Kim Mackey Louis de Geer looked out the third floor window of his office in the direction of his warehouses near Amsterdam’s Texel quay. A late summer rainstorm was scudding in from the North Sea and large drops were beginning to strike the pedestrians in the street below.
A storm is coming, thought De Geer. And more than just one of nature.
He turned and looked at the two other members of the action committee of the Essen Steel Company’s board of directors who had arrived. While they waited for Hans van Loon both Conrad Coymans and Sara Hinlopen were deep in conversation. Sara represented what De Geer thought of as ‘the widow’s group’ of investors in Essen Steel. She had proxies to act not only for her nephews, but also the widows of Cornelius van Lockhurst and Marcus de Vogelear. Conrad Coymans was the son of Caspar Coymans and the nephew of Balthasar Coymans, one of the richest merchant bankers in Amsterdam. Like De Geer’s father, Balthasar Coymans had migrated from the southern provinces after the seizure of Antwerp in the 1580’s. A number of the sons and daughters of both Caspar and Balthasar Coymans had married into prominent Amsterdam merchant and regent families.
At that moment there was a diffident knock on the office door and Hans Van Loon entered.
“Hans, glad you could come,” said De Geer, motioning to the table where Conrad and Sara were seated. “Looks like you got wet.”
“Just a bit,” said Van Loon, shaking his head. He sat down next to Conrad Coymans. “Conrad, Sara, good to see you again.”
Van Loon turned to De Geer. “Now what’s this about Louis? The regular board meeting isn’t for another three weeks.”
De Geer nodded. “I know, but some things have come to my attention that I wanted you and the others to know. Before I get into those issues, however, let me go over the latest news from Essen.”
When Essen Steel had first been formed the board of directors, at De Geer’s instigation, had set up an action committee that could meet in emergency session if necessary to make decisions. Those decisions would have to be ratified at the next regular board meeting, but the ability to act quickly would give Essen Steel more flexibility in reacting to changes in markets and political events. All decisions made by the action committee had to be unanimous and given that the members held proxies that represented nearly 85 percent of the shares in Essen Steel, it was unlikely that their decisions would be rejected.
“According to my cousin Mathieu,” said De Geer,”the locks at Mulheim, Kettwig and Werden on the Ruhr are complete. We can now ship steel, coal, iron, steam engines and boilers from Steele directly.”
When the city council of Essen had baulked at allowing the iron and steel complex in their city limits, De Geer had turned to the small community of Steele on the Ruhr two miles away. The city council of Steele had offered many concessions including use of several dams and water wheels used by mills nearby.
“They have also finished the bar-top railway between Styrum and Steele and the dock at Styrum is nearing completion. The crucible steel plant has been producing forty tons of steel a month since June and we have sold several tons to the VOC, as well as merchants involved with the Baltic, Levant, and Archangel trade. Since it can travel as ballast, if a market can be established then we should see a large increase in orders.”
“What about the steam engines?” asked Sara. “Since people have heard about the steamboats on the Elbe I have been approached many times about their use here in Amsterdam.”
“As have I,” said Van Loon. “It is fortunate that the Americans are helping to do our advertising for us.”
De Geer smiled. “We have orders for thirty already, with deposits. Delivery is scheduled starting sometime in the summer of 1634. Production should start in the spring of 1634, if not earlier. Mathieu says the blast furnace’s first pig iron pour should come by November. The boring machine should be operational by then as well. Our interest payments on the loans are being easily covered by our profit on current coal and crucible steel production. The locks and railway construction have also attracted other industry, especially with the tax policies I’ve established.”
“Now,” asked De Geer, “have you heard about Rebecca Stearns?”
Rebecca Stearns and her party had arrived at The Hague a little more than a week before.
Conrad Coymans shrugged. “I have. She seems to be attempting to stir up problems with the government ministers. Alarmist views about the French from what I hear.”
“Perhaps not so alarmist Conrad,” said De Geer. “I have not told you what I discovered regarding the English. Apparently the French are financing Charles I. I was curious about why Burlamachi was suddenly so flush with silver when in the winter he was on the verge of bankruptcy. I sent Jan de Vries to Paris. In exchange for money the English have ceded their rights in North America to France.”
All three of the other action committee members sat up. De Geer could see wheels turning and attitudes shifting as they thought through the potential ramifications.
“Still,” said Hans, “why should that concern us? While it will affect your Maryland expedition, I assume you have already begun negotiations with the French for mineral rights.”
De Geer nodded. “True, I have. But what has bothered me for some months now is the fact that both Royal courts have managed to keep the change a secret. And then there is more.”
De Geer took a deep breath. “Not only are the French financing Charles I, but according to my sources in the Danish court, they are also financing Denmark. And the only target for Danish forces is Gustavus Adolphus.”
De Geer smiled thinly. “And the only navy that could possibly support the Swedes is…”
“Ours,” said Conrad Coymans. He looked at Sara Hinlopen. “Now it makes sense.”
Hans van Loon looked over at Sara Hinlopen. “What makes sense?”
“Before you arrived Hans,” said Sara, “Conrad confided to me that Balthasar Coymans had been approached about establishing a version of the Wisselbank in Antwerp. As you know, Balthasar has a lot of Spanish connections and trades with the peninsula despite the restrictions by offloading cargoes from English to Dutch ships near Dover. But it was who he was approached by that is important.”
Hans looked puzzled. “Why?”
Sara smiled. “Because it was Alfonse Lopez.”
In 1633 Alfonse Lopez, a Spanish exile, was used by Richelieu as a purchasing agent for Dutch war material. It was unlikely that Lopez would jeopardize his position with the French by acting as a Hapsburg agent. Unless…
Hans van Loon grunted, working through the implications quickly. “The French and Spanish are working together? That is bad, very bad.”
Louis de Geer nodded. “Yes, it is. But it is just a supposition; we have no hard evidence to take to the States General. Lopez might indeed be acting on his own without Richelieu’s knowledge. But combined with the other evidence of French backing of the English and the Danes, we have to assume that Richelieu may have decided to back the Spanish in attacking the United Provinces.”
“As far as Essen Steel and ourselves are concerned, however,” continued De Geer, “I think it best we discuss what precautions we need to take to protect our assets.”
Over the next two hours the four members of the action committee of the Essen Steel Company discussed and finally agreed upon a prudent course of action. Conrad Coymans read off the action items that they would vote on.
“Item one,” said Conrad, “we agree to move sixty percent of the Essen Steel Wisselbank account, split equally, to both Hamburg and Grantville through bills of exchange. All in favor?”
All four members raised their hands.
“Item two, twenty percent to remain in the Wisselbank and another twenty percent to be moved as bullion under guard to our bank at Broich castle in Mulheim. All in favor?”
Again the vote was unanimous.
“I have to say, however,” said Hans Van Loon, “that I’m still a bit nervous about that. Is it really that secure?”
“Hermann Otto thinks so,” said De Geer. “He’s rebuilt the parts destroyed by the Spanish in 1598 and improved the defenses. He’s also purchased steel to provide a vault for the bank. He’s even more committed to Essen Steel than we are.”
Sara smiled. “Visions of a glorious future for Styrum.”
“Let us all hope so,” said Conrad. “At least my brother Joan is bank manager.” Joan Coymans was an up and coming member of the Coymans clan and had spent 4 months in Grantville learning American banking methods.
Conrad was obviously eager to discuss the latest news with his father and uncle.
De Geer shook his head. As the three other members of the action committee rose to leave he motioned for Hans van Loon to stay behind.
“How are the gunpowder mills coming Hans?”
For almost twenty years Hans Van Loon had supplied war material and gunpowder for Louis de Geer. When De Geer had secured the land grants and mineral rights in the Essen area he and Van Loon had sent mill experts to Grantville to learn improved techniques for the manufacture of gunpowder.
“The Hoorn mill is in production. We can produce about a ton a day. As for the Emscher mill…” Van Loon shrugged, “until the nitraries are producing saltpeter next spring it’s just a useless shell.”
De Geer nodded. “Perhaps not so useless as you think. I have 20 tons of saltpeter in my warehouses. I’ll start moving it to Mulheim tomorrow. In addition, I think it wise to take payment in kind for some of the saltpeter I provided you, say, sixteen tons? Split equally between cannon and rifle powder?”
Louis de Geer, as a partner in the Van Loon gunpowder mills, had provided several score tons of saltpeter he’d purchased on the Hamburg market.
“Certainly,” said Van Loon. “Give me a week. Delivery to your warehouses here?”
De Geer shook his head. “No, ship it to Beekman in Wesel.”
Henry Beekman was Superintendent of Magazines for the Dutch Army at Wesel.
“If the French really are aiding the Spanish, Wesel and Essen will be critical. Is the new gunpowder as good as we thought?”
Van Loon nodded enthusiastically. “At least thirty to forty percent more powerful. The States General was very impressed with it.”
After Van Loon had left De Geer returned to the window.
Grantville, he thought, it always came back to Grantville.
Without Grantville Gustavus Adolphus would have died at Lutzen in November of 1632. And he, Louis de Geer, would probably be in Sweden living the life of a nobleman. It was as if a giant boulder had landed in a calm pond. The ripples of Grantville’s arrival had seemingly altered every corner of the world, every life.
Well, perhaps not every life, he thought wryly, I am sure there are a few savages in the Antipodes or the Americas who are not affected. But for Europe, at the epicenter of the event, it was surely true that few people were unaffected.
He sighed and straightened. It was time. Time to make his own personal commitment to Essen. In his warehouses was enough war material to supply an army. His army. The Army of Essen. *** “20,000 percussion caps a month?”
Louis de Geer shook his head. Jan de Vries had told him that even for a small army of under 10,000 men, the new rifles would require a minimum of 100,000 rounds a month, and more likely half a million rounds a month.
Franz Dubois nodded nervously and rubbed the scar under his left eye.
“I am sorry monsieur De Geer, but purity is important, critically important. We must purify the saltpeter before we use it to produce nitric acid, and we must purify the nitric acid. The mercury too, must be purified, and that takes time and, if we use the distilling process, is very dangerous because mercury vapor is quite toxic. Precautions must be taken when preparing the mercury fulminate and we must work with very small batches or we run the risk of a potentially lethal explosion. Then we must purify the mercury fulminate itself. Perhaps in a year we can get up to 50,000 percussion caps a month. But more than that…” Dubois shrugged.
“Then what mechanism will we use to ignite the gunpowder on the new rifles?” asked De Geer.
“Snaphaunces, Monsieur De Geer,” said Gabriel Bober, “Snaphaunces. Much better than matchlocks, much better. I have also made some modifications, I think, that will improve the snaphaunce mechanism. Perhaps not as good as the flintlocks from the Struve-Reardon gunworks in Magdeburg, but adequate for our needs.”
Inside Louis De Geer smiled and looked at Essen Steel Company’s ordnance team. Franz Dubois, Gabriel Bober and Hans Krupp were an odd trio indeed. Yet they were…what was the American term? Synergistic. As separate individuals they were intelligent enough, and capable. But together…
A case in point was the new rifle that was in the final stages of completion and about to go into production. Hans Krupp, the most competent gunsmith in Essen, had been enlisted by De Geer to reverse-engineer the Sharps rifle that Oliver Edgerton had given to Jan de Vries. He had been working on it for eight exasperating months when Franz Dubois and Gabriel Bober had arrived with Colette and Josh Modi from Grantville. In less than a week the frustrating and dangerous leakage of gases from the breech of the prototype had been solved by an ingenious device now called the ‘Bober Clamp’. Hans Krupp was the older, more experienced member of the group. His extensive knowledge of weapons manufacture tended to reign in and temper the enthusiasm of Franz and Gabriel. Gabriel was the mechanical genius of the three. He was a positive froth of ideas and loved to tinker and build things. Franz was the intellectual of the group and understood the deeper scientific laws and chemical processes at work.
“So do you have a prototype to show me?” asked De Geer.
Hans Krupp beamed and opened a wooden case at his feet. “Indeed we do monsieur De Geer, indeed we do.” He lifted a rifle from the case and handed it over to De Geer for inspection.
The stock of the weapon was made of oak and resembled the stock on the BM-59 battle rifle that Josh Modi had given De Geer back in April of 1632. The snaphaunce mechanism protruded from the right side of the rifle and the sights on the weapon were a simple v at the back with rudimentary adjustments for windage and elevation, and a post at the front of the octagonal barrel. Checking to see that the Bober Clamp was released, De Geer moved the lever forward, dropping the breechblock.
“Loading the weapon will be the same?” asked De Geer.
Hans Krupp nodded. “Yes, you breechseat the bullet with a wooden dowel, then tear off the top of a paper cartridge and pour the powder into the breech. Close the breechblock, set the Bober Clamp, prime and cock the snaphaunce, fire. Sustained rate of accurate fire should be two rounds a minute, as requested by General De Vries. But that is conservative I think. A veteran soldier should be able to fire four rounds a minute if necessary.”
“How accurate is it?” said De Geer.
Gabriel Bober picked up a piece of paper from the rifle case and unfolded it. On the foot-wide square were at least a dozen holes, many concentrated in a circle six inches in diameter.
“Fairly accurate,” said Gabriel. “After sighting adjustments this is what Hans could do at one hundred yards.”
“And longer ranges?” asked De Geer.
Bober and Krupp looked at each other. “Well,” said Hans, “we did kill a cow with it at 500 yards.”
De Geer laughed. “The farmer has been compensated, I assume?”
“So gentlemen,” said De Geer, “can you meet the production requirements set by General de Vries? Can you make 4,000 of these rifles by April first of next year?”
Again Krupp nodded. “I believe so monsieur De Geer, especially if we can recruit workers among the Dutch refugees.” With Amsterdam almost completely blockaded now by the Cardinal Infante, and Spanish troops fanning out through the countryside of the province of Holland, increasing numbers of Dutch refugees, especially from the Counter-Remonstrant strongholds in south Holland, were arriving in the Essen area.
“Excellent,” said De Geer. “So what should we do with the percussion caps?”
“Oh, please Hans, may I show him?” Gabriel Bober was almost bouncing with excitement.
De Geer laughed. The passion of youth, he thought.
Hans smiled. “Go ahead Gabe, it was mostly your idea to start with.”
Gabriel Bober moved to the conference table on which sat a large shape under a blanket. With a flourish he pulled the blanket off the shape. “We call this,” he said proudly, “The Hansgab auto-cannon.”
The model, at first glance, merely looked like a small cannon on a gun carriage. As Louis de Geer looked closer, however, he began to notice some very odd features. At the back of the cannon were two semicircular pieces of metal. On the front of the barrel was a large circular sight that stood above the barrel. On the right side of the weapon there appeared to be a crank.
“What General De Vries said,” continued Bober, “was that we should look through the notes he took in Grantville to see if we could find something interesting. He emphasized that he wanted a weapon that would give cavalry some significant firepower and that was very mobile. We found some diagrams he had made of what was called the Williams rapid-fire gun. It is a one pound cannon that used nitrated paper cartridges and percussion caps crewed by three men. One loaded the weapon with the cartridge, another placed the percussion cap, and the third fired the weapon by moving a crank. It tended to overheat, but it could fire 65 rounds a minute.” Gabriel nodded his head at Franz Dubois. “According to Franz’s calculations, this weapon should produce kinetic energy at 1,000 yards comparable to an up-time .50 caliber machine gun bullet. With practice gunners should become very accurate with it.”
“In addition,” said Hans, “it allows us to focus on fewer weapons then if we had chosen to build percussion cap pistols or carbines for the cavalry. With twenty to forty such weapons the gunners will be able to get plenty of practice every month, whereas making a few hundred pistols or carbines would still have limited the users to a few dozen rounds a month.”
“Timeline for production?” asked De Geer.
“Assuming no major development problems, we think we can manufacture 20 by March.” *** “What do I think of the Hansgab auto-cannon?” said Jan De Vries, “I like it.”
Louis De Geer and his military staff were meeting for their weekly conference at Broich castle. The main barracks and training ground for the Army was east of Steele some twelve miles from Mulheim. Jan De Vries had assembled a capable team to assist him in organizing and leading the Army of Essen.
The cavalry commander was Fredrick Otto, nephew of Lieutenant-General Hermann Otto. Fredrick was in his late twenties and had been a cavalryman since the age of sixteen and had participated in Gustavus Adolphus’ Polish campaign in 1629. Adrian Vlacq, the artillery commander, had worked with Jan De Vries in the Dutch Army. Issac Burger the Younger, a construction foreman who had worked on the locks and railway for Essen Steel, was in charge of the Army’s engineers. The final member of the group was Henry Beekman. Beekman, who had up until recently been the Superintendent of Magazines at the fortress of Wesel, had been hired away by De Geer to take charge of the Army’s logisitics.
“As do I,” said Otto. “It’s light. Even with a carriage to carry 200 rounds of ammunition plus cleaning and repair tools it can be pulled by two horses, even one in a pinch. If Bober and Krupp can actually build 20 of them I think we will organize them into two small auto-cannon battalions of, say, 250 to 300 men. Most will be mounted infantry to provide protection for the cannons themselves from enemy cavalry or infantry. They can…what was that term you mentioned General?” Otto looked at Jan de Vries.
“Ah, I think the term you are looking for is ‘shoot and scoot’ Senior-Colonel Otto,” said De Vries, smiling.
Otto laughed. “Right, ‘shoot and scoot’. That provides an excellent offensive tactic combined with incredible firepower. Even at a sustained rate of fire of just twenty rounds a minute for a single Hansgab, that is still 400 rounds a minute being fired with excellent accuracy. Once disrupted by the firepower, the enemy will get the shock treatment from the lancer regiment.”
“If the Hansgabs work as well as we think they will,” said De Vries, “once we can get an increase in percussion cap production we will probably arm the infantry regiments with a battery of those as well. They will be more mobile than the fifteen pounders for offensive purposes. The artillery will still be better in the defense, however.”
“Are we still planning on arming with just shot and canister?” asked De Geer.
Adrian Vlacq nodded. “We have limits on how much gunpowder we can expend per month, especially until the Emscher nitraries are in full production. Providing gunpowder for explosive shells is probably not worth it at this point. Especially since we would have to design and test the shell and the fuse technology to go along with them. Besides, according to what Jan wrote in his notes from Grantville, blackpowder shells were not very effective.”
“Not to mention,” said Beekman, “that it would complicate our logistical problems. The fewer of those kinds of headaches the better if you want an effective fighting force.”
The meeting continued for another three hours before Louis de Geer called a halt.
“Time for politics, gentlemen,” he told the staff officers. “I will miss the next two meetings, so please keep me informed by courier of anything important.”
He grinned. “I believe the time has come for a constitutional convention, Essen-style.” ***
On November 3, 1633, Louis de Geer and the city councils of Essen, Duisburg, Mulheim, Grimberg, Bochum, Steele, Werden and Kettwig declared the founding of the Republic of Essen. The ecclesiastical principalities of Essen and Werden were immediately secularized and all church property was seized for the new nation. A constitutional convention was called and all participants (previously selected, of course) were to arrive at Mulheim no later than November tenth. Ten days later, the constitution was declared to be in effect. Elections were set for December fifteenth, with candidates for the unicameral, hundred man senate, required to turn in petitions with the names of 20 citizens (at a minimum) prior to December first.
To many outside observers, it was apparent that the fix, so to speak, was in. The constitution was remarkably similar in many respects to Grantville’s initial constitution. The political process is always one of compromise, however, and there were significant differences.
The first observable difference was in the franchise. Despite pressure from De Geer, the delegates to the constitutional convention were reluctant to give women the right to vote. With help from the local Committees of Correspondence, however, De Geer was able to convince the delegates to phase in the franchise for women over the course of four legislative elections, or twelve years.
The second observable difference was in the clauses dealing with freedom of religion. Counter-Remonstrants were, to put it mildly, in no mood to allow Catholicism a place in the new republic. Once again with pressure from De Geer a compromise was reached. All Judeo-Christian religions would be tolerated, which is to say that Catholics and Jews would have the freedom to worship in their own homes without restriction, but only Protestants would have complete freedom of religion and be allowed to establish public churches and schools.
Surprisingly, there were 743 lawful candidates for the one hundred senate seats. The constitution had stipulated, however, that only the top twenty candidates would appear on the ballot, with space for ten write-in candidates. Polling stations scrambled to record and have available the names of all candidates. Each voter would vote for twenty candidates and the top vote getter would be declared the new chief executive officer of the republic with the title of Governor-General. Few candidates actively campaigned outside their own towns and villages with the exception of Louis de Geer and the candidates proposed by the Committees of Correspondence. Louis de Geer’s campaign emphasized the economy.
“Essen is open for business, and business is good for Essen,” he trumpeted from town to town. His clear commitment to economic prosperity as evidenced by his investment in infrastructure and the Essen Steel Company made him the overwhelming favorite for Governor-General. When the results of the election were finally tabulated, Louis de Geer had a two to one advantage over his closest rival for Governor-General.
The greatest surprise in the election, however, came when it was discovered that three women had been elected to the Senate. The constitution was investigated and the relevant sections regarding candidates, which had not been changed from the original when the compromise over the franchise had been reached, clearly stated “person” and not “man”. The moral to the business-oriented Republic was clear: “Read the fine print.”
The first legislative session of the new republic convened in Duisburg on January 1st, 1634. In the back-door wrangling over who got what, Duisburg was to be the home of the legislative branch, Mulheim the location for the executive branch, and Essen the site for the Supreme Court. Bochum had to be content with the first university of the new republic, the National University of Applied Science and Engineering.
The constitution stipulated that all laws had to be passed with a two-third’s majority and could be repealed with a simple majority, and few laws were passed except for the budget in that first, limited, forty-five day session.
None of it would have been possible, of course, without the ten months of effort Louis de Geer had put into haggling, cajoling, convincing and sometimes bribing the city councils. The Committees of Correspondence had helped tremendously, both in making the electorate more politically aware and in providing the potential threat of a “true” revolution that would drastically cut into the councils’ power. Louis de Geer, of course, did not mention that over half of the funding for the Committees of Correspondence had come from money he had funneled to them through the Bank of Mulheim at Broich castle, the bank that now became the National Bank of Essen.
On the next to last day of the legislative session, a petition from the citizens of Vest Recklinghausen, a principality immediately north of Essen, was received. Over eighty percent of the citizens had signed the petition requesting annexation by the new republic. In less than four hours a law was passed whereby the Governor-General could annex territories or principalities adjacent to the borders of the republic so long as three-fourths of the citizens requested it. Louis de Geer signed the legislation and on the last day of the session informed the Senate that he was annexing the principality of Vest Recklinghausen at the request of its citizens. The Senate gave him a standing ovation.
There was just one significant problem.
The principality of Vest Recklinghausen fell under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne, Ferdinand of Bavaria, brother to the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian I.
When the only Jesuit priest in the legislative audience walked out the door at the end of the session, he shook his head. In early 1633 Friedrich Von Spee had found himself in considerable trouble because of the unauthorized printing of his book ‘Cautio Criminalis’, a scathing, satirical criticism of witch trials. As penance the Father-General had instructed him to travel to Essen to observe and report on the events happening there while assisting any Catholics as best he could.
This cannot be tolerated, thought Spee. He began trotting towards the local stable where he kept his horse. If he was swift he could be in Düsseldorf by nightfall.
*** Special Envoy Franz Wilhelm, Count Von Wartenburg, Bishop of Osnabruck, Verden and Minden, brought his gaze back from the storm outside the windows of the Archbishop of Cologne’s residence in Bonn to focus on the men around the table with him.