HISTORY OF FRIEDRICH II. OF PRUSSIA
FREDERICK THE GREAT
By Thomas Carlyle
BOOK XVIII.—SEVEN-YEARS WAR RISES TO A HEIGHT.—1757-1759.
Chapter I.—THE CAMPAIGN OPENS.
Seldom was there seen such a combination against any man as this against Friedrich, after his Saxon performances in 1756. The extent of his sin, which is now ascertained to have been what we saw, was at that time considered to transcend all computation, and to mark him out for partition, for suppression and enchainment, as the general enemy of mankind. "Partition him, cut him down," said the Great Powers to one another; and are busy, as never before, in raising forces, inciting new alliances and calling out the general POSSE COMITATUS of mankind, for that salutary object. What tempestuous fulminations in the Reichstag, and over all Europe, England alone excepted, against this man!
Latterly the Swedes, who at first had compunctions on the score of Protestantism, have agreed to join in the Partitioning adventure: "It brings us his Pommern, all Pommern ours!" cry the Swedish Parliamentary Eloquences (with French gold in their pocket): "At any rate," whisper they, "it spites the Queen his Sister!"—and drag the poor Swedish Nation into a series of disgraces and disastrous platitudes it was little anticipating. This precious French-Swedish Bargain ("Swedes to invade with 25,000; France to give fair subsidy," and bribe largely) was consummated in March; ["21st March, 1757" (Stenzel, v. 38; &c.).] but did not become known to Friedrich for some months later; nor was it of the importance he then thought it, in the first moment of surprise and provocation. Not indeed of importance to anybody, except, in the reverse way, to poor Sweden itself, and to the French, who had spent a great deal of pains and money on it, and continued to spend, with as good as no result at all. For there never was such a War, before or since, not even by Sweden in the Captainless state! And the one profit the copartners reaped from it, was some discountenance it gave to the rumor which had risen, more extensively than we should now think, and even some nucleus of fact in it as appears, That Austria, France and the Catholic part of the Reich were combining to put down Protestantism. To which they could now answer, "See, Protestant Sweden is with us!"—and so weaken a little what was pretty much Friedrich's last hold on the public sympathies at this time.
As to France itself,—to France, Austria, Russia,—bound by such earthly Treaties, and the call of very Heaven, shall they not, in united puissance and indignation, rise to the rescue? France, touched to the heart by such treatment of a Saxon Kurfurst, and bound by Treaty of Westphalia to protect all members of the Reich (which it has sometimes, to our own knowledge, so carefully done), is almost more ardent than Austria itself. France, Austria, Russia; to these add Polish Majesty himself; and latterly the very Swedes, by French bribery at Stockholm: these are the Partitioning Powers;—and their shares (let us spare one line for their shares) are as follows.
The Swedes are to have Pommern in whole; Polish-Saxon Majesty gets Magdeburg, Halle, and opulent slices thereabouts; Austria's share, we need not say, is that jewel of a Silesia. Czarish Majesty, on the extreme East, takes Preussen, Konigsberg-Memel Country in whole; adds Preussen to her as yet too narrow Territories. Wesel-Cleve Country, from the other or Western extremity, France will take that clipping, and make much of it. These are quite serious business-engagements, engrossed on careful parchment, that Spring, 1757, and I suppose not yet boiled down into glue, but still to be found in dusty corners, with the tape much faded. The high heads, making preparation on the due scale, think them not only executable, but indubitable, and almost as good as done. Push home upon him, as united Posse Comitatus of Mankind; in a sacred cause of Polish Majesty and Public Justice, how can one malefactor resist?"AH, MA TRES-CHERE" and "Oh, my dearest Princess and Cousin," what a chance has turned up!
It is computed that there are arrayed against this one King, under their respective Kings, Empress-Queens, Swedish Senates, Catins and Pompadours, populations to the amount of above 100 millions,—in after stages, I remember to have seen "150 millions" loosely given as the exaggerated cipher. Of armed soldiers actually in the field against him (against Hanover and him), in 1757, there are, by strict count, 430,000. Friedrich's own Dominions at this time contain about Five Millions of Population; of Revenue somewhat less than Two Millions sterling. New taxes he cannot legally, and will not, lay on his People. His SCHATZ (ready-money Treasure, or Hoard yearly accumulating for such end) is, I doubt not, well filled,—express amount not mentioned. Of drilled men he has, this Year, 150,000 for the field; portioned out thriftily,—as well beseems, against Four Invasions coming on him from different points. In the field, 150,000 soldiers, probably the best that ever were; and in garrison, up and down (his Country being, by nature, the least defensible of all Countries), near 40,000, which he reckons of inferior quality. So stands the account. [Stenzel, iv. 308, 306, v. 39; Ranke, iii. 415; Preuss, ii, 389, 43, 124; &c. &c.;—substantially true, I doubt not; but little or nothing of it so definite and conclusively distinct as it ought, in all items, to have been by this time,—had poor Dryasdust known what he was doing.] These are, arithmetically precise, his resources,—PLUS only what may lie in his own head and heart, or funded in the other heads and hearts, especially in those 150,000, which he and his Fathers have been diligently disciplining, to good perfection, for four centuries come the time.
France, urged by Pompadour and the enthusiasms, was first in the field. The French Army, in superb equipment, though privately in poorish state of discipline, took the road early in March; "March 26th and 27th," it crossed the German Border, Cleve Country and Koln Country; had been rumored of since January and February last, as terrifically grand; and here it now actually is, above 100,000 strong,—110,405, as the Army-Lists, flaming through all the Newspapers, teach mankind. [Helden-Geschichte, iv. 391; iii. 1073.] Bent mainly upon Prussia, it would seem; such the will of Pompadour. Mainly upon Prussia; Marechal d'Estrees, crossing at Koln, made offers even to his Britannic Majesty to be forgiven in comparison; "Yield us a road through your Hanover, merely a road to those Halberstadt-Magdeburg parts, your Hanover shall have neutrality!" "Neutrality to Hanover?" sighed Britannic Majesty: "Alas, am not I pledged by Treaty? And, alas, withal, how is it possible, with that America hanging over us?" and stood true. Nor is this all, on the part of magnanimous France: there is a Soubise getting under way withal, Soubise and 30,000, who will reinforce the Reich's Armament, were it on foot, and be heard of by and by! So high runs French enthusiasm at present. A new sting of provocation to Most Christian Majesty, it seems, has been Friedrich's conduct in that Damiens matter (miserable attempt, by a poor mad creature, to assassinate; or at least draw blood upon the Most Christian Majesty ["Evening of 5th January, 1757" (exuberantly plentiful details of it, and of the horrible Law-procedures which followed on it: In Adelung, viii. 197-220; Barbier, &c. &c.).]); about which Friedrich, busy and oblivious, had never, in common politeness, been at the pains to condole, compliment, or take any notice whatever. And will now take the consequences, as due!—
The Wesel-Cleve Countries these French find abandoned: Friedrich's garrisons have had orders to bring off the artillery and stores, blow up what of the works are suitable for blowing up; and join the "Britannic Army of Observation" which is getting itself together in those regions. Considerable Army, Britannic wholly in the money part: new Hanoverians so many, Brunswickers, Buckeburgers, Sachsen-Gothaers so many; add those precious Hanoverian-Hessian 20,000, whom we have had in England guarding our liberties so long,—who are now shipped over in a lot; fair wind and full sea to them. Army of 60,000 on paper; of effective more than 50,000; Head-quarters now at Bielefeld on the Weser;—where, "April 16th," or a few days later, Royal Highness of Cumberland comes to take command; likely to make a fine figure against Marechal d'Estrees and his 100,000 French! But there was no helping it. Friedrich, through Winter, has had Schmettau earnestly flagitating the Hanoverian Officialities: "The Weser is wadable in many places, you cannot defend the Weser!" and counselling and pleading to all lengths,—without the least effect. "Wants to save his own Halberstadt lands, at our expense!" Which was the idea in London, too: "Don't we, by Apocalyptic Newswriters and eyesight of our own, understand the man?" Pitt is by this time in Office, who perhaps might have judged a little otherwise. But Pitt's seat is altogether temporary, insecure; the ruling deities Newcastle and Royal Highness, who withal are in standing quarrel. So that Friedrich, Schmettau, Mitchell pleaded to the deaf. Nothing but "Defend the Weser," and ignorant Fatuity ready for the Impossible, is to be made out there. "Cannot help it, then," thinks Friedrich, often enough, in bad moments; "Army of Observation will have its fate. Happily there are only 5,000 Prussians in it, Wesel and the other garrisons given up!"
Only 5,000 Prussians: by original Engagement, there should have been 25,000; and Friedrich's intention is even 45,000 if he prosper otherwise. For in January, 1757 (Anniversary, or nearly so, of that NEUTRALITY CONVENTION last year), there had been—encouraged by Pitt, as I could surmise, who always likes Friedrich—a definite, much closer TREATY OF ALLIANCE, with "Subsidy of a million sterling," Anti-Russian "Squadron of Observation in the Baltic," "25,000 Prussians," and other items, which I forget. Forget the more readily, as, owing to the strange state of England (near suffocating in its Constitutional bedclothes), the Treaty could not be kept at all, or serve as rule to poor England's exertions for Friedrich this Year; exertions which were of the willing-minded but futile kind, going forward pell-mell, not by plan, and could reach Friedrich only in the lump,—had there been any "lump" of them to sum together. But Pitt had gone out;—we shall see what, in Pitt's absence, there was! So that this Treaty 1757 fell quite into the waste-basket (not to say, far deeper, by way of "pavement" we know where!),—and is not mentioned in any English Book; nor was known to exist, till some Collector of such things printed it, in comparatively recent times. ["M. Koch in 1802," not very perfectly (Scholl, iii. 30 n.; who copies what Koch has given).] A Treaty 1757, which, except as emblem of the then quasi-enchanted condition of England, and as Foreshadow of Pitt's new Treaty in January, 1758, and of three others that followed and were kept to the letter, is not of moment farther.
REICH'S THUNDER, SLIGHT SURVEY OF IT; WITH QUESTION, WHITHERWARD, IF ANY-WHITHER.
The thunderous fulminations in the Reich's-Diet—an injured Saxony complaining, an insulted Kaiser, after vain DEHORTATORIUMS, reporting and denouncing "Horrors such as these: What say you, O Reich?"—have been going on since September last; and amount to boundless masses of the liveliest Parliamentary Eloquence, now fallen extinct to all creatures. [Given, to great lengths, in Helden-Geschichte, iii. iv. (and other easily avoidable Books).] The Kaiser, otherwise a solid pacific gentleman, intent on commercial operations (furnishes a good deal of our meal, says Friedrich), is Officially extremely violent in behalf of injured Saxony,—that is to say, in fact, of injured Austria, which is one's own. Kur-Mainz, Chairman of the Diet (we remember how he was got, and a Battle of Dettingen fought in consequence, long since); Kur-Mainz is admitted to have the most decided Austrian leanings: Britannic George, Austria being now in the opposite scale, finds him an unhandy Kur-Mainz, and what profit it was to introduce false weights into the Reich's balance that time! Not for long generations before, had the poor old semi-imaginary Reich's-Diet risen into such paroxysms; nor did it ever again after. Never again, in its terrestrial History, was there such agonistic parliamentary struggle, and terrific noise of parliamentary palaver, witnessed in the poor Reich's-Diet. Noise and struggle rising ever higher, peal after peal, from September, 1756, when it started, till August, 1757, when it had reached its acme (as perhaps we shall see), though it was far from ending then, or for years to come.
Contemporary by-standers remark, on the Austrian part, extraordinary rage and hatred against Prussia; which is now the one point memorable. Austria is used to speak loud in the Diet, as we have ourselves seen: and it is again (if you dive into those old AEolus'-Caves, at your peril) unpleasantly notable to what pitch of fixed rage, and hot sullen hatred Austria has now gone; and how the tone has in it a potency of world-wide squealing and droning, such as you nowhere heard before. Omnipotence of droning, edged with shrieky squealing, which fills the Universe, not at all in a melodious way. From the depths of the gamut to the shrieky top again,—a droning that has something of porcine or wild-boar character. Figure assembled the wild boars of the world, all or mostly all got together, and each with a knife just stuck into its side, by a felonious individual too well known,—you will have some notion of the sound of these things. Friedrich sometimes remonstrates: "Cannot you spare such phraseology, unseemly to Kings? The quarrels of Kings have to be decided by the sword; what profit in unseemly language, Madam?"—but, for the first year and more, there was no abatement on the Austrian part.
Friedrich's own Delegate at Regensburg, a Baron von Plotho, come of old Brandenburg kindred, is a resolute, ready-tongued, very undaunted gentleman; learned in Diplomacies and Reich's Law; carries his head high, and always has his story at hand. Argument, grounded on Reich's Law and the nature of the case, Plotho never lacks, on spur of the hour: and is indeed a very commendable parliamentary mastiff; and honorable and melodious in the bark of him, compared with those infuriated porcine specimens. He has Kur-Hanover for ally on common occasions, and generally from most Protestant members individually, or from the CORPUS EVANGELICORUM in mass, some feeble whimper of support. Finds difficulty in getting his Reich's Pleadings printed;—dangerous, everywhere in those Southern Parts, to print anything whatever that is not Austrian: so that Plotho, at length, gets printers to himself, and sets up a Printing-Press in his own house at Regensburg. He did a great deal of sonorous pleading for Friedrich; proud, deep-voiced, ruggedly logical; fairly beyond the Austrian quality in many cases,—and always far briefer, which is another high merit. October coming, we purpose to look in upon Plotho for one minute; "October 14th, 1757;" which may be reckoned essentially the acme or turning-point of these unpleasant thunderings. [Helden-Geschichte, iv. 745-749.]
What good he did to Friedrich, or could have done with the tongue of angels in such an audience, we do not accurately know. Some good he would do even in the Reich's-Diet there; and out of doors, over a German public, still more; and is worth his frugal wages,—say 1,000 pounds a year, printing and all other expense included! This is a mere guess of mine, Dryasdust having been incurious: but, to English readers it is incredible for what sums Friedrich got his work done, no work ever better. Which is itself an appreciable advantage, computable in pounds sterling; and is the parent of innumerable others which no Arithmetic or Book-keeping by Double Entry will take hold of, and which are indeed priceless for Nations and for persons. But this poor old bedridden Reich, starting in agonistic spasm at such rate: is it not touching, in a Corpus moribund for so many Centuries past! The Reich is something; though it is not much, nothing like so much as even Kaiser Franz supposes it. Much or not so much, Kaiser Franz wishes to secure it for himself; Friedrich to hinder him,—and it must be a poor something, if not worth Plotho's wages on Friedrich's part.
It would insult the patience of every reader to go into these spasmodic tossings of the poor paralytic Reich; or to mention the least item of them beyond what had some result, or fraction of result, on the world's real affairs. We shall say only, therefore, that after tempests not a few of porcine squealing, answered always by counter-latration on the vigilant Plotho's part;—squealing, chiefly, from the Reich's-Hofrath at Vienna, the Head Tribunal of Imperial Majesty, which sits judging and denouncing there, touched to the soul, as if by a knife driven into its side, by those unheard-of treatments of Saxony and disregard to our DEHORTATORIUMS, and which bursts out, peal after peal, filling the Universe, Plotho not unvigilant;—the poor old Reich's-Diet did at last get into an acting posture, and determine, by clear majority of 99 against 60, that there should be a "Reich's Execution Army" got on foot. Reich's Execution Army to coerce, by force of arms, this nefarious King of Prussia into making instant restitution to Saxony, with ample damages on the nail; that right be done to Kurfursts of this Reich. To such height of vigor has the Reich's-Diet gone;—and was voting it at Regensburg January 10th, 1757; [Helden-Geschichte, iv. 252, 302, 330; Stenzel, v. 32.] that very day when nefarious Friedrich at Berlin, case-hardened in iniquity to such a pitch, sat writing his INSTRUCTION TO COUNT FINCK, which we read not long since. Simultaneous movements, unknown to one another, in this big wrestle.
Reich's-Diet perfected its Vote; had it quite through, and sanctioned by the Kaiser's Majesty, January 29th: "Arming to be a TRIPLUM" (triple contingent required of you this time); with Romish-months (ROMERMONATE) of cash contributions from all and sundry (rigorously gathered, I should hope, where Austria has power), so many as will cover the expense. Army to be got on actual foot hastily, instantly if possible: an "EILENDE REICHS-EXECUTIONS ARMEE;" so it ran, but the word EILENDE (speedy) had a mischance in printing, and was struck off into ELENDE (contemptibly wretched): so that on all Market-Squares and Public Places of poor Teutschland, you read flaming Placards summoning out, not a speedy or immediate, but "a MISERABLE Reich's Execution Army!" A word which, we need not say, was laughed at by the unfeeling part of the public; and was often called to mind by the Reich's Execution Army's performances, when said SPEEDY Army did at last take the field.
For the Reich performed its Vote; actually had a Reich's Execution Army; the last it ever had in this world, not by any means the worst it ever had, for they used generally to be bad. Commanders, managers are named, Romermonate are gathered in, or the sure prospect of them; and, through May-June, 1757, there is busy stir, of drumming, preparing and enlisting, all over the Reich. End of July, we shall see the Reich's Army in Camp; end of August, actually in the field; and later on, a touch of its fighting withal. Many other things the Reich tried against unfortunate Friedrich,—gradual advance, in fact, to Ban of the Reich (or total anathema and cutting-off from fire and water): but in none of these, in Ban as little as any, did it come to practical result at all, or acquire the least title to be remembered at this day. Finis of Ban, some eight months hence, has something of attractive as futility, the curious Death of a Futility. Finis of Ban (October 14th, already indicated) we may for one moment look in upon, if there be one moment to spare; the rest—readers may fancy it; and read only of the actuality and fighting part, which will itself be enough for them on such a matter.
FRIEDRICH SUDDENLY MARCHES ON PRAG.
Four Invasions, from their respective points of the compass, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest: here is a formidable outlook for the one man against whom they are all advancing open-mouthed. The one man—with nothing but a Duke of Cumberland and his Observation Army for backing in such duel—had need to look to himself! Which, we well know, he does; wrapt in profoundly silent vigilance, with his plans all laid. Of the Four Invasions, three, the Russian, French, Austrian, are very large; and the two latter, especially the last, are abundantly formidable. The Swedish, of which there is rumoring, he hopes may come to little, or not come at all. Nor is Russia, though talking big, and actually getting ready above 100,000 men, so immediately alarming. Friedrich always hopes the English, with their guineas and their managements, will do something for him in that quarter; and he knows, at worst, that the Russian Hundred Thousand will be a very slow-moving entity. The Swedish Invasion Friedrich, for the present, leaves to chance: and against Russia, he has sent old Marshal Lehwald into those Baltic parts; far eastward, towards the utmost Memel Frontier, to put the Country upon its own defence, and make what he can of it with 30,000 men,—West-Prussian militias a good few of them. This is all he can spare on the Swedish-Russian side: Austria and France are the perilous pair of entities; not to be managed except by intense concentration of stroke; and by going on them in succession, if one have luck!—
Friedrich's motions and procedures in canton-quarters, through Winter and in late months, have led to the belief that he means to stand on the defensive; that the scene of the Campaign will probably be Saxony; and that Austria, for recovering injured Saxony, for recovering dear Silesia, will have to take an invasive attitude. And Austria is busy everywhere preparing with that view. Has Tolpatcheries, and advanced Brigades, still harassing about in the Lausitz. A great Army assembling at Prag,—Browne forward towards the Metal Mountains securing posts, gathering magazines, for the crossing into Saxony there. There, it is thought, the tug of war will probably be. Furious, and strenuous, it is not doubted, on this Friedrich's part: but against such odds, what can he do? With Austrians in front, with Russians to left, with French to right and arear, not to mention Swedes and appendages: surely here, if ever, is a lost King!—
It is by no means Friedrich's intention that Saxony itself shall need to be invaded. Friedrich's habit is, as his enemies might by this time be beginning to learn, not that of standing on the defensive, but that of GOING on it, as the preferable method wherever possible. March 24th, Friedrich had quitted Dresden City; and for a month after (head-quarters Lockwitz, edge of the Pirna Country), he had been shifting, redistributing, his cantoned Army,—privately into the due Divisions, due readiness for march. Which done, on fixed days, about the end of April, the whole Army, he himself from Lockwitz, April 20th,—to the surprise of Austria and the world, Friedrich in three grand Columns, Bevern out of the Lausitz, King himself over the Metal Mountains, Schwerin out of Schlesien, is marching with extraordinary rapidity direct for Prag; in the notion that a right plunge into the heart of Bohemia will be the best defence for Saxony and the other places under menace.
This is a most unexpected movement; which greatly astonishes the world-theatre, pit, boxes and gallery alike (as Friedrich's sudden movements often do); and which is, above all, interesting on the stage itself, where the actors had been counting on a quite opposite set of entries and activities! Feldmarschall Browne and General Konigseck (not our old friend Konigseck, who used to dry-nurse in the Netherlands, but his nephew and heir) may cease gathering Magazines, in those Lausitz and Metal-Mountain parts: happy could they give wings to those already gathered! Magazines, for Austrian service, are clearly not the things wanted there. One does not burn one's Magazines till the last extremity; but wings they have none; and such is the enigmatic velocity of those Prussian movements, one seldom has time even to burn them, in the last crisis of catastrophe! Considerable portions of that provender fell into the Prussian throat; as much as "three months' provision for the whole Army," count they,—adding to those Frontier sundries the really important Magazine which they seized at Jung-Bunzlau farther in. [Helden-Geschichte, iv. 6-13; &c.] It is one among their many greater advantages from this surprisal of the enemy, and sudden topsy-turvying of his plans. Browne and Konigseck have to retire on Prag at their swiftest; looking to more important results than Magazines.
It is Friedrich's old plan. Long since, in 1744, we saw a march of this kind, Three Columns rushing with simultaneous rapidity on Prag; and need not repeat the particulars on this occasion. Here are some Notes on the subject, which will sufficiently bring it home to readers:—
"The Three Columns were, for a part of the way, Four; the King's being, at first, in two branches, till they united again, on the other side of the Hills. For the King," what is to be noted, "had shot out, three weeks before, a small preliminary branch, under Moritz of Dessau; who marched, well westward, by Eger (starting from Chemnitz in Saxony); and had some tussling with our poor old friend Duke d'Ahremberg, Browne's subordinate in those parts. D'Ahremberg, having 20,000 under him, would not quit Eger for Moritz; but pushed out Croats upon him, and sat still. This, it was afterwards surmised, had been a feint on Friedrich's part; to give the Austrians pleasant thoughts: 'Invading us, is he? Would fain invade us, but cannot!' Moritz fell back from Eger; and was ready to join the King's march, (at Linay, April 23d' (third day from Lockwitz, on the King's part). Onwards from which point the Columns are specifically Three; in strength, and on routes, somewhat as follows:—
1. "The FIRST Column, or King's,—which is 60,000 after this junction, 45,000 foot, 15,000 horse,—quitted Lockwitz (head-quarter for a month past), WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20TH. They go by the Pascopol and other roads; through Pirna, for one place: through Karbitz, Aussig, are at Linay on the 23d; where Moritz joins: 24th, in the united state, forward again (leave Lobositz two miles to left); to Trebnitz, 25th, and rest there one day.
"At Aussig an unfortunate thing befell. Zastrow, respectable old General Zastrow, was to drive the Austrians out of Aussig: Zastrow does it, April 22d-23d, drives them well over the heights; April 25th, however, marching forward towards Lobositz, Zastrow is shot through both temples (Pandour hid among the bushes and cliffs, OTHER side of Elbe), and falls dead on the spot. Buried in GOTTLEUBE Kirk, 1st May."
In these Aussig affairs, especially in recapturing the Castle of Tetschen near by, Colonel Mayer, father of the new "Free-Corps," did shining service;—and was approved of, he and they. And, a day or two after, was detached with a Fifteen Hundred of that kind, on more important business: First, to pick up one or two Bohemian Magazines lying handy; after which, to pay a visit to the Reich and its bluster about Execution-Army, and teach certain persons who it is they are thundering against in that awkwardly truculent manner! Errand shiningly done by Mayer, as perhaps we may hear,—and certainly as all the Newspapers loudly heard,—in the course of the next two months.
At crossing of the Eger, Friedrich's Column had some chasing of poor D'Ahremberg; attempting to cut him off from his Bridges, Bridge of Koschlitz, Bridge of Budin; but he made good despatch, Browne and he; and, except a few prisoners of Ziethen's gathering, and most of his Magazines unburnt, they did him no damage. The chase was close enough; more than once, the Austrian head-quarter of to-night was that of the Prussians to-morrow. Monday, May 2d, Friedrich's Column was on the Weissenberg of Prag; Browne, D'Ahremberg, and Prince Karl, who is now come up to take command, having hastily filed through the City, leaving a fit garrison, the day before. Except his Magazines, nothing the least essential went wrong with Browne; but Konigseck, who had not a Friedrich on his heels,—Konigseck, trying more, as his opportunities were more,—was not quite so lucky.
2. "Column SECOND, to the King's left, comes from the Lausitz under Brunswick-Bevern,—18,000 foot, 5,000 horse. This is the Bevern who so distinguished himself at Lobositz last year; and he is now to culminate into a still brighter exploit,—the last of his very bright ones, as it proved. Bevern set out from about Zittau (from Grottau, few miles south of Zittau), the same day with Friedrich, that is April 20th;—and had not well started till he came upon formidable obstacles. Came upon General Konigseck, namely: a Konigseck manoeuvring ahead, in superior force; a Maguire, Irish subordinate of Konigseck's, coming from the right to cut off our baggage (against whom Bevern has to detach); a Lacy, coming from the left;—or indeed, Konigseck and Lacy in concert, intending to offer battle. Battle of Reichenberg, which accordingly ensued, April 21st,"—of which, though it was very famous for so small a Battle, there can be no account given here.
The short truth is, Konigseck falling back, Parthian-like, with a force of 30,000 or more, has in front of him nothing but Bevern; who, as he issues from the Lausitz, and till he can unite with Schwerin farther southward, is but some 20,000 odd: cannot Konigseck call halt, and bid Bevern return, or do worse? Konigseck, a diligent enough soldier, determines to try; chooses an excellent position,—at or round Reichenberg, which is the first Bohemian Town, one march from Zittau in the Lausitz, and then one from Liebenau, which latter would be Bevern's SECOND Bohemian stage on the Prag road, if he continued prosperous. Reichenberg, standing nestled among hills in the Neisse Valley (one of those Four Neisses known to us, the Neisse where Prince Karl got exploded, in that signal manner, Winter, 1745, by a certain King), offers fine capabilities; which Konigseck has laid hold of. There is especially one excellent Hollow (on the left or western bank of Neisse River, that is, ACROSS from Reichenberg), backed by woody hills, nothing but hills, brooks, woods all round; Hollow scooped out as if for the purpose; and altogether of inviting character to Konigseck. There, "Wednesday, April 20th," Konigseck posts himself, plants batteries, fells abatis; plenty of cannon, of horse and foot, and, say all soldiers, one of the best positions possible.
So that Bevern, approaching Reichenberg at evening, evening of his first march, Wednesday, April 20th, finds his way barred; and that the difficulties may be considerable. "Nothing to be made of it to-night," thinks Bevern; "but we must try to-morrow!" and has to take camp, "with a marshy brook in front of him," some way on the hither side of Reichenberg; and study overnight what method of unbarring there may be. Thursday morning early, Bevern, having well reconnoitred and studied, was at work unbarring. Bevern crossed his own marshy brook; courageously assaulted Konigseck's position, left wing of Konigseck; stormed the abatis, the batteries, plunged in upon Konigseck, man to man, horse to horse, and after some fierce enough but brief dispute, tumbled Konigseck out of the ground. Konigseck made some attempt to rally; attempted twice, but in vain; had fairly to roll away, and at length to run, leaving 1,000 dead upon the field, about 500 prisoners; one or two guns, and I forget how many standards, or whether any kettle-drums. This was thought to be a decidedly bright feat on Bevern's part (rather mismanaged latterly on Konigseck's); [Tempelhof, i. 100; Helden-Geschichte, iii. 1077 (Friedrich's own Account, "Linay in Bohmen, 24th April, 1757"); &c. &c. There is, in Busching's Magazin (xvi. 139 et seq.), an intelligible sketch of this Action of Reichenherg, with satirical criticisms, which have some basis, on Lacy, Maguire and others, by an Anonymous Military Cynic,—who gives many such in BUSCHING (that of Fontenoy, for example), not without force of judgment, and signs of wide study and experience in his trade.]—much approved by Friedrich, as he hears of it, at Linay, on his own prosperous march Prag-ward. A comfortable omen, were there nothing more.
Konigseck and Company, torn out of Reichenberg, and set running, could not fairly halt again and face about till at Liebenau, twenty miles off, where they found some defile or difficult bit of ground fit for them; and this too proved capable of yielding pause for a few hours only. For Schwerin, with his Silesian Column, was coming up from the northeast, threatening Konigseck on flank and rear: Konigseck could only tighten his straps a little at this Liebenau, and again get under way; and making vain attempts to hinder the junction of Schwerin and Bevern, to defend the Jung-Bunzlau Magazine, or do any good in those parts, except to detain the Schwerin-Bevern people certain hours (I think, one day in all), had nothing for it but to gird himself together, and retreat on Prag and the Ziscaberg, where his friends now were.
The Austrian force at Reichenberg was 20,000; would have been 30 and odd thousands, had Maguire come up (as he might have done, had not the appearances alarmed him too much); Bevern, minus the Detachment sent against Maguire, was but 15,000 in fight; and he has quite burst the Austrians away, who had plugged his road for him in such force: is it not a comfortable little victory, glorious in its sort; and a good omen for the bigger things that are coming? Bevern marched composedly on, after this inspiriting tussle, through Liebenau and what defiles there were; April 24th, at Turnau, he falls into the Schwerin Column; incorporates himself therewith, and, as subordinate constituent part, accompanies Schwerin thenceforth.
3. "Column THIRD was Schwerin's, out of Schlesien; counted to be 32,000 foot, 12,000 horse. Schwerin, gathering himself, from Glatz and the northerly country, at Landshut,—very careless, he, of the pleasant Hills, and fine scattered peaks of the Giant Mountains thereabouts,—was completely gathered foremost of all the Columns, having farthest to go. And on Monday, 18th April, started from Landshut, Winterfeld leading one division. In our days, it is the finest of roads; high level Pass, of good width, across the Giant Range; pleasant painted hamlets sprinkling it, fine mountain ridges and distant peaks looking on; Schneekoppe (SNOWfell, its head bright-white till July come) attends you, far to the right, all the way:—probably Sprite Rubezahl inhabits there; and no doubt River Elbe begins his long journey there, trickling down in little threads over yonder, intending to float navies by and by: considerations infinitely indifferent to Schwerin. 'The road,' says my Tourist, (is not Alpine; it reminds you of Derbyshire-Peak country; more like the road from Castletown to Sheffield than any I could name;'—we have been in it before, my reader and I, about Schatzlar and other places. Trautenau, well down the Hills, with swift streams, more like torrents, bound Elbe-wards, watering it, is a considerable Austrian Town, and the Bohemian end of the Pass,—Sohr only a few miles from it: heartily indifferent to Schwerin at this moment; who was home from the Army, in a kind of disfavor, or mutual pet, at the time Sohr was done. Schwerin's March we shall not give; his junction with Bevern (at Turnau, on the Iser, April 24th), then their capture of Jung-Bunzlau Magazine, and crossing of the Elbe at Melnick, these were the important points; and, in spite of Konigseck's tusslings, these all went well, and nothing was lost except one day of time."
The Austrians, some days ago, as we observed, filed THROUGH Prag,—Sunday, May 1st, not a pleasant holiday-spectacle to the populations;—and are all encamped on the Ziscaberg high ground, on the other side of the City. Had they been alert, now was the time to attack Friedrich, who is weaker than they, while nobody has yet joined him. They did not think of it, under Prince Karl; and Browne and the Prince are said to be in bad agreement.
Chapter II.—BATTLE OF PRAG.
Monday morning, 2d May, 1757, the Vanguard, or advanced troops of Friedrich's Column, had appeared upon the Weissenberg, northwest corner of Prag (ground known to them in 1744, and to the poor Winter-King in 1620): Vanguard in the morning; followed shortly by Friedrich himself; and, hour after hour, by all the others, marching in. So that, before sunset, the whole force lay posted there; and had the romantic City of Prag full in view at their feet. A most romantic, high-piled, many-towered, most unlevel old City; its skylights and gilt steeple-cocks glittering in the western sun,—Austrian Camp very visible close beyond it, spread out miles in extent on the Ziscaberg Heights, or eastern side;—Prag, no doubt, and the Austrian Garrison of Prag, taking intense survey of this Prussian phenomenon, with commentaries, with emotions, hidden now in eternal silence, as is fit enough. One thing we know, "Head-quarter was in Welleslawin:" there, in that small Hamlet, nearly to north, lodged Friedrich, the then busiest man of Europe; whom Posterity is still striving for a view of, as something memorable.
Prince Karl, our old friend, is now in chief command yonder; Browne also is there, who was in chief command; their scheme of Campaign gone all awry. And to Friedrich, last night, at his quarters "in the Monastery of Tuchomirsitz," where these two Gentlemen had lodged the night before, it was reported that they had been heard in violent altercation; [Helden-Geschichte, iv. 11 (exact "Diary of the march" given there).]—both of them, naturally, in ill-humor at the surprising turn things had taken; and Feldmarschall Browne firing up, belike, at some platitude past or coming, at some advice of his rejected, some imputation cast on him, or we know not what. Prince Karl is now chief; and indignant Browne, as may well be the case, dissents a good deal,—as he has often had to do. Patience, my friend, it is near ending now! Prince Karl means to lie quiet on the Ziscaberg, and hold Prag; does not think of molesting Friedrich in his solitary state; and will undertake nothing, "till Konigseck, from Jung-Bunzlau, come in," victorious or not; or till perhaps even Daun arrive (who is, rather slowly, gathering reinforcement in Maren): "What can the enemy attempt on us, in a Post of this strength?" thinks Prince Karl. And Browne, whatever his insight or convictions be, has to keep silence.
"Weissenberg," let readers be reminded, "is on the hither or western side of Prag: the Hradschin [pronounce RadSHEEN, with accent on the last syllable, as in "SchwerIN" and other such cases], the Hradschin, which is the topmost summit of the City and of the Fashionable Quarter,—old Bohemian Palace, still occasionally habitable as such, and in constant use as a DOWNING STREET,—lies on the slope or shoulder of the Weissenberg, a good way from the top; and has a web of streets rushing down from it, steepest streets in the world; till they reach the Bridge, and broad-flowing Moldau (broad as Thames at half-flood, but nothing like so deep); after which the streets become level, and spread out in intricate plenty to right and to left, and ahead eastward, across the River, till the Ziscaberg, with frowning precipitous brow, suddenly puts a stop to them in that particular direction. From Ziscaberg top to Weissenberg top may be about five English miles; from the Hradschin to the foot of Ziscaberg, northwest to southeast, will be half that distance, the greatest length of Prag City. Which is rather rhomboidal in shape, its longer diagonal this that we mention. The shorter diagonal, from northmost base of Ziscaberg to southmost of Hradschin, is perhaps a couple of miles. Prag stands nestled in the lap of mountains; and is not in itself a strong place in war: but the country round it, Moldau ploughing his rugged chasm of a passage through the piled table-land, is difficult to manoeuvre in.
"Moldau Valley comes straight from the south, crosses Prag; and—making, on its outgate at the northern end of Prag (end of 'shortest diagonal' just spoken of), one big loop, or bend and counter-bend, of horse-shoe shape," which will be notable to us anon—"again proceeds straight northward and Elbe-ward. It is narrow everywhere, especially when once got fairly north of Prag; and runs along like a Quasi-Highland Strath, amid rocks and hills. Big Hill-ranges, not to be called barren, yet with rock enough on each hand, and fine side valleys opening here and there: the bottom of your Strath, which is green and fertile, with pleasant busy Villages (much intent on water-power and cotton-spinning in our time), is generally of few furlongs in breadth. And so it lasts, this pleasant Moldau Valley, mile after mile, on the northern or Lower Moldau, generally straight north, though with one big bend eastward just before ending; and not till near Melnick, or the mouth of Moldau, do we emerge on that grand Elbe Valley,—glanced at once already, from Pascopol or other Height, in the Lobositz times."
Friedrich's first problem is the junction with Schwerin: junction not to be accomplished south of Ziscaberg in the present circumstances; and which Friedrich knows to be a ticklish operation, with those Austrians looking on from the high grounds there. Tuesday, 3d May, in the way of reconnoitring, and decisively on Wednesday, 4th, Friedrich is off northward, along the western heights of Lower Moldau, proper force following him, to seek a fit place for the pontoons, and get across in that northern quarter. "How dangerous that Schwerin is a day too late!" murmurs he; but hopes the Austrians will undertake nothing. Keith, with 30,000, he has left on the Weissenberg, to straiten Prag and the Austrian Garrison on that side: our wagon-trains arrive from Leitmeritz on that side, Elbe-boats bring them up to Leitmeritz; very indispensable to guard that side of Prag. Friedrich's fixed purpose also is to beat the Austrians, on the other side of it, and send them packing; but for that, there are steps needful!
Up so far as Lissoley, the first day, Friedrich has found no fit place; but on the morrow, Thursday, 5th, farther up, at a place called Seltz, Friedrich finds his side of the Strath to be "a little higher than the other,"—proper, therefore, for cannonading the other, if need be;—and orders his pontoons to be built together there. He knows accurately of the Schwerin Column, of the comfortable Bevern Victory at Reichenberg, and how they have got the Jung-Bunzlau Magazine, and are across the Elbe, their bridges all secured, though with delay of one day; and do now wait only for the word,—for the three cannon-shot, in fact, which are to signify that Friedrich is actually crossing to their side of Lower Moldau.
Friedrich's Bridge is speedily built (trained human hands can be no speedier), his batteries planted, his precautions taken: the three cannon-shot go off, audible to Schwerin; and Friedrich's troops stream speedily across, hardly a Pandour to meddle with them. Nay, before the passage was complete—what light-horse squadrons are these? Hussars, seen to be Seidlitz's (missioned by Schwerin), appear on the outskirts: a meeting worthy of three cheers, surely, after such a march on both sides! Friedrich lies on the eastern Hill-tops that night (Hamlet of Czimitz his Head-quarter, discoverable if you wish it, scarcely three miles north of Prag); and accurate appointment is made with Schwerin as to the meeting-place to-morrow morning. Meeting-place is to be the environs of Prossik Village, southeastward over yonder, short way north of the Prag-Konigsgratz Highway; and rather nearer Prag than we now are, in Czimitz here: time at Prossik to be 6 A.M. by the clock; and Winterfeld and Schwerin to come in person and speak with his Majesty. This is the program for Friday, May 6th, which proves to be so memorable a day.
Schwerin is on foot by the stroke of midnight; comes along, "over the heights of Chaber," by half a dozen, or I know not how many roads; visible in due time to Friedrich's people, who are likewise punctually on the advance: in a word, the junction is accomplished with all correctness. And, while the Columns are marching up, Schwerin and Winterfeld ride about in personal conference with his Majesty; taking survey, through spy-glasses, of those Austrians encamped yonder on the broad back of their Zisca Hill, a couple of miles to southward. "What a set of Austrians," exclaim military critics, "to permit such junction, without effort to devour the one half or the other, in good time!" Friedrich himself, it is probable, might partly be of the same opinion; but he knew his Austrians, and had made bold to venture. Friedrich, we can observe, always got to know his man, after fighting him a month or two; and took liberties with him, or did not take, accordingly. And, for most part,—not quite always, as one signal exception will Show,—he does it with perfect accuracy; and often with vital profit to his measures. "If the Austrian cooking-tents are a-smoke before eight in the morning," notes he, "you may calculate, in such case, the Austrians will march that day." [MILITARY INSTRUCTIONS.] With a surprising vividness of eye and mind (beautiful to rival, if one could), he watches the signs of the times, of the hours and the days and the places; and prophesies from them; reads men and their procedures, as if they were mere handwriting, not too cramp for him.—The Austrians have, by this time, got their Konigseck home, very unvictorious, but still on foot, all but a thousand or two: they are already stronger than the Prussians by count of heads; and till even Daun come up, what hurry in a Post like this? The Austrians are viewing Friedrich, too, this morning; but in the blankest manner: their outposts fire a cannon-shot or two on his group of adjutants and him, without effect; and the Head people send their cavalry out to forage, so little prophecy have they from signs seen.
Zisca Hill, where the Austrians now are, rises sheer up, of well-nigh precipitous steepness, though there are trees and grass on it, from the eastern side of Prag, say five or six hundred feet. A steep, picturesque, massive green Hill; Moldau River, turning suddenly to right, strikes the northwest corner of it (has flowed well to west of it, till then), and winds eastward round its northern base. As will be noticed presently. The ascent of Ziscaberg, by roads, is steep and tedious: but once at the top, you find that it is precipitous on two sides only, the City or westward side, and the Moldau or northward. Atop it spreads out, far and wide, into a waving upland level; bare of hedges; ploughable all of it, studded with littery hamlets and farmsteadings; far and wide, a kind of Plain, sloping with extreme gentleness, five or six miles to eastward, and as far to southward, before the level perceptibly rise again.
Another feature of the Ziscaberg, already hinted at, is very notable: that of the Moldau skirting its northern base, and scarping the Hill, on that side too, into a precipitous, or very steep condition. Moldau having arrived from southward, fairly past the end of Ziscaberg, had, so to speak, made up his mind to go right eastward, quarrying his way through the lower uplands there, And he proceeds accordingly, hugging the northern base of Ziscaberg, and making it steep enough; but finds, in the course of a mile or so, that he can no more; upland being still rock-built, not underminable farther; and so is obliged to wind round again, to northward, and finally straight westward, the way he came, or parallel to the way he came; and has effected that great Horse-shoe Hollow we heard of lately. An extremely pretty Hollow, and curious to look upon; pretty villas, gardens, and a "Belvedere Park," laid out in the bottom part; with green mountain-walls rising all round it, and a silver ring of river at the base of them: length of Horse-shoe, from heel to toe, or from west to east, is perhaps a mile; breadth, from heel to heel, perhaps half as much. Having arrived at his old distance to west, Moldau, like a repentant prodigal, and as if ashamed of his frolic, just over against the old point he swerved from, takes straight to northward again. Straight northward; and quarries out that fine narrow valley, or Quasi-Highland Strath, with its pleasant busy villages, where he turns the overshot machinery, and where Friedrich and his men had their pontoons swimming yesterday.
It is here, on this broad back of the Ziscaberg, that the Austrians now lie; looking northward over to the King, and trying cannon-shots upon him. There they have been encamping, and diligently intrenching themselves for four days past; diligent especially since yesterday, when they heard of Friedrich's crossing the River. Their groups of tents, and batteries at all the good points, stretch from near the crown of Ziscaberg, eastward to the Villages of Hlaupetin, Kyge, and their Lakes, near four miles; and rearward into the interior one knows not how far;—Prince Karl, hardly awake yet, lies at Nussel, near the Moldau, near the Wischerad or southeastmost point of Prag; six good miles west-by-south of Kyge, at the other end of the diagonal line. About the same distance, right east from Nussel, and a mile or more to south of Kyge, over yonder, is a littery Farmstead named Sterbohol, which is not yet occupied by the Austrians, but will become very famous in their War-Annals, this day!—
Where the Austrian Camp or various Tent-groups were, at the time Friedrich first cast eye on them, is no great concern of his or ours; inasmuch as, in two or three hours hence, the Austrians were obliged, rather suddenly, to take Order of Battle; and that, and not their camping, is the thing we are curious upon. Let us step across, and take some survey of that Austrian ground, which Friedrich is now surveying from the distance, fully intending that it shall be a battle-ground in few hours; and try to explain how the Austrians drew up on it, when they noticed the Prussian symptoms to become serious more and more. By nine in the morning,—some two hours after Friedrich began his scanning, and the Austrian outposts their firing of stray cannon-shots on him,—it is Battle-lines, not empty Tents (which there was not time to strike), that salute the eye over yonder.
From behind that verdant Horse-shoe Chasm we spoke of, buttressed by the inaccessible steeps, and the Moldau, double-folded in the form of Horse-shoe, all along the brow of that sloping expanse, stands (by 9 A.M. "foragers all suddenly called in") the Austrian front; the second line and the reserve, parallel to it, at good distances behind. Ranked there; say 65,000 regulars (Prussian force little short of the same), on the brow of Ziscaberg slope, some four miles long. Their right wing ends, in strong batteries, in intricate marshes, knolls, lakelets, between Hlaupetin and Kyge: the extreme of their left wing looks over on that Horse-shoe Hollow, where Moldau tried to dig his way, but could not and had to turn back. They have numerous redoubts, in front and in all the good places; and are busy with more, some of them just now getting finished, treble-quick, while the Prussians are seen under way. As many as sixty heavy cannon in battery up and down: of field-pieces they have a hundred and fifty. Excellent always with their Artillery, these Austrians; plenty of it, well-placed and well-served: thanks to Prince Lichtenstein's fine labors within these ten years past. [OEuvres de Frederic, (in several places); see Hormayr,? Lichtenstein.] The villages, the farmsteads, are occupied; every rising ground especially has its battery,—Homoly Berg, Tabor Berg, "Mount of Tabor;" say KNOLL of Tabor (nothing like so high as Battersea Rise, hardly even as Constitution Hill), though scriptural Zisca would make a Mount of it;—these, and other BERGS of the like type.
That is the Austrian Battle Order (as it stood about 9, though it had still to change a little, as we shall see): their first line, straight or nearly so, looking northward, stands on the brow of the Zisca Slope; their second and their third, singularly like it, at the due distances behind;—in the intervals, their tents, which stand scattered, in groups wide apart, in the ample interior to southward. The cavalry is on both wings; left wing, behind that Moldau Chasm, cannot attack nor be attacked,—except it were on hippogriffs, and its enemy on the like, capable of fighting in the air, overhead of these Belvedere Pleasure-grounds: perhaps Prince Karl will remedy this oversight; fruit of close following of the orthodox practice? Prince Karl, supreme Chief, commands on the left wing; Browne on the right, where he can attack or be attacked, NOT on hippogriffs. As we shall see, and others will! Light horse, in any quantity, hang scattered on all outskirts. With foot, with cannon batteries, with horse, light or heavy, they cover in long broad flood the whole of that Zisca Slope, to near where it ceases, and the ground to eastward begins perceptibly to rise again.
In this latter quarter, Zisca Slope, now nearly ended, begins to get very swampy in parts; on the eastern border of the Austrian Camp, at Kyge, Hostawitz, and beyond it southward, about Sterbohol and Michelup, there are many little lakelets; artificial fish-ponds, several of them, with their sluices, dams and apparatus: a ragged broadish lacing of ponds and lakelets (all well dried in our day) straggles and zigzags along there, connected by the miserablest Brook in nature, which takes to oozing and serpentizing forward thereabouts, and does finally get emptied, now in a rather livelier condition, into the Moldau, about the TOE-part of that Horse-shoe or Belvedere region. It runs in sight of the King, I think, where he now is; this lower livelier part of it: little does the King know how important the upper oozing portion of it will be to him this day. Near Michelup are lakelets worth noticing; a little under Sterbohol, in the course of this miserable Brook, is a string of fish-ponds, with their sluices open at this time, the water out, and the mud bottom sown with herb-provender for the intended carps, which is coming on beautifully, green as leeks, and nearly ready for the fish getting to it again.
Friedrich surveys diligently what he can of all this, from the northern verge. We will now return to Friedrich; and will stay on his side through the terrible Action that is coming. Battle of Prag, one of the furious Battles of the World; loud as Doomsday;—the very Emblem of which, done on the Piano by females of energy, scatters mankind to flight who love their ears! Of this great Action the Narratives old and modern are innumerable; false some of them, unintelligible well-nigh all. There are three in Lloyd, known probably to some of my readers. Tempelhof, with criticisms of these three, gives a fourth,—perhaps the one Narrative which human nature, after much study, can in some sort understand. Human readers, especially military, I refer to that as their finale. [In Lloyd, i. 38 et seq. (the Three): in Tempelhof, i. 123 (the Fourth); ib. i. 144 (strength of each Army), 105-149 (remarks of Tempelhof).—The "HISTORY," or Series of Lectures on the Battles &c. of this War, "BY THE ROYAL STAFF-OFFICERS"—which, for the last thirty or forty years, is used as Text-Book, or Military EUCLID, in the Prussian Cadet-Schools,—appears to possess the fit professorial lucidity and amplitude; and, in regard to all Official details, enumerations and the like, is received as of CANONICAL authority: it is not accessible to the general Public,—though liberally enough conceded in special cases; whereby, in effect, the main results of it are now become current in modern Prussian Books. By favor in high quarters, I had once possession of a copy, for some months; but not, at that time, the possibility of thoroughly reading any part of it.] Other interest than military-scientific the Action now has not much. The stormy fire of soul that blazed that day (higher in no ancient or modern Fight of men) is extinct, hopeless of resuscitation for English readers. Approximately what the thing to human eyes might be like; what Friedrich's procedure, humor and physiognomy of soul was in it: this, especially the latter head, is what we search for,—had lazy Dryasdust given us almost anything on this latter head! What little can be gleaned from him on both heads let us faithfully give, and finish our sad part of the combat.
Friedrich, with his Schwerin and Winterfeld, surveying these things from the northern edge, admits that the Austrian position is extremely strong; but he has no doubt that it must be, by some good method, attacked straightway, and the Austrians got beaten. Indisputably the enterprise is difficult. Unattackable clearly, the Austrians, on that left wing of theirs; not in the centre well attackable, nor in the front at all, with that stiff ground, and such redoubts and points of strength: but round on their right yonder; take them in flank,—cannot we? On as far as Kyge, the Three have ridden reconnoitring; and found no possibility upon the front; nor at Kyge, where the front ends in batteries, pools and quagmires, is there any. "Difficult, not undoable," persists the King: "and it must be straightway set about and got done." Winterfeld, always for action, is of that opinion, too: and, examining farther down along their right flank, reports that there the thing is feasible.
Feasible perhaps: "but straightway?" objects Schwerin. His men have been on foot since midnight, and on forced marches for days past: were it not better to rest for this one day? "Rest:—and Daun, coming on with 30,000 of reinforcement to them, might arrive this night? Never, my good Feldmarschall;"—and as the Feldmarschall was a man of stiff notions, and had a tongue of some emphasis, the Dialogue went on, probably with increasing emphasis on Friedrich's side too, till old Schwerin, with a quite emphatic flash of countenance, crushing the hat firm over his brow, exclaims: "Well, your Majesty: the fresher fish the better fish (FRISCHE FISCHE, GUTE FISCHE): straightway, then!" and springs off on the gallop southward, he too, seeking some likely point of attack. He too,—conjointly or not with Winterfeld, I do not know: Winterfeld himself does not say; whose own modest words on the subject readers shall see before we finish. But both are mentioned in the Books as searching, at hand-gallop, in this way: and both, once well round to south, by the Podschernitz ["Podschernitz" is pronounced PotSHERnitz (should we happen to mentionn it again); "Kyge," KEEGA.] quarter, with the Austrian right flank full in view, were agreed that here the thing was possible. "Infantry to push from this quarter towards Sterbohol yonder, and then plunge into their redoubts and them! Cavalry may sweep still farther southward, if found convenient, and even take them in rear." Both agree that it will do in this way: ground tolerably good, slightly downwards for us, then slightly upwards again; tolerable for horse even:—the intermediate lacing of dirty lakelets, the fish-ponds with their sluices drawn, Schwerin and Winterfeld either did not notice at all, or thought them insiginificant, interspersed with such beautiful "pasture-ground,"—of unusual verdure at this early season of the year.
The deployment, or "marching up (AUFMARSCHIREN)" of the Prussians was wonderful; in their squadrons, in their battalions, horse, foot, artillery, wheeling, closing, opening; strangely checkering a country-side,—in movements intricate, chaotic to all but the scientific eye. Conceive them, flowing along, from the Heights of Chaber, behind Prossik Hamlet (right wing of infantry plants itself at Prossik, horse westward of them); and ever onwards in broad many-checkered tide-stream, eastward, eastward, then southward ("our artillery went through Podschernitz, the foot and horse a little on this westward side of it"): intricate, many-glancing tide of coming battle; which, swift, correct as clock-work, becomes two lines, from Prossik to near Chwala ("baggage well behind at Gbell"); thence round by Podschernitz quarter; and descends, steady, swift, tornado-storm so beautifully hidden in it, towards Sterbohol, there to grip to. Gradually, in stirring up those old dead pedantic record-books, the fact rises on us: silent whirlwinds of old Platt-Deutsch fire, beautifully held down, dwell in those mute masses; better human stuff there is not than that old Teutsch (Dutch, English, Platt-Deutsch and other varieties); and so disciplined as here it never was before or since. "In an hour and half," what military men may count almost incredible, they are fairly on their ground, motionless the most of them by 9 A.M.; the rest wheeling rightward, as they successively arrive in the Chwala-Podschernitz localities; and, descending diligently, Sterbohol way; and will be at their harvest-work anon.
Meanwhile the Austrians, seeing, to their astonishment, these phenomena to the north, and that it is a quite serious thing, do also rapidly bestir themselves; swarming like bees;—bringing in their foraging Cavalry, "No time to change your jacket for a coat:" rank, double-quick! Browne is on that right wing of theirs: "Bring the left wing over hither," suggests Browne; "cavalry is useless yonder, unless they had hippogriffs!"—and (again Browne suggesting) the Austrians make a change in the position of their right wing, both horse and foot: change which is of vital importance, though unnoted in many Narratives of this Battle. Seeing, namely, what the Prussians intend, they wheel their right wing (say the last furlong or two of their long Line of Battle) half round to right; so that the last furlong or two stands at right angles ("EN POTENCE," gallows-wise, or joiner's-square-wise to the rest); and, in this way, make front to the Prussian onslaught,—front now, not flank, as the Prussians are anticipating. This is an important wheel to right, and formation in joiner's-square manner; and involves no end of interior wheeling, marching and deploying; which Austrians cannot manage with Prussian velocity. "Swift with it, here about Sterbohol at least, my men! For here are the Prussians within wind of us!" urges Browne. And here straightway the hurricane does break loose.
Winterfeld, the van of Schwerin's infantry (Schwerin's own regiment, and some others, with him), is striding rapidly on Sterbohol; Winterfeld catches it before Browne can. But near by, behind that important post, on the Homely Hill (BERG or "Mountain," nothing like so high as Constitution Mountain), are cannon-batteries of devouring quality; which awaken on Winterfeld, as he rushes out double-quick on the advancing Austrians; and are fatal to Winterfeld's attempt, and nearly to Winterfeld himself. Winterfeld, heavily wounded, sank in swoon from his horse; and awakening again in a pool of blood, found his men all off, rushing back upon the main Schwerin body; "Austrian grenadiers gazing on the thing, about eighty paces off, not venturing to follow." Winterfeld, half dead, scrambled across to Schwerin, who has now come up with the main body, his front line fronting the Austrians here. And there ensued, about Sterbohol and neighborhood, led on by Schwerin, such a death-wrestle as was seldom seen in the Annals of War. Winterfeld's miss of Sterbohol was the beginning of it: the exact course of sequel none can describe, though the end is well known.
The Austrians now hold Sterbohol with firm grip, backed by those batteries from Homoly Hill. Redoubts, cannon-batteries, as we said, stud all the field; the Austrian stock of artillery is very great; arrangement of it cunning, practice excellent; does honor to Prince Lichtenstein, and indeed is the real force of the Austrians on this occasion. Schwerin must have Sterbohol, in spite of batteries and ranked Austrians, and Winterfeld's recoil tumbling round him:—and rarely had the oldest veteran such a problem. Old Schwerin (fiery as ever, at the age of 73) has been in many battles, from Blenheim onwards; and now has got to his hottest and his last. "Vanguard could not do it; main body, we hope, kindling all the hotter, perhaps may!" A most willing mind is in these Prussians of Schwerin's: fatigue of over-marching has tired the muscles of them; but their hearts,—all witnesses say, these (and through these, their very muscles, "always fresh again, after a few minutes of breathing-time") were beyond comparison, this day!
Schwerin's Prussians, as they "march up" (that is, as they front and advance upon the Austrians), are everywhere saluted by case-shot, from Homoly Hill and the batteries northward of Homoly; but march on, this main line of them, finely regardless of it or of Winterfeld's disaster by it. The general Prussian Order this day is: "By push of bayonet; no firing, none, at any rate, till you see the whites of their eyes!" Swift, steady as on the parade-ground, swiftly making up their gaps again, the Prussians advance, on these terms; and are now near those "fine sleek pasture-grounds, unusually green for the season." Figure the actual stepping upon these "fine pasture-grounds:"—mud-tanks, verdant with mere "bearding oat-crop" sown there as carp-provender! Figure the sinking of whole regiments to the knee; to the middle, some of them; the steady march become a wild sprawl through viscous mud, mere case-shot singing round you, tearing you away at its ease! Even on those terrible terms, the Prussians, by dams, by footpaths, sometimes one man abreast, sprawl steadily forward, trailing their cannon with them; only a few regiments, in the footpath parts, cannot bring their cannon. Forward; rank again, when the ground will carry; ever forward, the case-shot getting ever more murderous! No human pen can describe the deadly chaos which ensued in that quarter. Which lasted, in desperate fury, issue dubious, for above three hours; and was the crisis, or essential agony, of the Battle. Foot-chargings, (once the mud-transit was accomplished), under storms of grape-shot from Homoly Hill; by and by, Horse-chargings, Prussian against Austrian, southward of Homoly and Sterbohol, still farther to the Prussian left; huge whirlpool of tumultuous death-wrestle, every species of spasmodic effort, on the one side and the other;—King himself present there, as I dimly discover; Feldmarschall Browne eminent, in the last of his fields; and, as the old NIEBELUNGEN has it, "a murder grim and great" going on.
Schwerin's Prussians, in that preliminary struggle through the mud-tanks (which Winterfeld, I think, had happened to skirt, and avoid), were hard bested. This, so far as I can learn, was the worst of the chaos, this preliminary part. Intolerable to human nature, this, or nearly so; even to human nature of the Platt-Teutsch type, improved by Prussian drill. Winterfeld's repulse we saw; Schwerin's own Regiment in it. Various repulses, I perceive, there were,—"fresh regiments from our Second Line" storming in thereupon; till the poor repulsed people "took breath," repented, "and themselves stormed in again," say the Books. Fearful tugging, swagging and swaying is conceivable, in this Sterbohol problem! And after long scanning, I rather judge it was in the wake of that first repulse, and not of some other farther on, that the veteran Schwerin himself got his death. No one times it for us; but the fact is unforgettable; and in the dim whirl of sequences, dimly places itself there. Very certain it is, "at sight of his own regiment in retreat," Feldmarschall Schwerin seized the colors,—as did other Generals, who are not named, that day. Seizes the colors, fiery old man: "HERAN, MEINE KINDER (This way, my sons)!" and rides ahead, along the straight dam again; his "sons" all turning, and with hot repentance following. "On, my children, HERAN!" Five bits of grape-shot, deadly each of them, at once hit the old man; dead he sinks there on his flag; and will never fight more. "HERAN!" storm the others with hot tears; Adjutant von Platen takes the flag; Platen, too, is instantly shot; but another takes it. "HERAN, On!" in wild storm of rage and grief:—in a word, they manage to do the work at Sterbohol, they and the rest. First line, Second line, Infantry, Cavalry (and even the very Horses, I suppose), fighting inexpressibly; conquering one of the worst problems ever seen in War. For the Austrians too, especially their grenadiers there, stood to it toughly, and fought like men;—and "every grenadier that survived of them," as I read afterwards, "got double pay for life."
Done, that Sterbohol work;—those Foot-chargings, Horse-chargings; that battery of Homoly Hill; and, hanging upon that, all manner of redoubts and batteries to the rightward and rearward:—but how it was done no pen can describe, nor any intellect in clear sequence understand. An enormous MELEE there: new Prussian battalions charging, and ever new, irrepressible by case-shot, as they successively get up; Marshal Browne too sending for new battalions at double-quick from his left, disputing stiffly every inch of his ground. Till at length (hour not given), a cannon-shot tore away his foot; and he had to be carried into Prag, mortally wounded. Which probably was a most important circumstance, or the most important of all.
Important too, I gradually see, was that of the Prussian Horse of the Left Wing. Prussian Horse of the extreme left, as already noticed, had, in the mean while, fallen in, well southward, round by certain lakelets about Michelup, on Browne's extreme right; furiously charging the Austrian Horse, which stood ranked there in many lines; breaking it, then again half broken by it; but again rallying, charging it a second time, then a third time, "both to front and flank, amid whirlwinds of dust" (Ziethen busy there, not to mention indignant Warnery and others);—and at length, driving it wholly to the winds: "beyond Nussel, towards the Sazawa Country;" never seen again that day. Prince Karl (after Browne's death-wound, or before, I never know) came galloping to rally that important Right Wing of horse. Prince Karl did his very utmost there; obtesting, praying, raging, threatening:—but to no purpose; the Zietheners and others so heavy on the rear of them:—and at last there came a cramp, or intolerable twinge of spasm, through Prince Karl's own person (breast or heart), like to take the life of him: so that he too had to be carried into Prag to the doctors. And his Cavalry fled at discretion; chased by Ziethen, on Friedrich's express order, and sent quite over the horizon. Enough, "by about half-past one," Sterbohol work is thoroughly done: and the Austrian Battle, both its Commanders gone, has heeled fairly downwards, and is in an ominous way.
The whole of this Austrian Right Wing, horse and foot, batteries and redoubts, which was put EN POTENCE, or square-wise, to the main battle, is become a ruin; gone to confusion; hovers in distracted clouds, seeking roads to run away by, which it ultimately found. Done all this surely was; and poor Browne, mortally wounded, is being carried off the ground; but in what sequence done, under what exact vicissitudes of aspect, special steps of cause and effect, no man can say; and only imagination, guided by these few data, can paint to itself. Such a chaotic whirlwind of blood, dust, mud, artillery-thunder, sulphurous rage, and human death and victory,—who shall pretend to describe it, or draw, except in the gross, the scientific plan of it?
For, in the mean time,—I think while the dispute at Sterbohol, on the extreme of the Austrian right wing "in joiner's-square form," was past the hottest (but nobody will give the hour),—there has occurred another thing, much calculated to settle that. And, indeed, to settle everything;—as it did. This was a volunteer exploit, upon the very elbow or angle of said "joiner's-square;" in the wet grounds between Hlaupetin and Kyge, a good way north of Sterbohol. Volunteer exploit; on the part of General Mannstein, our old Russian friend; which Friedrich, a long way off from it, blames as a rash fault of Mannstein's, made good by Prince Henri and Ferdinand of Brunswick running up to mend it; but which Winterfeld, and subsequent good judges, admit to have been highly salutary, and to have finished everything. It went, if I read right, somewhat as follows.
In the Kyge-Hlaupetin quarter, at the corner of that Austrian right wing EN POTENCE, there had, much contrary to Browne's intention, a perceptible gap occurred; the corner is open there; nothing in it but batteries and swamps. The Austrian right wing, wheeling southward, there to form POTENCE; and scrambling and marching, then and subsequently, through such ground at double-quick, had gone too far (had thinned and lengthened itself, as is common, in such scrambling, and double-quick movement, thinks Tempelhof), and left a little gap at elbow; which always rather widened as the stress at Sterbohol went on. Certain enough, a gap there is, covered only by some half-moon battery in advance: into this, General Mannstein has been looking wistfully a long time: "Austrian Line fallen out at elbow yonder; clouted by some battery in advance?"—and at length cannot help dashing loose on it with his Division. A man liable to be rash, and always too impetuous in battle-time.
He would have fared ill, thinks Friedrich, had not Henri and Ferdinand, in pain for Mannstein (some think, privately in preconcert with him), hastened in to help; and done it altogether in a shining way; surmounting perilous difficulties not a few. Hard fighting in that corner, partly on the Sterbohol terms; batteries, mud-tanks; chargings, rechargings: "Comrades, you have got honor enough, KAMERADEN, IHR HABT EHRE GENUG [the second man of you lying dead]; let us now try!" said a certain Regiment to a certain other, in this business. [Archenholtz, i. 75; Tempelhof, &c.] Prince Henri shone especially, the gallant little gentleman: coming upon one of those mud-tanks with battery beyond, his men were spreading file-wise, to cross it on the dams; "BURSCHE, this way!" cried the Prince, and plunged in middle-deep, right upon the battery; and over it, and victoriously took possession of it. In a word, they all plunge forward, in a shining manner; rush on those half-moon batteries, regardless of results; rush over them, seize and secure them. Rush, in a word, fairly into that Austrian hole-at-elbow, torrents more following them,—and irretrievably ruin both fore-arm and shoulder-arm of the Austrians thereby.
Fore-arm (Austrian right wing, if still struggling and wriggling about Sterbohol) is taken in flank; shoulder-arm, or main line, the like; we have them both in flank; with their own batteries to scour them to destruction here:—the Austrian Line, throughout, is become a ruin. Has to hurl itself rapidly to rightwards, to rearwards, says Tempelhof, behind what redoubts and strong points it may have in those parts; and then, by sure stages (Tempelhof guesses three, or perhaps four), as one redoubt after another is torn from the loose grasp of it, and the stand made becomes ever weaker, and the confusion worse,—to roll pell-mell into Prag, and hastily close the door behind it. The Prussians, Sterbohol people, Mannstein-Henri people, left wing and right, are quite across the Zisca Back, on by Nussel (Prince Earl's head-quarter that was), and at the Moldau Brink again, when the thing ends. Ziethen's Hussars have been at Nussel, very busy plundering there, ever since that final charge and chase from Sterbohol. Plundering; and, I am ashamed to say, mostly drunk: "Your Majesty, I cannot rank a hundred sober," answered Ziethen (doubtless with a kind of blush), when the King applied for them. The King himself has got to Branik, farther up stream. Part of the Austrian foot fled, leftwards, southwards, as their right wing of horse had all done, up the Moldau. About 16,000 Austrians are distractedly on flight that way. Towards, the Sazawa Country; to unite with Daun, as the now advisable thing. Near 40,000 of them are getting crammed into Prag; in spite of Prince Karl, now recovered of his cramp, and risen to the frantic pitch; who vainly struggles at the Gate against such inrush, and had even got through the Gate, conjuring and commanding, but was himself swum in again by those panic torrents of ebb-tide.
Rallying within, he again attempted, twice over, at two different points, to get out, and up the Moldau, with his broken people; but the Prussians, Nussel-Branik way, were awake to him: "No retreat up the Moldau for you, Austrian gentlemen!" They tried by another Gate, on the other side of the River; but Keith was awake too: "In again, ye Austrian gentlemen! Closed gates here too. What else?" Browne, from his bed of pain (death-bed, as it proved), was for a much more determined outrush: "In the dead of night, rank, deliberately adjust yourselves; storm out, one and all, and cut your way, night favoring!" That was Browne's last counsel; but that also was not taken. A really noble Browne, say all judges; died here in about six weeks,—and got away from Kriegs-Hofraths and Prince Karls, and the stupidity of neighbors, and the other ills that flesh is heir to, altogether.
At Branik the victorious King had one great disappointment: Prince Moritz of Dessau, who should have been here long hours ago, with Keith's right wing, a fresh 15,000, to fall upon the enemy's rear;—no Moritz visible; not even now, when the business is to chase! "How is this?" "Ill luck, your Majesty!" Moritz's Pontoon Bridge would not reach across, when he tried it. That is certain: "just three poor pontoons wanting," Rumor says:—three or more; spoiled, I am told, in some narrow road, some short-cut which Moritz had commanded for them: and now they are not; and it is as if three hundred had been spoiled. Moritz, would he die for it, cannot get his Bridge to reach: his fresh 15,000 stand futile there; not even Seidlitz with his light horse could really swim across, though he tried hard, and is fabled to have done so. Beware of short-cuts, my Prince: your Father that is gone, what would he say of you here! It was the worst mistake Prince Moritz ever made. The Austrian Army might have been annihilated, say judges (of a sanguine temper), had Moritz been ready, at his hour, to fall on from rearward;—and where had their retreat been? As it is, the Austrian Army is not annihilated; only bottled into Prag, and will need sieging. The brightest triumph has a bar of black in it, and might always have been brighter. Here is a flying Note, which I will subjoin:—
Friedrich's dispositions for the Battle, this day, are allowed to have been masterly; but there was one signal fault, thinks Retzow: That he did not, as Schwerin counselled, wait till the morrow. Fault which brought many in the train of it; that of his "tired soldiers," says Retzow, being only a first item, and small in comparison. "Had he waited till the morrow, those fish-ponds of Sterbohol, examined in the interim, need not have been mistaken for green meadows; Prince Moritz, with his 15,000, would have been a fact, instead of a false hope; the King might have done his marching down upon Sterbohol in the night-time, and been ready for the Austrians, flank, or even rear, at daybreak: the King might"—In reality, this fault seems to have been considerable; to have made the victory far more costly to him, and far less complete. No doubt he had his reasons for making haste: Daun, advancing Prag-ward with 30,000, was within three marches of him; General Beck, Daun's vanguard, with a 10,000 of irregulars, did a kind of feat at Brandeis, on the Prussian post there (our Saxons deserting to him, in the heat of action), this very day, May 6th; and might, if lucky, have taken part at Ziscaberg next day. And besides these solid reasons, there was perhaps another. Retzow, who is secretly of the Opposition-party, and well worth hearing, knows personally a curious thing. He says:—
"Being then [in March or April, weeks before we left Saxony] employed to translate the PLAN OF OPERATIONS into French, for Marshal Keith's use, who did not understand German, I well know that it contained the following three main objects: 1. 'All Regiments cantoning in Silesia as well as Saxony march for Bohemia on one and the same day. 2. Whole Army arrives at Prag May 4th [Schwerin was a day later, and got scolded in consequence]; if the Enemy stand, he is attacked May 6th, and beaten. 3. So soon as Prag is got, Schwerin, with the gross of the Army, pushes into Mahren,' and the heart of Austria itself; 'King hastens with 40,000 to help of the Allied Army,'"—Royal Highness of Cumberland's; who will much need it by that time! [Retzow, i. 84 n.]
Here is a very curious fact and consideration. That the King had so prophesied and preordained: "May 4th, Four Columns arrive at Prag; May 6th, attack the Austrians, beat them,"—and now wished to keep his word! This is an aerial reason, which I can suspect to have had its weight among others. There were twirls of that kind in Friedrich; intricate weak places; knots in the sound straight-fibred mind he had (as in whose mind are they not?),—which now and then cost him dear! The Anecdote-Books say he was very ill of body, that day, May 6th; and called for something of drug nature, and swallowed it (drug not named), after getting on horseback. The Evening Anecdote is prettier: How, in the rushing about, Austrians now flying, he got eye on Brother Henri (clayey to a degree); and sat down with him, in the blessed sunset, for a minute or two, and bewailed his sad losses of Schwerin and others.
Certain it is, the victory was bought by hard fighting; and but for the quality of his troops, had not been there. But the bravery of the Prussians was exemplary, and covered all mistakes that were made. Nobler fire, when did it burn in any Army? More perfect soldiers I have not read of. Platt-Teutsch fire—which I liken to anthracite, in contradistinction to Gaelic blaze of kindled straw—is thrice noble, when, by strict stern discipline, you are above it withal; and wield your fire-element, as Jove his thunder, by rule! Otherwise it is but half-admirable: Turk-Janissaries have it otherwise; and it comes to comparatively little.
This is the famed Battle of Prag; fought May 6th, 1757; which sounded through all the world,—and used to deafen us in drawing-rooms within man's memory. Results of it were: On the Prussian side, killed, wounded and missing, 12,500 men; on the Austrian, 13,000 (prisoners included), with many flags, cannon, tents, much war-gear gone the wrong road;—and a very great humiliation and dispiritment; though they had fought well: "No longer the old Austrians, by any means," as Friedrich sees; but have iron ramrods, all manner of Prussian improvements, and are "learning to march," as he once says, with surprise not quite pleasant.
Friedrich gives the cipher of loss, on both sides, much higher: "This Battle," says he, "which began towards nine in the morning, and lasted, chase included, till eight at night, was one of the bloodiest of the age. The Enemy lost 24,000 men, of whom were 5,000 prisoners; the Prussian loss amounted to 18,000 fighting men,—without counting Marshal Schwerin, who alone was worth above 10,000." "This day saw the pillars of the Prussian Infantry cut down," says he mournfully, seeming almost to think the "laurels of victory" were purchased too dear. His account of the Battle, as if it had been a painful object, rather avoided in his after-thoughts, is unusually indistinct;—and helps us little in the extreme confusion that reigns otherwise, both in the thing itself and in the reporters of the thing. Here is a word from Winterfeld, some private Letter, two days after; which is well worth reading for those who would understand this Battle.
"The enemy had his Left Wing leaning on the City, close by the Moldau," at Nussel; "and stretched with his Right Wing across the high Hill [of Zisca] to the village of Lieben [so he HAD stood, looking into Prag; but faced about, on hearing that Friedrich was across the River]; having before him those terrible Defiles [DIE TERRIBLEN DEFILEES, "Horse-shoe of the Moldau," as we call it], and the village of Prossik, which was crammed with Pandours. It was about half-past six in the morning, when our Schwerin Army [myself part of it, at this time] joined with the twenty battalions and twenty squadrons, which the King had brought across to unite with us, and which formed our right wing of battle that day [our left wing were Schweriners, Sterbohol and the fighting done by Schweriners after their long march]. The King was at once determined to attack the Enemy; as also were Schwerin [say nothing of the arguing] and your humble servant (MEINE WENIGKEIT): but the first thing was, to find a hole whereby to get at him.
"This too was selected, and decided on, my proposal being found good; and took effect in manner following: We [Schweriners] had marched off left-wise, foremost; and we now, without halt, continued marching so with the Left Wing" of horse, "which had the van (TETE); and moved on, keeping the road for Hlaupetin, and ever thence onwards along for Kyge, round the Ponds of Unter-Podschernitz, without needing to pass these, and so as to get them in our rear.
"The Enemy, who at first had expected nothing bad, and never supposed that we would attack him at once, FLAGRANTE DELICTO, and least of all in this point; and did not believe it possible, as we should have to wade, breast-deep in part, through the ditches, and drag our cannon,—was at first quite tranquil. But as he began to perceive our real design (in which, they say, Prince Karl was the first to open Marshal Browne's eyes), he drew his whole Cavalry over towards us, as fast as it could be done, and stretched them out as Right Wing; to complete which, his Grenadiers and Hungarian Regulars of Foot ranked themselves as they got up [makes his POTENCE, HAKEN, or joiner's-square, outmost end of it Horse.]
"The Enemy's intention was to hold with the Right Wing of his infantry on the Farmstead which they call Sterbaholy [Sterbohol, a very dirty Farmstead at this day]; I, however, had the good luck, plunging on, head foremost, with six battalions of our Left Wing and two of the Flank, to get to it before him. Although our Second Line was not yet come forward, yet, as the battalions of the First were tolerably well together, I decided, with General Fouquet, who had charge of the Flank, to begin at once; and, that the Enemy might not have time to post himself still better, I pushed forward, quick step, out of the Farmstead" of Sterbohol "to meet him,—so fast, that even our cannon had not time to follow. He did, accordingly, begin to waver; and I could observe that his people here, on this Wing, were making right-about.
"Meanwhile, his fire of case-shot opened [from Homoly Hill, on our left], and we were still pushing on,—might now be about two hundred steps from the Enemy's Line, when I had the misfortune, at the head of Regiment Schwerin, to get wounded, and, swooning away (VOR TOD), fell from my horse to the ground. Awakening after some minutes, and raising my head to look about, I found nobody of our people now here beside or round me; but all were already behind, in full flood of retreat (HOCH ANSCHLAGEN). The Enemy's Grenadiers were perhaps eighty paces from me; but had halted, and had not the confidence to follow us. I struggled to my feet, as fast as, for weakness, I possibly could; and got up to our confused mass [CONFUSEN KLUMPEN,—exact place, where?]: but could not, by entreaties or by threats, persuade a single man of them to turn his face on the Enemy, much less to halt and try again.
"In this embarrassment the deceased Feldmarschall found me, and noticed that the blood was flowing stream-wise from my neck. As I was on foot, and none of my people now near, he bade give me his led horse which he still had [and sent me home for surgery? Winterfeld, handsomely effacing himself when no longer good for anything, hurries on to the Catastrophe, leaving us to guess that he was NOT an eye-witness farther]—bade give me the led horse which he still had; AND [as if that had happened directly after, which surely it did not? AND] snatched the flag from Captain Rohr, who had taken it up to make the Bursche turn, and rode forward with it himself.' But before he could succeed in the attempt, this excellent man, almost in a minute, was hit with five case-shot balls, and fell dead on the ground; as also his brave Adjutant von Platen was so wounded that he died next day.
"During this confusion and repulse, by which, as already mentioned, the Enemy had not the heart to profit, not only was our Second Line come on, but those of the First, who had not suffered, went vigorously (FRISCH) at the Enemy,"—and in course of time (perhaps two hours yet), and by dint of effort, we did manage Sterbohol and its batteries:—"Like as [still in one sentence, and without the least punctuation; Winterfeld being little of a grammarian, and in haste for the close], Like as Prince Henri's Royal Highness with our Right Wing," Mannstein and he, "without waiting for order, attacked so PROMPT and with such FERMOTE," in that elbow-hole far north of US, "that everywhere the Enemy's Line began to give way; and instead of continuing as Line, sought corps-wise to gain the Heights, and there post itself. And as, without winning said Heights, we could not win the Battle, we had to storm them all, one after the other; and this it was that cost us the best, most and bravest people.
"The late Colonel von Goltz [if we glance back to Sterbohol itself], who, with the regiment Fouquet, was advancing, right-hand of Schwerin regiment" and your servant, "had likewise got quite close to the Enemy; and had he not, at the very instant when he was levelling bayonets, been shot down, I think that he, with myself and the Schwerin regiment, would have got in,"—and perhaps have there done the job, special and general, with much less expense, and sooner! [Preuss, ii. 45-47 (in Winterfeld's hand; dated "Camp at Prag, 8th May, 1757:" addressed to one knows not whom; first printed by Preuss).]
This is what we get from Winterfeld; a rugged, not much grammatical man, but (as I can perceive) with excellent eyes in his head, and interior talent for twenty grammatical people, had that been his line. These, faithfully rendered here, without change but of pointing, are the only words I ever saw of his: to my regret,—which surely the Prussian Dryasdust might still amend a little?—in respect of so distinguished a person, and chosen Peer of Friedrich's. This his brief theory of Prag Battle, if intensely read, I find to be of a piece with his practice there.
Schwerin was much lamented in the Army; and has been duly honored ever since. His body lies in Schwerinsburg, at home, far away; his Monument, finale of a series of Monuments, stands, now under special guardianship, near Sterbohol on the spot where he fell. A late Tourist says:—
"At first there was a monument of wood [TREE planted, I will hope], which is now all gone; round this Kaiser Joseph II. once, in the year 1776, holding some review there, made his grenadier battalions and artilleries form circle, fronting the sky all round, and give three volleys of great arms and small, Kaiser in the centre doffing hat at each volley, in honor of the hero. Which was thought a very pretty thing on the Kaiser's part. In 1824, the tree, I suppose, being gone to a stump, certain subscribing Prussian Officers had it rooted out, and a modest Pyramid of red-veined marble built in its room. Which latter the then King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III., determined to improve upon; and so, in 1839, built a second Pyramid close by, bigger, finer, and of Prussian iron, this one;—purchasing also, from the Austrian Government, a rood or two of ground for site; and appointing some perpetual Peculium, or increase of Pension to an Austrian Veteran of merit for taking charge there. All which, perfectly in order, is in its place at this day. The actual Austrian Pensioner of merit is a loud-voiced, hard-faced, very limited, but honest little fellow; who has worked a little polygon ditch and miniature hedge round the two Monuments; keeps his own cottage, little garden, and self, respectably clean; and leads stoically a lone life,—no company, I should think, but the Sterbohol hinds, who probably are Czechs and cannot speak to him. He was once 'of the regiment Hohenlohe;' suffers somewhat from cold, in the winter-time, in those upland parts (the 'cords of wood' allowed him being limited); but complains of nothing else. Two English names were in his Album, a military two, and no more. 'EHRET DEN HELD (Honor the Hero)!' we said to him, at parting. 'Don't I?' answered he; glancing at his muddy bare legs and little spade, with which he had been working in the Polygon Ditch when we arrived. I could wish him an additional 'KLAFTER HOLZ' (cord more of firewood) now and then, in the cold months!—
"Sterbohol Farmstead has been new built, in man's memory, but is dirty as ever. Agriculture, all over this table-land of the Ziscaberg, I should judge to be bad. Not so the prospect; which is cheerfully extensive, picturesque in parts, and to the student of Friedrich offers good commentary. Roads, mansions, villages: Prossik, Kyge, Podschernitz, from the Heights of Chaber round to Nussel and beyond: from any knoll, all Friedrich's Villages, and many more, lie round you as on a map,—their dirt all hidden, nothing wanting to the landscape, were it better carpeted with green (green instead of russet), and shaded here and there with wood. A small wild pink, bright-red, and of the size of a star, grows extensively about; of which you are tempted to pluck specimens, as memorial of a Field so famous in War." [Tourist's Note (September, 1858).]
Chapter III.—PRAG CANNOT BE GOT AT ONCE.
What Friedrich's emotions after the Battle of Prag were, we do not much know. They are not inconceivable, if we read his situation well; but in the way of speech, there is, as usual, next to nothing. Here are two stray utterances, worth gathering from a man so uncommunicative in that form.
FRIEDRICH A MONTH BEFORE PRAG (From Lockwitz, 25th March, to Princess Amelia, at Berlin).—"My dearest Sister, I give you a thousand thanks for the hints you have got me from Dr. Eller on the illness of our dear Mother. Thrice-welcome this; and reassures me [alas, not on good basis!] against a misfortune which I should have considered very great for me.
"As to us and our posture of affairs, political and military,—place yourself, I conjure you, above every event. Think of our Country and remember that one's first duty is to defend it. If you learn that a misfortune happens to one of us, ask, 'Did he die fighting?' and if Yes, give thanks to God. Victory or else death, there is nothing else for us; one or the other we must have. All the world here is of that temper. What! you would everybody sacrifice his life for the State, and you would not have your Brothers give the example? Ah, my dear Sister, at this crisis, there is no room for bargaining. Either at the summit of glorious success, or else abolished altogether. This Campaign now coming is like that of Pharsalia for Rome, or that of Leuctra for the Greeks,"—a Campaign we verily shall have to win, or go to wreck upon! [OEuvres de Frederic, xxvii. i. 391.]
FRIEDERICH SHORTLY AFTER PRAG (To his Mother, Letter still extant in Autograph, without date).—"My Brothers and I are still well. The whole Campaign runs risk of being lost to the Austrians; and I find myself free, with 150,000 men. Add to this, that we are masters of a Kingdom [Bohemia here], which is obliged to furnish us with troops and money. The Austrians are dispersed like straw before the wind. I will send a part of my troops to compliment Messieurs the French; and am going [if I once had Prag!] to pursue the Austrians with the rest of my Army." [Ib. xxvi. 75.]
Friedrich, who keeps his emotions generally to himself, does not, as will be seen, remain quite silent to us throughout this great Year; but, by accident, has left us some rather impressive gleanings in that kind;—and certainly in no year could such accident have been luckier to us; this of 1757 being, in several respects, the greatest of his Life. From nearly the topmost heights down to the lowest deeps, his fortunes oscillated this year; and probably, of all the sons of Adam, nobody's outlooks and reflections had in them, successive and simultaneous, more gigantic forms of fear and of hope. He is on a very high peak at this moment; suddenly emerging from his thick cloud, into thunderous victory of that kind; and warning all Pythons what they get by meddling with the Sun-god! Loud enough, far-clanging, is the sound of the silver bow; gazetteers and men all on pause at such new Phoebus Apollo risen in his wrath;—the Victory at Prag considered to be much more annihilative than it really was. At London, Lord Holderness had his Tower-guns in readiness, waiting for something of the kind; and "the joy of the people was frantic." [Mitchell Papers and Memoirs (i. e the PRINTED Selection, 2 vols. London, 1850;—which will be the oftenest cited by us, "Papers AND MEMOIRS"), i. 249: "Holderness to Mitchell, 20th May, 1757." Mitchell is now attending Friedrich; his Letter from Keith's Camp, during the thunder of "Friday, May 6th," is given, ib. i. 248.]