On the 14th of August Frederick had reached Liegnitz. His foes surrounded him in such numbers that escape seemed impossible, and destruction sure. General Loudon, with thirty-five thousand allies, was scarcely a mile east of him. General Lacy, with an immense swarm of cavalry, was at the distance of but a few thousand yards on the west. General Daun, with his immense army, approaching from the southwest, had taken possession of Liegnitz. Frederick was encamped upon some heights a few miles east of the city. To human view, the position of his Prussian majesty was desperate.
“It will have been easy for you to conceive my grief when you reflect upon the loss I have had. There are some misfortunes which are reparable by constancy and courage, but there are others against which all the firmness with which one can arm one’s self, and all the reasonings of philosophers, are only vain and useless attempts at consolation.121 Of the latter kind is the one with which my unhappy fate overwhelms me, at a moment the most embarrassing and the most anxious of my whole life. I have not been so sick as you have heard. My only complaints are colics, sometimes hemorrhoidal, and sometimes nephritic.As Frederick received the tidings of this death, he rose, dressed himself, and his ague disappeared, to return no more. A courier was immediately dispatched, at the top of his speed, to summon to his presence General Schwerin and M. Podewils, his chief minister. Two days must elapse before they could reach him. In the mean time, the king, taking counsel of no one, was maturing his plans, and making quiet but vigorous preparations for their execution. He wrote the next day to Voltaire, in allusion to the emperor’s death,
There they informed her that they had each received a letter the night before from the king, the contents of which they were73 forbidden, under penalty of death, from communicating to any one but to her. The king wished them to say to her majesty that he would no longer endure her disobedience in reference to the marriage of Wilhelmina; that, in case this disobedience continued, there should be an entire separation between him and his wife—a divorce—and that she and her daughter should both be banished to the chateau of Oranienburg, about twenty miles from Berlin, and there held in close imprisonment. The king was willing that Sophie Dorothee should write once more, and only once more, to her brother, George II., and demand of him a categorical answer, yes or no, whether he would consent to the immediate marriage of the Prince of Wales and Wilhelmina. The king would wait a fortnight for an answer, or, if the winds were contrary, three weeks; but not a day more. Should no answer in that time be returned, or a negative or an evasive answer, then Wilhelmina was to make her immediate choice of a husband between either the Duke of Weissenfels or the Marquis of Schwedt, and to be married without delay.9“Now thank God, one and all, With heart, with voice, with hands, Who wonders great hath done To us and to all lands.”115
General Seidlitz, with five thousand horsemen, immediately dashed in among them. Almost in an instant the shouts of victory458 sank away in groans of death. It was an awful scene—a maelstrom of chaotic tumult, shrieks, blood, and death. The stolid Russians refused to fly. The Prussians sabred them and trampled them beneath their horses’ feet until their arms were weary. This terrible massacre lasted until one o’clock. The whole of the western portion of the quadrilateral was destroyed. The Russian soldiers at a little distance from the scene of carnage, reckless and under poor discipline, broke open the sutlers’ brandy-casks, and were soon beastly drunk. The officers, endeavoring to restrain them, dashed in many of the casks. The soldiers, throwing themselves upon the ground, lapped the fiery liquid from the puddles. They killed many of their own officers, and became almost unresisting victims of the sabres and bayonets of their assailants. The Prussians, exasperated by the awful acts of cruelty which had been perpetrated by the Russians, showed no mercy. In the midst of the butchery, the word ran along their lines, “No quarter.
During the night bands of barbarian, half-drunken Cossacks ranged the field, plundering the wounded and the dead, friends and foes alike, and thrusting their bayonets through those who presented any remonstrance, or who might, by any possibility, call them to account. Four hundred of these wretches the equally merciless Prussians drove into a barn, fastened them in, set460 fire to the building, and burned them all to ashes. During the carnage of this bloody day the Russians lost, in killed, wounded, and missing, 21,539. The Prussians lost 11,390, more than one third of their number.a a. Stages of the Prussian March. b. Daun’s Encampment. c. Prussian Batteries and Intrenchments. d d d. Prussian Camps. e e. Loudon’s March against Mosel’s Convoy. f f. Mosel’s resting Quarters. g. Convoy attacked and ruined.
“Prosperity, my dear lord, often inspires a dangerous confidence. Twenty-three battalions were not sufficient to drive sixty thousand men from their intrenchments. Another time we will take our precautions better. Fortune has this day turned her back upon me. I ought to have expected it. She is a female, and I am not gallant. What say you to this league against the Margrave of Brandenburg? How great would be the astonishment of the great elector if he could see his great-grandson at war at the same time with the Russians, the Austrians, almost all Germany, and one hundred thousand French auxiliaries! I do not know whether it will be disgraceful in me to be overcome, but I am sure there will be no great glory in vanquishing me.”102That evening Wilhelmina was taken sick with burning fever and severe pain. Still she was compelled to rise from her bed and attend a court party. The next morning she was worse. The king, upon being told of it, exclaimed gruffly, “Ill? I will58 cure you!” and compelled her to swallow a large draught of wine. Soon her sickness showed itself to be small-pox. Great was the consternation of her mother, from the fear that, even should she survive, her beauty would be so marred that the English prince would no longer desire her as his bride. Fortunately she escaped without a scar.Louis XV. felt insulted by this message, and responded in a similar strain of irritation. Thus the two monarchs were alienated from each other. Indeed, Frederick had almost as much cause to be dissatisfied with the French as they had to be dissatisfied with him. Each of the monarchs was ready to sacrifice the other if any thing was to be gained thereby.
Frederick was far from being an amiable man. He would325 often cruelly banter his companions, knowing that it was impossible for them to indulge in any retort. Baron P?llnitz was a very weak old man, who had several times changed his religion to subserve his private interests. He had been rather a petted courtier during three reigns. Now, in extreme old age, and weary of the world, he wished to renounce Protestantism, and to enter the cloisters of the convent in preparation for death. He applied to the king for permission to do so. Frederick furnished him with the following sarcastic parting testimony. It was widely circulated through many of the journals of that day, exciting peals of laughter as a capital royal joke:221 By the 10th of December, within a fortnight of the time that the king received the tidings of the death of the emperor, he had collected such a force on the frontiers of Silesia that there could be no question that the invasion of that province was intended. As not the slightest preparation had been made on the part of Austria to meet such an event, the king could with perfect ease overrun the province and seize all its fortresses. But Austria was, in territory, resources, and military power, vastly stronger than Prussia. It was therefore scarcely possible that Frederick could hold the province, after he had seized it, unless he could encourage others to dispute the succession of Maria Theresa, and thus involve Europe in a general war. Frederick, having made all his arrangements for prompt and vigorous action, sent to Maria Theresa a message which could be regarded only as an insult:
51 Some of the courtiers, in order to divert the king from his melancholy, and from these ideas of abdication, succeeded in impressing upon him the political necessity of visiting Augustus, the King of Poland, at Dresden. The king did not intend to take Fritz with him. But Wilhelmina adroitly whispered a word to Baron Suhm, the Polish embassador, and obtained a special invitation for the Crown Prince. It is a hundred miles from Berlin to Dresden—a distance easily traversed by post in a day. It was the middle of January, 1728, when the Prussian king reached Dresden, followed the day after by his son. They were sumptuously entertained for four weeks in a continuous round of magnificent amusements, from which the melancholic King of Prussia recoiled, but could not well escape.
With the utmost secrecy Frederick matured his plans. It could not be concealed that he was about to embark in some important military enterprise. The embassadors from other courts exerted all their ingenuity, but in vain, to ascertain in what direction the army was to march. Though the French had an embassador at Berlin, still it would seem that Voltaire was sent as a spy, under the guise of friendship, to attempt to ferret out the designs of the king. These men, who did not profess any regard to the principles of religion, seem also to have trampled219 under feet all the instincts of honor. Voltaire endeavored to conceal his treachery beneath smiles and flattery, writing even love verses to the king. The king kept his own secret. Voltaire was not a little chagrined by his want of success. In his billet of leave he wrote:Thus deprived of all the ordinary comforts of life, the prince, in the nineteenth year of his age, was consigned to an imprisonment of absolute solitude. For weeks and months he was left to his own agitating thoughts, with the apparent blighting of every earthly hope, awaiting whatever doom his merciless father might award to him. His jailers, not unmindful of the embarrassing fact that their captive might yet become King of Prussia,102 with their fate in his hands, gradually treated him with all the secret kindness which they dared to exhibit.13But the ever-vigilant Frederick had smuggled a “false sister” into the society of the Catholic ladies, who kept him informed of every measure that was proposed. At the very hour when Frederick was dining with the two English ministers, and making282 himself so merry with jests and banter, he was aware that General Neipperg, with the whole Austrian army, was crossing the River Neisse, on the march, by a route thirty miles west of his encampment, to take Breslau by surprise. But he had already adopted effectual measures to thwart their plans.
“My lord, the court of Vienna has entirely divulged our secret. The Dowager Empress has acquainted the court of Bavaria with it. Wasner, the Austrian minister at Paris, has communicated it to the French minister, Fleury. The Austrian minister at St. Petersburg, M. Linzendorf, has told the court of Russia of it. Sir Thomas Robinson has divulged it to the court of Dresden. Several members of the British government have talked about it publicly.”a a. Stages of the Prussian March. b. Daun’s Encampment. c. Prussian Batteries and Intrenchments. d d d. Prussian Camps. e e. Loudon’s March against Mosel’s Convoy. f f. Mosel’s resting Quarters. g. Convoy attacked and ruined.FREDERICK AND LINSENBARTH.详情
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