Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Rescue (2): Interview

Tarragona, 24th August 1713

The interview Second Lieutenant Blasco Copons was holding, at the Imperial Headquarters in Tarragona, had turned into a really exhausting, humiliating experience. He had been forced to swallow an actually severe admonition with the stoicism of a military facing unavoidable facts -as he was. At least, he had been clever enough to keep his mouth firmly shut up and obediently assent to each of the scoldings Colonel Gaspar de Córdova had been keeping for him -or for any other eventual survivor of his defeated and captured Horse Regiment. To a certain degree, Copons could understand the contradictory feelings of his Colonel, who had mortgaged riches and efforts to raise a regiment that would later prove as excellent. Excellent, even at the time of disobeying the explicit HQ orders they'd been given with respect to Tivissa town. The affair had grown enough to become an encouragement to Resistance for the Catalan naturals. And now, the only cavalryman in his regiment who had managed to avoid death or captivity was seemingly decided to stubbornly worsen the situation! ...Organizing a rescue of survivors? "At least, the option of a Council of War has been discarded" -thought Copons to himself with relief. The meeting was privately hold into the small office of Colonel Friedrich von Leipzig -a second in command to Count Wallis-, who was observing the severe admonition with some concern. He himself felt some empathy towards the stubborn Aragonese military, despite his comrades rashly resistance face to the Two Crowns had put into a likely risk the peace meeting results at Rastatt; however, it should be admitted the defence of Tivissa had been brilliant from a military point of view, a laudable achievement in a completely inappropriate moment. He then decided to soften a bit the scene:

-Perhaps Second Lieutenant Copons has forgotten to mention the captured standards of your Regiment, isn't it? I understand his loyalty towards his comrades in arms, or his anxiety to help them, might cause him to unvoluntarily forget this matter... I'd suggest that restoring the lost standards might be a worthy feat -such kind of feat capable of straightening a military career-, besides of a due full honour restoration to a brave regiment. -von Leipzig then turned toward Gaspar de Cordova: -I'm sure you'd agree with me, dear Colonel, that a Regiment is by no means lost to History, if keeping their standards, being lead by a dedicated Colonel and including a hard core of veterans... Naturally, there is still the... er... unpleasant affair of having disobeyed orders regarding the relief of a town, but I sincerely believe this might be conveniently put aside by now. In any case, I understand that Second Lieutenant Copons' offer is entirely voluntary and at his own risk. If I am allowed the comment, Colonel... there is little to lose on your side.

Outside of the office where Copons was holding the interview, Mountain Fusiliers Lieutenant Pere Joan Barceló -who was to become later famous under the nickname of "Carrasclet"- had been able to clearly hear the interview first half. Certainly, the boos upon Copons had been quite substantial. Anyway, he looked well on him. In fact, he owed his life to Copons, who had picked him up to his horse nodes during the last, desperate Tivissa defenders attempt to break their encirclement and flee from the almost lost town. Copons' poor horse fell exhausted some leagues beyond, but at least this allowed them to seek refuge inside Tarragona with the first dawn of 11th August. Barceló felt by no means surprised at Copons proposal of rescuing his captured brothers in arms, and he accepted with no effort. Nobody in Tarragona city knew that one of the Ebro Riverside Miquelets had survived the Tivissa carnage, where he had lost most of his friends and his elder brother. At his 34, he had spent over 5 years fighting alongside a number of those fallen at Tivissa, and the experience had thrown him into that kind of stunning that usually follows next to a major loss; so that he had felt no kind of hurry yet for reporting himself to any superior command. These days, his only joy was the reunion with Ramon Albesa, a friend of old of his own family. Albesa was on old miquelet, a veteran in former wars who had lately decided to stand in arms again, after his wife's death.

Inside, a military salute was followed by a sound door slam and Copons left out the office, with the expression on his face reflecting the ordeal he had been forced to face. But when a mocking smile suddenly lit up his face, Barceló knew that they had been given free rein. And a chance for revenge.

After the stubborn Aragonese officer had left the room, Colonel Gaspar de Córdova seemed to relax. He then wearily stood up and said goodbye to Colonel von Leipzig after appreciating his suggestions. Once he was finally left alone, the Austrian military adopted a pensive air and turned towards his assistant -an individual in civilian clothing, an apparently anodyne accountant holding a heavy bundle of papers-, who had been discretely staying close to a corner so far. Vicenç Canals had been efficiently serving him with fidelity since the 1706 siege of Barcelona. The Colonel knew nearly nothing about his past -except for a stay at seminary. Canals had an innate ability for languages, great ability to evaluate human motivations and an astonishing ease to assume any character. In fact, Colonel con Leipzig vas persuaded that his bland appearance of efficient secretary was just one more of his countless masks. Some of the missions he had been assigned were genuine temerities. Information and disinformation, a game as old as war.

-I guess you would agree, dear Mr. Canals, in that the possibilities of such a hypothetical operation would increase with the involvement of someone with your abilities...

-You are most kind, Sire.

-...and that it would be completely undesirable that such a hypothetical action might embarrass the terms of truce His Imperial Majesty has compromised His honour in.

-Absolutely undesirable, Sire.

-If such a hypothetical case, it would also be very reassuring that someone was explicitly looking after the standards, whose release should never be forgotten, or put aside in exchange for other intended targets.

-Most thoughtful, Sire.

-I trust you, Mr. Canals. And for God's sake, come back in one piece. Do not be fooled by the fighting will of a young lieutenant. I'd greatly dislike having to dispense with your services.

-It would be a terrible misfortune, Sire.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Aha! It seems that the game will soon be afoot.

-- Jeff

Soldadets said...

Sure, I've just put the Spanish commander-in-chief face to a hard dilemma: what is worse for him?

...Leaving out the considerable number of French battalions under his command, and thus preserving the truce terms with the Empire, albeit at the price of leaving his own columns dangerously balanced with respect to the Catalans?

...Or assuming and taking into account a likely alignment of the Austrian command in Tarragona, in the confidence the Empire wouldn't be able to reinforce them from Naples?

Just to get an idea of the situation:

1 - current Imperial forces in Tarragona consist of 4 infantry battalions belonging to Laborda, Farber, O'Dwyer and Geschwind regiments, besides of 2 light batteries and one dragoons regiment (Hamilton's).

2 - On the other side, Duke of Popoli has 12 French infantry battalions under his direct command: Anjou, La Couronne, Orléans, Charolais, Sanzay, Blaisois, Beauvoisis, Dillon (Irish) and Castellas (Swiss). If leaving all them out, his own infantry force would be reduced nearly to a half.

Uhm, what would you do if in his place?