FRIEDRICH LIKE TO BE OVERWHELMED IN THE SEVEN-YEARS WAR
BATTLE OF KUNERSDORF
Sunday, July 29th, at Frankfurt-on-Oder divine worship was broken in upon, and the poor City thrown into consternation, by actual advent, or as good as advent, of the Russians: "On the Crossen road, close by; coming, come!" And they did undeniably appear, next morning, in force; on the opposite, eastern or Kunersdorf side of the River, on the top of the Oder-Dam there; and demanded instant admission, under penalty of general death by fire.
Within the Town stood Major Arnim, a Veteran of those parts, with 400 militia; these, with their muskets and with two cannon, are the only defence of Frankfurt, The Town has Gates; but its walls, I doubt, are mainly garden-walls and house-walls. On the eastern side, the River, especially if you have cannon on the Bridge, gives it somethiug of protection; but on the western and all other sides, it is overhung by heights. This Frankfurt, like its bigger Namesake on the Mayn, is known as a busy trading place, its Fairs much frequented in those Eastern parts; and is believed by the Russians to be far richer than it is. The reader, as there happens to be ocular testimony extant, [Johann Zudwig Kriele, SCHLACHT BEI KUNERSDORF, MIT &C. (Berlin, 1801). Kriele was subsequent Pastor in the Parish, an excellent intelligent man: has compiled in brief form, with an elaborate Chart too, a clear account of everything, in the Battle and before and after it.] may like to see a little how they behaved there.
"Arnim, taking survey of the Russian Party, values it, or what he can see of it, at 1,000 [they really were 6,000]; keeps his Drawbridge up; and answers stoutly enough, `No.` Upon which, from the Oder-Dam, there flies off one fiery grenado; one and no more,-- which alighted in the house of `Mrs. Thielicke, a Baker`s Widow, who was standing at the door;`--killed poor Mrs. Thielicke, blew the house considerably to wreck, but did not set fire to it. Amim, all the Magistrates entreating him for the love of Heaven to leave them, is secretly shoving off his two cannon to the Northern Gate; and in fact is making his packages with full speed: `Push for Custrin,` thinks Arnim, and save selves and cannon, since no good is to be done here!`
"It was about 11 A.M. when the Thielicke grenado fell: obstinate Arnim would by no means go; only packed all the faster. A second summons came: still, No. For the third and last time the Russians then summon: `Grenadoes, a hundred more of them lie ready, unless--!` `We will, we will; O merciful servant of Czarish Majesty!` passionately signify the Magistrates. But Arnim is still negative, still keeps the Bridge up. One of the hundred does go, by way of foretaste: this lighted `near the Ober Kirche, in the chimney of the Town Musikus;` brought the chimney crashing down on him [fancy a man with some fineness of ear]; tore the house a good deal to pieces, but again did not set it on fire. `Your obstinate Town can be bombarded, then,--cannot it?` observed the Russian Messenger.--`Give us Free Withdrawal!` proposes Amim. `No; you to be Prisoners of War; Town at Czarish Majesty`s discretion.` `Never,` answers Arnim (to the outward ear).--`Go, oh, for the love of Heaven, go!` cry all Official people.
"Arnim, deaf to clamor, but steadily diligent in getting ready, does at last go; through the Lebus Suburb, quick march; steady, yet at his best step;--taking the Town-keys in his pocket, and leaving the Drawbridge up. One is sorry for poor Arnim and his 400 Militia; whose conduct was perfect, under difficulties and alarms; but proved unsuccessful. The terrified Magistrates, finding their Keys gone, and the conflagrative Russians at their gates, got blacksmiths on the instant; smote down, by chisel and mallet, the locked Drawbridge, smote open the Gates: `Enter, O gracious Sirs; and may Czarish Majesty have mercy on us!` So that Arnim had small start for marchers on foot; and was overtaken about half-way. Would not yield still, though the odds were overwhelming; drew himself out on the best ground discoverable; made hot resistance; hot and skilful; but in vain. About six in the evening, Arnim and Party were brought back, Prisoners, to Frankfurt again,-- self, surviving men, cannons and all (self in a wounded state);-- and `were locked in various Brew-houses;` little of careful surgery, I should fear. Poor Arnim; man could do no more; and he has been unfortunate."
It is by no means our intention to describe the Iliad of miseries, the agitations, terrors and disquietudes, the tribulation and utter harrowing to despair, which poor Frankfurt underwent, incessantly from that day forward, for about five weeks to come. "The furnishings of victual [Russian stock quite out] were to an inconceivable amount; surrender of arms, of linens, cloths, of everything useful to a hungry Army; above all things, of horses, so that at last there were but four horses left in all Frankfurt; and"--But we must not go into details.
"On the second day, besides all this," what will be significant of it all, "there was exacted `ransom of 600,000 thalers (90,000 pounds), or you shall be delivered to the Cossacks!` Frankfurt has not above 12,000 inhabitants within its bounds; here is a sudden poll-tax of 7 pounds 10s. per head. Frankfurt has not such a sum; the most rigorous collection did not yield above the tenth part of it. And more than once those sanguinary vagabonds were openly drawn out, pitch-link in hand: `The 90,000 pounds or--!` Civic Presidency Office in Frankfurt was not a bed of roses. The poor Magistrates rushed distractedly about; wrung out moneys to the last drop; moneys, and in the end plate from those that had it; went in tearful deputation to General Soltikof,--a severe proud kind of man, capable perhaps of being flattered,--who usually locked them up instead. Magistrates were locked in Russian ward, at one time, for almost a week; sat in the blazing sun; if you try for the shade of a tree, the sentry handles arms upon you;--and were like to die. To me, Kriele, it is a miracle how the most of us lived; nay we never really wanted food, so kind was Providence, so generous our poor neighbors out of all the Towns round. The utmost of money that could be raised was 6,000 pounds; nothing but some little of plate, and our Bill for the remainder. Soltikof, a high kind of gentleman, saw at last how it stood; let the Magistrates out of ward; sent back the plate--`Nothing of that!`--nay, Czarish Majesty was herself generous; and FORGAVE the Bill, on our petition, next Year. Cossacks, indeed, were a plunderous wild crew; but the Russians kept them mostly without the gates. The regular Russians were civil and orderly, officers and men,--greatly beyond the Austrians in behavior." [Kriele, Schlacht bei Kunersdorf; pp. 1-15 (in compressed state).] By these few traits conceive Frankfurt: this, now forgotten in most books, is a background on which things were transacted still memorable to everybody.
"Friday, August 3d, General Loudon came to hand: arrived early, in the Guben (or Western) Suburb, his 18,000 and he. In high spirits naturally, and somewhat exultant to have evaded Friedrich; but found a reception that surprised him. The Russians had been living in the hope of junction; but still more vividly in that of meal. `Auxiliaries; humph,--only 18,000 of them; how much welcomer had been as many hundredweights of meal!` Loudon had pushed his baggage direct into Frankfurt; and likewise a requisition of such and such proviants, weights of meal and the like, in exuberant amount, to be furnished straightway by the City: neither of which procedures would the Russians hear of for a moment. `Out with you!` said they roughly to the baggage-people: `quarter in the Guben Suburb, or where you like; not here!` And with regard to the requisition of proviant, they answered in a scornful angry key, `Proviant? You too without it? You have not brought us meal, according to covenant; instead of meal, you bring us 18,000 new eaters, most of them on horse-back,--Satan thank you! From Frankfurt be very certain you can get no ounce of meal; Frankfurt is our own poor meal-bag, dreadfully scanty: stay outside, and feed where and how you can!`
"All this, Loudon, though of hot temper, easily capable of rising to the fierce point, had to endure in silence, for the common interest. Loudon`s own table is furnished from Frankfurt; no other Austrian man`s: all others have to shift how they can. Sad requisitioning needed, and sad plunder to supplement it: the Austrian behavior was very bad, say the Frankfurters; `in particular, they had burnt gradually all the corn-mills in the country; within many miles not one mill standing when they left us,`--and four horses all the conveyance power we had. Soltikof lodges in great pomp, much soldiery and cannon parading before his doors; not an undignified man, or an inhuman or essentially foolish, but very high in his ways, and distasteful to Austrian dignitaries."
The Russian Army lies mainly across Oder; encamped on the Judenberg, and eastward there, along the Heights, near three miles, to Kunersdorf and beyond. They expect Friedrich at the gates of Frankfurt shortly; know well that they cannot defend Frankfurt. They calculate that Friedrich will attack them in their Judenberg Encampment, but hope they are nearly ready for him there. Loudon, from the Guben Suburb, will hasten across, at any moment;-- welcome on such fighting occasion, though ill seen when the question is of eating! The Russians have their Wagenburg on an Island southward, farther up the River; they have three Pontoon Bridges leading thither, a free retreat should they be beaten. And in the mean while are intrenching themselves, as only Daun would,--cannon and redoubts all round those Heights;--and except it be screwing Frankfurt to do its impossible duty, and carting provender with all the horses except four, have not much farther to do but wait till the King come. Which will be speedily, it is probable!--
Wednesday, August 8th, Russian and Austrian Generals, a cheerful party of them, had rendezvoused at FISCHERS MUHLE; a Mill not yet burnt, and a pleasant Tavern as well; in one of the prettiest valleys in the Western Environs;--intending to dine there, and have a pleasant day. But the Miller`s Boy runs in upon them, wide-eyed, "HIMMEL UND ERDE, Prussian Hussars!" It was in verity Prussian Hussars; the King of Prussia with them in person. He is come out reconnoitring,--the day after his arrival in those parts. The pleasuring Generals, Russian and Austrian, sprang to horseback at their swiftest,--hope of dinner gone futile, except to the intervening Prussian Hussars;--and would have all been captured, but for that Miller`s Boy; whose Mill too was burnt before long. This gallop home of the undined Generals into Frankfurt was the first news we poor Frankfurters had of the King`s arrival.
The King has been punctual to his reckoning: he picked up Wedell at Mullrose,--not too cordial to Wedell`s people: "None of you speak to those beaten wretches," ordered he; "till perhaps they wipe off their Zullichau stain!" On the 7th, Friedrich advanced to Frankfurt neighborhood; took Camp between Wulkow and Lebus;--and has just been out reconnoitring. And has raised, fancy what emotion in poor Frankfurt lying under its nightmare! "Next day, August 9th, from Wulkow-Lebus hand, we" of Frankfurt, "heard a great firing; cannon-salvos, musket-volleys: `Nothing of fight,` the Russian Officers told us; `it is the King of Prussia doing joy-fire for Minden,` of which we till now knew nothing."
Friedrich, on survey of this Russian-Austrian Army, some 90,000 in number, with such posts, artilleries, advantages, judges that he, counting only 40,000, is not strong enough. And, indeed, had so anticipated, and already judged; and, accordingly, has Finck on march hitherward again,--Berlin must take its risk, Saxony must shift for itself in the interim. Finck is due in two days,--not here at Lebus precisely, but at another place appointed; Finck will raise him to 50,000; and then business can begin! Contrary to Russian expectation, Friedrich does not attack Frankfurt; seems quite quiet in his cantonments;--he is quietly (if one knew it) making preparations farther down the River. About Reitwein, between this and Custrin, there arrangements are proceeding, by no means of a showy sort.
The Russian-Austrian Army quits Frankfurt, leaving only some hundreds of garrison: Loudon moves across, Soltikof across; to the Oder-Dam and farther; and lie, powerfully intrenched, on those Kunersdorf Heights, and sandy Moorlands, which go eastward at right-angles to Oder-Dam. One of the strongest Camps imaginable. All round there, to beyond Kunersdorf and back again, near three miles each way, they have a ring of redoubts, and artillery without end. And lie there, in order of battle, or nearly so; ready for Friedrich, when he shall attack, through Frankfurt or otherwise. They face to the North (Reitwein way, as it happens); to their rear, and indeed to their front, only not so close, are woods and intricate wilds. Loudon has the left flank; that is to say, Loudon`s left hand is towards the Oder-Dam and Frankfurt; he lies at the ROTHE VORWERK ("Red Grange," a Farmstead much mentioned just now); rather to northwestward of the Jew Hill and Jew Churchyard (JUDENBERG and JUDENKIRCHHOF, likewise much mentioned); and in advance of the general Mass. Soltikof`s head-quarter, I rather understand, is on the right wing; probably in Kunersdorf itself, or beyond that Village; there, at least, our highly important Russian right wing is; there, elaborately fortified; and, half a mile farther, ends,--on the edge of steep dells; the Russian brink of which is strongly fringed with cannon, while beyond, on the farther brink, they have built an abatis; so making assurance doubly sure. Looking to the northward all these 90,000; their left rather southward of Frankfurt Bridge, over which Friedrich will probably arrive. Leftward, somewhat to rearward, they have bridges of their own; should anything sinister befall; three bridges which lead into that Oder Island, and the Russian Wagenburg there.
August 10th, Finck, punctual to time, arrives in the neighborhood of Reitwein (which is some ten miles down stream from Lebus, from Frankfurt perhaps fifteen); Friedrich, the same day, is there before him; eager to complete the Bridges, and get to business. One Bridge is of pontoons; one of "Oder-boats floated up from Custrin." Bridges are not begun till nightfall, lest eyes be abroad; are ready in the minimum of time. And so, during the same night of the 10th, all the Infantry, with their artilleries and battle-furnitures, pour over in two columns; the Cavalry, at the due point of time, riding by a ford short way to the right. And at four, in the gray of the August morning (Saturday, 11th August, 1759), all persons and things find themselves correctly across; ranked there, in those barren, much-indented "Pasture-grounds of Goritz" or of OEtscher; intending towards Kunersdorf; ready for unfolding into order of battle there. They leave their heavy baggage at Goritz, Wunsch to guard the Bridges and it; and, in succinct condition, are all under way. At one in the afternoon we are got to Leissow and Bischofsee; scrubby hamlets (as the rest all are), not above two miles from Kunersdorf. The August day is windless, shiny, sultry; man and horse are weary with the labors, and with the want of sleep: we decide to bivouac here, and rest on the scrubby surface, heather or whatever it is, till to-morrow.
Finck is Vanguard, ahead short way, and with his left on a bit of lake or bog; the Army is in two lines, with its right on Leissow, and has Cavalry in the kind of wood which there is to rear. Friedrich, having settled the positions, rides out reconnoitring; hither, thither, over the Heights of Trettin. "The day being still hot, he suffers considerably from thirst [it is our one Anecdote] in that arid tract: at last a Peasant does bring him, direct from the fountain, a jug of pure cold water; whom, lucky man, the King rewarded with a thaler; and not only so, but, the man being intelligent of the localities, took with him to answer questions." Readers too may desire to gain some knowledge of the important ground now under survey.
"Frankfurt, a very ancient Town, not a very beautiful," says my Note, "stands on an alluvium which has been ground down from certain clay Hills on the left bank of Oder. It counted about 12,000 inhabitants in Friedrich`s time; has now perhaps about 20,000; not half the bulk of its namesake on the Mayn; but with Three great Fairs annually, and much trade of the rough kind. On this left or west bank of Oder the country is arable, moderately grassy and umbrageous, the prospect round you not unpleasant; but eastward, over the River, nothing can be more in contrast. Oder is of swift current, of turbid color, as it rolls under Frankfurt Bridge,--Wooden Bridge, with Dam Suburb at the end;--a River treeless, desolate, as you look up and down; which has, evidently, often changed its course, since grinding down that alluvium as site for Frankfurt; and which, though now holding mainly to northward, is still given to be erratic, and destructive on the eastern low grounds,--had not the Frankfurters built an `Oder-Dam` on that side; a broad strong Earth-mound, running for many miles, and confining its floods. Beyond the Dam there are traces of an `Old Oder (ALTE ODER);` and, in fact, Oder, in primeval and in recent time, has gone along, many-streamed; indenting, quarrying, leaving lakelets, quagmires, miscellaneous sandy tumult, at a great rate, on that eastern shore. Making of it one of the unloveliest scenes of chaotic desolation anywhere to be met with;--fallen unlovelier than ever in our own more recent times.
"What we call the Heights of Kunersdorf is a broad Chain of Knolls; coming out, at right-angles, or as a kind of spur, from the eastern high grounds; direct towards Oder and Frankfurt. Mill-Hill (MUHLBERG) is the root or easternmost part of this spur. From the Muhlberg, over Kunersdorf, to Oder-Dam, which is the whole length of the spur, or Chain of Knolls, will be little short of four miles; the breadth of the Chain is nowhere one mile,--which is its grand defect as a Camp: `too narrow for manoeuvring in.` Here, atop and on the three sides of this Block of Knolls, was fought the furious Battle of Kunersdorf [to be fought to-morrow], one of the most furious ever known. A Block of Knolls memorable ever since.
"To all appearance: it was once some big Island or chain of Islands in the Oder deluges: it is still cut with sudden hollows,--KUHGRUND (Cow-Hollow), TIEFE WEG (Deep Way), and westernmost of all, and most important for us here, HOHLE GRUND (Big Hollow, let us call it; `LOUDON`S Hollow` people subsequently called it);--and is everywhere strangely tumbled up into knolls blunt or sharp, the work of primeval Oder in his rages. In its highest knolls,--of which let readers note specially the Spitzberg, the Muhlberg, the Judenberg,--it rises nowhere to 150 feet; perhaps the general height of it may be about 100. On each side of it, especially on the north, the Country is of most intricate character: bushy, scraggy, with brooklets or muddy oozings wandering about, especially with a thing called the HUNERFLIESS (Hen-Floss), which springs in the eastern woods, and has inconceivable difficulty to get into Oder,--if it get at all! This was a sore Floss to Friedrich to-morrow. Hen-Floss struggles, painfully meandering and oozing, along the northern side (sometimes close, sometimes not) of our Chain of Knolls: along the south side of it (in our time, through the middle of it) goes the Highway to Reppen ["From that Highway will his attack come!" thought the Russians, always till to-day]: on the north, to Leissow, to Trettin," where Friedrich is now on survey, "go various wheel-tracks, but no firm road. A most intricate unlovely Country. Withered bent-grasses, heath, perhaps gorse, and on both sides a great deal of straggling Forest-wood, reaching eastward, and especially southward, for many miles.
"For the rest," to our ill-luck in this place, "the Battlefield of Kunersdorf has had a peculiar fate in the world; that of being blown away by the winds! The then scene of things exists no longer; the descriptions in the Old Books are gone hopelessly irrecognizable. In our time, there is not anywhere a tract more purely of tumbled sand, than all this between Kunersdorf and Dam Vorstadt; and you judge, without aid of record or tradition, that it is greatly altered for the worse since Friedrich`s time,--some rabbit-colony, or other the like insignificancy, eating out the roots, till all vegetation died, and the wind got hold and set it dancing;--and that, in 1759, when Russian human beings took it for a Camp, it must have been at least coherent, more or less; covered, held together by some film of scrubby vegetation; not blowing about in every wind as now! Kunersdorf stands with its northern end pushed into that KUHGRUND (Cow-Hollow); which must then have been a grassy place. Eastward of Kunersdorf the ground has still some skin of peat, and sticks together: but westward, all that three miles, it is a mere tumult of sand-hills, tumbled about in every direction (so diligent have the conies been, and then the winds); no gullet, or definite cut or hollow, now traceable anywhere, but only an endless imbroglio of twisted sand-heaps and sand-hollows, which continually alter in the wind-storms. Sand wholly, and--except the strong paved Highway that now runs through it (to Reppen, Meseritz and the Polish Frontier, and is strongly paved till it get through Kunersdorf)--chaotic wholly; a scene of heaped barrenness and horror, not to be matched but in Sahara; the features of the Battle quite blown away, and indecipherable in our time.
"A hundred years ago, it would have some tattered skin,--of peat, of heather and dwarf whins, with the sand cropping out only here and there. So one has to figure it in Soltikof`s day,--before the conies ruined it. Which was not till within the last sixty years, as appears. Kriele`s Book (in 1801) still gives no hint of change: the KUHGRUND, which now has nothing but dry sand for the most industrious ruminant, is still a place of succulence and herbage in Kriele`s time; `Deep Way,` where `at one point two carts could not pass,` was not yet blown out of existence, but has still `a Well in it` for Kriele; HOHLE GRUND (since called Loudon`s Hollow), with the Jew Hill and Jew Churchyard beyond, seem tolerable enough places to Kriele. Probably not unlike what the surrounding Country still is. A Country of poor villages, and of wild ground, flat generally, and but tolerably green; with lakelets, bushes, scrubs, and intricate meandering little runlets and oozelets; and in general with more of Forest so called than now is:--this is Kunersdorf Chain of Knolls; Soltikof`s Intrenched Camp at present; destined to become very famous in the world, after lying so long obscure under Oder and its rages." [TOURIST`S NOTE (Autumnn, 1852).]
From the Knolls of Trettin, that Saturday afternoon, Friedrich takes view of the Russian Camp. All lying bright enough there; from Muhlberg to Judenberg, convenient to our glass; between us and the evening Sun. Batteries most abundant, difficulties great: Soltikof just ahead here, 72,000: Loudon at the Red Grange yonder, on their extreme left, with 18,000 more. An uncommonly strong position for 90,000 against 50,000. One thing strikes Friedrich: On front in this northern side, close by the base of the Russian Camp, runs--for the present away FROM Oder, but intending to join it elsewhere --a paltry little Brook, "Hen-Floss" so called, with at least two successive Mills on it (KLEINE MUHLE, GROSSE MUHLE); and on the northern shore of it, spilling itself out into a wet waste called ELSBRUCH (Alder Waste), which is especially notable to Friedrich. ALDER Waste? Watery, scrubby; no passage there, thinks Friedrich; which his Peasant with the water-jug confirms. "Tell me, however," inquires Friedrich, with strictness, "From the Red Grange yonder, where General Loudon is, if you wished to get over to the HOHLE GRUND, or to the Judenberg, would you cross that Hen-Floss?" "It is not crossable, your Majesty; one has to go round quite westward by the Dam." " What, from Rothe Vorwerk to Big Hollow, no passage, say you; no crossing?" "None, your Majesty," insists the Peasant;--who is not aware that the Russians have made one of firm trestles and logs, and use it daily for highway there; an error of some interest to Friedrich within the next twenty-four hours!
Friedrich himself does not know this bit of ground: but there is with him, besides the Peasant, a Major Linden, whose Regiment used to lie in Frankfurt, of whom Friedrich makes minute questioning. Linden answers confidently; has been over all this tract a hundred times; "but knows it only as a hunter," says Tempelhof, [Tempelhof, iii. 186.] "not as a soldier," which he ought to have done. His answers are supposed to have misled Friedrich on various points, and done him essential damage. Friedrich`s view of the case, that evening, is by no means so despondent as might be imagined: he regards the thing as difficult, not as impossible,-- and one of his anxieties is, that he be not balked of trying it straightway. Retiring to his hut in Bischofsee, he makes two Dispositions, of admirable clearness, brevity, and calculated for two contingencies: [Given in Tempelhof, iii. 182, 183.] That of the enemy retaining his now posture; and That of the enemy making off for Reppen;--which latter does not at all concern us, as matters turned! Of the former the course will unfold itself to us, in practice, shortly. At 2 A.M. Friedrich will be on foot again, at 3 on march again.--The last phenomenon, at Bischofsee this night, is some sudden glare of disastrous light rising over the woods:-- "Russians burning Kunersdorf!" as neighbors are sorry to hear. That is the finale of much Russian rearranging and tumbling, this day; that barbarous burning of Kunersdorf, before going to bed. To-morrow various other poor Villages got burnt by them, which they had better have left standing.
The Russians, on hearing that Friedrich was across at Goritz, and coming on them from the north side, not from Frankfurt by the Reppen Highway, were in great agitation. Not thrown into terror, but into manifold haste, knowing what hasty adversary there was. Endless readjustments they have to make; a day of tumultuous business with the Russians, this Saturday, llth, when the news reached them. "They inverted their front [say all the Books but Friedrich`s own]: Not coming by the Reppen Highway, then!" think they. And thereupon changed rear to front, as at Zorndorf, but more elaborately;--which I should not mention, were it not that hereby their late "right wing on the Muhlberg" has, in strict speech, become their "left," and there is ambiguity and discrepancy in some of the Books, should any poor reader take to studying them on this matter. Changed their front; which involves much interior changing; readjusting of batteries and the like. That of burning Kunersdorf was the barbaric winding up of all this: barbaric, and, in the military sense, absurd; poor Kunersdorf could have been burnt at any moment, if needful; and to the Russians the keeping of it standing was the profitable thing, as an impediment to Friedrich in his advance there. They have laid it flat and permeable; ashes all of it,--except the Church only, which is of stone; not so combustible, and may have uses withal. Has perhaps served as temporary lock-up, prison for the night, to some of those Frankfurt Deputations and their troublesome wailings; and may serve as temporary hospital to-morrow, who knows?
Readjustments in the Russian Camp were manifold: but these are as nothing, in the tumultuous business of the day. Carting of their baggage, every article of value, to that safe Wagenburg in the River; driving of cattle,--the very driving of cattle through Frankfurt, endless herds of them, gathered by the Cossacks from far and wide, "lasted for four-and-twenty hours." Oxen in Frankfurt that day were at the rate of ten shillings per head. Often enough you were offered a full-grown young steer for a loaf of bread; nay the Cossacks, when there was absolutely no bidder, would slaughter down the animal, leave its carcass in the streets, and sell the hide for a TYMPF,--fivepence (very bad silver at present). Never before or since was seen in Frankfurt such a Saturday, for bellowing and braying, and raging and tumulting, all through the day and through the night; ushering in such a Sunday too!
Sunday about 3 in the morning, Friedrich is on march again,-- Russians still in their place; and Disposition FIRST, not SECOND at all, to be our rule of action! Friedrich, in Two Columns, marches off, eastward through the woods, as if for Reppen quite away from the Russians and their Muhlberg; but intending to circle round at the due point, and come down upon their right flank there (left flank, as he persists to call it), out of the woods, and clasp it in his arms in an impressive, unexpected way. In Two Columns; which are meant, as usual, to be the Two Lines of Battle: Seidlitz, with chosen Cavalry, is at the head of Column First, and will be Left Wing, were we on the ground; Eugen of Wurtemberg, closing the rear of Column First, will, he, or Finck and he together, be Right Wing. That is the order of march;--order of BATTLE, we shall find, had to alter itself somewhat, for reasons extremely valid!
Finck with his 12,000 is to keep his present ground; to have two good batteries got ready, each on its knoll ahead, which shall wait silent in the interim: Finck to ride out reconnoitring, with many General Officers, and to make motions and ostentations; in a word, to persuade the Russians that here is the Main Army coming on from the north. All which Finck does; avoiding, as his orders were, any firing, or serious commencement of business, till the King reappear out of the woods. The Russians give Finck and his General Officers a cannon salvo, here and there, without effect, and get no answer. "The King does not see his way, then, after all?" think the Russians. Their Cossacks go scouring about; on the southern side, "burn Schwetig and Reipzig," without the least advantage to themselves: most of the Cavalry, and a regiment or two of excellent Austrian Grenadiers, are with Loudon, near the Red Grange, in front of the Russian extreme left;--but will have stept over into Big Hollow at a moment of crisis!
The King`s march, through the Forest of Reppen, was nothing like so expeditious as had been expected. There are thickets, intricacies, runlets, boggy oozes; indifferent to one man well mounted, but vitally important to 30,000 with heavy cannon to bring on. Boggy oozings especially,--there is one dirty stream or floss (HUNERFLIESS, Hen-Floss) which wanders dismally through those recesses, issuing from the far south, with dirty daughters dismally wandering into it, and others that cannot get into it (being of the lake kind): these, in their weary, circling, recircling course towards Oder,--FAULE LAACKE (Foul Lake, LITHER-MERE, as it were), Foul Bridge, Swine`s Nook (SCHWEINEBUCKT), and many others,-- occasion endless difficulty. Whether Major Linden was shot that day, or what became of him after, I do not know: but it was pity he had not studied the ground with a soldier`s eye instead of a hunter`s! Plumping suddenly, at last, upon Hen-Floss itself, Friedrich has to turn angularly; angularly, which occasions great delay: the heavy cannon (wall-guns brought from Custrin) have twelve horses each, and cannot turn among the trees, but have to be unyoked, reyoked, turned round by hand:--in short, it was eight in the morning before Friedrich arrived at the edge of the wood, on the Klosterberg, Walckberg, and other woody BERGS or knolls, within reach of Muhlberg, and behind the preliminary abatis there (abatis which was rather of service to him than otherwise);--and began privately building his batteries.
At eight o`clock he, with Column First, which is now becoming Line First (CENTRE of Line First, if we reckon Finck as RIGHT-WING), is there; busy in that manner: Column Second, which was to have been Rear Line, is still a pretty way behind; and has many difficulties before it gets into Kunersdorf neighborhood, or can (having wriggled itself into a kind of LEFT-WING) co-operate on the Russian Position from the south side. On the north side, Finck has been ready these five hours.--Friedrich speeds the building of his batteries: "Silent, too; the Russians have not yet noticed us!" By degrees the Russians do notice something; shoot out Cossacks to reconnoitre. Cossacks in quantity; who are so insolent, and venture so very near, our gunners on the north battery give them a blast of satisfactory grape-shot; one aud then another, four blasts in all, satisfactory to the gunner mind,--till the King`s self, with a look, with a voice, came galloping: "Silence, will you!" The Russians took no offence; still considering Finck to be the main thing and Friedrich some scout party,--till at last,
Half-past eleven, everything being ready on the Walck Hill, Friedrich`s batteries opened there, in a sudden and volcanic way. Volcanically answered by the Russians, as soon as possible; who have 72 guns on this Muhlberg, and are nothing loath. Upon whom Finck`s battery is opening from the north, withal: Friedrich has 60 cannon hereabouts; on the Walckberg, on the LITTLE Spitzberg (called SEIDLITZ HILL ever since); all playing diligently on the head and south shoulder of this Muhlberg: while Finck`s battery opens on the north shoulder (could he but get near enough). Volcanic to a degree all these; nor are the Russians wanting, though they get more and more astonished: Tempelhof, who was in it, says he never, except at Torgau next Year, heard a louder cannonade. Loud exceedingly; and more or less appalling to the Russian imagination: but not destructive in proportion; the distance being too considerable,--"1,950 paces at the nearest," as Tempelhof has since ascertained by measuring. Friedrich`s two batteries, however, as they took the Russians in the flank or by enfilade, did good execution. "The Russian guns were ill-pointed; the Russian batteries wrong-built; batteries so built as did not allow them sight of the Hollow they were meant to defend." [Tempelhof, iii. 186, 187.]
After above half an hour of this, Friedrich orders storm of the Muhlberg: Forward on it, with what of enfilading it has had! Eight grenadier Battalions, a chosen vanguard appointed for the work (names of Battalions all given, and deathless in the Prussian War- Annals), tramp forth on this service: cross the abatis, which the Russian grenadoes have mostly burnt; down into the Hollow. Steady as planets; "with a precision and coherency," says Tempelhof, "which even on the parade-ground would have deserved praises. Once well in the Hollow, they suffer nothing; though the blind Russian fire, going all over their heads, rages threefold:" suffered nothing in the Hollow; nor till they reached almost the brow of the Muhlberg, and were within a hundred steps of the Russian guns. These were the critical steps, these final ones; such torrents of grape-shot and musket-shot and sheer death bursting out, here at last, upon the Eight Battalions, as they come above ground. Who advanced, unwavering, all the faster,--speed one`s only safety. They poured into the Russian gunners and musketry battalions one volley of choicest quality, which had a shaking effect; then, with level bayonets, plunge on the batteries: which are all empty before we can leap into them; artillery-men, musketeer battalions, all on wing; general whirlpool spreading. And so, in ten minutes, the Muhlberg and its guns are ours. Ever since Zorndorf, an idea had got abroad, says Tempelhof, that the Russians would die instead of yielding; but it proved far otherwise here. Down as far as Kunersdorf, which may be about a mile westward, the Russians are all in a whirl; at best hanging in tatters and clumps, their Officers struggling against the flight; "mixed groups you would see huddled together a hundred men deep." The Russian Left Wing is beaten: had we our cannon up here, our cavalry up here, the Russian Army were in a bad way!
This is a glorious beginning; completed, I think, as far almost as Kunersdorf by one o`clock: and could the iron continue to be struck while it is at white-heat as now, the result were as good as certain. That was Friedrich`s calculation: but circumstances which he had not counted on, some which he could not count on, sadly retarded the matter. His Left Wing (Rear Line, which should now have been Left Wing) from southward, his Right Wing from northward, and Finck farther west, were now on the instant to have simultaneously closed upon the beaten Russians, and crushed them altogether. The Right Wing, conquerors of the Muhlberg, are here: but neither Finck nor the Left can be simultaneous with them. Finck and his artillery are much retarded with the Flosses and poor single Bridges; and of the Left Wing there are only some Vanguard Regiments capable of helping ("who drove out the Russians from Kunersdorf Churchyard," as their first feat),--no Main Body yet for a long while. Such impediments, such intricacies of bog and bush! The entire Wing does at last get to the southeast of Kunersdorf, free of the wood; but finds (contrary to Linden with his hunter eye) an intricate meshwork of meres and straggling lakes, two of them in the burnt Village itself; no passing of these except on narrow isthmuses, which necessitate change of rank and re-change; and our Left Wing cannot, with all its industry, "march up," that is, arrive at the enemy in fighting line, without the painfulest delays.
And then the getting forward of our cannon! On the Muhlberg itself the seventy-two Russian guns, "owing to difference of calibre," or artillery-men know what, cannot be used by us: a few light guns, Tempelhof to one of them, a poor four in all, with perhaps 100 shot to each, did, by the King`s order, hasten to the top of the Muhlberg; and never did Tempelhof see a finer chance for artillery than there. Soft sloping ground, with Russians simmering ahead of you, all the way down to Kunersdorf, a mile long: by horizontal pointing, you had such reboundings (RICOCHETS); and carried beautiful execution! Tempelhof soon spent his hundred shots: but it was not at once that any of our sixty heavy guns could be got up thither. Twelve horses to each: fancy it, and what baffling delays here and elsewhere;--and how the Russian whirlpool was settling more and more, in the interim! And had, in part, settled; in part, got through to the rear, and been replaced by fresh troops!
Friedrich`s activities, and suppressed and insuppressible impatiences in this interval, are also conceivable, though not on record for us. The swiftest of men; tied down, in this manner, with the blaze of perfect victory ahead, were the moments NOT running out! Slower or faster, he thinks (I suppose), the victory is his; and that he must possess his soul till things do arrive. It was in one and more of those embargoed intervals that he wrote to Berlin [Preuss, ii. 212 n.] (which is waiting, as if for life or death, the issue of this scene, sixty miles distant): "Russians beaten; rejoice with me!" Four successive couriers, I believe, with messages to that effect; and at last a Fifth with dolefully contrary news!--
In proportion as the cannon and other necessaries gradually got in, the Fight flamed up from its embers more aud more: and there ensued,--the Russians being now ranked again (fronting eastward now) "in many lines," and very fierce,--a second still deadlier bout; Friedrich furiously diligent on their front and right flank; Finck, from the Alder Waste, battering and charging (uphill, and under difficulties from those Flosses and single Bridges) on their left flank. This too, after long deadly efforts on the Prussian part, ended again clearly in their favor; their enemies broken a second time, and driven not only out of Kunersdorf and the Kuhgrund, but some say almost to the foot of the Judenberg,--what can only be very partially true. Broken portions of the Russian left flank,--some of Finck`s people, in their victorious wrath, may have chased these very far: but it is certain the general Russian mass rallied again a long way short of the Judenberg;--though, the ground being all obliterated by the rabbits and the winds, nobody can now know with exactitude where.
And indeed the Battle, from this point onwards, becomes blurred and confused to us, only its grosser features visible henceforth. Where the "Big Spitzberg" was (so terribly important soon), nobody can now tell me, except from maps. London`s motions too are obscure, though important. I believe his grenadiers had not yet been in the fire; but am certain they are now come out of Big Hollow; fresh for the rescue; and have taken front rank in this Second Rally that is made. Loudon`s Cavalry Loudon himself has in hand, and waits with them in a fit place. He has 18,000 fresh men; and an eye like few others on a field of war. Loudon`s 18,000 are fresh: of the Prussians that can by no means be said. I should judge it must be 3 of the afternoon. The day is windless, blazing; one of the hottest August days; and "nobody, for twelve hours past, could command a drink of water:" very fresh the poor Prussians cannot be! They have done two bouts of excellent fighting; tumbled the Russians well back, stormed many batteries; and taken in all 180 cannon.
At this stage, it appears, Finck and many Generals, Seidlitz among the others, were of opinion that, in present circumstances, with troops so tired, and the enemy nearly certain to draw off, if permitted, here had been enough for one day, and that there ought to be pause till to-morrow. Friedrich knew well the need of rest; but Friedrich, impatient of things half-done, especially of Russians half-beaten, would not listen to this proposal; which was reckoned upon him as a grave and tragic fault, all the rest of his life; though favorable judges, who were on the ground, Tempelhof for one, [Tempelhof, iii. 194.] are williug to prove that pausing here--at the point we had really got to, a little beyond the Kuhgrund, namely; and not a couple of miles westward, at the foot of the Jew Hill, where vague rumor puts us--was not feasible or reasonable. Friedrich considers with himself, "Our left wing has hardly yet been in fire!" calls out the entire left wing, foot and horse: these are to emerge from their meshwork of Lakes about Kunersdorf, and bear a hand along with us on the Russian front here,--especially to sweep away that raging Battery they have on the Big Spitzberg, and make us clear of it. The Big Spitzberg lies to south and ahead of the Russian right as now ranked; fatally covers their right flank, and half ruins the attack in front. Big Spitzberg is blown irrecognizable in our time; but it was then an all-important thing.
The left-wing Infantry thread their lake-labyrinth, the soonest possible; have to rank again on the hither side, under a tearing fire from that Spitzberg; can then at last, and do, storm onwards, upwards; but cannot, with their best efforts, take the Spitzberg: and have to fall back under its floods of tearing case-shot, and retire out of range. To Friedrich`s blank disappointment: "Try it you, then, Seidlitz; you saved us at Zorndorf!" Seidlitz, though it is an impossible problem to storm batteries with horse, does charge in for the Russian flank, in spite of its covering battery: but the torrents of grape-shot are insufferable; the Seidlitz people, torn in gaps, recoil, whirl round, and do not rank again till beyond the Lakes of Kunersdorf. Seidlitz himself has got wounded, and has had to be carried away.
And, in brief, from this point onwards all goes aback with the Prussians more and more. Repeated attempts on that Spitzberg battery prove vain; to advance without it is impossible. Friedrich`s exertions are passionate, almost desperate; rallying, animating, new-ordering; everywhere in the hottest of the fire. "Thrice he personally led on the main attack." He has had two horses shot down under him; mounting a third, this too gets a bullet in an artery of the neck, and is about falling, when two Adjutants save the King. In his waistcoat-pocket some small gold case (ETUI) has got smitten flat by a bullet, which would otherwise have ended matters. The people about him remonstrate on such exposure of a life beyond value; he answers curtly, "We must all of us try every method here, to win the Battle: I, like every other, must stand to my duty here!" These, and a second brief word or two farther on, are all of articulate that we hear from him this day.
Friedrich`s wearied battalions here on the Heights, while the Spitzberg to left goes so ill, fight desperately; but cannot prevail farther; and in spite of Friedrich`s vehement rallyings and urgings, gradually lose ground,--back at last to Kunersdorf and the Kuhgrund again. The Loudon grenadiers, and exclaimed masses of fresh Russians, are not to be broken, but advance and advance. Fancy the panting death-labors, and spasmodic toilings and bafflings, of those poor Prussians and their King! Nothing now succeeding; the death-agony now come; all hearts growing hopeless; only one heart still seeing hope. The Spitzberg is impossible; tried how often I know not. Finck, from the Alder Waste, with his Infantry, attacks, and again attacks; without success: "Let the Cavalry go round, then, and try there. Seidlitz we have not; you Eugen of Wurtemberg lead them!" Eugen leads them (cuirassiers, or we will forget what); round by the eastern end of the Muhlberg; then westward, along the Alder Waste; finally southward, against the Russian flank, himself foremost, and at the gallop for charging:--Eugen, "looking round, finds his men all gone," and has to gallop the other way, gets wounded to boot. Puttkammer, with Hussars, then tried it; Puttkammer was shot dead, and his Hussars too could do nothing.
Back, slowly back, go the Prussians generally, nothing now succeeds with them. Back to the Kuhgrund again; fairly over the steep brow there; the Russians serrying their ranks atop, rearranging their many guns. There, once more, rose frightful struggle; desperate attempt by the fordone Prussians to retake that Height. "Lasted fifteen minutes, line to line not fifty yards asunder;" such musketry,--our last cartridges withal. Ardent Prussian parties trying to storm up; few ever getting to the top, none ever standing there alive one minute. This was the death-agony of the Battle. Loudon, waiting behind the Spitzberg, dashes forward now, towards the Kuhgrund and our Left Flank. At sight of which a universal feeling shivers through the Prussian heart, "Hope ended, then!"-- and their solid ranks rustle everywhere; and melt into one wild deluge, ebbing from the place as fast as it can.
It is towards six o`clock; the sweltering Sun is now fallen low and veiled; gray evening sinking over those wastes. "N`Y A-T-IL DONC PAS UN BOUGRE DE BOULET QUI PUISSE M`ATTEINDREE (Is there no one b-- of a ball that can reach me, then)?" exclaimed Friedrich in despair. Such a day he had never thought to see. The pillar of the State, the Prussian Army itself, gone to chaos in this manner. Friedrich still passionately struggles, exhorts, commands, entreats even with tears, "Children, don`t forsake me, in this pinch (KINDER, VERLASSET HEUTE MICH, EUREN KONIG, EUREN VATER, NICHT)!" [Kriele, p. 169.]--but all ears are deaf. On the Muhlberg one regiment still stood by their guns, covering the retreat. But the retreat is more and more a flight; "no Prussian Army was ever seen in such a state." At the Bridges of that Hen-Floss, there was such a crowding, all our guns got jammed; and had to be left, 165 of them of various calibre, and the whole of the Russian 180 that were once in our hands. Had the chase been vigorous, this Prussian Army had been heard of no more. But beyond the Muhlberg, there was little or no pursuit; through the wood the Army, all in chaos, but without molestation otherwise, made for its Oder Bridges by the way it had come. [Tempelhof, iii. 179-200; Retzow, ii. 80-115: in Seyfarth, Beylagen, ii. 589-598, Bericht von der am 12 August, 1759 bey Kunersdorf vorgefallenen Schlacht (Official); and IB. 598-603, Beschreibung der &c. (by a Private Hand): lucidly accurate both.]
Friedrich was among the last to quit the ground. He seemed stupefied by the excess of his emotions; in no haste to go; uncertain whether he would go at all. His adjutants were about him, and a small party of Ziethen Hussars under Captain Prittwitz. Wild swarms of Cossacks approached the place. "PRITTWITZ, ICH BIN VERLOREN (Prittwitz, I am lost)!" remarked he. "NEIN, IHRO MAJESTAT!" answered Prittwitz with enthusiasm; charged fiercely, he and his few, into the swarms of Cossacks; cut them about, held them at bay, or sent them else-whither, while the Adjutants seized Friedrich`s bridle, and galloped off with him. At OEtscher and the Bridges, Friedrich found of his late Army not quite 3,000 men. Even Wunsch is not there till next morning. Wunsch with his Party had, early in the afternoon, laid hold of Frankfurt, as ordered; made the garrison prisoners, blocked the Oder Bridge; poor Frankfurt tremulously thanking Heaven for him, and for such an omen. In spite of their Wagenburg and these Pontoon-Bridges, it appears, there would have been no retreat for the Russians except into Wunsch`s cannon: Wagenburg way, latish in the afternoon, there was such a scramble of runaways and retreating baggage, all was jammed into impassability; scarcely could a single man get through. In case of defeat, the Russian Army would have had no chance but surrender or extermination. [Tempelhof, iii. 194: in Retzow (ii. 110) is some dubious traditionary stuff on the matter.] At dark, however, Wunsch had summons, so truculent in style, he knew what it meant; and answering in words peremptorily, "No" with a like emphasis, privately got ready again, and at midnight disappeared. Got to Reitwein without accident.
Friedrich found at OEtscher nothing but huts full of poor wounded men, and their miseries and surgeries;--he took shelter, himself, in a hut "which had been plundered by Cossacks" (in the past days), but which had fewer wounded than others, and could be furnished with some bundles of dry straw. Kriele has a pretty Anecdote, with names and particulars, of two poor Lieutenants, who were lying on the floor, as he entered this hut. They had lain there for many hours; the Surgeons thinking them desperate; which Friedrich did not. "ACH KINDER, Alas, children, you are badly wounded, then?" "JA, your Majesty: but how goes the Battle?" (Answer, evasive on this point): "Are you bandaged, though? Have you been let blood?" "NEIN, EUER MAJESTAT, KEIN TEUFEL WILL UNS VERBINDEN (Not a devil of them would bandage us)!" Upon which there is a Surgeon instantly brought; reprimanded for neglect: "Desperate, say you? These are young fellows; feel that hand, and that; no fever there: Nature in such cases does wonders!" Upon which the leech had to perform his function; and the poor young fellows were saved,--and did new fighting, and got new wounds, and had Pensions when the War ended. [Kriele, pp. 169, 170; and in all the Anecdote-Books.] This appears to have been Friedrich`s first work in that hut at OEtscher. Here next is a Third Autograph to Finkenstein, written in that hut, probably the first of several Official things there:--
THE KING TO GRAF VAN FINKENSTEIN (at Berlin): Third Note.
OETSCHER, "12th August," 1759.
"I attacked the Enemy this morning about eleven; we beat him back to the JUDENKIRCHHOF (Jew Churchyard,"--a mistake, but now of no moment), "near Frankfurt. All my troops came into action, and have done wonders. I reassembled them three times; at length, I was myself nearly taken prisoner; and we had to quit the Field. My coat is riddled with bullets, two horses were killed under me;--my misfortune is, that I am still alive. Our loss is very considerable. Of an Army of 48,000 men, I have, at this moment while I write, not more than 3,000 together; and am no longer master of my forces. In Berlin you will do well to think of your safety. It is a great calamity; and I will not survive it: the consequences of this Battle will be worse than the Battle itself. I have no resources more; and, to confess the truth, I hold all for lost. I will not survive the destruction of my Country. Farewell forever (ADIEU POUR JAMAIS).--F." [In orig. "CE 12," no other date ( OEuvres de Frederic, xxv. 306).]
Another thing, of the same tragic character, is that of handing over this Army to Finck`s charge. Order there is to Finck of that tenor: and along with it the following notable Autograph,--a Friedrich taking leave both of Kingship and of life. The Autograph exists; but has no date,--date of the Order would probably be still OETSCHER, 12th AUGUST; date of the Autograph, REITWEIN (across the River), next day.
FRIEDRICH TO LIEUT.-GENERAL FINCK (at OEtscher or Reitwein).
"General Finck gets a difficult commission; the unlucky Army which I give up to him is no longer in condition to make head against the Russians. Haddick will now start for Berlin, perhaps Loudon too; if General Finck go after these, the Russians will fall on his rear; if he continue on the Oder, he gets Haddick on his flank (SO KRIGT ER DEN HADEK DISS SEIT):--however, I believe, should Loudon go for Berlin, he might attack Loudon, and try to beat him: this, if it succeeded, would be a stand against misfortune, and hold matters up. Time gained is much, in these desperate circumstances. The news from Torgau and Dresden, Coper my Secretary (COPER MEIN SEGRETER," kind of lieutenant to Eichel [See Preuss, i. 349, iii. 442.]) "will send him. You (ER) must inform my Brother [Prince Henri] of everything; whom I have declared Generalissimo of the Army. To repair this bad luck altogether is not possible: but what my Brother shall command, must be done:--the Army swears to my Nephew [King henceforth].
"This is all the advice, in these unhappy circumstances, I am in a condition to give. Had I still had resources, I would have stayed by them (SO WEHRE ICH DARBEI GEBLIEBEN).
"FRIEDRICH" [Exact Copy, two exact copies, in PREUSS (i. 450, and again, ii. 215).]
All this done, the wearied Friedrich flung himself into his truss of dry straw; and was seen sound asleep there, a single sentry at the door, by some high Generals that ventured to look in. On the morrow he crossed to Reitwein; by to-morrow night, there had 23,000 of his fugitives come in to him;--but this is now to be Finck`s affair, not his! That day, too (for the Paper seems to be misdated), he signed, and despatched to Schmettau, Commandant in Dresden, a Missive, which proved more fatal than either of the others; and brought, or helped to bring, very bitter fruits for him, before long:--
TO LIEUTENANT-GENERAL VON SCHMETTAU (at Dresden).
"REITWEIN, 14th [probably 13th] August, 1759.
"You will perhaps have heard of the Check [L`ECHEC, Kunersdorf to wit!] I have met with from the Russian Army on the 13th [12th, if you have the Almanac at hand] of this month. Though at bottom our affairs in regard to the Enemy here are not desperate, I find I shall not now be able to make any detachment for your assistance. Should the Austrians attempt anything against Dresden, therefore, you will see if there are means of maintaining yourself; failing which, it will behoove you to try and obtain a favorable Capitulation,--to wit, Liberty to withdraw, with the whole Garrison, Moneys, Magazines, Hospital and all that we have at Dresden, either to Berlin or else-whither, so as to join some Corps of my Troops.
"As a fit of illness [MALADIE, alas!] has come on me,--which I do not think will have dangerous results,--I have for the present left the command of my Troops to Lieutenant-General von Finck; whose Orders you are to execute as if coming to you directly from myself. On this I pray God to have you in his holy and worthy keeping.--F." [Preuss, ii. Urkundenbuch, p. 43.]
At Berlin, on this 13th,--with the Five Couriers coming in successively (and not in the order of their despatch, but the fatal Fifth arriving some time AHEAD of the Fourth, who still spoke of progress and victory),--there was such a day as Sulzer (ACH MEIN LIEBER SULZER!) had never seen in the world. "`Above 50,000 human beings on the Palace Esplanade and streets about;` swaying hither and thither, in agony of expectation, in alternate paroxysm of joy and of terror and woe; often enough the opposite paroxysms simultaneous in the different groups, and men crushed down in despair met by men leaping into the air for very gladness:" Sulzer (whose sympathy is of very aesthetic type) "would not, for any consideration, have missed such a scene." [ Briefe der Schweitzer Bodmer, Sulzer, Gessner; aus Gleim`s literarischen Nachlasse: herausgegeben von Wilhelm Korte (Zurich, 1804), pp. 316-319.] The "scene" is much obliged to you, MEIN LIEBER!--
Practically we find, in Rodenbeck, or straggling elsewhere, this Note: "On the day after Kunersdorf, Queen and Court fly to Magdeburg: this is their second flight. Their first was on Haddick`s Visit, October, 1757; but after Rossbach they soon returned, and Berlin and the Court were then extremely gay: different gentlemen, French and others of every Nation, fallen prisoners, made the Queen`s soirees the finest in the world for splendor and variety, at that time." [Rodenbeck, i. 390; &c. &c.]
One other Note we save, for the sake of poor Major Kleist, "Poet of the Spring," as he was then called. A valiant, punctual Soldier, and with a turn for Literature as well; who wrote really pleasant fine things, new at that time and rapturously welcome, though too much in the sentimental vein for the times which have followed. Major Kleist,--there is a General Kleist, a Colonel Kleist of the Green Hussars (called GRUNE Kleist, a terrible cutting fellow):-- this is not Grune Kleist; this is the Poet of THE SPRING; whose fate at Kunersdorf made a tragic impression in all intelligent circles of Teutschland. Here is Kriele`s Note (abridged):--
"Christian Ewald von Kleist, `Poet of the Spring` [a Pommern gentleman, now in his forty-fourth year], was of Finck`s Division; had come on, after those Eight Battalions took the first Russian battery [that is, Muhlberg]; and had been assisting, with zeal, at the taking of three other batteries, regardless of twelve contusions, which he gradually got. At the third battery, he was farther badly hurt on the left arm and the right. Took his Colonel`s place nevertheless, whom he now saw fall; led the regiment MUTHIG forward on the fourth battery. A case-shot smashed his right leg to pieces; he fell from his horse [hour not given, shall we say 3 P.M.]; sank, exclaiming: `KINDER, My children, don`t forsake your King!` and fainted there. Was carried to rear and leftward; laid down on some dry spot in the Elsbruch, not far from the Kuhgrund, and a Surgeon brought. The Surgeon, while examining, was torn away by case-shot: Kleist lay bleeding without help. A friend of his, Pfau [who told Kriele], one of Finck`s Generals, came riding that way: Kleist called to him; asked how the Battle went; uncommonly glad to hear we are still progressive. Pfau undertook, and tried his utmost, for a carriage to Kleist; did send one of Finck`s own carriages; but after such delays that the Prussians were now yielding: poor Kleist`s had become Russian ground, and the carriage could not get in.
"Kleist lay helpless; no luck worse than his. In the evening, Cossacks came round him; stript him stark-naked; threw him, face foremost, into the nearest swampy place, and went their way. One of these devils had something so absurd and Teniers-like in the face of him, that Kleist, in his pains, could not help laughing at remembrance of it. In the night some Russian Hussars, human and not Cossack, found Kleist in this situation; took him to a dry place; put a cloak over him, kindled a watch-fire for themselves, and gave him water and bread. Towards morning they hastened away, throwing an 8-GROSCHEN STUCK [ninepenny piece, shilling, say half-crown] on his cloak,--with human farewell. But Cossacks again came; again stript him naked and bare. Towards noon of the 13th, Kleist contrived to attract some Russian Cavalry troop passing that way, and got speech of the Captain (one Fackelberg, a German); who at once set about helping him;--and had him actually sent into Frankfurt, in a carriage, that evening. To the House of a Professor Nikolai; where was plenty of surgery and watchful affection. After near thirty hours of such a lair, his wounds seemed still curable; there was hope for ten days. In the tenth night (22d-23d August), the shivered pieces of bone disunited themselves; cut an artery,--which, after many trials, could not be tied. August 24th, at two in the morning, he died.--Great sorrow. August 26th, there was soldier`s funeral; poor Kleist`s coffin borne by twelve Russian grenadiers; very many Russian Officers attending, who had come from the Camp for that end; one Russian Staff-Officer of them unbuckling his own sword to lay on the bier, as there was want of one. King Friedrich had Kleist`s Portrait hung in the Garnison Kirche. Freemason Lodge, in 1788, set up a monument to him," [Kriele, pp. 39-43.]--which still stands on the Frankfurt pavement, and is now in sadly ruinous state.
The Prussian loss, in this Battle, was, besides all the cannon and field-equipages: 6,000 killed, 13,000 wounded (of which latter, 2,000 badly, who fell to the Russians as prisoners); in all, about 19,000 men. Nor was the Russian loss much lighter; of Russians and Austrians together, near 18,000, as Tempelhof counts: "which will not surprise your Majesty," reports Soltikof to his Czarina; "who are aware that the King of Prussia sells his defeats at a dear rate." And privately Soltikof was heard to say, "Let me fight but another such Victory, and I may go to Petersburg with the news of it myself, with the staff in my hand." The joy at Petersburg, striving not to be braggart or immodest, was solemn, steady and superlative: a great feat indeed for Russia, this Victory over such a King,--though a kind of grudge, that it was due to Loudon, dwelt, in spite of Loudon`s politic silence on that point, unpleasantly in the background. The chase they had shamefully neglected. It is said, certain Russian Officers, who had charge of that business stept into a peasant`s cottage to consult on it; contrived somehow to find tolerable liquor there; and sat drinking instead. [Preuss, ii. 217.]