Frederick had become very ambitious of high intellectual culture and of literary renown. He gathered around him a numerous class of scholarly men, and opened an extensive correspondence with the most distinguished philosophers, poets, and historians all over Europe. He commenced and persevered in a course of very rigorous study, rising at an early hour, and devoting the unbroken morning to intellectual pursuits. The renowned men of earth have not attained their renown but by untiring exertions.166 For six or seven consecutive hours every day the prince was busy in his library, when no one was allowed to interrupt him. He wrote to a friend about this time:
“Potsdam, April 1, 1744.”a a. First Position of Combined Army. b b. First Position of Prussian Camp. c c. Advance of Prussian Army. d d. Second Position of Combined Army. e e. Prussians retire to Rossbach. f. French Cavalry, under St. Germain. g g. March of Combined Army to attack Prussian Rear. h. Prussian Attack led by Seidlitz. i. Position of Prussian Guns.“From the Field of Battle of Chotusitz, May 17, 1742.
The astonishment and indignation in Vienna, in view of this terrible defeat, were intense. Prince Charles was immediately relieved of his command, and General Daun appointed in his stead. It is the testimony of all military men that the battle of Leuthen was one of the most extraordinary feats of war. Napoleon, speaking of it at St. Helena, said,
Then came another strain of verse. Thus the prose and the doggerel were interspersed through the long narrative. Though very truthful in character, it was a school-boy performance—a very singular document indeed to be sent to the most brilliant genius of that age, by one who soon proved himself to be the ablest sovereign in Europe.
As an administrative officer the young sovereign was inexorable and heartless in the extreme. Those who had befriended him in the days of his adversity were not remembered with any profusion of thanks or favors. Those who had been in sympathy with his father in his persecution of the Crown Prince encountered no spirit of revenge. Apparently dead to affection, and oblivious of the past, the young sovereign only sought for those agents who could best assist him in the work to which he now consecrated all his energies—the endeavor to aggrandize the kingdom of Prussia. Poor Doris Ritter received but a trivial pension for her terrible wrongs. Lieutenant Keith, his friend and confederate in his contemplated flight, who had barely escaped with his life from Wesel, after ten years of exile hastened home, hoping that his faithful services and sufferings would meet with a reward. The king appointed him merely lieutenant colonel,194 with scarcely sufficient income to keep him from absolute want. Perhaps the king judged that the young man was not capable of filling, to the advantage of the state, a higher station, and he had no idea of sacrificing his interests to gratitude.
“The risk is too great,” said he; “Soltikof has seventy thousand men, and no end of artillery. We have but twenty-six thousand, and know not that we can bring a single gun to where Soltikof is.”“I, as well as many others, had hardly time to put on my clothes. As I was leading my wife, with a young child in her arms, and my other children and servants before me—who were almost naked, having, ever since the first fright, run about as they got out of bed—the bombs and red-hot balls fell round462 about us. The bombs, in their bursting, dashed the houses to pieces, and every thing that was in their way. Every body that could got out of the town as fast as possible. The crowd of naked and in the highest degree wretched people was vastly great.On the 3d of October the vanguard of this army, three thousand strong, was seen in the distance from the steeples of Berlin. The queen and royal family fled with the archives to Magdeburg. The city was summoned to an immediate surrender, and to pay a ransom of about four million dollars to rescue it from the flames. The summons was rejected. General Tottleben, in command of the advance, erected his batteries, and at five o’clock in the afternoon commenced his bombardment with red-hot balls. In the night a re-enforcement of five thousand Prussians, under Prince Eugene of Würtemberg, who had marched forty miles that day, entered the city, guided by the blaze of the bombardment, to strengthen the garrison. Tottleben retired to await the allied troops, which were rapidly on the march. In the mean time, on the 8th, General Hülsen arrived with nine thousand Prussian troops, increasing the garrison in Berlin to fifteen thousand. Frederick was also on the march, to rescue his capital, with all the troops he could muster. But the Russians had now arrived to the number of thirty-five thousand. The defenses were so weak that they could easily take or destroy the place.
Frederick deemed it of great importance to gain immediate possession of Glogau. It was bravely defended by the Austrian commander, Count Wallis, and there was hourly danger that an Austrian army might appear for its relief. Frederick, in the intensity of his anxiety, as he hurried from post to post, wrote from every stopping-place to young Leopold, whom he had left in command of the siege, urging him immediately to open the trenches, concentrate the fire of his batteries, and to carry the place by storm. “I have clear intelligence,” he wrote, “that troops are actually on the way for the rescue of Glogau.” Each note was more imperative than the succeeding one. On the 6th of March he wrote from Ohlau:“The terror in Vienna was dreadful. I will not attempt to describe the dismay the tidings excited among all ranks of people. Maria Theresa, trembling for her two sons who were in the army, immediately dispatched an autograph letter to Frederick with new proposals for a negotiation.”On the 15th of November Frederick arrived at Lauban, within a hundred miles of Dresden. General Daun immediately raised the siege and retired into Bohemia. Frederick marched triumphantly into the city. Thus, as the extraordinary result of the defeat at Hochkirch, Frederick, by the exhibition of military ability which astonished Europe, regained Neisse, retained Dresden, and swept both Silesia and Saxony entirely free of his foes. Frederick remained in Dresden about a month. He then retired to Breslau, in Silesia, for winter quarters. The winter was a very sad one to him. Private griefs and public calamities weighed heavily upon his heart.125 Though during the year he had destroyed a hundred thousand of his enemies, he had lost thirty thousand of his own brave little band. It was almost impossible, by any energies of conscription, to replace this waste of war. His treasury was exhausted. Though he wrenched from the wretched Saxons every dollar which military rapacity and violence could extort from them, still they were so impoverished by the long and desolating struggle that but little money could be found in the almost empty purses of a beggared people. Another campaign was soon to open, in which the allies, with almost unlimited resources of men and treasure, would again come crowding upon him in all directions in overpowering numbers.
“I can well say,” he writes, “that I never in my life saw any thing more beautiful. They marched with the greatest steadiness, arrow straight and their front like a line, as if they had been upon parade. The glitter of their clear arms shone strangely in the setting sun, and the fire from them went on no otherwise than a continued peal of thunder. The spirits of our army sank altogether, the foot plainly giving way, the horse refusing to come forward—all things wavering toward dissolution.”详情
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