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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

In the ensuing battle the grenadier got himself killed


Incomplete

as the convention was, it nevertheless excited great emotion in Europe. The Duke of Cumberland had lost the military reputation acquired at Fontenoy; the King of Prussia remained alone on the Continent, exposed to all the efforts of the allies; every day fresh reverses came down upon him; the Russian army had invaded the Prussian provinces and beaten Marshal Schwald near Memel; twenty-five thousand Swedes had just landed in Pomerania. Desertion prevailed amongst the troops of Frederick, recruited as they often were from amongst the vanquished; it was in vain that the king, in his despair, shouted out on the battle-field of Kolin, "D'ye expect to live forever, pray?" Many Saxon or Silesian soldiers secretly left the army. One day Frederick himself kept his eye on a grenadier whom he had seen skulking to the rear of the camp. "Whither goest thou?" he cried. "Faith, sir," was the answer, "I am deserting; I'm getting tired of being always beaten." " Stay once more," replied the king, without showing the slightest anger; "I promise that, if we are beaten, we will both desert together." In the ensuing battle the grenadier got himself killed.

For a moment, indeed, Frederick had conceived the idea of deserting simultaneously from the field of battle and from life. "My dear sister," he wrote to the Margravine of Baireuth, "there is no port or asylum for me any more save in the arms of death." A letter in verse to the Marquis of Argens pointed

clearly to the notion of suicide. A firmer purpose, before long, animated that soul, that strange mixture of heroism and corruption. The King of Prussia wrote to Voltaire,--

"Threatened with shipwreck though I be, I, facing storms that frown on me, Must king-like think, and live, and die."

Fortune, moreover, seemed to be relaxing her severities. Under the influence of the hereditary grand-duke, a passionate admirer of Frederick II., the Russians had omitted to profit by their victories; they were by this time wintering in Poland, which was abandoned to all their exactions. The Swedes had been repulsed in the Island of Rugen, Marshal Richelieu received from Versailles orders to remain at Halberstadt, and to send re-enforcements to the army of the Prince of Soubise; it was for this latter that Madame de Pompadour was reserving the honor of crushing the Great Frederick. More occupied in pillage than in vigorously pushing forward the war, the marshal tolerated a fatal license amongst his troops. "Brigandage is more prevalent in the hearts of the superior officers than in the conduct of the private soldier, who is full of good will to go and get shot, but not at all to submit to discipline. I'm afraid that they do not see at court the alarming state of things to their full extent," says a letter from Paris-Duverney to the Marquis of Cremille, "but I have heard so much of it, and perhaps seen so much since I have been within eyeshot of this army, that I cannot give a glance at the future without being transfixed with grief and dread. I dare to say that I am not scared more than another at sight of abuses and disorder, but it is time to apply to an evil which is at its height other remedies than palliatives, which, for the most part, merely aggravate it and render it incurable as long as war lasts. I have not seen and do not see here anything but what overwhelms me, and I feel still more wretched for having been the witness of it."

Whilst the plunder of Hanover was serving the purpose of feeding the insensate extravagance of Richelieu and of the army, Frederick II. had entered Saxony, hurling back into Thuringia the troops of Soubise and of the Prince of Hildburghausen. By this time the allies had endured several reverses; the boldness of the King of Prussia's movements bewildered and disquieted officers as well as soldiers. "Might I ask your Highness what you think of his Prussian majesty's manoeuvring?" says a letter to Count Clermont, from an officer serving in the army of Germany; "this prince, with eighteen or twenty thousand men at most, marches upon an army of fifty thousand men, forces it to recross a river, cuts off its rear guard, crosses this same river before its very eyes, offers battle, retires, encamps leisurely, and loses not a man. What calculation, what audacity in this fashion of covering a country!" On the 3d of November the Prussian army was all in order of battle on the left bank of the Saale, near Rosbach.


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