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Frederick The Great
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Frederick The Great
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Frederick II, King of Prussia, and universally styled, Frederick the Great, concluded his last will and testament with the following words : "My most fervent aspirations, when breathing my last, shall be for the prosperity of my Kingdom. May its government be ever conducted with justice, wisdom, and decision. May the mildness of its laws render it the happiest, and the due administration of its finances the most prosperous of States. May its army, mindful of nought but honor and renown, render it the most valiantly defended of Kingdoms. Oh, may it continue in the enjoyment of the most perfect prosperity to the end of time." Such were the sentiments for which Frederick had labored and fought during his long and eventful reign and such an ideal condition, indeed, he had in a great measure succeeded in establishing. This giant figure in modern history ascended a throne that was none too secure and through his valiant conduct in war and wise administration in peace, virtually founded the present monarchy of Prussia and brought the nation to a higher place than it had ever occupied before; for while flattering distinction must be accorded him as one of the foremost of warriors, so amply demonstrated in the campaigns against Silesia and the more remarkable ones of the Seven Years' War, he is also entitled to merit as a statesman of distinguished ability, and a scholar of extensive attainments. In the cabinet and upon the field of battle he was alike a genius of surpassing brilliancy; his heroism and sagacity made an impress on Germany which time cannot obliterate, his faithful and successful service in the interests of his kingdom and its people, caused his name to be cherished and honored in life and his memory to be revered and blessed after death.
When Frederick II was born in the royal palace at Berlin on the 24th day of January, 1712, his grandfather, Frederick I, occupied the Prussian throne. Frederick William I, father of the infant Prince, was the only son of the aged ruler and as he had already lost two sons, the birth of a direct heir was hailed with joy. The mother of Frederick was Sophia Dorothea, daughter of the then King of Hanover, who later became King George I, of England. On the 28th day of February, in the year following the birth of Frederick II, the grandfather died after having the infant brought to his bedside and solemnly blessing him. Frederick William I now became King and the infant Frederick, Prince Royal. His education was entrusted, first to Madame de Kaurecke and Madame de Rocouilles, and after his seventh year, to Count Finkenstein and Count Kalkstein. Later Duhan, a French refugee, became the leading educator of the Prince. The orders of the King were that chief above all else, religion should be inculcated into the boyish mind and Latin was strictly forbidden as a study. The King was a hard, stern and practical man, who shunned frivolity in all its forms and was practically a fanatic in religious matters, yet he was intensely interested and solicitous about the army and military affairs. As his son grew into boyhood, the King treated him more as a subject than as a son and the childhood, boyhood, and early youth of Frederick became, under the harsh and cruel treatment of his father, a bitter experience and the saddest period of his life. Frederick possessed a fiery spirit which did not take kindly to the system of control mapped out for him. He was compelled at a very early age to don an uncomfortable military uniform and be tonsured. Gradually the ties between father and son widened. This breach grew rapidly when the Queen suggested a double marriage between Frederick and an English Princess, and between her daughter, Wilhelmina, and the Prince Royal of England. To this the father of Frederick was violently opposed. The Prince in his studies made rapid progress. His military instruction was not neglected. At fourteen he was made a Captain, at sixteen a Major, and at seven-teen a Lieutenant-Colonel, and he was compelled to discharge the duties of his various posts.
He grew more and more dissatisfied with the conditions imposed upon him and only the pleas of his sister Wilhelmina, who sympathized with him, prevented him from open rebellion. He finally, however, determined to escape and communicated with his uncle, King George, of England, who agreed to receive him, the more so as a strong feeling of dislike existed between Frederick's father and the King of England. The fact of this correspondence reached the ears of the Prussian King, and his conduct toward his son increased in bitterness. Frederick and Wilhelmina were practically banished from the presence of their father and mother, and strife between husband and wife made the situation worse. Frederick was fully determined to fly, despite his sister's importuning. He laid the ignominy of his situation before her in the following words, according to her memoirs : "They are daily preaching patience to me, but none knows how much I have to bear. I am daily beaten, treated as a slave, and debarred every amusement. Even the enjoyments of reading and music are denied me. . . . But that which completely overpowers me is my father's recent treatment of me at Potsdam. The King summoned me, and on my entering, he seized me by the hair, flung me to the ground, and, having beaten me with his fists, dragged me toward the window, and there coiling the string of the curtain around my throat, pulled both ends with his utmost might. I had, fortunately, time to get upon my feet and seize his arms, but as he tugged with both his hands I felt I was being strangled and cried for aid. A chamberlain rushed to my assistance and rescued me by force out of the hands of the King." Frederick made arrangements with his two closest friends, Lieutenants Katte and Keith, to aid him to escape and to fly with him. He expected the opportunity might come during a journey on which he was to accompany his father, for he was continually closely watched. His plans were discovered through a misdirected letter, and although he made the effort to escape, he was prevented, and at the King's orders was taken aboard a vessel that was to convey the royal party down the River Main. When he received the absolute evidence in the shape of the strayed letter, he became so enraged that he attacked his son and beat him unmercifully with his cane, so that the blood streamed down Frederick's face. The unhappy youth managed to warn his two friends of their danger. Keith escaped to England, but Katte delayed too long, and was arrested. He was tried and sentenced to death. In the meantime Frederick was imprisoned, for a time in the palace, and then transferred to Cüstrin, where he was confined in a barren room. The King had determined that he should die for desertion under the military law, and only the most strenuous intervention saved him from this fate. The cruelty of this father, however, was shown in another manner. The condemned Katte was taken to a position under the windows of the imprisoned Prince, and while the latter was compelled to look on, his friend was decapitated. On approaching the place of execution, Katte looked up and saw the Prince. "Forgive -me, my dear Katte," called Frederick, in heartbroken tones. "Death for a Prince so beloved is sweet," returned the undaunted victim, and went calmly to his death. Months afterward, Frederick, on declaring submission to his father and taking an oath to implicitly obey him in everything, was released from his prison. He took care not to further offend his father, and in 1732, on the petition of sympathizers in the nobility he was made Colonel of a regiment, and the following year, in accordance with the wishes of his father, married Princess Elizabeth Christina, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick-Bevern. He was provided with a palace at Rheinsberg, near Ruppin, where his regiment was stationed, and there he resided with his bride until the death of his father and his own ascension of the throne.
In June, 1735, the King promoted Frederick to the rank of Major-General. He now returned to his castle at Rheinsberg, and there surrounded himself with some of the most illustrious men of the time. The Princess entered fully into the life which so delighted her husband, and Rheinsberg soon assumed the tone of an intellectual center. Among the men whose associations Frederick availed himself of during this period were Wolff, the philosopher; Jordan, a former clergyman, noted for his remarkable conversational powers; Baron Bielefeld; Pesne, the famous court painter; Graun, a musician of great ability; Beausobre, the learned divine, and many others. But personal contact with distinguished officers, scholars, artists, and musicians was not enough to satisfy the thirst for knowledge which Frederick possessed and which, as has been shown, he had hitherto been prevented from obtaining. He entered into correspondence with Voltaire, for whom he had long entertained the greatest admiration; with. Grumbkow, the diplomat, and with the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau and other warriors of distinction. He was systematically preparing himself for the high post he was to fill. Through French translations, he became thoroughly familiar with the histories of the nations. He read and conversed and corresponded. He possessed the faculty of "extracting their learning from the learned," thus adding to the culture of his mind with all the diligence of an enthusiastic student. During this period, also, he produced two works of considerable merit : "Considerations of the Present State of the Political Relations of Europe," and the well known "Anti-Machiavelli." In the first he discusses the coalition of France and Austria and the dangerous results to Europe unless some new power is developed to even the balance. His second treatise relates to the attainment and maintenance of sovereignty a reply to the arguments of the Florentine historian, Niccolo Machiavelli. Another step in the direction of attaining knowledge taken by the Prince at this time was his entrance into the order of Freemasonry. On the 31st day of May, 1740, after a most affecting parting from his son, the King breathed his last.
While Frederick sincerely mourned the death of his father, he immediately began to exercise that vigorous policy which made him famous in peace as well as war. He retained nearly all of his father's advisers at their posts. Almost his first step was to care for those who through him had suffered at the hands of his father. The fugitive Keith was recalled and restored to the army with a higher rank than he previously held. Toward his mother and brothers and sisters he showed the most loyal spirit. It is related that when his mother at the funeral addressed her son as "Your Majesty," he quickly checked her with, "Call me your son, I am prouder of this title than that of King." Toward his wife he showed the same devotion which he had always entertained for her, and on presenting her to the assembled court, embraced and kissed her tenderly. One of Frederick's first acts was in behalf of the poorer classes of his kingdom. The winter had been a hard one and there was much suffering. In consequence of this condition, on the second day after accession, he ordered the granaries opened and cereals sold to the masses at reduced rates. Taxes were for a time remitted, and money was distributed among the most destitute. His next task was one of military reform. That expensive and practically useless body, the guard of giants, which had been his father's personal command, was disbanded and the 10,000 members divided among other regiments. Frederick at once invaded those branches of the national life which had been most neglected by his father. Freedom of speech was granted. Greater liberty was accorded the press. An Academy of Sciences was founded and men of eminence invited to come to Berlin and Prussia. The order of Freemasons, against which much prejudice had existed, received public recognition. Religious toleration and freedom was enforced. In the administration of law and justice he found much room for reform, but the first ordinance given in this department was the abolition of the torture, except in extreme cases. Frederick's activity was so boundless that he found time to examine into and observe everything himself. He even personally attended to affairs brought forward by foreign ambassadors. In the midst of it all he wrote poetry, studied diligently, and devoted himself much to music. In July Frederick proceeded to Konigsberg, and on the 20th day of that month was formally crowned King of Prussia.
The fall of the year 1840 was well advanced, when suddenly a courier arrived with the information that Charles VI, Emperor of Austria, had died on the 20th day of October. This quickly decided the young King to action in a matter which he had long meditated upon. "Now is the time," he wrote to Voltaire, "in which the old political system may be made to undergo a change. The stone is loosed which shall fall on Nebuchadnezzar's statue of many metals and crush them all." A glance at the Empire, which he likened to the statue, fashioned of metals, but with feet of iron and clay making it incapable of withstanding a shock must here be taken. Austria had suffered much in the war with the Turks. Her resources were not what they once had been. Prince Eugene, in whom the military ability of the Empire was rooted, had gone to his final accounting. The Emperor had given more attention to securing from the rulers of Europe their consent to the succession of his daughter, Maria Theresa, and had in consequence greatly neglected the affairs of state. His dealings with Prussia had been unjust, but in this he had only followed the example of previous rulers of Austria. Several provinces in Silesia, which rightfully belonged to Prussia, having come to the ancestors of Frederick by inheritance, were stubbornly withheld by Austria. During the reign of the Great Elector, Austria needed his aid against the Turks, and at that time acknowledged the claims of Prussia to the principalities of Jägerndorf, Liegnitz, Brieg, and Wohlau in Silesia, but proposed instead, to cede to Prussia the Schwiebusian district. By underhand methods, the Austrians then extracted a promise from the son of the Great Elector that he would restore the district to Austria when he came to occupy the throne. When as King Frederick I he succeeded to his father's place and informed his ministers of the promise he had made, the duplicity of the Austrians was exposed, but the promise was faithfully kept, though with a protest and the expressed desire that his successors would prosecute their claims to the Silesian principalities above named. Frederick had already formulated the intention to carry out this act of justice on behalf of his kingdom, and now the opportunity presented itself. Prussia was in splendid condition to carry out this bold design. The army, which had been the hobby of Frederick's father, was perfectly equipped and disciplined, there was prosperity in the provinces, Prussia had no national debt, but, on the contrary, the royal exchequer contained nine millions of thalers. Frederick has been severely criticised for his campaigns against Silesia, by some historians, but in his memoirs has made out a case which would appear to justify his actions, showing that the territory invaded by him was his by lawful inheritance. His intentions against Silesia he kept as secret as possible. Everyone knew, as a consequence of the unusual activity in the army, that some movement was on foot, but only a few of his closest friends knew the facts in regard to his project. He personally looked after the forwarding of troops, the disposition of artillery, and the construction of magazines. December 15 every-thing was in readiness for the opening of the campaign, and Frederick joined his troops at Krossen, on the Silesian boundary. Two days later he set foot for the first time on the soil of the territory he had set out to conquer. Reinforcements from Austria had not yet arrived in the disputed territory, and the soldiers which garrisoned the towns were not numerous enough to come forth and dispute the progress of the invader. The first fortified town which made any show of resistance was Glogau. Frederick left a large detachment here to besiege it, and with the main army pushed forward toward Breslau, the seat of government. On January 7, 1741, he made his formal entry into Breslau. Ohlau and Namslau were taken without a blow. Brieg, a fortress, was invested and Ottmachau, in upper Silesia, was easily taken. The only important point which was not now in the hands of the Prussians was' Neisse, the most formidable fortress in Silesia, and here the strength of Frederick's army was concentrated. Neisse withstood the bombardment, and as the season was such as to preclude a regular siege, the effort was abandoned. The Austrian troops, which had arrived too late to defend Silesia, retired to Moravia, and the Prussian troops went into winter quarters. The number of Prussian troops engaged in this, the first Silesian campaign, was 30,000. King Frederick had returned to Berlin by the end of January. His bold move had created amazement in every corner of Europe. That Prussia should thus array herself against the mighty Austria was almost beyond belief. Sometimes Frederick was charitably spoken of as imprudent, but there was no lack of those who declared that he must be insane. Toward the end of February Frederick returned to his troops, and about the same time the Austrians under Field-Marshal Count Neipperg advanced on Silesia. On the 9th of March the for-tress of Glogau was assaulted by the Prussians and captured, the garrison being made prisoners of war. Frederick proceeded to the camp of General Schwerin, his most experienced officer, in Upper Silesia. On learning that the Austrians were proceeding to the relief of Neisse, an effort was made to effect a junction with the Lower Silesian detachment of the army, at the River Neisse. The Austrians arrived there first and prevented the junction, making Frederick's position at this time extremely critical. He was cut off from his main army and could not even communicate with his own States. There was but one thing to do, and Frederick resolutely faced the situation and decided to bring about an engagement with the enemy as quickly as possible. The center of the Austrian army lay at the village of Mollwitz, not far from Brieg. At this point on the 10th day of April, 1741, was fought the battle of Mollwitz. At one period in the conflict, all seemed lost to the Prussians, but the steady resolution of the infantry saved the day, and the Austrians retreated with a heavy loss. Subsequently, in writing his memoirs, Frederick unsparingly criticised himself for blunders committed in this his first serious military operation. The Prussians now proceeded with the siege of Brieg, which, after a brief resistance, capitulated. Frederick was now master over Lower Silesia. The army then moved on Neisse, which was still in the hands of the Austrians, who, however, soon retired. The Austrian court now offered to cede Lower Silesia and Neisse to Frederick on condition that he withdraw his troops. He reluctantly accepted this offer, as the French were making serious inroads in Germany, and it was not a part of Frederick's plan that Austria should be enfeebled in order to aggrandize France. After receiving the homage of the Princes and estates of Lower Silesia at Breslau on November 7, Frederick returned to Berlin. Suddenly there came a change in the situation. The Hungarians rallied to the aid of Maria Theresa,, and began a savage warfare against the Franco-Bavarian army. The Hungarians marked a path of blood and devastation through Bavaria, and entered Munich February 12, 1742. Under an agreement with France and Bavaria, made during the previous campaign to support the claim of Charles Albert of Bavaria to the Austrian throne, Frederick was obliged to take part in this warfare. He induced Saxony to furnish an army, and, joining this with an army of his own Prussians, burst into Upper Austria and swept everything before him. On April 17, the Prince of Dessau with a Prussian corps joined Frederick in Bohemia. Then an Austrian army advanced upon Prague, and Frederick divided his force, sending the Prince of Dessau toward the town of Czaslau, with orders to invest it. The King, with his section of the army, awaited the advance of the Austrians. But the enemy had already entered Czaslau, and the Prussian army was reunited at Chotusitz, near Czaslau. The junction had barely been effected on May 17, 1742, when the Austrians attacked. Frederick in person led an attack upon the left wing of the Austrians, driving it back upon the right wing, and charging irresistibly into the ranks of both, routed the whole Austrian army. Negotiations with Austria were renewed, and Maria Theresa readily agreed to the terms stipulated. On June 11, 1742, the treaty was entered into whereby the whole of Silesia, the province of Glatz, and a district of Moravia was ceded to Frederick. Peace was now declared throughout his dominions. It lasted for two years, during which time Frederick applied himself with ardor to the development of their resources, strengthened his fortresses, both in Prussia and in his new territories, and further improving his army. During the first months of the year 1744, it became more and more apparent that Austria was planning to dislodge his rule from Silesia, and therefore, on July 5 of that year, he entered into a secret agreement with France to maintain the imperial rights of Charles VII, who was established at Frankfort, and to protect his Bavarian possessions; France agreed to advance with two corps upon the Lower and Upper Rhine, while Frederick was to attack Bohemia and retain out of his conquests Austrian Silesia and sections of Bohemia adjoining Silesia. Thus began Frederick's second campaign in Silesia in 1744. While the French king, Louis XV, in person led an army into the Austrian Netherlands, the Prussian king advanced .according to agreement into Bohemia. The Prussians reached the Bohemian frontier August 15, 1744. The advancing columns met with no resistance, and on September 2 were concentrated around Prague. The siege of the Bohemian capital was taken up at once and prosecuted with great vigor. The assault began September 11, and although the town was garrisoned by 12,000 troops, it capitulated five days later.
On the 10th of January, 1745, Charles VII died. This dissolved the treaty into which France and Prussia had entered, and being no longer able to count on French co-Operation the position of Frederick became perilous. He joined his army in Silesia and waited for the Austrians, who were already advancing, having been joined by the Saxons. The king retired with his troops to Schweidnitz and took up a favorable position. He caused the report to be spread that he was retiring to Breslau and then prepared an ambush for the enemy. Near Striegau he collected his troops in the night and waited for daybreak and the enemy. At daylight, the Saxons, who had been ordered to seize Striegau, were descending from the heights when the Prussian right wing fell upon and almost annihilated them. The Austrians then advanced and desperately attacked the Prussians, but not a corps wavered, and when the bloody day was ended the Austrians had lost 4,000 slain and 7,000 prisoners. In this battle Frederick gave undisputed evidence of his personal bravery and prowess as a warrior. He advanced with the utter contempt of death with three battalions in the face of the Austrian guns, which mowed down men on every side of him and reached the heights with but 36o men, whom he then headed in a bayonet charge against a battery. The battle of Soor was the next great victory of the Prussians. Frederick had pursued the flying Austrians into Bohemia and had taken up a position in the hills between Lower Silesia and the province of Glatz. It was his object to strip this section of its provisions, so as to protect Silesia during the approaching winter from hostile incursion. Various corps were detached to guard the passes through the hills, and his collective force did not exceed 18,000. The Austrian forces who were watching his movements and waiting to crush him amounted to 40,000. As he was advancing from his camp in the village of Staudenz he was suddenly attacked by the Austrians. The Austrians were completely cut to pieces and routed, retreating in great disorder. The pursuit continued as far as the village of Soor, from which the battle derives its name. After ravaging the country and returning into Silesia, Frederick learned in November of the intended junction in Lusatia of Saxon and Austrian armies to attack Silesia from the Bohemian side. By rapid marches he came upon the Saxon regiments at Hennersdorf on September 23 and attacked and so badly defeated them that the Austrians, seeing the fate of their allies, retreated from place to place, so that within a brief space the whole of Lusatia was in _the King's hands. The Prussians now invaded Saxony and successes followed each other fast, until Frederick was notified that Austria was ready to conclude peace. The treaty was entered into on December 25, 1745. It was similar to the treaty of two years previous, and in addition Saxony was compelled to pay to Prussia one million thalers indemnity. Three days later, the King entered Berlin and received such a welcome and ovation as has been accorded to but few men. He was now but 33 years of age, and yet the famous ruler of his time.
During the eleven years of peace which now followed, Frederick devoted his time to the best interests of civil pursuits of his nation. He built canals, reclaimed marsh lands, encouraged manufacturing, and in every way exerted himself for the internal welfare of his people. The population and revenues of Prussia soon increased to a considerable extent. The administration of justice received his particular attention. The defects of the Prussian code were amended and a judicious reform was instituted throughout the whole monarchy. Frederick did not fail to give a large share of his time and attention to the army. Camps were formed each year, and the various branches of the military brought up to the highest standard in manoeuvers and in excellence of equipment. He summoned distinguished cavalry officers from Hungary to instruct his officers in this arm of the service. He provided every facility for the diffusion of education, and aside from all of these numerous affairs, managed to give himself time to engage in literary pursuits and music, and found his greatest enjoyment in the seclusion of Sans Souci, a beautiful mansion which he had erected on a hill-side near Potsdam, in the midst of one of the most beautiful stretches of scenery to be found in that section of the kingdom. Here he passed all of his leisure hours, and here, after his life work had been completed, he found repose in his declining years until the time of his death. But fate had not destined that his life should pass without another demonstration of the ability and genius which he had displayed in the second Silesian War. Maria never forgot Silesia, and Francis Kugler in his history relates that she could not look upon a Silesian for years after this gem of her possessions had been torn from her, without bursting into tears. Her hatred of Prussia and Frederick was shared to a considerable extent by other nations, though in the form of jealousy. Prussia was a rapidly growing power, and its constant claims to superiority over other nations led to fear lest its power should extend beyond its own borders, to the humiliation of its enemies. Next to Austria, the bitterest foe of Prussia was Saxony. In Russia, Empress Catherine was hostile to Frederick, and even France declared against him. Maria Theresa was not slow to take advantage of this condition, and did all in her power by intrigue and by the use of gold to revenge herself upon him who had humbled her haughty spirit. Treaties were entered into among these rulers, and each of them was directed against Prussia. Of all of the plots and plans against him, however, Frederick was totally informed through a treacherous official of Saxony, who supplied the King with copies of all documents and correspondence on the subject. England alone evinced a friendly spirit, resulting probably from Prussia's refusal to join France in an enterprise of plunder against Hanover. This friendship resulted in 1756 in a reciprocal treaty between the two powers. But it was plainly to be seen that Austria, through machinations, was bringing affairs to a crisis. An alliance was formed between France and Austria May 9, 1756, and following this extraordinary levies of troops were made in Bohemia, and Frederick also learned that there was a movement to raise a large army in Saxony by the allies. Matters began to assume so serious an aspect in the neighborhood of Prussia that on July 12, 1756, he demanded from the Empress of Austria a declaration as to the purpose of these equipments. He received an unsatisfactory and vague reply. Two other similar demands, one of which directly asked whether Prussia was to be attacked, brought no better results, and Frederick immediately took steps to prevent his enemies from taking him at a disadvantage. He acted quickly and decisively. He decided to direct his main forces against Saxony and Bohemia, and to strongly intrench himself in Saxony, so as to cover any hostile approach upon Brandenburg. His disposition of troops were made with the utmost secrecy, and his first great step came as a complete surprise, when on August 29 he suddenly moved upon Saxony with a force of 6o,000 Prussian troops.
It had been generally expected that war would break out, yet no one was prepared for this sudden move on the part of King Frederick. In Saxony, the approach of the Prussians caused the greatest consternation. Saxon troops to the number of 17,000 were gathered in a great camp at Pirna, and thither fled King Augustus and his minister, Brühl. But there was none to hinder the advance of the Prussian army. Wittenberg, Torgau, Leipsic, and last, on September 9, Dresden was occupied. The con-tents of the arsenals at Dresden, Weissenfels, and Zeitz were seized by Frederick and transferred to Magdeburg. The funds in the royal exchequer were appropriated, but the rights of citizens were scrupulously respected. The camp of the Saxons was surrounded and blockaded in the hope that famine would compel them to surrender. This occupied so great a part of Frederick's troops that he was prevented from acting promptly against the Austrian troops in Bohemia. These were advancing in two columns upon Saxony and Silesia. The Austrian corps under Browne was concentrated at Budin, and he prepared to cross the Eger. Frederick posted an inconsiderable body of troops in the narrow passes connecting Bohemia and Saxony to watch the movements of the enemy. In order to prevent or at least delay the junction of the Austrians with the Saxons, he determined to attack Browne's corps with the force occupying the passes, and himself took command of the enterprise. The two armies came together during a heavy fog on the morning of October 1, close to the village of Lowositz on the Elbe. After a battle of six hours the Austrians were completely routed. The besieged Saxons were in the meantime being starved into submission, and in the middle of October, after vainly waiting for aid, they laid down their arms and surrendered as prisoners of war. This ended operations for the year 1756, and was but a small beginning to the great struggle which was to follow. France and Poland declared against Prussia, and in January, 1757, Russia made a new pact with Austria. In the spring of 1757 Frederick pushed into Bohemia, and after some minor conflicts with the Austrians, advanced on Prague, where the main army was located. On May 6 the Prussians reached a position below Prague, on the Elbe. The Austrians occupied a strong position on rising ground, and protected by a marsh. Through this marsh the Prussian battalions under Gen. Schwerin struggled, in order to fall upon the left wing of the enemy. On reaching dry land, each battalion rushed at the Austrians, but the fire was so murderous that it could not be withstood. Schwerin rallied his men after the first repulse, and again attacked, when he was shot from his horse. Five grape shot had entered his body, and this shows the ferocity of the enemy's fire. The battle was at its height in all quarters when King Frederick, at the head of three battalions, charged through a storm of cannonading into a breach in the Austrians' center. This started the rout, which soon became general, and the Austrians sought safety inside the gates of the city of Prague.
The losses on both sides were tremendous. Prussia, according to Kugler's history of these battles, lost 12,000 men, and the losses of the Austrians were even greater. Frederick now drew a cordon around Prague and besieged it for five weeks, until the arrival of Marshal Daun, with an army of Austrians far superior to the Prussian army, who took up a position on the heights near Panian. In the battle which here took place June 18, Frederick sustained his first considerable defeat. His troops, after hard marching, were permitted to rest but three hours, when they were ordered to the attack. Had the plan of battle as first decided upon been carried out, the result would perhaps have been different, but for some unexplained reason, Frederick suddenly altered his plans. The result was most disastrous. While the Prussians gallantly charged the enemy, the nature of the ground was such that their advance was slow and fatiguing, and the fire of the Austrians mowed them down by regiments. Then the Saxon cavalry fell upon them and a slaughter ensued. The whole Prussian center was annihilated, the left wing had suffered severely, and the right wing alone had escaped until Frederick ordered a retreat, when it became the duty of the right to protect the retreat of the shattered left. This caused the right wing also to become engaged, and another fierce struggle was carried on, in which the Prussians were again at a disadvantage ands lost heavily. In spite of the continued and terrible disasters of the day, the Prussians were not subjected to the rout, such as they often inflicted upon their enemies. The Prussians lost in this day's carnage nearly 14,000 men, while the Austrian losses did not exceed 8,000. Historians have found no manner of excuse for this defeat, and that it resulted from Frederick's change of glans after the battle had begun, is conceded.
This calamity was followed by the capture of Zittau by the Austrians and the destruction of the town and the Prussian stores which had been collected there. The prospects of the Prussians had also become dark in other directions. Frederick, with 12,000 men, hastened to the defense of Saxony, which was threatened by the imperial armies and French forces which had been sent to aid the Austrians. The great part of the Prussian army had been left to protect Lusatia and Silesia. During an attack by the Austrians on an isolated Prussian position, Winterfeld, Frederick's favorite general after Schwerin, was killed, and this information, when it reached the King, during his march into Saxony, served to depress him exceedingly. On the lower Rhine a great French army had entered Westphalia, opposed only by an allied army of Hanoverians, Hessians, and Brunswickers, under the Duke of Cumberland. After one battle the allied army retreated and the Duke concluded an ignominious treaty by which he agreed to disperse .his troops. The French poured into the Prussian provinces of the Elbe. An army of Russians had at the same time entered Prussia. They advanced to the River Pregel, and there defeated the Prussians under Lewald. An army of Swedes landed at Stralsund, ravaged Pomerania and Uppermark, and, in pursuance of a treaty with Austria, took possession of Erfurt. Every part of the Prussian kingdom was thus assailed, but what affected Frederick more than all else at this time was the death of his mother. Under these conditions and circumstances it was not strange that the King should be seized with melancholy and that his closest friends feared that he might at any moment resort to the use of poison, which he always carried with him, and which he had resolved to employ rather than survive the downfall of his kingdom. In this desperate situation Frederick found relief from despair in poetry. Thus in the darkest moments of this period he dedicated to his brother, Prince Henry, an ode in which he sets up the conduct of the Romans, who reached the glorious heights of supremacy only after surmounting countless adversities; as an example for the Prussian nation, and expresses confidence in the future greatness and brilliant achievements of Prussia. From this time on, success seemed to crown his every effort.
He advanced upon Erfurt, fighting his way, and the enemy retired, were soon after driven out of Gotha, and pursued as far as Eisenach. A concerted movement of French and imperial troops upon Saxony, caused Frederick to hastily concentrate troops to cover Leipsic, in which vicinity the enemy had already arrived. They were driven back across the River Saale, and although in the retreat they burned the bridges, Frederick with his army soon after crossed the river by means of pontoons and encamped on the same side of the river as the enemy. On the 5th day of November the enemy moved against Frederick's camp. The wonderful rapidity with which the Prussians broke camp and started on a rapid retreat toward Rossbach astonished the French, who pushed for-ward with all speed, fearing that the Prussians would escape. But suddenly the scene changed. By rapid movements the Prussian cannon were planted on surrounding heights and the cavalry, under Seidlitz, by a quick detour, outflanked the French columns, which had thus been caught in a most unfavorable position. The battle lasted two hours. The Prussian army, numbering 22,000, lost 165 slain, 376 wounded. The losses of the enemy out of its army of 64,000 was over 600 killed and more than 2,000 wounded. Upward of 5,000 prisoners were taken and the greater part of the baggage captured. In England the greatest joy was manifested and more substantial aid was accorded Frederick than had been the case up to this time, by protecting the Prussian frontier with Hanoverian armies against the French and relieving him from further danger in that direction. In the meantime the Austrians had defeated the Prussians under the Duke of Bevern in front of Breslau, and that city fell into the hands of the enemy. It was the key to Silesia. Frederick hurried for-ward with his army to Breslau, and after being joined by the remnant of the Duke of Bevern's forces, captured, on December 4, Neumarkt, an Austrian outpost. On the following day, the Austrians, having left their intrenchments and come forward to meet the Prussians, were completely defeated, although the Austrian army numbered over 8o,000 and the Prussian forces were but 32,000. The Austrians lost during the awful four hours of battle 27,000 men in killed, wounded, and prisoners, while the Prussian losses were about 6,000. On December 21, the town of Breslau, with its garrison of 18,000 men, was compelled to surrender to Frederick, and great quantities of military stores fell into his hands. A few days later Liegnitz also surrendered. Thus ended the eventful year of 1757, with the whole of Silesia again in Frederick's grasp with the single exception of Schweidnitz. During the winter overtures of peace were made to the Austrian Empress and refused. The alliance between Austria, France, and Russia was more closely drawn, and Russia, whose troops had withdrawn after the first incursion, again invaded Prussia and seized Konigsberg. Frederick's first move in the spring of 1758 was to compel the Austrians to evacuate Schweidnitz. This was accomplished April 18. Early in May Frederick furnished another of his surprises by suddenly appearing with his army in Moravia and besieging Olmütz. The arrival of a large Austrian army under Field-Marshal Daun and the destruction of a convoy of ordnance and ammunition for Frederick from Silesia, forced him to abandon the siege. Frederick now received information that the Russians under Fermor, having advanced through Poland had crossed the Neumarkt frontier and were threatening the heart of Prussia. Count Dohna, who had been holding the Swedes locked in at Stralsund, advanced to the Oder and strengthened the fortress at Cüstrin upon which the Russians were advancing. As the invaders approached they left a scene of desolation behind them. The country was plundered, villages destroyed and the most wanton and uncivilized warfare carried on. On August 15 the town of Cüstrin was bombarded and totally destroyed, but the fortress held out and refused to surrender. On August 21, King Frederick joined Count Dohna with 14,000 picked men, having made a series of remarkable. marches from Silesia. Two days later he crossed the Oder, and making a wide circuit, deployed in such a manner as to hem in the enemy between an arm of the Oder and some extensive marshes. The Russians numbered 52,000, the Prussians 32,750. The Russian right flank was separated from the main army by a marsh, and on this, at 9 o'clock on the morning of August 25, the attack opened with a terrific cannonade which inflicted great damage. This was followed by a furious charge of the Prussian infantry, which overthrew the ranks of the enemy, but were soon compelled to fall back, and were being pursued and annihilated by the Russians when Seidlitz with his cavalry came to the rescue, and a scene ensued which has few parallels in the history of warfare. The lines of Russians were cut down one after another, but they refused to yield, and were sabered by thousands by their adversaries. Their ammunition was finally spent, and still they continued to resist, so that the massacre was continued for hours. Meanwhile confusion -spread throughout other divisions of the Russian ranks. The soldiers plundered their own baggage and seized the brandy casks, from which they drank until crazed. Russian officers who attempted to interfere were murdered. Until noon the combat was confined to this right flank of the Russians, but at that time the signal for a general attack was given by Frederick. The Prussian left wing soon began to give way before the wild charges of the Russian cavalry, and Count Dohna's troops were seized with a panic and fled. Seidlitz with his valiant followers again saved the day. He drove back the Russian cavalry as Frederick brought up the veteran battalions of infantry, and together they forced the enemy into one compressed mass. King Frederick was in the midst of the attack and soon the battle became a hand to hand conflict, in which Prussians and Russians, infantry and cavalry, formed one vast, struggling mass, which continued until dark. From the fact that the village of Zorndorf lay between the two armies, the battle has become known by that name. The Prussian losses amounted to 1 r,000 men and those of the Russians nearly double that number. Frederick left 16,000 troops to watch the Russians, and with the balance of the army marched toward Saxony. On September 10 he arrived in the vicinity of Dresden and faced the army of Daun, and then followed a series of manoeuvers for a month, at the end of which time Frederick was encamped in the village of Hochkirchen, and Daun occupied the heights above the village. On the night of October 13, the Austrians made an attack on the Prussian camp, and in the battle that continued all night each side lost about 9,000 men, though the Prussians also suffered the loss of 100 cannon and many of Frederick's best leaders were slain. Winter was now approaching and Frederick went into camp and spent the winter months in preparing his army for the campaigns of the following year. Hostilities were not opened by the Prussians in 1759 until the summer was well advanced. Late in July a Russian army under General Soltikoff, having beaten the Prussians under Wedell at Züllichau, inflicting a loss of 8,000 men, pushed on to Frankfort where a junction was effected with a corps of Austrians under Loudon. This movement involved the greatest danger to Frederick and he determined to march in person upon the Russians and their Austrian auxiliaries. With an army of 43,000 he crossed the river between Frankfort and Custrin, and on August 11 took up a position facing the Russians, who were camped on a ridge of hills running toward the east of Frankfort and to the rear of the village of Cunnersdorf (now Kunersdorf). The camp was well intrenched and the declivities strengthened the batteries. The attack opened with a violent cannonade, to which the hostile batteries replied with alacrity. The Prussian infantry then assailed the heights, and in the face of the most desperate resistance stormed- the barricades and captured the battery. The main body of the Russian left wing retreated across a ravine and rallied, but the assaults of the Prussians again proved victorious. This occupied several hours, and the right wing of the Russians, occupying a commanding position on adjoining heights, had not yet been attacked. Although his troops were exhausted and against the remonstrances of his generals, Frederick resolved to move against the Russian right. The assault was begun with the greatest bravery and continued for an hour, while the Russian cannon played havoc with the Prussians. Thus far but one regiment of Austrians had taken part in the engagement, and now Loudon suddenly burst across a valley with his cavalry and fell upon the Prussian flank. Still Frederick refused to yield. His horse was shot from under him and several balls passed through his uniform. He had scarcely mounted a fresh horse when the animal was shot in the breast, and when he had received a third horse a bullet struck the King's hip, but was turned aside by a golden case which he carried. The Prussians began to fly from certain destruction and finally the King was left alone with but a single page, when a company of his own hussars, fleeing before the Cossack cavalry, compelled him to seek safety with them in flight. He found shelter in a peasant's hut on the Oder, and his page and one servant remained with him while he sent the hussars to collect his shattered and scattered army. Frederick firmly believed that all hope of escape was past, and, determined not to survive the humiliation of capture, he made his final depositions. He named Prince Henry to, command the army and his nephew Frederick William as his successor to the crown. To Count Finkenstein, the Minister of State, he wrote as follows : "I am now wholly bereft of all aid, and, to speak the truth, I believe that all is lost. I will not outlive the downfall of my native land. Fare-well forever."
The following morning the remnants of Frederick's army gathered together and formed a body of 18,000 men. The losses sustained by the Russians in their victory was 16,000 men, and Soltikoff paid his adversary a compliment when he wrote to the Empress as follows: "The King of Prussia generally sells his defeats dear, and should I have to communicate intelligence of a second victory of this kind, I shall be obliged to take a staff in my hand and bring the tidings myself." The victorious armies made no move upon Berlin, as Frederick fully expected they would. having, with his army, taken up a position in Fürstenwalde, on the Spree, in order to cover the road to Berlin.
During the winter and spring Frederick managed to organize an army of 90,000 men. His adversaries in the field numbered 200,000. The first great enterprise of the year 176o was Frederick's effort to reduce Dresden. From July 14 to the 29th he kept up the siege, but the fall of Glatz and the approach of large forces of the enemy caused him to abandon the enterprise. The Russians were moving on Silesia and he set out to prevent their junction with the Austrians. Daun and his army hung close after Frederick but did not seem disposed to risk an engagement. Loudon with 50,000 Austrians attempted to invest Breslau, but was prevented by the timely arrival of Prince Henry's troops. Daun and Loudon joined forces on the Katzbach near Liegnitz. The Austrians after this junction numbered 95,000 men, while the force that Frederick was leading into Silesia composed but 30,000. On August 14 Frederick saw from the movements of his adversaries that he was about to be attacked and rightly guessed that another night attack would be attempted. He, therefore, after dark changed his position somewhat and when the combined forces of the Austrians advanced upon him several hours before daybreak on the following morning, it was they and not Frederick who received the surprise. It was a hard fought battle, but the Prussians were completely victorious and lost but 3,500 men, while the Austrians lost 10,000 men and eighty-two guns. Frederick now pushed forward and joined Prince Henry at Breslau. Daun retired to the Bohemian frontier and the Russians who had entered Silesia, hastily retreated to the borders of Poland. Soon thereafter, the information came that the Russians were marching on Berlin. On October 6, Frederick with his army set out to save the Capital. Nine days later, on reaching the frontier of Mark Brandenburg, he learned that the Russians and Austrians had already occupied Berlin. But the occupation was of brief duration. On learning of the approach of the King, the forces withdrew. The enemy had secured 2,000,000 thalers and destroyed or carried away great stores of ammunition. Worse even than this disaster was the fact that nearly all of Saxony had again fallen into the hands of the enemy. In driving them out, success attended the Prussian arms from the outset. Wittenberg and Leipsic were recaptured and Daun with his army of 64,000 went into camp near Torgau. His position was in many respects the same as that of the Russians at Cunnersdorf. The army of King Frederick numbered but 44,000, but he decided to attack, and did so on the third day of November. The battle lasted through the afternoon and far into the night. During the battle Frederick was unhorsed by being struck in the breast by a bullet. The wound was, however, slight, as he had been protected by a heavy fur coat which he wore. When darkness came it was doubtful which army had gained the victory, but the matter was definitely settled after darkness had set in by the arrival of General Zieten upon the rear of the Austrians. Daun was wounded and the Austrians retreated across the Elbe. The losses on both sides had been tremendous. Those of the Prussians were 12,000, and those of the Austrians 16,000. Frederick advanced into Silesia in May, 1761, to prevent the junction of Loudon, with 7,000 men, and the Russians, numbering 6o,000. After maneuvering for three months the two armies affected a junction in spite of Frederick's efforts. He realized the folly of attempting an attack on this force and went into camp near Bungelwitz. The army labored day and night to make it impregnable. Intrenchments were thrown up, pits and trenches were dug and the ground was undermined. The hostile forces formed a crescent about the camp and several weeks passed in watching and waiting. Finally, the Russians, lacking in provisions, grew discontented and departed, with the exception of 12,000 men, who were left with the Austrians. A little later Loudon moved his camp to the hills, some distance from the Prussians. On the night of September 30 Loudon attacked and captured the town of Schweidnitz. Frederick now removed his camp to Strehlen. Here, during the following month, he was visited by deputies from the Tartar, Kerim Geray, the enemy of Russia, who offered to furnish troops for a consideration. A treaty was made, but changes transpired in the political situation the following year which prevented its execution. Winter came on and still the hostile armies maintained their positions. On January 5, 1762, Empress Elizabeth, of Russia, died and was succeeded by Peter III, her nephew, a stanch friend and admirer of King Frederick. On May 5 a treaty of peace was made between them and Russia restored to Frederick the possessions previously taken by the Russians. Corps of Russian troops who had been allies of the Austrians were recalled or transferred to become the allies of Frederick. With this unexpected and welcome aid, Frederick concentrated his forces in Silesia. Before he could use the help of Russia against his enemies to any great advantage, Peter III of Russia, who had made himself intensely/ unpopular, was dethroned and soon after died. Empress Catherine, who succeeded him, revoked the treaty with Prussia and recalled the troops. On July 21, therefore, Frederick, without the aid of the Russians, attacked the posts established by Daun and the Austrians were completely routed and cut off from Schweidnitz. The siege of Schweidnitz occupied two months and was ended on October 9, 1762, by a Prussian grenade which struck the powder magazine of the Austrians and blew up the fort and many of the garrison. The last battle of the Seven Years' War was fought October 29 near Freiberg, when the Prussians won a brilliant victory. After this battle both sides went into winter quarters. In England George II had died and was succeeded by George III. His minister, Lord Bute, desired peace and early in November Frederick received overtures for a cessation of hostilities from Austria. The necessary preliminaries were soon arranged, and representatives of Prussia, Austria, and Saxony met at Hubertusburg December 31 and began negotiations. On February 15, 1763, the treaty was concluded. One provision was that all possessions acquired by conquest should be restored. Seven years of misery, toil, and blood-shed had resulted from the hatred and jealousy of one sovereign for another. Yet the war had taught the world a lesson in heroism and the possibilities of human attainment and had placed Prussia high among the nations of the earth. King Frederick returned to Berlin late in the night on May 30 and was received with joyous acclamations by the populace. From this day to the close of his life Frederick devoted himself to restoring and further upbuilding the nation and mending the injuries that had been brought about by the war. Trade which had become inactive was made once more to flourish, and lands which had been neglected were made fruitful. The widows and orphans of fallen heroes were provided for, and those States which had suffered most were remunerated, and every encouragement afforded them to fully recover from the burdens they had been compelled to bear. The military department was also reorganized. The army was brought up to its full strength, the fortresses repaired and better equipped and the magazines replenished, In 1764 Frederick concluded an alliance with Russia. In 1769 Emperor Joseph II, of Austria, gratified a long desired ambition in personally meeting Frederick and expressing his admiration, as he, expressed it, for the "first of Kings and greatest of warriors." The visit lasted several days and a treaty was entered into which bound the two royal houses, long separated by strife, in a close bond of friendship. Eight years later this bond was broken. Maxamilian Joseph, Prince elector of Bavaria, died December 30, 1777, and with him the royal family of Pfalz-Bavaria became extinct. The succession would naturally revert to Charles Theodore, Prince elector of Pfalz, to whom, having no issue, Charles, Duke of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, stood next in succession. Austria had long coveted the possession of Bavaria and now interfered with some unfounded pretensions, and sent an armed force into Lower Bavaria and Upper Pfalz, demanded and secured a compromise from Charles Theodore of one half of his inheritance. The next in succession had not been consulted at all. King Frederick decided that an act so arbitrary could not be allowed to pass unchallenged. Negotiations with the Emperor of Austria proved fruitiless. Under these circumstances Frederick quickly concluded to take decisive action. He was now in his 67th year, but promptly called his army together and himself set out to take command of one division of the army. He met the Austrian van at the borders of Bohemia. In the meantime Prince Henry, with the Prussians under him, had penetrated Bohemia and seized several magazines belonging to Austria. Troops of the two nations to the number of 400,000 now faced each other and every indication pointed to a fierce and bloody war, but no great battle took place during the disturbance, which continued until 1779. Frederick's name carried fear and respect with it and the Austrians never ventured further than to make a few weak skirmishes against the Prussians. Frederick contented himself with holding the enemy in check and holding himself in readiness to take advantage of any opportunity that might offer, should the Austrians leave their intrenchments. France and Russia finally interfered, and Austria, seeing the determination of Frederick to continue the course he had taken, deemed it prudent to yield and peace was signed on May 13, 1779, Austria annulling the compromise made with Charles Theodore.
Frederick spent the closing years of his life at his beloved Sans Souci with his greyhounds and his literary pursuits, yet attending with the greatest fidelity to the affairs of the kingdom. His solicitude for the welfare of his people never abated while the breath of life remained in him. His subjects, in turn, loved and revered him as they would a father. From 1780 and thereafter he was frequently attacked with illness and suffered considerably with the gout, but in spite of this and his age he kept up the daily routine unremittingly. He even continued the tours through the provinces as late as 1785. In August of that year he sat for five hours on horseback, during a review in Silesia, through a drenching storm. This perhaps hastened the end, although at the time it seemed to affect him only to the extent of a slight indisposition. Late in the fall symptoms of dropsy were noticeable, and though tortured with this malady his activity did not abate. As the dropsy increased his sufferings became acute, but no murmur of complaint escaped him. At 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning he summoned his councilors and gave his orders and transacted all affairs relating to the State. By the middle of August his condition became critical. On the morning of the 15th instant, he continued to sleep until 11 o'clock. That day his voice was extremely feeble, but his faculties were as active as ever. The next day he was worse and for the first time be failed to summon his cabinet. At 11 o'clock that night, after inquiring the time, he announced that he would rise at four the next morning. A few hours later, on the morning of August 17, 1786, he died in the arms of an attendant. Two other attendants and his physician were the only persons present. The next day, as the remains lay extended on a camp bedstead, clad in the uniform of the first battalion of the Guards, and the officers of the garrison came to pay their tribute, there were few among them who could restrain the flow of tears.