Prince Charles was en route for Berlin—a winter’s march of a hundred and fifty miles. He was not aware that the King of Prussia was near him, or that the king was conscious of his bold design. On Saturday night, November 20, the army of Prince Charles, forty thousand strong, on its line of march, suspecting no foe near, was encamped in villages, extending for twenty miles along the banks of the Queiss, one of the tributaries of the Oder. Four marches would bring them into Brandenburg. It was the design of Frederick to fall with his whole force upon the centre of this line, cut it in two, and then to annihilate the extremities. Early in the morning of Sunday, the 21st, Frederick put his troops in motion. He marched rapidly all that day, and Monday, and Tuesday. In the twilight of Tuesday evening, a dense fog enveloping the landscape, Frederick, with his concentrated force, fell impetuously upon a division of the Austrian army encamped in the village of Hennersdorf.“Why,” asked the king, furiously, “did you attempt to desert?”
“My dear Papa,—I have not, for a long while, presumed to come near my dear papa, partly because he forbade me, but chiefly because I had reason to expect a still worse reception than usual; and for fear of angering my dear papa by my present request, I have preferred making it in writing to him.125 Grumkow then goes on to relate, quite in detail, that the king took up the subject of theology. “He set forth the horrible results of that absolute decree notion which makes God the author of sin; and that Jesus Christ died only for some.” The prince declared that he had thoroughly renounced that heresy. The king then added:
Frederick had seen many dark days before, but never one so dark as this. In the frenzy of his exertions to retrieve the lost battle, he cried out to his soldiers, his eyes being flooded with tears, “Children, do not forsake me, your king, your father, in this pinch!” The retreat became a flight. In endeavoring to cross the little stream called the Hen-Floss, there was such crowding and jamming at the bridges that the Prussians were compelled to leave one hundred and sixty-five guns of various calibre behind them. Had the Russians pursued with any vigor, scarcely a man of the Prussian army could have escaped. But General Soltikof stood in such fear of his opponent, who had often wrested victory out of defeat, that he attempted no pursuit.
113 The prince supposed that the object of Muller’s visits was to prepare him for his death. But upon receiving the full assurance that his father contemplated pardoning him, should there be evidence of repentance, he promised to take an oath of entire submission to his father’s will. Seven commissioners were sent to the prison of Cüstrin, on the 19th of November, to administer this oath with the utmost solemnity. He was conducted to the church. A large crowd was in attendance. A sermon appropriate to the occasion was preached. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered to him. And then he audibly repeated the oath and attached to it his signature.“He passed through Hirschberg on the 18th of August. A concourse of many thousands had been waiting for him several hours. Outriders came at last; then he himself, the unique; and, with the liveliest expression of reverence and love, all eyes were directed on one point. I can not describe to you my feelings, which, of course, were those of every body, to see him, the aged king; in his weak hand the hat; in those grand eyes such a fatherly benignity of look over the vast crowd that encircled his carriage, and rolled tide-like, accompanying it. Looking round, I saw in various eyes a tear trembling.
To the summons which Frederick sent to Maria Theresa, demanding the surrender of Silesia, no response could be returned, consistent with the dignity of the crown, but a peremptory refusal. The reply was unanswerable in its logic. Though it was, in general, couched in courteous terms, one sentence crept into it of rather scornful defiance.On the 4th of July the king rode out for the last time. Not long after, the horse was again brought to the door, but the king found himself too weak to mount. Still, while in this state of extreme debility and pain, he conducted the affairs of state with the most extraordinary energy and precision. The minutest questions received his attention, and every branch of business was prosecuted with as much care and perfection as in his best days.489 “Above fifty thousand human beings were on the palace esplanade and the streets around, swaying hither and thither in an agony of expectation, in alternate paroxysms of joy, of terror, and of woe. Often enough the opposite paroxysms were simultaneous in the different groups. Men crushed down by despair were met by men leaping into the air for very gladness.”
Frederick was rapidly awaking to the consciousness that Maria Theresa, whom he had despised as a woman, and a young wife and mother, and whose territory he thought he could dismember with impunity, was fully his equal, not only in ability to raise and direct armies, but also in diplomatic intrigue. About the middle of August he perceived from his camp in Chlum that Prince Charles was receiving large re-enforcements from the south. At the same time, he saw that corps after corps, principally of Saxon troops, were defiling away by circuitous roads to the north. It was soon evident that the heroic Maria Theresa was preparing to send an army into the very heart of Prussia to attack its capital. This was, indeed, changing the aspect of the war.
It seemed to be the policy of Frederick to assume a very trifling, care-for-nothing air, as though he were engaged in very harmless child’s play. He threw out jokes, and wrote ludicrous letters to M. Jordan and M. Algarotti. But behind this exterior disguise it is manifest that all the energies of his soul were aroused, and that, with sleepless vigilance, he was watching every event, and providing for every possible emergence.Frederick.”
Having met with this repulse, Kannegiesser returned to Berlin with the report. Frederick William was exasperated in the highest degree by such treatment from a brother-in-law whom he both hated and despised. He had at his command an army in as perfect condition, both in equipment and drill, as Europe had ever seen. Within a week’s time forty-four thousand troops, horse, foot, and artillery, were rendezvoused at Magdeburg. Fritz was there, looking quite soldierly on his proud charger, at the head of his regiment of the giant guard. Vigorously they were put upon the march. George II., who had already in his boyhood felt the weight of Frederick William’s arm, and who well knew his desperate energy when once roused, was terrified. He had no forces in Hanover which could stand for an hour in opposition to the army which the Prussian king was bringing against him.“I grant it, my dear D’Arget,” said the king, “but it is too372 dangerous a part to play. A reverse brings me to the edge of ruin. I know too well the mood of mind I was in the last time I left Berlin ever to expose myself to it again. If luck had been against me there, I saw myself a monarch without a throne. A bad game that. In fine, I wish to be at peace.
The Elbe was now frozen. The storms of winter covered the icy fields with snow. Daun retired to Dresden. Frederick established himself in the little town of Freiberg, about thirty miles southwest from Dresden. His troops were in cantonments in the adjoining villages. Here he took up his abode in a humble cottage. Thus terminated the fourth campaign of the Seven Years’ War.
“The Prussians,” writes Carlyle, “tramp on with the usual grim-browed resolution, foot in front, horse in rear. But they have a terrible problem at that Kesselsdorf, with its retrenched batteries and numerous grenadiers fighting under cover. The very ground is sore against them; up-hill, and the trampled snow wearing into a slide, so that you sprawl and stagger sadly. Thirty-one big guns, and near nine thousand small, pouring out mere death on you from that knoll-head. The Prussians stagger; can not stand; bend to rightward to get out of shot range; can not manage it this bout. Rally, re-enforced; try it again. Again with a will; but again there is not a way. The Prussians are again repulsed; fall back down this slippery course in more disorder than the first time. Had the Saxons stood still, steadily handling arms, how, on such terms, could the Prussians have ever managed it?”90Frederick was overjoyed. He regarded the day as his own, and the Russian army as at his mercy. He sent a dispatch to anxious Berlin, but sixty miles distant: “The Russians are beaten. Rejoice with me.” It was one of the hottest of August days, without a breath of wind. Nearly every soldier of the Prussian army had been brought into action against the left wing only of the foe. After a long march and an exhausting fight, they were perishing with thirst. For twelve hours many of them had been without water. Panting with heat, thirst, and exhaustion, they were scarcely capable of any farther efforts.详情
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