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into the ranks. Even boys but thirteen and fourteen years of age were
seized by the press-gangs. The countries swept by the armies were
so devastated and laid waste that it was almost an impossibility to
obtain provisions for the troops. It will be remembered that upon the
capture of Berlin several of the king’s palaces had been sacked by the
Russian and Austrian troops. The king, being in great want of money,
looked around for some opportunity to retaliate. There was within his
cantonments a very splendidly furnished palace, called the Hubertsburg
Schloss, belonging to the King of Poland. On the 21st of January, 1761,
Frederick summoned to his audience-room General Saldern. This officer
cherished a very high sense of honor. The bravest of the brave on the
field of battle, he recoiled from the idea of performing the exploits
of a burglar. The following conversation took place between the king
and his scrupulous general. In very slow, deliberate tones, the king

“General Saldern, to-morrow morning I wish you to go with a detachment
of infantry and cavalry to Hubertsburg. Take possession of the palace,
and pack up all the furniture. The money they bring I mean to bestow on
our field hospitals. I will not forget _you_ in disposing of it.”

“Forgive me, your majesty,” General Saldern replied, “but this is
contrary to my honor and my oath.”

The king, in still very calm and measured words, rejoined, “You would
be right if I did not intend this desperate method for a good object.
Listen to me. Great lords don’t feel it in their scalp when their
subjects are torn by the hair. One has to grip their own locks as the
only way to give them pain.”

“Order me, your majesty,” said General Saldern, “to attack the enemy
and his batteries, and I will cheerfully, on the instant, obey; but
I can not, I dare not, act against honor, oath, and duty. For this
commission your majesty will easily find another person in my stead.”

The king turned upon his heel, and, with angry voice and gesture, said,
“Saldern, you refuse to become rich.”

In a pet Frederick left the room. The heroic general, who had flatly
refused to obey a positive command, found it necessary to resign
his commission. The next day another officer plundered the castle.
Seventy-five thousand dollars of the proceeds of the sale were
appropriated to the field hospitals. The remainder, which proved to be
a large sum, was the reward of the plundering general.

“The case was much canvassed in the army. It was the topic in every
tent among officers and men. And among us army chaplains, too, the
question of conflicting duties arose. Your king ordering one thing, and
your conscience another, what ought a man to do? And what ought an army
chaplain to preach or advise?

“Our general conclusion was that neither the king nor General Saldern
could well be called in the wrong. General Saldern, in obeying the
inner voice, did certainly right. But the king, also, in his place,
might judge such a measure expedient. Perhaps General Saldern himself
would have done so had he been King of Prussia.”[166]

The Duke of Mecklenburg had a sister, Charlotte, a bright and beautiful
young girl of seventeen. Her heart was so moved by the scenes of misery
which she witnessed every where around her that she ventured to write a
very earnest appeal to Frederick for peace.

“It was but a few years ago,” she wrote, “that this territory
wore the most pleasing appearance. The country was cultivated.
The peasants looked cheerful. The towns abounded with riches and
festivity. What an alteration at present from such a charming
scene! I am not expert at description, neither can my fancy add
any horrors to the picture. But sure even conquerors themselves
would weep at the hideous prospect now before me.

“The whole country, my dear country, lies one frightful waste,
presenting only objects to excite terror, pity, and despair.
The business of the husbandman and the shepherd are quite
discontinued. The husbandman and shepherd are become soldiers
themselves, and help to ravage the soil they formerly occupied.
The towns are inhabited by old men, women, and children. Perhaps
here and there a warrior, rendered unfit for service by wounds
and want of limbs, is left at his door. His little children hang
round him, ask a history of every wound, and grow themselves
soldiers before they find strength for the field.

“But this were nothing did we not feel the alternate insolence
of either army as it happens to advance or retreat. It is
impossible to express the confusion which even those create who
call themselves our friends. Even those from whom we might expect
redress oppress us with new calamities. From you, therefore, it
is that we expect relief. To you even women and children may
complain, for your humanity stoops to the most humble petition,
and your power is capable of repressing the greatest injustice. I
am, sire, etc.,

“CHARLOTTE SOPHIA, of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.”

This letter was extensively circulated in England. It was greatly
admired. It so happened that the court was then looking around for a
bride for their young king. The result was that in the course of a few
months Charlotte became Queen of England, as the wife of George III.

It is not known that Frederick paid any attention to this appeal.
Impoverished as his realms were, large sums of money were absolutely
necessary for the conduct of a new campaign. The king levied a
contribution upon Leipsic of nearly a million of dollars. The leading
citizens said that in their extreme destitution it was impossible to
raise that sum. The king threatened to burn down the city over their
heads. The combustibles were gathered. The soldiers stood with the
torches in their hands to kindle the conflagration. But then the king,
apparently reflecting that from the smouldering ashes of the city he
could glean no gold, ordered the city to be saved, but arrested a
hundred of the chief merchants and threw them into prison.

These men, of the highest distinction, were treated with every
indignity to extort the money from them. They were incarcerated in
gloomy dungeons, with straw only for their beds, and with bread and
water only for their food. But even this severity was unavailing.
Seventeen were then selected from their number, and were informed
that they were to be forced into the ranks as common soldiers. Their
muskets and their knapsacks were given to them, and they were ordered
to Magdeburg to be drilled. By this application of torture the money
was obtained. And now, while the storms of winter were sweeping the
frozen fields, both parties were gathering their strength anew for the
struggle of the sixth campaign.



Commencement of the Sixth Campaign. - The Fortified Camp at
Bunzelwitz. - Skillful Engineering. - Unintermitted Toil of the
Soldiers. - Retreat of the Russians. - Loss of Schweidnitz. -
Peculiar Treatment of General Zastrow. - Close of the Sixth
Campaign. - The King at Breslau. - Desponding Letter to D’Argens. -
Death of Elizabeth of Russia. - Accession of Peter III. - His
Marriage with the Daughter of a Prussian General. - Takes the
Baptismal Name of Catharine. - Assassination of Peter III. -
Curious Proclamation by the Empress. - Commencement of the Seventh
Campaign. - Alliance of Russia with Prussia. - Withdrawal from the
Alliance. - Termination of the War.

The fifth campaign of the Seven Years’ War closed with the year 1760.
By exertions such as mortal man perhaps never made before, Frederick
succeeded, during the winter, in raising an army of ninety-six thousand
men. In the mean time the allies had concentrated in Bohemia, to crush
him, seventy-two thousand Austrians and sixty thousand Russians. The
capture of four fortresses would drive Frederick hopelessly out of
Silesia. Early in May, Frederick, leaving his brother Henry with about
forty thousand men to protect Saxony, set out with fifty thousand for
the relief of Neisse, which was then besieged. General Goltz, probably
the most able of the Prussian commanders, was detached to the fortified
camp at Glogau.

“But, alas! poor Goltz, just when ready to march, was taken with
sudden, violent fever, the fruit probably of overwork; and in that sad
flame blazed away his valiant existence in three or four days; gone
forever, June 30, 1761, to the regret of Frederick and of many.”[167]

The Russians were entering Silesia from the northeast by the way of
Poland. Frederick, by one of his incredibly rapid marches, for a time
prevented the junction of the two hostile armies. After innumerable
marchings and manœuvrings, during which Frederick displayed military
ability which commanded the admiration even of his foes, the Prussian
king found himself, on the 16th of August, at Nicolstadt, in the very
heart of Silesia, at the head of fifty-seven thousand men. In front
of him, obstructing his advance, there were sixty thousand Russians.
In his rear, cutting off his retreat, there were seventy-two thousand
Austrians. From a commanding eminence Frederick could watch the
movements of both of these hostile bands. Both Russians and Austrians
stood in such awe of the prowess of their redoubtable antagonist that
they moved cautiously, like hounds surrounding the lion at bay.

At three o’clock in the morning of the 20th of August, and after
the march of a few hours, the little army of Frederick commenced
constructing a fortified camp near the poor little village of
Bunzelwitz, about half way between the Silesian fortresses of
Schweidnitz and Striegau. Spades were provided. Fifty thousand men
were instantly employed, according to a well-matured plan, in digging
and trenching. The extraordinary energies of Frederick seemed to nerve
every arm. Here there was speedily reared the camp of Bunzelwitz, which
has attained world-wide renown.

An ordinary eye would not have seen in the position any peculiar
military strength. It was an undulating plain about eight miles long
and broad, without any abrupt eminences. A small river bordered it
on the west, beyond which rose green hills. On the east was the
almost impregnable fortress of Schweidnitz, with its abundant stores.
Farm-houses were scattered about, with occasional groves and morasses.
There were also sundry villages in the distance.

Frederick himself was chief engineer. The army was divided into
two forces of twenty-five thousand each. Carlyle gives a graphic
description of this enterprise.

“And twenty-five thousand spades and picks are at work, under such
a field engineer as there is not in the world when he takes to that
employment. At all hours, night and day, twenty-five thousand of them:
half the army asleep, other half digging, wheeling, shoveling; plying
their utmost, and constant as Time himself: these, in three days, will
do a great deal of spadework. Batteries, redoubts, big and little;
spare not for digging. Here is ground for cavalry, too. Post them here,
there, to bivouac in readiness, should our batteries be unfortunate.
Long trenches are there, and also short; batteries commanding every
ingate, and under them are mines.”

Many of the trenches were sixteen feet broad by sixteen feet deep.
Under each battery there were two mines. In case of capture, the mines
and the victors could be blown high into the air. Knowing that the
batteries were all mined, the Russian and Austrian soldiers would be
slow to make charges in which victory would be certain death. The small
villages around were all strongly fortified.

“Würben, in the centre, is like a citadel looking down upon Striegau
Water. Heavy cannon, plenty of them, we have brought from Schweidnitz.
We have four hundred and eighty cannon in all, and one hundred
and eighty-two mines. Würben, our citadel and centre, is about
five miles from Schweidnitz. Before our lines are palisades and
_chevaux-de-frise_. Woods we have in abundance in our circuit, and
axes for carpentries of that kind. There are four intrenched knolls;
twenty-four big batteries capable of playing beautifully, all like
pieces in a concert.”[168]

Frederick had been three days and nights at work upon his fortress
before the allies ventured forward to look into it. It was then a
Gibraltar. Still for eight days more the spade was not intermitted.
Cogniazo, an Austrian, writes: “It is a masterpiece of art, in
which the principles of tactics are combined with those of field
fortifications as never before.”

The Austrians took position upon the south, at the distance of about
six miles. The Russians were at the same distance on the west, with
their head-quarters at Hohenfriedberg.

It would seem that Frederick’s troops must have had iron sinews, and
that they needed as little repose as did their master. Those not at
work with the spade were under arms to repel an assault. Two or three
times there was an alarm, when the whole fifty thousand, in an hour,
were in battle-array. Frederick was fully aware of the crisis he had
encountered. To be beaten there was irretrievable ruin. No one in the
army performed more exhausting labor than the king himself. He seemed
to be omnipresent, by day and by night. Near the chief battery, in a
clump of trees, there was a small tent, and a bundle of straw in the
corner. Here the king occasionally sought a few moments of repose. But
his nervous excitement rendered him so restless, that most of the time
he was strolling about among the guard parties, and warming himself by
their fires.

[Illustration: THE KING’S BIVOUAC.]

“One evening,” writes Carlyle, “among the orders is heard this item:
‘And remember a lock of straw, will you, that I may not have to sleep
upon the ground, as last night!’ Many anecdotes are current to this
day about his pleasant, homely ways, and affabilities with the sentry
people, and the rugged hospitalities they would show him at their
watch-fires. ‘Good evening, children.’ ‘The same to thee, Fritz.’ ‘What
is that you are cooking?’ - and would try a spoonful of it, in such
company; while the rough fellows would forbid smoking. ‘Don’t you know
he dislikes it?’ ‘No! smoke away,’ the king would insist.”

General Loudon was in command of the Austrians, and General Butturlin
of the Russians, who were arrayed against Frederick. They could
not agree upon a plan of attack. Neither commander was willing to
expose his troops to the brunt of a battle in which the carnage would
necessarily be dreadful. Thus the weeks wore away. Frederick could not
be safely attacked, and winter was approaching.

At ten o’clock at night on the 9th of September, the Russian camp went
up in flame. The next morning not a Russian was to be seen. The whole
army had disappeared over the hills far away to the north. Frederick
immediately dispatched eight thousand men under General Platen to
attack the flank of the retreating foe, and destroy his baggage-wagons.
The feat was brilliantly accomplished. On the 15th of September, before
the dawn of the morning, General Platen fell upon the long train,
took nearly two thousand prisoners, seven cannon, and destroyed five
thousand heavily-laden wagons.

Frederick remained at Bunzelwitz a fortnight after the retreat of the
Russians. In the mean time the French and English were fighting each
other with varying success upon the banks of the Rhine. It is not
necessary to enter into the details of their struggles. Frederick’s
magazines at Schweidnitz were getting low. On the 26th of September
he broke up his camp at Bunzelwitz, and in a three days’ march to the
southeast reached Neisse. The Austrians did not venture to annoy him.
Frederick had scarcely reached Neisse when he learned, to his amazement
and horror, that General Loudon, with a panther-like spring, had
captured Schweidnitz, with its garrison and all its supplies. It was a
terrible blow to the king. The Austrians could now winter in Silesia.
The anguish of Frederick must have been great. But he gave no utterance
to his gloomy forebodings.

“The king,” writes Küster, “fell ill of the gout, saw almost nobody,
never came out. It was whispered that his inflexible heart was at
last breaking. And for certain there never was in his camp and over
his dominions such a gloom as in this October, 1761, till at length
he appeared on horseback again, with a cheerful face; and every body
thought to himself, ‘Ha! the world will still roll on, then.’”

Frederick’s treatment of the unfortunate General Zastrow, who was in
command at Schweidnitz, was quite peculiar. Very generously he wrote to

“MY DEAR GENERAL VON ZASTROW, - The misfortune which has befallen
me is very grievous. But what consoles me in it is to see by
your letter that you have behaved like a brave officer, and that
neither you nor your garrison have brought disgrace or reproach
upon yourselves. I am your well-affectioned king.


“P.S. - You may, in this occurrence, say what Francis I., after
the battle of Pavia, wrote to his mother: ‘All is lost except
honor.’ As I do not yet completely understand the affair, I
forbear to judge of it, for it is altogether extraordinary.”

Notwithstanding this letter, Frederick refused to give General
Zastrow any further employment, but left him to neglect, obscurity,
and poverty. Zastrow wrote to the king imploring a court-martial. He
received the following laconic reply:

“It is of no use. I impute nothing of crime to you. But after such a
mishap it would be dangerous to trust you with any post or command.”

The freezing gales of winter soon came, when neither army could keep
the open field. Frederick established his winter quarters at Breslau.
General Loudon, with his Austrians, was about thirty miles southwest of
him at Kunzendorf. Thus ended the sixth campaign.

The winter was long, cold, and dreary. Fierce storms swept the fields,
piling up the snow in enormous drifts. But for this cruel war, the
Prussian, Russian, and Austrian peasants, who had been dragged into
the armies to slaughter each other, might have been in their humble
but pleasant homes, by the bright fireside, in the enjoyment of all

“The snow lies ell-deep,” writes Archenholtz; “snow-tempests, sleet,
frost. The soldiers bread is a block of ice, impracticable to human
teeth till you thaw it.”

It was on the 9th of December that the king, after incredible exposure
to hunger, and cold, and night-marchings, established himself for the
winter in the shattered apartments of his ruined palace at Breslau.
He tried to assume a cheerful aspect in public, but spent most of
his hours alone, brooding over the ruin which now seemed inevitable.
He withdrew from all society, scarcely spoke to any body except upon
business. One day General Lentulus dined with him, and not one word was
spoken at the table. On the 18th of January, 1762, the king wrote in
the following desponding tones to D’Argens:

“The school of patience I am at is hard, long-continued, cruel, nay,
barbarous. I have not been able to escape my lot. All that human
foresight could suggest has been employed, and nothing has succeeded.
If Fortune continues to pursue me, doubtless I shall sink. It is only
she that can extricate me from the situation I am in. I escape out of
it by looking at the universe on the great scale, like an observer from
some distant planet. All then seems to me so infinitely small; and I
could almost pity my enemies for giving themselves such trouble about
so very little.

“What would become of us without philosophy, without this reasonable
contempt of things frivolous, transient, and fugitive, about which the
greedy and ambitious make such a pother, fancying them to be solid!
This is to become wise by stripes, you will tell me. Well, if one do
become wise, what matters it how? I read a great deal. I devour my
books, and that brings me useful alleviation. But for my books, I think
hypochondria would have had me in Bedlam before now. In fine, dear
marquis, we live in troublous times and in desperate situations. I have
all the properties of a stage hero - always in danger, always on the
point of perishing. One must hope that the conclusion will come, and if
the end of the piece be lucky, we will forget the rest.”[169]

“The darkest hour is often nearest the dawn.” The next day after
Frederick had written the above letter he received news of the death of
his most inveterate enemy, Elizabeth, the Empress of Russia. As we have
mentioned, she was intensely exasperated against him in consequence
of some sarcasms in which he had indulged in reference to her private
life. Elizabeth was the daughter of Peter the Great, and had inherited
many of her father’s imperial traits of character. She was a very
formidable foe.

“Russia may be counted as the bigger half of all he had to strive with;
the bigger, or at least the far uglier, more ruinous, and incendiary;
and, if this were at once taken away, think what a daybreak when the
night was at the blackest.”[170]

The nephew of Elizabeth, and her successor, Peter III., was a very warm
admirer of Frederick. One of his first acts was to send to the Prussian
king the assurance of his esteem and friendship. Peter immediately
released all the Prussian prisoners in his dominions, entered into
an armistice with Frederick, which was soon followed by a treaty of
alliance. The two sovereigns commenced a very friendly correspondence.
Frederick returned all the Russian prisoners, well clothed and fed,
to their homes. The change was almost as sudden and striking as the
transformations in the kaleidoscope. On the 23d Peter issued a decree
that there was peace with Prussia, that he had surrendered to his
Prussian majesty all the territorial conquests thus far made, and had
recalled the Russian armies.

Peter III. had been left an orphan, and titular Duke of
Schleswig-Holstein, when eleven years of age. His mother was a daughter
of Peter the Great. His aunt, the Czarina Elizabeth, who had determined
not to marry, adopted the child, and pronounced him to be her heir to
the throne. Being at that time on friendly terms with Frederick, the
Empress Elizabeth had consulted him in reference to a wife for the
future czar. It will be remembered that the king effected a marriage
between Peter and Sophia, the beautiful daughter of a Prussian general,
Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and at that time commandant of Stettin. His
wife was sister to the heir-apparent of Sweden. Carlyle, speaking of
this couple, says:

“They have a daughter, Sophie-Frederike, now near fifteen, and very
forward for her age; comely to look upon, wise to listen to. ‘Is not
she the suitable one?’ thinks Frederick in regard to this matter.
‘Pier kindred is of the oldest - old as Albert the Bear. She has been
frugally brought up, Spartan-like, though as a princess by birth. Let
her cease skipping ropes on the ramparts yonder with her young Stettin
playmates, and prepare for being a czarina of the Russias,’ thinks he.
And communicates his mind to the czarina, who answers, ‘Excellent! How
did I never think of that myself!’”

This was in January, 1744. The young lady, with her mother, by express
invitation, and with this object in view, visited the Russian court.
Sophia embraced the Greek religion, received in baptism the new name of
Catharine, and on the 1st of September, 1745, was married to her second
cousin Peter. “And with invocation of the Russian heaven and Russian
earth they were declared to be one flesh, though at last they turned
out to be _two fleshes_, as my reader well knows.”[171]


About a year before this, on the 17th of July, 1744, Frederick’s sister
Ulrique had been married to Adolf Frederick, the heir-apparent to
the throne of Sweden. Eighteen years of this weary world’s history,
with its wars and its woes, had since passed away. On the 5th of
April, 1751, the old king of Sweden died. Thus Adolf became king, and
Frederick’s sister Ulrique Queen of Sweden. And now, on the 5th of
January, 1762, the Empress of Russia died, and Peter III., with his
wife Catharine, ascended the throne of that majestic empire.

The withdrawal of Russia from the alliance against Frederick, though
hailed by him with great joy, still left him, with wasted armies and
exhausted finances, to struggle single-handed against Austria and

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 43 of 52)