Grief of the King over his Mother’s Death.—Interesting Letters.—Forces in the Field.—The March upon Dresden.—Devotion of Wilhelmina.—Atheism of the King.—Wilhelmina to Voltaire.—Despair of Frederick.—Great Victory of Rossbach.—Description of the Battle.—Utter Rout of the Allies.—Elation of Frederick.—His Poem on the Occasion.—Ravages of War.In the following letter, which Frederick wrote at this time to his friend D’Argens, he unbosoms his sorrows with unusual frankness. The letter was dated Breslau, March 1, 1759:
The secret was now out. The tidings flew in all directions that the King of Prussia was in Strasbourg incognito. The king, not yet aware of the detection, called upon the marshal. A crowd of officers gathered eagerly around. The marshal was much embarrassed in his desire to respect the incognito, and also to manifest the consideration due to a sovereign. No one yet ventured to address him as king, though there were many indications that his rank was beginning to be known. Frederick therefore decided to get out of the city as soon as possible. To conceal his design, he made arrangements to attend the theatre with the marshal in the evening. The marshal went to the theatre with all his officers. The building was crowded with the multitude hoping to see the king. Bonfires began to blaze in the streets, and shouts were heard of “Long live the King of Prussia.” Frederick hastily collected his companions, paid his enormous bill at the Raven, “shot off like lightning,” and was seen in Strasbourg no more.“About nine this morning,” was the reply, “the prince got to horse. Not long after three he came back again with a swarm of officers, all going full speed for Lissa. They were full of bragging when they came; now they were off wrong side foremost! I saw how it was. Close following after him the flood of them ran. The high road was not broad enough. It was an hour and more before it ended. Such a pell-mell, such a welter! cavalry and infantry all jumbled together. Our king must have given them a terrible flogging.”“I march to-morrow for Breslau, and shall be there in four days. You Berliners have a spirit of prophecy which goes beyond me. In fine, I go my road; and you will shortly see Silesia ranked in the list of our provinces. Adieu! this is all I have time to tell you. Religion and our brave soldiers will do the rest.”
In the mean time, on the 24th of January, Charles Albert, King of Bavaria, through the intrigues of the French minister and the diplomacy of Frederick, was chosen Emperor of Germany. This election Frederick regarded as a great triumph on his part. It was the signal defeat of Austria. Very few of the sons of Adam have passed a more joyless and dreary earthly pilgrimage than was the fortune of Charles Albert. At the time of his election he was forty-five years of age, of moderate stature, polished manners, and merely ordinary abilities. He was suffering from a complication of the most painful disorders. His previous life had been but a series of misfortunes, and during all the rest of his days he was assailed by the storms of adversity. In death alone he found refuge from a life almost without a joy.Preparations were now made for the capture of Neisse. This was an opulent, attractive, well-fortified town of about seven thousand inhabitants. It then occupied only the left or north bank of the stream, which runs from the west to the east. The region around, being highly cultivated, presented a beautiful aspect of rich meadows, orchards, and vineyards. It was the chief fortress of Southern Silesia, and, being very near the frontier of Austria proper, was a position of great importance. Frederick, having encountered so little opposition thus far, was highly elated, expecting that Neisse would also immediately fall into his hands. From Ottmachau he wrote, on the 14th of January, to M. Jordan as follows:
“When godless fellows about you speak against your duties to God, the king, and your country, fall instantly on your knees and pray with your whole soul to Jesus Christ to deliver you from such wickedness, and lead you on better ways. And if it come in earnest from your heart, Jesus, who would have all men saved, will not leave you unheard.
Frederick concentrated his army at Konopischt, very near Beneschau. He could bring into the field sixty thousand men. Prince Charles was at the head of seventy thousand. In vain336 the Prussian king strove to bring his foes to a pitched battle. Adroitly Prince Charles avoided any decisive engagement. Frederick was fifty miles from Prague. The roads were quagmires. November gales swept his camp. A foe, superior in numbers, equal in bravery, surrounded him on all sides. The hostile army was led by a general whose greater military ability Frederick acknowledged.“The queen was alone, in his majesty’s apartment, waiting for him as he approached. As soon as he saw her at the end of the suite of rooms, and long before he arrived in the one where she was, he cried out, ‘Your unworthy son has at last ended himself. You have done with him.’“Believe, my charming sister, that never brother in the world loved with such tenderness a sister so charming as mine.”
543 “I look upon this day,” the king replied, “as the fairest of my life; for it will become the epoch of uniting two houses which have been enemies too long, and whose mutual interests require that they should strengthen, not weaken, one another.”
“‘I skip over it,’ he replied, laughing; and then began to talk of other things. He inquired,
“My heart and my inclination excited in me, from the moment I mounted the throne, the desire of having you here, that you might put our Berlin Academy in the shape you alone are capable of giving it. Come then, come, and insert into this wild crab-tree the sciences, that it may bear fruit. You have shown the figure of the earth to mankind; show also to a king how sweet it is to possess such a man as you.MAP OF THE CAMPAIGN OF ROSSBACH.
Many bitter words had already passed between Louis XV. and Frederick. But recently a new element of discord had appeared. The Duchess of Pompadour, the guilty favorite of Louis XV., beautiful, fascinating, and wicked, had become a power in Europe, notwithstanding the ignoble position she occupied.399 This artful and enchanting woman, having the weak king completely under her control, was in reality the ruler of France. The proudest nobles and the highest ecclesiastics bowed submissively at her shrine. Even the immaculate Maria Theresa, constrained by state policy, wrote flattering notes to her, addressing her as “my cousin,” “princess and cousin,” “madame, my dearest sister.”
On Saturday morning, August 28, 1756, the Prussian army, over one hundred thousand strong, entered Saxony at three different points on the northern frontier. Frederick, with about sixty thousand troops, crossed the Elbe at Torgau, and seized upon Leipsic. Duke Ferdinand, of Hanover, led his columns405 across the frontier about eighty miles to the right. The Duke of Brunswick-Bevern crossed about the same distance to the left. Each column was stronger than the whole Saxon army. The appointed place of rendezvous for the three divisions was the city of Dresden, the capital of Saxony. By the route marked out, each column had a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles to traverse.Frederick deemed it of great importance to gain immediate possession of Glogau. It was bravely defended by the Austrian commander, Count Wallis, and there was hourly danger that an Austrian army might appear for its relief. Frederick, in the intensity of his anxiety, as he hurried from post to post, wrote from every stopping-place to young Leopold, whom he had left in command of the siege, urging him immediately to open the trenches, concentrate the fire of his batteries, and to carry the place by storm. “I have clear intelligence,” he wrote, “that troops are actually on the way for the rescue of Glogau.” Each note was more imperative than the succeeding one. On the 6th of March he wrote from Ohlau:详情
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