General Finck was stationed at Maxen, with about fifteen thousand men, to cut the communications of Daun with Bohemia. Frederick, in his undue elation, was quite sure of inflicting terrible blows upon Daun. He issued imperative commands to General Finck to fight the allies regardless of their numbers. The Prussian general did not dare to disobey this command and withdraw from his commanding position, even when he saw himself being surrounded with such superior forces as would almost certainly crush him.“He saw his ministers, saw all who had business with him, many who had little; and in the sore coil of bodily miseries, as569 Hertzberg observed with wonder, never was the king’s intellect clearer, or his judgment more just and decisive. Of his disease, except to the doctors, he spoke no word to any body.
109 The body of Katte remained upon the scaffold during the short wintry day, and at night was buried in one of the bastions of the fortress. This cruel tragedy was enacted more than a century ago; but there are few who even now can read the record without having their eyes flooded, through the conflicting emotions of sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the tyrant who could perpetrate such crimes.
The absolutism of Frederick placed all legislative, judicial, and executive powers in his hands. He was law-maker, judge, and executioner. The liberty, property, and lives of his subjects were at his disposal. He could call others to assist him in the government, but they were merely servants to do his bidding.“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
Frederick soon followed the Austrians with his whole army, hoping to bring them to a decisive battle. But General Neipperg was conscious that he was unable to cope with the Prussian army in the open field. For a week there was man?uvring and counter-man?uvring with great skill on both sides, General Neipperg baffling all the endeavors of Frederick to bring him to a general action.
Who can imagine the conflicting emotions of joy and wretchedness, of triumph and shame, of relief and chagrin, with which the heart of Frederick must have been rent! The army of Prussia had triumphed, under the leadership of his generals, while he, its young and ambitious sovereign, who had unjustly provoked260 war that he might obtain military glory, a fugitive from the field, was scampering like a coward over the plains at midnight, seeking his own safety. Never, perhaps, was there a more signal instance of a retributive providence. Frederick knew full well that the derision of Europe would be excited by caricatures and lampoons of the chivalric fugitive. Nor was he deceived in his anticipations. There was no end to the ridicule which was heaped upon Frederick, galloping, for dear life, from the battle-field in one direction, while his solid columns were advancing to victory in the other. His sarcastic foes were ungenerous and unjust. But when do foes, wielding the weapons of ridicule, ever pretend even to be just and generous?
In the following letter, which Frederick wrote at this time to his friend D’Argens, he unbosoms his sorrows with unusual frankness. The letter was dated Breslau, March 1, 1759:
“I liked dancing, and was taking advantage of my chances. Grumkow came up to me, in the middle of a minuet, and said, ‘Mon dieu, madame, you seem to have got bit by the tarantula. Don’t you see those strangers who have just come in?’ I stopped short, and, looking all around, I noticed at last a young man, dressed in gray, whom I did not know. ‘Go, then,’ said Grumkow, ‘and embrace the Crown Prince. There he is before you.’ My whole frame was agitated with joy. ‘Oh, heavens, my brother!’ cried I; ‘but I do not see him. Where is he? For God’s sake show him to me.’
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Upon reaching the palace, he stood for a moment upon the grand stairway, and, surveying the thronging thousands, took off his hat and saluted them. This gave rise to a burst of applause louder and heartier than Berlin had ever heard before. The king disappeared within the palace. Where the poor neglected queen was at this time we are not informed. There are no indications that he gave her even a thought.
Frederick therefore decided to march down the river twenty miles farther, to Lowen, where there was a good bridge. To favor the operation, Prince Leopold, with large divisions of the army and much of the baggage, was to cross the Neisse on pontoons at Michelau, a few miles above Lowen. Both passages were successfully accomplished, and the two columns effected a junction on the west side of the river on the 8th of April. The blockade of Brieg was abandoned, and its blockading force united with the general army.详情
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