“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.”
As usual, Frederick wrote a poem upon the occasion. It was vulgar and profane. Carlyle says of it, “The author, with a wild burst of spiritual enthusiasm, sings the charms of the rearward part of certain men. He rises to the height of anti-biblical profanity, quoting Moses on the Hill of Vision; sinks to the bottomless of human or ultra-human depravity, quoting King Nicomedes’s experience on C?sar, happily known only to the learned. A most cynical, profane affair; yet we must say, by way of parenthesis, one which gives no countenance to Voltaire’s atrocities of rumor about Frederick himself in the matter.”111At this time the whole disposable force of his Prussian majesty did not exceed eighty thousand men. There were marching against him combined armies of not less, in the aggregate, than four hundred thousand. A part of the Prussian army, about thirty thousand strong, under the king’s eldest brother, Augustus William, Prince of Prussia, was sent north, especially to protect Zittau, a very fine town of about ten thousand inhabitants, where Frederick had gathered his chief magazines. Prince Charles, with seventy thousand Austrians, pursued this division. He outgeneraled the Prince of Prussia, drove him into wild country roads, took many prisoners, captured important fortresses, and, opening a fire of red-hot shot upon Zittau, laid the whole place, with its magazines, in ashes. The Prince of422 Prussia, who witnessed the conflagration which he could not prevent, retreated precipitately toward Lobau, and thence to Bautzen, with his army in a deplorable condition of exhaustion and destitution.
“The queen’s intentions were always good,” Wilhelmina kindly urged. The king replied, “Let us not enter into that detail. What is past is past. I will try to forget it. You are the dearest to me of all the family. I am too sad of heart to take leave of you. Embrace your husband on my part. I am so overcome that I must not see him.”
General Daun was proverbially slow-footed. For thirteen days the wretched city burned and bled. In a memorial to the world, which the King of Poland, as Elector of Saxony, published on the occasion, he said,The whole allied army was now put wildly to flight, in one of the most humiliating and disastrous retreats which has ever occurred. There is generally some slight diversity of statement in reference to the numbers engaged on such occasions. Frederick gives sixty-three thousand as the allied force. The allies lost, in killed, wounded, and missing, about ten thousand men. The loss of the Prussians was but five hundred. The French, in a tumultuous mass, fled to the west. Crossing the Unstrut River at Freiburg, they burned the bridge behind them. The Prussians rebuilt the bridge, and vigorously pursued. The evening after the battle the king wrote as follows to Wilhelmina. His letter was dated “Near Weissenfels.”
“Yes,” the king replied. “I swear it to you, D’Arget. In a word, I want to have some good of my life. What are we, poor human atoms, to get up projects that cost so much blood!”425 In these hours of trouble the noble Wilhelmina was as true to her brother as the magnet to the pole. She was appalled by no dangers, and roused all her energies to aid that brother, struggling, with the world arrayed against him. The king appreciated his sister’s love. In a poetic epistle addressed to her, composed in these hours of adversity, he wrote:
The prospects of Frederick were now gloomy. The bright morning of the campaign had darkened into a stormy day. The barren region around afforded no supplies. The inhabitants were all Catholics; they hated the heretics. Inspired by their priests, they fled from their dwellings, taking with them or destroying every thing which could aid the Prussian army. But most annoying of all, the bold, sagacious chieftain, General Bathyani, with hordes of Pandours which could not be counted—horsemen who seemed to have the vitality and endurance of centaurs—was making deadly assaults upon every exposed point.
The salvation of the army seemed to depend upon capturing the Austrian magazines at Beneschau. Marshal Schwerin was sent forward with all speed, at the head of a strong detachment, and was so lucky as to take Beneschau. Here he intrenched himself. Frederick, upon hearing the glad tidings, immediately started from Tabor to join him. His sick were at Fraunberg, Budweis, and Neuhaus, some dozen miles south of Tabor. Garrisons, amounting to three thousand men, had been left to protect them from the Pandours. As Frederick was about to abandon that whole region, it was manifest that these garrisons could not maintain themselves. He dispatched eight messengers in succession to summon the troops immediately to join him. The sick were to be left to their fate. It was one of the cruel necessities of war. But not one of these messengers escaped capture by the Pandours. Frederick commenced his march without these garrisons. The three thousand fighting men, with the three hundred sick, all fell into the hands of the Pandours.“My brother Henry has gone to see the Duchess of Gotha to-day. I am so oppressed with grief that I would rather keep my sadness to myself. I have reason to congratulate myself much on account of my brother Henry. He has behaved like an angel, as a soldier, and well toward me as a brother. I can not, unfortunately, say the same of the elder. He sulks at me, and has sulkily retired to Torgau, from which place he has gone to Wittenberg. I shall leave him to his caprices and to his bad conduct; and I prophesy nothing for the future unless the younger guide him.”
“It is inconceivable to me,” Frederick replied, “how Austria should dare to think of such a proposal. Limburg! Are there not solemn engagements upon Austria which render every inch of ground in the Netherlands inalienable?”The salvation of the army seemed to depend upon capturing the Austrian magazines at Beneschau. Marshal Schwerin was sent forward with all speed, at the head of a strong detachment, and was so lucky as to take Beneschau. Here he intrenched himself. Frederick, upon hearing the glad tidings, immediately started from Tabor to join him. His sick were at Fraunberg, Budweis, and Neuhaus, some dozen miles south of Tabor. Garrisons, amounting to three thousand men, had been left to protect them from the Pandours. As Frederick was about to abandon that whole region, it was manifest that these garrisons could not maintain themselves. He dispatched eight messengers in succession to summon the troops immediately to join him. The sick were to be left to their fate. It was one of the cruel necessities of war. But not one of these messengers escaped capture by the Pandours. Frederick commenced his march without these garrisons. The three thousand fighting men, with the three hundred sick, all fell into the hands of the Pandours.During all the day of Wednesday weeping friends stood around the bed, as the lamp of life flickered in its socket. Every moment it was expected that the emperor would breathe his last. At two o’clock the next morning the spirit took its flight, and the lifeless clay alone remained. The grief-stricken empress closed the eyes of her departed husband, kissed his hands, and “was carried out more dead than alive.” Thus ended the male line of the house of Hapsburg, after five centuries of royal sway. The emperor died on the 20th of October 1740, in the fifty-sixth year of his age.
“Sunday next I shall be at a little place near Cleves, where I shall be able to possess you at my ease. If the sight of you don’t cure me, I will send for a confessor at once. Adieu. You know my sentiments and my heart.“I know right well the value of tranquillity, the sweets of society, the charms of life. I love to be happy as much as any one whatever. But, much as I desire these blessings, I will not purchase them by baseness and infamies. Philosophy enjoins us to do our duty faithfully, to serve our country at the price of our blood, of our repose, and of every sacrifice which can be required of us.”130详情
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