The Let's Play Archive

Al Andalus Paradox Mega-LP

by Hashim

Part 86: The Iberian War

Chapter 6 - The Iberian War - 1855 to 1862

The isolated city of Marrakesh was well past its heyday by the mid-nineteenth century, having once stood as the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous city, only to be violently ravaged and despoiled in the Andalusi Sack of Marrakesh. That said, it had been slowly recovering since then, with the Almoravids exhausting their treasury in an concerted effort to clear debris and construct new households, repair sacked palaces and ruined mansions, and of course restore their precious hall of trophies.

Early into 1855, however, the city’s gradual revival was suddenly shook by a sorrowful but long-awaited death.

Sultan Yahya, at the venerable age of eighty-three, had finally passed away in his sleep. After a private funeral and extended mourning period, his grandson was crowned his successor in a much more extravagant ceremony, enthroned as Sultan Ajeddig Almoravid.

For many Moroccans, the absolutist and oft-brutal rule of Yahya was all they’d ever known, and many were eager for change. And Ajeddig immediately set out to prove that his reign would be different, with the new sultan signing a decree that granted his Greek subjects significant autonomy within weeks.

To the immediate north, meanwhile, the Balkans had descended into anarchy once again. The Hungarians had largely recovered from their earlier defeat to Serbia, and now determined to restore national pride, they wasted no time in declaring war on their arch-rivals.

Across the Adriatic Sea, the Italian peninsula had also exploded into war. An alliance had been forged between the young democracies of Italy and Palermo, the sole republican lights in a sea of monarchy, with the two powers declaring war on the kingdom of Naples.

These conflicts would occupy the attention of the Great Powers for only a few weeks, however, before another struggle broke out further north. The newly-born South German Union hadn’t been planning for war, but this was a golden opportunity to crush Hannover whilst they were weak, before they could recover from their disastrous defeat against the Dual Monarchy. Nationalism was on the rise and full German unification was nearing, so this was Bavaria’s one chance to ensure it was them, and not Hannover, who would unite all Germans under a single flag.

And to add to Hannover’s troubles, another breed of revolutionary had been borne out of the French occupation, with protesters and demonstrators forming militant bands and insisting on political freedoms. A new ideology, quickly branded "Radical Liberalism", had been born.

Radical Liberals had their roots in the Springtime of Nations, with the waves of liberal nationalism that washed across Germany quickly crushed by Hannover, only to violently resurge under the austere and oppressive occupation of the Dual Monarchy. Strong advocates of a decentralised state, free trade and equality amongst men, Radical Liberals took the liberal ideals of the Revolutionary Wars to the extreme, and were thus quickly declared illegal by regimes all across Europe.

These revolutionary ideas swept across the continent all the same, even weeding its way into Al Andalus, but it wouldn’t be allowed to thrive there for very long. The Royalists had just come to power in the country, and acting quickly and decisively, the reactionaries declared the party unlawful and moved to arrest its founders.

Once this early threat was quashed, the Moderates formally surrendered power to the Royalists, who wasted no time in electing a new Grand Vizier to the assembly. Acting on the suggestion of Sultan Utbah, their choice was one Musad-Un, a young but talented aristocrat with an old family name. Graduating from the University of Qadis in 1843, Musad-Un had served as an admiral for six years and a diplomat for five, so he was already well-versed in the political games of the Majlis.

And it didn’t take long for him to settle into his newfound power, with Musad restructuring the national budget so that it aligned with the Royalist agenda, cutting education and administration funding in favour of military spending.

The new Grand Vizier also another problem to tackle early into his term. With the formation of the South German Union, Al Andalus had two Great Power allies - the South Germans and the Dual Monarchy - but these two powers were already ardent rivals, a state of affairs unlikely to change anytime soon. Both alliances could not be maintained indefinitely, so at the insistence of the Majlis, he took the step of severing the German alliance himself.

The Dual Monarchy was the strongest nation in Europe, as they’d just proven, whilst the South German Union was comparatively young and untested. The DM’s sheer size and geographic proximity would also make them better wartime allies, and even with the recent diplomatic insults, Al Andalus wasn’t powerful enough to make enemies of both Morocco and France. Not yet, anyways.

Across the Pacific Ocean, the wars raging across Gharbia came to a close. In what had become a formality, New England stormed across Neimni Sund with ease, demanding their northern territories in the following peace talks. The Berber Union had also emerged victorious from their conflict, utterly crushing an alliance of New France and the Charca Empire in a series of decisive battles, and consequently forcing both powers to cede large tracts of strategic, resource-rich land.

Both of these powers were a growing worry to the politicians in Ibriz, but at that moment, their attentions were focused in the cold, harsh landscape of the distant north. There, another regional power was born in the unification of Albionoria and Anbaila, with the two Irish successor states hoping that a single, stronger union would help them avoid the same fate as their cousins in Neimni Sund.

Back in Al Andalus, meanwhile, the Royalists had launched far-reaching reforms of the Andalusi Army, issuing more precise and accurate breech-loading rifles to their infantry regiments by the end of 1856.

Impressive advancements were also made in artillery technology, with the development of a new iron muzzle-loaded variant capable of shooting shells across thousands of meters, whilst simultaneously allowing for greater accuracy and penetration than ever before.

Grand Vizier Musad, meanwhile, had spent the past few months gathering support for a new piece of proposed legislation. If passed, the so-called ‘Military Vizier Act’ would make it mandatory for any future Grand Viziers to have served a minimum of five years in the armed forces, ensuring that Al Andalus would always have a military-minded leader at its helm.

To the moderates and liberals in the assembly, however, this was a blatant attempt to strengthen their reactionary hold on the Majlis. And their accusations were well-founded, as the vast majority of currently-serving generals were aristocrats themselves, outspoken supporters and financiers of the Royalist faction.

Opposition to this legislation quickly grew, but the Royalists were able to force it into law all the same, securing their influence in the assembly for the near future.

Across the Mediterranean, meanwhile, the democratic alliance emerged victorious in their war, with Palermo and Italy partitioning the kingdom of Naples between them.

Further east, another war came to an end, with a more surprising outcome this time around. The Hungarians, despite being at a numerical disadvantage, had managed to best the combined Serbian-Celtic armies and deal several devastating defeats to their hated enemies. An offensive campaign deep into Serbian territory quickly followed, with a string of cities between Belgrade and Tirana captured and sacked before the Serbs finally surrendered, late in 1857.

The ensuring peace treaty was harsh and uncompromising, with the Serbs forced to cede Croatia and Bosnia to Hungary, who finally attained the borders they’d claimed in the Congress of Cádiz almost twenty-five years ago.

The Congress had already been proven a farce, and this was only further reiterated a few weeks later, when the Sharifian Caliphate of Arabia declared war on Syria - trespassing on the borders set down in 1836. Once again, however, there was no intervention or peacemaking, with Arab armies storming across the emirate, seizing Homs and plundering Damascus before year’s end.

The nobles in the Majlis watched as the Congress was refuted from Paris to Damascus, and finally began planning to do the same. Al Andalus had claims to all of Iberia, claims that went ignored by the congress powers, but they were legitimate nonetheless. There was just one obstacle standing in their way - Morocco. War with León-Castille or Qattalun almost certainly meant war with Morocco, a daunting prospect to face alone, so their next step had to be carefully-chosen and well-taken.

Thus, with the Grand Vizier’s approval, the field marshals began planning for war with the Almoravid Sultanate. Potential campaigns across northern and eastern Iberia were drawn up, new tactics and manoeuvres were designed, and several potential invasion routes across the Straits were outlined. When war finally came, Al Andalus would be ready.

And with the increased funding, the army was quickly expanding, with thousands of youngsters recruited, armed and drilled by 1858. And as the army grew in size, the government began utilising telegraph lines and railroads to allow quick and effortless communication between commanders, generals and field marshals.

In the west, the Berber Union had declared another war, with Berber troops pouring into Tyratia this time. Another Irish successor state, Tyratia had refused to grant the Berber Union special trading privileges, a decision they would soon come to regret, with the Berbers quickly overwhelming their defenses and capturing vast tracts of land.

And in the east, the Russian Empire embarked on its first offensive war in decades, looking to humiliate the Siberian Tsardom - a former constituent and strong ally of Scandinavia-Novgorod.

The world’s eyes were still focused on Germany, however, where blows between brothers had escalated into bloodshed. A string of minor battles and skirmishes gradually built up to the deciding battle of the war, with almost 90,000 Germans clashing on the outskirts of Nuremberg, early in 1858.

And after three days of coordinated attacks, cavalry charges, desperate retreats and artillery barrages, it was the Bavarians who triumphed, opening up the north for them. They wasted no time in capitalising on their victory, sweeping northwards in strength, with their campaign ending in the short siege and bloody capture of Hanover.

For the second time in less than a decade, Hanover had fallen to aggressors, seriously damaging their prestige and standing on the world stage. And King August-Wilhelm had little choice but to surrender yet again, a dramatic reversal in roles from just twenty years ago, when he had personally marched his victorious forces into München.

Now, however, everything had changed. Hannover had suffered two consecutive defeats, Bavarian prestige and influence was on the rise, and full German unification was in sight. Unless Hannover managed to rally their populace and revive their fortunes, it was quickly looking like any future German union was to be dominated by the south.

The recent years of peace, combined with news of glorious victories abroad, had gradually encouraged a surge of patriotism in Al Andalus. The Royalists quickly took advantage of this renewed nationalism to build support for another war against Morocco, with the population quickly buying into the propaganda and calling for military action before very long.

And by then, Al Andalus was certainly ready for war. Their general strategy had been meticulously planned, the army’s tactics had been overhauled and innovated, and its armament and equipment had been modernised. By the summer of 1858, the Andalusi Army stood at 90,000-strong, well-centralised under the supreme command of Ibn Bibil, and his two inferiors in Rahina al-Dakn and Muradismat ibn Rajul.

There would never be a better time for war, so late in July, the Majlis al-Shura formally declared on León-Castille, Qattalun, and Morocco.

Ibn Bibil immediately leapt into action, with the commander marching his army towards Qartayannat, where he attacked the 27,000-strong army stationed near the city. The first bullets of the war were exchanged in the early hours of the morning, but the Andalusi assault was repelled with heavy casualties, a fitting beginning to what would prove to be a long, costly war for both sides.

After several hours of heavy fighting, the Andalusi managed to gain the upper hand, forcing the Berbers to seek cover within Qartayannat. They would find no respite there, however, with artillery-fire quickly reducing the walls to rubble. Thousands of soldiers were pouring into the breaches soon after, but they would only secure the city after several days of bloody, protracted house-to-house fighting.

Further north, meanwhile, Ibn Bibil’s protégé had launched a simultaneous offensive towards Balansiyyah, where a large Qattaluni force was pinned down, surrounded and crushed within the space of a few hours.

An excellent start to the war, needless to say, but the attentions of the Grand Vizier were diverted eastward shortly afterward. Monarchist protests had erupted in Palermo, where the ruling democratic regime quickly retaliated with brutal force, drawing criticism from the surrounding powers.

More importantly, this created another opening for the Andalusi to potentially intervene, an opportunity that might not come again. Al Andalus was already at war with Morocco, but the Royalists were ambitious and power-hungry, and they would not let this opportunity slip from their grasp.

And with that, January of 1859 sees Al Andalus engaged in three different wars, on three different fronts.

Grand Vizier Musad hoped to bring about a swift end to the war with Palermo, but the seas weren’t safe with the Moroccans constantly patrolling them, so he dispatched an army on the overland route instead. Under the command of Rahina, the third army began their journey a few days later, crossing the Pyrenees and Alps before reaching Italy later that year.

Ibn Bibil, meanwhile, was kept on the home front. Morocco had landed an army off the coast of Qadis, as they are wont to do, so the marshal rushed to engage and defeat the enemy force.

The field marshal then pushed east, rendezvousing with the second army at Granada, before marching on the Berber force besieging Marriya.

There, the Andalusi and Berbers clashed yet again, with the ensuing battle quickly descending into a slogfest of taxing duels, clumsy charges and shoddy communication. The Berbers were eventually forced to retreat, but they had dealt severe casualties to the Andalusi, and so left the battlefield with the victory all but theirs.

A few weeks later, the third army arrived in Italy ahead of schedule, largely thanks to French and Provencal railroads. They crossed the border in the spring of 1860, quickly capturing Modena and marching on Bologna, where the Andalusi seized an important victory after a long day of heavy fighting.

The Italians retreated to Venice, leaving the Andalusi to capture Bologna and Ferrara, before pushing southward and towards Palermo.

At the same time, the war in eastern Europe came to an end, with the Russians easily crushing the Siberian levies on the battlefield. The following peace treaty was largely one-sided, with the Siberians forced to surrender vast tracts of land, break off all ties with Scandinavia and submit to Russian overlordship.

Further south, meanwhile, a momentous declaration was made in Alexandria. King Apanoub had worked tirelessly over the past decade to impose order in Sudan, bringing an end to the constant infighting and chaotic warring amongst its tribes, and this campaign finally culminated in the formal Annexation of the Sudan.

And in West Africa, a day that will be long-remembered arrives in Benin City, where Oba Eweka formally proclaims his kingdom to be a modern nation-state. Of course, he gained no recognition from the European and North African powers, Benin would have to prove itself on the battlefield before that would happen.

All the same, the king wastes no time in dispatching new diplomatic missions to the great powers, looking to gain some limited recognition by renegotiating the unequal treaties forced on his country in the past.

To the west, the Berber Union emerges triumphant from their war, forcing the defeated Irish to surrender territory and open their markets to them. And within a few weeks, the Three Sultans declare yet another war, this time sending armies into the Occidental Republic.

By now, it’s very clear that the Berbers are looking to bully their neighbouring states into submission, forcing them to become reliant on the Union for economic support and military defense. And with the Great Powers occupied with power struggles and European wars, there is no one to stop them from fulfilling their agenda, with the Berber Union well on the way to becoming the largest and most powerful state in all Gharbia.

Back in Italy, meanwhile, the Andalusi had brought large parts of Central Italy under occupation before engaging the Palermo army on the battlefield, crushing the enemy in a decisive victory outside Ancona.

Word of Rahina’s astounding victory quickly spread to Iberia, where the second army had crushed the feeble resistance in León-Castille, before marching on the city of León itself. King Frederick was already long-fled, of course, but he did dispatch diplomats to the ensuing peace talks in a futile attempt to retain his crown.

Of course, there was never any question of that happening, with the Kingdom of León-Castille quickly dissolved by the Majlis. In exchange for surrendering his crown, the assembly agreed to compensate Frederick for his mansions, properties and damaged valuables in León and Burghus, a considerable sum that many claimed was a bribe.

To the Andalusi, however, it didn’t matter. One war was ended, two were left.

And in Qattalun, Ibn Bibil was doing just that, with the marshal leading the Andalusi Army in the capture of Saraqusta and Tarrakuna, paving the road towards Barshaluna, and with it the end of the Iberian War - as the peninsular conflict was being called by spectators.

Just as the marshal began his offensive towards the Qattaluni capital, however, the marshal was caught with illness and forced to his bed. The next few days were tense and uneasy, with Ibn Bibil running high fevers and coughing blood, and his doctors were unable to alleviate the symptoms.

After a week of pain and suffering, the field marshal finally succumbed to the sickness, dying in the early hours of the morning.

This was a stinging blow to Al Andalus - Ibn Bibil had been their most experienced and gifted general, and despite showing some promise, none of his pupils had any of his ingenuity on the battlefield.

Still, somebody had to be appointed field marshal in his place, and the Majlis eventually granted the post to Muradismat ibn Rajul. The general had been leading the second army in eastern Iberia, where he’d engaged a large Moroccan army besieging Qartayannat, only emerging victorious after a bitter and hard-won fight.

Across the Mediterranean, meanwhile, Rahina al-Dakn had stormed across mainland Italy with little opposition. The forces of Palermo were crushed in another battle just outside Naples, and with the help of a few dated frigates, the Andalusi were able to cross the Straits of Messina and march on the city of Palermo.

The democratic regime made their last stand in their capital, attempting and failing to repel the Andalusi in a short, bloody battle in the streets. Rahina al-Dakn proceeded through the city slowly and methodically, street by street and house by house, before finally arriving at the president’s residency.

There, the short-lived Republic of Palermo was brought to an end, with the president and his elected council promptly executed by firing squad. As blood pooled in the streets and mass graves were being dug, however, one thing quickly became clear - Palermo needed a ruler.

In the Majlis, the issue of who would become that ruler was a divisive one. Many thought it best to install a new dynasty on the throne, perhaps an Andalusi nobleman, but that would almost certainly incite more rebellions in Palermo. What they needed now, above all else, was stability.

Grand Vizier Musad’s proposal was simpler - that Sa’id Jizrunid, a long-time collaborator and ally of al-Andalus, be invited to take up the throne in Palermo. The Jizrunids still had supporters in Palermo, and he could hopefully pacify the restless population, whilst ensuring that the emirate remained firmly within the Andalusi sphere of influence. And after several long hours of hotly-contested debate, argument and compromise, the Majlis finally agreed with the proposal. The decision was finally made, but only time would tell whether it was the right one.

The Majlis didn’t have much time to ponder on their choices, because startling news arrived a few days later.

Protesting the war and conflict that had overtaken southern Europe these past five years, and denouncing Andalusia’s blatant power-grab in Palermo, the Dual Monarchy publicly severed their alliance with Al Andalus. Unsurprisingly, the Majlis quickly descended into feverish panic, with Grand Vizier Musad immediately dispatching several diplomats to Paris, promising that their wars would be at an end very soon.

And quickly growing desperate, the Grand Vizier ordered his commanders to crush the Berber armies with haste, by whatever means necessary.

The Moroccans weren’t their only enemy now, they were also fighting a battle against time. The Berbers wouldn’t surrender easily, not unless their capital was threatened, so Grand Vizier Musad began preparations for an invasion of Africa.

It wasn’t 1830, however, the Andalusi Navy wasn’t what it once was. The war fleet had scarcely left port before the Almoravid Fleet pounced on them, sinking three ships in as many hours and forcing the surviving vessels to hastily retreat. There would be no battle of the straits this time, and there would certainly be no sack of Marrakesh.

And by then, it didn’t even matter, because worse news had just arrived in Qadis.

Despite their recent war, despite their clashing stance on slavery, despite their rivalry on the high seas - the Dual Monarchy had allied with Almoravid Morocco.

This was the last straw. The Majlis couldn’t risk war with France, so they finally bowed out of their conflict, making more modest demands of Morocco. Saraqusta and Balansiyyah were both ceded to Al Andalus, commendable-enough gains, but nobody would be celebrating this bitter victory in the streets of Qadis that night.

World map: