The seventh campaign of the Seven Years’ War commenced on the 1st of July, 1762. Peter III. had sent an army of twenty thousand men to the support of Frederick. Aided by these troops, united with his own army, Frederick had emerged from532 his winter quarters, and was just about to attack the Austrian army, which was intrenched upon the heights of Burkersdorf, a little south of Schweidnitz, which fortress the Austrians then held. The evening before the contemplated attack the Russian General Czernichef entered the tent of Frederick with the following appalling tidings:
The Czarina, Anne of Russia, died the 28th of October, 1740,240 just eight days after the death of the emperor. She left, in the cradle, the infant Czar Iwan, her nephew, two months old. The father of this child was a brother of Frederick’s neglected wife Elizabeth. The mother was the Russian Princess Catharine of Mecklenburg, now called Princess Anne, whom Frederick had at one time thought of applying for as his wife. Russia was a semi-barbaric realm just emerging into consideration, and no one could tell by what influences it would be swayed. The minor powers could be controlled by the greater—constrained by terror or led by bribes. Such, in general, was the state of Europe at this time.The general voice of history has severely condemned the Prussian king for this invasion of Silesia. Frederick probably217 owed his life to the interposition of the father of Maria Theresa, when the young prince was threatened with the scaffold by his own father. Prussia was bound by the most solemn guarantees to respect the integrity of the Austrian states. There was seemingly a great want of magnanimity in taking advantage of the extreme youth, inexperience, and delicate health of the young queen, who was also embarrassed by an empty treasury and a weakened and undisciplined army. Frederick had also made, in his Anti-Machiavel, loud protestations of his love of justice and magnanimity. Mr. Carlyle, while honestly stating these facts, still does not blame Frederick for seizing the opportunity which the death of the emperor presented for him to enlarge his dominions by plundering the domain of Maria Theresa.
About thirty miles southeast of Breslau is the pleasant little town of Ohlau, situated in the delta formed by the junction of the Ohlau River with the Oder. It was a place of some strength, and the Austrian authorities had thrown into it a garrison of three hundred men. Frederick appeared before its gates on the morning of January the 9th. He immediately sent in the following summons to the garrison:
“At Potsdam I was lucky enough to see the king. He was on the esplanade drilling his troops. When the drill was over he went into the garden, and the soldiers dispersed. Four officers remained lounging on the esplanade. For fright, I knew not what to do; I drew the papers from my pocket. These were my memorial, two certificates of character, and a Thuringian pass. The officers, noticing this, came directly to me and said, ‘What letters have you there?’ I thankfully imparted the whole. When the officers had read them, they said, ‘We will give you good advice. The king is extra gracious to-day, and is gone alone into the garden. Follow him straight. You will have luck.’This lasted till nightfall. As darkness veiled the awful scene the exhausted soldiers dropped upon the ground, and, regardless of the dead and of the groans of the wounded, borne heavily upon the night air, slept almost side by side. It is appalling to reflect upon what a fiend to humanity man has been, as revealed in the history of the nations. All the woes of earth combined are as nothing compared with the misery which man has inflicted upon his brother.
549 Frederick had cultivated a supreme indifference to public opinion. Not believing in any God, in any future retribution, or in any immortality, and regarding men merely as the insects of an hour, like the myriad polyps which, beneath the ocean, rear their stupendous structures and perish, his sense of right and wrong must necessarily have been very different from that which a believer in the Christian faith is accustomed to cherish. In allusion to this subject, he writes:In the cold of the winter morning the Old Dessauer carefully reconnoitred the position of his foes. Their batteries seemed innumerable, protected by earth-works, and frowning along a cliff which could only be reached by plunging into a gully and wading through a half-frozen bog. There was, however, no alternative but to advance or retreat. He decided to advance.
General Daun’s army, numbering ninety thousand men, occupied very strong positions in a line extending north and south about five miles. On the 10th, Frederick, having obtained the needful supplies, resolutely, rashly—but, situated as he was, what the world deemed rashness was prudence—advanced with but twenty-eight thousand men to assail this foe of ninety thousand behind his intrenchments. About five miles to the north, in the rear of the heights of Weissenberg, Frederick had a reserve of ten or twelve thousand men under General Retzow.“My dear Voltaire,—I have received two of your letters, but could not answer sooner. I am like Charles Twelfth’s chess king, who was always on the move. For a fortnight past we have been kept continually afoot and under way in such weather as you never saw.
a a. Austrian Army, b b. Prussian Army. c. Ziethen’s Hussars. d. Nadasti’s Hussars. e. The Oak Wood.Wilhelmina, in her distress in view of the peril of her brother, wrote to Voltaire, hoping that he might be persuaded to exert an influence in his favor.fff. Austrian Cavalry.详情
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