Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 205
Glory or Embarrassment
Everyone, including Most, Kemondo, Leoncrow, and the fat-faced Morimyde ran to the hill. They couldn't wait to check the wooden targets Claude had his subordinate take down.
It was ridiculous. The whole war game was a joke. The young sergeant-major had taken down an entire clan and a cannon with just 20 men. He'd spread out his men, making the cannon useless, then closed in out of formation, making volley fire useless, and finally sniped the enemy from a comfortable 200 metres away, hiding behind rocks and stumps and in dead ground.
He'd quite literally just repeated the same practice he'd been doing for weeks. The officers observing took secret note of this weakness.
Though the enemy could not react due to them being inanimate objects, had they been troops, not much would have changed, since they were locked in formation and it would not have responded quickly enough to the changing situation to save them, much less turn things around.
All of the 61 targets were flat on the ground. The targets were brand new, as was regulation for wargames.
Claude's men had not let him down. The conditions weren't ideal, but they'd still kept about eight tenths of their accuracy.
They'd started with the cannon crew, taking them out before they could react was the smart move. After that they'd gone to town on the rest of the formation.
Claude had kept Gum back as his carry. The man lugged five pre-loaded muskets, and handled reloading while Claude shot.
The observers, still panting from their mad dash, gasped when they saw the neat round voids in the freshly-painted dummies. They couldn't believe how much of a force multiplier the green sergeant-major's tactics were. The smarter ones were already spinning up their minds, trying to think of ways to incorporate what they'd just witnessed into the doctrine.
Lieutenant Kemondo stared at the dummies, pale-faced. He couldn't have been more confident before the wargame had started. The thought that he might lose had not occurred to him until the third volley took down nearly half his formation in one fell swoop. And the rest of the men had fallen before he could even start seriously considering what he could do.
"I'm not convinced, Sergeant-Major. You fought with cheap tricks. You absconded from this fight without honour," Kemondo declared.
Claude shook his head.
"War is about attaining victory, not marching to your death. Why in the world would I fight a fight I know I am going to lose? That I could win against your formation with my meagre forces is all the more testament to my tactics."
"If you think teaching your troops to crawl is a victory, I won't stop you. I extended you the serious consideration I thought you deserved as an officer of Bluefeather, but I see now you're nothing but a cheap trickster. You have none of the pride of a soldier.
"We are Bluefeathers. An honourable defeat is worth a world more than a dishonourable victory. Look at your men. Do you think mud-covered grovellers look like soldiers? Even if we marched to victory without a single death using these methods, our honour would be destroyed and we'd never be able to face anyone in battle again. We are Bluefeather! Not Buglegs!"
The officers initially impressed with Claude's results, glanced at the sergeant-major's sorry, muddy figure and shook their heads. Kemondo was right. The only thing more important than victory was the manner in which it was achieved.
Claude smiled bitterly at their faces. He could only do so much to show them the merit of his tactics. If even a live demonstration could not show them the light, then they were beyond hope. Not that he cared all that much about turning the army over. He just wanted permission to continue training his troops and using his tactics himself. He just needed to protect his men. If others died because of their commander's stupidity, it had nothing to do with him.
He couldn't understand their problem with his tactics, however. Wasn't war about victory? What did looking cool matter when it would see one marching down the main street in the enemy's capital in chains?
A sigh escape Claude. The army was rife with such idiocy. Most officers of noble origin saw their men as little more than currency, to be expended for merits and small victories like so many fennies.
Officers underranking captain still had to march onto the field of battle with their men, but they were the best guarded men so close to the front. Claude's was the final rank up the ladder that faced the enemy's rounds head on in the front rows. Anything above sergeant-major led from the rear. Even being captured was far from a death sentence. Most were held in relative comfort until they could be ransomed back.
When officers were wounded, they also received preferential treatment. Claude had personally read the doctrinal manual for medical detachments. It clearly stated that treatment was to be prioritised by rank, then family background, the extenuating circumstances -- which basically meant anything from the noble in question's personal connections, to possible repayments -- and only then by severity of wounds.
Non-comms and their officers frequently clashed because of this. The ranks of commissioned officers up to sergeant-major were opened to those of ignoble descent -- commoners and peasants -- as a sugar bone to get them to shut up.
As such, many found Kemondo's criticisms quite convincing, especially Major Morimyde.
"Well said, Lieutenant. Bluefeather should maintain proper ranks and march forward adamantly! Even the harshest of fire cannot quench our drive! Even if we have to pay a huge price, we will still instill a heroic impression of us in our enemies' minds and send shudders to their hearts the next time they set sights on the blue feather! We'll send them scrambling to escape with their tails between their legs when they hear of our advance!"
Claude wasn't in the mood to argue with idiots. Morimyde was only an observer, so he could say whatever he wanted. Claude would have loved to see him line up with his men in the next battle and face cannon and volley fire. That would change his mind very quickly. He'd probably even crawl under corpses if it gave him even the tiniest possibility of surviving.
A couple of the other officers were less inclined to agree, and they drew Claude's attention immediately.
"Actually, the defence only has to erect a few low walls to block most of the shots and decrease unnecessary casualties. Perhaps that's a point where we can improve our defensive formations..."
"I believe having theM line up and waiting is too stiff. If the attacking side has lower numbers, when they crawl and shoot, the defence should launch a counterattack and exterminate the enemy in a melee. The open disposition of the sergeant-major's forces makes them extremely vulnerable to a charge. They'll quickly be isolated and picked off with ease."
Claude approached Lieutenant Most.
"Shall we next hold a wargame with my side on the defence?"
Most shook his head.
"No need. Lieutenant Kemondo will refuse the moment you go down again. He won't stand for such shameless tactics. He refuses to 'descend to your level'."