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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

As the French had been at Rosbach


Soubise

hesitated to attack; being a man of honesty and sense, he took into account the disposition of his army, as well as the bad composition of the allied forces, very superior in number to the French contingent. The command belonged to the Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, who had no doubt of success. Orders were given to turn the little Prussian army, so as to cut off its retreat. All at once, as the allied troops were effecting their movement to scale the heights, the King of Prussia, suddenly changing front by one of those rapid evolutions to which he had accustomed his men, unexpectedly attacked the French in flank, without giving them time to form in order of battle. The batteries placed on the hills were at the same time unmasked, and mowed down the infantry. The German troops at once broke up. Soubise sought to restore the battle by cavalry charges, but he was crushed in his turn. The rout became general; the French did not rally till they reached Erfurt; they had left eight thousand prisoners and three thousand dead on the field.

The news of the defeat at Rosbach came bursting on France like a clap of thunder; the wrath, which first of all blazed out against Soubise, at whose expense all the rhymesters were busy, was reflected upon the king and Madame de Pompadour.

"With lamp in hand, Soubise is heard to say 'Why, where the devil can my army be? I saw it hereabouts but yesterday:

Has it been taken? has it strayed from me? I'm always losing-head and all, I know: But wait till daylight, twelve o'clock or so! What do I see? O, heavens, my heart's aglow: Prodigious luck ! Why, there it is, it is! Eh! _ventrebleu,_ what in the world is this? I must have been mistaken--it's the foe.'"

Frederick II. had renovated affairs and spirits in Germany; the day after Rosbach, he led his troops into Silesia against Prince Charles of Lorraine, who had just beaten the Duke of Bevern; the King of Prussia's lieutenants were displeased and disquieted at such audacity. He assembled a council of war, and then, when he had expounded his plans, "Farewell, gentlemen," said be; "we shall soon have beaten the enemy, or we shall have looked on one another for the last time." On the 3d of December the Austrians were beaten at Lissa, as the French had been at Rosbach, and Frederick II. became the national hero of Germany; the Protestant powers, but lately engaged, to their sorrow, against him, made up to the conqueror; admiration for him permeated even the French army. "At Paris," wrote D'Alembert to Voltaire, "everybody's head is turned about the King of Prussia; five months ago he was trailed in the mire."

"Cabinet-generals," says Duclos, "greedy of money, inexperienced and presumptuous; ignorant, jealous, or ill-disposed ministers; subalterns lavish of their blood on the battle-field and crawling at court before the distributors of favors--such are the instruments we employed. The small number of those who had not approved of the treaty of Versailles declared loudly against it; after the campaign of 1757, those who had regarded it as a masterpiece of policy, forgot or disavowed their eulogies, and the bulk of the public, who cannot be decided by anything but the event, looked upon it as the source of all our woes." The counsels of Abbe de Bernis had for some time past been pacific; from a court-abbe, elegant and glib, he had become, on the 25th of June, minister of foreign affairs. But Madame de Pompadour remained faithful to the empress. In the month of January, 1758, Count Clermont was appointed general-in-chief of the army of Germany. In disregard of the convention of Closter-Severn, the Hanoverian troops had just taken the field again under the orders of the Grand-Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick; he had already recovered possession of the districts of Luneberg, Zell, a part of Brunswick and of Bremen. In England, Mr. Pitt, afterwards Lord Chatham, had again come into office; the King of Prussia could henceforth rely upon the firmest support from Great Britain.


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