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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Was to take possession of Alsatia


and Austria, supported by some but not by all of the smaller States, raised two armies, one of 110,000 men under the Duke of Brunswick, which was to march through Belgium to Paris, while the other, 50,000 strong, was to take possession of Alsatia. The movement of the former was changed, and then delayed by differences of opinion among the royal and ducal commanders. It started from Mayence, and consumed three weeks in marching to the French frontier, only ninety miles distant. Longwy and Verdun were taken without much difficulty, and then the advance ceased. The French under Dumouriez and Kellermann united their forces, held the Germans in check at Valmy, on the 20th of September, 1792, and then compelled them to retrace their steps towards the Rhine. While the Prussians were retreating through storms of rain, their ranks thinned by disease, Dumouriez wheeled upon Flanders, met the Austrian army at Jemappes, and gained such a decided victory that by the end of the year all Belgium, and even the city of Aix-la-Chapelle, fell into the hands of the French.

[Sidenote: 1793.]

At the same time another French army, under General Custine, marched to the Rhine, took Speyer, Worms and finally Mayence, which city was made the head-quarters of a republican movement intended to influence Germany. But these successes were followed, on the 21st of January, 1793, by the execution of Louis XVI., and on the 16th of October of

Marie Antoinette,--acts which alarmed every reigning family in Europe and provoked the most intense enmity towards the French Republic. An immediate alliance--called the FIRST COALITION--was made by England, Holland, Prussia, Austria, "the German Empire," Sardinia, Naples and Spain, against France. Only Catharine II. of Russia declined to join, not because she did not favor the design of crushing France, but because she would thus be left free to carry out her plans of aggrandizing Russia at the expense of Turkey and Poland.

The greater part of the year 1793 was on the whole favorable to the allied powers. An Austrian victory at Neerwinden, on the 18th of March, compelled the French to evacuate Belgium: in July the Prussians reconquered Mayence, and advanced into Alsatia; and a combined English and Spanish fleet took possession of Toulon. But there was no unity of action among the enemies of France; even the German successes were soon neutralized by the mutual jealousy and mistrust of Prussia and Austria, and the war became more and more unpopular. Towards the close of the year the French armies were again victorious in Flanders and along the Rhine: their generals had discovered that the rapid movements and rash, impetuous assaults of their new troops were very effectual against the old, deliberate, scientific tactics of the Germans. Spain, Holland and Sardinia proved to be almost useless as allies, and the strength of the Coalition was reduced to England, Prussia and Austria.

[Sidenote: 1795. THE TREATY OF BASEL.]

In 1794 a fresh attempt was made. Prussia furnished 50,000 men, who were paid by England, and were hardly less mercenaries than the troops sold by Hesse-Cassel twenty years before. In June, the French under Jourdan were victorious at Fleurus, and Austria decided to give up Belgium: the Prussians gained some advantages in Alsatia, but showed no desire to carry on the war as the hirelings of another country. Frederick William II. and Francis II. were equally suspicious of each other, equally weak and vacillating, divided between their desire of overturning the French Republic on the one side, and securing new conquests of Polish territory on the other. Thus the war was prosecuted in the most languid and inefficient manner, and by the end of the year the French were masters of all the territory west of the Rhine, from Alsatia to the sea. During the following winter they assisted in overturning the former government of Holland, where a new "Batavian Republic" was established. Frederick William II. thereupon determined to withdraw from the Coalition, and make a separate peace with France. His minister, Hardenberg, concluded a treaty at Basel, on the 5th of April, 1795, by which Cleves and other Prussian territory west of the Lower Rhine was relinquished to France, and all of Germany north of a line drawn from the river Main eastward to Silesia, was declared to be in a state of peace during the war which France still continued to wage with Austria.

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