The Red Lion Regiment, Episode Three

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Tuesday, November 22, 1633

 

Two days later, Fuchs Company found itself on cartridge rolling detail. Some of the men hated cartridge detail because it was tedious. Wrap a sixth-sheet of rag paper around a wooden dowel, glue the edge, fill it with sixty grains of gunpowder, fold the end over, and glue it down. Repeat one hundred sixteen times per pound of gunpowder. And it took twenty-six pounds of gunpowder to fill each man's cartridge box with thirty rounds. He also remembered that Drill Sergeant Willcocks had described one cartridge box of ammunition as "more than enough to get into trouble but not nearly enough to get back out".

Others liked cartridge detail because while it was mind-numbing, they got to sit down at the tables in the barracks and talk as they worked. Inevitably the discussions turned to what had happened with the chosen men two nights before.

"I told you," Rupert Spitzer explained again, "one officer was thinking about it one way, and another officer was thinking about it another way, and we marched around in a circle until they got it worked out."

That was accurate, as far as it went, Strauss thought. But misleading. Not that it is our place to say any more.

"Uh-huh," one of Spitzer's men in Fourth Squad said. "Like Erster Lieutenant Kohl and Leutnant Keller when we were firing while advancing the other day."

A soldier from Fifth Squad named Klinefelter spoke up. "So it was another one of those Karl Fuchs?"

"What?" Sergeant Loeb asked.

"You know. What the drill sergeants call it when everyone messes up at once. A Karl Fuchs."

"Oh! You mean a Charlie Foxtrot."

"It's the same thing, isn't it?"

"A Charlie Foxtrot is a cluster . . ."

"Achtung!"

The company jumped to its feet as Major von Hessler, Hauptmann Graupner, and Erster Leutnant Kohl strode into the barracks.

"What are you doing?" Major von Hessler asked.

"Rolling cartridges, Herr Major," Spitzer answered.

"How many?"

"The drill sergeants said they have one hundred four pounds of gunpowder for us. Five pounds at a time. Strauss said that's enough for a full cartridge box for four companies."

Von Hessler nodded. "Actually it's a half cartridge box for eight companies. So you should get back to work."

They did. At Sixth Squad's table, Metzler cut the paper and kept a stack before each of four soldiers, who rolled and glued it. Tauler and Gunter were permanently assigned to rolling duty because the rest of the Seven Dwarves refused to allow Clumsy and Torch to touch the gunpowder. Boller gathered the empty cartridges and gave them to Sauer and Mohr, who filled them with gunpowder. Schliemann and Tüntzel glued them shut. That let the squad's two CoC adherents check each cartridge. But it was Strauss and Danker who periodically took a break from rolling to count the finished cartridges into a box.

"You are taking far too much time," Erster Leutnant Kohl announced. "Just make your own cartridges from start to finish. It will be faster."

"Sir, it looks like it, but it is not. We did it that way the first time we had cartridge rolling duty, and it took all day."

"Strauss, I do not want any backtalk! Do it like I tell you!"

"Ja, Herr Erster Leutnant." Strauss got up and redistributed the materials, putting a pot of glue and a gunpowder measure between each pair of men. One of the pair rolled a cartridge and started filling it. Only after he put the rolling rod down could the next man start.

"Strauss, you finish the half-done ones, but they will not count for you. I want to see another hundred from every man here by the end of the day!"

"A hundred?" Sauer blurted.

"Are you questioning my orders?"

"Nein¸ Erster Leutnant."

Kohl moved off and began disrupting another table.

Strauss wondered if the first lieutenant even realized how much less efficient his system was. Should we follow orders and take longer? Or disobey orders and get done what we were told to do?

"Klinefelter was right," Metzler stated. "It is a Karl Fuchs. The erster leutnant is a walking clus . . ."

"Shh!" Strauss ordered. He kept his voice low. "Listen to me. We will be done before we reach another hundred per man. Just do what you can for now."

****

Meanwhile von Hessler and Graupner passed by Fifth Squad.

"As I said, the up-timers are letting Jews and women join the army," Graupner complained.

"Clearly it worked out well for them at Jena and Alte Veste," von Hessler pointed out. I can't see Christina von Burkersroda joining the army—and I wouldn't want her to.

"But it's unnatural."

Well, so is the whole Ring of Fire, von Hessler thought. But what he said was, "That is the USE Army policy. Anyone eighteen years old or older can join as long as he or she can pass the physical training tests."

"But we should be allowed to set our own standards for our own units."

"Hauptmann Graupner, I believe they are very committed to having a single standard for the whole USE Army. Oddly enough, General Torstensson did not ask for my opinion."

"They made the Jew a chosen man."

"I do not know what to tell you, Hauptmann Graupner," von Hessler said. "It would not have occurred to me but I really do not think it matters much."

"But if the Jews arm themselves . . ."

"They might take Jerusalem back from the Turks?" von Hessler ventured. "More power to them."

Von Hessler and Graupner continued on their way, trailed by Kohl.

****

Finally, Strauss thought.

"Switch back?" Mohr asked.

"Just a minute." Strauss got up and conferred with Spitzer.

"What were you doing?" Spitzer asked.

"We were just using our usual system," Andreas said.

"What did Erster Leutnant Kohl tell you to do?"

"Each man do the whole process himself."

"That is impractical," Spitzer stated. "We figured that out the first day. There are not enough of each tool for every man to have one of his own."

"So what have you been doing?" Strauss asked in confusion.

"Our usual system," Spitzer answered. "Which is different than yours. I have three teams in my squad."

"But Erster Leutnant Kohl did not tell you to change back to every man for himself?"

"No."

"Do you mind if my squad changes back?"

"Do not get caught."

Strauss returned to his squad's table. "Switch back. Metzler, keep watch. Make sure no officers sneak up on us."

The things you learn in the Army, Strauss reflected. How to break the rules in order to get the job done.


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