Friday, March 29, 2013

Cold spreads

Generality Palace, 5th December 1713

General Villarroel was the last one to arrive in the hall where the highest level meeting had to take place. There were not only the six ex officio Generality members, but also other distinguished parliamentarians, including the Mayor and the Bishop of Barcelona city. The thick silence reigning among the attendees was anything but a good presage. Alarmed by such silence, Villarroel occupied an empty chair and waited.

After a nervous coughing, President de Solanell finally found the strength to start saying:

--Dear Sirs, I must acknowledge you that His Majesty King Philip V is... ehem... is proposing to begin formal peace talks. The meeting would take place in Cartagena, within two weeks' time.

Deeply uncomfortable, Solanell fixed his attention on King Philip's letter, avoiding to cross gaze with any other of the meeting attendees who, bewildered, looked in turn at each other without daring to say anything either.

It was the Mayor of Barcelona, Sir Rafael de Casanova, who spoke the first. He energetically exclaimed: --It's a damned trap! Let's ignore it, Excellence!

--A request for peace should never be disregarded --Barcelona Bishop calmly replied--. Contrary, I do state the proposal should be immediately accepted.

After some hesitation while, an alarmed Villarroel finally decided to intervene: --Modestly, I do not see the Generality as empowered enough to make such decision alone. It should be agreed before with Princess Elisenda who, as you know, was entitled the Crown of this Principality by His Imperial Majesty...

--So, don't you know that...? --the Military Deputy Francesc de Berenguer asked.

--According to Spanish military reports, the ship carrying Princess Elisenda back home was sunk last week in Basque waters. --it was Lord Antoni de Peguera, a Nobiliary Deputy, who had spoken. His voice sounded calm, but the gaze he crossed with Villarroel denoted true panic.

Villarroel stayed frozen mute. Silence reigned again over the hall, and again it was Casanova who broke the curse: --I do agree with General Villarroel. This Government isn't entitled enough for taking such decision.

The alluded looked back to him in surprise. How could the "Busca" Republican Party leader agree with him in this circumstance? Then Casanova continued: --May we have lost a Crown, but there is still a Parliament, which is entitled enough to take a decision. Let's call the Parliament, then.

"So it was", Villarroel quietly told to himself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Snowfall

Catalonia, 4th December 1713

As a prelude to the coming winter, the snow made early appearance in the first week of December 1713. Snowfall was abundant all through the country, blocking villages and roads even at sea level lands. Together with the previous week heavy rains, the accumulated snow hampered severely movement of troops and supplies all around --thus producing rather unexpected results on the respective military headquarters plans.

The Spanish Army managed to win the initiative, but some of their provided moves were aborted by the bad weather. Such was the case of Marquis of Bus at north, whose walloon regiment was caught by snow in the remote Pyrenean valleys between Tremp and Sort towns. Or that of Duke of Popoli, whose army was barely capable to get more than a few miles closer to the relatively unprotected fortress of Castellciutat, the main Catalan stronghold in the Pyrenees.

The daring attacking manoeuvre of Marquis of Aitona also suffered from some issues, such as the delay of a couple of battalions, that were unable to follow the main column path and had to spend the week in Igualada town. Nevertheless, most of the overall operation ran accordingly enough to the Spanish Commander-in-Chief provisions, so that the Catalan army standing ahead found itself attacked more or less simultaneously by:
  • 2 Horse Guards Squadrons, 2 Foot Guards Battalions, 7 Line Infantry Battalions and 2 Dragoons Squadrons by the front;
  • as well as 2 Line Cavalry Squadrons flanking them from the left,
  • and 2 Dragoons Squadrons did the same by the right.
  • Two artillery batteries were to provide the necessary fire support.

Meanwhile, odd news and rumors about the fate of Princess Elisenda began to circulate across the country --especially in Barcelona city, dedicately spread by fifth columnists and enemy agents. Besides, a small cutter flying Spanish flag had managed to sort out both bad weather and Catalan privateers, and anchored in Barcelona harbour carrying a personal message of King Philip V of Spain to the General Deputation President. This made rumours to increase alarmingly.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lettre de marque (4): Sa Dragonera

Balearic Sea, 20th November 1713

Captain Ginard, still lost in his thoughts, reached to the galley rumbade and continued with his unhurried pace by one of the gangways around the wooden platform covering the ship main battery. At the opposite side, the five artillery pieces stuck their muzzles out of their respective doors. Young Mateu was sitting astride the central eighteen pounds gun, immersed in practicing a complicate knot with an arm long piece of rope. Ginard sat himself over one of the six pounds gun, removed his hat and pointed his face towards the sun. He allowed himself a few minutes of relaxation, enjoying the pleasant warmth eyes closed.

--"Sa Dragonera". I think we must rename her "Sa Dragonera".

Mateu's suggestion made Ginard smile. Sa Dragonera was a small island in the western Majorca coast. They'd just left it behind little ago. In Majorcan variant of Catalan language, "dragó" was the name given to some types of small lizards. His galley would become a dragons' den, he thought.

--Not a bad name. –-Ginard took the rope from Mateu hands and checked the knot. --Now, dragons are what we need.

--Are we going to recruit crewmen here in Palma, Sir?

--Hmmmm... --Ginard returned the rope back to Mateu and looked to the bow.
--We'll see. First of all, we must meet our mysterious patron.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Escape (5): triumph in Tremp

Tremp town, 2nd December 1713

Inside Tremp town, news about the reappearance of local heroin Maria Sauret accompanying General Moragues spread across like a lightning. A crowd gathered in front of the Town Council Hall, demanding for them to be granted access into the town --that had been denied to all troops so far, with disregard of the side, in a naive attempt to keep neutral to all. Hardly pressed by the demonstration, the Major finally consented in allowing access to General Moragues troops.

The sagacious heroin still kept a further ace up her sleeve. Taking advantage of the popular expectation on the arrival of General Moragues' troops, she placed herself heading the column alongside to the General. Once the small army started marching across the town's main street, she suddenly unveiled a flag she had been keeping folded in her bag, and started flying it before the marching troops: it was the Saint Ignatius flag of Lleida City's Militia, preserved from king Philip's confiscation.

Attendants bursted in an unanimous roar, and a number of people joined General Moragues' troops in their march toward the Town Council Hall, as if determined to take it --either by the word, or the sword. Scared at the events, the Major hurried to meet the General and symbolically offered the town keys to him.

The only neutral town in the Principality had finally joined the cause as well.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Escape (4): meeting the General

Tremp town, 1st December 1713

Curious, General Moragues watched critically at the picturesque group facing to him, who claimed to have escaped from Lleida revolt.

The girl was who lead the group --and she looked determined indeed: she had that kind of power that makes men obey. Although sweating abundantly, the little man to her side was not less determined when discussing about money --he'd refused once and once again to release his bag contents, suggesting instead for the War Board to finance their plans. The other two men in the group stated to be military --and that's what they looked like indeed.

It was the girl who spoke all the time, while the little man simply nodded. Consistently to their alleged status, the military said nothing but seemed to be willing to go anywhere that kind of fun was granted.

They (well, she in fact) stated to have money enough for raising an entire battalion of Miquelets, and asked him to grant them a license, under which they would perform under his command. Their plans were quite simple and effective: embarrassing the enemy rearguard and attack all supply convoys between Balaguer town and the Spanish vanguard at Ponts.

Although willing to trust on them, The General was aware that in such troubled times no complete trust could be granted to anyone. There was something suspicious about that proposal, he thought --but, at least, if conveniently directed it could help leading the enemy into some serious trouble. That would be more than enough to him.

--My dear Lady, are you suggesting you'd be able to have enemy communications cut between Balaguer and Ponts? --he asked.

She looked at him intently. The little man began sweating even more. One of the soldiers, a man that looked like an officer, bursted a kind of smile and answered: -- We'll do it if such are your orders. If you order anything else, we'll do that. The only thing I want is to win this damned war.

General Moragues kept silence for a moment while thinking. He was still doubtful, but there wasn't any room for formalities.

--The War Board would not authorize a new irregular battalion, but if you're willing to fight, and if you put the necessary means, I shall give you a permit to build a company that will perform under my orders. You'll have the mission to cut communications between Lleida and Ponts. On the understanding that you'll inform me of any eventuality, or oddity it might arise.