The latter part of April Prince Charles had gathered a large force of Austrian regulars at Olmütz, with the manifest intention of again invading Silesia. The King of Poland had entered into cordial alliance with Austria, and was sending a large army of Saxon troops to co-operate in the enterprise. Frederick’s indignation was great, and his peril still greater. Encamped in the valley of the Neisse, assailed on every side, and menaced with still more formidable foes, he dispatched orders to the Old Dessauer immediately to establish an army of observation (thirty thousand strong) upon the frontiers of Saxony. He was to be prepared instantly, upon the Saxon troops leaving Saxony, to ravage the country with the most merciless plunderings of war.“Mr. Guy Dickens may give to the prince the assurance of the deep compassion which the king feels in view of the sad condition in which the prince finds himself, and of the sincere desire of his majesty to aid, by all the means in his power, to extricate him. While waiting the result of some negotiations now on foot, his majesty is of the opinion that it would be best for the prince to defer for a time his present design; that the present critical state of affairs in Europe do not present a favorable opportunity for the execution of the contemplated plan; that the idea of retiring to France demands very careful deliberation; and that there is not time now to ascertain how such a step would be regarded by the French court, which his majesty would think to be essential before he advise a prince so dear to him to withdraw to that country.”“We rose from table. As we had to pass near him in going out, he aimed a great blow at me with his crutch, which, if I had not jerked away from it, would have ended me. He chased me for a while in his wheel-chair, but the people drawing it gave me time to escape to the queen’s chamber.”
At the close of these festivities at Mühlberg Frederick William and his suite took boat down the River Elbe to his hunting palace at Lichtenberg. Here they killed, in a grand hunting bout, a thousand animals, boars and deer. The Crown Prince, dishonored by insults which he could not revenge, and stung to the87 quick by innumerable humiliations, followed, dejected, like a guarded captive, in the train of his father. The unhappy prince had but just returned to his garrison at Potsdam, where spies ever kept their eyes vigilantly upon him, when his friend, Captain Guy Dickens, brought him the answer, returned from London, to the confidential communication of the Crown Prince to his uncle, the British king. The substance of the document was as follows:Thus deprived of all the ordinary comforts of life, the prince, in the nineteenth year of his age, was consigned to an imprisonment of absolute solitude. For weeks and months he was left to his own agitating thoughts, with the apparent blighting of every earthly hope, awaiting whatever doom his merciless father might award to him. His jailers, not unmindful of the embarrassing fact that their captive might yet become King of Prussia,102 with their fate in his hands, gradually treated him with all the secret kindness which they dared to exhibit.13
“Constantinople! never. It is the empire of the world.”While these scenes were transpiring, the Crown Prince was at Cüstrin, upon probation, being not yet admitted to the presence of his father. He seems to have exerted himself to the utmost to please the king, applying himself diligently to become familiar with all the tedious routine and details of the administration of finance, police, and the public domains. Fritz was naturally very amiable. He was consequently popular in the little town in which he resided, all being ready to do every thing in their power to serve him. The income still allowed him by his father was so small that he would have suffered from poverty had not the gentry in the neighborhood, regardless of the prohibition to lend money to the prince, contributed secretly to replenish his purse.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, which529 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.
On the 8th of September Fritz returned to Potsdam from this his first military expedition, with his regiment of giants. He was then seventeen years of age. His soldierly bearing had quite rejoiced the king, and he began to think that, after all, possibly something might be made of Fritz.Frederick was far from being an amiable man. He would325 often cruelly banter his companions, knowing that it was impossible for them to indulge in any retort. Baron P?llnitz was a very weak old man, who had several times changed his religion to subserve his private interests. He had been rather a petted courtier during three reigns. Now, in extreme old age, and weary of the world, he wished to renounce Protestantism, and to enter the cloisters of the convent in preparation for death. He applied to the king for permission to do so. Frederick furnished him with the following sarcastic parting testimony. It was widely circulated through many of the journals of that day, exciting peals of laughter as a capital royal joke:
FLIGHT OF FREDERICK.
“I was in such a state I know not how we got down stairs. I remember only that it was in a concert of lamentable sobbings. Madame, the Marchioness of Schwedt, who had been named to attend the princess to Stralsund, on the Swedish frontier, this high lady, and the two dames D’Atours, who were for Sweden itself, having sprung into the same carriage, the door of it was shut with a slam, the postillions cracked, the carriage shot away, and disappeared from our eyes. In a moment the king and court lost sight of the beloved Ulrique forever.”73Wilhelmina, who was present, gives a graphic account, with her vivacious pen, of many of the scenes, both tragic and comic, which ensued.
Frederick retreated down the banks of the Elbe, and sent couriers to the camp at Prague, ordering the siege immediately to be raised, and the troops to retire down the Moldau to join him at Leitmeritz. The news was received at the camp at two o’clock on Sunday morning, June 19, creating amazement and consternation. As Frederick was on his retreat with his broken battalions from the field of battle, parched with thirst, burning with heat, and smothered with dust, it is recorded that an old dragoon brought to the king, in his steel cap, some water which he had drawn from a well, saying to his sovereign, consolingly,“You are the first who have asked any favor of me on Silesian ground. Your request shall be granted.”
Frederick was overjoyed. He regarded the day as his own, and the Russian army as at his mercy. He sent a dispatch to anxious Berlin, but sixty miles distant: “The Russians are beaten. Rejoice with me.” It was one of the hottest of August days, without a breath of wind. Nearly every soldier of the Prussian army had been brought into action against the left wing only of the foe. After a long march and an exhausting fight, they were perishing with thirst. For twelve hours many of them had been without water. Panting with heat, thirst, and exhaustion, they were scarcely capable of any farther efforts.
ATTACK UPON NEISSE.F.”“I rely upon your zeal and hearty concurrence to support the King of Prussia and the rest of my allies, and to make ample517 provision for carrying on the war, as the only means of bringing our enemies to equitable terms of accommodation.”详情
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