“We had just arrived there when it began to rain heavily, and the night became exceedingly dark. About nine o’clock one of the Austrian generals approached us with his light troops, and set fire to the houses close to which we were posted. By the blaze of the conflagration he soon discovered us, and began firing at us from the windows. The town was so full that it was impossible for us to find a place in it. Besides, the gate was barricaded, and from the top they were firing at us with our small field-pieces, which they had captured.The routed allies, exasperated and starving, and hating the Protestant inhabitants of the region through which they retreated, robbed and maltreated them without mercy. The woes which the defenseless inhabitants endured from the routed army in its flight no pen can adequately describe.
Frederick had an army of thirty-five thousand men at Liegnitz, in Silesia, under the command of young Leopold. Every man was a thoroughly trained soldier. The army was in the best possible condition. At seven o’clock in the morning of November 15, 1745, the king left Berlin at full speed for Liegnitz. He arrived there the next day, and at once took the command. “There is great velocity in this young king,” writes Carlyle; “a panther-like suddenness of spring in him; cunning too, as any felis of them; and with claws as the felis leo on occasion.”The apartments prepared for the Princess Royal were also very magnificent. Her parlor was twenty feet high. It had six windows, three opening in the main front toward the town, and the other three opening toward the interior court. The spaces between the windows were covered with immense mirrors, so arranged as to display the ceiling, beautifully painted by one of the finest artists of the day. The artist had spread his colors with such delicacy and skill, so exquisitely blending light and shade, that the illusion was almost perfect. The spectator felt that the real sky, with its fleecy clouds and infinite depth of blue, overarched him.
The plan of his Prussian majesty was bold and sagacious. He supposed that he could easily take Olmütz. Availing himself of the vast magazines to be found there, he would summon450 his brother Henry to join him by a rapid march through Bohemia, and with their combined force of sixty thousand troops they would make a rush upon Vienna. The Austrian capital was distant but about one hundred miles, directly south. As the Austrian army was widely dispersed, there were but few impediments to be encountered. The success of this plan would compel the allies to withdraw their forces from the territories of the King of Prussia, if it did not enable Frederick to dictate peace in the palaces of Maria Theresa.When they reached Strasbourg they provided themselves with French dresses. The king and his brother put up at different inns, that they might be less liable to suspicion. Frederick,200 with several of his party, took lodgings at the Raven Hotel. He sent the landlord out to invite several army officers to sup with a foreign gentleman, Count Dufour, from Bohemia, who was an entire stranger in the place. Some of the officers very peremptorily declined the invitation, considering it an imposition. Three, however, allured by the singularity of the summons, repaired to the inn. The assumed count received them with great courtesy, apologized for the liberty he had taken, thanked them for their kindness, and assured them that, being a stranger, he was very happy to make the acquaintance of so many brave officers, whose society he valued above that of all others.“You know, my dear son, that when my children are obedient I love them much. So when you were at Berlin, I from my heart forgave you every thing; and from that Berlin time, since I saw you, have thought of nothing but of your well-being, and how to establish you; not in the army only, but also with a right step-daughter, and so see you married in my lifetime. You may be well persuaded I have had the Princesses of Germany taken survey of, so far as possible, and examined by trusty people what their conduct is, their education, and so on. And so a princess has been found, the eldest one of Bevern, who is well brought up, modest and retiring as a woman ought to be.
Wilhelmina endeavored to reply. But the angry mother sternly exclaimed, “Silence!” and the tortured girl left the apartment, weeping bitterly. Even Fritz took his mother’s part, and reproached Wilhelmina for not acceding to her plan. New troubles were thickening around him. He was in debt. The king had found it out. To his father’s stern questioning, Fritz, in his terror, had uttered deliberate falsehood. He confessed a debt of about eight hundred dollars, which his father had detected, and solemnly declared that this was all. In fact, he owed an additional sum of seven thousand dollars. Should the king discover this debt, and thus detect Fritz in a lie, his rage would be tremendous. The king paid the eight hundred dollar debt of his son, and then issued a decree declaring that to lend money to any princes of the blood, even to the prince royal, was a high crime, to be punished, not only by forfeiture of the money, but78 by imprisonment. The king had begun to suspect that Fritz intended to escape. He could not escape without money. The king therefore took special precautions that his purse should be ever empty, and watched him with renewed vigilance.Prince Charles had arrived in Dresden the night before. He heard the roar of the cannonade all the day, but, for some unexplained reason, did not advance to the support of his friends. The very unsatisfactory excuse offered was, that his troops were exhausted by their long march; and that, having been recently twice beaten by the Prussians, his army would be utterly demoralized if led to another defeat.
Winter was now approaching. The Austrians in Saxony made a desperate attack upon Prince Henry, and were routed with much loss. The shattered Austrian army retired to Bohemia for winter quarters. Under the circumstances, it was a victory of immense importance to Frederick. Upon receiving the glad tidings, he wrote to Henry:
It was on the 11th of November, 1741, that Frederick, elated with his conquest of Silesia, had returned to Berlin. In commencing the enterprise he had said, “Ambition, interest, and the desire to make the world speak of me, vanquished all, and war was determined on.” He had, indeed, succeeded in making the “world speak” of him. He had suddenly become the most prominent man in Europe. Some extolled his exploits. Some expressed amazement at his perfidy. Many, recognizing his sagacity296 and his tremendous energy, sought his alliance. Embassadors from the various courts of Europe crowded his capital. Fourteen sovereign princes, with many foreigners of the highest rank, were counted among the number. The king was in high spirits. While studiously maturing his plans for the future, he assumed the air of a thoughtless man of fashion, and dazzled the eyes and bewildered the minds of his guests with feasts and pageants.“I found him much grown; an air of health and gayety about him. He caressed me greatly. We went to dinner. He asked me to sit beside him. Among other things, he said that he liked the great world, and was charmed to observe the ridiculous, weak side of some people.”
The fault-finding character of the king, and his intense devotion to perfecting his army, both increased with his advancing years. After one of his reviews of the troops in Silesia, in the year 1784, he wrote in the following severe strain to the commanding general:BERLIN PALACE.The correspondence thus commenced was prosecuted with great vigor. It seemed difficult to find language sufficiently expressive of their mutual admiration. Frederick received many of Voltaire’s unpublished manuscripts, and sent him many tokens of regard. Some of Frederick’s manuscripts Voltaire also examined, and returned with slight corrections and profuse expressions of delight.
Frederick was soon aware that peace was out of the question without farther fighting. Before the 1st of April he had one hundred and forty-five thousand men ready for the field. Of these, fifty-three thousand were in Silesia. Many of the Austrian deserters were induced to join his standards. But the most important event secured was forming a subsidy treaty with England. The British cabinet, alarmed in view of the power which the successful prosecution of the war on the part of the allies would give to France, after much hesitation, came to the aid of Frederick, whom they hated as much as they feared France. On the 11th of April, 1758, a treaty was signed between the English court and Frederick, containing the following important item:“My dear Papa,—I have not, for a long while, presumed to come near my dear papa, partly because he forbade me, but chiefly because I had reason to expect a still worse reception than usual; and for fear of angering my dear papa by my present request, I have preferred making it in writing to him.
Having met with this repulse, Kannegiesser returned to Berlin with the report. Frederick William was exasperated in the highest degree by such treatment from a brother-in-law whom he both hated and despised. He had at his command an army in as perfect condition, both in equipment and drill, as Europe had ever seen. Within a week’s time forty-four thousand troops, horse, foot, and artillery, were rendezvoused at Magdeburg. Fritz was there, looking quite soldierly on his proud charger, at the head of his regiment of the giant guard. Vigorously they were put upon the march. George II., who had already in his boyhood felt the weight of Frederick William’s arm, and who well knew his desperate energy when once roused, was terrified. He had no forces in Hanover which could stand for an hour in opposition to the army which the Prussian king was bringing against him.General Neipperg had now left Neisse; but he kept himself so surrounded by clouds of skirmishers as to render his march entirely invisible. Frederick, anxious to unite with him his troops under the Prince of Holstein Beck, advanced toward Grottkau to meet that division, which had been ordered to join him. The prince had been stationed at Frankenstein, with a force of about eight thousand, horse and foot; but the Austrian scouts so occupied all the roads that the king had not been able to obtain any tidings from him whatever.详情
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