Mexic armies had been raiding beyond the Mets'ichi Chena (OTL Rio Grande) for several centuries. These were generally fast moving troops with considerable cavalry capacity. Their usual function was to gather tribute from neighbouring tribes, capture slaves and also to find victims for sacrifice in their religious practices. Sometimes these raids pushed further, bothering the southwest corners of Aniyunwiya. The yearly mercenary movement of armies from the northeast to the Mississippi frontier was established pretty quickly and provided a great deal of income for willing combatants. It also fostered a general feeling of the 'civilised east versus the barbaric south'.
Leifia itself was well versed in differing warfare styles. Many had eagerly adopted the latest European techniques, and had access to cannon and primitive gunpowder weapons. The tribes beyond the Mississippi tended to view warfare not as state-on-state but rather as proving worthiness for their tribes. They did not use cannon, preferring instead a swift lightly-armoured cavalry force to raid rather than conquer.
Mexica meanwhile appeared to be developing a synthesis between the two. Armed with cannon and gunpowder weapons, it also fielded fast moving and well armored troops. It had a navy too, something which was only matched by those in the North-East.
In general armies tended to be small compared to European armies. Vinland would at a push be able to field 3,000 men yearly whilst Kanienmark would struggle to field a third of that. This reflected not only the smaller population but also the logistical problem. There were few serviceable roads outside of the Norse-Aniyunwiyan influenced kingdoms. Those same states could also rely on good water transportation along the coasts and major rivers but as soon as coastal support was no longer an option armies tended to shrink to smaller sizes. Swamps in the south, untamed forests in the North, deserts and plains in the West; all these hampered the size and passage of armies. While large armies in Europe could support themselves by sacking towns and scavenging off the land, the sparser population of Leifia meant easy pickings were few and far between. The vast Portuguese army landed in support of Álengiamark in 1569, which contemporaries record as being in the region of 5,000 men, failed largely because it could not support itself on an extended campaign.
So by the 1620s the tribes and states of Leifia had gotten used to a regular raid by Mexic troops. But they were just that, limited, small-scale raids. They did not even approach the size of the armies comprising the so-called 'Flower Wars' which involved sending small armies against Mexica's enemies in order to wear them down without straining the central state. In short, the mercenary armies knew exactly when and where to expect the raids and believed they knew exactly how to deal with the 'savage Mexic'.
Declaration of War
During April of 1622 many Leifian nations had delegations at the Inokian city of Cahokia. For several days the delagates enjoyed discussions, pageantry and, of course, feasting. The Mexica also arrived, near the end of the congress, not to discuss trade or local disputes but to essentially declare full-scale war on Leifia. The actual declaration of war took the form of a list of complaints addressed to various parties.
The Mexica had chosen a good time to embark on general war. Europe was four years into the Fifty Year War and although no one suspected it would last so long the Mexic were well aware of the religious and political divisions that would prevent an easy conclusion to the conflict.
The First Year
The reaction to the declaration was mixed. Those countries nearer Mexica immediately began preparations for war. Those further away and without much first hand experience of the raiding merely collected together the usual mercenary force that was enough to deal with a raiding force. Of course this was woefully inadequate. The Mexic forces that crossed the Mets'ichi Chena in May were 12,000 men strong. The mercenary force was quickly obliterated and the towns and forts which normally held against the yearly raiders were captured and their inhabitants slaughtered.
With no effective response to their threat, the Mexic had captured a massive, sparsely inhabited territory within a month. Their attention now turned to the Mississippi and the main force moved closer to the coast in order to assist its resupply. This exposed one of the main issues of the Mexic operations: they were campaigning in a terrain that was poorly developed, patchily farmed and unsuitable to support such a massive body of men. Many of the inhabitants of the conquered land simply upped and escaped northwards rather than be enslaved, further reducing the pickings the Mexic troops could fall back on. It was noted by later Leifian forces that the Mexic were forced to build wide paved roads in the armies' wake simply to maintain supply lines and this in itself must have been a logistical nightmare.
As it was, by August the main Mexic force split into three had reached the Mississippi. The East however had largely woken up to the threat and a force of around 5,000 had arrived in south-west Aniyunwiya and another 3,000 had congregated in Tunica. Unlike the Mexic these were well-supplied and had the advantage of good communication links. They also controlled the river and, mindful of the potential disaster that would fall if the Mexic crossed the river in force, set about ensuring the they could not find an easy crossing. To this effect they quickly burnt all of the major towns and forts on the western bank and destroyed the few permanent bridges. The Mexic navy attempted to enter the delta to help cross but were stopped and driven into shallow waters by the Vinlandic navy. Both navies would be crippled by a hurricane in the Gulf at the end of the month and for the rest of the war smaller craft dominated the river battles.
The lack of naval support slowed the Mexic, but only slightly and by October small bands of Mexic were making the crossing. Their ability to move large numbers across were hampered by fireships sent southwards by Inokia and Aniyunwiya but in the rich farmlands of the 'Delta' area north of Issaquena several substantial armies slipped through causing significant havoc. Sustained engagements from the eastern coalition kept them contained and manageable however. The coalition could not advocate trying to cross and engage the enemy on the western bank however, the weight of Mexic forces precluded that. By winter the Mexic were digging in and raising new forts.
Toward the Fraeburt Votnum
With the early momentum spent by the spring of 1623 Mexic forces were beginning to fan out across the western side. A mass forced crossing was no longer attempted. Small forces did continue to cross over, often raiding and escaping back before being crushed, though it appears this was more on the initiative of individual commanders to keep their men supplied rather than a coherent plan. It did however keep a significant portion of the Eastern forces pinned down in Tunica and Chahtaland.
Towards the summer however a trend emerged as the main Mexic force probed its way northwards. Instead of crossing the river it looked as though it would simply go around the Mississippi. If the Eastern alliance feared what the Mexic could do if it crossed the lower Mississippi then it was positively mortified by the idea of what it could do in the more densely populated richer lands of the North-East. The Eriac, whose lands were first in the firing line managed to detach a large portion of the main Mexic force and lead it into the Kansa lands wasting it away on sieges on the well-equipped fortresses. Vinland, Aniyunwiya and Álengiamark tackled the main force meanwhile. A number of smaller battles led to the gigantic clash at Kahoka in Inokia on 18th July.
Easily the largest battle on Leifian soil up to that point the day-long struggle was truly a multi-national effort. Estimates suggest there were some 6,000 Mexic who approached the city of Kahoka and they were met by a slightly smaller though better equipped Vinlandic force. The small fort represented the 'backdoor' to Aniyunwiya and Vinland and the urgency of its defense had been thoroughly impressed on the military commanders. Around 3,000 Vinlandic troops under the command of Mattías Baldursson, armed with the latest gunpowder weapons and a large contingent of cannon, had carefully bedded down in the wide valley. They were joined by about a 1,000 light cavalry made up of Kanien'haga and Abernaki. Yesanland, in virtually their only engagement of the war, had sent heavy pikemen. The main Aniyunwiyan force, some 4,000 men strong, were 20 miles away to the south.
The Mexic troops approached the front lines at around 5.30 am almost stumbling over the camping outliers. As they formed up the cannons began firing wrecking several divisions even before they had lined up. The Vinlanders had adopted a formation known as the 'Luxembourg Square', a formation which had almost been abandoned in Europe at this point. In general it comprised a massive square of pikemen with an equal amount of low calibre/low accuracy arquebusiers distributed around it. Defeating such a mass was hard and while Europe had turned towards smaller, more maneuverable units the Square seemed the perfect answer to the massed infantry and cavalry ranks of the Mexic army who preferred close combat weaponry. This was the first major clash between the two opposing tactics and the rigid drilled Vinlandic units held their ground for almost 14 hours. Meanwhile the cannon batteries still wrecking the massive Mexic divisions were protected by the light cavalry of the Abernaki.
Eventually however the Mexic, bloodied but nowhere near broken, were driven off by the arrival of the Aniyunwiyan army. It is estimated the Mexic lost 4,000 men compared to 2,000 on the Eastern side. The core of the Vinlandic force had been destroyed however and the mantle of premier Norse-Leifian power passed to Álengiamark. The remains of the Mexic army would be comprehensively defeated in a series of encounters over the next three months by the Álengsk, Six Nation and Aniyunwiyan armies.
Although the battle had effectively saved the Fraeburt Votnum and the North-East for now the wider war was in no way won and by Autumn spies had confirmed a second massive army of 12-15 thousand Mexic had crossed the Mets'ichi Chena to reinforce the 6-7 thousand still threatening the Mississippi. Unable to match these numbers some states began to look beyond their own borders for assistance. Susquehanockland paid for a Portuguese army (Portugal being uninvolved in the Fifty Years War) however this was blockaded on Quisqueyanos for several years. Equally while many states, such as Ochangaramark and Algonquinland, did not officially become involved in the war mercenaries from these satellite countries were freely available. Lakotan mercenaries provided some of the most able light cavalry and were invaluable in the later stages.
1624 saw another series of encounters in the North-East as Mexica tried to break into the Fraeburt Votnum. Vinland and Álengsk armies worked hard to repulse the advances, though usually not together. Set piece battles like Kahoka were rare and more usually the were glancing blows. The Eastern allies complained bitterly at the Álengsk (and Eriac) commanders who refused to work alongside the Lutheran states and the mindset of the opposing sides during the Leifian War of Religion still held firm. To the south there were three major breakouts over the Mississippi. On the Gulf coast the Utinan confederation scored a massive victory destroying a 4,000 strong force and pinning the survivors in a swamp until they begged for food and medicines. In the centre the Muscogee League were less successful and only the Aniyunwiyan army wheeling southwards held off defeat however the Mexic were able to capture and hold several important city-forts. Finally the year ended with the Álengsk and Catholic armies annihilating a Mexic army at Kewanee on the Upper Mississippi opening the western plains.
Eastern Leifia finally dealt with the recruitment issue in 1625, finally being able to field armies which could match the Mexic man for man though largely at the cost of discipline and tactical superiority. Whilst the southern nations dealt with breakouts and attempting to clear the Eastern bank the Catholic states slowly rolled the Mexic back down the Mississippi whilst the Protestant League struck out to the west to stop flanking manoeuvers and also to relieve various forts on the plains still holding out against sporadic Mexic raids. Portugal too was able to break the blockade of Quisqueyanos and moved its 2,000 strong army on to the Mississippi delta. Although many advocated landing directly in Mexic itself the Portuguese considered this suicidal and anyway, their presence helped wrest the entire Eastern bank of the Mississippi back.
By early 1626 however the war had ground to a messy halt. The sheer volume of new troops arriving from Mexica prevented any breakout by the Eastern alliance meanwhile the bloated Mexic armies were halted by their own logistics. Instead the armies flowed back and forth generally ruining the Tunican lands in the process. However the Vinlandic and Portuguese navies had free reign of the Gulf allowing a certain degree of supplies to arrive by sea and coastal forts to be blockaded.
It would not be until 1629 when a lucky break by a small Biloxi force rallied the fortunes of the Eastern Alliance. They had captured the city of Waxahachie almost by accident without loss of life. The Mexic armies appeared to be faltering and the Eastern Alliance drove through. Both sides were weakening however. Famine was widespread thanks to growing casualties depriving their homelands of farmers or indeed farmlands ruined by the passage of armies. On 17th November 1631 there came the last great battle of the war; Nacoga, in which Álengsk, Aniyunwiyan, Tunican and Portuguese proved victorious over the Mexic opening the way to the Mets'ichi Chena. Another six months of advance, being constantly harassed by Mexic raids and now approaching the ends of their own stretched supply lines the Eastern allies reached the river that was the recognised border between Mexica and Leifia.
Envoys for peace were put out and various diplomats arrived in Havna in Coabana to hammer out a treaty. However the Easterners were pressured; they knew the armies sat on the Mets'ichi Chena were at breaking point and suffering from constant desertion. In that respect they rejected the terms of the original declaration of war but allowed the Mexic to annex the Inde tribe and their extensive lands.
The diplomats slunk home from Havna having won a peace but giving away a huge chuck of Leifia to Mexica. No Leifian force had actually set foot inside Mexica or captured one of its own fortresses. This contributed to a sense of failure amongst many generals and the period directly after the peace saw intense jostling within various states as various nobles looked for recognition. The movement of such a large group of men across the continent spread disease and another wave of Black Death bit. Great Pox and smallpox were also much in evidence. Though incomparable with the Fifty Years War in terms of the death rate the war marks a definite end point of Leifia's medieval boom.
The returning soldiers often found themselves at a loose end. Their activities over the preceding years had often ruined families, farms, towns and in a couple of cases entire states. As a result there were thousands of virtually stateless but well-trained soldiers returning to the east bringing disease and famine with them. Vinland would eventually solve the problem by sending men to Europe to fight in the Fifty Years War but others did not have that option. Instead the great body of soldiers formed mercenary companies and as a result the south-east quarter of Leifia turned into a vast 'charnel house' of incessant war. Flooded with cheap, bloated armies the small tribal states could afford to make war on each other and often, if a war was not available, the mercenaries simply created their own. Before it was conquered by Mvskokia, the Kingdom of Okvnili was essentially a mercenary state created by the mercenary commander Impichchaa Ataminko. Equally the distant Álengsk earldom of Snjorjamark (see Atsugkriga) was created by unemployed soldiers finding gold in the Snjorjamaerkafoll. Even the Ninety-Year War between the states of distant North-Western Leifia would be partly driven by the mercenary companies who fanned out across the continent looking for opportunities.
The situation in Mexica is a little harder to discern. Unlike its opponents it never appeared to have really strained itself and with the annexation of the Inde lands now had a huge barrier region to expand upon and exploit. It was certainly hit by famine and disease but these were par for the course for the empire. Within three years its ships were appearing back in the Mediterranean and was in a fit enough state to indulge in another bloody war with Tawantinsuyu. Raids along Leifia's western coast had barely let up during the war and continued unabated afterwards too.