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History of Frederick the Second online

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broken down, and others were overturned more than once.”[63]

Frederick, ever regardless of fatigue and exposure for himself, never
spared his followers. It was after midnight of the 28th when the weary
column, frostbitten, hungry, and exhausted, reached Olmütz. The king
was hospitably entertained in the fine palace of the Catholic bishop,
“a little, gouty man,” writes Stille, “about fifty-two years of age,
with a countenance open and full of candor.”

Orders had been issued for all the Prussian troops to be rendezvoused
by the 5th of February at Wischau. They were then to march immediately
about seventy-five miles west, to Trebitsch, which was but a few
miles south of Iglau, the point of attack. Here they were to join the
French and Saxon troops. The force thus concentrated would amount to
twenty-four thousand Prussian troops, twenty thousand Saxons, and
five thousand French horsemen. With this army - forty-nine thousand
strong - Frederick was to advance, by one short day’s march, upon Iglau,
where the Austrian garrison amounted to but ten thousand men.

In the mean time, on the 24th of January, Charles Albert, King of
Bavaria, through the intrigues of the French minister and the diplomacy
of Frederick, was chosen Emperor of Germany. This election Frederick
regarded as a great triumph on his part. It was the signal defeat of
Austria. Very few of the sons of Adam have passed a more joyless and
dreary earthly pilgrimage than was the fortune of Charles Albert. At
the time of his election he was forty-five years of age, of moderate
stature, polished manners, and merely ordinary abilities. He was
suffering from a complication of the most painful disorders. His
previous life had been but a series of misfortunes, and during all the
rest of his days he was assailed by the storms of adversity. In death
alone he found refuge from a life almost without a joy.

Charles Albert, who took the title of “the Emperor Charles VII.,” was
the son of Maximilian, King of Bavaria, who was ruined at Blenheim, and
who, being placed under the ban of the empire, lived for many years a
pensioner upon the charity of Louis XIV. Charles was then but seven
years of age, a prince by birth, yet homeless, friendless, and in
poverty. With varying fortunes, he subsequently married a daughter of
the Emperor Joseph. She was a cousin of Maria Theresa. Upon the death
of his father in 1726, Charles Albert became King of Bavaria; but he
was involved in debt beyond all hope of extrication. The intrigues of
Frederick placed upon his wan and wasted brow the imperial crown of
Germany. The coronation festivities took place at Frankfort, with great
splendor, on the 12th of February, 1742.

Wilhelmina, who was present, gives a graphic account, with her
vivacious pen, of many of the scenes, both tragic and comic, which

“Of the coronation itself,” she writes, “though it was truly grand,
I will say nothing. The poor emperor could not enjoy it much. He was
dying of gout and other painful diseases, and could scarcely stand
upon his feet. He spends most of his time in bed, courting all manner
of German princes. He has managed to lead my margraf into a foolish
bargain about raising men for him, which bargain I, on fairly getting
sight of it, persuade my margraf to back out of; and, in the end, he
does so. The emperor had fallen so ill he was considered even in danger
of his life. Poor prince! What a lot he had achieved for himself!”

While these coronation splendors were transpiring, Frederick was
striving, with all his characteristic enthusiasm, to push forward
his Moravian campaign to a successful issue. Inspired by as tireless
energies as ever roused a human heart, he was annoyed beyond measure
by the want of efficient co-operation on the part of his less zealous
allies. Neither the Saxons nor the French could keep pace with his
impetuosity. The princes who led the Saxon troops, the petted sons
of kings and nobles, were loth to abandon the luxurious indulgences
to which they had been accustomed. When they arrived at a capacious
castle where they found warm fires, an abundant larder, and sparkling
wines, they would linger there many days, decidedly preferring those
comforts to campaigning through the blinding, smothering snowstorm,
and bivouacking on the bleak and icy plains, swept by the gales of
a northern winter. The French were equally averse to these terrible
marches, far more to be dreaded than the battle-field.

Frederick remonstrated, argued, implored, but all in vain. He was not
disposed to allow considerations of humanity, regard for suffering
or life, to stand in the way of his ambitious plans. For two months,
from February 5th, when Frederick rendezvoused the Prussians at
Wischau, until April 5th, he found himself, to his excessive chagrin,
unable to accomplish any thing of moment, in consequence of the
lukewarmness of his allies. He was annoyed almost beyond endurance. It
was indeed important, in a military point of view, that there should
be an immediate march upon Iglau. It was certain that the Austrians,
forewarned, would soon remove their magazines or destroy them. The
utmost expedition was essential to the success of the enterprise.

The young officers in the Saxon army, having disposed their troops
in comfortable barracks, had established their own head-quarters in
the magnificent castle of Budischau, in the vicinity of Trebitsch.
“Nothing like this superb mansion,” writes Stille, “is to be seen
except in theatres, on the drop-scene of the enchanted castle.” Here
these young lords made themselves very comfortable. They had food in
abundance, luxuriously served, with the choicest wines. Roaring fires
in huge stoves converted, within the walls, winter into genial summer.
Here these pleasure-loving nobles, with song, and wine, and such
favorites, male and female, as they carried with them, loved to linger.


At length, however, Frederick succeeded in pushing forward a detachment
of his army to seize the magazines and the post he so greatly coveted.
The troops marched all night. Toward morning, almost perishing with
cold, they built enormous fires. Having warmed their numbed and
freezing limbs, they pressed on to Iglau, to find it abandoned by
the garrison. The Austrian general Lobkowitz had carried away every
thing which could be removed, and then had reduced to ashes seventeen
magazines, filled with military and commissary stores. The king was
exceedingly chagrined by this barren conquest. He was anxious to
advance in all directions, to take full possession of Moravia, before
the Austrians could send re-enforcements to garrison its fortresses;
but the Saxon lords refused to march any farther in this severe winter
campaign. Frederick complained to the Saxon king. His Polish majesty
sent an angry order to his troops to go forward. Sullenly they obeyed,
interposing every obstacle in their power. Some of the leaders threw
up their commissions and went home. Frederick, with his impetuous
Prussians and his unwilling Saxons, spread over Moravia, levying
contributions and seizing the strong places.

The Saxons, much irritated, were rather more disposed to thwart his
plans than to co-operate in them. The Austrian horsemen were vigilant,
pouncing upon every unprotected detachment. Frederick marched for
the capture of Brünn, the strongest fortress in Moravia. It had a
garrison of seven thousand men, under the valiant leader Roth. To
arrest the march of Frederick, and leave him shelterless on the
plains, the Austrian general laid sixteen villages in ashes. The poor
peasants - men, women, and children - foodless and shelterless, were thus
cast loose upon the drifted fields. Who can gauge such woes?

Frederick, finding that he could not rely upon the Saxons, sent to
Silesia for re-enforcements of his own troops. Brünn could not be
taken without siege artillery. He was capturing Moravia for the King
of Poland. Frederick dispatched a courier to his Polish majesty at
Dresden, requesting him immediately to forward the siege guns. The
reply of the king, who was voluptuously lounging in his palaces, was,
“I can not meet the expense of the carriage.” Frederick contemptuously
remarked, “He has just purchased a green diamond which would have
carried them thither and back again.” The Prussian king sent for siege
artillery of his own, drew his lines close around Brünn, and urged
Chevalier De Saxe, general of the Saxon horse, to co-operate with him
energetically in battering the city into a surrender. The chevalier
interposed one obstacle, and another, and another. At last he replied,
showing his dispatches, “I have orders to retire from this business
altogether, and join the French at Prague.”

Frederick declares, in his history, that never were tidings more
welcome to him than these. He had embarked in the enterprise for the
conquest of Moravia with the allies. He could not, without humiliation,
withdraw. But, now that the ally, in whose behalf he assumed to be
fighting, had abandoned him, he could, without dishonor, relinquish
the field. Leaving the Saxons to themselves, with many bitter words
of reproach, he countermanded his order for Silesian re-enforcements,
assembled his troops at Wischau, and then, by a rapid march through
Olmütz, returned to his strong fortresses in the north.

The Saxons were compelled to a precipitate retreat. Their march was
long, harassing, and full of suffering, from the severe cold of those
latitudes, and from the assaults of the fierce Pandours, every where
swarming around. Villages were burned, and maddened men wreaked direful
vengeance on each other. Scarcely eight thousand of their number, a
frostbitten, starving, emaciate band, reached the borders of Saxony.
Curses loud and deep were heaped upon the name of Frederick. His Polish
majesty, though naturally good-natured, was greatly exasperated in
view of the conduct of the Prussian king in forcing the troops into
the severities of such a campaign. Frederick himself was also equally
indignant with Augustus for his want of co-operation. The French
minister, Valori, met him on his return from these disasters. He
says that his look was ferocious and dark; that his laugh was bitter
and sardonic; that a vein of suppressed rage, mockery, and contempt
pervaded every word he uttered.

Frederick withdrew his troops into strong cantonments in the valley
of the upper Elbe. This beautiful river takes its rise in romantic
chasms, among the ridges and spurs of the Giant Mountains, on the
southeastern borders of Silesia. Here the Prussian army was distributed
in small towns along a line following the windings of the stream,
about forty miles in length. All the troops could be concentrated in
forty-eight hours. The encampments faced the south, with the Elbe
behind them. At some little distance north of the river, safe from
surprise, the magazines were stationed. The mountains of Bohemia rose
sublimely in the distant background. In a letter to M. Jordan, under
date of Chrudim, May 5th, 1742, Frederick expresses his views of this
profitless campaign in the following terms:


“Moravia, which is a very bad country, could not be held, owing to want
of provisions. The town of Brünn could not be taken because the Saxons
had no cannon. When you wish to enter a town, you must first make a
hole to get in by. Besides, the country has been reduced to such a
state that the enemy can not subsist in it, and you will soon see him
leave it. There is your little military lesson. I would not have you at
a loss what to think of our operations, or what to say, should other
people talk of them in your presence.”

Elsewhere, Frederick, speaking of these two winter campaigns, says:
“Winter campaigns are bad, and should always be avoided, except in
cases of necessity. The best army in the world is liable to be ruined
by them. I myself have made more winter campaigns than any general of
this age. But there were reasons. In 1740 there were hardly above two
Austrian regiments in Silesia, at the death of the Emperor Charles VI.
Being determined to assert my right to that duchy, I had to try it at
once, in winter, and carry the war, if possible, to the banks of the
Neisse. Had I waited till spring, we must have begun the war between
Crossen and Glogau. What was now to be gained by one march would then
have cost us three or four campaigns. A sufficient reason, this, for
campaigning in winter. If I did not succeed in the winter campaigns
of 1742, a campaign which I made to deliver Moravia, then overrun by
Austrians, it was because the French acted like fools, and the Saxons
like traitors.”[64]

Frederick, establishing his head-quarters at Chrudim, did not suppose
the Austrians would think of moving upon him until the middle of June.
Not till then would the grass in that cold region afford forage. But
Maria Theresa was inspired by energies fully equal to those of her
renowned assailant. Undismayed by the powerful coalition against her,
she sent Prince Charles, her brother-in-law, early in May, at the head
of an army thirty thousand strong, to advance by a secret, rapid flank
march, and seize the Prussian magazines beyond the Elbe.

The ever-wakeful eye of Frederick detected the movement. His beautiful
encampment at Chrudim had lasted but two days. Instantly couriers
were dispatched in all directions to rendezvous the Prussian troops
on a vast plain in the vicinity of Chrudim. But a few hours elapsed
ere every available man in the Prussian ranks was on the march. This
movement rendered it necessary for Prince Charles to concentrate the
Austrian army also. The field upon which these hosts were gathering for
battle was an undulating prairie, almost treeless, with here and there
a few hamlets of clustered peasant cottages scattered around.


It was a serene, cloudless May morning when Frederick rode upon a
small eminence to view the approach of his troops, and to form them
in battle array. General Stille, who was an eye-witness of the scene,
describes the spectacle as one of the most beautiful and magnificent
which was ever beheld. The transparent atmosphere, the balmy air,
transmitting with wonderful accuracy the most distant sounds, the
smooth, wide-spreading prairie, the hamlets, to which distance lent
enchantment, surmounted by the towers or spires of the churches,
the winding columns of infantry and cavalry, their polished weapons
flashing in the sunlight, the waving of silken and gilded banners,
while bugle peals and bursts of military airs floated now faintly, and
now loudly, upon the ear, the whole scene being bathed in the rays of
the most brilliant of spring mornings - all together presented war in
its brightest hues, divested of every thing revolting.[65]

There were nearly thirty thousand men, infantry and cavalry, thus
assembling under the banners of Frederick for battle. They were in as
perfect state of drill as troops have ever attained, and were armed
with the most potent implements of war which that age could furnish.
The king was visibly affected by the spectacle. Whether humane
considerations touched his heart, or merely poetic emotion moved him,
we can not tell. But he was well aware that within a few hours not
merely hundreds, but thousands of those men, torn by shot and shell,
would be prostrate in their blood upon the plain; and he could not but
know that for all the carnage and the suffering, he, above all others,
would be responsible at the bar of God.

“The king,” writes Stille, “though fatigued, would not rest satisfied
with reports or distant view. Personally he made the tour of the whole
camp, to see that every thing was right, and posted the pickets himself
before retiring.”



The Battle of Chotusitz. - Letter to Jordan. - Results of the
Battle. - Secret Negotiations. - The Treaty of Breslau. - Entrance
into Frankfort. - Treachery of Louis XV. - Results of the Silesian
Campaigns. - Panegyrics of Voltaire. - Imperial Character of Maria
Theresa. - Her Grief over the Loss of Silesia. - Anecdote of Senora
Barbarina. - Duplicity of both Frederick and Voltaire. - Gayety in
Berlin. - Straitened Circumstances. - Unamiability of Frederick.

It was the aim of Prince Charles to get between Frederick’s encampment
at Chrudim and his French allies, under Marshal Broglio, at Prague.
When discovered by Frederick, the Austrian army was on the rapid march
along a line about fifteen miles nearly southwest of Chrudim. It thus
threatened to cut Frederick’s communication with Prague, which was on
the Moldau, about sixty miles west of the Prussian encampment. The
forces now gathering for a decisive battle were nearly equal. The
reader would not be interested in the description of the strategic and
tactical movements of the next two days. The leaders of both parties,
with great military sagacity, were accumulating and concentrating their
forces for a conflict, which, under the circumstances, would doubtless
prove ruinous to the one or the other. A battle upon that open plain,
with equal forces, was of the nature of a duel, in which one or the
other of the combatants must fall.

On the morning of the 17th of May Frederick’s army was drawn out in
battle array, facing south, near the village of Chotusitz, about
fifteen miles west of Chrudim. Almost within cannon-shot of him, upon
the same plain, near the village of Czaslau, facing north, was the
army of Prince Charles. The field was like a rolling western prairie,
with one or two sluggish streams running through it; and here and
there marshes, which neither infantry nor cavalry could traverse. The
accompanying map will give the reader an idea of the nature of the
ground and the position of the hostile forces.


_a. Prussian Camp. b b. Prussian Infantry. c c. Prussian Cavalry.
d. Position of Buddenbrock. e e. Austrian Infantry.
f f. Austrian Cavalry. g. Austrian Hussars._]

The sun rose clear and cloudless over the plain, soon to be crimsoned
with blood and darkened by the smoke of battle. The Prussians took
position in accordance with very minute directions given to the young
Prince Leopold by Frederick. It was manifest to the most unskilled
observer that the storm of battle would rage over many miles, as the
infantry charged to and fro; as squadrons of strongly-mounted cavalry
swept the field; as bullets, balls, and shells were hurled in all
directions from the potent enginery of war.

About seven o’clock in the morning the king ascended an eminence, and
carefully scanned the field, where sixty thousand men were facing each
other, soon to engage in mutual slaughter. There were two spectacles
which arrested his attention. The one was the pomp, and pageantry,
and panoply of war, with its serried ranks, its prancing steeds, its
flashing armor, its waving banners, its inspiriting bugle-peals - a
scene in itself beautiful and sublime in the highest conceivable degree.

But there was another picture which met the eye of the king very
different in its aspect. We know not whether it at all touched his
heart. It was that of the poor peasants, with their mothers, their
wives, their children, hurrying from their hamlets in all directions,
in the utmost dismay. Grandmothers tottered beneath the burden of
infant children. Fathers and mothers struggled on with the household
goods they were striving to rescue from impending ruin. The cry of
maidens and children reached the ear as they fled from the tramp of the
war-horse and the approaching carnage of the death-dealing artillery.

Frederick, having carefully scanned the Austrian lines for an instant
or two, gave the signal, and all his batteries opened their thunders.
Under cover of that storm of iron, several thousand of the cavalry, led
by the veteran General Bredow, deployed from behind some eminences,
and first at a gentle trot, and then upon the most impetuous run, with
flashing sabres, hurled themselves upon the left wing of the Austrian
lines. The ground was dry and sandy, and a prodigious cloud of dust
enveloped them. For a moment the tornado, vital with human energies,
swept on, apparently unobstructed. The first line of the Austrian horse
was met, crushed, annihilated. But the second stood as the rock breasts
the waves, horse against horse, rider against rider, sabre against
sabre. Nothing met the eye but one vast eddying whirlpool of dust, as
if writhing in volcanic energies, while here and there the flash of
fire and the gleam of steel flickered madly through it.

The battle, thus commenced, continued to rage for four long hours,
with all its demon energies, its blood, its wounds, its oaths, its
shrieks, its death; on the right wing, on the left wing, in the centre;
till some ten or twelve thousand, some accounts say more, of these
poor peasant soldiers lay prostrate upon the plain, crushed by the
hoof, torn by the bullet, gashed by the sabre. Many were dead. Many
were dying. Many had received wounds which would cripple them until
they should totter into their graves. At the close of these four hours
of almost superhuman effort, the villages all around in flames, the
Austrians slowly, sullenly retired from the contest. Prince Charles,
having lost nearly seven thousand men, with his remaining forces
breathless, exhausted, bleeding, retired through Czaslau, and vanished
over the horizon to the southwest. Frederick, with his forces almost
equally breathless, exhausted, and bleeding, and counting five thousand
of his soldiers strewn over the plain, in death or wounds, remained
master of the field. Such was the famous battle of Chotusitz.

In the following terms, Frederick, the moment the battle was over,
announced his victory, not to his wife, but to his friend Jordan:

“From the Field of Battle of Chotusitz, May 17, 1742.

“DEAR JORDAN, - I must tell you, as gayly as I can, that we
have beaten the enemy soundly, and that we are all pretty well
after it. Poor Rothenburg is wounded in the breast and in the
arm, but, as it is hoped, without danger. Adieu. You will be
happy, I think, at the good news I send you. My compliments to

Frederick did not pursue the Austrians after this victory. Nine acres
of ground were required to bury the dead. He rented this land from the
proprietor for twenty-five years. His alienation from his allies was
such that, without regard to them, he was disposed to make peace with
Austria upon the best terms he could for himself. England also, alarmed
in view of the increasing supremacy of France, was so anxious to detach
Frederick, with his invincible troops, from the French alliance, that
the British cabinet urged Maria Theresa to make any sacrifice whatever
that might be necessary to secure peace with Prussia. Frederick,
influenced by such considerations, buried the illustrious Austrian
dead with the highest marks of military honor, and treated with marked
consideration his distinguished prisoners of war.

Secret negotiations were immediately opened at Breslau, in Silesia,
between England, Austria, and Prussia. Maria Theresa, harassed by the
entreaties of her cabinet and by the importunities of the British
court, consented to all that Frederick demanded.

The French, who, through their shrewd embassador, kept themselves
informed of all that was transpiring, were quite alarmed in view of the
approaching accommodation between Prussia and Austria. It is said that
Frederick, on the 6th of June, in reply to the earnest remonstrances of
the French minister, Marshal Belleisle, against his withdrawal from the
alliance, frankly said to him,

“All that I ever wanted, more than I ever demanded, Austria now offers
me. Can any one blame me that I close such an alliance as ours all
along has been, when such terms are presented to me as Austria now

On the 15th of June Frederick gave a grand dinner to his generals at
his head-quarters. In an after-dinner speech he said to them,

“Gentlemen, I announce to you that, as I never wished to oppress the
Queen of Hungary, I have formed the resolution of agreeing with that
princess, and accepting the proposals she has made me, in satisfaction
of my rights.”

Toasts were then drank with great enthusiasm to the health of “Maria
Theresa, Queen of Hungary,” to “the queen’s consort, Francis,

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 25 of 52)