Monday, February 28, 2011

From bad to worse

Lleida, 2nd September 1713

At his office in the fortress overlooking the city of Lleida, the commander of the Spanish forces in Catalonia Duke of Popoli could barely give credit to the reports he had been delivered throughout the day: first, the news about the unbelievable escape of Imperial prisoners, after a large guerrilla stormed the castle were they were imprisoned, then a cavalry battle where one of the best Cavalry regiments of the Kingdom had been close to be totally destroyed ... and, on the rebel city of Balaguer still offering resistance, despite the intense artillery fire they were being delivered...

To make matters worse, the suspension of French operations by the Duke of Berwick had led to increasingly intense rumors about a possible French defection. As a result, relations between French and Spanish officers under his command had deteriorated so much that had even been transmitted to their respective troops. The danger of riots had become so high that General Bracamonte had no other choice than splitting his Army Group North into two columns apart, divided by nationality... At Center and South columns, things had not gone so far, but Generals Vallejo and Areizaga stated to be considering the adoption of similar provisions...

Exasperated, the Duke of Popoli halted reading reports, stood up from his chair and began looking through the window into the fertile valley of Segre river. He had more than obvious reasons to be worried: it had been assumed that the occupation of this damned Principality would be a fairly simple procedure, a routine operation without any issue beyond the relief of troops in fortresses... However, but the insolence of this unruly Nation had gone beyond all expectations. At the current rate, his reputation would soon fade and Madrid Court would start to seriously thinking about his replacement. He needed a quick effect, an action that dramatically cuts the smoke in these pedantic Catalans. But ... which one? Perhaps the arrival of three fresh brigades recently evacuated from Sicily, in fulfillment of the treaty of Utrecht, might be useful in such hazardous circumstances...

-Your permission, Sire? -someone asked.

-Yes? -the Duke sharply answered.

-This has come from Madrid, Sire -the man delivered to him two letters.

The first one was a quite laconic note written by the Princesse des Ursins secretary, signed by King Philip Himself. It ordered him to comply the requests in the second, attached letter. Frowning intensely, the Duke of Popoli opened the second letter: It had been written by the Duke of Berwick. Although written with an exquisite politeness, the letter acknowledged him that, according to King Louis desire, all French troops borrowed to His grandson had ceased to be in Spanish service; and that, from that very moment, he Duke of Berwick had been commissioned to take command on them, as well as to organize their progressive evacuation back home. Understanding the temporary upheaval such provision could cause, he had designed a staggered withdrawal plan in order to minimize consequences to their Spanish friends. During the evacuation development, the Duke of Popoli was formally requested not to commit still staying French troops in any war action.

He mumbled a sound curse. So rumors were true. France was abandoning them.


abdul666 said...

Efficient diplomacy!

Very good omen - hope the Galatans on the field are aware of the new context and will not harass the French troops.

Jordi said...

Galatans have work enough to consolidate the strongholds, but a quick communication to Galatan Generals will help to avoid unfortunate accidents.