Page:EB1911 - Volume 24.djvu/748

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718
SEVEN YEARS' WAR


desperate that he sent for all his generals, laid the facts before them, announced his decision to attack and offered to accept any man's resignation without prejudice to his character should he deem the risk too hazardous. Needless to say, not one accepted the offer.

Covered by the low rolling hillocks of the district, the army now moved off to its right across the Austrian front, the advance Louth” led by Zieten and half the cavalry, the rear covered ° by Driessen with the remaining half-some 40 weak squadrons. The infantry having gained a position sufficiently on the Austrian flank, now wheeled into line and attacked in échelon of battalions from the right. The battle soon became desperate, and the Austrian cavalry on their right wing under Luchesi, unaware of Driessen's presence as a flank guard, issued out of their lines, wheeled to their left and swept down upon the refused flank of the Prussian infantry; but they never reached them, for Driessen, seizing his opportunity, set his squadrons in motion and attacked. The Austrians, completely surprised, were ridden down and driven back on to the was reached on the 20th of August. Fermor was then besieging Ctistrin with 52,000 men, and hearing of the king's approach he raised the siege and placed himself behind a formidable obstacle facing north, near Zorndorf, from which direction the king was approaching. Seeing that the same obstacle that prevented him from attacking the Russians prevented them 'equally from at tacking him, the king marched right round Ferrnor's eastern flank the Russians gradually forming a fresh front to meet him-so that when the Prussian attack began on the morning of the 25th of August they stood in three irregular squares, divided from each other by marshy hollows, and thus unable to render one another support. The king made his first effort against the square on the right-Seydlitz with his squadrons covering the Z don, movement. But the Russian troops fought with far om more spirit than the Austrians had ever shown, and things were going very badly with the Prussians when Seydlitz, who in the meanwhile had succeeded in making paths across the Zaberngrund on which the Russian right rested, flung himself upon front of their own infantry, and the pressure of the fugitives threw the rear of their left wing into confusion and in a short time the ruin of their army was completed. When the news of Driessen's charge was brought to the king his astonishment was expressed in the single phrase, “ What, that old fool Driessen? ” .The fighting, however, had been

desperate, and though the Austrians out of their


37% including 20,000 prisoners, with 116 guns and 5r colours, the Prussians lost 6200 (14%) making with the other battles of the year a total of nearly 75,000 men, and not including losses in minor skirmishes and on the march. Campaign of 1758.-The raid upon Berlin had accomplished if nothing, and the advance of the Russian main body had died out for want of resolution to seize the opportunities offered by Frederick the Great's absence. The Czarina, annoyed by his slowness, recalled Apraxin and appointed Fermor in his place. Utilizing the winter snows, he collected some 31,000 men and crossed the frontiers of East Prussia (January 10th, 1758) and attempted to annex the province, driving out all the Prussian officials who refused to swear fealty to Elizabeth. This took time, and when the period of thaw supervened the Russians were immobilized and could not advance until approaching summer 'had dried the roads again. For the moment, therefore, no danger threatened Frederick from this quarter, and Rossbach had effectually tamed the French. The Swedes, too, showed little energy, the “ roadless ” period affecting them equally with the Russians.

Frederick therefore resolved to seize the opportunity to renew his invasion of Austria. As a beginning he recaptured Schweidnitz in April with 5000 prisoners. The

0, mm, Austrian field army under Daun lay about Koniggratz, covering all the passes out of Silesia; but covered by the newly formed “ Free Corps ” (his answer to the semi-savage Croats, Pandours and Tolpatches of the Austrians), Frederick marched right across their front on Olmiitz, whilst a special corps (30,000) under Prince Henry threatened their left from Saxony and the Elbe. He had with him about 40,000 men. But Olmiitz lay 90 m. from the Prussian frontier, and the Austrian light troops swarmed in the intervening district. Ultimately a great Prussian convoy was destroyed in the action of Domstadl, and the siege of Olmiitz had to be raised (July 1st); but instead of marching 'back the way he had come Frederick led his troops through Bohemia practically in the rear of Daun's army, and on the 14th of July entered Daun's empty entrenchments at Kiiniggratz. Fermor's Russians were now again in the field and had reached Posen, burning and plundering horribly. By skilful manmuvring the king deceived the Austrians till the roads to Silesia by Skalitz and Nachod were open and then by a rapid march passed over into Silesia, reaching Griissau (near Landshut) on the Sth of August. Leaving Keith with half his force to hold this district, he then marched to Frankfurt-on the-Oder, taking with him only some 15,000 men, to strengthen the wing .already engaged against the Russians. Frankfurt Siege of

3 PIUSSIHIIJ 1| Russians mn

the great square, and rode over and destroyed the whole mass in a prolonged mélée in which quarter was neither given nor asked. Relieved by this well-timed charge, the king now re-formed the infantry already engaged, and concentrated all his efforts on the south-west angle of the great centre square. Again the Russians more than held their own, issuing forth from their squares and capturing many field pieces. Some of the Prussian infantry was actually broken and in full flight when Seydlitz, with his ranks re-formed and his horses rested, returned and again threw himself upon the square exactly as on the previous occasion and with the same result-the square, as a formation, was broken, but groups still stood back to back and the most savage butchery ensued. The combatants could not be separated and only darkness. put a stop to the slaughter. Of 36,000 Prussians 12,500 were killed or wounded, Iooo prisoners or missing (37-5%), and of 42,000 Russians about 21,000 had fallen (50 %).

In the night the survivors gradually rallied, and morning found the Russians in a fresh position a couple of miles to the northward, but Frederick's troops were too weary to renew the attack. Gradually the Russians withdrew towards Landsberg and Konigsberg, and the king, leaving Dohna to follow them up, marched with the remainder of his forces on the 2nd of September for Saxony, covering 22 rn. a day. They arrived only in the nick of time, for Daun had united with

portions of the Empire Army and was threatening to crush