As the brightly-garbed general in the lead returned the regiment’s salute, Lieutenant von Bellem turned to the dour jäger officer. The lieutenant’s red facings matched those of the regiment. “They are quite a sight, are they not Herr Major? Fine! Simply fine!”
“Indeed, quite a sight lieutenant. How many marched with you this morning?”
“We mustered 474 as we left the camp, Herr Major. Over four hundred muskets marching at our Landgraf’s call!”
Norris, as personal aide to Landgraf Bogart, made a quick comparison: 474 men and boys of the Leib Regiment of Hesse-Fedora stood in ranks for their sovereign’s inspection instead of the 1,260 that the decree which created the regiment had called to the colors. And it was the same in the other regiments they had inspected in the cold light of the new day.
According to the paperwork which he sometimes helped his prince struggle to control, the Landgraviate’s army contained no less than 12,000 infantry, almost 2,500 cavalry, and a suite of 8 artillery pieces. But on this field at this moment there were less than 3,000 muskets, 500 sabers, and only 2 cannon. And of his beloved jägers, only Norris himself was present.
The lieutenant, oblivious to the major’s thoughts, went on. “It makes you proud to be a soldier. Just look major. Just look!” As he spoke, his arm waved across the field. Three other small regiments stood alongside the Leib. Dragoons and hussars sat their mounts opposite the infantry, having already been reviewed.
A different voice interrupted whatever Norris may have thought to reply. “Indeed it does, Lieutenant von Bellem. You shall remember this moment for the rest of your life.”
Von Bellem, flustered at the Landgraf’s attention and thrilled to be addressed by name, replied, “I will, my prince, I will!”
“Very good. Major, if I may have a moment of your time?” Turning, the Landgraf addressed the generals beside him. “General von Blaine, deploy your men as we discussed. General von Marlöwe, return to your troopers. I think our Habsburg friends await.”
As the generals and their aides rode away, Bogart again faced Norris. “Any new information?”
“None, sir. Hesse-Homburg does not appear to have received any more reinforcements. His force is almost—.” Norris bit off the end of the sentence.
“Is almost what, Norris?” Bogart asked tartly.
“--is almost as sorry as ours,” Norris finished.
Bogart’s mouth twitched. “Maybe. We’ve done well in the time we’ve had, but you can’t create an army overnight. We are fortunate that Hesse-Homburg and his Imperial leaders underestimate us. They’ve given him a handful of understrength battalions and squadrons to deal with us. Once we’ve seen them off, it will take time to put together a second expedition. By then, the rest of our army will be ready.”
“Assuming we don’t have some passing Gallian or Imperial general decide to win some favor with the Empress by stomping us into the ground.” Norris turned as a shout went up from the infantry. “It looks like your idea is well-timed, my prince.”
Marching down the road from Fedora was a new addition to the army. Sun glinted off polished muskets, fixed bayonets, and brazen mitres. The Landgraf had assembled the grenadier companies of the regiments together and formed these veteran soldiers into a single unit. Now it marched into position as the army’s reserve: fierce, proud, warlike. The recruits in the other ranks stood taller and threw their shoulders back.
Landgraf Bogart von Hesse-Fedora raised an eyebrow at Norris. “It’s a fine day Norris. You will remember this.”