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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De Plelo fell mortally wounded


The

ardor of Cardinal Fleury did not respond to that of the friends of King Stanislaus. Russia and Austria made an imposing display of force in favor of the Elector of Saxony; France sent, tardily, a body of fifteen hundred men; this ridiculous re-enforcement had not yet arrived when Stanislaus, obliged to withdraw from Warsaw, had already shut himself up in Dantzic. The Austrian general had invested the place.

News of the bombardment of Dantzic greeted the little French corps as they approached the fort of Wechselmunde. Their commander saw his impotence; instead of landing his troops, he made sail for Copenhagen. The French ambassador at that court, Count Plelo, was indignant to see his countrymen's retreat, and, hastily collecting a hundred volunteers, he summoned to him the chiefs of the expeditionary corps.

"How could you resolve upon not fighting, at any price?" he asked. "It is easy to say," rejoined one of the officers roughly, "when you're safe in your closet." "I shall not be there long!" exclaims the count, and presses them to return with him to Dantzic. The officer in command of the detachment, M. de la Peyrouse Lamotte, yields to his entreaties. They set out both of them, persuaded at the same time of the uselessness of their enterprise and of the necessity they were under, for the honor of France, to attempt it. Before embarking, Count Plelo wrote to M. de Chauvelin, the then keeper of the seals,

"I am sure not to return; I commend to you my wife and children." Scarcely had the gallant little band touched land beneath the fort of Wechselmunde, when they marched up to the Russian lines, opening a way through the pikes and muskets in hopes of joining the besieged, who at the same time effected a sally. Already the enemy began to recoil at sight of such audacity, when M. de Plelo fell mortally wounded; the enemy's battalions had hemmed in the French.

[Illustration: Death of Plelo----130]

La Peyrouse succeeded, however, in effecting his retreat, and brought away his little band into the camp they had established under shelter of the fort. For a month the French kept up a rivalry in courage with the defenders of Dantzic; when at last they capitulated, on the 23d of June, General Munich had conceived such esteem for their courage that be granted them leave to embark with arms and baggage. A few days later King Stanislaus escaped alone from Dantzic, which was at length obliged to surrender on the 7th of July, and sought refuge in the dominions of the King of Prussia. Some Polish lords went and joined him at Konigsberg. Partisan war continued still, but the arms and influence of Austria and Russia had carried the day; the national party was beaten in Poland. The pope released the Polish gentry from the oath they had made never to intrust the crown to a foreigner. Augustus III., recognized by the mass of the nation, became the docile tool of Russia, whilst in Germany and in Italy the Austrians found themselves attacked simultaneously by France, Spain, and Sardinia.

Marshal Berwick had taken the fort of Kehl in the month of December, 1733; he had forced the lines of the Austrians at Erlingen at the commencement of the compaign of 1734, and he had just opened trenches against Philipsburg, when he pushed forward imprudently in a reconnoissance between the fires of the besiegers and besieged; a ball wounded him mortally, and he expired immediately, like Marshal Turenne; he was sixty-three. The Duke of Noailles, who at once received the marshal's baton, succeeded him in the command of the army by agreement with Marshal d'Asfeldt. Philipsburg was taken after forty-eight days' open trenches, without Prince Eugene, all the while within hail, making any attempt to relieve the town. He had not approved of the war. "Of three emperors that I have served," he would say, "the first, Leopold, was my father; the Emperor Joseph was my brother; this one is my master." Eugene was old and worn out; he preserved his ability, but his ardor was gone. Marshal Noailles and D'Asfeldt did not agree; France did not reap her advantages. The campaign of 1735 hung fire in Germany.


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