“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.“‘You are in a circle,’ said I. ‘How will you get out of it?
The king’s brother Henry was in command in Saxony, at the head of thirty thousand troops. Frederick wrote to him the characteristic and very judicious advice, “Do as energetically as possible whatever seems wisest to you. But hold no councils of war.”The distinguished philosopher Maupertuis accompanied Frederick264 on this campaign. Following the king to the vicinity of the field of battle, he took a post of observation at a safe distance, that he might witness the spectacle. Carlyle, in his peculiar style of word-painting, describes the issue as follows:
Frederick withdrew his troops into strong cantonments in the valley of the upper Elbe. This beautiful river takes its rise in romantic chasms, among the ridges and spurs of the Giant Mountains, on the southeastern borders of Silesia. Here the Prussian army was distributed in small towns along a line following the windings of the stream, about forty miles in length. All the troops could be concentrated in forty-eight hours. The encampments faced the south, with the Elbe behind them. At some little distance north of the river, safe from surprise, the magazines were stationed. The mountains of Bohemia rose sublimely306 in the distant background. In a letter to M. Jordan, under date of Chrudim, May 5th, 1742, Frederick expresses his views of this profitless campaign in the following terms:The weal or woe of a single human polyp was, in the view of Frederick, entirely unimportant in comparison with the great enterprises he was ambitious of achieving. For this dismemberment of Poland Frederick was severely assailed in a book entitled “Polish Dialogues.” In answer to a letter from Voltaire, he wrote, under date of March 2, 1775:
General Daun thought that such energy as this could not be a feint. He was much nearer to Glatz than was Frederick. Monday, July 7th, the Prussian troops rested. General Daun pressed on. Tuesday night he was two days’ march ahead of Frederick. In the mean time, the Prussian king, who had made this tremendous march simply to draw the foe from Dresden, suddenly turned, and with the utmost velocity directed his troops back toward the city.The French marshal, Belleisle, alarmed by the report that Frederick was entering into a treaty of peace with Austria, hastened to the Prussian camp to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the rumor. Frederick, emboldened by the document he had in his pocket, was very frank.All thoughts of the double marriage were for the moment relinquished. The Czar of Russia had a son and a daughter. It was proposed to marry Wilhelmina to the son and Fritz to the daughter, and thus to secure a Russian instead of an English alliance. Harassed by these difficulties, Frederick William grew increasingly morose, venting his spite upon his wife and children. Fritz seriously contemplated escaping from his father’s abuse by flight, and to take refuge with his uncle George in England, and thus to secure his marriage with Amelia. The portraits of the62 princess which he had seen proved her to be very beautiful. All reports pronounced her to be as lovely in character as in person. He was becoming passionately attached to her. Wilhelmina was his only confidante. Regard for her alone restrained him from attempting to escape. “He would have done so long ago,” writes Dubourgay, under date of August 11, 1729, “were it not for his sister, upon whom the whole weight of his father’s resentment would then fall. Happen what will, therefore, he is resolved to share with her all the hardships which the king, his father, may be pleased to put upon her.”
After the fifth charge, the Austrians, dispirited, and leaving the snow plain crimsoned with the blood and covered with the bodies of their slain, withdrew out of ball range. Torn and exhausted, they could not be driven by their officers forward to another assault. The battle had now lasted for five hours.262 Night was at hand, for the sun had already set. The repulsed Austrians were collected in scattered and confused bands. The experienced eye of General Schwerin saw that the hour for decisive action had come. He closed up his ranks, ordered every band to play its most spirited air, and gave the order “Forward.” An Austrian officer, writing the next week, describes the scene.
The king, in utter exhaustion from hunger, sleeplessness, anxiety, and misery, for a moment lost all self-control. As with his little band of fugitives he vanished into the gloom of the night, not knowing where to go, he exclaimed, in the bitterness of his despair, “O my God, my God, this is too much!”
307 Elsewhere, Frederick, speaking of these two winter campaigns, says: “Winter campaigns are bad, and should always be avoided, except in cases of necessity. The best army in the world is liable to be ruined by them. I myself have made more winter campaigns than any general of this age. But there were reasons. In 1740 there were hardly above two Austrian regiments in Silesia, at the death of the Emperor Charles VI. Being determined to assert my right to that duchy, I had to try it at once, in winter, and carry the war, if possible, to the banks of the Neisse. Had I waited till spring, we must have begun the war between Crossen and Glogau. What was now to be gained by one march would then have cost us three or four campaigns. A sufficient reason, this, for campaigning in winter. If I did not succeed in the winter campaigns of 1742, a campaign which I made to deliver Moravia, then overrun by Austrians, it was because the French acted like fools, and the Saxons like traitors.”64
The Russians, with empty meal-wagons and starving soldiers, had taken possession of Frankfort-on-the-Oder on the 29th of July. The city contained twelve thousand inhabitants. The ransom which the Russian general demanded to save the city from pillage by the Cossacks was four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Pillage by the Cossacks! No imagination can conceive the horrors of such an event. Nearly one hundred thousand men, frenzied with intoxication, brutal in their habits, restrained by no law, would inflict every outrage which fiends could conceive of. Well might fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, turn pale and feel the blood curdle in their veins at the thought. Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars ransom! That was nearly forty dollars for each individual, man, woman, and child! Compliance with the demand was impossible. Frankfort, in its impoverishment, could by no possibility raise a tenth part of the sum. Dreadful was the consternation. There was no relenting; the money or the pillage!
Dr. Moore gives the following account of a surprising scene, considering that the king was an infirm and suffering man seventy-three years of age:Frederick, in his Histoire de mon Temps, states that, in the negotiations which at this time took place in Berlin, France pressed the king to bring forward his armies into vigorous co-operation; that England exhorted him to make peace with Austria; that Spain solicited his alliance in her warfare against England; that Denmark implored his counsel as to the course it was wise for that kingdom to pursue; that Sweden entreated his aid against Russia; that Russia besought his good offices to make298 peace with the court at Stockholm; and that the German empire, anxious for peace, entreated him to put an end to those troubles which were convulsing all Europe.
But the young King Frederick was very ambitious of enlarging the borders of his Liliputian realm, and of thus attaining a higher position among the proud and powerful monarchs who surrounded him. Maria Theresa, who had inherited the crown of Austria, was a remarkably beautiful, graceful, and accomplished216 young lady, in the twenty-fourth year of her age. She was a young wife, having married Francis, Duke of Lorraine. Her health, as we have mentioned, was at that time delicate. Frederick thought the opportunity a favorable one for wresting Silesia from Austria, and annexing it to his own kingdom. The queen was entirely inexperienced, and could not prove a very formidable military antagonist. Her army was in no respect, either in number, discipline, or materiel, prepared for war. Her treasury was deplorably empty. There was also reason for Frederick to hope that several claimants would rise in opposition to her, disputing the succession.Very vigorous measures were immediately adopted to establish an Academy of Sciences. The celebrated French philosopher Maupertuis, who had just obtained great renown from measuring a degree of the meridian at the polar circle, was invited to organize this very important institute. The letter to the philosopher, written by the king but a few days after his accession, was as follows:In September, 1777, the King of Bavaria died. The emperor thought it a good opportunity to annex Bavaria to Austria. “Do but look on the map,” says Carlyle, in his peculiar style of thought and expression: “you would say, Austria without Bavaria is like a human figure with its belly belonging to somebody else. Bavaria is the trunk or belly of the Austrian dominions, shutting off all the limbs of them each from the other; making for central part a huge chasm.详情
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