The World's Famous Orations/Volume 7/To His Generals Before Invading Silesia
TO HIS GENERALS BEFORE INVADING SILESIA
Born in 1712, died in 1786; became King of Prussia and invaded Silesia in 1740; defeated the Austrians in 1741, 1742 and 1745; invaded Saxony, beginning the Seven Years' War in 1756; defeated the Austrians in 1756; invaded Bohemia in 1757; defeated the Austrians at Prague, but himself defeated at Kolin and driven out of Bohemia in 1757; in the same year defeated the French at Rossbach and the Austrians at Leuthen; defeated the Russians at Zorndorf in 1758, but himself defeated at Kunersdorf in 1759, his fortunes being now reduced to their lowest ebb; finally, through changes in foreign relations, he, in 1763, concluded a treaty with Austria which secured what he formerly had gained and then had lost, and in 1772 he joined in the partition of Poland.
Gentlemen, I am undertaking a war in which I have no allies but your valor and your good will. My cause is just; my resources are what we ourselves can do; and the issue lies in fortune. Remember continually the glory which your ancestors acquired in the plain of Warsaw, at Fehrbellin and in the expedition to Preussen. Your lot is in your own hands: distinctions and rewards await upon your fine actions which shall merit them.
But what need have I to excite you to glory? It is the one thing you keep before your eyes; the sole object worthy of your labor. We are going to front troops, who, under Prince Eugene, had the highest reputation. Tho Prince Eugene is gone, we shall have to measure our strength against brave soldiers; the greater will be the honor if we can conquer. Adieu. Go forth. I will follow you straightway to the rendezvous of glory which awaits you.
- Delivered on December 11, 1740, the year in which he became king, and only a day or two before he marched into Silesia. "The king assembled his chief generals," says Carlyle, "all things ready out in the Frankfort-Crossen region yonder." Reprinted from Carlyle's "Frederick the Great," by permission of Chapman & Hall, the English publishers.
- This famous Austrian general, who shares with Marlborough the glory of Blenheim and Malplaquet, had died in 1736.