With that vigilant eye upon him, Frederick was compelled to some vigor of action. On the night of October 17th he commenced the bombardment. The noise was terrific. It could not294 be prevented but that the shot and shell should do some harm. Some buildings were burned; several lives were lost. M. Valori, who knew that the result could not be doubtful, was induced to go to Breslau and await the surrender. After the garrison had made apparently a gallant resistance, and Frederick had achieved apparent prodigies of valor, the city was surrendered on the 31st of October. Most of the garrison immediately enlisted in the Prussian service.“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.”At half past three o’clock on Friday morning, Frederick, with his whole army, was again upon the march. He swept quite around the eastern end of the Russian square, and approached it from the south. By this sagacious movement he could, in case of disaster, retreat to Cüstrin.
Forming his army in two parallel lines, nearly five miles long, facing the foe, he prepared to open the battle along the whole369 extent of the field. While thus engrossing the attention of the enemy, his main attempt was to be directed against the village of Kesselsdorf, which his practiced eye saw to be the key of the position. It was two o’clock in the afternoon ere all his arrangements were completed. The Old Dessauer was a devout man—in his peculiar style a religious man, a man of prayer. He never went into battle without imploring God’s aid. On this occasion, all things being arranged, he reverently uncovered his head, and in presence of the troops offered, it is said, the following prayer:General Neipperg cautiously advanced toward him, and encamped in the vicinity of Steinau—the same Steinau which but a few weeks before had been laid in ashes as the Prussian troops284 passed through it. The two armies were now separated from each other but by an interval of about five miles. The country was flat, and it was not probable that the contest which Frederick so eagerly sought could long be avoided.
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.In accordance with this request, Voltaire repaired to Cleves to visit the king. Many years afterward, having quarreled with Frederick, and being disposed to represent him in the most unfavorable light, he gave the following account of this interview in his Vie Privée:
On the 1st of July, the day before the king heard of his mother’s death, he wrote to Wilhelmina, in reply to a letter from her which expressed great anxiety on his account:Frederick was in a towering passion. Voltaire was alarmed at the commotion he had created. He wrote a letter to the king, in which he declared most solemnly that he had not intended to392 have the pamphlet published; that a copy had been obtained by treachery, and had been printed without his consent or knowledge. But the king wrote back:163 “After dinner, being alone with me, he said, ‘Our sire is approaching his end. He will not live out this month. I know that I have made you great promises, but I am not in the condition to keep them. I will leave you the half of the sum which my predecessor lent you. I think that you will have every reason to be satisfied with that.’
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,505 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.
“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.”“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.”
“If it had depended upon me, I would willingly have devoted myself to that death which those maladies sooner or later bring upon one, in order to save and prolong the life of her whose eyes are now closed. I beseech you never to forget her. Collect all your powers to raise a monument to her honor. You need only do her justice. Without any way abandoning the truth, she will afford you an ample and beautiful subject. I wish you more repose and happiness than falls to my lot.
“The next day there was a great promenade. We were all in phaetons, dressed out in our best. All the nobility followed in carriages, of which there were eighty-five. The king, in a Berline, led the procession. He had beforehand ordered the round we were to take, and very soon fell asleep. There came on a tremendous storm of wind and rain, in spite of which we continued our procession at a foot’s pace. It may easily be imagined what state we were in. We were as wet as if we had been in the river. Our hair hung about our ears, and our gowns and head-dresses were destroyed. We got out at last, after three hours’ rain, at Monbijou, where there was to be a great illumination and ball. I never saw any thing so comical as all these ladies, looking like so many Xantippes, with their dresses sticking to their persons. We could not even dry ourselves, and were obliged to remain all the evening in our wet clothes.”“But behold the caprice of Fortune. After a hundred preferences of my rivals, she smiles upon me, and packs off the hero of the hat and sword, whom the pope had blessed, and who had gone on pilgrimages. He skulks out of Saxony, panting like a dog whom the cook has flogged out of the kitchen.”
Wilhelmina was appalled in view of the difficulty and danger of the enterprise. It was a long distance from Dresden to the coast. Head winds might detain the vessel. The suspicious king would not long remain ignorant that he was missing. He would be pursued with energy almost demoniac. Being captured,80 no one could tell how fearful would be his doom. The sagacious sister was right. Fritz could not but perceive the strength of her arguments, and gave her his word of honor that he would not attempt, on the present occasion, to effect his flight. Fritz accordingly went to Dresden with his father, and returned.
“Old Leopold is hardly at home at Dessau,” writes Carlyle, “when the new Pandour tempests, tides of ravaging war, again come beating against the Giant Mountains, pouring through all passes, huge influx of wild riding hordes, each with some support of Austrian grenadiers, cannoniers, threatening to submerge Silesia. Precursors, Frederick need not doubt, of a strenuous, regular attempt that way. Hungarian majesty’s fixed intention,347 hope, and determination is to expel him straightway from Silesia.”81详情
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