Dreams maketh men...
General Manoza, of the Imperial Spanish Army woke at dawn, disoriented, his cheeks wet with tears and the notes of the harp still ringing in his ears. he had been dreaming of his Maria, now dead and gone these many years . In his dream she had been playing a harp, her long delicate fingers weaving a melody from the golden strings and all the sadness of the world was in the song.Even in his dream he had recognized the melody -- "Gonsalvo's Waltz"--- oh how they had danced, so long ago, at the Spanish court him all of 30 years and she , fifteen and the music had swirled around them, magickal and intoxicating.... In his dream he had moved to take her in his arms but she had turned and faded away and his despairing fingers closed on thin air.
Manoza dragged himself out of his blankets and discovered that what he had taken for a harp in his dreams was in fact a Guitarra .The notes of the waltz hung in the air, and in the pre dawn dark it seemed as if the whole world was listening.. the camp hushed and quiet and for a moment it was as if everything was all right with the world and the war was far away... "Spinoza" he murmured to himself. So his second in command couldn't sleep either.For all his talent in Music, Spinoza was a formidable soldier but apparently even he was nervous and sleepless on this night and had taken solace in his Guitarra.
No wonder .... the French army could give anyone nightmares.His spies had informed him that night that the French army had been reinforced by a phalanx of the fearsome Swiss.Manoza had never faced the Swiss in open battle but he was confident that his tercio could handle anything thrown at it. he had personally trained these men."the Swiss may be good " he thought to himself "but they are not Gods . The Musketeers of his tercio would blast them to pieces before they made contact and his pikes would finish the job. And the rest of the French army was mostly cavalry , who were deadly enough but could be handled with a mix of muskets and swordsmen.But Manoza couldn't suppress a shiver of apprehension. the French Army didn't worry him so much as its Commander, the redoubtable Le Mohane. Strange tales circulated about the man with some swearing that he was the kindest and most honourable of men ,a staunch friend and formidable enemy while others swore that he was a black hearted fiend who had sold his soul to the Enemy in exchange for assured success in battle. Unthinkingly Manoza crossed himself as he walked out of his tent, the last notes of the waltz drifting into silence as the camp slowly came to life ... "Today we will see .." he thought savagely "Spanish steel and lead would crush the French , Le Mohane with all the rest of them ... Spain will triumph She Must ..."
As the General stalked into his Second in command's tent, he was scowling fiercely and the sentries saw the look and quailed, snapping to attention,wondering frantically whether their gear was polished enough and hoping the General would go by without noticing them.They needn't have worried. Manoza was already planning his deployments, using his vivid imagination to visualize, many thousands of possible deployments and battle plans, sifting, sorting,looking for the elusive strategy to crush the French army as the dying notes hung shimmering in the dark.
In the French camp, Le Mohane was dreaming too..
In his dream he was on a dusty plain , mounted on a white horse, leading a strange army with the sun blazing in the sky.
Thanks to his Kabbalistic meditation exercises, Le Mohane knew this was a dream, but he was powerless to wake up . As he pondered on this, a sudden roar went up and troops clad in a strange red uniform ("Englishmen" he knew immediately but didn't know how he knew) erupted over the horizon, charging towards his lines and with the general's instinct he had been borne with, he knew that his troops would run, the lines would break and he would go down to defeat.
Then,in the abrupt fashion of dreams, his horse was gone and his troops were gone and he was alone on a tower with heathen gods all around him, aiming his musket at the commander of the enemy troops milling around him and even as he pressed the trigger he realized that the musket was of a type he had never seen before.Before he could follow this train of thought ,music erupted all around him, swelling up from the ground and raining from the heavens, a waltz, and all the joy of the world was in it, all the power and the glory of victory. Without his volition he aimed and fired, aimed and fired, with a rapidity that stunned him even in his dream ("No musket can fire this fast " a part of his mind wondered dazedly ) and then the Redcoats were broken and fleeing, streaming away and even as the music grew louder, he was back on his horse.He was victorious his men roaring a word over and over and as he galloped along the lines of cheering men he found that he was screaming the word too, in time with the music that engulfed him ."Srirampur" he roared as his horse flew over the ground and he could see man and a woman dancing to the music and he knew instinctively that the man was his enemy . Even as he drew his sabre the man disappeared and the woman turned to him, pleading with him and she had the face of the Virgin and he was kneeling in the dust before her and as she smiled at him he was back on his horse flying between lines of cheering men and he was screaming too...one word...over and over/..."Srirampur" he roared ...louder and louder the music dying around him now ..'and there was a tercio right in front of him and he couldn't stop --he would be impaled on the pikes ... he couldn't stop "Srirampur, Srirampur..."
"Srirampur... " Le Mohane whispered as he snapped out of his sleep ..... Awake in an instant he rushed towards the Grand Piano he carried with him on all his campaigns (to the curses of the porters who had to carry it and woe betide the whole lot if a single key was out of tune), scrabbled for his notation book and feverishly wrote down the music before he could forget it.Then he screamed for his Army's band master, threw the book at him ,saying calmly ,"This is what you play today when we charge " ....The Bandmaster, an old grizzled veteran, sighed inwardly but kept his face straight and his back stiff as he saluted crisply " certainement Mon Generale" he said and dashed off to wake his musicians...
Le Mohane looked out at the still night, and walked tiredly back to his cot to catch another hour of sleep. This was going to be a long day. As soon as his eyes closed he was asleep. This time there were no dreams....
Good plans never are
Spinoza stared grimly at his map. "I presume, your excellency, that you would want to command the Tercio in person?"
"oh yes amigo, I predict that Mohane will aim his Swiss mercenaries directly at our tercio, because while the Tercio still stands,, Spain cannot be ...."
He was interrupted by the entry of His excellency the Count Juan Martinez Villaneuva. Something of a dandy and reeking of liquor even this early he staggered over to the table, knocking over a chair and grabbing Spinoza for support ... and said " I have it all figured out Manoza. I will take the tercio and charge the French You and Spinoza guard the flanks... i will crush them ...."
Spinoza struggled to keep the distaste off his face. He had never understood why Manoza tolerated this drunken buffoon. Loyalty to a dead wife's brother was all fine and good but did it mean that he had to tolerate this jerk on every campaign ? On the last campaign, against the Italians the fool had charged a line of Italian artillery with their precious cavalry and had single handedly converted an almost certain victory into a disaster from which it had taken all his skill to extricate his army. He still felt the shame in his heart and decided then and there that he would rather die than go down to defeat again because of this fool.
"Well, your excellency, " he said smoothly " that is indeed an excellent idea . Under normal circumstances we would definitely win. But Le Mohane is craftier than we thought... he plans to ask his Swiss mercenaries to avoid the tercio (doubtless knowing your excellency would command in person) and ask them charge our right flank ......"
"The right ?" exploded Villaneuva "By the Sacred Virgin that is lunacy , The pikes should be deployed either in the centre or to his right, our left that is.."
Spinoza did some quick thinking ...for the fool was right damn his soul ... no general in his right mind, leave alone one of the calibre of Le Mohane would deploy the fearsome Swiss to the Spanish right . Thickets of jungles and undulations of ground made the ground very pike-unfriendly. the most he expected on that side was a few skirmishers, perhaps musketeers, even some cavalry perhaps but pikes? never....lunacy as the fool said....
"Well your excellency, our spies tell us Le Mohane expects our right to be our weak wing, with myself in command . As you well know I don't have enough experience as your excellencies (Blessed Mother close they ears against this outrageous lie I shall surely have Senor Pedro hear my confession before I leave for battle )and my cavalry will be no match for the Swiss...if only i knew how to handle the artillery as well as your excellency (out of the corner of his eye, Spinoza saw his commander wince ) ......"
Villeneuva walked right into the trap .
"Of course that is what I'll do . i will command the artillery and blast Le Mohane off his horse and save the day . You two can guard the centre and the left and look dangerous. As a matter of fact I'll also ..... no on second thought i will keep it secret "." and rushed out of the door chuckling to himself....
Manoza managed to keep a straight face but he looked anxious..."Good work Spinoza ?Do you think the artillery will be safe with him? and what is your real plan " ?
Spinoza heaved a sigh of relief ... His commander was playing along ....
Well sir , our right is pretty safe, I expect Le Mohane to send some skirmishers and may be a unit or so of light cavalry to probe our defences. Even with your brother-in-law in command (forgive me your excellency), the artillery should be pretty safe .. Escudero the lead gunner is a good man ....He was with us at Petravecci ..... i will have a word with him ... "
Manoza nodded in approval " An excellent plan ,Spinoza...continue ..."
Spinoza nodded. he knew he had a good plan .sweet and simple. he had seen enough complicated plans go to hell on the battlefield to know better. He continued...
Now sir, Le Mohane will surely launch his main attack with the Swiss pikes. I presume he will attack in the centre with his cavalry to his right. My cavalry will engage his cavalry while you charge the tercio against his pikes.Villaneuva can guard your right flank. " He paused , looking sombre ..." we'll take casualties, your excellency, but with a foe as crafty as Le Mohane I don't see how it can be otherwise ".
Manoza was quick to reassure him " i don't expect a bloodless victory. God grant, if the battle goes on long enough we'll ask my brother in law to swing his artillery around and fire a few volleys into the Swiss before the tercio strikes home eh ? "
"Not a chance of that happening " , Spinoza thought to himself but he just nodded silently "Do not worry excellency My cavalry will not let you down today and with you leading the tercio they will not falter either... we will win today Swiss phalanx or no ..."
The Bathtub Council
In the French camp , Le Mohane was soaking in a bathtub ,eyes, closed , with a glass of fine French wine in one hand and a cigar in the other when the tent flap opened and his sub commanders Pierre Le Brun and Jacques Fouinon walked in....
Mohane lazily gestured at the sand model on his table and drawled " Mes amis tell me what you think of my deployment.. "
Both men stared at the table for a while. Jacques was composed but Pierre was troubled.
"A most excellent plan general " said Jacques "pure genius ...the deployment of the pikes ..."
"You are full of shit, my boy" Mohane cut in , eyes still closed and settling deeper into the tub "how many times do I have to tell you that you don't have to sweet talk me ? I don't reward my officers for licking my ass. I expect them to tell me what you think . And you Pierre , what do *you* think ?"
"Well General you know I don't doubt your skills and you have brought us safely through some dicey situations but this time .... "
"You think I made a mistake ? " Mohane said " eyes snapping open and looking fierce "Me?... A mistake?"
Pierre was unfazed. he knew his commander well. he said stolidly "Yes Sir , I do. The cavalry and artillery deployments look ok to me but the pike deployment sir, it is madness"
Le Mohane burst into laughter.. "excellent Pierre ...you not only have a good mind but you speak it too ...observe Jacques and learn something " Mohane dragged himself out of his tub, finishing off the glass in a single gulp and sticking the cigar in his mouth "You see Pierre, someone in this camp is spying on me for my enemies at court and i think I know who it is " For a moment he stared at Jacques, who looked away ..."and so i have to win decisively today . If we get into a slugging match with the Spanish we may win or we may not but there will be too many casualties either way ... and in court it will be claimed that I am a poor general " (Pierre gasped) " so we have to win and win decisively . The Spanish are good soldiers and Manoza, I have been following his progress for a while. he makes mistakes but never the same one twice... good man ...I will win eventually but i will lose many good men and that dear Pierre , I am not prepared to do.
Now, the pike deployment on the right looks foolish I grant you . But i know the Swiss better than you do and besides ....what is the first rule of tactics Pierre ?"
"Do the unexpected, sir" responded Pierre.And then in a rush ... "May I ask the honour of leading the Swiss block myself ? "
"that is exactly what I had in mind Pierre . You'll do well with the Swiss ;you are as mad as they are ....On your way now"
"And Jacques my boy" he said putting a friendly arm around Jacques who was sweating profusely... Le Mohane was rumoured to be a man of violent temper who had no respect for the Church, the Courts or the crown... "what shall I do with you ?" "I.. I ..can explain everything Mon general " stammered Jacques. "no my boy, there is nothing to explain When Le Comte de Tocqueville recommended you i was instantly suspicious ....can't blame you for choosing what you thought was the winning side ...
Le Mohane drew a pistol from a holster hanging on the wall and put it to Jacques' head...."now listen to me boy, as you have never listened in your life.. I don't care what your politics is ... you are a decent enough soldier...nothing great but decent... I am putting you in charge of the artillery today.. Your life depends on how well you command today ... understood ..?"
Jacques was trembling violently " Yes sir.." he gasped, white faced "it is understood "
The armies deploy
The Armies deployed by 3 o clock in the afternoon.
The Spanish deployed first, their mighty military machine working with smooth precision,the Tercio occupying the centre with Manoza commanding and their cavalry under Spinoza trotting out to guard the tercios' left. The Tercios' right was protected by an abandoned village and far to the right de velleneuva's command was almost hidden behind a forest.
A small frown creased Manoza's face ..Why was the artillery not unlimbering ? but these thoughts were dashed from his mind when a scout galloped up .."Senor!! Senor!! the Swiss pikes sir, they are on our left !!!"
Indeed Le Mohane had deployed the Pikes on the Spanish left with himself commanding the cavalry on the right with a chastened Jacques commanding the artillery in the centre. He looked at the Spanish lines and grunted ... Manoza may be a good soldier but like most good soldiers he was not very imaginative,,, the tercio was placed in the exact centre of the Spanish lines. He had no intentions of attacking the centre. He summoned a messenger .." go tell Jacques that he is to make threatening movements to ward the tercio whenever they start to move but otherwise he is to do nothing.. his job is to pin the tercio and sneak his guns into range.." He saw that the phalanx was forming up on the extreme left and contentedly drew another cigar from his pouch...He would pin the centre and the right and if he knew anything about the Swiss they would go on rampage soon enough .....A good lesson for Pierre he thought o himself... the young man was a good soldier but a bit rash,,, well hopefully he would learn what rashness was really like ....
Manoza was puzzled but not particularly unhappy. The Swiss phalanx was off to a side and facing the artillery even with a fool like Villaneuva in command, his artillery should be able to blat a few holes in the phalanx and given that the Swiss phalanx was almost a mile distant from his guns he had plenty of time to ride over to the guns and take personal command if necessary.It seemed as if the great Le Mohane had made mistake after all...
He waved to the cavalry on his left to move forward and motioned his tercio forward as well... this was going to be a short battle.... he wasn't too concerned about the French artillery in the distance. They were limbered which meant that they were going to come in closer before they fired and his skirmishers and elite swordsmen would soon put a stop top that... Now why was *his* cavalry still limbered ? they were defending a static flank ... bloody irritating....
Pierre was having a tough time with the pikemen they formed into phalanx readily enough but for some reason seemed to be unable to comprehend his orders... and he had thought that the Swiss spoke good french After a few minutes, his temper, never very far away form the surface was rising... he trotted to the head of the phalanx and shouted... Now you idiots I know you can;'t understand me very well ... so listen carefully I will explain my plans very slowly ... Now listen well ..."
He turned on his horse and pointed a finger at the distant Spanish artillery .." Now those.." he shouted .."are our ENEMY....."
With a roar that shook the heavens the Phalanx charged!!! This was a good commander indeed, no fooling around .... !! the Swiss were delighted and ran full tilt at the enemy, not noticing that they had left their commander unhorsed and rolling in the dust!!
A tremor went through Villaneuva's command group when the Swiss began to roll forward .... Villaneuva was chuckling it was all going as planned... when the Swiss got near enough he would unlimber his artillery and blow them to kingdom come!! he would be the hero of the battle. Perhaps he would even get a knight hood..
He was jolted out of his day dream by Escudero the Chief Gunner ."Mon General, the guns we should unlimber them now... before he Swiss get closer.. they are mad men sir... we must not allow them to get close.... "
"Pah ..." sneered Villeneuva " You should have more courage man !! ... pull yourself together.... Do you think the Swiss will close if they see unlimbered guns ? I want them to get in very close then we'll unlimber...now go away and don't disturb me any more...."
Escudero turned away ,defeated and walked amongst his men who were getting more and more nervous as the Swiss got nearer. On the Spanish left Spinoza was feeling very pleased. It was very surprising , Mohane deploying the Pikes on the far right but that was all right it just meant that Manoza' tercio would roll forward, annihilating everything in its path. He would guard its flank By the Virgin no french man would get close.
Pierre got to his feet, desperately looking around for his horse the dastardly beast had run after the Swiss as well!! he was alone , and as the phalanx disappeared in the distance, he thought of what his general would say if the phalanx was massacred , shuddered and took to his heels, running frantically after the tercio shouting "Stop ...you idiots.. STOOOOOP....."
Meanwhile the phalanx was losing cohesion but still running as hard as they could, the Spanish guns coming closer and closer....
Jurgen, the phalanx leader looked around for the funny little french commander but he seemed to have disappeared. Jurgen shrugged and ran on... The commander had told him to attack and he would ....
Manoza's tercio was rolling forward placidly when a Spanish soldier came up on a black horse, screaming for the general . Manoza ordered his tercio to halt and went forward to meet him " For the love of God general, Villaneuva will kill us all " he screamed ...
"Now calm down my man", said Manoza " and tell me what's wrong " . The soldier babbled a tale of limbered guns and charging S2wiss and Manoza's blood froze in his veins.
All of a sudden his patience e snapped .... He caught the soldier by the shoulders and told him in a whisper..."Go tell Escudero to deal with the Swiss anyway he sees fit ...ANY way ... do you get it ? "
The Soldier thanked the General and rushed off...
Escudero looked at the phalanx which now filled the horizon and was coming near all the time. "Merde " he thought except for this fool of a general I would have put three volleys through them by now.... " he looked at Villaneuva still sitting placidly on his horse.. his messenger to General Manoza still hadn't returned.The Swiss were practically in touching range now , with the late afternoon sun glittering off the pikes. Escudero watched helplessly as some of his men turned and ran for their lives. But most of them stood .... petrified more by the placidity of their general than the advancing Swiss The Swiss were almost on them and Escudero spared a last glance to wards his beloved guns, still limbered and drew his sabre... he would go down fighting by God and would buy as much time for his army when...the Swiss suddenly STOPPED with scant feet separating them form the Spanish ...
Escudero watched openmouthed as the Swiss phalanx stopped and coolly started forming up again ...
Jurgen had realised that their commander was truly missing ... Funny though the little french man might be, but the mercenaries had a reputation to maintain . they never lost their commanders by God ... if they did what would the world think of them. Jurgen had managed to stop the phalanx in time. He sent out two of his men to look for Pierre and started reorganising the phalanx, ignoring the flabbergasted Spanish who stood mere feet away.
Escudero was frantic. the Swiss madmen were breathing down their necks and his guns were still limbered.
He shouted for his men to unlimber them but a good many had run away and the presence of the Swiss phalanx now standing as still as statues, pike points glittering, was a sight to terrify anyone. Cursing he jumped on to a limbered gun and slashed at the ropes with his sabre. French musketeers had caught up with the Phalanx and were forming up in battle line beside them.
The messenger he had sent out ran up, saying "Senor Escudero,General Manoza commands that you do whatever is necessary to stop the ..." the n the messenger saw the silent phalanx standing twenty feet from him and faltered into silence ,, too shocked to continue.
Villaneuva sprang to life.
"you sent a messenger to my brother in law without my knowledge ?!! That is treason . Soldiers " he screamed drawing his sword and pointing it at Escudero "Arrest that man " ...
The Swiss waited patiently, standing stock still as the sun began to slide down the sky
"This can't be happening" .. thought Escudero tiredly ...Not a single man had moved in response to Villaneuva's command. Escudero drew a full breath and shouted..... Artillery ... UNLIMBER..... "?
Pierre finally caught up with the phalanx, pushed a messenger off his horse and mounted. What he saw froze his blood... The Spanish gunners were unlimbering barely yards from the phalanx and the French troops were standing still he spat the dust out and screamed at the Swiss " Charge you idiots... chaaaaargeee!!!"
Escudero's' men stopped , the guns unlimbered now and braced helplessly for the Swiss onslaught. But the Swiss never moved.
Lost in translation
Jurgen ventured out of the phalanx hesitantly and said " I didn't quite get what you wanted general ? Surely you wanted us to charge? "
In utter frustration, Pierre started to weep and bawl when someone tapped his saddle. He looked down to see a dapper musketeer, who saluted then said " Captain Martineaux , First Royal Muskets sir ! We are ready to fire Awaiting your orders general "
Pierre looked....and saw to the flank of the phalanx , a unit of elite french musketeers aiming at the hapless Spanish gunners. Deliberately turning his back on the phalanx, Pierre rode over to the musketeers and screamed raggedly "Musketeers...on my command ,..... fire!!!"
The Musketeers had no problems understanding their general. A volley of death annihilated the Spanish cavalry, toppled Villaneuva from his saddle and started a panic in the Spanish command.
Manoza was petrified. He started the difficult process of turning the tercio around to face the French command that had almost magically materialized on his right flank...
The Swiss were mortified. They had done something to annoy their commander but for the life of them they couldn't see what ...
Glumly they turned around and started marching the way they came.
Pierre was thunderstruck. The fools had marched all the way here, had stood still facing their enemies and were now marching back!! Cursing the moment he had asked for command of the phalanx he set off after them.
Le Mohane finally moved. Seeing that a battle was developing and that the tercio was turning, he led his cavalry in a trot towards the centre of the battle field, to render aid if necessary.
Seeing this Spinoza moved forward to cut him off but Mohane detached a couple of squadrons to hinder then and the they did so effectively that Spinoza's progress was cut to a crawl with the French Light cavalry dancing in and out of their path.
As the French musketeers reloaded Pierre caught up with the retreating Swiss phalanx. he shouted" where the **** do you morons think you are going ... turn around and fight , you cowards...'
Jurgen was outraged... Cowards? his company had never been called Cowards... he would show this and French man.
Choking with rage he wheeled the phalanx around and charged into the nearest enemy, a bewildered Spanish skirmisher unit which was blown aside . Screaming with blood lust the Swiss aimed their pikes at the next Spanish unit and charged through it..a and the next ...and the next .... never noticing that their flank was now exposed to Manoza's tercio which had finally arrived.
Manoza saw his chance " Tercio ........." he bawled ..." chaaaaaargeee" and the tercio launched itself at the phalanx...
But not quick enough ...
One of Le Mohane's' cavalry officers saw the danger... Without waiting for orders from Le Mohane he launched a suicide charge against the lumbering tercio. The tercio musketeers fired instinctively , emptying many saddles but the charge hit home.... and was impaled on the pikes ..... But the cavalry squadron had done its job ... the tercio had halted scant feet from the flank of the Swiss phalanx!!
Jurgen was jolted to his sense by the nearness of the tercio and the charge of the cavalry.
He frantically started to swing the phalanx around. Pierre rode up to help him.
Le Mohane signaled to his cavalry to begin a charge to buy time for the Swiss phalanx to turn around. He ordered his musicians to sound the charge and they launched into the opening bars of "Gonsalvo' waltz ......
In the middle of reorganizing his tercio, the music washed over Manoza , who was stunned into inactivity for a few seconds... they were enough for Pierre . He had turned the phalanx around and he rose in his saddle , sabre pointing at the struggling tercio , whose musketeers dropped their empty guns and ran for their lives.
A Spanish sharp shooter saw his chance. A single shot rang out and Pierre dropped from the saddle , shot through the chest and landed in front of the phalanx, and rolled over, dead ,at Jurgen's feet.
There was an instant of silence.
The Swiss growled...... a sound that froze the Spanish tercio. Manoza was recovering from the disorientation caused by Gonsalvo's waltz when the Swiss roared and launched themselves at the tercio .
Simultaneously there was a roar of artillery, Jacques whose men had been pushing the guns forward yard by agonising yard , had found his range . The French artillery tore into the tercio an instant before the Swiss phalanx hit home...In the chaos, Manoza, who had been miraculously unhurt so far, drew his sword and leapt forward , the music all around him , hearing nothing else, seeing the Swiss pikemen coming nearer and nearer, even as Le Mohane launched a cavalry charge into the rest of Spanish army.
After the mopping up was complete, the body of Manoza, stabbed through the heart was brought to Le Mohane who took of his hat and stood in silence, saluting his brave opponent. He was about to turn away when he remembered a piece of unfinished business." You there bandmaster, what have you decided to call the tune I gave you ?"
The Band Master stammered out an incoherent reply.
Mohane frowned..., When the music started, the Spanish commander had stood frozen ... a look of utter bewilderment on his face. Why ? If Manoza were alive Mohane would have asked him. Now he would never know.
Hiding his irritation he beckoned to his Band Master " You fellow ,what is your name ?"
"Gonsalvo, Mon general " he said.
"Ok then", said Le Mohane, turning his horse away towards his camp, "Why then, Senor Gonsalvo, we'll name it after you" he said .. breaking into a gallop . His words floated back to the beaming bandmaster "We'll call it Gonsalvo's waltz...."