The Great Plague originated in Holland sometime in the middle years of the 17th Century and spread from there throughout Europe via the trading ships of the Dutch, carrying their cargoes far and wide. Unlike the “historical” Great Plague, it mutated into the horrifically contageous pneumonic form of Yersinia pestis shortly after arriving in England in 1665. The entire population of London died including the entire Royal Family and nearly all of the members of Parliament and the nobility. England, Scotland and Wales as well as the western nations of Europe were reduced to mere thousands of population by the 1670’s. Millions died throughout Europe, with the contagation reaching the Ural Mountains by 1672 and Istanbul by 1673. From there it spread throughout the Western nations only ceasing with the death of the final urban concentration in Europe, being the Venetian Republic.
While trade good went back and forth for some time between Europe and its colonies in New France, New England, New Amsterdam, New Sweden and various other settlements, once the Great Plague became pneumonic, the short course of the disease from initial exposure to death prevented it from coming to the New World. The infected persons ordinarily died no later than the sixth day, their corpses dropped into the ocean with bags of shot died to the ankles, and if there were enough crew who had previously survived the plague to crew the ship, it would arrive in the New World in due course, thirty or so days after leaving port in infested Europe. Gradually, trade died out entirely between the Old and the New Worlds, with the last recorded ship arriving in New Amsterdam in 1689 from its namesake city in the United Provinces. Needless to say, nearly all the population of Europe, the Near East, the Middle East as well as North Africa was dead by that year’s end. There were organized and self-supporting colonies of Dutch, German, English, French and Swedish settlers in the New World, but these communities had a sprinkling of other nations and ethnicities living with and near them.
The colonials had begun to smelt iron and produce a mild steel sufficient for gun barrels, light field artillery and a few larger pieces for their most important fortified towns, as well as gunpowder. The Native tribes had not yet begun to smelt or make iron or steel implements but a few were believed to be experimenting with making gunpowder by this date. The military balance was about even amonst the European settlements, but the Iroquois Confederation was the most militarily powerful and geographically extensive polity in North America when Europe died. The only weakness of the Longhouse People’s League was that it could not produce steel weapons nor firearms nor could it yet make gunpowder; none of the Native peoples could do those things – yet.
As they brought with them all of their other traditions, customs and manner of dress, so too did the settlers of Neu Zolms continue with their military traditions, customs and manner of dress. Here are the uniforms of the line infantry battalions of Neu Zolms. Line infantrymen of the four line companies dress, with the only difference between field and parade is that the parade uniform – if they are fortunate enough to afford a second coat at least – is cleaner and newer. Drummers and Standard-Bearers are in normal uniforms; not reversed. Officers, of course, have gold buttons and sashes for the subalterns, shoulder-boards for the Kapitans and sashes with shoulder-boards for the Hauptmann and OberstLeutnant.
Each Musketeer Bataillon now contains a Jager Kompanie, some of whom are armed with a Zolms copy of the short Swedish rifled musket. Alas, most still carry the standard foot musket, unrifled. The Jager Kompanie has no Drummer nor yet a Standard-Bearer. Their officers wear sashes only to denote their ranks, white for the Kapitan and yellow for the subalterns. Their Bugler is dressed in the standard Jager uniform, complete with musket, with his horn slung over the shoulder opposite his weapon. Rifle-armed Jagers carry an infantry sword while those with the smooth-bore wear and use the standard foot bayonet.
The gun crewmen for the bataillon gun section of four three-pounder guns are uniformed as the Musketeer Kompanies, but the trousers are the dark green of the jager uniform with a red stripe down the outside seam. These guns are presently divided among those Musketeer Kompanies which are manning the various forts and outposts of Neu Zolms, with an additional two three-pounders – over and above the establishment – attached to the Grenadier Kompanie which is commanded by the Hauptmann.
Having brought with them their military customs and traditions of the Grafenschaft of Zolms in Der Alte Lande the settlers have maintained them here. The much lower population does not permit of even as grand a military force as the Grafenschaft keep at arms, especially in the mounted arm. In the first instance, the ground here is mostly covered by a vast, primeval forest, so dense in its upper reaches that the ground below is uncovered by lesser trees or even undergrowth. That said, the enormous trunks of these giants of the forest are nonetheless not separated by large open space; indeed, the portion of their root systems which cover much of the soil together with the uneven character of that soil renders operations by mounted units formed for battle in the traditional way, utterly impossible.However, horse can and do serve as couriers and in very small detachments as scouts within the great ocean of leaf and bough. And of more practical consequence is that few horses survived the trip from Europe. Without large open pasturage, horse herds cannot be established let alone maintained. Hence, with the exception of the Freiherr’s Pferd Truppe, there are only units of foot and precious few of those.
The organization of a bataillon of foot has changed somewhat from that of Der Alte Lande as the requirements of combat here are different from those of Europe. Neu Zolms theoretically encompasses several tens of thousands of acres of land, in a roughly rectangular parcel bounded on its north by the Lake of Ontario, on its south by the Haudenosaunee Trail which it is said crosses these lands from east to west beginning in the far western portion of the Haudenosaunee League’s homeland, where dwell the “Great Hill People” who guard the westernmost approaches of their lands, stretching to Fort Oranje, home of the Dutch settlers in this strange land. For its eastern borders, the sachems of the “People of the Flint” the easternmost tribe of the League, have marked boundaries there in their traditional manner. The exact location is not of importance to our settlers, as their actual homes, farms and forts are much further west than that. The western border is marked by the eastern shores of the lake named by the Dutch as “Skeneyateles”. Nearly all of this broad expanse of land is covered by lakes, rivers, streams, marshes and the everpresent Old Forest. This means foot soldiers to the military thinkers of Neu Zolms: line, jagers and grenadiers, supported by light field guns and supplied by boats, rafts, canoes where necessary, as well as pack mules and horses, carts and occasionally by wagon where there is enough open land to make that vehicle practical.
Now to the practical: one bataillon of regular full-time musket-armed foot is presently organized in the barony. The military escort for the first, second and third ships of settlers from Alte Zolms were selected from IR4 and so when it came time to create the military establishment for the barony in the Neu Welt, that was the title of the first foot regiment. The first – and so far only – bataillon is comprised of four kompanies of musket-armed infantrymen, one kompanie of jagers armed with the settlers’ copy of the Swedish short rifled musket, one kompanie of grenadiers complete with the furred hats and bronze facing-plates of the homeland and one Artillerie-Batterie of eight three-pounder field guns, complete with limbers, caissons and two-horse teams. The battery includes ten high-wheeled short wagons which carry spare parts, powder and shot, food and other necessaries for the battery, each pulled by four faithful mules. A remount of sixteen horses and twenty mules is a part of the battalion’s establishment. Each company has six carts pulled by one mule and two high-wheeled wagons pulled by four mules for its powder, bullets, extra lead, bullet-molds, food, and other necessaries. The companies each consist of 180 other ranks, six sergeants, three subalterns and one Kapitan. The battalion is headed up by the Hauptmann, the Oberstleutnant a kapitan-adjutant, ten other ranks, one feldwebel, three carts, one wagon with two drivers. All in all, the battalion’s strength is 1,240 give or take a few. This excludes camp-followers, wives and companions.
Each of the settlements has its own ‘enrolled’ militia unit or units. Enrollment means that they are registered with the Freiherr, their members are listed by name and rank, their ranks given them by warrant of the Freiherr, and a modest subsidy is provided principally to pay for powder and ball to be used for live-fire training exercises. In addition, each enrolled militia unit is entitled to receive – when, as and if they become available – an appropriate number of three or four-pounder light guns together with horses, wagons, powder and shot, etc to render them operational. Needless to say, few of these militia units have their guns. In point of fact, only those manning what was originally called “Fort Halfway” – covering the longest portage between Fort Oswego on the lake and Fort Karl at Neu Zolms – have been issued field guns: two somewhat worn 3-pounders and their limbers, with a generous allotment of powder and shot, but only one wagon and six horses. Since the guns are more or less permanently mounted on the parapets of Fort Halbegwegs, the lack of mobility is thought not to be a disadvantage. On to their organizations. Each militia company is patterned after the line companies of IR4, totalling 160 of all ranks at full authorized strength. There are four subalterns, one kapitan, five sergeants and a miscellany of corporals in addition to 150 other ranks authorized. Few of the militia companies can boast of being at full establishment. The demands of regular training and a rotation on guard at the stockades, palisades and other fortifications guarding their homes require considerable time, time taken from family duties, farming, hunting, fishing, constructing and repair their homes; in short, all of the mundane tasks for the protection of which the militia exists. The youngest militiaman enrolled is reported as being aged 15 years; the eldest is 62. Neither has a family, the one having been orphaned and the other being a widower without surviving children. There is no formal organization above the company, any administrative matters being handled by a clerk residing at Neu Zolms. The requirements for membership are simple: be male, old enough and strong enough to handle a musket – a hunting trip is the usual examination for this requirement – and be willing to endure both the discipline and the boredom of a militiaman’s lot. Only the sergeants and the officers are paid; subalterns aren’t paid enough to live on and so often work at other but related occupations, such as smithing or hunting.
The companies are referred – officially – by their number, Number One being the first enrolled company, Number Two the second and so on. At the present time, there are seven companies enrolled, and only Number One at Neu Zolms is at full strength. In fact, that company has a waiting list of young men seeking a warrant as an officer. Unofficially, they are called by their Kapitan’s last name. So, we have Castel’s Kompanie, Eckhardt’s Kompanie, Schwab’s Kompanie, Urst’s Kompanie, Schmidt’s Kompanie, Mueller’s Kompanie, and Grosvater’s Kompanie. Technically speaking, that last isn’t a name, being “Grandfather”, but as he is the only 62 year old kapitan in the Militia, no one is likely to be confused.
They are stationed at the places where their members live or nearest to where they live in cases of some around Neu Zolms. They muster for training two week-ends a month, to include live-firing of their muskets, drill, woodscraft, foraging, field repair of their muskets, and other useful skills. The sergeants and corporals conducting the training are the most skillful practitioners of those crafts and trades in their units. On occasion, where the most knowledgeable man isn’t in the Militia, he will volunteer his time to share his knowledge with the militiamen. Their duties include a regular rotation of sentry duty, both day and night, including guarding the main gate of their villages and watch-keeping from the inevitable two-story log towers at each settlement and fort. Each militaman is armed with a smooth-bore musket, an infantry sword, sixty greased paper cartridges of ball and powder, and such mundane items as canteen, rations and the like. He wears no uniform, but most of the Kompanies wear a cockade of the Baron’s colours of blue and yellow in their hats. Some of those hats are soft, misshapen fur things; some are hand-me-down tricornes. All are required to have a well-fitting pair of boots, six or eight changes of stockings or socks, and the usual small clothes. Each Kompanie has a guidon, square in shape, with it’s number in yellow on a dark blue field.
In addition to the enrolled Militia Kompanies, every male over the age of 15 years who is able to aim, fire and reload a musket – and truth to tell, any young women who are unmarried and whose family responsibilities permit – is trained in defense of their settlement or fort and has an assigned place and duty, and is required to report to that location in the event of an attack or upon the alarm bell being rung. Some few are also chosen as messengers, couriers, from the handful in each settlement who are experienced riders, having knowledge of the ground between here and the next settlement, outpost or fort. All told, then, the Barony can field nearly 2,500 armed men and women for the defense of their homes, in addition to the regular foot of Infantrie Regiment 4.
This is the setting of the Leatherstocking Wars, Year of Our Lord 1701.