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execrable campaign. I will then write to you what is to become of me,
and we will arrange the rest. Pity me, and make no noise about me. Bad
news goes fast enough of itself. Adieu, dear marquis.”

The king, as usual, was merciless to General Finck. As soon as he
returned from Austrian captivity he was tried by court-martial, and
condemned to a year’s imprisonment in the fortress of Spandau, and was
expelled from the army. He afterward retired to Denmark, where he was
kindly received.

General Daun, elated by this victory, relinquished the plan of retiring
to Bohemia, and decided to remain in Saxony for the winter. Frederick
had but thirty-six thousand men in Saxony. Daun commanded seventy-two

The Elbe was now frozen. The storms of winter covered the icy fields
with snow. Daun retired to Dresden. Frederick established himself in
the little town of Freiberg, about thirty miles southwest from Dresden.
His troops were in cantonments in the adjoining villages. Here he took
up his abode in a humble cottage. Thus terminated the fourth campaign
of the Seven Years’ War.



Winter Encampment. - Death of Maupertuis. - Infamous Conduct of
Voltaire. - Reproof by the King. - Voltaire’s Insincerity. -
Correspondence. - The King publishes his Poems. - Dishonorable
Conduct of the King. - New Encampment near Dresden. - Destruction
of Frederick’s Army in Silesia. - Atrocities perpetrated by the
Austrians. - Astonishing March. - The Austrians outwitted. - Dresden
bombarded and almost destroyed by Frederick. - Battle of Liegnitz. -
Utter Rout of the Austrians. - Undiminished Peril of Frederick. -
Letter to D’Argens.

It was early in January, 1760, that the two hostile armies went
into winter quarters. General Daun, with his seventy-two thousand
triumphant troops, held Dresden. He encamped his army in an arc of a
circle, bending toward the southwest from the city, and occupying a
line about thirty miles in extent. Frederick, with thirty-two thousand
troops depressed by defeat, defiantly faced his foe in a concave arc
concentric to that of Daun. The two antagonistic encampments were
almost within cannon-shot of each other.

Never were the prospects of Frederick more gloomy. He had taken up
his residence for the winter in a very humble cottage near the hamlet
of Freiberg. He must have been very unhappy. Scenes of suffering were
every where around him. It was terribly cold. His troops were poorly
clothed, and fed, and housed.

“It was one of the grimmest camps in nature; the canvas roofs grown
mere ice-plates, the tents mere sanctuaries of frost. Never did poor
young Archenholtz see such industry in dragging wood-fuel, such boiling
of biscuits in broken ice, such crowding round the embers to roast one
side of you while the other was freezing. But Daun’s people, on the
opposite side of the Plauen Dell, did the like. Their tents also were
left standing in the frozen state, guarded by alternating battalions no
better off than their Prussian neighbors.”[142]

Thus affairs continued through the winter. There were two frostbitten
armies facing each other on the bleak plains. With apparently not much
to be gained in presenting this front of defiance, each party breasted
the storms and the freezing gales, alike refusing to yield one inch of

[Illustration: THE WINTER CAMP.]

During the previous summer, the philosopher Maupertuis, after weary
wanderings in the languor of consumption, and in great dejection of
spirits, had been stricken by convulsions while in his carriage at
Basel. He had lost favor with the king, and was poor, friendless, and
dying. His latter years had been imbittered by the venomous assaults of

While in health and prosperity, quaffing the wines of Frederick, he
was an avowed infidel, and eagerly joined the ribald companions of
the king in denouncing all religion as the fanaticism of weak minds.
But in these hours of pain, of loneliness, and of approaching death
he could find no consolation in the teachings of philosophy. He sent
for two Christian ministers to visit him daily, and daily had the
Bible read to him. It was a death-bed repentance. Bitterly he deplored
a wasted life. Sincerely he seemed to embrace the doctrines of
Christianity.[143] He died, after a lingering sickness, far from home
and friends, on the 27th of July, 1759.

Voltaire made himself very merry over the dying scene of Maupertuis.
There was never another man who could throw so much poison into a sneer
as Voltaire. It is probable that the conversion of Maupertuis somewhat
troubled his conscience as the unhappy scorner looked forward to his
own dying hour, which could not be far distant. He never alluded to
Maupertuis without indulging in a strain of bitter mockery in view
of his death as a penitent. Even the king, unbeliever as he was in
religion or in the existence of a God, was disgusted with the malignity
displayed by Voltaire. In reply to one of Voltaire’s envenomed assaults
the king wrote:

“You speak of Maupertuis. Do not trouble the ashes of the dead. Let
the grave, at least, put an end to your unjust hatreds. Reflect that
even kings make peace after long battling. Can not you ever make it? I
think you would be capable, like Orpheus, of descending to hell, not to
soften Pluto, and bring back your beautiful Emilie, but to pursue into
that abode of woe an enemy whom your wrath has only too much persecuted
in this world. For shame!”[144]

Soon after Frederick wrote to Voltaire upon this subject again,
still more severely, but in verse. The following is almost a literal
translation of this poetic epistle:

“Leave the cold ashes of Maupertuis in peace. He was noble and
faithful. He pardoned you that vile libel of Doctor Akakia which your
criminal fury scribbled against him. And what return are you making?
Shame on such delirious ravings as those of Voltaire! Shall this
grand genius, whom I have admired, soil himself with calumny, and be
ferocious on the dead? Shall he, like a vile raven, pounce upon the
sepulchre, and make prey upon its corpses?”

The friendship of these two remarkable men must have been of a singular
character. Voltaire thus maliciously wrote of the king:

“He is as potent and as malignant as the devil. He is also as unhappy,
not knowing friendship.”

Voltaire had, as a pet, a very vicious ape, treacherous, spiteful, who
pelted passers-by with stones, and, when provoked, would bite terribly.
The name of this hateful beast was Luc. Voltaire gave his friend
Frederick the nickname of Luc. He corresponded freely with the enemies
of his Prussian majesty. A few extracts will reveal the character
of the friendship of the philosopher. Some days after the battle of
Kunersdorf Voltaire wrote to D’Argental:

“I do not love Luc; far from it. I never will pardon him his infamous
procedure with my niece,[145] nor the face he has to write me
flattering things twice a month without having ever repaired his
wrongs. I desire much his entire humiliation, the chastisement of the
sinner; whether his eternal damnation I do not quite know.”

Again he wrote, a few months after, to the Duke of Choiseul: “He has
been a bad man, this Luc. And now, if one were to bet by the law of
probability, it would be three to one that Luc would go to pot [_sera
perdu_], with his rhymings and his banterings, and his injustices and
politics, all as bad as himself.”[146]

Frederick affected great contempt for public opinion. He wrote to

“I have the lot of all actors who play in public - applauded by some,
despised by others. One must prepare one’s self for satires, for
calumnies, for a multitude of lies, which will be sent abroad into
currency against one. But need that trouble my tranquillity? I go my
road. I do nothing against the interior voice of my conscience. And
I concern myself very little in what way my actions paint themselves
in the brain of beings not always very thinking, with two legs, and
without feathers.”

It is evident that the king, thus surrounded with perils and threatened
with utter destruction, was anxious for the termination of the war. But
still this inflexible man would not listen to any suggestions for peace
but on his own terms. He wrote to Voltaire, urging him “to bring back
peace.” At the same time he said,

“In spite of all your efforts, you will not get a peace signed by my
hands except on conditions honorable to my nation. Your people, blown
up with self-conceit and folly, may depend on these words.”

But that he was fully awake to his perils, and keenly felt his
sufferings, is manifest from the following extract from another of his

“The sword and death have made frightful ravages among us. And the
worst is that we are not yet at the end of the tragedy. You may judge
what effect these cruel shocks make on me. I wrap myself in my stoicism
the best I can. Flesh and blood revolt against such tyrannous command,
but it must be followed. If you saw me you would scarcely know me
again. I am old, broken, gray-headed, wrinkled. I am losing my teeth
and my gayety. If this go on, there will be nothing of me left but the
mania of making verses, and an inviolable attachment to my duties, and
to the few virtuous men whom I know.”

In the above letter the king alludes to the “mania of making verses.”
Strange as it may seem, he this winter, when apparently almost crushed
beneath the weight of cares and sorrows, when every energy of mind and
body seemed called into requisition in preparation for a new campaign,
published an edition of his poems.

The allies represented a population of ninety millions. The realms of
Frederick embraced scarcely five millions of inhabitants. The allies
decided that they would no longer make an exchange of prisoners. It
was manifest that, by merely protracting the war, even without any
signal successes on the part of the allies, Frederick would find
all his resources of men exhausted. Frederick, who was never very
scrupulous with regard to the means which he employed for the promotion
of his ends, immediately compelled his prisoners of war, of whatever
nationality, to enlist in his service.

“Prisoners, captive soldiers, if at all likely fellows,” writes
Archenholtz, “were by every means persuaded and even compelled to take
Prussian service. Compelled, cudgel in hand, not asked if they wished
to serve, but dragged to the Prussian colors, obliged to swear there,
and fight against their countrymen.”[147]

Frederick also seized money wherever he could find it, whether in
the hands of friend or foe. His contributions levied upon the Saxons
were terrible. The cold and dreary winter passed rapidly away. The
spring was late in that northern clime. It was not until the middle
of June that either party was prepared vigorously to take the field.
It was generally considered by the European world that Frederick was
irretrievably ruined. In the last campaign he had lost sixty thousand
men. Universal gloom and discouragement pervaded his kingdom. Still
Frederick, by his almost superhuman exertions, had marshaled another
army of one hundred thousand men. But the allies had two hundred and
eighty thousand to oppose to them. Though Frederick in public assumed a
cheerful and self-confident air, as if assured of victory, his private
correspondence proves that he was, in heart, despondent in the extreme,
and that scarcely a ray of hope visited his mind. To his friend
D’Argens he wrote:

“I am unfortunate and old, dear marquis. That is why they persecute
me. God knows what my future is to be this year. I grieve to resemble
Cassandra with my prophecies. But how augur well of the desperate
situation we are in, and which goes on growing worse? I am so gloomy
to-day I will cut short.

“Write to me when you have nothing better to do. And don’t forget a
poor philosopher who, perhaps to expiate his incredulity, is doomed to
find his purgatory in this world.”

Again, and at the same time, he wrote to another friend:

“The difficulties I had last campaign were almost infinite, there were
such a multitude of enemies acting against me. Pomerania, Brandenburg,
Saxony, frontiers of Silesia, were alike in danger, and often all at
one time. If I escaped absolute destruction, I must impute it chiefly
to the misconduct of my enemies, who gained such advantages, but had
not the sense to follow them up. Experience often corrects people of
their blunders. I can not expect to profit by any thing of that kind on
their part in the course of this campaign.”[148]

Four campaigns of the Seven Years’ War have passed. We are now entering
upon the fifth, that of 1760. The latter part of April Frederick
broke up his encampment at Freiberg, and moved his troops about twenty
miles north of Dresden. Here he formed a new encampment, facing the
south. His left wing was at Meissen, resting on the Elbe. His right
wing was at the little village of Katzenhäuser, about ten miles to the
southwest. Frederick established his head-quarters at Schlettau, midway
of his lines. The position thus selected was, in a military point of
view, deemed admirable. General Daun remained in Dresden “astride” the
Elbe. Half of his forces were on one side and half on the other of the

The stunning news soon reached Frederick that General Fouquet, whom
he had left in Silesia with twelve thousand men, had been attacked by
a vastly superior force of Austrians. The assault was furious in the
extreme. Thirty-one thousand Austrians commenced the assault at two
o’clock in the morning. By eight o’clock the bloody deed was done. Ten
thousand of the Prussians strewed the field with their gory corpses.
Two thousand only escaped. General Fouquet himself was wounded and
taken prisoner. To add to the anguish of the king, this disaster was
to be attributed to the king himself. He had angrily ordered General
Fouquet to adopt a measure which that general, better acquainted with
the position and forces of the foe, saw to be fatal. Heroically he
obeyed orders, though he knew that it would prove the destruction of
his army.

Silesia was at the mercy of the foe. Frederick regarded the calamity
as irreparable. Still in a few hours he recovered his equanimity, and
in public manifested his accustomed stoicism. The victorious Austrian
soldiers in Silesia conducted themselves like fiends. Their plunderings
and outrages were too shocking to be recited. “Nothing was spared by
them,” writes Frederick, “but misery and ugliness.”

There was a small garrison at Glatz, at Silesia, which, though closely
besieged, still held out against the Austrians. Frederick thought that
if he could by any stratagem draw General Daun from Dresden, he could,
by a sudden rush, break down its walls and seize the city. He moved
with celerity which completely deceived the Austrian commander. At
two o’clock in the morning of Wednesday, July 2d, his whole army was
almost on the run toward Silesia. They marched as troops never marched
before. For twelve hours their speed was unintermitted. The next day,
in utter exhaustion, they rested. But on Friday, as the village clocks
were tolling the hour of midnight, all were again on the move, the
king himself in front. Again it was a run rather than a march through
a dreary realm of bogs, wild ravines, and tangled thickets. At three
o’clock on Saturday morning the march was resumed.

General Daun was soon informed of this energetic movement. He instantly
placed himself at the head of sixty thousand troops, and also set out,
at his highest possible speed, for Glatz.

Sunday, July 6th, was a day of terrible heat. At three o’clock in the
morning the Prussian troops were again in motion. There was not a
breath of wind. The blazing sun grew hotter and hotter. There was no
shade. The soldiers were perishing of thirst. Still the command was
“onward,” “onward.” In that day’s march one hundred and five Prussian
soldiers dropped dead in their tracks.

General Daun thought that such energy as this could not be a feint.
He was much nearer to Glatz than was Frederick. Monday, July 7th, the
Prussian troops rested. General Daun pressed on. Tuesday night he was
two days’ march ahead of Frederick. In the mean time, the Prussian
king, who had made this tremendous march simply to draw the foe from
Dresden, suddenly turned, and with the utmost velocity directed his
troops back toward the city.

General Maguire had been left in Dresden with but about fourteen
thousand men for its defense. On Saturday, July 13th, the Prussian
army appeared before the city. All the night they were erecting their
batteries. Early Sunday morning the cannonade began. As Daun might
speedily arrive at the head of sixty thousand troops for the relief of
the garrison, the bombardment was conducted with the utmost possible
energy. Day and night the horrible tempest fell upon the doomed
city. Adversity had soured the king’s disposition, and rendered him
merciless. He had no compassion upon the innocent inhabitants. It
was his aim, at whatever cost, to secure the immediate surrender of
the place. He cruelly directed his terrific fire upon the thronged
dwellings rather than upon the massive fortifications. Street after
street blazed up in flames. It was Frederick’s relentless plan
by “fire torture” to force the citizens to compel Maguire to the
surrender. But the Austrian commander hardened his heart against the
misery of the Saxon people, and held the place.

General Daun was proverbially slow-footed. For thirteen days the
wretched city burned and bled. In a memorial to the world, which the
King of Poland, as Elector of Saxony, published on the occasion, he

“Had the enemy attacked Dresden according to the rules and the customs
of war, had they directed their efforts against the ramparts, the
king would, without doubt, have lamented the evils which would have
resulted from it to his people, but he would have lamented them without
complaining. But the Prussians made war on the innocent townsmen. Their
fire was wholly directed against the houses. They endeavored to destroy
a town which they could not take.”

In truth, when General Daun approached, and Frederick saw that there
was no possibility of his taking the city, he, in the wantonness of
his rage, set fire to upward of a hundred houses in the suburbs which
had hitherto escaped the flames. Three hundred and fifty houses were
destroyed within the walls. More than that number were half destroyed,
shattered by bombs, and scorched with flames. These were terrible
calamities falling upon a city already exhausted by four years of the
most desolating war. The King of Poland closed his appeal by saying,

“The king thinks it scarcely worth while to mention his palaces and his
gardens sacked and ruined, in contempt of the regard usually paid from
one sovereign to another. Is there a man in all Europe who does not see
in these terrible effects an implacable hatred and a destructive fury
which all nations ought to concur in repressing?”[149]

Frederick, being constrained by the approach of General Daun to raise
the siege of Dresden, retired to his intrenched camp at Schlettau.
Leaving fifteen thousand men to guard the camp, he, on the 1st of
August, before the dawn, crossed the Elbe, and was again on the rapid
march toward Silesia. His army consisted of thirty thousand men, and
was accompanied by two thousand heavy baggage-wagons. In five days
the king marched over one hundred miles, crossing five rivers. Armies
of the allies, amounting to one hundred and seventy-five thousand
Austrians and Russians, were around him - some in front, some in his
rear, some on his flanks.[150]

On the 14th of August Frederick had reached Liegnitz. His foes
surrounded him in such numbers that escape seemed impossible, and
destruction sure. General Loudon, with thirty-five thousand allies, was
scarcely a mile east of him. General Lacy, with an immense swarm of
cavalry, was at the distance of but a few thousand yards on the west.
General Daun, with his immense army, approaching from the southwest,
had taken possession of Liegnitz. Frederick was encamped upon some
heights a few miles east of the city. To human view, the position of
his Prussian majesty was desperate.

“He was clinging on the head of slippery abysses, his path hardly a
foot’s breadth, mere enemies and avalanches hanging round on every
side; ruin likelier at no moment of his life.”

On the night of the 14th Frederick had stationed his lines with the
greatest care to guard against surprise. At midnight, wrapped in his
cloak, and seated on a drum by a watch-fire, he had just fallen asleep.
An Irish officer, a deserter from the Austrians, came blustering and
fuming into the camp with the announcement that General Lacy’s army
was on the march to attack Frederick by surprise. Frederick sprang to
his horse. His perfectly drilled troops were instantly in motion. By a
rapid movement his troops were speedily placed in battle array upon the
heights of the Wolfsberg. They would thus intercept the enemy’s line
of march, would take him by surprise, and were in the most admirable
position to encounter superior numbers. To deceive the foe, all the
Prussian camp-fires were left burning. General Loudon had resorted to
the same stratagem to deceive Frederick.

To the surprise of General Loudon, there was opened upon his
advance-guard of five thousand men, as it was pressing forward on
its stealthy march, in the darkness ascending an eminence, the most
destructive discharge of artillery and musketry. The division was
hurled back with great slaughter. Gathering re-enforcements, it
advanced the second and the third time with the same results. Cavalry,
infantry, artillery, were brought forward, but all in vain. Frederick
brought into action but fifteen thousand men. He utterly routed the
hostile army of thirty-five thousand men, killing four thousand, and
taking six thousand prisoners. He also captured eighty-two cannon,
twenty-eight flags, and five thousand muskets. His own loss was
eighteen hundred men. The battle commenced at three o’clock in the
morning, and was over at five o’clock.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF LIEGNITZ, AUGUST 16, 1760.

_a a. Prussian Camp, left with fires burning. b b b. Prussian
Main Army. c c. Ziethen’s Division. d d. Loudon’s Camp, also
left with fires burning. e e e. Loudon’s Army attacked by the
Prussians. f f f. Approach of Daun. g g. Lacy’s Cavalry._]

Frederick remained upon the field of battle four hours gathering up
the spoils. The dead were left unburied. The wounded were placed
in empty meal-wagons. General Loudon fled precipitately across the
Katzbach River. To deceive the Austrians in reference to his movements,
Frederick wrote a false dispatch to his brother Henry, which he placed
in the hands of a trusty peasant. The peasant was directed to allow
himself to be taken. The plan worked to a charm. The other portions
of the allied army, deceived by the dispatch, retreated as Frederick
wished to have them. He soon formed a junction with his brother Henry,
and being astonished himself at his almost miraculous escape, marched
to the strong fortress of Breslau, which was still held by a small
Prussian garrison, and where he had large magazines.

But, notwithstanding this wonderful victory and narrow escape, it still
seemed that Frederick’s destruction was only postponed for a short
time. He was in the heart of Silesia, and was surrounded by hostile
armies three times more numerous than his own.

Twelve days after the battle of Liegnitz Frederick wrote as follows to
his friend, the Marquis D’Argens, who was at Berlin. The letter was
dated Hermannsdorf, near Breslau, 27th of August, 1760:

“Formerly, my dear marquis, the affair of the 15th would have
decided the campaign. At present it is but a scratch. A great
battle must determine our fate. Such we shall soon have. Then,
should the event prove favorable to us, you may, with good
reason, rejoice. I thank you for your sympathy. It has cost much
scheming, striving, and address to bring matters to this point.
Do not speak to me of dangers. The last action cost me only a
coat and a horse. That is buying victory cheap.[151]

“I never in my life was in so bad a posture as in this campaign.
Miracles are still needed to overcome the difficulties which I
foresee. I do my duty as well as I can. But remember, my dear

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 41 of 52)