It grieves me to pen this missive but fear I must report the strange defeat of the Grand Fenwickian Army at the battle of Zorninhaf by the forces of Bachscuttel. If this news pains you, alas, I suffer yet more for by an accident of fate I became the main architect of Fenwick’s reverse.
As you know, I have been sent to Nabstria as the military representative of his Britannic Majesty, and I have gained much from witnessing the Nabstrian Army in the field and from our many conversations on the recurring wars of Mittelheim. The Army of Grand Fenwick has gained such a fine reputation through unbroken success on the battlefield that I became anxious to witness these modern Spartans on their manoeuvres if not in action. After an interview with the Burggrave, he graciously consented that I should join the Army of Grand Fenwick for a period and send reports on their performance to him and my illustrious monarch. This being agreed, I journeyed to Grand Fenwick and made my way, with some difficulty due to the recalcitrant nature of the Fenwickian peasantry and a particularly unpleasant episode in a roadside inn, to join Marshal Cavandish and his army on the very frontier of Fenwick, it being at least 3 miles from Camberwick Green.
Much to my disappointment, I was unable to meet with Marshal Cavandish or his staff on my arrival. Indeed, the only member of Cavandish’s staff I could find was a young Ensign by the name of Baumgartner who informed me that Cavandish and his entire staff were indisposed as they were currently partaking of a three day ‘sleepenfest’ as an important part of staff training. It would appear that the privileges of the Fenwick army staff are considerable, jealously guarded and comprise mainly of the right to sleep whenever and wherever they choose - even while on campaign. However, the junior officers impressed me greatly and they seemed to be young men of enterprise, boldness and considerable determination as they are kept in constant activity and exertion performing the duties consequent with keeping an army in the field. However, all of them admitted that they covet the white silk tasselled nightcap which is the revered mark of a member of the Grand Fenwick army staff and which enables its wearer to dispense with exertion and fatigue and enjoy the drowsy somnolence of a good night’s sleep, a mid-morning nap, an afternoon doze and an evening slumber.
Imagine my consternation then, when one of the army’s advanced scouts rode in on lathered horses with news of an advance by the Bachscuttel army. It soon became clear, after the scout had recovered his breath and drained two flagons of ale, that the Bachscuttel army had stolen a march and was approaching our location directly. I immediately impressed upon Baumgartner the seriousness of the situation and the necessity of waking Field Marshal Cavandish. Thrice I shouted ‘Wake the Field Marshal!’ and thrice he flushed and hotly refused. He subsequently informed me, after my passions had subsided and I had narrowly forborn to have him horse-whipped, that Cavandish had made it plain that any officer of junior rank which interrupted the ‘sleepenfest’ would be summarily dismissed the service. In despair, I called out, ‘What is to be done?’ and Baumgartner helpfully suggested that, as I was the senior officer present, and a respected member of the Nabstrian Court, Fenwick’s main ally, it was my duty to assume command of the Fenwickian Army in this moment of crisis. Reluctantly, I understood that his proposal was the only possible option in the circumstances.
Nonetheless, I laboured under severe disadvantages. I knew neither the officers or the men of the army and the available ground for deployment was far more rustic, rugged and broken up by woods and hills than I would have liked. Two small rustic settlements from which arose a frightful miasma of agricultural ordure and two small but closely forested woods made a proper and formal deployment in accordance with your own admirable principles impossible.
|The rugged and rustic terrain of Zorninhaf|
|The deployment of the Army of the Empire of Grand Fenwick. The cunning deployment of the Bachscuttel Army can be seen in the far left of the print.|
Alas! I had not realised that the scout which had rushed into my erstwhile headquarters was the only Fenwickian scout on duty that day. The rest of them had been given dispensation to join the sleepenfest which meant that I gained no further intelligence on the onward march or deployment of the Bachscuttel forces. Our foes were deployed in a grand column to outflank and fall upon the right flank of the Fenwick army and thus avoid the deadly fire of the well trained and ruthless Fenwick gunners. When I espied this looming threat, I realised that the day was likely to be hard fought. Nonetheless, I believed that the Fenwickian horse would be able to impose sufficient delay to enable an orderly re-deployment of the army. I had also heard that the Bachscuttel forces had a reputation for sluggish manoeuvres on the field, being trained neither in cadence nor oblique manoeuvre.
|The formidable array of the Bachscuttel Army|
|Fenwick’s brave cavalry in its attempts to hold off the Bachscuttel horse.|
|No British or indeed Nabstrian drill sergeant would ever sanction such a clumsy manoeuvre on a battlefield…|
|The sadly ill-timed wheel of the left flank of the Fenwickian army.|
|The brief but fierce firefight which collapsed the right wing of the Fenwickian army|
My thoughts were understandably black as the army marched back towards Camberwick Green but I must say my mood was lifted by the irrepressible spirit of the young Baumgartner who pointed out that, although the two regiments of horse and a couple of foot regiments would need to be reconstituted, the bulk of the army was safe and in good order. He assured me that the fate of the cavalry had brought amusement rather than despair to the army as all of the infantry, officers and men included, believed that the cavalry had airs above their station and swanked about like peacocks on parade. “That dose of cow**** and those Bachscuttel sabres have brought them down a peg or two, I’ll be bound”, he remarked rather scornfully. Much to my surprise, a gunner officer approached me on the retreat and thanked me for my deployment of the guns. He pointed out cheerfully that his men had not fired a shot during the entire battle which pleased all of the gunners greatly – there would be no laborious cleaning, or tedious form-filling for fresh ammunition stocks after this battle. Indeed, he pronounced that the gunners would be raising a subscription to provide me with some memento of my time in command. I dimly perceived that some jest must be at the root of his comments but young Baumgartner insisted that the gunner officer was in earnest.
However, it was Baumgartner’s comments during the retreat that puzzled me the most. He snapped his fingers at the whole of the Bachscuttel army and claimed that he had entirely bamboozled General Barry-Eylund in their interview after the battle. He remarked that he made sure to cry liberally in the presence of Barry-Eylund and that his blubbering had caused the soft-hearted old fool to grant us the honours of war rather than destroying the army where it stood. At this he gave out a long and braying laugh which I found most trying. I must say that I found his attitude rather shocking and wondered whether such duplicity was common in Grand Fenwick but I was also most relieved that the army had been saved from disaster. Indeed, Baumgartner confided that there was general approbation for my command of the army throughout the officers and men, although he also gave me to understand that this was primarily due to the fact that I had remained awake during the entire action which was a rare occurrence for Marshal Cavandish and his staff.
Unfortunately, it appears that the sleepenfest of Fenwick’s general staff has been extended, there being no immediate threat of another engagement and I have still not managed to secure an interview with Marshal Cavandish. I have seen that the army is well quartered and I propose to return to Nabstria forthwith or even sooner to ensure that I am not placed in inadvertent command of another army on another field. I had most sincerely hoped to bring you news of a Fenwick victory and it pains me particularly to have to tell you of a defeat. However, the Fenwick army survives and I sincerely hope that it can be captained by a man of energy and decision. In this respect, my dear General Rumpfler, I can only own that I have failed you, although
I remain your most loyal and obedient servant,