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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Ordered Montecuccoli to make war in earnest


[Sidenote: 1667. WAR WITH LOUIS XIV.]

Louis XIV. of France was by this time aware that his kingdom had nothing to fear from any of its neighbors, and might easily be enlarged at their expense. In 1667, he began his wars of conquest, by laying claim to Brabant, and instantly sending Turenne and Conde over the frontier. A number of fortresses, unprepared for resistance, fell into their hands; but Holland, England and Sweden formed an alliance against France, and the war terminated in 1668 by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. Louis's next step was to ally himself with England and Sweden against Holland, on the ground that a Republic, by furnishing a place of refuge for political fugitives, was dangerous to monarchies. In 1672 he entered Holland with an army of 118,000 men, took Geldern, Utrecht and other strongly-fortified places, and would soon have made himself master of the country, if its inhabitants had not shown themselves capable of the sublimest courage and self-sacrifice. They were victorious over France and England on the sea, and defended themselves stubbornly on the land. Even the German Archbishop of Cologne and Bishop of Muenster furnished troops to Louis XIV. and the Emperor Leopold promised to remain neutral. Then Frederick William of Brandenburg allied himself with Holland, and so wrought upon the Emperor by representing the danger to Germany from the success of France, that the latter sent an army under General Montecuccoli to the Rhine. But the Austrian troops remained inactive; Louis XIV. purchased the support of the Archbishops of Mayence and Treves; Westphalia was invaded by the French, and in 1673 Frederick William was forced to sign a treaty of neutrality.

About this time Holland was strengthened by the alliance of Spain, and the Emperor Leopold, alarmed at the continual invasions of German territory on the Upper Rhine, ordered Montecuccoli to make war in earnest. In 1674 the Diet formally declared war against France, and Frederick William marched with 16,000 men to the Palatinate, which Marshal Turenne had ravaged with fire and sword. The French were driven back and even out of Alsatia for a time; but they returned the following year, and were successful until the month of July, when Turenne found his death on the soil which he had turned into a desert. Before this happened, Frederick William had been recalled in all haste to Brandenburg, where the Swedes, instigated by France, were wasting the land with a barbarity equal to Turenne's. His march was so swift that he found the enemy scattered: dividing and driving them before him, on the 18th of June, 1675, at Fehrbellin, with only 7,000 men, he attacked the main Swedish army, numbering more than double that number. For three hours the battle raged with the greatest fury; Frederick William fought at the head of his troops, who more than once cut him out from the ranks of the enemy, and the result was a splendid victory. The fame of this achievement rang through all Europe, and Brandenburg was thenceforth mentioned with the respect due to an independent power.

[Sidenote: 1677.]

Frederick William continued the war for two years longer, gradually acquiring possession of all Swedish Pomerania, including Stettin and the other cities on the coast. He even built a small fleet, and undertook to dispute the supremacy of Sweden on the Baltic. During this time the war with France was continued on the Upper Rhine, with varying fortunes. Though repulsed and held in check after Turenne's death, the French burned five cities and several hundred villages west of the Rhine, and in 1677 captured Freiburg in Baden. But Louis XIV. began to be tired of the war, especially as Holland proved to be unconquerable. Negotiations for peace were commenced in 1678, and on the 5th of February, 1679, the "Peace of Nymwegen" was concluded with Holland, Spain and the German Empire--except Brandenburg! Leopold I. openly declared that he did not mean to have a Vandal kingdom in the North.


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