“Never have my troops,” writes Frederick, “done such miracles of valor, cavalry as well as infantry, since I had the honor to command them. By this dead-lift achievement I have seen what they can do.”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.”
“Whole provinces had been laid waste. Even in those which had not been thus destroyed, internal commerce and industry were almost at an end. A great part of Pomerania and Brandenburg was changed into a desert. There were provinces where hardly any men were to be found, and where the women were therefore obliged to guide the plow. In others women were as much wanting as men. The most fertile plains of Germany, on the banks of the Oder and the Wesel, presented only the arid and sterile appearance of a desert. An officer has stated that he had passed through seven villages without meeting a single person excepting a curate.”174
Origin of the Prussian Monarchy.—The Duchies of Brandenburg and Prussia.—The Elector crowned King Frederick I.—Frederick William.—His Childhood, Youth, and Marriage.—Birth of Fritz.—Death of Frederick I.—Eccentric Character of Frederick William.—His defective Education.—His Energy.—Curious Anecdotes.—Hatred of the French.—Education of Fritz.—The Father’s Plan of Instruction.The leader of an Austrian band of five hundred dragoons was on the watch. As the detachment of one hundred and fifty horse approached Baumgarten, the Austrians, from their ambuscade, plunged upon them. There was a short, sharp conflict, when the Prussians fled, leaving ten dead, sixteen prisoners, one standard, and two kettle-drums in the hands of the victors. The king had just sat down at the dinner-table, when he heard, at the distance of a few miles, the tumult of the musketry. He sprang from the table, hurriedly mustered a small force of forty hussars and fifty foot, and hastened toward the scene. Arriving at the field, he found it silent and deserted, and the ten men lying242 dead upon it. The victorious Austrians, disappointed in not finding the king, bore their spoils in triumph to Vienna. It was a very narrow escape for Frederick. Had he then been captured it might have changed the history of Europe, and no one can tell the amount of blood and woe which would have been averted.
“My blackguard daughter may receive the sacrament.”“They then went away, often looking around to see if I kept my posture. I perceived well enough that they were making game of me; but I stood all the same like a wall, being full of fear. When the king turned round he gave a look at me like a flash of sunbeams glancing through you. He sent one of the gardeners to bring my papers. Taking them, he disappeared in one of the garden walks. In a few minutes he came back with my papers open in his hand, and waved with them for me to come nearer. I plucked up heart and went directly to him. Oh, how graciously this great monarch deigned to speak to me!
The chagrin of Frederick in view of this adventure may be inferred from the fact that, during the whole remainder of his life, he was never known to make any allusion to it whatever.The next morning they learned that Lieutenant Katte had been arrested. All the private papers of Fritz were left, under Katte’s charge, in a small writing-desk. These letters would implicate both the mother and the daughter. They were terror-stricken. Count Finckenstein, who was in high authority, was their friend. Through him, by the aid of Madam Finckenstein, they obtained the desk. It was locked and sealed. Despair stimulated their ingenuity. They succeeded in getting the letters. To destroy them and leave nothing in their place would only rouse to greater fury the suspicion and rage of the king. The letters were taken out and burned. The queen and Wilhelmina immediately set to work writing new ones, of a very different character, with which to replace them. For three days they thus labored almost incessantly, writing between six and seven hundred letters. They were so careful to avoid any thing97 which might lead to detection that paper was employed for each letter bearing the date of the year in which the letter was supposed to be written. “Fancy the mood,” writes Carlyle, “of these two royal women, and the black whirlwind they were in. Wilhelmina’s dispatch was incredible. Pen went at the gallop night and day. New letters of old date and of no meaning are got into the desk again, the desk closed without mark of injury, and shoved aside while it is yet time.”
During the previous summer, the philosopher Maupertuis, after weary wanderings in the languor of consumption, and in great dejection of spirits, had been stricken by convulsions while in his carriage at Basel. He had lost favor with the king, and was poor, friendless, and dying. His latter years had been imbittered by the venomous assaults of Voltaire.On one occasion, when the king had sent him a manuscript to revise, he sarcastically exclaimed to the royal messenger, “When will his majesty be done with sending me his dirty linen to wash?” This speech was repeated to the king. He did not lose his revenge.
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At that time the family consisted of nine children. Next to Wilhelmina and Fritz came Frederica, thirteen; Charlotte, eleven; Sophie Dorothee, eight; Ulrique, seven; August Wilhelm, five; Amelia, four; and Henry, a babe in arms.It turned out that the rumor of the march upon Berlin was greatly exaggerated. General Haddick, with an Austrian force of but four thousand men, by a sudden rush through the woods, seized the suburbs of Berlin. The terrified garrison, supposing that an overwhelming force of the allied army was upon them, retreated, with the royal family and effects, to Spandau. General Haddick, having extorted a ransom of about one hundred and forty thousand dollars from the city, and “two dozen pair of gloves for the empress queen,” and learning that a division of Frederick’s army was fast approaching, fled precipitately. Hearing of this result, the king arrested his steps at Torgau, and returned to Leipsic. The Berliners asserted that “the two dozen pair of gloves were all gloves for the left hand.”详情
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