John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

History of Frederick the Second online

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Flight of Frederick 257

Frederick at the Mill 260

Battle of Mollwitz 261

Frederick’s Interview with Valori 272

Frederick and the British Ministers 276

The Queen’s Appeal to the Hungarian Nobles 289

The King approaching Schnellendorf 290

Map of the second Silesian Campaign 294

Frederick the Great. Æt. 30 296

The young Lords of Saxony on a winter Campaign 303

Map illustrating the Campaign in Moravia 306

Frederick concentrating his Army at Chrudim 308

Battle of Chotusitz 310

Maria Theresa at the head of her Army 317

The Pandours 332

The King in the Tower at Collin 337

Prince Leopold inspecting the Army in his “Cart.” 343

Battle of Hohenfriedberg, June 4, 1745 350

The Retreat of the Austrians 354

A slight Pleasantry 357

Frederick and the Old Dessauer 371

Frederick at the Death-bed of M. Duhan 374

Sans Souci 375

The new Palace at Potsdam 376

Frederick and Linsenbarth 382

Tournament at Berlin in honor of Frederick 386

The Invasion of Saxony 405

Battle of Lobositz, October 1, 1756 407

The Battle of Prague, May 6, 1757 412

Battle of Kolin, June 18, 1757 416

After the Defeat 417

Sophia Dorothea 419

Map of the Campaign of Rossbach 430

Battle of Rossbach, November 5, 1757 431

Map of the Leuthen Campaign 438

Battle of Leuthen, December 5, 1757 440

The King in search of Lodgings 444

Siege of Olmütz, May 12-July 2, 1758 450

Charge of General Seidlitz at Zorndorf 457

Battle of Zorndorf, August 25, 1758 459

Campaign of Hochkirch 464

Battle of Hochkirch, October 14, 1758 467

Frederick crossing the Oder 481

Battle of Kunersdorf, August 12, 1759 485

Frederick asleep in the hut at Oetscher 488

Battle of Maxen, November 20, 1759 494

The winter Camp 496

Battle of Liegnitz, August 16, 1760 505

Sacking the Palace 510

Battle of Torgau, November 3, 1760 512

The King’s Bivouac 525

The Empress Catharine 530

Assassination of Peter III. 531

The Officer and the Curate 535

Frederick the Great. Æt. 59 537

Map of the East 546

Condemnation of the Judges 558

Maria Theresa at the Tomb of her Husband 560

The last Review 564

Frederick and his Dogs 567




Origin of the Prussian Monarchy. - The Duchies of Brandenburg and
Prussia. - The Elector crowned King Frederick I. - Frederick
William. - His Childhood, Youth, and Marriage. - Birth of Fritz. -
Death of Frederick I. - Eccentric Character of Frederick William. -
His defective Education. - His Energy. - Curious Anecdotes. -
Hatred of the French. - Education of Fritz. - The Father’s Plan of

On the southern coasts of the Baltic Sea, between the latitudes
of 52° and 54°, there lies a country which was first revealed to
civilized eyes about three hundred years before the birth of Christ.
The trading adventurers from Marseilles, who landed at various points
upon the coast, found it a cold, savage region of lakes, forests,
marshy jungles, and sandy wastes. A shaggy tribe peopled it, of
semi-barbarians, almost as wild as the bears, wolves, and swine
which roamed their forests. As the centuries rolled on, centuries of
which, in these remote regions, history takes no note, but in which
the gloomy generations came and went, shouting, fighting, weeping,
dying, gradually the aspect of a rude civilization spread over those
dreary solitudes. The savage inhabitants, somewhat tamed, increased in
numbers, and there appeared a tall and manly race of fair complexion,
light hair, stern aspect, great physical strength, and very formidable
in battle.

Still centuries elapsed, leaving little for history to record but war
and woe. Fierce tribes swept in all directions. Battle was life’s
great business. Man, ignorant, degraded, brutal, could have had but
few if any joys. Perhaps, through his degradation, his woes were only
such as beasts feel. By degrees, from this chaos, a certain kind of
governmental order emerged. Small tribes became united under powerful
chieftains. Kings arose. There were all varieties of political
organizations, dukedoms, principalities, marquisates, and electorates.
It is recorded that Adalbert, bishop of Prag, about the year 997,
with two companions, as apostles of Christianity, first penetrated
these wilds. Like Christian heroes they went, with staff and scrip,
regardless of danger. The bishop was fifty years of age, and his gray
hairs floated in the breeze. As he landed a stout savage struck him
with the flat of his oar, and sent him headlong to the ground.

The zealous bishop, perhaps not unwilling to secure the crown of
martyrdom, pressed on, preaching the Gospel, in face of prohibitions
and menaces, until he entered one of the sacred inclosures which was
a sanctuary of the idols of these heathen. The priests rushed upon
him, endeavored to drive him out, and struck him with a dagger in
the back of his neck. He uttered but one cry, “Jesus, receive me!”
and, stretching out his arms, fell with his face to the ground, and
lay dead there “in the form of a crucifix.” The place is yet pointed
out where Adalbert fell. Still the seeds of Christianity were sown.
Other missionaries followed. Idolatry disappeared, and the realm
became nominally Christian. Revealed religion introduced increased
enlightenment and culture, though there still remained much of the
savagery of ancient days.

When the Reformation in the sixteenth century was presented to Europe,
and was rejected by Italy, France, Austria, and Spain, it was accepted,
though not unanimously, yet very generally, by the inhabitants of this
wild region. In the year 1700 there was, in the midst of the realm
of which we are about to write, and which is now called Prussia, a
province then known as the Marquisate of Brandenburg. It embraced
a little over fifteen thousand square miles, being about twice as
large as the State of Massachusetts. It was one of the electorates
of Germany, and the elector or marquis, Frederick, belonged to the
renowned family of Hohenzollern. To the east of Brandenburg there was a
duchy called Prussia. This duchy, in some of the political agitations
of the times, had been transferred to the Marquis of Brandenburg. The
Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick, an ambitious man, rejoicing in the
extent of his domain, which was large for a marquisate, though small
for a monarchy, obtained from the Emperor of Germany its recognition
as a kingdom, and assumed the title of Frederick I. of Prussia. Many
of the proud monarchies of Europe did not conceal the contempt with
which they regarded this petty kingdom. They received the elector
into their society very much as haughty nobles, proud of a long line
of illustrious ancestry, would receive a successful merchant who had
purchased a title. Frederick himself was greatly elated with the honor
he had attained, and his subjects shared with him in his exultation.

[Illustration: FREDERICK THE GREAT.]

Berlin was the capital of Brandenburg. Königsberg, an important
sea-port on the Baltic, nearly five hundred miles east of Berlin, was
the capital of the Prussian duchy. The ceremony of coronation took
place at Königsberg. The road, for most of the distance, was through
a very wild, uncultivated country. Eighteen hundred carriages, with
thirty thousand post-horses, were provided to convey the court to the
scene of coronation. Such a cavalcade was never beheld in those parts
before. The carriages moved like an army, in three divisions of six
hundred each. Volumes have been written descriptive of the pageant. It
is said that the diamond buttons on the king’s coat cost seven thousand
five hundred dollars each. The streets were not only tapestried with
the richest cloth of the most gorgeous colors, but many of them were
softly carpeted for the feet of the high-born men and proud dames who
contributed, by their picturesque costume, to the brilliance of the
spectacle. Frederick, with his own hands, placed the crown upon his
brow. Thus was the kingdom of Prussia, ushered into being at the close
of the year 1700.

Frederick I. had a son, Frederick William, then twelve years of age.
He accompanied his father upon this coronation tour. As heir to the
throne he was called the Crown Prince. His mother was a Hanoverian
princess, a sister of the Elector George of Hanover, who subsequently
became George I. of England. George I. did not succeed to the British
crown until the death of Anne, in 1714. When Frederick William was but
five years of age he had been taken by his mother to Hanover, to visit
her brother, then the elector. George had two children - a little girl,
named Sophie Dorothee, a few months older than Frederick William, and
a son, who subsequently became George II. of England. The two boys did
not love each other. They often quarreled. Though Frederick William
was the younger, it is said that on one occasion he severely beat his
cousin, the future King of England, causing the blood to flow freely.
He developed a very energetic but unamiable character. Among other
anecdotes illustrative of his determined spirit, it is recorded that at
one time, during this visit, his governess ordered some task which he
was unwilling to perform. The headstrong boy sprang out of the third
story window of the castle, and, clinging to the sill with his hands,
threatened to let himself drop. The terrified Madame Montbail was thus
brought to terms.[1]

Sophie Dorothee was a very pretty child. The plan was probably already
contemplated by the parents that the two should be married in due
time. Soon after this Frederick William lost his mother, and with her
all of a mother’s care and gentle influences. Her place was taken by
a step-mother, whose peevishness and irritability soon developed into
maniacal insanity. When Frederick William was eighteen years of age he
was allowed to choose between three princesses for his wife. He took
his pretty cousin, Sophie Dorothee. They were married with great pomp
on the 28th of November, 1706.

A son was born and died. A daughter came, Wilhelmina. But a daughter
could not inherit the crown. Another son was born and died. There was
great anxiety at court, from fear that the direct line of succession
might not be preserved. But on the 24th of January, 1712, when the
monarchy was but twelve years old, the little prince was born who
subsequently obtained such renown as Frederick the Great. The king,
his grandfather, was aged and infirm. The excessive joy with which he
greeted little Fritz, as he fondly called the child, was cordially
reciprocated throughout the Prussian nation. The realm blazed with
bonfires and illuminations, and resounded with every demonstration of
public joy. The young prince was christened with great pomp, Charles
Frederick. The emperor, Charles VI., was present on the occasion,
and in the solemnities there were blended the most imposing civil,
military, and ecclesiastical rites. The baptism took place on the
31st of January, 1712, when the babe was a week old. The young prince
subsequently dropped the name of Charles, and Frederick became his sole
designation. Wilhelmina, Frederick’s sister, was about three years
older than himself. We shall have frequent occasion to allude to her in
the course of this history, as between her and her brother there sprang
up a warm attachment, which was of life-long continuance. Ten children
were subsequently born to the royal pair, making fourteen in all, most
of whom attained mature years.

Frederick William, the Crown Prince, was at the time of the birth of
his son Frederick twenty-four years of age. He was a very peculiar
man, sturdy and thick-set in figure, of strong mental powers, but quite
uneducated. He was unpolished in manners, rude in his address, honest
and sincere, a stern, persevering worker, despising all luxurious
indulgence, and excessively devoted to the routine of military duties.


The king, Frederick I., had for some time been in a feeble state of
health. The burden of life had proved heavier than he was able to
bear. His wife was crazed, his home desolate, his health broken, and
many mortifications and disappointments had so crushed his spirits
that he had fallen into the deepest state of melancholy. As he was
sitting alone and sad in a chill morning of February, 1713, gazing
into the fire, absorbed in painful musings, suddenly there was a crash
of the glass door of the apartment. His frenzied wife, half-clad,
with disheveled hair, having escaped from her keepers, came bursting
through the shattered panes. Her arms were gashed with glass, and she
was in the highest state of maniacal excitement. The shock proved a
death-blow to the infirm old king. He was carried to his bed, which
he never left, dying in a few days. His grandson Frederick was then
fourteen months old.

[Illustration: FREDERICK WILLIAM.]

Frederick William was too stern a man to shed many tears over his
father’s death. The old king was ostentatious in his tastes, fond of
parade and splendor. The son had almost an insane contempt for all
court etiquette and all the elegancies of life. As he stood by his
father’s dying bed, his unamiable, rugged nature developed itself in
the disgust, almost rage, with which he regarded the courtly pageantry
with which the expiring monarch was surrounded. The remains of the king
were allowed to be conveyed to the tomb with that pomp which had been
dear to him while living.

But, immediately after these ceremonies were over, the new monarch,
who assumed the crown with the title of Frederick William, not with
that of Frederick II., to the utter consternation of the court,
dismissed nearly every honorary official of the palace, from the
highest dignitary to the humblest page. His flashing eye and determined
manner were so appalling that no one ventured to remonstrate. A clean
sweep was made, so that the household was reduced to the lowest
footing of economy consistent with the supply of indispensable wants.
Eight servants were retained at six shillings a week. His father had
thirty pages; all were dismissed but three. There were one thousand
saddle-horses in the royal stables; Frederick William kept thirty.
Three fourths of the names were struck from the pension-list. Thus
rigidly the king went on through every department of administrative and
household expenses, until they were reduced to below a fifth of what
they had been under his father.

For twenty-seven years this strange man reigned. He was like no other
monarch. Great wisdom and shrewdness were blended with unutterable
folly and almost maniacal madness. Though a man of strong powers of
mind, he was very illiterate. He certainly had some clear views of
political economy. Carlyle says of him, “His semi-articulate papers
and rescripts on these subjects are still almost worth reading by a
lover of genuine human talent in the dumb form. For spelling, grammar,
penmanship, and composition they resemble nothing else extant - are as
if done by the paw of a bear; indeed, the utterance generally sounds
more like the growling of a bear than any thing that could be handily
spelled or parsed. But there is a decisive human sense in the heart of
it; and there is such a dire hatred of empty bladders, unrealities, and
hypocritical forms and pretenses, which he calls wind and humbug, as is
very strange indeed.”

His energy inspired the whole kingdom, and paved the way for the
achievements of his son. The father created the machine with which the
son attained such wonderful results. He commuted the old feudal service
into a fixed money payment. He goaded the whole realm into industry,
compelling even the apple-women to knit at the stalls. The crown
lands were carefully farmed out. He drained bogs, planted colonies,
established manufactures, and in every way encouraged the use of
Prussian products. He carried with him invariably a stout rattan cane.
Upon the slightest provocation, like a madman, he would thrash those
who displeased him. He was thoroughly an arbitrary king, ruling at his
sovereign will, and disposing of the liberty, the property, and the
lives of his subjects at his pleasure. Every year he was accumulating
large masses of coin, which he deposited in barrels in the cellar
of his palace. He had no powers of graceful speech, but spent his
energetic, joyless life in grumbling and growling.

The Prussian minister, Baron Pöllnitz, in a letter from Berlin dated
June 6, 1729, writes: “The king’s prime minister is the king himself,
who is informed of every thing, and is desirous to know every thing.
He gives great application to business, but does it with extraordinary
ease; and nothing escapes his penetration nor his memory, which is a
very happy one. No sovereign in the world is of more easy access, his
subjects being actually permitted to write to him without any other
formality than superscribing the letter _To the King_. By writing
underneath, _To be delivered into his Majesty’s own hands_, one may be
sure that the king receives and reads it, and that the next post he
will answer it, either with his own hands or by his secretary. These
answers are short, but peremptory. There is no town in all the King
of Prussia’s dominions, except Neufchatel, where he has not been; no
province which he does not know full well; nor a court of justice but
he is acquainted with its chief members.”

Fully conscious that the respect which would be paid to him as a
European sovereign greatly depended upon the number of men he could
bring into the field of battle, Frederick William devoted untiring
energies to the creation of an army. By the most severe economy,
watching with an eagle eye every expenditure, and bringing his
cudgel down mercilessly upon the shoulders of every loiterer, he
succeeded in raising and maintaining an army of one hundred thousand
men; seventy-two thousand being field troops, and thirty thousand in
garrison.[2] He drilled these troops as troops were never drilled

Regardless himself of comfort, insensible to fatigue, dead to
affection, he created perhaps the most potent military machine earth
has ever known. Prussia was an armed camp. The king prized his soldiers
as a miser prizes his gold coin, and was as unwilling to expose them
to any danger as the miser is to hazard his treasures. War would thin
his regiments, soil his uniforms, destroy his _materiel_. He hated war.
But his army caused Prussia to be respected. If needful, he could throw
one hundred thousand of the best drilled and best furnished troops in
Europe, like a thunderbolt, upon any point. Unprincipled monarchs would
think twice before they would encroach upon a man thus armed.

There was but one short war in which Frederick William engaged during
his reign of twenty-seven years. That was with Charles XII. of Sweden.
It lasted but a few months, and from it the Prussian king returned
victorious. The demands of Frederick William were not unreasonable. As
he commenced the brief campaign, which began and ended with the siege
of Stralsund, he said: “Why will the very king whom I most respect
compel me to be his enemy?” In his characteristic farewell order to his
ministers, he wrote: “My wife shall be told of all things, and counsel
asked of her. And as I am a man, and may be shot dead, I command you
and all to take care of Fritz, as God shall reward you. And I give
you all, wife to begin with, my curse that God may punish you in time
and eternity if you do not, after my death, bury me in the vault of
the palace church at Berlin. And you shall make no grand to-do on the
occasion. On your body and life no festivals and ceremonials, except
that the regiments, one after the other, fire a volley over me. I am
assured that you will manage every thing with all the exactness in the
world, for which I shall ever, zealously, as long as I live, be your

The king was scrupulously clean, washing five times a day. He would
allow no drapery, no stuffed furniture, no carpets in his apartments.
They caught dust. He sat upon a plain wooden chair. He ate roughly,
like a farmer, of roast beef, despising all delicacies. His almost
invariable dress was a close military blue coat, with red cuffs and
collar, buff waistcoat and breeches, and white linen gaiters to the
knee. A sword was belted around his loins, and, as we have said, a
stout rattan or bamboo cane ever in his hand. A well-worn, battered,
triangular hat covered his head. He walked rapidly through the streets
which surrounded his palaces at Potsdam and Berlin. If he met any
one who attracted his attention, male or female, he would abruptly,
menacingly inquire, “Who are you?” A street-lounger he has been known
to hit over the head with his cane, exclaiming, “Home, you rascal, and
go to work.” If any one prevaricated or hesitated, he would sternly
demand, “Look me in the face.” If there were still hesitancy, or the
king were dissatisfied with the answers, the one interrogated was lucky
if he escaped without a caning.[3]

The boorish king hated the refinement and polish of the French. If he
met a lady in rich attire, she was pretty sure to be rudely assailed;
and a young man fashionably dressed could hardly escape the cudgel if
he came within reach of the king’s arm. The king, stalking through the
streets, was as marked an object as an elephant would have been. Every
one instantly recognized him, and many fled at his approach. One day
he met a pale, threadbare young man, who was quietly passing him, when
the king stopped, in his jerking gait, and demanded, in his coarse,
rapid utterance, “Who are you?” “I am a theological student,” the young
man quietly replied. “Where from?” added the king. “From Berlin,” was
the response. “From Berlin?” the king rejoined; “the Berliners are all
a good-for-nothing set.” “Yes, your majesty, that is true of many of
them,” the young man added; “but I know of two exceptions.” “Of two?”
responded the king; “which are they?” “Your majesty and myself,” the
young man replied. The king burst into a good-humored laugh, and,
after having the young man carefully examined, assigned him to a

The French minister at the court of Berlin, Count Rothenburg, was a
Prussian by birth. He was a man of much diplomatic ability, and a very
accomplished gentleman. Having spent much of his life in Paris, he had
acquired the polished manners of the French court, and wore the costume
appropriate to the Tuileries and Versailles. He and his associates
in the embassy attracted much attention as they appeared in their
cocked hats, flowing wigs, laced coats, and other gorgeous trimmings.
The king, in his homespun garb, was apprehensive that the example so
obnoxious to him might spread.

There was to be a grand review on the parade-ground just out from
Berlin, at which the French embassy was to be present. The king caused
a party equal in number, composed of the lowest of the people, to be
dressed in an enormous exaggeration of the French costume. Their cocked

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 2 of 52)