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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

On the Baltic coast half Pomerania was in their hands


prospects were darker than ever when the year 1761 came to a close. On the 16th of December, the Swedes and Russians took the important fortress of Colberg, on the Baltic coast: half Pomerania was in their hands, more than half of Silesia in the hands of the Austrians, Prince Henry was hard pressed in Saxony, and Ferdinand of Brunswick was barely able to hold back the French. On all sides the allied enemies were closing in upon Prussia, whose people could no longer furnish soldiers or pay taxes. For more than a year the country had been hanging on the verge of ruin, and while Frederick's true greatness had been illustrated in his unyielding courage, his unshaken energy, his determination never to give up, he was almost powerless to plan any further measures of defence. With four millions of people, he had for six years fought powers which embraced eighty millions; but now half his territory was lost to him and the other half utterly exhausted.


Suddenly, in the darkest hour, light came. In January, 1762, Frederick's bitter enemy, the Empress Elizabeth of Russia, died, and was succeeded by Czar Peter III., who was one of his most devoted admirers. The first thing Peter did was to send back all the Prussian prisoners of war; an armistice was concluded, then a peace, and finally an alliance, by which the Russian troops in Pomerania and Silesia were transferred from the

Austrian to the Prussian side. Sweden followed the example of Russia, and made peace, and the campaign of 1762 opened with renewed hopes for Prussia. In July, 1762, Peter III. was dethroned and murdered, whereupon his widow and successor, Catharine II., broke off the alliance with Frederick; but she finally agreed to maintain peace, and Frederick made use of the presence of the Russian troops in his camp to win a decided victory over Daun, on the 21st of July.

Austria was discouraged by this new turn of affairs; the war was conducted with less energy on the part of her generals, while the Prussians were everywhere animated with a fresh spirit. After a siege of several months Frederick took the fortress of Schweidnitz on the 9th of October; on the 29th of the same month Prince Henry defeated the Austrians at Freiberg, in Saxony, and on the 1st of November Ferdinand of Brunswick drove the French out of Cassel. After this Frederick marched upon Dresden, while small detachments were sent into Bohemia and Franconia, where they levied contributions on the cities and villages and kept the country in a state of terror.

In the meantime negotiations for peace had been carried on between England and France. The preliminaries were settled at Fontainebleau on the 3d of November, and, although the Tory Ministry of George II. would have willingly seen Prussia destroyed, Frederick's popularity was so great in England that the Government was forced to stipulate that the French troops should be withdrawn from Germany. The "German Empire," represented by its superannuated Diet at Ratisbon, became alarmed at its position and concluded an armistice with Prussia; so that, before the year closed, Austria was left alone to carry on the war. Maria Theresa's personal hatred of Frederick, which had been the motive power in the combination against him, had not been gratified by his ruin: she could only purchase peace with him, after all his losses and dangers, by giving up Silesia forever. It was a bitter pill for her to swallow, but there was no alternative; she consented, with rage and humiliation in her heart. On the 15th of February, 1763, peace was signed at Hubertsburg, a little hunting-castle near Leipzig, and the Seven Years' War was over.

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