-Schlepper smiled in recollection. They had taken possession of the Margraf’s guns with a glee that was positively unnerving. I can see interesting times ahead for those two.

And now dusk was falling. Rauppen-Schlepper looked around then consulted his watch. “Captain Scharfe, I will issue orders,” he called and his chief of staff rode up. “Direct this to Major Kirchner, commanding Rumtopft’s Dragoons. The pursuit will be terminated for today upon receipt of this order. Maintain your position until the infantry comes up then encamp. To the colonels of Brabenachel and Wohl, they are to move up to the cavalry position and encamp, sentries to be posted.”

Scharfe scribbled the orders then paused and looked up. “And Sleibnitz, sir?”

“Sleibnitz,” Rauppen-Schlepper drawled. “Yes, they are to encamp in the same location and will provide sentries and vedettes for the entire army.”

Scharfe hid a grin as he wrote this. “Very good sir.” He turned and called. “Gallopers!”

The messengers took their copies of the orders and sped away. Before long bugle and trumpet calls sounded. A collective sigh of relief seemed to float into the air as the men realized the long, long day was over at last. Ahead, the nearest enemy hussar squadron heard the calls and understood their day was nearly over too. As Rauppen-Schlepper watched, the captain of the squadron rode forwards a ways and saluted the Rumtopft Dragoons, and the courtesy was matched by the dragoon commander. Just as it should be, Rauppen-Schlepper thought. War can be a beastly business if the proprieties are not observed.
* * *
The flotilla had swung at their moorings a quarter mile from Viehdorf for a long and frustrating day. Every man aboard Acheron, Cocytus and Phlegethon had watched the battle from whatever vantage points they could find, but the height of the levee hid most of it. Although Horatio knew the mortars the three gunboats carried could easily pound the mercenaries in the village up on the bund, it was still the home of Hetzenberg people and therefore out of bounds. He was glad to see the infantry sweep the enemy from its streets, and once Captain Creighton was assured the village was clear, he gave orders for the flotilla to close with the shore.

Acheron, Cocytus and Phlegethon were drawn up bows-on to the shore, with brows run onto the bank. The streets of Viehdorf were busy with detachments tending to the wounded from both sides that had been assembled there. Cottages had been commandeered for hospitals and operating theaters and the moans and screams of wounded men seemed all-pervading. As Creighton walked grim-faced across the brow to the shore Horatio followed, and they were met by an officer of the medical corps who saluted them. “Good morning, gentlemen. I’m Captain Hecht, commanding the medical detachment here.”

“Good morning, Captain,” Creighton replied, and introduced himself and Horatio. “I give you joy of the victory.” He looked around. “You have plenty of poor wounded fellows here, it seems. I trust the butcher’s bill was not too high?”

Hecht sighed. “High enough, I fear. Brabenachel and Wohl’s regiments suffered greatly, as did the Rumtopft Dragoons. We have their colonel here. He was wounded but should live, with the blessing.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Creighton said gravely. “My command is staying ashore for the night. Is there anything we can do to aid you here?”

“If you have men aboard with knowledge of medicine I would appreciate their services, sir.”

“You shall have them, sir.” Creighton rubbed his jaw. “Captain, it occurs to me that we could commandeer a barge or two and transport the wounded in them to Kimmelsbrücke. Traveling by water would be much kinder on them than a jolting progress over rutted country lanes for hours upon end.”

Hecht had to follow Creighton’s speech with close attention, for the Captain’s German was not quite adequate for such a discourse, but he readily grasped the meaning and beamed. “That would be wonderful! I do confess that, careful as we are, such prolonged jolting carries away many a poor fellow and agonizes those who do survive.”

“The river traffic is being held in Kimmelsbrücke, sir,” Horatio said to Creighton. “With your permission, once my men have rested a while, I’ll take Acheron back upriver and shake a couple of barges loose. It shouldn’t take more than four hours before they arrive here.”

“Pray do so, Lieutenant.” Creighton cocked an eye at him. “And in spite of the…attractions in town, don’t tarry ashore, do ye hear?”

Horatio knew the Captain alluded to Ursula and felt his face grow warm. “The thought didn’t enter my mind, sir!”

Creighton gave him an arch look. “I’m sure it didn’t. Away with you now, for these fellows need our help.”

Creighton headed off into the village to inspect the scene of the action and make arrangements for the wounded to be moved when the barges arrived.

As Horatio was about to head back up the brow he heard someone calling his name. Looking back he saw Mary Amadeus walking toward him and smiled with delight, even as he goggled slightly at the sight of her in uniform. “Mary!”

Mary Amadeus came up and hugged him, drawing more than one grin from those nearby. “I saw the flotilla come in and had to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too.” He gave her a fond smile. “You reek of gunpowder!”

“I do.” She shrugged. “It’s par for the course with me, but I’d welcome a bath before another day is out.”

“You took part in the battle?”

“I did. Philip and I managed to acquire some guns from the Gravies, and he’s back there now attending to the matter.”

“You make it sound like an ordinary purchase at a store!”

She grimaced. “It was bought at the cost of a lot of blood on the enemy’s part, but serves ‘em right for invading us.”

“You bloodthirsty wench!” he grinned. “You’re beginning to sound like Ursula.”

“The she-bear is still back in Kimmelsbrücke I think,” Mary said. “She intended to make sure Konrad was cared-for.”

“It was good of her to do so. I’m heading that way now. If you’d like to come along you’d be welcome.”

“Ah.” Mary looked uncertain. “I’d love to, Horatio, but I have a number of commitments here. Give my love to Ursula when you see her.”

Horatio could guess the shape of her commitment and smiled inwardly. “I’ll surely do that.”
* * *
The she-bear was exhausted, but Ursula knew her own tiredness was as nothing compared to Konrad’s. She’d tended to him with care and compassion, seeing to his needs no matter how base and squalid. He’d passed through the night and come into the morning light alive but weak. The fever had broken at the same time as news had arrived of victory over Dunkeldorf-Pfuhl. Now he slept, and she sat in the chair by the window wondering in a fuzzy way how Mary and Horatio and Cousin Philip were doing.

A knock sounded at the door and she looked up as it opened. A woman stood on the threshold, looking pale and anxious. She was some considerable age older than Ursula and she wrung her hands as her gaze swung from her to the bed where Konrad lay. “Forgive my abrupt appearance, Excellency,” the woman said, advancing into the room and dropping into a curtsey. “I am Elizabeth Beckenbaur, Konrad’s wife. I came as soon as I heard he was ill.”

Ursula rose and to Elizabeth’s surprise gave her a warm and kindly hug. “You’ve no need to apologize, Elizabeth; and please, call me Ursula.” Taking Elizabeth’s hand she led her to the chair by the bedside. “Your husband is alive and recovering now.”

“You’ve been here all night?” Elizabeth took Konrad’s hand and he smiled in his sleep and clasped it tight.

“Yes.” Ursula wiped her hands over her face. “I admit I’m pretty much exhausted.”

Elizabeth took her hand and squeezed it with tears in her eyes. “How can I ever thank you for tending to my husband?”

“There’s no need. It was the least I could do for my friend and mentor.” Ursula’s head swam and she blinked away the fatigue. “Now, if you are sure you’ll be fine here, I shall take my leave. I hear the siren song of my bed.” A thought popped into her head as she headed for the door. “Oh, and when he’s fit enough to travel, I’ll pay for you both to take the waters at Bolschen. I hear they’re a sovereign remedy for all kinds of ills. You’ll be able to travel by barge all the way there. It’ll be much kinder on an invalid’s bones than a coach.”

“You’re too generous, Excellency!”

“Ursula. I’m off now before I fall over, but I’ll pop in later today.”

Ursula left with the warm glow of a deed well done. The barracks adjutant fell over himself ordering a carriage to take her back to the palace, and she waited in his office for it to arrive, feeling pleasantly tired and listening to the joyful bells of celebration ringing out across the town. Sometimes things do go right.
* * * * *
My apologies to all those who follow this blog. I've been rather busy of late, and with my visa interview confirmed I'll be busier still preparing for that these next few weeks. I'll be able to wrap up the current edition of the Chronicles but it'll be as-and-when.


Prinz Geoffrey said...

I really enjoyed the post battle activities you described in this chapter. I never really think about the logistics and after-battle necessities when wargaming, very interesting stuff and the salute by the Hussars a nice touch.

Capt Bill said...

Upon hearing of the great victory at the Battle of Viehdorf, Reich Duke Wilhelm has invested Gen Rauppen-Schlepper into the Military Order of the Golden Crown. Colonel Rumtoptf and Lieutenant Horatio Horngeblase, Captain of the Acheron, are invested into the Order of the Goblet. Their valiant conduct under fire is a credit to the military profession, Well Done!

Fitz-Badger said...

I agree with Prinz Geoffrey. A very interesting and pleasant episode.

And no apologies necessary! Best of luck with the visa interview!

David said...

Yes, agree with Prinz Geoffrey.

Overall it's a splendid and enjoyable tale with very believable characters - pity it's near the end now! Looking forward to the next... ;-)


A J said...

Thank you, gentlemen! =)

Prinz Geoffrey, yes, the after-battle circumstances often slip our minds for one-off battles and there's no problem there. Even though this is a novelization it's still something of a campaign so I thought the aftermath needed recording.

Captain Bill, General Rauppen-Schlepper will be most honored to recieve the Military Order of the Golden Crown. As this may be his last active campaign it will set a fine seal on his career. Colonel Rumtopft's receipt of such a prestigious award as the Order of the Goblet will go a long way toward assuaging the pain from his wounds. Lieutenant Horngeblase may find his own award will enhance his prospects regarding a certain young lady's father...